Sunday 31 July 2011

Prime BFD: the dark art of murdering resource collectors

My main motive in Prime BFD is crafting. I've been thinking about life as a crafter in strategic terms and come to some conclusions:


Harvestables, my precious, precioussss harvesssstablessss.

By stuff I mean resources, which get pumped out of the ground by harvesters planted by members of all 3 factions all over the map and which in many cases will be collected by a solo and distracted player.

First off, how do I get my stuff without getting ganked

- I should play a class that's able to collect harvestables and get them to safety without getting ganked. We know a bit about "safety" from something Sanya told us regarding the auction house system, that it's accessed via the "mailbox". In other words if I reach a mailbox and post it to myself (or post it as an over-priced auction I can later cancel from a safe place) that let's me move stuff safely.

- I should be able to steal schematics from the other faction.

Now I want to play a Salent Antelis as my main but how am I going to manage the crafting? Well my main will be an armourtech which means I will need an alt to harvest with (or more than one alt). And surely that alt can be no other class than a Rogue type. Rogue types are the ones who get the ability to steal schematics and they also get stealth.

Let's have a look at the Salent Rogue-type: the Wraith. It has the following class skills:

Biofuse: A heal, becoming a group heal when maxxed.
Thrust: Probably a melee attack
Blast: Presumably a ranged attack
Cloak: stealth
Impair: the icon is a grappling hook, I'm guessing this is a snare
Carve: probably a melee attack
Phase Port: a short duration teleport, mentioned by Warren as a way of closing distance.
Slash: presumably a melee attack.
Exploding shot: presumably an aoe ranged attack.
Incapacitate: some kind of CC, the icon is rather humorously some poor chap going arse over tit over a tripwire.
Disarm: I expect this does just what it says.
Frenzy: I'm guessing a short duration dps buff.
Override: confirmed as the CC break skill that all classes get.
Sniper: ranged attack.
Analyze Enemy: I'd guess it allows for a more accurate version of the standard conning.

So as a harvestables carrier/schematic thief the 6 maxxed abilities should be:
Phase Port
plus two others, probably Impair and some kind of attack. Complete emphasis on escape and evasion. If Frenzy is a speed burst then that might be one to pick up too.

The main point of danger is at the machine emptying it decloaked. Anyone camping the machine will make their move. You can only cloak once per fight so if they start cloaked they can't recloak during combat and for a few seconds after but I can cloak. So it's important to Override any CC, Incapacitate them then Cloak, possibly phase porting first then Cloaking. Gearing is basically for stamina, I want the maximum survival time to get myself safe before one or multiple gankers manage to kill me and loot me.

It's likely that if you're collecting from harvesters in dangerous areas you will occasionally meet targets you can murder for their harvestables. This is a rather nice bonus. So that's a secondary consideration for this build - once he is maximised in effectiveness at sneaking in and out with stuff he can work up his assassination skills. It's always possible of course that any solo player harmlessly bumbling around his harvesters is in fact bait for an evil gang of invisible gankers.

An even more sneaky idea involves using a Human character. The game has a black market which may allow a certain amount of cross faction trading. The game does prohibit rolling on multiple factions with one account but they don't stop you playing more than one account. I could have a Salent main and alts plus on a second account have a Human Spy.

So possibly I could steal schematics with the Human from my own side and somehow get them across to my main. This would allow me to catch up rival armour techs who don't want to share. Since I play Salent I can see from looking at the auction house which Salent armour tech is able to make the Uber Helm of Uberness and /friend in these games usually allows one to track him down. Also having a Human alt tells me which Humans my Salent wraith alts should rob for their schematics and having a Salent character tells me which Salents my Human alt should be robbing.

Human Spies make amazing thieves because they have the ability to Disguise themselves as someone on a different faction. There's also an Interpret ability which I'm guessing is the ability to talk cross-faction. (You'd be a bit obvious if you couldn't talk). That's an utterly evil ability as you could do things like make a party of main + alt + noob harvester, take him round all his machines collecting his stuff as "bodyguards", go afk for a bio to see if he will too (people usually do) gank him with the spy while he's afk and steal his stuff, then come back and go "we beat them off but you died, is your stuff ok?" and walk back to town whistling innocently, listening to him whine, his stuff unnoticed in your alt's backpack.

