Posted tagged ‘Ultima Online’

Miscellaneous

June 9, 2011

First off I’d like to say that ‘Of Blood And Bone: Episode 2: Forsaken’ has arrived! Check that out and let me know what you think.

Second I’d like to talk a little bit about the games I’ve beaten in the last week or so. My internet decided to die on me for nearly a week, which was frustrating to say the least, so I had a chance to finish up a few single player games that I’ve been meaning to get around to. Let’s start out with…

Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath

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I bought this game originally for the Xbox, but I never got around to beating it. That’s not because it wasn’t a fun game, more a combination of my own inability to stick with a game for the long haul, and the fact that my save gave corrupted after a many hour session one night. So what is this game and what makes it so interesting?

First of all the setting is completely unique. You play as the Stranger, an odd dog like, bipedal character. The world is filled with odd creatures, mostly chicken people, frog people and some weird troll looking things. Even your ammo is weird. Stranger uses a crossbow set up to shoot creatures you find around the landscape. Each creature has a unique effect, and most of them are not your standard shooter stuff.

Stranger is a bounty hunter first and foremost, so you’ll want to take you enemies, even the bosses, alive if you can. You’ll just get more money that way. To that effect you have several weapons designed for live capture. The first, and most important type of ammo, is an electric beetle of sorts. It can fire like a really weak sub machine gun, or it can charge up to fire a larger electric shock that will put most enemies down for a few seconds, allowing you to bounty them up. You’ll also receive spider ammo that, as you might have guessed, wraps the enemy in webs. From there the weapons get more exotic, from squirrels that talk trash, luring enemies toward them for traps, to skunks that cause all enemies in the local area to vomit.

You’ll get very few snippets of story throughout the game, at least until you near the ending, but what is there is just enough to drag you into this world and get your mind racing, trying to figure out what exactly is going on. There is a strong ‘Cowboys vs. Indians’ feel going on toward the later half of the game, where you’ll realize that Stranger is a native, fighting the oppressive invaders by using the land, and it’s creatures. Meanwhile the invaders are using black powder weapons and working to slaughter the indigenous population. I didn’t enjoy this aspect of the game, and it really felt layered on thick by the end.

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The game gets downright beautiful at times.

All in all the game was a fun, with a truly unique setting that I really wish was still in games. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone that hadn’t played and enjoyed the original however, as at $9.99 it’s an expensive older game. For anyone looking for an old school, no-cover shooter with an interesting twist, if you don’t mind older graphics, you might want to check out a few videos and decide for yourself.

The second game I beat this week is Dragon Age II. I know I know, a big game like DAII and I hadn’t beaten it yet? Truth be told I hadn’t gotten even to the deep roads until this week. It just never grabbed me like the original, at least not at first. I don’t agree with most of the reviews, that the game is a far cry from the glory of DAO, but I do think that the game isn’t quite as good. Why?

The story of Dragon Age Origins was epic. You played as one of the last few Grey Wardens in Ferelden, most of your order having died, and you had to not only stop the Blight, but also stabilize the kingdom and unite all the races, at least for the battle against the Blight. The story in Dragon Age II is about a refugee who is trying to become rich. You do some good things as you go, and some terrible things, but all the while your pretty much just out for yourself and your family. Not only that, but the game also has around fifteen endings, much like the last Lord of the Rings movie, before it finally does end.

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DAII can be beautiful, if your rig can handle it well.

I will say that your companions are much better than the companions in Origins. Sure, there was no Alistair or Morrigan, but I thought Fenris, Varric, and especially Merrill (OMG so freakin cute) were the best Bioware companions yet. By the end I wanted to stab nearly all of them in the chest for their doing just blatantly stupid stuff, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t really enjoyable for most of the game.

I love the style they’ve added into the Dragon Age world as well. The Qunari are much more impressive now than they were in Origins, and the elves look almost alien with their noses, eyes and body shape. It really does a lot to add to the world of Dragon Age and make it more unique. Sadly you don’t see much of the world in this game. In fact, other than two or three locations outside the city, you are pretty much stuck questing inside the city in repetative corridors that’ll remind you more of recent Final Fantasy games than a more western RPG.

