Busy Bee

 Posted by on January 5, 2012  Guild Wars, Personal, Software development  Comments Off on Busy Bee
Jan 052012

I’ve been a bit quiet the last few weeks, not just because of the holiday season. I’ve been a bit of a busy bee.

After the work I did on the Mystic Spiral [MYST] website, I realised that all of our old articles documenting various farming builds would be better in WordPress than in phpbb3. But I couldn’t find something that would display the various templates, and seeing as I’m anxious to learn and improve my web dev skills, I decided to dive right in.

It’s a little ways off being ready for release to the general populous, but I couldn’t resist giving a sneak peek to the new GW Template plugin. 😉

Nov 042011

The new blog post by ArenaNet (posted 60 mins ago!) gives a much needed update on the state of the game at this stage in development. As well as a clarification on cross-profession combos and the Engineer’s tool belt, there’s also a brief overview of changes that the pet has undergone.

Firstly Rangers now have 2 terrestrial and 2 aquatic pet slots, which can all also hold amphibious pets. Rangers can swap between them during combat, but the cooldown will increase if the pet was downed when the swap occurred. It’s an interesting mechanic – if you’re under pressure and your pet goes down, you can summon up a new one (perhaps more suitable) to help turn the tide. I like it.

Second, pets now have 2 new states – active and passive. Active meaning the pet will attack if you do, and passive meaning it won’t attack unless you order it to. I’ve asked for clarification on the trigger for when the pet starts attacking if it’s in active mode. If it waits until the Ranger’s first attack “lands” before starting to make its way to the enemy, the change is largely irrelevant. The state switches should have been if the pet starts attacking when the Ranger fires or when the arrow lands. If the pet is meant to be half your damage, it should be as effective as you are. Or we should all use Devourers which are ranged pets. I’ll update this post if I get a response.

Thirdly, pets are unlocked in families and have set skillbars. The skillbar change and consequential pet-for-situation change could have held back players a lot, so I’m glad ArenaNet have brought in family unlocks. If you capture a polar bear, the “bear” family will be unlocked for you and you can slot any members of that family. However, for a Ranger to be effective and flexible for set team situations (eg pvp with a pve character, dungeons) they will need to have all the pet families unlocked as well as having their utility skills unlocked like the other professions. I’m not saying that all pets should automatically be unlocked the second you capture one of them, but making them all different does force an extra barrier that is unique to Rangers.

Anyway, those are some initial thoughts. Looking forward to hearing yours.

2000 Days

 Posted by on October 31, 2011  Guild Wars, Personal, Software development  1 Response »
Oct 312011

Mystic Spiral [MYST] hits another milestone today. It’s been years in the making but we’re finally getting rid of our current forum and making way for an actual website.

It’s almost like the 21st Century or something.

I’ve spent the last few weeks putting together a prototype site that combines WordPress and PhpBB3 to make a unified content management system and forum. Having spent most of that time re-skinning the site to create a seamless look, I can say 2 things: I know a lot more about CSS now than when I started and I’m no graphic designer. While I’m proud of what has come out of my swearing programming sessions I’m expecting cries of “it’s ugly” once it launches. I won’t disagree, but then there’s a reason why I’m a developer.

Functionality wise though, I’m in heaven. There are a million more directions to go in with the new site than the old. I explored some of them in a previous post, which will shape up to be phase 2 aka a dynamic guild roster. I also spied the Steam API a week or two ago which has got my pulse racing. For now though, the new site gets information like voice server details out of a buried thread in a forum and onto a separate page. Events have their own section and are Google calendar powered. If Guild Wars 2 launched tomorrow, we’d have something to work with and I’d spend less time maintaining a forum and more time with my guildies – ultimately the aim in changing format.

The next 2 weeks while we get everything migrated are likely to be hectic. Like all of this venture, it’s new territory for me which inevitably means long hours, lots of swearing and consumption of beverages that may not be healthy to me (coffee or vodka). I’m also celebrating my +1 day and have tickets to see Within Temptation in that time frame, so don’t expect to hear much from me on my blog. Twitter should be as active as ever though.

In one way it’s unfortunate everything’s conspired to happen at once, but I enjoy being busy. Since coming back from Gamescom I’ve had at least 3 viable community projects going through my head, and a blog post for Talk Tyria I must have revised at least 5 times. Its hard not to pick up one of these items and run with it, but I’m determined to get the site migrated. For once in my life, I will be a finisher.

You can take a look at the format we’ll be migrating to here. Our proper domain will be updated sometime before the 20th if all goes to plan.

Wish us luck!

PS: It’s also 2000 days since we were founded!

Oct 242011

Over the last 3 or 4 years a certain stigma has developed relating to the game-that-must-not-be-named and others that superficially attempt to emulate it’s success. Whilst being labelled a “WoW clone” may be an accurate label to describe a particular style of MMO RPG, it also encourages the projection of a person’s feelings towards WoW on that game. If you hate WoW chances are you’ll give it a miss. If you like WoW, well you’re probably playing it and waiting for Kung Fu Panda to arrive.

