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Not much MMOing this week. Too much real life running around and fatigue.


I'm going to let CO lapse when my time card runs out near the end of this month. It's starting to get repetitive again, though I did find some quests I haven't done in so long that I've forgotten about them, so that helps. I'll use my stipend points for the two month sub to buy the Savage archetype so I can keep playing Skunk Ape when the mood strikes. I may try to get my level 31 freeform martial artist (Mister Midnight) to cap so I can unlock another character slot before the sub ends. Maybe the next time I put time on the account, there will be something cool going on.


I haven't even touched DDO since I put up those videos earlier. I was working on my Thief-Acrobat Rogue last time. The Druid splash seems to help a lot with his stick fighting. I'm in the middle of Tangleroot Gorge with him at the moment, hoping to pick up a staff that has a summon animal ability, so I can get a little higher level flanking buddy. I haven't played my Arcane Archer for a while. I was last working on getting her the commendation rewards from the various factions at the beginning of the Menace of the Underdark expansion. I think I lost interest in grinding them out though. I was repeating the Druid's Deep questline to get them as an end reward option. My original thinking there was to get Marama upgraded gear before advancing into the epic level content, since she never did any raid content at lower levels. I'm thinking of just abandoning that plan and leveling up. Still, overall, I haven't been in the mood for DDO lately.


I checked in on WoW the other day. I was planning to renew my sub when they did the pre-release for Warlords of Draenor, but it's already out. This is a pre-pre-pre-release, as the game won't be out until the Fall. And by "Fall" it seems they mean just before Christmas. So, perhaps too soon to re-sub.


Also in the WoW news, Hearthstone has gone live, and you can get a mount in WoW by winning 3 games against other players. Story here: http://www.cinemablend.com/games/Hearthstone-Officially-Launches-Hearthsteed-Mount-Card-Backs-Now-Available-62749.html


Video of mount:




I'm not sure if I have to have my subscription for WoW active to get it. I may reactivate WoW just to be sure. I could do some alting and doing my daily cloth making so I can finish equipping all my alts with the larger tailoring bag. I think only two or three have them now.

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OK, so I resubbed and did the mount thing. It's a little buggy. I won my three games on Hearthstone, got the pop up saying I got the mount, and nada. They didn't send the mount. So, I looked at the forums after doing the obvious stuff of relogging after completely exiting bnet. Someone said they won a fourth game, then the mount was sent. Sooooo....  guess it's four wins for a free mount.


Here's an easy to play Paladin deck that works well, made with all basic cards:


Novice Engineer × 2
Raid Leader × 2
Sen'jin Shieldmasta × 2
Acidic Swamp Ooze × 2
Dragonling Mechanic × 2
Frostwolf Warlord × 2
Ironfur Grizzly × 2
Lord of the Arena × 2
Murloc Tidehunter × 2
Razorfen Hunter × 2
Stormwind Champion × 2

Blessing of Might × 2
Blessing of Kings × 2
Consecration × 2
Truesilver Champion × 2


Here are the YouTube videos I got it from:




So, even if you haven't played HS yet, it's pretty easy to get the ugly glow horse.

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I still haven't been playing a lot lately, but I've re-activated WoW and put in some play time on GW2. I need to catch up big time on GW2. My time on CO is coming to an end in a couple of days, and I haven't really been playing it much the last couple of weeks.

I suppose I got my money's worth on CO since the time cards are super cheap on Amazon, but it doesn't feel like it. I only capped one of my higher level characters to unlock a slot that I used for the Savage Skunk Ape, but spent the rest of my time on him since he's pretty fun (Savage AT). My goal was to unlock at least three or four new slots, so failure there, but I did have fun. I didn't really play much the second month. When the account lapses, I'll buy the Savage AT with the freebie points. I have another time card sitting around, but I'm going to hold off on using it until I get a few characters close to the cap (VERY close, I couldn't even be bothered to get my 31 to 40 this time around) or until something big is added to the game (like a FOUNDRY).

On GW2, I really need to catch up with the rest of the gang, all of whom have at least one 80. I haven't really settled on a class to play, so have just been piddling around with some lowbies. It's really hard to decide before about level 20 or so, when you have some skill points and traits to spread around to fill out an actual build. You can unlock all of your weapon skills right out of the gate, but those only give you an inkling of what a class can do. That said, I think I'm going to main a Hunter for now. Mine is a Norn, but a very short Norn. Because jumping puzzles on a tall Norn are a PITA.

