Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Borderlands first impression

I bought Borderlands for my X-box 360 last night. I haven't played it online a ton because I'm waiting for them to patch out a bug that will wipe out all of your weapon proficiencies when you enter and leave a game (apparently all three versions, PC, 360, and PS3 are affected). As per my usual, a few quick first impressions.

The game is stunningly beautiful. Even on my 360 the game looks as good as anything I've run on my PC that costs three times as much and has died twice in four months. I am a PC gamer why exactly? Oh yeah, Borderlands is the only decent "MMO" worth playing on consoles right now, and it's no more of an MMO than Diablo was.

Reminds me of Diablo in a very good way. This is the most fun I've had with a roguelike since the original Diablo (never got into D II for a variety of reasons) and PSO. With rare exceptions, when I'm in the mood for mindless killing and loot pinatas I generally prefer to play a full on Rogue iteration such as Angband, with askii graphics and the whole two yards. I'm adding this game to my list of exceptions.

Very slow start. The first hour of the game was honestly boring as hell, apart from gawking at the stylish graphics. I started with a gun that bit horrifically, making every combat slow and tedious. And you don't start getting skill points until level five. Because of that, every class plays identically until level five. As soon as I found a decent gun, the game started to pick up. Once I unlocked my skill trees I was hooked.

Online is fun, but this is not really a social game. I bopped into one game to see what it was like. It was fast paced, fun, and I got three levels in twenty minutes. However, in the random game I joined there was no communication. I looked to see where folks were on the map, ran over, and started shooting. I did get rezzed a couple of times when I died, and I dropped my turrets at some enemy chokepoints, so we were cooperating. However, as far as I can tell there is no central hub where you hang out and organize parties. It has a "community" in about the same sense that Team Fortress II does. It's not an MMO even to the extent that PSO was.

So far I have only tried the Soldier. He gets a fairly insanely overpowered turret that he can lay down wherever he likes. It does a lot of damage and is next to invulnerable at low levels. You can give it the ability to do more damage, regen health in a radius, or replenish ammo in a radius. However, it only lasts about 30 seconds and you can only use it every two minutes or so (maybe less often). There is a skill that will let you use the turret more often deep in one of the skill trees, maybe that will help. However, right now it feels like I am 90% whatever weapon I'm using and 10% whatever skills I happen to choose. Of course, as I often do, I chose the character that seemed the simplest to learn the game with. Hopefully the other classes will have a bit more depth.

Some ups and downs, but overall a great game. I am very impressed.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lego Universe

1up has just posted the most detailed preview of Lego Universe I've yet seen. The idea of collecting different blocks in the world so that you can build more stuff has my inner explorer titillated. I also like the idea of bopping around worlds with wildly different themes (e..g., Pirates, Space).

I also wonder of a game with such a simple character development system will be able to hold my interest. You basically collect hearts to increase your health, and collect items to earn new special abilities. It sounds very Zelda. Of course the Zelda games were slightly awesome, so maybe I'm worried about nothing.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Champions Online Career Ends Abrubtly

A few days after starting up Champions Online, my main gaming PC died again. The PC nearly fired up when I let it cool off for an hour. I'll try start it up again tomorrow and hope for the best. However, I suspect that the CO is causing my video card to draw more juice than my power supply can handle, and burns it out if I leave the game running for too long. Certainly CO taxes my system a lot more than the other games I play. If the PC won't start tomorrow, I'll order a bigger power supply and see if that does the trick.

In any case, as I suspect it will be weeks until I get my regular PC going (barring a miraculous recovery tomorrow morning), I'll be blogging about games my backup PC can handle for a while again. DDO, maybe WoW, perhaps Guild Wars or EVE (both games I've long been meaning to try but never go around to). In addition, the console MMOs are finally starting to pop. Borderlands just came out, and I think the decision as to whether I should get it for the 360 or the PC was just made for me. Sony also has some games coming down the pipe that might spur me to get a PS3.

