Global Agenda First Impression

Posted by on February 26, 2010 - No Comments »

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February 2 saw the release of two MMORPG.  Both have subscription fees, both offer PvP and PvE content, they include guns and are set in science fiction universes.  The similarities pretty much stop there.  Cryptic Studios’ Star Trek Online is geared to satiate the hungered trekkies out there, while Hi-Rez Studios hopes to appease the Team Fortress 2 crowd.  The main content, philosophies and core mechanics couldn’t be more different.

Global Agenda starts players off in an optional tutorial that explains the basic features of the game, squad-based third person shooting.  The developer used this normally boring ordeal to explain the world, how the player came into existence and their reason for being.  It’s a creative way to introduce players to a game, one that tackles two problems.  First off, it details the absolute basics of the game – movement, jumping, crouching, etc.  Things that MMOG players know.  Thanks to the interactive story running alongside the tutorial players are not bored to tears.  I rather enjoyed learning about the world as I was making my escape.  Too bad I haven’t seen any interesting blend of gameplay and story since.

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Pros:

  • Gameplay polish – Too many MMOGs are being released with all sorts of bells, whistles, trinkets and garnish, but no meat and potatoes.  Global Agenda has offered polished gameplay since the closed beta period.  PvP combat is fast, accurate, relatively lag free and well diversified.
  • Mission briefings – Mission briefings are exactly what they sound like.  Short, non-interactive descriptions of the various PvP locations that a player may find themselves a part of.  The briefings not only describe the objective(s), including a fly-by, but why the scenario is an important asset to claim.
  • Timed missions – It doesn’t matter which you enjoy more, PvP or PvE, both types of combat are timed.  This may annoy some players, but it definitely gives everyone a sense of urgency to finish the goal.  Players seem to be a lot less likely to stand around in PvE, and far more aggressive in PvP when there’s a clock winding down.
  • Bit-sized gameplay – The combination of instanced and timed mission along with Global Agenda’s own matchmaking system means that gamers can get in and out of a play sessions very quckly.  Global Agenda is a title that is easily digestible in small bits, and easy to level without a guild.  That makes it a good game for casual players until level cap.
  • Payload – As characters level up they unlock additional items to equip on their character.  Gear only offers small upgrades, so a player’s defensive and offensive skills are paramount to the success of a mission.  The diversification is as extreme as a few teched out items, or a jack of all trades character.
  • Semi-dynamic encounters – In damn near every MMOG, running the same dungeon gets boring as soon as the players learn the ins and outs of pulls, encounters and line of sight abuses.  The developers at Hi-Rez Studios mix it up a bit by changing the positions, mobs, pathing, level layout and even bosses for each instance.  Traps and environmental damage make dungeons even more replayable.
  • Stable server & quick support – No MMOG launches without its issues, some game breaking, others just tedious.  Global Agenda’s launch was relatively smooth.  Little to no lag, no queues and with enough population and level distribution to carry out any mission in the game.  That being said, there were small issues present.  Most of them were quickly hotfixed and patched the week of release.
  • Diverse PvP arenas – Global Agenda launched choke full o’ PvP arenas.  Players can join a good range of scenarios including payload, attack and defense, king of the hill, objectives and escort.  And soon we’ll be able to decide what we want, instead of it being random.

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Cons:

  • Stupid AI – The artificial intelligence for the PvE NPCs is atrocious.  Robots can easily die before reacting.  They may hide or cower in plain view and they’ll die to the traps in their own facilities.  Sorry, but these robots and elite assassins should know they’ll get squished or melted in their own facility.
  • No world or universe – The Mission Briefing feature I touted above would make you think there might be a universe, but there isn’t.  There’s no where to walk around and take in the sights.  Even Dome City, the game’s home base, is incredibly boring.  There’s lore sprinkled in from the website and a dash in the PvE system, but the briefings will deliver the majority of context the game has to offer
  • Ranges on guns – Global Agenda’s successful ad campaign lambasted the cliches of most MMOGs, but the game has some itself, including range.  Various, but not all weapons, have undisclosed range limitations.  It’s incredibly annoying when a weapon is fired and it doesn’t reach the intended target.
  • Uninspired specialization trees – One way to specialize your character is through skill trees.  By selecting one tree over another a class can change quite dramatically.  For example, a medic, your typical healer, can morph into a healer that can deal a dangerous amount of poison damage to the other team.  The specializations are nice in theory, but the talents within them are uninspired.  Want to heal more, then select Beam Heal Boost (+4% healing), or Jetpack Power for addition flight (-50% power cost).  Then move on to Beam Healing Boost II (+6% healing) or Power Pool Increase (+50% power pool)!  It’s not only a lack of interesting spells, but a lack of spells in general.  In fact, if you ignore the tiers of spells, then the healing tree only offers seven unique options.
  • Lose of XP – Losing XP as part of a death penalty is one thing, but losing it to a disconnect or crash is another.  If a player is dropped from a PvP or PvE match for any reason they are sent back to Dome City.  Their place in the battle isn’t reserved for when they return, and it isn’t filled either.  Because Global Agenda awards XP upon the completion of a mission, getting dropped means you’ve been robbed of whatever XP was coming to you.  It doesn’t matter if you left in the first ten seconds, or the last, nothing is awarded.  I’ve been stripped of XP around a dozen times now.
  • Crafting – It’s clunky, time consuming, expensive and unfriendly.  Thankfully, Hi-Rez is already working on an overhaul.
  • Non-unique characters – Compound the boring skill selection with few cosmetic options and you have many characters that look exactly the same.  There are costumes available, but few players bother to pick them up due to costs and because the outfit isn’t that different.
  • Poor windowed mode optimization – One of the loading tips is that the game runs in Windowed Mode.  It does, it just doesn’t run all that well.  The game will sit on top of the taskbar, you’re forced to alt-tab out of the game to capture your mouse, it has uninspired taskbar art and defaultly spouts its sound whether the window is active or not.  I can’t find a way to stop the sound either.  All of the issues are minor, but they need to be addressed.
  • Bad auto-grouping – The various auto-grouping techniques employeed by the multitude of MMOG developers have often been hailed as one of the best features of their respective games.  Hi-Rez Studios’ effort is not in that category.  I understand that getting people in a mission quickly is the utmost priority, but I am willing to wait a few minutes to avoid three medics or three recons in the same foursome.
  • Tutorial – The introduction was great, but that’s all it was.  There’s far more complex features, tactics, abilities and choices that are left unexplained in Global Agenda.  The title needs additional tutorials to help new to intermediate players morph in to powerhouses..

I’ve yet to get in to a solid guild/alliance to really dive into the Alliance vs Alliance part of the game.  I was lucky enough to partake in some AvA matches with developers and players during beta, and it was fun.  Essentially, AvA battles are large scale PvP missions against pre-made groups.  I’ll have more on AvA for you as I gain more experience.  To me, half the fun in AvA is making the tactical decisions on the hex grid.  It forces the leaders to be true officers.

The core of Global Agenda offers a well polished, fast paced battle against player combatants or not-so-smart NPCs.  The game shines when you’re in the heat of battle against other opponents.  The rest of the title is lacking in comparison.  That being said, Hi-Rez Studios gave players two months of free play while the company works out the kinks.  I’ll be around for at least that long.

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Check out the rest of our Global Agenda coverage here.

Dungeons and Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited – Over One Million Players Since Re-launch

Posted by on February 26, 2010 - No Comments »

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Turbine has announced that Dungeons and Dragon Online‘s community has welcomed over one million new players since re-launching the game in September 2009. The success of the new free-to-play/subscription MMO is unquestionable and it makes you think – why don’t more companies do it, instead of failing miserably. The end result: DDO’s population has doubled since Turbine adopted the new subscription model.

Turbine also noted the success of the DDO Store, with the rate of transactions tripling the industry’s average since September, resulting in the addition of over 500% to the franchise’s revenue. For more information on Dungeons and Dragons Online – the game’s official website is right here.

Mytheon Closed Beta – Now Live

Posted by on February 26, 2010 - No Comments »

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True Games Interactive has announced that the closed beta for Petroglyph’s mythology themed MMORPG, Mytheon, has officially started. While this is technically a closed beta test, anyone is free to sign up and participate in the Mytheon Closed Beta by simply visiting the game’s official website.