Here are a couple of screenshots of her, first vs. a normal-sized female Norn NPC, and then vs. a pair of Human NPCs. My old Norn would have completely dwarfed those same humans, and she was only set to average NPC size, not maxed.





I didn't really play much WoW this week, but since I've re-subbed for the ugly Hearthsteed, I've gotten my Shaman from 80 to 82 and my Rogue from 34 to 46. I did a mix of quests and LFD runs with the Shaman and mostly LFD with the Rogue. The Rogue is starting to fall behind on the meters when there are ranged in the group that know what they're doing, because of the typical leveling dungeon pace, with everyone running to keep up with the Heirloomed-out tank. Even so, still pretty smooth sailing for both. I've considered changing my Rogue from combat to subtlety, but her name's Combative, so Blizz will just have to fix her spec. :P Combat's always been my favorite rogue spec, so I'm sticking to it.

I also made a little Warlock. She has a terribly tiny Void Walker. I suppose they're scaling pet sizes for Warlocks now? I don't remember getting such a puny VW on my last Warlock. I made her a Dwarf lass. She's my likely candidate for level boosting, and I wasn't going to start her until the new models were out, but I decided to take my chances and hope she turns out OK when the new models come out. Here's a screeny:




I haven't done a single daily crafting cooldown since I've re-subbed. I should probably at least make cloth for the largest tailoring bags, but the whole concept of having to craft once a day to get an item made irks me to no end. Sure, it may only take five or ten minutes a day to log in my mage and make some cloth, but I hate being made to feel like I'm slacking if I don't do it. So, here's to hoping that's revised in WoD. I'd rather have the option to grind out mats if I want, instead of being forced to log in every day. I'll probably just continue to alt for a while, and toss a big F-U to the crafting system.

Aside from alting, I ran a few Heroics to get JP for some more Heirlooms for alting in. Did that on my ret pally. I don't have a great set of gear on her (item level 502? Mostly island stuff with a ToT LFR two hander), but I'm pretty happy with her performance. I'm almost tempted to grind out some LFR or PVP gear for her, but I'll probably just stick to alting. She's still front runner for my first to cap in WoD. I've really liked ret play in MoP.


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They still do apparently. I have a bar on either side of the screen and two bars on the bottom. I'm not sure if that is FtP or Preferred though. As it is, I barely fill up three of the bars right now. Any more than the four would be....tricky.


Ya SW:TOR's FtP system is, if not THE stingiest, one of the most stingiest ones out there.


The action bars you have are a result of Preferred status. I'm not sure what possesed me to spend money on the game but until I did, I only had the 1 action bar under in the middle of the screen.


Still got Cartel Points to spend but I doubt I'll ever go back to that game. Oddly enough, it just doesn't feel star warsy to me.

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Wildstar is having a beta weekend this weekend. Friday through Sunday. If you're interested in trying it out, you can get Beta keys from one of these places (I went with the Nvidia site, just had to like them on Facebook):






The game looks interesting. It's a SciFi styled game. Which means it's mostly SF, but it does have some magic in it, including one magic-using class. In addition to picking a class, you pick a Path.


These relate to your preferred playstyle: Soldier (you like killing things), Explorer (you like exploring), Settler (you like crafting), and Scientist (you like lore). You'll get more quest suited to whichever playstyle the path promotes, and there are perks for leveling up in the path. From what I can tell, the paths are an additional set of quests. So, it should add some variety to leveling up alts, or for just focusing on a preferred playstyle.


There's player housing.


The customization has been talked up a lot. You can even customize your mounts.


The game has an active combat system. There are tells on the ground for both your attacks and your opponents. So, you have to both aim as well as dodge. No tab targeting. The dodge mechanic is ripped straight out of GW2. You get two dodges before it goes on cooldown, double tap the direction you want to dodge. They've also got the button mashing to escape crowd control from Champions Online. I read that initially it was just pounding the F key, but now it's supposed to be a random key. Probably so players in PVP can't get an advantage by using programmable keyboards to mash F faster with a single click.


The end game will have 40 (and I think also 20) man raids, if you like that sort of thing. There's supposed to be stuff to do if you don't. I'm not sure on that point, i.e., how good the game is for a non-raider. Regular dungeons are supposed to be pretty challenging.


