Category Archives: MMO’s We Follow

Weekly Wyrm ~ Devilian Beta Impressions, Etc.

Rift spinderella mount imageThis kitty just got a Devilian beta invite, along with a Rift fall festival announcement, which advertises a “Spinderella” spider carriage.

I haven’t checked in on Trion lately, but they’ve been busy. The Spinderella might be the craziest cool pied-à-terre mount I’ve ever seen in my life.

It looks like a lavish mech-gift to a Drow elf bride from her Deep Gnome husband, to compensate for the nigh-fatal shortcomings later in the bedchamber.

Unlike some other horrible F2P come-and-buy-all-this-stuff advertising I’ve seen recently, the Rift festival blurb also leads with a bit of roleplay and a reference to a well-known satyr character being ready to revel. I often feel Rift writing is weaker than it could be, but this is professional.


Quick Devilian Beta Impression


I played the Devilian beta tonight, and I was impressed. It’s slick, fun enough, and probably worth playing at launch. It’s like a cross between Diablo 3 and Aion, but it’s a little more fun, in that it doesn’t take itself as seriously.

The music is good. The gameplay is fast and fun. You use flash-dodge moves to avoid red circles like in Neverwinter.

The quest panel is brilliant, and the entire interface is really slick. Alt-tabbing is a breeze. Pets seem to be only temporary, so you have to replace them. They offer real perks though, like storage and buffs.

There is an “attendance” panel, where you accumulate perks based on how regularly you log into the game. Quest direction indicators are very well done, as is an autorun feature to get to the next quest, in case you’re confused.

The main shortcoming of Devilian so far is the four gender-locked classes. The gender equality is appreciated, but the female customization options boil down to two options: a short and cute loli gunner, or a tall and cute wizard with bouncy boobs.

So equality, but not. The guys look properly big, bad, and heroic. The girls look like girls. My first loot drop in the game was a corset. I didn’t think boobs could bounce in an over-bust corset, but there it is. Have fun with it.

The writing and lore seem a little sketchy, as do the settings and NPCs, but there’s a somewhat understandable story. The Trion devs vouched on stream for Devilian’s clever writing and humor, so the kitty needs to see more before she starts pissing on everything as usual.

Since Devilian is being streamed, this kitty won’t post screenshots. I might have a full, empathetic review at some point, and I’ll probably play at launch unless I’m just too busy.

I can say I just purchased Diablo 3 a few days ago (finally), and I’d rather play Devilian tonight.


Hearthstone And Diablo 3


This week I pulled my third legendary Hearthstone card from a pack – Bolf Ramshield. It’s a terrible card, but a lot of good dust. I decided Hearthstone is too stressful for popcorn entertainment, so I bought the Diablo 3 combo pack this week.

I was thrilled to find the female Crusader looks and sounds exactly like my LotRO Warden! I thought I’d never see my blonde Elf Warden again, and it’s like she’s living and breathing again in Diablo 3. I need to find a nice spear for her, and I have a feeling there will be Hell to pay.


Video Game Stocks


For various reasons, the stock market also soared this week with Nvidia, Microsoft, Blizzard, and EA all in the green. Microsoft was up 10% today. Like I predicted several months ago, their cloud is going to eat Amazon’s lunch at some point.

Microsoft announced a cloud deal with Akamai last week, which is another stock I picked last spring, along with Equinix.

I also predicted the PC is going to make a comeback. Microsoft announced last week that they are rolling out a big media campaign to advertise the power of the PC, in a joint operation with the big PC makers. We’ll see.

I really hope the fear and nail-biting is mostly over, and I can ignore Wall Street and my investments like a normal human adult. It looks like the market bottom was literally when all of the experts and big names were saying to get out.

Jim Cramer, Carl Icahn, and other big hedge fund guys said the economy could be headed for a disaster a few weeks ago, and everything was going to die in a blaze of fire. It still might, but those guys were buying, and so was I.

I’m polishing my first three book covers and studying popular fantasy novel covers to get a feel for what readers want to see. I’m not putting my name in huge letters, bigger than the title, which is too much ridiculous cult-of-personality narcissism.


