Archive for March, 2011

What Is This I Don’t Even

We’re going to get a little lost here, so hang onto your hats.

Since I finally got my new computer up and running (christened Sissyphus for obvious reasons) I’ve had the opportunity to broaden my gaming repertoire considerably.

Over the past couple of weeks I have played:

• RIFT
• Gary’s Mod
• Team Fortress 2
• Dragon’s Age Origins

Those four games I played for the first time.  One of them is an MMO, another is a sandbox toy, one is an FPS, and one a single-player RPG.  What can I say? My tastes, they are eclectic.

The one thing they all had in common, however, are tutorials.  Running through so many different tutorials got me thinking what I would like to see in Guild Wars 2.

RIFT

I’m having trouble remembering this tutorial.  I know there were pop-ups that explained in words and some pictures what I needed to do based on what I happened to be doing at the time (context). But beyond that I found them unremarkable.  That’s not really a bad thing, though, because a tutorial’s sole purpose is to get you playing the game.

I felt different when it came to crafting, however.  Your introduction to crafting comes through some quests and since I don’t bother to read the quest text beyond the first few quests I do, I was lost pretty quickly.  I know, I know, it’s my own fault for not reading the information that is Right There for me.  Blame it on the promise of fully-voiced games and the need to compress my playtime due to Having A Life.

Gary’s Mod

Tutorial? We don’t need no stinking tutorials!

Well actually, I do.  The only Halflife games I had ever played before jumping into Gary’s Mod was Portal and Counterstrike: Condition Zero (my husband used to compete and I always want to try whatever he’s doing).  I knew vaguely that E was use and Q would call up stuff I could spawn, but beyond that not a heck of a lot is explained with a couple of notable exceptions.

Videos: Upon first loading up my own private game I found a couple of videos right there on the login screen that showed me how to spawn stuff, pose ragdolls, and make a car (I later made a car out of a piece of road with a bunker on top, go me).  Those were pro, and awesome.  I like videos.

Pop-Up tips: I think there were pop-up tips, I can’t be completely sure, they were there and gone so quickly.  I would have liked to be able to access the tips at-will as well as having them pop up at opportune moments.

Team Fortress 2

I think this game wins the Tutorial prize.  I found a quick how-to section and then I played a skirmish with some NPCs.  I tend to be very clumsy in an FPS environment and I’d rather not be getting my face blown off constantly while trying to learn how to not trip over myself.

After the skirmish the game decided I need a little help and suggested I play through the “How to not be bad at a Soldier” tutorial.  So I said ‘OK’ and loaded it up.

Video. Ok cool, I like videos, that’s neat.
Shooting Range. Oh! This is nice, it’s got good pacing and there’s pop-up messages that tell me what button does what.  Even better though, after they tell you that buttons 1, 2, and 3 will select your various weapons you’re then tasked with putting that new information to use!  Learning the information and then performing the action goes a /whole/ heckuva long way to make learning actually stick. (No, I’m not a teacher, akshully)
Demo Round(s). After the shooting gallery the game bounced me into a 3-round match against and with NPCs during which I was expected to put my new skills to use.  I also learned a few new tricks thanks to some helpful pop-ups and idiot arrows. (I am much the FPS idiot.  If there is a dead-end I will find it!)

Like I said, TF2 wins the Tutorial prize.  I’m not sure the exact format would work for GW2, but a system that combines visual and audio lessons (as opposed to walls of text, see next entry) with cementing knowledge by doing, will be fantastic.

Dragon’s Age Origins

I’m sorry Dragon’s Age, I know you’re critically acclaimed and everybody seems to love you, but your tutorials suck.

While playing, I was bombarded with walls of text that didn’t necessarily have anything to do with the tasks I was completing at the time.  I can access those popups later, but they’re interspersed with articles on lore (the popups for which are very similar to tutorial popups) and everything just ends up lost in the shuffle.

I can only take Dragon’s Age in small amounts before I get tired of reading my games and go find a book to curl up with in either a more comfortable chair or laying on the grass down in the park.  That might be more of a general criticism of the extensive dialogue, but it still doesn’t fix the tutorials.

Portal

This wasn’t on my list above, but I’d like to mention it anyway.  Portal has, by far, my favorite tutorial of any game I’ve ever played.  When I voiced this opinion in the PIG vent I was met with laughter and an outcry of “But 2/3rds of the game is tutorial!”