Of course, it may take some time(up to a week) for you to receive your closed beta key, and there is an NDA in effect, but Mytheon looks like it’s worth it – a rich lore, combining different mythologies and blending them with fantasy, classical hack ‘n slash gameplay with a pinch of RTS. Did I peak your interest? If yes, click here to sign up immediately.

Competitive Dungeoneering

Posted by on February 25, 2010 - No Comments »

olympicsI still seem to be hooked on the topic of risk and reward in MMOs. This article continues along that vein, but instead of the harsh, cold realities of item loss, we are going to think in terms of the spirit of the Olympic Games and talk about the sport of Competitive Dungeoneering.

Betting – In this system, some instances are only accessible to teams willing to pay the ante. Depending on the instance, this ante can be in the form of gold, experience, or interesting items. A low level dungeon might require 50 coins, or a green weapon to enter. A high level instance might require 1000s of coins and an epic piece of equipment. Any items bet cannot be used until the team has completed their mission.

Very simply, if your team completes the mission, they get their bet back plus an appropriate reward. However, if they fail the instance, they lose the bet and their stuff is lost. The definition of failure would vary each instance. A party wipe could mean failure, or the mission might require that a certain player or NPC never die, or the mission might be timed.

One variation is to allow players to up their ante, thus increasing their reward if they win… and possibly the power of the enemies in the instance. This is a pretty direct way to climb the risk vs. reward curve.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is contrived, and requires a lot of meta-gaming on the part of the players… but MMO players ought to be used to meta-gaming, right?

Item World?– One interesting variation steals from console RPGs like the Disgaea series. Instead of betting gold or experience, players put up items to enter dungeons. Groups that succeed in conquering the instance find their items returned to them, but with significant upgrades in their stats and powers.

dungeon_board_gameCompetitive Dungeoneering — The next step in this idea requires that we devise a system by which we can score a team’s performance in our dungeon. Missions could be timed, or we could score based on monsters killed, or treasure found. Deaths would likely count against a team’s score and a party wipe could mean the team is disqualified.

Similar to the betting system, teams would enter the dungeon only after putting up a decent amount of cash. Once the team completes the run, their score is calculated and recorded on a leader board. At the end of the week, the best teams split a hefty portion of the bets placed by all the groups that week.

Variant Dungeons– This system lends itself to tons of variations. Instances could be created with the competitive dungeoneering concept in mind. You could have dungeons where teams faced wave after wave of monsters with little time to rest in between. The team is scored based on how long they can last. Some instances could consist of long hallways filled with platforms and obstacles and teams could engage in a timed race to the finish… with monsters thrown in to slow them down.

Star Trek Online – Raidisode Fact Sheet

Posted by on February 25, 2010 - No Comments »

Today Cryptic Studios released a raid episode fact sheet for the upcoming raid episodes in Star Trek Online. The raid episodes, AKA Raidisodes, are projected to enter testing within the next week and published live the week following. This raid content will introduce a lot of end-game content to the current system, which is almost completely void of it. The raid content will be for Starfleet admirals and Klingon generals.


Raid content primarily focuses around the Borg.

Raid content primarily focuses around the Borg.


Raid Episodes Fact Sheet:

STF: Infected
Starfleet has lost contact with one of its star bases. More than 400 officers could be lost, including a key member of Starfleet’s Borg Task Force. Infiltrate the base and take the fight to the Borg!
• Retake the Sibiran system and shut down a transwarp conduit being used by the Borg to establish a foothold in the Gamma Orionis Sector Block.
• Investigate the strange new nanovirus the Borg are using to assimilate entire worlds at alarming speeds.
• Retake Starbase 89 before its fully taken over by the Borg, and save what is left of the Starfleet personnel that are still there.
• Locate Captain Ogen’s Strike Team and Rebecca Simmons, the lead Borg Task Force researcher working on a cure for the nanovirus. Both went deep into the Borg infected starbase and haven’t reported back in quite some time.
• It’s a five-man mission. Players will not be able to complete it without teaming up with other players.
• The mission spans space and ground gameplay.
• Applies to level 43 +
• Encounters are daunting. Lots of enemies. Designed to be challenging.
• Releases this month.