Milder forms of metagaming may include intel on Human harvesters for our side to go gank, rumourmongering, dirty tricks on rival Salent crafters (mainly ganking their harvesters) and military intelligence. Best of all with a Human Spy alt I can infiltrate the Rodons and find out where their guys harvest too.

Hopefully whoever gets into Beta will have a chance to test this sort of metagaming as people will certainly ruthlessly exploit any weaknesses after the game goes Live.

Friday 29 July 2011

Eve Online: It's cold and dark out there

I've ventured into the arena of small gang warfare in Eve. Although I have quite a progressed character I never seem to be able to fly the right ship. Fortunately the corp is reasonably relaxed about what you fly as long as you don't expect reimbursements for it. We have a list of fits that one theoretically gets reimbursed for losing but at the moment we don't have reimbursements as we've lost all our moons.

We live in NPC space and in calmer times the higher ups drop POSes on moons which collect money apparently. Some of the people we've been annoying though have developed a nasty habit of blowing them up so we took them down.

Our main gameplay is just flying around looking for fights. We're very territorial about our little corner of space even though in game mechanic terms we don't own it. It's actually owned by a Minmatar sub-faction called Thukker Tribe who are kinda halfway between nullsec pirates and empire carebears as NPCs go. Anyway they do a lousy job at shooting passing tourists gankers and gang roams so we've manfully stepped in to fill the breach.

Any new pilot to zero zero is well advised to fly tackle and this is what I've been doing. Tackle means small fast ships that can stop other ships warping off and slow them down. The key mods are a warp scrambler or warp disruptor and a stasis webifier. You also need a microwarp drive to have a hope of catching anything.

My ship of choice is the Crow, a Caldari interceptor.

My weapon of choice.
Crows are fun, fragile and relatively cheap while being very useful. I've lost 3 so far but shot a lot of ships. My isk ratio is something like 94% according to the killboard site but those sites cheat awfully by counting every kill you had a hand in as full value to you. (So if 5 of us kill 5 10m isk ships then all die we'll end up 50m isk damage done and 10m isk damage taken). I'm still well ahead.

I forget what the first loss was, think it was just a big gang on gang thing and I didn't respond to the "marines, we are leaving" order quick enough. My second was a heroic volunteering to go bravely forth and act as bait against a solo Crusader camp. I think that was a skill issue - I got too close and too straight I needed to point him while orbiting at 20 km. My third was a well spent sacrifice - two of us gave up interceptors to stop a Dramiel escaping. I very nearly had a fourth loss when I tried to solo a Rifter. Although only a tech one Frigate Rifters are very powerful and it utterly demolished my speedy little tech two ship. I managed to escape with no shields, no armour and only 30% of my structure left. Fortunately the gentleman was kind enough to wait around while I flew home, smoke pouring out of the back of the ship, docked, boarded my Drake and went back after him with 5 of my mates. You can never be too sure against Rifters as this gentleman will attest.

Thursday 28 July 2011

Prime BFD: crafting web page updated - close analysis

PitchBlack Games have updated their website with new info about crafting in Prime. The screenshots tell us quite a lot about crafting in the game over and beyond what the captions say.

Here's the site:

First, a recap

I'm going to recap some things that we already knew for the benefit of those who haven't been following the game. We know already:

- Prime will heavily depend on player crafters for gear. Mobs won't drop gear and NPC vendors will presumably sell white loot as unexciting as in every other MMO.

- Gear decays and eventually breaks. You not only have to buy gear from players but you have to keep buying gear from players.

- Character progression is skill based and you will only have enough points for 6 maxxed out skills. We don't know for sure whether professions will use one of these skills but it seems quite likely. If so then most professions will require both Harvesting and another skill (eg Armour Tech) and quite possibly Invention too.

The professions are:
- Armourtech
- Biotech (buffs)
- Weapontech
- Harvester
- Inventor (new schematics, this function can be performed by stealth players who steal tech off the other factions)
- Chemist (seems to be another buffer)
- Soldier for Hire - receives cash from the government and can use special illegal weapons.

Now, about this new professions tutorial:

1. There are varying grades of materials.

There are varying grades of materials.

I enlarged the picture and zoomed in. The highlighted item is Titanium, Grade 80. This suggests a simplified SWG like system using resource stats. This fits with the resource finding system we've already been shown.