Yes, yes it is.  The thing is though, I don’t feel like I’m doing a tutorial in preparation to play the game.  With Portal I was simply playing the game and just happened to be learning new things (and acquiring new skills) along the way.  Weather I had only my two hands or a fully-loaded portal gun I found the same amount of enjoyment and fun from solving the puzzles and working my way through the compound.

So I think my favored tutorial would be something that combines video and audio lessons with immediate opportunities to use the skills learned, along with a little repetition to make it stick.

The perfect tutorial, however, would be the one you don’t even realize you’re doing.

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We Are Deeply Sorry

“Aslaug Tigersfeet here reporting from the Black Citadel where the charr have apparently just CANCELLED the Norn Fighting Tournament.

There are a lot of unhappy NFT fans here, things could get ugly.

It appears one of the charr organizers is taking center stage, let’s see what he has to say.”

The elderly charr raised a paw to quiet the audience.  With another wave and a sparking of mesmeric magic, he began, “Thank you all for coming here.  Instead of the scheduled Norn Fighting Tournament, we the charr of the four legions, have a different presentation in store.  Before we begin I would like to formally welcome our visitors from Ebonhawke.”

Then he stepped back and bowed his head.  From the edges of the fighting ring poured a multitude of charr, arrayed with banners displaying the sigils of the Blood, Ash, and Iron legions.  They stood silent for a moment, and then began to sing.

Behold the kingdom Ascalon.
Weep o’er her heaths once fair.
Where once the humans held domain
and danced their courtly airs.

Then come did we with steel and flame
to sear your grass so green.
And drive you from your one time home
towards arms of those Unseen.

The first two bars were sung with a gradual crescendo.  The charr voices, deep and reverberant, gathered their growling syllables in a mournful tune.  As they sang, a fourth group of charr issued from the rear of the fighting ring.  This group, garbed in the shocking oranges and reds of the flame legion, began to add their voices to those of the other legions.  The charr voices rose to a deafening climax and suddenly

stopped.

The tightly-packed group of Flame Legion disentegrated, and from their midst stepped a massive charr warrior.  His polished horns raked the air a full head above his legionmates and his shoulders would seem impossibly broad if not for an equally deep barrel chest.  His gaze, mournful, he fixed unwaveringly on the human delegation from Ebonhawke.  In his hand he held a single red iris flower, and on his haunches he bore a tu-tu.

He bowed, and began to pirouette, singing the final verse in a deep, sonorous baritone.

Though at our hands you suffer much
we beg your hearts, don’t harden.
For from the Legions four we say:
“Dear humans, we cry your pardon.”
A charr ode of apology

The charr are deeply sorry for burning your homes, but you still can't have Ascalon back.

————————————————–

I hope you enjoyed this bit of fiction.  Sadly I cannot take full credit for its creation.  Tasha requested that I paint a charr ballerina after reading some ridiculous ‘news’ posts by Guild Wars Exclusive.

Art, story, and bad poetry, however, are Tigerfeet originals. 😉

Transmutation Stones: For Fun And Profit

Tiger’s snappy guide to looking awesome and ripping face.

Crafting info is out!  Now you can pick a pair of trades and indulge the arts & crafts side of your personality.  We have three trades devoted to various types of weapons, three concerning armor, and two that produce sparkles for your lovely or noms for your belly.

With every two revolutionary steps forward, ArenaNet also takes one step back into familiar MMO territory.  I say ‘familiar’ instead of something more inflammatory like ‘same old pile of stinky carp’ for a reason.  I don’t think these small steps taken back into the familiar are necessarily bad things, especially when taking into account they’re trying to entice ‘traditional’ MMO players to give them a try.

I compare the crafting system, as it was revealed, to WoW’s, but without all the obnoxious.  For example:

• You can drop a trade and take it up later without loosing all your progress.  The cost in cash will increase, however, with a higher crafting level.  This is likely meant to discourage frequent switching to game the economy. I approve.
• Gathering nodes are character specific.  So there’s no fighting over resources. No more hatin’ on me because I was a druid, I wasn’t even an herbalist!
• Gathering trades are available to everyone.  No more waiting for that one herbalist in your party to pick daisies, everyone can join.  C’mon man, time’s a-wastin’!
– This also means you can still make neat stuff without sacrificing money-making potential. Mr. Moneybags McGatherFace, I’m lookin’ at YOU!

