Archive for the ‘Ultima Online’ category

Return of the Ultimate

May 28, 2011

NewInRed001

It’s been years since I’ve really gotten into Ultima Online, but this past week has seen me playing UO more than any of my other games. Why? Even after all these years it’s still the most unique, amazing MMO I’ve ever played. So what’s so good about this game that most MMO players have never even tried? Well, I’ll be playing for a while it seems, so I’ll keep you all in the loop.

The first thing you’ll notice, almost instantly, is the amazing community in Ultima Online. From the time I stepped out of the tutorial section, which lasted all of five minutes but covered the basics, I had people passing me and waving, or stopping to ask if I needed anything. A few even just stopped to chat for a bit. This really shook me at first, and I had to retrain myself to not find it strange to talk to strangers again.

After about twenty minutes of exploring the small town that they start you in, a town completely overrun by the undead, I made my way to New Haven, the only real city on the starter island. Within a few minutes I was wrapped up in a conversation at the bank about whether I wanted to play the game without any starter help, or whether I’d like a few items and a little bit of money. I took the items to help me not die, and the money to insure my items. Insuring is something that wasn’t always in UO, but you basically pay a certain amount of gold to insure an item, more gold for better items, and when you die all your insured items will stay with you. This would be prohibitively expensive for a noob to do to all his gear, but having a weapon and armor when you’re trying to get back to where your body is really helps.

Speaking of death, I’ve always been a huge fan of Ultima Online’s death system. When you die your ghost starts standing over your body. Unlike WoW, you don’t start at a graveyard and make your way back. As a ghost most people won’t be able to see or talk to you, unless they have a high spirit speak skill, so your goal is to find either a wandering healer NPC, a player that can see and res you, or head back to a city and find the main healer shoppe, where they will res you. Then it’s your job to get back to your body before it decomposes or someone takes your stuff.

Anyway, I was invited to join a pretty active guild on my first day, and they took me to their Guild Hall in order to have a small ceremony where they informed me of the guild policies and what was and was not expected of me. After that I was informed that the guild does a Hunt every night practically, and noobs were welcome to come along. We met up at 6pm pacific at the Guild Hall for a quick rundown of the night’s Hunt and what we were planning on doing.

GuildHall001

We took a portal one of our mages made to the ice caverns where we were to fight the White Wyrm and the Ice Fiends that patrolled near it. The cave was really amazing, the fog rolling through made it feel cold and obstructed our view, making it seem like people and monsters were winking in and out of existence.

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The UI of UO generally stays in the black area. It seems weird at first, but it allows you to see the game world unobstructed. Aside from the health bars up there, which are movable, and have small buttons on them that I can click to heal or purge my party members.

We made our way through the ice caverns and killed the dragon, and I only died twice. After a harrowing search by everyone for my corpse, which turned out to be underneath an ice elemental, I got my gear re-equipped and we decided to take on the rat people that were in a cave connected to the ice caverns. The first thing I noticed was that each of the rat people had a name. Not like “Rat Enforcer” like most MMOs, but a unique name for everyone of them.

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The rat fort was pretty cool. A massive wooden fort with high gates and wooden pole walls in a huge cavern deep underground. Of course they swarmed us like rats, but our mages and dragon tamers easily took care of the whole lot. After that we had to call it a night, and everyone finished looting and took the portal back to the guild hall. There all the money was given to the hunt leader, who took it to the bank and had checks written to split the gold between the four of us noobs who needed the money. They gave me my check, which I took running to the bank, and I now had 50,000 gold. It’s not much in Ultima Online, but it’ll let me keep my equipment insured.

All in all it was the best experience I’ve had in an MMO in nearly ten years. The people were all great, and even days later I mentioned not being sure if I was ready to leave the noob island of New Haven, and a guild member voluntarily came down and hung out with me for over an hour, just chatting and watching me kill things as he got a sense for whether I was ready, both character skill and player skill wise. Then we just chatted for a bit, and I couldn’t remember the last time I had done that in an MMO.

Ultima is back baby, and I’ll keep you posted on my adventures.

Rift Beta 4: The Likes

January 11, 2011

RiftCataclysm

The day Telara exploded.

Last time I talked about Rift it was the negatives and things I was worried about due to Beta 4. At the end of that I said I was still going to buy the game, but I didn’t get into any detail as to why. The following should clear that up and I hope will help push a few more readers to pick up this great game.

First of all let’s get the “it’s generic” argument out of the way. It’s true the game has very few “signature moves” so to speak. They aren’t touting something new to MMOs and that’s led a lot of people to write the game off without bothering to see more. But let’s look at some of the amazing games that have brought something new to the genre recently.