In other words if you've been finding Titanium, Grade 80 you can make better armour if you can only find a better spawn. Next week a new spawn of Titanium appears but it's grade 75 so barely worth harvesting. The week after some Titanium grade 90 spawns. This is so good that not only do you put all your harvesters on it but you ask your guildies to harvest some too so you can grab as much as possible before the spawn vanishes.

Also interesting in the picture is the large backpack. It has 7 by 9 spaces. It is open to page 2 of 3. That suggests that the total backpack space is 189 squares. We have been told we would be given a generous amount of backpack space - it certainly appears to be true. We have also been told that weight isn't a factor so if we want to jetpack around with 189 stacks of concrete it appears we will be able to.

The dialogue in the picture says:

AverageJoe45: hey Maximus where you at? Can't wait on you all day.
Maximus: Relax I'll be there in a minute, I'm taking a screenshot for the website!
DragonofPeace: Hurry up these Rodons aren't going to kill themselves!
Maximus: :)

I now want to play a Rodon inventor and invent black mascara and Joy Division.

2. The grade of material you use in making an item determines its quality.

The grade of material you use in making an item determines its quality.

The blue text on the selected item reads 
Grips of Deflection
Armor 45
Dexterity +5
Deflection +8

OK so it looks very likely we will see a Green for Uncommons Blue for Rares Purple for Epics colour code system. And we can see that the combat system will use multiple defensive stats like WoW's.

3. Carrying out your profession is accomplished by pulling up its in-game interface.

Carrying out your profession is accomplished by pulling up its in-game interface.

The picture of the crafting interface shows us a number of interesting elements.

It says Armortech Workstation level 600. Presumably that's the skill level of the player although it is possible that different workstations apply different bonuses as they did in SWG.

Crafting schematics are grouped logically by type which will be a relief to those of us who have struggled with some crafting interfaces in MMOs.

The Schematics Selected has one space for a schematic (ie a blueprint) a space of the schematics name then up to ten boxes for materials. It is likely that more complex items may use more materials.

There's a box for a Working Est., probably a working estimate of time it will take to finish the craft. This doesn't look like a quick crafting system.

I have no idea what the little dolls with white marks indicate. They don't correlate to the list of armour types on the left.

Not sure what the boxes at the bottom are.

And last you can Create or Experiment. The obvious uses of these buttons are that Create makes one item, experiment has a chance to create a new pattern based on the item, maybe we could experiment on those blue gloves schematic to make some epic gloves. In SWG however Experiment was a way to tinker with the properties of an item to make it better and all decent gear was experimented for quality improvement.

4. You can create items by using materials and known schematics from your library.

You can create items by using materials and known schematics from your library.

In the Library list on the left the hands section is opened and shows 5 recipes:
Cobalt Grips
Heavy Grips
Grips of Malice
Iron Wall Grips
Grips of Deflection (the blue quality gloves we saw highlighted earlier).

Cobalt Grips is selected and is green texted. I'm guessing they're Uncommon. 6 of the resource boxes are filled each with 1 resource. The first appears to be Tritanium.

We're looking at a system that is considerably more complex than WoW's. Where the basic green quality gloves in WoW might use 2 copper bars this uses 6 resources of variable stats. And later on the webpage we're told the crafter's skill plays a part (I think this guy is 600 skill out of a possible 1000 max) and we're told that stats may vary even for identically produced items.

5. Only "Unique" items will not be craftable. Everything else can be reverse engineered and crafted by a player.

It's not clear whether reverse engineering is done by the Inventor profession or by the profession relevant to the particular item type (eg Armourtechs for armour).

6. You can also acquire many schematics from other Expert NPC's or advanced players.

You can also acquire many schematics from other Expert NPC's or advanced players.

OK the Working Est box now says 2.29, presumably 2 minutes 29 seconds to create one pair of green quality gloves. The squares under it show the materials actually used I assume (as distinct from the resources required by the schematic shown above).

The control panel on the bottom right of the UI has two of its panels highlighted. I'm guessing the panel at 11 o'clock opens your inventory and the panel at seven o'clock opens your workstation.

7. You can also experiment by changing one or more of the components in an existing schematic or by trying your own unique combinations.

You can also experiment by changing one or more of the components in an existing schematic or by trying your own unique combinations.

In this screenshot he's experimenting. No item is selected from the schematics window because he's trying a unique combination and doesn't know what he will get. Expected time is 5 minutes. He's put 6 resources in the window, I guess it could be any random resources, he's used the ones he had in there to show us the recipe from before.