I should qualify this post by admitting that I have attempted to get into WoW on no less than 3 occasions. The most successful was post-Cataclysm where I got a mage (I think) to the mid 20s and then got the overwhelming feeling of repeating the same 3 quest types over and over in different scenery. I quit, and had the 4 gold I’d accumulated taken from my account by an unknown party. I’m sure it was worth it for them.

Rift came out a few months ago and got the WoW clone label attached to it. Having played it a lot over the last few months I can say that the label is somewhat accurate in the sense of killing differently skinned rats in different areas in order to complete the same 3 quest types. But to leave the labelling there is just plain inaccurate.

A lot of the boredom of doing the same few quest types is that you invariably end up pressing the same few buttons each time. Rift has a flexible class structure made up of an archtype (eg. rogue) and 8 souls within each one. Players can slot up to 3 at a time and distribute points as they wish between those souls. It makes it perfectly possible for a rogue to be doing DPS one minute, support the next, and AoE the one after that – boredom doesn’t get time to set in. Sound familiar? *cough*GuildWars*cough*

Another problem is diversity of stuff to do while you’re levelling. WoW had what felt like a very linear path, and if I didn’t finish this quest I wasn’t going to get any more. Rift breaks up progression through, well, rifts. Sure you can ignore them if you like but it seems rather silly to do so. Zone wide invasions where a dozen or so rifts will open, a load of invaders start attacking towns and you’re tasked with beating them back are fun to be part of and the rewards for participating are good. World events are a nice change of pace too, giving players different tasks for the month or so they’re active in addition to their regular quests.

The moral of the story is that not all clones are created equal. Don’t dismiss a game just because you dislike WoW and it starts getting that label. You could miss out on a real gem you grow to love.

Oct 102011
My love of rangers is no secret, and neither is my opinion that the essence of what I liked about them has been removed from the class in Guild Wars 2.  In various other MMOs I’ve played, I usually try the equivalent ranger class (followed by their cleric class) and after trying to mentally dice up how the ranger can be sorted out, I’ve noticed something common to nearly all incarnations of bow wielders. They are plagued by imbalance and lack the epic feeling of their counterparts.

The original Guild Wars ranger isn’t a stranger to this. Nature rituals were to blame for a horrible meta in the early days of the game, then there was the bunny thumper causing havoc everywhere. Disrupting Shot was catapulted to the skill hall of fame, being picked by The Last Pride [EviL] to be made into a skill pin. Over the years, the nerf bat has chipped away at various aspects of the ranger so that the profession has relatively few teeth left in its mouth and little benefit to the team as a whole. Even playing solo in PvE, its hard to see the impact you have on a battle – mesmers interrupt better, necromancers apply conditions better and various classes deal more damage.

Rift has to be applauded for the flexible nature of its class construction, but it feels like the rogue gets a lot more sweeping changes than other classes. This could be related to Trion’s insistence on rolling out updates like it’s the morning newspaper but my rogue’s roles (which I tend to play as a Marksman) seem to get reset a lot more than my cleric’s do indicating significant changes were made. It’s a bit of a mystery really. The bow-wielding NPC rogues hit hard, but when I’m the one aiming the arrow it feels like my character is throwing a pebble. Maybe I’m a bad ranger, but the repeated skill changes make me think that maybe it’s not entirely my fault.

Age of Conan’s take on the class was enjoyable, but was lacking variety and the feeling of epicness, due in part to the overpowered nature of the class at the release of the game. Finishing moves are a big deal in that game and while my husband’s Bear Shaman was ripping off heads and smashing skulls, my Ranger was limited to crouching down with my bow and shooting my killer blow. Fierce…

Overall it feels like a very hard class concept to action. And looking at the the variety of concepts above, is it much wonder? Warriors, mages and clerics don’t change much from MMO to MMO, but that fourth archetype does. Perhaps it’s a symptom of being the fourth wheel in the holy trinity, trying desperately to be the Swiss army knife for all situations that ultimately it fails in all of them.

Oddly the incarnation I enjoyed the most was found in Aion. Rangers were given silences, stuns, poisons, stealth and traps to play with. I maintain that traps are pretty useless in a PvP(vE) world and never used them in my gameplay. Still, I felt like I was doing something in a team. If someone needed killing, I could combo a damaging chain. If we overaggroed, I could provide another stun or silence. If we needed to pressure a team, I could spread poison or unleash a range of shots. There were no pets, but you could shapeshift into various animal forms if you had enough DP. I really enjoyed playing Aion’s ranger, it’s just a shame about server balance and a number of other game problems that drove me away. Also those few months of alpha & beta I burnt out on the game.

I think part of the reason that I’m looking forward to Guild Wars 2 as much is because I like the concept of being able to switch up my gameplay as the situation requires it. Clearly it is possible to achieve but, if anything’s to be said for classes that do this in other games, it feels like a very very tall order to execute 8 times over.

If you’re expecting a great revelation or arrogant claim to have a solution, prepare to be disappointed. I don’t have one. It’s hard enough getting a group of rangers to define the class itself, let alone work out how to execute the profession.

So, who’s up for a bit of amateur game design? If you’ve noticed any patterns or have any insight, drop your thoughts below please!