I did try to get in touch with BlueKae and AnjinM in game, just didn't happen to overlap with you guys today. I'm @Yeebo if I ever get going again, glad to know I wasn't the only one using an obvious account name :-)

Crafting in Champions Online: Guide to Low Level Items

The crafting system in Champions Online was a bit of a mystery to me. It's not at all clear from the in game descriptions what crafting you should pick if you want to boost a particular stat or set of stats. So, in a fit of anal, I made new alt and spent the entire evening talking to different crafting trainers and writing down recipes. So that future generations will not have to suffer through such tedium, I've decided to post my findings. Below you will find guides to the permanent upgrade items that you can make in tiers I and II. Some very important points:

1. Anyone can make bags and healing items, if that's all you want pick whatever appeals to you.

2. The specialization within a particular craft generally makes no difference. However I did discover one exception by accident. It stands to reason that there are a few others. I haven't checked every recipe with all three specializations of all three crafts (I'm not that anal).

3. These are only the stat boosting items. Power replacement items gimp the hell out of your stats for a chance at a proc that does massive damage. They only work on very specific abilities. For example, many work only on single handed sword attacks. I didn't consider them worth compiling stats on.

4. You may not get these stats when you actually craft something. The stats below are based on what the recipes on vendors list. I have gotten slightly lower stats when crafting items in some cases.

5. Major caveat: the stats on these recipes scale with level. Below are the stats a level 7 character will see on recipes. However a lower level character will find the stats to be lower, a higher level character will find them much improved. Take this as a guide to the stats that can be buffed by a given profession, more than the precise bonus you can get.

With all that in mind, the first two tiers of stat upgrade items are as follows:

Skill Str Dex Con Int Ego Pre Rec End Type
0 - - - 19 - - - - PU
10 + + 8 4 + 8 + + PD
30 - 19 - - - - - - PO
40 + + + 19 + + + + PU
50** - - 9
4 - 5
- - PD
75 + 12 + + + + 2 + PO
105 - - - 13 - - - 7 PU
115 + + 11 4 + 2 + + PO
125 - 13 - - - - 8 - PD
140 + + + 13 + + + 7 PU
155 - - 12 3 - 2 - - PO
170 + 11 + + + + 10 + PD
185 - - - 15 - - - 5 PU
**If you choose the Invention specialization the item grants 18 Con, 4 Int, and 13 Presence

Skill Str Dex Con Int Ego Pre Rec End Type
0 - - - - 19 - - - PU
10 + + + + 4 14 + + PD
30 - 14 - - - - 4 - PO
40 + + + + 19 + + + PU
50 - - - - - 14 - 4 PD
85 14 + + + + 4 + + PO
105 - - - 9 9 3 - - PU
115 + + + + 2 14 + 1 PD
115 - - - - - 2 12 - PO
140 + + + + 7 12 1 + PU
155 - - - - 2 14 - 3 PD
175 3 9 + + + 1 6 + PO
185 - - - - 5 15 - - PU
195 + + + + 9 + + 2 SD
200 1 4 - - - 3 11 - PO

Skill Str Dex Con Int Ego Pre Rec End Type
0 - - - - - - - 19 PU
10 4 + 14 + + + + + PD
30 19 - - - - - - - PO
40 + + + + + + + 19 PU
50 4 14 - - - - - - PD
85 19 + + + + + + + PO
105 - - 4 - - - - 14 PU
115 3 1 14 + + + + + PD
125 14 - 4 - - - - - PO
140 + + 3 + 1 + + 14 PU
155 2 1 14 - - - 1 - PD
170 11
+ + + + +
185 - -
- - - - 2
195 1 1 14 + + + 3 + PD
200 11 10 - - - - - - PO

I tried my damndest to find this info somewhere else, and drew a blank. If someone else is sitting on charts like this they need to make them easier for google to find. To any random readers, feel free to repost these to your heart's content as long as you give me credit. And remember, these are the stats at level 7.