It sounds like he could have decided instead to keep the Cobalt Grips selected and experiment based on that schematic rather than going for something completely random.

8. When you successfully create an item from one of your experiments it is automatically added to your library of schematics.

When you successfully create an item from one of your experiments it is automatically added to your library of schematics.

He's invented an item, a green quality hat called an Assassin's Helm. The new schematic uses 4 resources to make, one of which is Titanium. It appears as though the system looked at the resources he was playing around with and found some that make a recipe. So a key to experimentation might be that you need to have all the resources present that go to make up the item you hope to discover. Presumably players will very quickly put up lists and inventors will go to the crafting interface with an "I need one of these plus one of these plus one of those to invent this" attitude rather than the exploratory gameplay we see implied here. Of course if you want to explore just don't research the answer first.

The helm seems to match the doll with the white lines on its head so maybe those dolls in the middle are signifiers of the location the item is worn.

9. About Items.
  • Durability - Items have a finite lifespan.
  • There are ranges even within each quality. One rare item will more than likely have different stats from an identically produced and named rare item.
  • The skill of the crafter does play a role in determining that final stats on an item.
  • There is a skill requirements in order to make an item but not for acquiring its schematic.
  • As a faction progresses, special schematics may be introduced that advances their technology. So it is very possible for one faction to possess technology and schematics that another one does not.
  • There are schematics in the game that will be discovered through experimentation and invention. In other words, the items will not exist in the world at all until the players discover the schematics and create the items.
This is only an introduction to creating items in Prime Battle For Dominus. Once you get started, you can experiment to find the finer nuances of each profession. There are a wide variety of professions to help you find your niche in the economy.

Friday 22 July 2011

Prime BFD: fan fic

Decided to try my hand at fan fic. Hope you like it.

8th Platoon, Proud Members of the glorious 134th fighting Foot

Most of a soldier's life is dull. Don't get me wrong mind it's not all dull. Only 90%. There's the other 10%, the days where it isn't dull, you just wish it was.

Let me tell you about one of those days.

It started with a bang. A huge bang a great explosion that jerked me out of sleep rolling sideways into the brush my hand on my gun barrel trying muzzily to get my bearings.

Big Willy walked back into the clearing where we had been camped. A giant of a man he was our heavy weapons specialist. He looked like a big affable goon but he had a mean streak like a cornered weasel and assumed anything he couldn't understand was some kind of snide insult. As he wasn't terribly bright this caused him to lead a life of some considerable bitterness. And as if all this wasn't bad enough God in his infinite cruelty had made the poor sod Scottish.

“The wee slen'karj just pooped on ma heid,” he whined.

Sure enough his hair was decorated with a white gloopy substance that was beginning to dribble down over his left ear. Behind him an alder tree burned fiercely.

“Let me get this right,” the Old Man said coldly.

“A bird pooped on your head,” the Old Man said coldly.

“So you shot it,” the Old Man said coldly

“With a freaking MININUKE?” the Old Man asked, his voice giving way to mild hysteria.

The Old Man as we called him, Sergeant Forbes to outsiders, signalled the Move Out and we slipped away from the clearing packing our belongings as we marched. Ghost our scout had disappeared somewhere up ahead. Big Willy avoided meeting our gazes.

As we marched away Tasha, our medic, began to berate Big Willy. I couldn't quite hear the conversation as she was whispering quietly but urgently while Willy massaged bird poop into his scalp. I thought I could make out the words “reckless” and "alert the enemy”. This wasn't going to end well.

“A WEE BIT O' RADS NE'ER HURT ANYONE!” shouted Big Willy exasperated eventually. The Old Man glared back at them and they both fell instantly silent. I beckoned Tanya over to me, mainly to keep her from provoking Big Willy into getting us all killed but also partly out of sympathy. I'm a nice guy at heart.

“Your first tour?” I asked quietly out of the corner of my mouth, not wanting the Old Man to catch us whispering.

She nodded.

“Big Willy's all right, he's just a bit thick.”

She nodded unhappily.

“One thing though. Do not ever under any circumstances in any situation if your life depends upon it ever ever call him mental.”

She looked at me a little wildly.

“It really annoys him,” I said apologetically.

Just then the Old Man glanced back and we shut up.