There’s also the discovery system.  Throw down your parts and try to discover what kind of a whole they can make.  This catapults me into thoughts on Minecraft (whose crafting system I think is the bee’s knees) but I doubt it will be that representative, meaning actually putting two sticks on top of each other with a stone on top to make a stone shovel.  I have to cock my eyebrow at the discovery system itself, and agree with Ravious on this one.  If done fairly it will likely turn into a wiki list of all the awesome stuff you want.  During the first days and weeks of the game discoveries will be fun and unexpected, but as the game matures I fully expect a list of ‘must-haves’ for each trade to surface.

That said, I didn’t really mean to talk about crafting at all, but about looking good.

There’s already been hue and cry raised about the Transmutation stone system.  If you’re not familiar here’s a recap:
– You can buy Transmutation stones from the cash shop and use them to apply one armor’s (or weapon’s) stats to another armor’s (or weapon’s) skin.  If you want to be kick-ass elementalist while wearing the poofy dress you entered Divinity’s Reach in, you’ll be using Transmutation stones.
– Transmutation stones, while most reliably obtained from the cash shop as a microtransaction, can also be found in the game world.

So, here’s my evil plan:

Step 1) Create Tigerpaws McTigerface.
Step 2) Roll my roflstomp face all over Tyria until I reach max level.
Step 3-smthg) Stalk the wiki and do some serious theorycrafting (read: stand on the shoulders of those who are more intelligent than me, then ask Mr. Tigerfeet what he thinks) to design an optimal set of armor for what I want to do.
Step the next one) Blog about it.
Step the last) Search for and acquire the most visually awesomest set of armors in the game. (not plants)
Step the REALLY latest) Apply the transmutation stones I have scrimped and saved for over the course of my Tyrian journey.  Here’s hoping there will be enough.
Step continuing) /flex

So yeah, that’s what I plan to do about the Transmutation Stones kerfluffle.  I also suspect I’ll be making noms and leather armor on my Thief.  What about you?

We Should Be Better Than This

When I was growing up, I had a ritual whenever I started a new game. I would unwrap and open the box and take out all the pieces and literature. I would read the manual. If I was unable to get into the box while my parents were driving home I’d read it at home while the game and whatever gaming platform sat there enticingly close to each other, staring at me. When I was done with the literature I would put it carefully back in the box and never touch it again.

Only then would I insert the game. After install (if required) and upon start-up I would sit through everything. Developer and publisher logos, starting cinematic, and idle animations were given prominence of place on my screen during my very first time with a game.

Once I had seen everything there was to be seen I would play the game proper, but this first time was still special. I would carefully engage in every tutorial and read all instructions given to me. This would last until it was time for me to turn the game off and go do something else, usually 1-2 hours. Upon entering the game again all previous reverence would be abandoned. Intros would be skipped, tutorials rushed through, and quest text skimmed.

In the same way that the journey is as much, if not more, important as the destination, the anticipation leading up to finally sinking your fingers into an experience is something to treasure.

We have all been feeling the strain of the long marketing campaign that ArenaNet has chosen to pursue. That does not, however, excuse the sloppy releases and disrespect for ArenaNet I have seen lately among the gaming press. I wanted to express my disgust and sadness with my peers for the debacle and mess they have made of, not only the PAX East demo, but of the new updates to Guild Wars Classic.

Perhaps ArenaNet had it coming to them because of the way the title for the Guardian profession was ‘leaked’. We know that bounds were overstepped and NDAs were broken when video of the demos were published. I’m sure the offending parties are being dealt with. But a press outfit breaking news early because ‘it’s already been leaked anyway’ is not only unprofessional, it’s disrespectful to other gaming sites that were capable of holding their tongues and respecting ArenaNet’s wishes.

Such acts not only undermine trust, they breed a new and insidious dynamic into an otherwise mature and respectful community. Will fan-sites now feel obligated to scramble for news releases in order to turn around and scream “FIRST!” as they vomit their information across the internet? Instead, will ArenaNet be forced to withhold information because we /can’t be trusted/?

It’s an ugly picture no matter which way you dice it, and to the sites who, through accident or malicious intent, betray what trust has been given you and tarnish the reputations of the rest of us I say: You ought to be ashamed.

Perhaps my ideals of mutual trust and responsibility are nothing but a pipe dream. Perhaps this mess actually /was/ orchestrated and isn’t really the garbage heap that it looks like.

I don’t know.

All I do know is I miss the pre-Gamescom release strategy, when new information came first from ArenaNet and only after did the fansites publish their interviews.

Guild Wars 2 isn’t even live yet and I’m already pining for ‘the good ol’ days’.