Arms is a very good generic crafting profession. Pretty much anyone can use constitution and endurance, and strength is good for any character that melees a lot. For crit builds (i.e., dexterity and ego) mysticism is reasonably solid. For a lot of builds, you are simply out of luck. For example, if you want to boost endurance and recovery (common for ranged DPS), nothing really works all that well at low levels (though science may work depending on how it scales).

Hope this will be of some help to readers. Happy adventuring :)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Back in Champions Online

Finally fired up my Champions Online account. I'm two days into my free 30 days, and enjoying it quite a bit. A few thoughts.

The character generation system doesn't seem as arcane as it did to me before. Part of it is likely that I understand the system better now. Part of it is also likely that I've been playing a lot of DDO lately, and that game has a well and truly arcane character development system. However, I suspect that some of the tooltips and descriptions have been cleaned up a bit. Certainly choosing primary stats is much less confusing than I remember.

At least at the low levels I'm playing, rumors of apocalyptic nerfs seem exaggerated. I decided to roll up a new dude (actually, remake Electric Dude) and see how the post nerf 1-10 game plays. It did seem a bit slower than I recalled at first. However by level 7 or so everything was right as rain.

I sucked before, I really really sucked. I'm sure I still suck, just (hopefully) not as tragically. I finally figured out that the main attack in the electric power set arcs between multiple foes if you let it charge all the way up. That makes a huge difference when you are pulling groups of mobs. Now I can get them more than half dead before they reach me and then spam them all down with electric shield, taking nary a bit of damage from minions. How the hell I got a nearly identical guy to level ten in the OB without noticing that eludes me.

I also finally figured out what the is going on with the various energy sheath powers. Hint: grab the one that goes in your passive slot first, it will be on damn near all the time. The one you trigger may be a slightly better buff, but you won't be able to use it more than one fight out of three in a dense area.

Evidence of my previous suckitude can be found elsewhere. I switched over to my old main from the headstart weekend. He was parked right outside an instance entrance. I was level 11, they were level 13 and packed tight as sardines. I got my ass handed to me on my first pull. Respawned, watched the patrol patterns, this time cleared my way to the boss (a Master Villian). She proceeded to rip me a new bunghole several times in a row.

Once I got down to three stars decided to check over my build. Discovered that it bit badly. The two stats I was most heavily invested in were presence and recovery. Recovery isn't too bad, it means I regen power very quickly. Presence, on the other hand, is full of suck for a solo character. It reduces threat (useless solo), and buffs my non-existent pets and heals. I can see why I decided to boost it. The in game description of the stat is vague as hell, and it's one of the two powers given a big bonus when you choose the fire power set. That does sort of imply it's something you'll want. However, at low levels it's an extremely poor investment for a fire character. Even at high levels I'd argue that more hitpoints (con) or more power (end) are both likely to be more useful than a buff to the one pet the set eventually gets.

In any case, that was not the worse of my suckage. Oh no, not by a long shot. I had items sitting in my bag that I hadn't even bothered to slot. One item summons a ghostly hound for two minutes. Hmmm, that might be handy in a tough boss fight. Worse than that, I had a small stack of healing items that were also unslotted. Put both of those on my hotbar, spent a little money on a retcon, and went in an slaughtered the boss with ease (as well as the Super Villian and two minions that spawned behind me as soon as she dropped).

All in all having a lot of fun with the game. Look forward to seeing some of the higher level zones.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A few of quick hits

No, really it isn't in my imagination. The free content additions since Mines of Moria launched have been positively meager compared to what we got during the first year of LoTRO.

Dana Massey over at posted an opinion piece listing what he considers to be the top ten pre-WoW MMOs. I agree with most of his choices, though including Vanguard seems a bit questionable and I'm surprised Champions Online didn't make the cut. However, what I most enjoyed was the predicatable trainwreck of fanboy chimpanzee screeches and poo throwing that follows the piece. "WTF where is AoC!" "WTH is LoTRO doing on that list, everyone knows it's teh suxxors!" "Who the hell plays Club Pengiun?" ect. It's hard to believe how much I used to hang out there.