The crafting system is supposed to be good, and you can discover unique recipes somehow, but I don't know much of the details.


I'm kind of interested in the game, and may pre-order it. The potential cons I see are lack of anything to do to progress your character at cap outside of raiding or PVP, and the combat system inducing carpal tunnel and wearing out my keyboard.

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Let's see . . .


I was going to make a post back around the first of the month. Then I didn't. April Fool's in GW2 was making all of the PCs and NPCs have bobble heads, which was kind of funny. I have a video I need to upload of that. In WoW, it was typical fake patch notes, and fake announcements.


In WoW, I farmed up a few heirlooms for my alts, and put a few level on said alts. I finally got my Explorer achievement. Turned out I only had to fly my Mage over to a peak in Kun Lai Summit. I finished off the Loremaster achievements for the prior expansion packs, just leaving some low level zones to do. I started to farm some iLvl 533 PVP gear on my Paladin.


I unsubbed after one month.


Not because there was a lack of things to do. I have a lot of things I could do:


  • PVP in random battle grounds.
  • Run Raid Finder to finish the Legendary cloak quest line on my Paladin and/or my other five level 90s.
  • Finish leveling the rest of my alts to 90. On my main server, I have a Shaman (82), Warlock (46), Rogue (41), Monk (40), and Priest (25). On my Horde server I have a DK (63), Hunter (32). Just hanging out on other servers, I have a DK (80), Paladin (80), Warrior (65), DK (62). Most of those were abandoned characters from server transfers or alts to play with RL friends who quit. So, I could finish all of the above off and have one of each class, plus spares, for a total of 17 level 90s. I could do that well before the expansion hits.
  • Chase achievements.
  • Farm mounts from instances and old raids. Still need Sartharion 3D 10 and 25 mounts, and the two drakes from the Cata dungeons. Still need to craft the JC cats and the Engineering rocket. Still need Big Love Rocket from Love is in the Air holiday boss and Headless Horseman's mount from the Halloween event. Still need all but one of the honor point mounts.
  • Make gold to have a bigger stockpile for the expansion.
  • Farm JP to get the rest of the heirlooms.
  • Pet Battles. I've only got level 6 or 7 pets max, and haven't really looked into the system. It seems like it's a complete game by itself.


BUT . . . none of that stuff interests me.


PVP in random battlegrounds used to be fun. It hasn't been much fun in years, due to the players. Gearing up is pointless with an expansion coming up. Raid Finder is the same, but with even more player drama. The bosses are easier in general than five man bosses. No thanks. Leveling? Do I NEED 17 level 90s? Nah. Do I even need one of each class? Well, it's insurance against Blizz making any given class suck, but the six I have capped now have been good enough insurance so far. The five classes that are left are the five that are least appealing to me. (Though Rogue has been made more appealing by getting rid of a lot of the busy work, like farming lock boxes to level lock picking, or crafting poisons.) Chasing achievements is something I don't really find that interesting. Most of them amount to busy work. Some of the titles are cool, but if you didn't have fun getting the title, then who gives a crap? I like my Knight and Knight-Captain titles, because I got them when PVP was still a fun activity to me, and when they took serious effort to get (and I stopped ranking those characters up b/c I wasn't gong to go for Warlord or Grand Marshall and I liked Knight and Legionairre -- one guy was Horde to start -- as titles.) I like my Champion of the Frozen Wastes title, because I got it with a good guild and we had a lot of fun running those raids. But stuff like The Insane? Or Loremaster? Just busywork. Farming mounts is a fun thing to do a bit of here and there. Not something to stay subbed for. Same for farming heroics to get heirlooms. Plus, you get the added bonus of having the occasional item level 560+ person in your group and you just end up following them around as they blow up everything. Novel the first time, annoying all the rest of the times. Farming gold isn't really all that fun. Pet battles, I keep thinking may be fun, but can't get interested enough to bother.


So, screw it, I unsubbed.


I can do all of the things listed above (save the Legendary quest line, but meh) when the expansion drops. I'll resub for a shot at the Horseman's mount in October, or after patch 6.0 hits, whichever comes first. They're making a lot of changes to the classes -- again -- so, I'm not going to pre-order until I see what it looks like. Some of it sounds good (simplifying druid feral rotation), some not so good (removing a lot of key abilities from hunters).


