MMO Trials

logosI mentioned some time back that I was going through trial accounts of a few various games, and that I wanted to see how some of them have come since I last played, or just what a game I had never looked at was like. What I was hoping for, was to come at these games like it was my first time, and think about how they portrayed themselves to a would-be newcomer with zero expectations. The three that I checked out were City of Heroes, Lord of the Rings Online, and EvE (EVE? what’s the correct capitalization with this damn game?). I choose each of these because I had differing levels of exposure to them all. CoH I had played on and off for a number of years, never getting over level 30, but had a ton of alts, as this game basically demands you to do so. LotRO I had given the trial a spin once a year or so back, and just couldn’t handle playing it, so I stopped before even getting to level 5. EvE I had never even set foot in, and was completely unaware of how the game worked other than it was a sandbox space MMO. So, with high hopes and an open mind, I set out on my trials.

City of Heroes:

I went here first, as I had the most familiarity with it, and thought I could settle in more quickly than any other game. I went to the website, made a brand new account, and got the patcher. I let it run when I left for work in the morning, and when I got back and settled in from dinner, everything was done.

And that is where the ease of the game stopped. As soon as I finished patching, and the game actually launched, it was clear things were completely FUBAR. Maybe it was because I’m on Vista at home, or maybe it’s because the game doesn’t support nVidia’s newest drivers, or there is a clash of some kind, I don’t know, but my screen was nigh impossible to navigate. Everything was VISUALLY shifted up and to the left, so that the top and left side was cropped short, and then large black bars covered the right and bottom of the screen, cropping off those parts as well, so I was left with sort of shifted center of the display. The kicker to all this? Although it looked as if it was shifted, the actual interface was not, so if I hovered over the box to enter my login, it didn’t interact, I had to click on black space to guess where it was. Using this technique got me all the way through character creation of the standard dual-tone pre-set costume to try and see if anyone could help in-game. No-one could.

The next day, I then went to the forums. Crap, I forgot that just signing up for a playNC account and then the game doesn’t make you a forum logon automatically (more hassle). So, I do that chore, then try to make a post… forum errors. Apparently I picked the worst time to have problems, because even their message boards were so fucked up that you couldn’t click a link without getting an error of some sort, and forget about searching and posting.

I tried a few of my known tricks from previous experiences like changing the resolution to the games base starting resolution, updating all my graphics drivers, trying some old drivers. I went above and beyond what a normal person would have just to get the game running, and I still could not. Right when my trial account was about to run out, the boards seem to right themselves and I was able to try to ask for help, I got a few answers but none did the trick.

Rating for a newcomer: 0/10

If I was a brand new customer, you would have lost me AND had me pissed off that I spent the time and hard drive space on a piece-of-shit game that can’t even load properly and is so poorly coded that it won’t run on semi-new, top-of-the-line computers. Throw into the mix that even the usual avenue for assistance was fucked, and you just had one very vocal proponent of your game. I know it’s a good game, but if you as a company are taxing the patience of even a previous happy customer, something is very, very wrong.

Lord of the Rings Online

This game was a world of difference from CoH. The trial account was easy to set up, and the patcher was amazingly fast and well integrated. They had an option to download a torrent version of the game, so the 10 gigs went by in no time. It went by even faster for another reason. Once the download reaches a certain point, you can start playing the game! Yes, the downloader prioritizes the opening portion of the game for you to play in. So you can play through the first opening scene that is solo, and then the first book, or chapter, or whatever it’s called while the game finishes downloading! That is huge for people who don’t want to wait around. I started the download before dinner, and by the time I was done cooking and cleaning, I was in game and playing. More companies need to take this idea and run with it for their digital customers. The only downsides where that I couldn’t watch the intro videos of each class/race (a cool feature, but not something I really missed).

The game play was pretty good, and responsive. The classes and rolls were all interesting and a good twist of the typical representation of fantasy “classes”. I played a champion (I think, two-hander guy with buffs, kind of the paladin) first, and he was pretty fun, and got to around level 9 or 10, don’t remember exactly. I tried out the warden class for a few levels before my trial ran out also, and it’s mechanic was interesting. Gambits I think they were called, but it was more like a combo system. After a couple of attacks, you got a special attack based on those two (or three, don’t remember).  In any matter, spear + shield + javelins = awesome. The scenery was beautiful, the character models were great,  the environment was lush, especially once the download finished completely and I could crank up DirectX 10 and the graphics. On top of all this, the quests were really interesting. It had some of your typical “Kill blah blah blah”, but the overarching themes were well written and had me interested.