I didn't know if there were hostiles around. In the hills above New York City we'd lost a few patrols, everyone assumed to lizards. Everyone needed it to be lizards. Because the Shimmers they were our friends. Intelligence told us they were our friends. We all really hoped they were our friends despite certain rumours that got themselves shared after the camp fires went out.

Ghost was waiting up ahead. He gave us the Quiet, Hostiles signal. We melted into the bushes, I couldn't hear a sound from the others.

Standing procedure was for me to move to the right flank and wait. Combat waiting is like boring waiting but much, much sweatier. The mugginess of the day, the heaviness of my battle armour, the weight of the cannon I was lugging around wasn't helping me. After a while I began to hear Duncan, our Engineer, constructing a few surprises and made a mental note not to go back into the front part of the copse in the vale again.

I waited about half an hour, no sight or sound of the others except for the occasional gentle metallic tapping from the copse and then it all kicked off. There was a huge explosion from about a mile ahead followed by a chain of smaller explosions. Then came a really big explosion, from up ahead smoke pillared into the sky like some satanic genie.

There was a brief lull then the sound of gunfire. Lots of gunfire. I felt a rising panic that I knew wasn't natural – damn, they had psykers. It settled, Dennis, our own Telepath damping out the psychic waves from the hostiles. Weirdos playing table tennis with my soul. It really wasn't helping me relax.

I could see down into a valley at the bottom of which was a copse of trees. Scattered brush and hedges and brambles covered the slope. It began to sway in places, erratically. Almost time to start work...

There was an explosion in the brambles, someone on our side had tossed a welcoming grenade and it all kicked off for real now, up close and personal. As they stood I realised there were a couple of dozen lizards, we were badly outnumbered. Time to make a difference.

I began with a tactical nuke, airburst, just above the officer's head. Nukes ain't just for tweety birds. It vaped the officer's head, his headless torso ran off for a few seconds before collapsing twitching and it killed or knocked out several nearby lizards. I followed up with a brace of fragmentation grenades. As some of them escaped upwards I launched a salvo of drunken missiles the trails weaving madly in the sky as they chased the jetpackers down.

All kinds of badness was raining down on them now, the slope had become a blazing inferno of fire, explosion and bullets. Plus some psyker stuff – one of the lizards lost interest in the rest of us and began clawing out his eyes to escape from whatever demons Dennis had dropped into his head.

After ten minutes the Old Man yelled “Cease Fire” from somewhere off to my left. The gunfire stopped. The brambles burned with a cheery crackle, festooned with blackened and killed Rodons.

I didn't move for five minutes. No sign that anyone else did. Then I headed back towards where I thought the others were. I felt I ought to check on Tasha, our rookie.

I found her in a forest glade, lying in a pool of her own blood, her eyes staring wide in horror. Something had gutted her from behind. Big Willy emerged from the bushes, his face sombre.

I respectfully closed her eyes. Couldn't do much about her entrails though. I took her tags and her water bottle. Willy took her rations and her wallet.

“Tell yer what, I was right about one thing,” he said, handing me a biscuit.

I looked at him inquiringly.

“She never died o' cancer like she said she was gonna.”

Prime BFD: thoughts on crafting

Here's a repost of something I said on Prime's forums.

I'm going to make a long contribution because I love crafting and have given the matter a lot of thought.

Let me preface things with a short summary of my crafting career in games.

I started crafting with Lego, age 2, and it was neither M, nor M, nor O. I quickly moved on to baking jam tarts at nursery school, age 3, and while it wasn't M yet it was certainly M although not O.

After adoring the magic item making interfaces in Demon's Winter (Atari ST) and Daggerfall I spent weeks making Daggerfall potions. Daggerfall was M in that there were a lot of other people doing the same thing, it wasn't M, but it was just at the start of games being O as we potion obsessives compared recipes on forums.

I moved on to Diablo II an adventure game where almost as a throwaway they allowed us to make magic items in our Horadric Cube. I achieved what is perhaps the pinnacle of success for experimental players when after a post I had written on playing an almost invulnerable Barbarian in hardcore permadeath mode using a full set of crafted safety items appeared on the front page of a fan site Blizzard radically nerfed Cube crafting. Nerfing, not imitation, is the most sincere form of flattery. Gameplay was now Massive, I played with hundreds of different players, Multiplayer in games of up to 8 and Online.