Rift: Game Is In Great Shape, Announcement Coming (+ Gaming Stock Commentary)

In response to player concerns today about the future of Rift, community manager Ocho had this to say in the forums:

“So let’s get to some facts:

  • The RIFT Dev team is the largest Dev team I’ve ever worked with in almost a decade of working on triple A MMOs.
  • The team has grown over the last year and a half, and hiring for the team continues.
  • Population in RIFT is strong, lots of people play RIFT and lots of new people continue to start to play RIFT.
  • Profits from RIFT are certainly reinvested in RIFT. AA took 0 devs from RIFT. None, nada, zilch.
  • RIFT is in zero danger. We’re really excited about the future, right now is a great time to be playing or working on RIFT. …
  • We’re not only reusing old content, we’re also developing new content. Keep your eyes out over the next couple weeks, we might be announcing something.”

– Ocho

This is great news, since this kitty has also been a little worried.

This week I capped my rogue alt, and I continue close to picking up a few pieces of raid gear earned for my main by weeklies and dailies instead of raiding. I’m also enjoying the creative and quirky nightmare saga story.

The second act released yesterday. The return of old classic characters doesn’t bring much life to them (so far), and we mostly see them as generic quest-advancers. The third act of the saga also supposedly forces you to do a lot of PvP and NTE dungeons.

I disagree with this design, even if it’s to justify the epic weapon you can theoretically get when it’s all over. There are two main types of players:

  • Players for whom this is just same-old grinding to pad out the saga.
  • Players for whom this is horrible and will spend an entire weekend trying to queue for PUG DPS and beat five dungeons, or queuing PvP and hating Trion the entire time.

Just doesn’t seem like a winning scheme to me.


Video Game Stocks


Electronic Arts (EA) and Microsoft (MSFT) both had solid earnings reports this week, so hopefully these will be long term for my paltry little portfolio, and I can ease up on my nine-month quest (right before the stock market goes off a cliff, possibly.)

How can Microsoft compete with Apple and Google? By uniting your PC in an ecosystem with your other devices and monetizing by applying what they’ve learned from Free-To-Play video games. I plan to buy a Lumia soon. My Samsung tablet completely fails to recognize my Windows 7 PC.

You’ll also be able to stream XBOX to PC with Windows 10, or stream console-quality games to your PC without an XBOX using the cloud, which Microsoft demonstrated yesterday.

If you need any more good news for Microsoft, China announced this week that it will now allow game consoles to be sold in China after a 15 year ban. This is probably more better for Sony and Nintendo.

My third tech pick is still Equinix (EQIX), a cloud pipeline and data center owner. They are allied with Microsoft’s Azure cloud services, which I hope will eventually win against Amazon’s huge cloud. Who wants to trust Amazon with their entire corporate business and security if the other choice is the Microsoft on your PCs?

I also still hold AT&T (T), which is now FCC-approved to merge with DirectTV, with an expectation of leveraging their scale to produce their own competitive over-the-top video streaming service like everyone else.

Nvidia’s (NVDA) stock continues to head into the abyss with PCs and chips, although the stock is super tempting as it dips below $20. The future of virtual reality in video games and in general might see Nvidia as a big player.

As TAGN reported, Blizzard (ATVI) announces results next week on 8/4, followed by an announcement of a new expansion a few days later on 8/6. Interesting.

In the last two quarters, Blizzard reported strong results and the stock popped. Both times I sold and took small profits. The stock might pop again, but right now Wall Street seems to be in a mood to sell any stocks after their results hit print.

Especially if a stock ran up into its earnings announcement.

I would not be betting on Blizzard’s stock to be higher the day after it reports. If ATVI sells off hard, it might be a buying opportunity, especially if the Wall Street boys aren’t completely up to speed with the expansion deal.

Also, if Blizzard is announcing their expansion earlier than normal at Gamescom, then maybe they are saving something even bigger for Blizzcon in November?


Rift Update 3.3 Today: A Casual Bonanza (And Some Stock Market Commentary)

Last week I jumped back into Rift, and I’ve had a good time running dungeons and doing warfronts. I earned the Arch General title for PvP last weekend almost too easily. The old rank 50 is probably trivial these days.

Rift’s 3.3 patch launched today and nose-dived into a crash though. The servers have been down for hours. The silver lining is a 50% compensation bonus to XP, PA, Favor, and Prestige through Sunday.

I’ve never used the word “bonanza” before, but I’m super impressed by this update. Trion is even focusing more on characters and story, bringing that all-important focus to both the new storyline and the new Tarken Instant Adventures.