I think I have two main issues with WoW at this point:


First, it's late in the expansion. It's pointless to progress my characters' gear when it's going to be obsoleted soon. If I was doing raid progression, it'd be a different story, but I haven't been in a raid guild since the first round of raids in Wrath.


Second, is the power gap. I'm a good player. I'm far from the best player, but I'm decent. Generally, when I run as DPS in a random group I'm at the top of the chart, and not getting there by being bone-headed and causing problems for the group. (Though, these days none of the five man content is challenging enough to screw up.) That's given equal or nearly-equal gear. Back in Classic, I ran random dungeons with our server's better raid groups and PUGed raids with a few of them. They were in higher-level gear, but my showing wasn't that far behind their best. In BC, I ran with a Naxx/AQ40 guild on my alt druid for the world dragons and the 20 mans, and there was no performance gap. When I ran five mans on my T4/T5 mage main with higher-tier raiders, there was no performance gap. These days? My item level 500-ish characters are doing less than half the DPS of the 540+ item level characters I get randomly grouped with. If my main spells have any casting time, I frequently don't even get a cast off on trash mobs. I'm fine with being at the bottom of the DPS chart if I have raiders with higher gear levels, but being THAT far behind, so far behind I don't even get to use my class's main abilities on a run? F--- that. That's not fun at all.


Now, the refrain you'll hear from raiders is that  you don't need raid gear if you're not raiding. Which is clearly true. The five man content is balanced around much lower gear requirements. If you're in a group where everyone is at equal gear levels, there's no problem. But you know what? Raiders don't need raiding gear outside of raids. Let's give them gear progression, but reduce their stats any time they aren't inside a raid instance. That will equalize their interactions with the rest of the world quite a bit. They'll be able to progress in raid content and be able to have some bit of a challenge outside of raids. I mean, they all raid for the love of raiding, right? Riiiiiiiiight....

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Well, server crashed already! LOL, beta fun.


I was able to make a few quick videos. Two showing character generator for each faction, and one with the first few minutes of gameplay. Server crashed during the cinematic, so I stopped recording, though the cinematic did finish. Next time, I'll skip the rest of the tutorial and do some footage of the starting zone, so as to avoid spoilers.


The videos are compressing now, will have them up in a while.


First impressions are favorable. The characters all look good. The one caveat is that the females all make Jessica Rabbit look realistically-proportioned. There are options for more modest figures, but the tendency is toward the warped super huge bust, teeeeeny waist, super huge hips and thick thighs that taper to teeny feet. Bleh. Basically they look like fetish art, or that Teen Titans cover posted in the sexism thread. There seems like a decent number of options in the characters. There are also individual sliders for the face. I didn't check for body sliders. Will do that next time I log in. (Edit: No body sliders, just a menu of body types. Face sliders only.)


Camera controls are decent. Unlike in GW2, I can pull the camera back pretty far and I can also mouse zoom right into first person. AS IT SHOULD BE! That's one thing that constantly annoys me in GW2, the inability to zoom to first person view. It's a very, very handy option, and would be especially handy in navigating some of their jumping puzzles with larger characters (Norn, Charr). I didn't get to the point where I actually have an action bar, but movement was OK. The usual controls, plus a sprint (hold down SHIFT to sprint, has a bar to run out of sprint. I know another game has that same system, but can't think of the name of it right now) and a dodge (which I didn't try yet).


I'm going to let those files cook, and I'll be back when they're uploaded.

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OK! Video time!


First up, Exiles character creation. I just went through each race and randomized about five or six times. On the Human Female, I also cycled through all of the body type options, to illustrate the point made above.



Next up is Dominion races. Same deal, randoms of each race.


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Here's a video of as far as I got before the game crashed. It's back online now, but I'm probably going to take a nap soon, so not sure when I'll get back on it.


This guy's a Mordesh Spellslinger. Exiles faction. I figured the Mordesh would be roughly human sized, but they're a bit bigger. I can't believe the first set of random letters I picked for his name were taken. I had to smash the keyboard some more to get a name. Naming space zombies is hard work.


Near the end, you'll get to watch me stand around like a dork, missing the quest objective with the spinny gear on it! Not much to say here. It's mostly cut scene, but it gives an idea of the tone of the game.