STF: The Cure
The Klingon Defense Force has been conducting its own investigation into the Borg advance, and they believe that the Collective’s next target is the Vorn system. Enemies may have to unite when confronted by a greater foe.
• Assist the I.K.S. Kang in a desperate battle with the Borg.
• Explore a planet that has been completely assimilated. Can you rescue the warriors before they are taken over by the Borg?
• Fight at the side of Ja’rod, son of Lursa.
• Free Klingon ships from Borg control, and gain their assistance in a final battle with a Borg fleet.

STF: Khitomer Accord
Finally, the mysteries of the Borg attack on Vega Colony are revealed! Why did the Borg attack there, and how was an unprepared Starfleet able to defeat them?
• Confront the Borg before they can use temporal anomalies to change the past of the Federation.
• Warp back into your own past, in the hours before the attack on Vega Colony.
• Discover a base where thousands of Borg drones are being held in stasis. What are the Borg’s plans for this hidden army?
• Starfleet’s not ready for the Borg. A defeat here could mean that the entire Alpha Quadrant falls. Balance the scales and fight the Borg for the preservation of the quadrant.
• Learn the fate of a missing Romulan empress.

STF: Into the Hive
The fate of the Alpha Quadrant hangs in the balance. Enter a unicomplex and confront the Borg Queen herself.
• Rescue civilians trapped on an assimilated world.
• Follow the trail to a unicomplex, and penetrate deep into the Borg stronghold.
• Confront the Borg Queen, and fight for the fate of the galaxy.

STF: Children of Khan
Amar Singh escapes from Federation custody, and he and an underground group of Augments steal the U.S.S. Asgard and race toward the remains of the Mutara Nebula. Can you stop them before they start a new Eugenics War?
• Fight a fleet assembled by Princep Khan and his followers.
• Beam onto the Asgard, and battle through its corridors to save civilians and crew.
• Confront the Princep. Can you deal with his transporter tricks?
• Save the divided Asgard and give the saucer section a chance to escape!

Perfect World International Looking for MMORPG Fashion Designers

Posted by on February 25, 2010 - No Comments »

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After the success of Ether Saga’s “Design-a-Mount” contest, Perfect World Entertainment have decided to dig even deeper, allowing you to design your very own article of clothing for their hit MMORPG, Perfect World in the first ever Perfect World Fashion Contest. It doesn’t matter if you draw it by hand or photoshop it, the only thing you have to do is submit your idea for an in-game fashion set to pwi-events@perfectworldinc.com. The deadline is March 19th, 2010 at 6:00PM Pacific.

The five top entries in the contest will win one Wardrobe Stone as well as an entire fashion set of their choice from the Boutique. The two top entries(one male and one female) that the community picks will be awarded 10,000 Zen($100) as well as a chance for their entries to become actual fashion items in-game.

RULES:
- Fashion can be drawn (and scanned) or photoshopped.
- Images must be in JPG, PNG, BMP, or GIF format only.
- Fashion cannot use any copyrighted materials.
- Players can send in as many entries as they wish.
- Upon submitting your design, it becomes property of Perfect World Entertainment, and may be used by the design team of Perfect World International.

More information on the contest is available here.

ijji Announces new Sci-Fi shooter – Genesis A.D

Posted by on February 25, 2010 - No Comments »

Genesis A.D
Popular game portal ijji have spread the word about their latest game – Genesis A.D. The game is a futuristic shooter where players control hi-tech soldiers and battle each other for dominance. Genesis A.D officially launches it’s open beta in Korea on June 25, but there is no official word from ijji about a release date.

Genesis A.D, also known as Another Day, allows you to choose between several futuristic classes, including Sniper, Supplier and Assault. The game is one of the five new projects by KTH to be ported to America. Based on first impressions, Genesis resembles the newly released Global Agenda by Hi-Rez Studios, but it’s way too early to be jumping to conclusions.

Darkfall – 7 Day Trial announced

Posted by on February 25, 2010 - No Comments »

Darkfall
To celebrate the first birthday of their MMORPG, Darkfall, Aventurine SA have announced a 7 day trial at a symbolic price – 1€ for Europe, and 1$ for the USA. After the week of gameplay is over, players can purchase the game in order to continue with their characters. If you are interested in becoming part of the trial, you should download the game before starting it to maximize your play time. There will be no gameplay limits to the trial whatsoever.

Several updates have been added to Darkfall in the last few months, including a newbie protection buff, and Aventurine have explained that the symbolic price of the trial is put to protect the game’s existing community.