Cosmologist Mann even has a wonderfully written backstory woven into the update notes! Here are the high points of the update:

  1. New Nightmare Saga storyline starts (new chapters are planned bi-weekly.)
  2. New planar crafting with new crafting rifts.
  3. New featured instant adventures in Tarken Glacier.
  4. New daily rewards and partner-finder for Chronicles, just like for dungeons and warfronts.
  5. New PvP equipment bringing PvPers, like crafters, closer to T2 raid gear.
  6. New shared bank vault.
  7. New awesome dimension stuff (haven’t looked at this yet).
  8. More wardrobe stuff.
  9. Easy-mode tiers for raids.
  10. L60 boosts are now in the store, no need to buy a pack.
  11. Mysterious Travelers have begun appearing throughout Telara. Where did they come from? What do they want? Only time will tell. (A new expansion coming?)
  12. Lots of other stuff.

Full patch notes here.

Trion is clearly favoring casual players with this Rift update (unless the story is brutal and requires grouping, extreme soloing, or raiding, a kick to the face that’s still possible).

Trion is also living up to their mission statement before Nightmare Tide launched: of providing legitimate ways of advancement (almost to parity with raiders, at least close) for all play styles.

I hope it works for them, because it’s the ideal in this kitty’s opinion. While the Rift population seems a little thin, the morale around town is relatively good on the surface. Maybe the kids are off playing Hearthstone and Trove.

If you haven’t played Rift in quite a while, this week might be a good time to jump back in for the XP bonus. I just hope it stacks with my subscription bonus.

There is also a deal to get free patron time by logging in this weekend, but I’m not sure how that works.


Personal – Video Game Stocks


In the last couple weeks during the China crash and Greece fiasco, I bought back into gaming stocks with Electronic Arts, and that has already paid off very well.

I also bought Microsoft on speculation at the breakout from the bottom of the most recent three-month pullback, which started last April after a big jump on good results from Microsoft’s growing cloud business.

Microsoft is really risky, but Sony just plain crashed due to reasons related to debt and borrowing. I can’t get back into Sony. News can’t get worse right now for Microsoft, so maybe it will be better from here.

Why didn’t I get back into ATVI (Blizzard)? I might if it breaks out of its normal plateau pattern. I believe in Blizzard, but the problem is also its debt combined with stagnant revenues. It has a huge amount more debt than EA (due to the Vivendi deal I assume.)

I’m trying to nibble into a position in FXI Hong Kong during the China market collapse right now, which puts me into Tencent, which is a Blizzard investor. I think I said I’d never do Tencent or EA, so I’m officially a hypocrite supporting the evil F2P/cash shop empires in video games.

While I’m skeptical of EA’s sports franchises, in a climate of increasing game company competition combined with ease of entry, I have to like the lock on Star Wars and those sports.

According to Dow Jones Newswire, EA hired Jade Raymond from Ubisoft last week. She’s supposedly helping to develop a Star Wars game that’s different from Battlefront due out in November, as well as leading a team to create a new IP.


Guild Wars 2 Revisited: Defying Classic Conventions

guild wars 2 combat
So I’m super-enjoying my gentle return to the beautiful, yet (of course) corrupted and war-ravaged lands of Guild Wars 2. Some things I’ve noticed by virtue of a “beginner’s mind” are:

Tons of tones in character creation. I’ve puzzled in recent months why Elder Scrolls, Rift, and Pillars of Eternity don’t give you more choices. What’s wrong with smoky purple thighs?

Auto-level matching in an area. It’s so nice get matched up to the content. Less worry about this meta-issue.

Auction House. I gave up on auctions in Elder Scrolls at the end, and was just vendoring everything. The GW2 trading post is a web app spliced into the game UI, and there are so many bids that you can sell everything almost instantly, plus get all proceeds in one lump instead of opening twenty mail items. It’s almost overly easy, but still a relief.

Megaserver And Maps. I was worried a few years ago that megaserver architecture would ruin immersion, but the benefits of the many outweigh the friendship of the few. The dynamic GW2 maps are also brilliant and surely the envy of other MMOs.

Community. I’ve been really impressed by the GW2 forums and community, especially when the game should be in low ebb before an expansion launch.


