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Archive for September, 2010

Games take too much time

I have been playing a ton of League of Legends and Civilization 5 recently, so yeah.  Posting is hard.  But LoL is an excellent game (assuming you can get past the frustration inherent to a strictly competitive multiplayer game).

Heck, they even added a bard champion that has song twisting.  That was really amusing to see.

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I really enjoy it.  I haven’t really given it the full time I need to, and I believe I see room for improvement, but so far it’s a lot of fun.

I do hear it’s buggy, and I’m inclined to believe the crash reports, etc.  I think the engine could have used some (serious) optimization.  I’m not seeing anything that should warrant the general slowdown I see (though the game is pretty, don’t get me wrong).  The AI is probably too easy; I don’t know if this is a function of the difficulty level or just an all-around poor AI.  I’ll play more and see.

However, in spite of all that, I’m absolutely in love.  The changes to the way military units work is welcome.  In fact, as much as they benefit a military leader, I think they’re even more helpful to a peaceful victory.  You really don’t need a very large force to properly defend your territory; you just need a mobile concentration of forces.  An attacker will need to field a large or cunningly moved force to have a shot at breaking a determined defender…particularly if they’re hunkered down in a fort or city and have a general backing them.  On top of that, your cities are essentially defenders all by themselves; breaking into a city is a multi-turn extravanganza.  You simply can’t bring the mass of power you could in prior civs to bear in a single turn.

And if the defender has dropped a great general with a couple of archers behind some melee guys locked down in a fort….well, good luck getting anywhere past that.

A lot of the complexities of the older games have been spread out.  I still find them there, but the plethora of relevant choices are much less concentrated in particular turns; rather, they’re made across multiple turns.  Molding your civ takes time and concentration; every turn has some major activity.  And yes, you really do push to the point where you have a lot of decisions to make each turn.  This, I think, is the biggest victory: while I had things to do every turn, they were all very different and very weighty decisions.  Choosing what to produce in a city was no easy thing.  Choosing where to move my armies and how to deploy took some effort, because you can’t stack units.  Choosing what techs to pick up to best emphasize my grand strategy was involved.

All in all, I really do love the game.  Yes, more than Civ IV.

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It was fun.  It was a really great sequel to Guild Wars, had some interesting changes to combat, added a bit more intensity and control to combat, and was overall very fun.

It, however, was not really much of what they said it was.

First, I want to offer up my complaints about the skill system.  5 of your skills are determined by your weapons, and will never change beyond weapon swaps.  Now, you can do some slick things, like (as a necromancer) equip a dagger, drop down some status effects, then switch to a scepter, drop poison and consume them for massive damage.  But you can’t do some of the crazier things from GW, nor can you really invent your own combos.  These are all set for you.

Your heal also seems pretty much set, though perhaps there exist a few options here.  Your utility skills are the only place you can make major alterations, and there are only 4 of these.  So they’ve given up a great deal of the customization of classes.  Also, the attribute system has been…altered.  In GW you had a set of attributes per class, so your character had attributes from two classes: your primary (along with the special attribute) and your secondary class.  Each attribute improved skills associated with that attribute.  That’s all gone now.  Instead, you have 6 basic attributes, shared by all classes.  They helpfully highlight attributes useful to your class, but all the attributes are standard RPG Strength, Stamina, Intelligence, etc.  It’s a bit more difficult to determine what they effect, and they provide across the board bonuses.  None of the narrow specialization of GW survived.

Now, the Event system that heralds a new dawn of quests?  Let me describe what I quickly learned to do in order to level through the event system.  I entered an area with an event.  As soon as I did, text popped up, telling me a new event was available nearby.  I brought up the map, which showed icons for completed and uncompleted events; finding the nearest uncompleted event, I skedaddled in that direction.  Upon arrival, a box appeared in the upper right telling me what to do and how close to completion this task was.  I would then do the thing, fill the completion bar, get my reward, and bring the map back up.

Yes, you could explore for events.  But why would you, when they are shown on your map?  You’ve just traded out the dreaded hunt for exclamation points with a hunt for icons on a map.  Worse, GW2 never explains what you are supposed to do when you arrive.  That box in the upper right?  It says helpful things like “Help the farmer”.  There were three different potential tasks I found, which included watering plants, feeding cows, and killing worms infesting the place (I know, sounds fun, right?), none of which was told to me up front.  I had to go randomly click on shit till I found something to do.  They didn’t even have a way to click on the box in the upper right to bring up some short description.

Events are basically an attempt to get rid of the quest journal.  Quest text is a result of the quest journal, not a necessity of quests.  However, they want events to reward your participation, so they need a way to tell you how close to completion the event is.  Otherwise, I’m liable to never figure out when I might get rewarded, might leave early, or might never take part because I don’t know exactly what to do.  That’s frustrating; it means the people in the know get to do what are effectively quests (since they involve completing an objective for a reward), while people not in the know have to go grind mobs.  Ok, so we need a way to communicate this to the player; PQs in WAR had boxes in the top right, and those worked; we’ll put those in!  Well, I’ll tell you what you’ve just done.  You’ve made a public quest.  It’s a quest with no quest text, which means it’s still un-contextualized.  You’re just doing random BS because it’s there to be done and you get a reward for filling the completion bar.

To top it off, they added the further convenience of showing the location of events on the map.

This leads to a cluttered UI…and fucking quests.  I was doing quests, except I wasn’t sure why or who they related to or what the fuck was going on.  I was just doing shit and getting rewards for filling completion bars or killing big monsters.  It was very noisy and very…uncoordinated.

I’ll buy and play this game…but I don’t know for how long.  Really, it was just GW advanced, with less class specialization, but more responsive combat.

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Quick update: I’m at PAX

I am in Seattle (a lovely city) the eve of PAX. This is gonna rock so hard.

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