The combat is an interesting mix. They’ve made the spells and abilities you and your companions can get much more interesting than in the first game. Sadly the combat itself feels a little rushed, and by the end of the game you won’t be getting anything from fighting other than XP, and you’ll be in fight after fight just walking down the street. It reminds me of the horrible random encounters of yesteryear.

Still, all of this was made worth it at the end of the game. The big twist there had me jumping in my seat and shouting in excitement, and then suddenly subdued and not sure what action to take afterward. It left me thinking about what I had done, and what I could condone. I wasn’t expecting that, and I think overall it bumped the game up from a solid B, to a B+.

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New Stories Day!

May 29, 2011

In case you aren’t following my other blog, Manifest Tale, there have been several new episodes added since I lasted posted about it. Give it a look here: http://manifesttale.wordpress.com/

Let me know what you think. It’s been a blast writing these, and they’re actually harder than just writing a story. I have to take the screenshots I have and turn it into a coherent story that isn’t “I killed a llama” 100 times in a row.

There are now 4 episodes of ‘Wild’ Erp and 1 episode  for Of Blood and Bone.

Return of the Ultimate

May 28, 2011

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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.

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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.

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.

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.

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An Ultima Online Experiment

March 27, 2010

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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.

Blogger Interrupted

March 26, 2010

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I just wanted to do a quick response to some of the blog’s I’ve been reading recently. First up is Alex Taldren who posted a clip of The Secret World gameplay and complained that it looked like Age of Conan and said that even though the combat looked like Hellgate: London or Fallen Earth, it was still better than most MMO combat.

I remember when Age of Conan first came out and we were all drooling over the graphics and how amazing they were for an MMO. I recently picked up the trial to see how things had changed and it STILL looks amazing, one of the best looking MMOs on the market. When did this become a bad thing? Do we really need to improve on the graphics with every game at the cost of stability, gameplay and fun? Can’t we stick with a nice level of graphics and just improve the game for a while?

The other point from his post I wanted to get into is the complaints I hear, not just from him but from most bloggers, about the boring MMO combat system. There are a few others but for the most part MMOs all control like World of Warcraft. Everyone seems to be complaining about this. The problem I have is that the people complaining aren’t offering up any alternatives. Of course these alternatives would have to be something that wouldn’t alienate too many people, which is the problem with adding FPS mechanics into an MMO. What other control schemes are out there? You want a Fable control scheme? It’s out there already, and it’s pretty much WoW without the action bar.

To me it seems like these same people could play a First Person Shooter and complain about the First Person Shooter combat. If it’s not your cup of tea I’m sorry but maybe it’s not for you. Maybe I’ve got all this wrong though and people have a good idea of what they want. I can’t imagine it’s the Darkfall style combat though as that basically takes the Morrowind/Oblivion combat style, which EVERYONE agreed was the worst part about those games.

The second blog post I want to comment on is Player vs. Developer’s post on Dungeons and Dragons Online: Eberron Unleashed and it’s cash shop. He argues that a poor exchange rate (unless you buy the most expensive iteration of points) is a barrier to entry. I would simply argue that he is looking at it the wrong way. The normal amount of points here is the bottom rate, $6.50 for 420 points. If you are willing to spend more you get more for your dollar as a thank you. It’s not that they are gimping your spending if you don’t spend much, they are just rewarding you if you spend more, which is exactly what a cash shop SHOULD do. Make me WANT to spend $50 at the cash shop and you know what, if I only want to spend EXACTLY enough to buy a new race or class, I can do that too.

The last blog I’d like to address is Hardcore Casual and it’s post on FFA vs. Faction based PVP. I’d have to say that while I prefer faction based PVP for the stability and security to be “safe” sometimes, I might change my tune if there was a FFA game I could try that did not have full loot rules. Maybe it’s out there and I just haven’t found it yet, but the full loot really kills a game for me. I know it shouldn’t but I haven’t been able to get into it since Ultima Online, and I could enjoy it in that game because the community policed themselves, literally you have guilds that acted as police and protection for miners or lumberjacks and wondered the woods killing any PKers. Now days everyone just wants to grief and I don’t enjoy being griefed. More power to those who do I guess.

This post turned out to be longer than I wanted it to be, but I just had to respond to a few things.