My first MMO that was widely recognised as such was Star Wars: Galaxies which I played for most of 2003, occasionally surfacing to pay bills, eat food and reluctantly attend family events like Christmas.

In Galaxies I started out as a Medic, soon becoming a Doctor. In fact I was the first Master Doctor publicly buffing on my server in a game where hardcore players relied on buffs and buffs were insanely good. I would receive twenty tells while loading into the game and hunting meat to make my buffs with was mostly a matter of explaining to people when I would next be back in Coruscant. Perhaps unsurprisingly I burned out, changing to Master Armoursmith. This became one of the most interesting crafting characters I have ever played.

SWG was designed around player interdependency. You needed medics and doctors to heal you, entertainers to heal a different bar and crafters to get stuff. Dropped and vendor loot might as well not have existed it was so weak. What's more there were no alts – one character per server. If you didn't want to personally play a Droid Engineer as your main you had to buy your droids from someone who did.

What's more all quality was concentrated at the top. There was armour made by a Master Armoursmith who was a skilled player who worked hard on resource gathering and there was crap.

I became the second best Armoursmith on the server and was widely considered the best because of a gimmick I came up with – designer armour. “”Designer” has become one of those words that just means “good” but originally in the rag trade it meant something quite specific – clothing made to the designer's specifications rather than the customer's (that stuff is known as “tailored”). Everything I made was a specific design, a rather snazzy black base with red lapels and stripes. Every piece of Armour I made had the exact same design as every other piece, people would offer me millions to make them a suit of purple armour and I'd send them to a competitor.

People adored it, I couldn't make stuff fast enough and I was as popular as the top man whose stuff had clearly better stats.

What I liked about Armoursmithing was not just the adulation of the masses but the minigame behind the making of it. To make good armour I had to tour the galaxy every week checking patiently for each type of mineral on my shopping list on each planet. If I found a good resource I'd either scan it down and drop harvesters (if it was a resource that lurked beneath the earth) or run after it hitting it (if it was a resource that ran around sqwawking). I would arrange with friendly player tailors and artisans to buy crates of certain sub-components that I needed.

Making a suit required a number of separate sub-component crafts many of which themselves involved sub-components made by myself or other types of player crafter and each craft was a turn-based minigame where I could make decisions about how to play the minigame that might alter the stats of the final item. Making the final combine depended on carefully spending “experimentation points” to alter stats. I could make the armour more resistant to falling apart, easier to wear or more likely to keep the person inside alive. People wrote extensive theory about armoursmithing on websites, we even invented a name for the science of SWG armourcrafting theorising: Layerology.

It was the most fun I ever had in a MMO and a very memorable character.

So to Prime. (Hey you – wake up, I'm being relevant!)

Prime is going to launch directly against SWTOR. They are broadly similar games. SWTOR has many advantages – it's a more famous setting, it's had a lot of money spent on it and it's from a well-regarded veteran studio. For Prime to succeed it needs to not fight SWTOR on its own turf, it needs to look at how SWTOR is deciding to do things and do things different.

Particularly crafting.

SWTOR is launching with a dumbed down version of WoW's dumbed down crafting. Hell, it's not even crafting imo. You get your stuff and click a button and it pops out. If that's crafting then clicking a clip into your Sig & Sauer is manufacturing a pistol.

Crafting is a major opportunity for Prime BFD to blow the pants off off the competition.

A good crafting system and a good player economy is zero sum game design. Every decision that makes the crafting game good, every decision that makes the economy interesting makes someone else's gameplay less fun.

In WoW everyone is a master crafter. In WoW no one is a master crafter. If you make crafting so painless, so accessible, it ceases to become gameplay and just becomes a chore. No one in WoW loves crafting the way I loved my armoursmith. It's just something you grind for +40 Stamina.

So this is how I think crafting in Prime should go:

yes to complexity
yes to no upper limit (you can always get better)
yes to rewarding those who hunt down the best resources
yes to stats on resources
yes to crafting being miles better than dropped loot
yes to crafters being dependent on combat characters to get the best resources (Prime, but also resources harvested from dangerous animals like Rancor hide
yes to crafting optimally requiring multiple maxxed skills (so you don't just have maxxed Master Weaponsmith then five maxxed skills to be awesome at combat with).
yes to item decay and destruction
yes to variations in stats from piece to piece
yes to crafting requiring a turn-based minigame
yes to kick ass killers developing friendships with awesome crafters
no to squirrels being discovered on death to have been carting suits of plate mail around.
no to best in slot
no to everyone being a master crafter
no to WoW's crafting system reskinned

Seriously folks, let's support a Prime that blows SWTOR out of the water on gameplay. So we're playing a “I've been saving this Kalameshi 3.09 Sniper Rifle for a special occasion – take it and cover me I'm going after his stash” game while they're being told to kill ten rats by a Welsh-accented thesbian.