Warhammer Online – WAR brought the idea, as far as I know, of public quest. Quests that are zone wide and you don’t need to talk to anyone to accept the quest or help out.

Age of Conan – Amazing new melee combat with finishing moves that give Mortal Kombat a run for it’s money as far as blood goes.

Tabula Rasa – A more shooter oriented control scheme and a drastically different setting, making it a space aged shooter instead of a fantasy world. Perhaps not the first but one of the most high profile.

Auto Assault – A new setting of apocalyptic cars or whatever. You controlled a Twisted Metal meets Mad Max style monstrosity in a never ending destruction derby.

Matrix Online – It’s combat system was one of the more interesting things I’ve seen in any MMO in years. It was also, again, not fantasy.

Lego Universe – With it’s focus on building instead of questing Lego Universe might be the most unique MMO I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing in action.

Now, there are many more MMOs that have come out recently touting one or more things that make them unique, and while a few on this list haven’t failed, and Lego Universe is too young to pass judgment on, can we honestly say that having something new and unique made these games amazing? Are we all still impressed with Public Quests? Hell, most of us were tired of PQs by the end of the beta. Did Age of Conan’s blood and interesting melee combat matter when you got to mid game and realized they didn’t have time to implement quests or sieges? How are Tabula Rasa, Auto Assault and Matrix Online doing with their unique bits?

The point here is that originality doesn’t make for a good game. In fact, some of the best games in other genres have focused more on polish than on innovation. Bioshock had nothing in it that wasn’t in other shooters, but it did everything just right. Same with Starcraft II and the RTS genre, or Uncharted II and the third person platformer/shooter genre. What about New Vegas? That was basically Fallout 3, and yet it was done so well, and with just a simple change of location, that the game was amazing.

So no, Rift isn’t unique, and it doesn’t have a “gimmick” like other MMOs that have come out or are coming out. Instead Rift has focused on making a good game, on perfected what they took from other games in the genre. What they’ve come up with, even in BETA, is one of the more fun MMOs I’ve played in a few years. Rift may or may not hold me through it’s end game, but it’ll definitely be enough to get me to end game.

Now that I’ve had my rant on originality, let’ get to the bullet point style list:

Rifts, while I am worried about them late in the games life, can be extremely fun and addictive. Are they an interesting way to get players to grind? Of course, that’s what any quest is, but that doesn’t make it not fun. In fact, on Sunday when Trion did the MASSIVE fire invasion, where the entire zone exploded in fire rifts and everyone had to run around closing rifts, fighting off invasions, and finally tracking down and murdering a high ranking Fire general, well that was the most fun I’ve had in any MMO since trying to sell fish stakes in front of the Brittania bank.

Another thing both me and my wife loved were the artifacts. Much like EverQuest II’s collectibles, even copying the “ball of golden light on the ground” look of them, Rift’s collectibles are something we both really enjoy. Neither of us plays EQII anymore, so having this feature in a game we do play is going to be a blast, whether you get anything for it or not, it gives the player something to do other than just fight.

RiftFight

Some of the spell effects are just badass.

Having your character not look like a retarded moose through most of the game is also a huge plus. This is due to the fact that, like Warhammer Online, you seem to have certain “looks” for certain level ranges, and while sometimes you’ll get something drastically different, for the most part you look pretty good. Add to this the fact that there are dyes in the game and, assuming they don’t suddenly open a cash shop and charge for black dye, your character can look as cool as you want. Does it dye the entire armor piece? No, just certain parts depending on the armor, which I couldn’t be happier about. There’s nothing worse for breaking immersion that running across GROGNAK TEH DESTRAWER in a flood fill bright pink plate outfit.

The PVP, while they did screw up by making it ten levels per bracket, was extremely fun. The battles were quick, which was nice, but still intense. There was a variation on Warhammer Online’s Murder Ball, but it was made much more fun by the quickness with which it kills the carrier, the turnover rate, and the fact that you got more points the farther you carried the ‘ball’ away from your base.

The leveling experience, from 1-20 at least, is just a blast if you like Theme Park MMOs. The questlines carry you through the zone, keeping you in appropriate levels and making sure you have a good time. Feeling bored of that? Head off the beaten path to get some more crafting materials or to look for artifacts. Better yet, go close some of those Rifts you see on the map. Tired of questing and rifting? Que up for some Warfronts. Is any of Rift truly unique other than the setting, which is still fantasy based? Nope. Is Rift one of the MMOs I am most excited to play? You bet. Sadly Beta 4 is over, and unless the never few betas are 30-40 or end game I doubt I’ll be playing more. Why? Rift only has two starting zones, and unless you have the option of going through many different zones for each level range after level twenty then I don’t want to burn myself out on the content before I start the character that really matters.