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Well, they lost me in the tutorial zone. Bummer. I wanted to like this one.


First, no more videos, because the game slows to a crawl with Fraps running. Even after dialing back the graphics (and they defaulted to pretty low settings), I only get 30 fps without Fraps. When I record, it drops like a rock. That's not why they lost me. They'll have plenty of time to optimize the game for performance, and even at 30 fps it's good enough.


What lost me is their goofy keybinds. And the fact that I can't rebind things to my liking. First of all, the combat system is movement intensive. The default is to the typical WASD movement, which I've never liked. I prefer the number pad for movement, and with the game only using 8 skills at a time, I would have been able to rebind everything onto the mouse and the number pad that I'd need. Except that the idiots won't let you rebind Number Pad Enter. Which should be jump on a number pad setup. Which is a hugely important keybind in this game. They also use three keybinds for interactions where other games only use one. They have separate binds for talking to an NPC, looting, and interacting with objects. All of those can and should be one keybind.


The UI is also a PITA to keep track of information, but I could live with that. It seems they have UI mods, so if the default doesn't let you move screen elements around, it's likely a mod would. So, no biggie there.


I freaking HATE trying to move with WASD and hit the number row while in motion. Which is required here. But I'll try to play a bit more and see if I can get used to it so I can report in. I suspect I'll just get annoyed when I die because of excessive key reaches. 

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Ugh. Internet just came back up. Went out around five thirty. I was going to see if I could get used to the goofy keybinds, but Comcast jacked up my whole evening plans. Ah, well. I'll give it another go tomorrow. The game does have a lot of appeal, if I can get past the character control, which is a huge factor for me.

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Today the game and Comcast have both been pretty stable, so I was able to hop on for a bit. I made a Warrior character with the Soldier path so that I could do fighting side quests with the hope for more interesting combat encounters as I level. The telegraphs at the tutorial/starting zone level have about a week delay before the attack goes off, so are way easy to avoid, and not a good test of whether the game will be playable later on.


What I've done so far is just bind 1 and 2 onto the mouse side buttons. I only have three abilities so far, and those two are the hardest reaches to make while using QWE to move. (I know it's called WASD movement, but Q and E are strafe, and it's easier to keep three fingers closer to the number row for hitting abilities quickly.)


Right now, I have a whopping four abilities. The first one, which is bound to "R" but occupies action bar space where "1" would be in any other game, is a class ability. The starting class ability for Warriors is a damage buff. The second button, which is "1" is your energy builder. It's pretty much like in Champions Online, except it has no autoattack option, and a short cooldown. So, you basically have to mash it to build up energy (or whatever your class resource is called) to fuel your other attacks. The second attack is a bigger than the basic attack one that has a short cooldown. The third attack is a kick, that knocks the opponent over. Interrupting certain attacks vs. dodging them seems to be an important element in the combat from the videos I've watched. Hasn't mattered so far, of course, b/c I just left the space ship for the planet side starter zone. (Level 3 at the moment.)


The game starts you on a space ship regardless of faction. It's your basic tutorial level, and kind of fun. They pay a great attention to detail, which is pretty immersive. It feels like the ship has all the stuff you'd expect a space ship to have, even if you don't get to see the whole ship. I took a video of the departure terminal that you're sent to just before going to the planet, to show the attention to detail. I'll post it when it's done uploading. Hopefully it'll be done by the time the wife and I get done with our walk. Yay! Healthiness!


However, the planet side starter zone seems a little less inspired. I've just got my feet wet there, so we'll see.

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OK, here's the video. Keep in mind the actual game looks MUCH better. The compression seems to have really hurt the quality of the video on this one, sorry. It also may not quite be done processing by YouTube at this point.


Edit: It's also a little jerky. The game runs more smoothly than that, even at lower frame rates. I think it was choking on recording to the same drive as the game's running from, and the recording was dropping frames because of it. Not sure. I really need a second drive to record to.


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Hmm. I'll have to look at the settings. I thought there was a setting to be able to link them without them showing up on general YouTube searches. I guess Private isn't the right setting.



Edit: It's going to have to be this evening. Have to go to the inlaws in a few minutes. Sorry about that. The earlier videos work, so I'll check them and copy their settings later.