Tuesday 19 July 2011

Prime Battle for Dominus

An avatar-based sci fi game is in the works from PitchBlack games of Phoenix, Arizona. Sub-based MMORPG.

Their site is here:

With superb timing it manages to be highly evocative of Star Wars: Galaxies and also brings back DAOC's much-missed three way faction brawl. It also seems to be taking a leaf out of Trion's book in terms of professionalism (although early to say that, hope that doesn't come back to haunt me!). It certainly is looking more streamlined than the games that have influenced it.

The game has three factions that are unique races, 2 alien and one human. Each race has 6 classes. The alien classes are original and interesting while the human ones are very reminiscent of SWG including medics wielding stim packs and commandos wielding assault cannons. I think I'm going to play an Antelis

Character progression is a hybrid of class-based and skill-based. You will progress your skills by filling up boxes with experience points.

PVE is all of the expected standard fodder plus also dynamic events managed by a member of staff. They do this in Eve, there are quite frequent Live events, I got blown up at one recently. I just wonder if this features implies that they're aiming for a single server game. They haven't said so anywhere else but managing hand moderated events in a structure like Rift's (which had ninety-something servers at launch) would be a nightmare. Another key element of the PVE is a mission system - does anyone else here miss running 'naff missions out of Coruscant in SWG?

Another element I like is this: "There are a few "instanced" PVE areas that require a small group of 6 players, but most of Prime's encounters are open world and therefore it's up to the players themselves to decide how many players should comprise the group." I found in Rift, where I ran a raid guild it was much more comfortable all round doing 5 and 10 man raid rifts in the open world where I could bring any number up to 20 than trying to herd my cats to the specific demands of 20 man instanced raids.

PVP consists of open world pvp as you grow more powerful (I guess they mean higher level areas are more likely to be contested), large scale world faction battles, an arena system and a bounty hunter system. You can gain renown by surviving with high bounties on you.

The professions page implies a rich crafting system. Interestingly it states "Players will travel far and wide to purchase the weapons of a high-end Weapontech." That is not the case in WoW where everyone and his brother is a master crafter but it was the case in Galaxies. Of course that may just be marketing department flavour text. The resource surveying system is demonstrated in one of the videos (linked below). Looks like players will be in for a lot of resources hunting and that certain areas may be rich in specialised and valuable resources - an interesting design feature in a gameworld carved up into 3 pvping factions.

Combat is a straight forward tab target hotkey based system although there's no autoattack. Players have a health bar and an energy bar, HAM has not been brought back to haunt us. You drop harvested resources when killed - I can see an emergent playstyle already!

A blog piece is here (and is how I heard about it):
Interestingly Keen took one look at the SWG-style hotter/warmer resource scanning system and thought "I'm in." It's the little things...

Youtube has 6 videos that I found, 3 interviews (well technically I think they're monologues as no questions are asked) and 3 demos of gameplay:

Interview: Warren Weems CEO on the corporate and production background.

Interview: Lee Phemister Art Lead talks about the art team.

Interview: Zyad Khadri Art Director on the look and the feel of the art and design.

Short demo: Character creation. Pretty cool sci fi armour for the humans, nice monster look for the Rodons.

Short demo: Start area, UI, mob combat, resource surveying.

Long dev Q&A (55 minutes)

They have a careers page which currently has 2 jobs on it:

Friday 8 July 2011

AoC: For Blood and Glory!

I tried Age of Conan's new Blood and Glory, ultra pvp server tonight and had a really fun time. The server was due to go live earlier today, was cancelled, then got green lighted after 3 hours of downtime. I logged on with a friend at about 8.30 UK time and have played for 5 hours, reaching level 14.

For the first few levels the main difference to regular AoC is the chat. It's jocularly obscene with lashing of extra smack. We were chuckling quite a few times although it's not for the delicate. It's really not like any other chat in any other MMO I've seen. People take the M rating to heart even after the game has gone Unrated (or maybe especially because it's gone unrated).