All I can say though is that if Rift wants to keep me for more than a year they better add a new starting zone in the first expansion. Heck, while they are doing that it might as well be for a third faction entirely. Maybe the death dragon faction? Who’d turn down a three way faction Warfront? Not me that’s for sure. Oh, but that has been done before, so I guess they shouldn’t worry about it.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

PvP IS PvE

October 16, 2010

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Syncaine had a really great post earlier today. We don’t tend to agree with one another much at all but his post on PvP Hotspots and what creates a good PvP atmosphere actually agrees pretty closely with mine, though with a slightly different view of the whole process.

I can’t speak for Syncaine obviously, only for what I take from his blog. He brings up the fact that you can’t expect people to just PvP in an MMO. It’s hard to put a finger on the exact reason people will spend 100 hours or more PvPing just for fun in their favorite shooter, and yet if given the exact same offer in an MMO they refuse to take it. Maybe it’s got something to do with the greater skill involved in FPSs, or perhaps it’s the early knowledge that all you are getting is PvP.

The fact remains that players in MMOs need something to encourage them to PvP. A one time reward like a sword or piece of armor isn’t going to do the trick either. You need a reason for those people to fight and keep fighting. That, I believe, is where PvE comes in.

Several companies have come out with MMOs focused on PvP heavily. Wanting to make a great PvP game is a noble goal, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that if you want your PvP game to be a success then you need to focus heavily on PvE. Many won’t believe me at first, but I think that most of us older gamers, gamers raised on Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot, would.

In Ultima Online the biggest PvP hotspots were areas with rare gathering nodes, and dungeons. Both of these were very PvE oriented areas with PvE oriented people, invaded by Griefers who were looking to destroy the easy prey and get a ton of gathered materials very easily. This led to other PvPers, the ones that actually wanted to PvP and not just screw with helpless people. These new PvPers were attracted to the area not for the loot from the miners and dungeon delvers, but from the bodies of the Griefers. The Griefers got mad that their free loot was suddenly harder to get, and in their anger they began to fight back. But the easy marks didn’t stop coming, because that is where the goods were. The Griefers kept coming thanks to the supply of prey, and the PvPers kept coming for two reasons: 1) to have fun in PvP, and 2) to defend the easy marks who were bringing ores and rare weapons and magic components to town to trade, which resupplied both the Griefers AND the PvPers.

Jump forward to Dark Age of Camelot and one of the most popular PvP areas was Darkness Falls. Like Syncaine says: “the original and constant driver for that area had nothing to do with PvP, but rather the great and varied (lvl wise) PvE…”.

When games like Warhammer tried to make a great PvP game, while leaving their PvE content as a hollow shell and separating it from the PvP, they kicked themselves before they even launched. Darkfall (speaking from an outsiders perspective) seems to have been a victim of the same thing until it’s recent expansion. They tried to create PvP hotspots by making locations to conquer, and due to their location they were desired, but they didn’t draw the PvEers in the numbers that were necessary. Once they made a PvE hotspot that was wildly desired by everyone, the PvPers came on their own.

Of course Darkfall has the problem that it never attracted PvEers in very large numbers. The majority of Darkfall players are lovers of hardcore FFA PvP. The game practically has a sign on the box saying “if you don’t want to PvP stay away.” The attitude of it’s average player doesn’t help either. In truth it just might make their entire game more enjoyable if they encourage carebears to join and get hooked on the gameplay, then get hooked on the FFA aspect. Don’t tell them that though, the very notion of a carebear enjoying their game makes them spit blood.

Darkfall Almost Has Me

October 11, 2010

I’ve tried Darkfall twice now. I haven’t stayed more than a month either time, even though there was a lot that I really liked about the game. Syncaine, with his usual snobby ‘tone’ linked to this video of a new Darkfall raid, acting as if it was exactly like a WoW raid, basically mocking those that would stupidly play any game other than Darkfall.

I can almost see someone being that snotty after watching this video. The entire thing got me hyped up and wishing I was playing Darkfall. It also made me realize something. I would LOVE a PVE focused Darkfall, with perhaps PVP only in scenarios or PVP lakes like Warhammer. Yes, I am asking for Darkfall’s Trammel. I’m not one of those people who pretends to have played Ultima, I did play Ultima. I’m not one of those people who pretends that Ultima was better before Trammel without having any experience (some people actually feel this way, being hardcore FFA PVP fans, and that is fine for them), I played both before and after Trammel.