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Here's a quick combat example. Character is level 5, so this is very basic:



  • The mobs have eyeballs that appear over them as aggro indicators. Notice the delay in the mob actually aggroing from when it notices my character. Kind of handy.
  • The mobs have normal attacks. You cannot avoid these by moving out of the way or rolling (I'll make a video showing this), like you can in DDO.
  • The mobs telegraph their large attacks with red ground markers. You have all day to avoid them at low level, but shortening the timer on them is an easy way to tune mob difficulty.
  • Players' attacks are indicated with the blue ground markers.
  • First click on an ability lays down your marker, release sets off the attack. This is configurable in the option to work several different ways.
  • When you hover the mouse over the ability on the action bar, it also shows the targeting marker.

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Here's a video showing the inability to dodge the mobs' basic attacks (white attacks):



Edit: You'll notice that the unavoidable portion of the damage is trivial. I'm not sure if that's going to hold true at higher levels, but I suspect so. The mobs will probably just use their specials more frequently, and probably with shorter time between the tell and the attack going off.

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Hype Detectors, Activate!


I think one of the biggest factors in deciding whether or not you want to play the latest MMO is trying to figure out where the hype ends and the reality begins. At least it is for me. Figuring out if the promised features will be delivered, or as good as advertised, is as important as whether the game works on a technical level, if not more so. Technical glitches can often be fixed over time, while missing or ill-conceived features usually plague a game for the long haul.


I really wanted to run at least one character up to the weekend beta level cap, or near it, but didn't get a chance. Friday, the game was dropping connection constantly, and when it started to get more stable, Comcast had an internet outage that took away the rest of the night's allotted game time. Saturday and Sunday were too busy to get much playing in. I basically made one character of each class and each path, and ran them all through the tutorial. I took a couple of characters to each planet side starting zone for the Exiles, and played around a bit there. I didn't get to see much of the game, but I did manage to get a good enough impression of the game to decide to go ahead and pre-order it.


If Looks Could Thrill


The very first thing you'll notice about Wildstar is the visual style. Well, after the login screen. Which may say something funny, in which case you may notice the humor first. Suffice it to say, the style and the humor (or attempts at same) tell you right off the bat the the game doesn't take itself too seriously. If anything, I'd say the style and attitude are strongly Pixar influenced. In other words, cartoony, fun, funny, but hey, there's still some serious stuff under there too.


I love the execution of the style chosen. The art, the music and the dialog all work for me. The reason I took the video of the departure terminal I posted above was to show the level of attention to detail taken with the game. Just that one area had a LOT of art assets dedicated to fleshing it out and making it seem like a real place. Cartoony? Sure. Dripping with verisimilitude? Absolutely. The game world has artifacts in it, the things that make you think, "Hey, people live here." I haven't seen an MMO that matches that level of detail yet. There are pretty MMOs. Beautiful MMOs. But Wildstar just put in that much extra effort.


Does that hold true in other areas of the game? Hmm. Maybe. Maybe not. It could be that the ship areas were so well detailed to create exactly the type of good impression I got. In which case, that's still pretty smart. The questing areas (more on that in a few) did seem pretty detailed, too, but they're questing areas. We're walking around investigating weird alien science labs, or tromping through alien jungles or climbing alien mountains. Not a whole lot of opportunities for the level of detail found on the ship. (Though the labs had some cool stuff in 'em.) I didn't get to a major city during the play test.


Overall, though, it felt like I had an alien planet in front of me to explore. This is very much the same impression I got when going from City of Heroes to WoW. Azeroth felt like a real world far more than Paragon City ever did. It's kind of hard to quantify that kind of sense of place, but Azeroth had it, and Nexus has it.


The other huge art question is the player character models. Are they good? I think so. I don't really even mind the exaggerated  hourglass figures on the females too much. I even like the cat/rabbit girls. (Aurin.) Heck, I'm going to make an Aurin female my main. They're freaking adorable, big boobs or no. Out of all the races, I found the Humans for both factions the least interesting, and I found the Exiles the most interesting overall. I made my Medic a Human female. One thing I noticed is that she very, very rarely blinks, and doesn't seem to have any breathing animations. This adds up to a lifeless feeling in the model. I'm assuming that those things will be ironed out, and it's the only model I noticed issues with.