I could have quaffed a 100% bonus exp potion at level 1 that's some kind of veteran reward but I didn't because my friend didn't have one. Otherwise I would have, this is not a server on which one wants to stop and smell the flowers. It's a server where the higher levels crush the lowbies the newbies the noobs and the freeps and hear their lamentations in General Chat. It's interesting that the game is available free to play, I'm looking forward to seeing how non payers get on. I suspect they will do well before max level.

We managed to get to about level 14 solo then we had to dip our toes into our first pvp zone: a choice of White Sands, Underhalls or the Acheronian Ruins. We wanted to avoid getting too badly murdered so we debated which would be the tamest. White Sands was out - it was a notorious gank zone early in the life of AoC and is no doubt full of nostalgia tripping serial killers. Underhalls tends to be vicious, we'd poked our nose in at level 9 to grab a couple of bottles of wine and there was a fight in progress at the entrance. So it was off to the Ruins.

The entrance wasn't camped when we got there. Let me rephrase. The entrance wasn't camped until we got there. As stealthers we were able to move into the mobs by the start which meant solo players zoned in, saw a pack of 2-3 mobs, pulled them, got to half life then discovered us. We enjoyed that situation for a few minutes chalking up 3 or 4 ganks.

We then decided our next objective was the graveyard about 200 metres away. We made our way over but my friend fell off the ladder and died so I charged over past a brutal fight at the bottom of the stairs, just reaching the graveyard before random passers by murdered me. We then lurked around the graveyard for a little while making the acquaintance of the local gankers. We snuck out of the gank zone, got spotted by mobs and killed, snuck out of the gank zone again and found a nice quiet questing spot where solo players were free to indulge in a little productive pve.

Until we got there.

Murdering some kind of warrior and a rather impressive caster (who still should have known better than to aoe grind 5 mobs at a time in a zone full of hidden Rogues) we pacified the area sufficiently that we were able to get our quests done. We then snaffled another tasty couple of morsels from the Great Gods of Ganking before the locals sent a bait warrior in followed up by a large angry and rather high level posse.

I ressed by the entrance, my friend ressed in a different place, in the graveyard gank zone we mentioned earlier. He snuck to me but was pursued by a level 17 Warrior up the long long ladder out. I found an angle where I could snipe him as he climbed which made him rather panic - he almost fell off in his shock. He went down, changed his mind and climbed up, then bottled and climbed down as fast as he could. I got him to 60% before he got out of range, Warriors are tough!

We zoned out into the safe zone and agreed to call it a night.

Friday 1 July 2011

Eve: thoughts on recent events

There were a few problems with CCP’s management of events leading up until riots of the last weeks.

First was the degree of player power. As someone who grew up playing games mainly as sports in a school setting where strict teachers were the referees it astonishes me how little MMO companies want authority over their games’ rules. Nevertheless this has been the pattern in a great number of games and CCP more than most with the extraordinary manifesto they announced when creating the CSM, a player council that would be a partner in the game’s development.

So the players felt it was THEIR game, not CCP’s.

A related aspect to this issue was that CCP has tried to be on the players’ level rather than a remote authority. Many former players have been recruited to staff, many former staff still play and are active in the community. CCP staff sang a rap song HTFU to us last year (which I rather enjoyed) and have co-opted the Northern Coalition slogan Best Friends Forever for their development team. It’s too close, you can’t be both peers and in charge with any grace.

Next is the economic simulation. Eve has an inward-looking complex economy which plexes do not quite disrupt. However the cash shop breaks the fourth wall. It’s the developers peering out from behind the spell of immersion that the game creates and saying “Want to buy something cool?” It breaks immersion in a game where many players spend weeks and weeks perfecting their spreadsheets to manipulate virtual trends in a make-believe economy.

The last issue is the sense the player base has that the main thrust of the development effort is to something we see as superfluous fluff – walking in stations. It’s like someone improving chess by developing a cosmetic design feature for your Queen – it misses the point of the game. Of course Eve aims to be a world not just a game and a virtual world is more what these MMOs intended to be. So it’s certainly arguable that walking in stations is a good feature, it’s just one that many of us are underwhelmed by and since we feel its OUR game not CCP’s = powderkeg, lit recently by some rather greedy decisions.