That said I just can’t get behind a FFA full loot pvp game, and I’m finding that as time goes on any form of PVP, fighting games, MMOs, Shooters, anything PVP oriented, infuriates me with every death. I get so angry when I die, even if it’s an instant respawn game, that I’m worried that I will one day have a heart attack or aneurism due to a video game. This new information has caused me to gravitate away from these types of games, even if I do still get sucked in every now and then.

Still, a trammel server for Darkfall would be amazing, and I doubt it would hurt the current servers at all, since I think unlike UO, most people playing Darkfall right now would not switch to a no PVP server. Instead it would just bring in more players, though it would lead development to cater to the much larger PVE crowd, which would be bad for the hardcore server.

Still, I guess the only thing that makes this raid very different is that you are on a ship shooting at dragons, instead of on land shooting at dragons. Well Darkfall, I hope the raid is everything it looks like and more. Enjoy the game and the expansion, while I drool from a distance.

Sandbox means Boring

April 15, 2010

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That looks boring as hell

If you have been following my blog for any length of time you know that I don’t dislike games because they are sandbox games, take Fallen Earth and Ultima Online as examples. In general I dislike sandbox games due to other factors such as boring combat (Darkfall, EVE) or horrid grinding being required (Darkfall, EVE). I think however that I have discovered another reason I don’t like most sandbox games, and it’s not the elitism that leaks out of those that play them like a festering wound (not today anyway), it’s the fact that most companies, and indeed most players, seem to think that sandbox means boring.

I constantly see blogs about how people just don’t understand this sandbox game or that one. About how, if you want to have fun, you need to find something and use your imagination in order to get any enjoyment out of it. They then berate people for saying that they got bored when that person obviously just wasn’t working at it.

At some point developers and player sat around and decided that in order for a game to be sandbox it needed to have mobs, pvp, a skill system and absolutely nothing to do unless you make it happen. If this is the case why not just open up MS Paint and make something happen. If you try hard enough you WILL have fun, you just have to put in time and effort.

I think something that needs to happen to really help the sandbox genre, at least in my opinion, is for the genre and it’s players to get over itself. Would it ruin Darkfall to have more quests? Surely players would cry foul and say that their favorite sandbox was ruined because they had to go from one place to another, even though NOTHING was changed except the addition of 1000’s more quests. Would it ruin Ultima Online to have a Dungeons and Dragons Online type of immersive, interactive dungeon? How about 30 of them sprinkled throughout the game?

I’m not saying you need to FORCE people to do certain quests or go to certain dungeons, but give me some story and some developer created things to do and perhaps I wouldn’t be sitting around looking for stuff to do 90% of the time I am playing. If there were as many quests in Darkfall as there are in World of Warcraft it wouldn’t take anything away from that game, other than giving people a little direction if they CHOOSE to take it.

Instead sandbox players and developers sit back and grin, thinking about how much better they are than your average MMO player because they have to make their own fun. Sounds more like a failure on the part of the developer to me with the fanbase continuing to support the product just because they are fans.

It’s a wonder that I like some sandbox games. What usually does it is getting lucky and finding that sweet spot, that perfect moment where you experience all the game can be and then spend the rest of your game time pining for it. Kinda like heroin I hear.

Raptr Forum Signature

An Ultima Online Experiment

March 27, 2010

UO

I played Ultima Online back before Trammel, continued playing after it came out and didn’t leave it until Final Fantasy XI came out, which i played until World of Warcraft came out. I went back when Ultima Online released it’s Kingdom Reborn expansion pack, which was a terrible mess. The updated “3D” style graphics caused the world to look more cluttered than it had before and the newbie starting quests were broken  and it was impossible to complete it.

Jump forward to today when I downloaded and installed the 14 day trial for Ultima Online. I got the new Stygian Abyss client and decided to see what kind of improvements they had brought to UO, if any. It turned out that they did a really great job, at least in the newbie starting quest area. There were many NPCs with quests once I got to New Haven, the starting town, and they ranged from getting my skills up (basically to teach you what you need to do) to crafting or escorting.

The biggest problem with the game right now isn’t even the graphics, which is what I thought it would be. It’s not even the UI which has received many great enhancements. It’s the sound. From the brutally loud and annoying walking noise that accompanies you everywhere you go (unless you turn off the walking noise completely…) or the seemingly four second music clip that seems to repeat over and over. Granted I’ve only played for a few minutes and I intend to give it a thorough playing before I give up on it. I have such fond memories of my time in Brittania that I am really tempted to resub, especially after the little I played today. But I’ll give it the full two weeks and see what’s what.

Makes me want to give Darkfall a try. If only they had a carebare server.