Finally, 1up has posted their review of Aion. The reviewer never got to the PvP endgame, which seems like a pretty important omission since the endgame is supposed to be one of the major selling points. However, I have to agree with his closing statement. If the game is so bland that he completely stalled out in the mid levels, he shouldn't be recommending it. The review addresses what I really want to know "Would I enjoy Aion enough to really explore it?" Based on the frequent content gaps he describes, probably not. Whether or not a MMO has a cool end game doesn't matter to me one bit if the leveling game stinks. I don't care if the endgame consists of Swedish models coming to my house to warm my bed and make me pancakes. If I'm not having fun a few hours into an MMO, it's leaving my hard drive. Plus the models might tick off my significant other . . .

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The state of PvP in LoTRO

This post over at Mike Darga's got me thinking about the PvP system in Lord of the Rings Online. As far I know, the PvMP system used in LoTRO is unique among MMOs. The bulk of LoTRO is a rich PvE game that contains no PvP apart from dueling. One zone, the Etinmoors, is devoted to PvP. There you can enter and play as one of your regular characters, a freep (free peoples...i.e., a normal character) or you can play as a creep (i.e., a monster player). A creep is a character that cannot leave the moors, and exists solely to oppose the freeps.

There are six creep classes, some of them very odd classes like "giant evil spider" and "stealthy wolf [worg]" that have no real analogues in other MMOs that I am aware of. The creep classes start at level 60, but weak 60s. They can eventually grow to be as powerful as a decently geared 60 freep, but only through PvP. To advance their abilities to the highest ranks, they have to kill human controlled opponents. Because of this, if you are playing creep side LoTRO is one of the more hardcore PvP games on the market.

In addition, the PvP in LoTRO is set up Realm vs Realm style. By that I mean it's modeled after Dark Age of Camelot. There are keeps to take over, whoever controls the most keeps gains advantages. The most important potential advantage to holding keeps is access to a raid dungeon in the zone. From a freep perspective, this means they can take down bosses to get rare gear. From a creep perspective, this means they can take down bosses to earn abilities that are otherwise unavailable. Also, like DAoC, there is no limit to how many players can log on a given side, which means that often the outcomes of battles are determined largely by how many players show up to a given fight. In my mind it makes fights in the 'moors a lot more realistic and varied than battle ground style PvP matchups ala WoW or scenarios in WAR.

It also opens up advanced strategies, such as having a small force serve as a distraction while the main force takes a keep or other objective. That's certainly not a dynamic you'll commonly find outside of MMOs that specialize in PvP. It's like a casual version of the PvP you'll find in serious PvP MMOs like WAR, DAoC, or EVE. I certainly don't have the patience to play something like Darkfall where deep PvP is the primary experience on offer. However, I thought it was great that a deep PvP experience was offered as a side game in LoTRO. I also thought it was pretty neat that there were six creep classes that are only available if you decide to PvP.

That is why it pains me that Turbine has seemingly stabbed their PvP game in the back and left it to bleed to death on the side of the road. For PvP to be fun from a creep perspective, a lot of freeps need to be out on the 'moors. Unfortunately, as it stands currently, a freep would have to be next to insane to engage in PvP for the primary reward.... gear. The PvP gear you can earn in the 'moors is the hardest set of level 60 gear to earn in the game by a wide margin. It takes hundreds of hours of killing out in the 'moors to get the full set. It is also the worst endgame gear for a 60 by an equally wide margin. The stats pale before even crafted gear, much less the gear you can get from Moria 6 mans. And the set has 0 radiance, making it well and truly useless for any serious end game content.

So why did Turbine do this? I suspect strongly that they are trying to consolidate their audience. LoTRO is arguably among the best PvE MMOs currently on the market. PvP was never anything more than an entertaining side game in LoTRO. Even in my kinship founded by hardcore PvP fans, PvPers were less that a quarter of our members. Development resources are limited. Do you devote 100% to your core strengths and try to become a market leader in that area, or dilute your resources on a side game to try and keep an additional small subset of your users barely happy? Turbine has seemingly made their choice.