A Game World Unplugged


I seem to be going down the same old road of disconnection from the Guild Wars “world”, though. The main design goal of GW2 is to throw MMO design conventions on their head, that is–to kill the traditional quest hub and move all quests out into the roads, ruins, and hills, increasing the world immersion, ironically.

Some of these random quests are fabulous, like using a cow-launcher to get to an overlook, or failing to save a traveling caravan from a bandit attack, leading to a new dynamic quest to strike back and retrieve the stolen goods from those bandits.

The exploration in Guild Wars 2 is also a joy, and I’ve spent oodles of hours working on map completion.

The primate mind works on the principle of dominance, which is why this principle has been golden in art and design for thousands of years. This principle works for all art, novels, and the zones and NPC quest givers in World of Warcraft. I haven’t found a Goldshire in Guild Wars 2 yet, nor a Gandalf.

In Mona Lisa, Leonardo Da Vinci used his sfumato technique to render a beautiful backdrop of hills, woods, and bridges. I wonder how many people care about that landscape.

Would six million people visit the Mona Lisa each year if we removed the Mona Lisa completely, leaving only a beautiful, intriguing landscape, ripe for the plundering? No. You get the picture.

The result is lots of well-made and voiced NPCs, but they are still generic (to this kitty).

After completing quests from these NPCs, you’ll also get personal letters and notes from them via the mail. The notes are brilliantly written, and the writers have done their jobs well. The problem is that after you get twenty mails, they all start to look the same, and you know you’ll never see these pixels again. There is no point in remembering those names.

So it’s the principle of dominance. The human brain (or at least this kitty’s) needs a few solid lifelines to focus on. I remembered that I originally quit Guild Wars 2 because I’d completed the level 30 story quests. I was grinding at level 35, and my next story quest was level 40.

I just lost the lifeline at that point. What happens if you tell your ten-year-old kid he can’t read another chapter of his favorite book until ten weeks from now. He’s going to go read another book, and that’s exactly what happened with me.

This time I plan to keep going. Removing the Mona Lisa from the picture is better than removing the Mona Lisa’s nose and flashing notices in the middle of my screen letting me know the feature is now on sale in the game store.

Plus, I love my guardian’s quirky swooping Owl Attack. Hoo hoo.


Elder Scrolls Online: Gone To The Dark Side

game image

Last weekend, as Syncaine reported, Elder Scrolls decided to start spamming players with advertisements in game — in the middle of their screens randomly while they are playing, I guess “just” once per day.

I just now uninstalled ESO, and I’m going to re-install Guild Wars 2 at some point. It’s so ironic that at launch Zenimax made a big deal about the minimal, non-intrusive interface in Elder Scrolls: Online. They were showing it off in videos.

Now they are plastering ads onto that beautiful, smooth game world they created. (The image has a UI mod…) The only real problem with the ESO UI for me is that you can’t tell who is who, or who is an NPC or monster.

In my last play session in ESO, I was fighting up some stairs in an area at night, attacked the next group of monsters, and oops – they were guards. No clue. Now I’m a wanted murderess with a bounty and/or fine to pay.

So. Unexpected bright flashing ads in the middle of my screen while I’m playing is far past the line in the sand. Neverwinter did the same thing in the beta, and I never played the game after that.

Please, game developers. Find a way and go the extra step people are asking for – offer paying customers the option of not having to see ads. This is what we expect in entertainment, just like Netflix/Cable subcription vs. free rabbit ears.

In other news, NVIDIA dropped hard today despite the market rising, after AMD posted weak results. I spooked, sold for a small profit halfway through the drop, and switched that money over to Blizzard.

(This is the problem with being an MMO player and also a clueless kitty. Oh look – that one is shinier! Meanwhile, each stock trade is $10.)

Anyway, I think Blizzard, like Zenimax/Bethesda apparently, is still in the early stages of following Electronic Moriarty on the dark path of exploitation of innocent pixies, so we’ll see if they can catch a wave this year.

They also still have the World of Warcraft movie coming, in addition to Heroes of the Storm launching June 2 (the date was announced today).

I wonder if Blizzard will cannabalize players by using the same game lore again and again, or the lore serve as leverage and conversion of new players? I love the idea of creating strong NPC characterization through repetition, but it seems concerning to keep attaching more big games onto their old creaky old cash cow.