Their were only a couple of downsides, I didn’t see any PvP options to the game, which is fine since it’s all about PvE an storytelling. I’ve heard something about “monster play” but didn’t really find anything out about it. The biggest downside though: the interface. God it was awful. Clunky, unresponsive, unintuitive, and ugly. Ugly. It’s ugly is just greater thrown into contrast when you see the visuals of the rest of the world. It’s like seeing a sexy, oiled up Brazilian in a bikini next to a hairy construction worker in his wife beater and jeans, he just looks that much more repulsive in comparison.

Rating for a newcomer: 9/10 The ease of getting into this game, and the speed at what it does it, is unparalleled. If I wanted to play a PvE game with a great IP, this might very well be the game to go to.

EvE

The download for this game functioned much like CoH. I set it up in the morning and it was done by the time I was ready for it at home. This game, unlike the others, was a completely new experience for me. I had only heard tales of this game in the past, and so I had only generalizations based off of those stories to go by. First impressions of the game are good. It’s an involved character creation process where you choose your race, all of which are humans and apparently Asian inspired, then a whole slew of other options, such as stats, schooling, racial subset, and a lot of other stuff that I have no idea how much impact they make on the game.

Once you get into the game, you have a tutorial that gives you a basic guide to local area travel, combat, and mining. There is also some going-over of the interface. The interface is really impressive to look at, and it gives you the feel of having a lot of controls at your fingertips. There is a plethora of information for you to have sort through and process to be able to do anything. That said, the text is a little hard to read, but in an interesting sort of way.There are way-points and all sorts of things used in travel that I never fully wrapped my head around.

The chat interface is God-awful bad. It is probably the worst aspect I see of this game. The sizing of the screen layout, and the inability to really modify the presentation of some of it’s parts leaves a lot to be desired in the chat box and other interface options. The chat itself has a few tabs, and the text is constantly scrolling, even when you scroll up, the part you are trying to read is pushed up by further chat, adding to frustration when trying to get information. One large world means that there is constant chatter, and it eventually turns into white noise and just gets ignored instead of watched.

Training skills in this game was extremely different for me, and I think it’s the first MMO to implement it in this fashion. You can train one skill at a time. You buy a skill book of sorts, and then you study it. Increasing ranks take progressively longer with each one. Say, going from skill rank 1 to 2 takes eight hours, going from 2 to 3 takes one day and 6 hours, 3 to 4 takes two days and 10 hours, etc… (these numbers are all arbitrary, I don’t recall specifics). This sounds like a long time for each skill, I mean, Christ, 8 hours for one skill rank. Why yes, but it’s 8 hours real time. That’s right kiddies, as long as your account is active, your skill will level up. There are a few downsides, you can’t queue skills up to train after each other, so after you finish one skill, you have to log on for the next, also this design can lead to an unreachable gap between long-time players and new players, as you’re essentially paying a subscription fee to level your toon. With the release of in-game time cards that are being traded for in game money, an RMT system is basically being created in a back-door manner, so if I had the inclination, I could buy time cards, sell them for in-game money, buy skill books, and train skills. Never would I have to leave dock and face danger.

All of this probably sounds a tad overwhelming and it is. The game has a learning curve steeper than a horizontal ice-sheath. By the time I was done, I still did not have a strong grasp of how to travel around the universe, how to use way-points and just function in the day-to-day things I needed to do. The stars and galaxies were beautiful, and the ships were amazing. Visually, it was awesome in the traditional sense of the word. I just wish I could have figured out how to see more.

Rating for a newcomer: 4/10 Anyone new to the game, even an MMO vet is probably going to have a hell of a time getting into the game, I can completely see myself getting lost in the minutia of the game and never wanting to leave if I got sucked into it though, it’s that amazing.

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About Shadow
Making serious business out of internet spaceships.

One Response to MMO Trials

  1. Pingback: City of Cool « Shadow WAR’s Blog

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