For the most part, every race has a good number of options for customization. The game isn't a real standout here, but I think most people will be able to find a combination they like. Races have no abilities that affect gameplay, and therefore can be chosen strictly for aesthetic reasons, whether for their looks or their lore. Each faction has two starting areas, and those two areas are accessible by any race, so again nothing restricting race choice. I really liked the Aurin more for their animations than the looks per se. I'm going to start out with a Stalker main, with the Explorer path, and I like the jumping and stealth animations. The Granok have a huge variety in their faces, with a lot of diversity. The Mordesh are cool-looking space zombies, nothing not to like there. On the Dominion side, we have more Humans, which are OK, and I may make one, but not my favorite. Then there's the Mechari, which I don't really like the looks of, though they do have a lot of variance in their looks. They're the faction's "large" race. The Draken are the Dominion "feral" race, and have a lot of cool-looking options. They're the only Dominion race I really like the looks of. Finally, they have the Chua, which look kind of meh. The textures on them look too flat to me. It could be because of my graphics settings being on medium. Chua may look great on higher settings, but they look just a bit flat to me on medium.


UI Issues


The UI still has several issues. Foremost, is that quest text isn't really easily accessible. When you get a quest, the quest giver has limited dialog that doesn't really explain much. On top of that, nameplates are on the UI layer instead of the 3d game layer, so they frequently overlap the quest text, making it impossible to read. What little text there is quickly goes away. You're then left with a quest objectives list in the lower right of the screen. So, you click on that to see if you can bring up the instructions for what the heck the NPC wants you to do. You do that, you get an arrow that pops up in front of your character, pointing in the direction of the quest objective. I like that arrow, but it doesn't tell me, for example, if I'm supposed to collect something, kill something, or kill something to collect something from it to combine those things then interact with something else... so, you go to your quest log . . . which isn't really sorted at all. Have fun digging through that. Oh, you don't get to it by double clicking or right clicking on the quest objectives list like in other games. You just have to figure out how to bring it up from the menu system. GAH!


Name plates are also an issue, as noted. There's a long thread on the issues with them on the WS forums. In a nutshell, if you look at a game like WoW, the name plates are on the mob. They're part of the game environment and exist as 3d entities. In Wildstar, they're on the UI layer, the same layer your action bar, mini map, quest objective, etc. all is. Which means they're flat. This causes overlapping problems and depth perception problems. It's kind of an eyesore.


The UI is a recent change, and hopefully they'll have it in better shape by launch. The two biggest issues above aren't game breakers, just annoyances. There are good things in there, too. There are a TON of settings. There are three different color blindness settings, depending on type of color blindness. Which is kinda cool.


So, the UI is kind of a negative, but not enough to scare me off.


The Paths are a Lie


Paths were presented as a way to customize your questing experience. You like fighting, go with Soldier. You like building things, go with Settler. You like exploring, go with Explorer. You like Lore, go with Scientist. It'll be great, you can play the game the way you like to play! You can get variety when leveling an alt! Ah, the Hype was strong with this feature.


Alas, this is NOT how Paths work at all. First off, they don't give you XP for your character levels. So, they have exactly jack and squat to do with the leveling process. They're a thing you can do while leveling, like crafting is, but they don't influence your leveling much at all. They have their own levels, and when you level them up you get perks.


So, they're much more akin to an alternate advancement system than a leveling system. It's not a case of "level with your preferred play style" but a case of "grind these alternate advancement perks with your preferred play style."


That said, Paths are an OK feature. But either Carbine lied like dirty dogs in their video about them, or they changed the conception of them for some reason.


Currently, the perks earned by the paths are unequal. Settler and Scientist currently have the best perks, so you'll end up leveling in one of those play styles to get the good perks, rather than the Paths having the advertised effect of tailoring your leveling experience.


My advice on Paths is to very very carefully read the release day patch notes and pick a good one. Because you only get to pick your Path once, at creation. Screw play style considerations. Heck, the Scientist has more exploration elements than Explorer. An example is my Explorer having to do jumping puzzles, but my Scientist actually being able to open up doors that other characters can't. (Though there are supposed to be areas only available to Explorers, the balance of the content for them seems to be jumping puzzles.)


So, one hype failure so far. But it's not a bad subsystem. Maybe they'll work out the kinks a bit more before launch.


Nexus is Like a Box of Chocolates


You never know what's going to pop up. Gathering nodes may come to life and run off, forcing you to hunt them down to gather your resource. You may kill a random mob only to have a Challenge timer pop up, offering you a reward for killing even more of those mobs before the timer runs down. You may find something cool, like a journal you can read to learn more lore or NPC background info, or a quest picked up from an NPC corpse tucked away in a corner somewhere.


Basically, the game rewards exploration and just fiddling with stuff. That's pretty cool.


The First Five-ish Levels


Both factions start out aboard starships that are about to land on the Planet Nexus. This is a planet that has been fiddled with by ancient aliens. You'll do a series of quests aboard ship and then be shuttled down to one of two zones for your faction (four total) to start your adventuring career.


Initially, you'll have two abilities. The first is your class's special ability (and you'll get more of those to swap out later), and the second is your resource builder ability. Next, you'll get your resource spender attack, and after that you'll get an interrupt such as a stun or a knockdown. So . . . all the classes may look a bit similar at first blush. That's OK, because those four abilities are there to train you in the basics of combat. Interrupts and in groups, coordinating interrupts, are important, so those are needed after your basic attacks. Even though the load out of abilities at start up is very similar, you can get a bit of a feel for the classes.


You'll have what Carbine refers to as a "LAS" or Limited Action Set (I think), which means you get your class's ability and eight more abilities on your action bar. That's it. You'll also have space on your action bar for stuff like consumables. This is very much like Guild Wars 1. As you level, you'll add abilities to your collection, then you can customize your load out for different situations or roles.


Without spoiling anything, the tutorial on ship board is pretty cool. The contrast between the two factions is very obvious from the get go. When I posted above about the uninspired starting zone on the planet, I had just touched down. That first bit isn't particularly interesting, but you're quickly led to your first quest hub, which is pretty interesting. Things are afoot! I found the content pretty engaging. The quest types are not new, but the environment and story are, so I liked it.


As mentioned above, there are a total of four starting zones, two for each faction, and characters can go to either zone.


Final Thoughts


I guess that's about it. I didn't get to dungeons, ship hands, or adventures, so I can't comment on those. They seem to be pretty much as advertised from what I've seen on them on the web and YouTube, though, so I think the only real letdown will be Paths, which still aren't horrible.


On a technical level, the game ran pretty well. It hasn't yet been optimized for performance, so I was getting around 30 FPS in most areas after turning down some viewing distances and shadows, but the game was not really choppy at all until it got into the low 20s when running Fraps. In contrast, WoW looks like total ass at 30 fps and induces motion sickness, while GW2 still seems pretty smooth even in the low 20s. I have no idea what makes one game look smoother than another at low frame rates, maybe the animation quality. Whatever it is, Wildstar seems to have it. Once they get things optimized it should be decent.


Final note on performance: The game is way, way more CPU-limited than GPU-limited. It seems like a lot of games are these days, so something to keep in mind when budgeting that next PC.

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I've played around a bit in the open beta for Wildstar the last couple of days. First day, I just worked on getting my starting line up of characters designed. There's an option to save your appearance settings as a string of text to reuse later, so I figured I'd save time on launch if I did the appearance customization in advance.


Yesterday and a little today, I played a Draken Spellslinger to level 10 or so. Pretty fun class. Even the lower level zones have tons of quests in them. Today, I'm just going to post some screenshots highlighting two issues.


The first issue is the character art. Sexist? Not so much! There are no boob socks. The pictures below are of the female Draken body style with the largest breast size. (And also largest arm/shoulder size, and most imposing.) She's the aforementioned Spellslinger, so this is the game's light armor. Notice that it drapes more or less naturally, and she doesn't seem nearly as busty as she looks on the character creation screen in the default starter outfit. I haven't seen any belly button armor so far, even though she's wearing light armor, and I've gone through about five or six chest armor upgrades already. I'm going to go out on a limb and say the style call here is just a style call, because unlike most other MMOs, there is a decided lack of boob sockage, which is a good thing.





Next up is the UI issue I mentioned above. Nameplates and other labels on in game objects is on the UI layer and overlaps way too much. The second example shows what happens when you have the quest NPC highlighted while getting a quest: The dialog is overlapped by the nameplate. Sheesh! If they're going to go half-assed on nameplates, they could at least make sure that they put the dialog out of the way of the nameplates. Hopefully, they'll fix the issue with quest text eventually.







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