PAX East 2010: First Look At APB (All Points Bulletin)

Posted by on April 1, 2010 - 2 Comments »

Electronic Arts has been trying to reproduce the success of Ultima Online ever since the behemoth was released onto the unsuspecting masses over a dozen years ago.  The publisher has bankrolled numerous MMOs since, from space-faring expeditions to gear-head adventures, and alternate realities.  Most of the games did not come close to meeting expectations.  Electronic Arts hopes that APB (All Points Bulletin) will get the company back on track in 2010.

All Points Bulletin is being designed by David Jones and the company he founded, Realtime Worlds.  You may not have heard of Mr. Jones – no, he didn’t strike up a conversation – but you’ve definitely heard of his games.  Jones designed the original two Grand Theft Auto games, and, more recently his company created Crackdown (but not the upcoming sequel Crackdown 2).  Even more fascinating is that he created Lemmings years before.  Proving that his mind can work its magic across more than one genre.

The booth for APB at the PAX East was split in two, one side representing the criminals, and the other providing law and order in the GTA-style MMO.  I gazed upon the relatively sparsely populated world (the game was being shown on the closed beta server) as Chris Collins, the APB Community Manager, launched his spiel about the game.  He reiterated time and again that APB is being designed around three pillars, or the “three Cs” as players were told, Creativity, Conflict and Celebrity. Read more…

Icecrown Buff Jumps To Ten Percent: Has It Benefited You?

Posted by on April 1, 2010 - No Comments »

So, the Icecrown Citadel raid buff has been raised to 5 to 10%Old news at this point, I realize, but I want to know how this mechanic has affected your progress in the dungeon so far, and whether or not it’s a good idea in the long run.

Of course, the most straightforward argument that can, and vehemently has, been made against the buff is that it’s eventually going to make what is the toughest, and most grueling, dungeon in the game look like a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. OK, that’s actually pretty chaotic, but you get the idea. “Kid’s stuff.”  But that’s assuming that all raids are created equal, and as we all know, that’s simply not the case.

Take my guild, Severance Pay, for instance. Before any dungeon-wide raid buffs became active, we were able to get through just about everything but Valithria Dreamwalker and the wing-end bosses with relatively few problems. Some wipes were inevitable, but we’d usually finish off everything we were comfortable with before the week was out.

What surprised me is that the 5% buff, when it became active almost a month ago, didn’t seem to have much effect at all. In fact, despite finally finishing Valithria, we started backsliding down the hill a little bit. Progression completely halted. Festergut’s a good measure of these things since he’s more or less a damage sponge, and we were tighter on the timer than we had been when we had no buff at all. In general, even our improvements proved too subtle to even matter.

I think the problem can be traced back to two issues. The first is fundamental raid dynamics and there’s not a whole lot we could do about it. People simply weren’t showing up for raids. Whether they were on Spring Break or otherwise, we always seemed to be down a few players. We progressed farther in the two weeks preceding the introduction of the Icecrown Citadel raid buff than we did in the three or so following it, and perhaps we had hoped that even with flagging attendance, that extra 5% would carry us through.

Read more…

New Races, Tribes, and More for FFXIV

Posted by on March 31, 2010 - No Comments »

Keeper of the Moon

Square Enix, the company producing Final Fantasy XIV (that’s fourteen for you non-romans), the imminent new Final Fantasy MMO, has released a new video and some new information about the playable races.

Unlike Final Fantasy XI, where the five races were all very similar, there will be two different “tribes” for each race that will further characterize them. Since this game takes place in a new world, Eozea, the races are slightly different from FFXI and have new names. A translation of the race descriptions via the Zam Wiki is available below:

Elezen (Elvaan in FFXI):

The ancestral race of Eorzea, the Elezen have clashed with the Hyur in the past to defend their homeland.

  • Foresters: For hundreds of years, this Elezen tribe have inhabited the deep green forests. They are proud of their hawk-like eyesight, and excel in archery. Nowadays, those who have adapted to city life or those who live a nomadic life in the plains often return to the woodlands.
  • Shaders: For hundreds of years, the Shaders have inhabited dark caves. Developing bat-like ears, they can sense the enemy’s movement by the rustling of clothes. Because of this, many Shaders excel in hand-to-hand combat. Turning to thievery in order to sustain their cave-dwelling life, they are despised by the forester as turncoats.

Hyur (Hume in FFXI):

A race that migrated from different continents, the Hyur brought with them great technology and innovation that raised the civilization of Eorzea to new heights.

  • Midlanders: Among the populous Hyur, the majority is comprised of this great clan. They reside in various regions, and are enriched with a diverse livelihood. From a young age, Midlanders become accustomed to books. Because of this, they seem to have a deep, intellectual society.
  • Highlanders: The highlanders dominate the remote, northern highlands. They are the strong, muscular, tribe of the Hyur. After their city-state of Ala Mihgo fell to the Garlean Empire, with the exception of Male Mercenaries, it has become rare to see them in other cities.

Lalafell (Taru Taru in FFXI):

A race of farmers who live mainly near the Southern Sea, the Lalafell boast an exceptional degree of intelligence as well as agility.

  • Plainsfolk: The Plainsfolk gather and built villages from the materials of the plains, and have come to be called “The people of the Plains”. Their earthly green, flaxen hair resembles vegetation. With their large ears, they can hear even the faintest footstep of a mole.
  • Dunesfolk: Large, domesticated livestock are made to carry the homes that the Dunesfolk migrate and live in. They live with the movement of the soil, and are called the “People of the Dunes” among the Lalafell. One of their unique features is that their eyes are enveloped by a protective clear film, which makes their eyes resemble a Crystal Ball. On their forehead, a jewel which represents their star of fate is affixed.

Miqo’te (Mithra in FFXI):

A race of cat-like people, the Miqo’te are known as fierce hunters.

  • Seekers of the Sun: One tribe of the Mi’qote call themselves “The People of the Sun”. The followers of the Sun God Azema are numerous, and they are very active in the daytime. They have cold, piercing,, colorful, cat-like eyes.
  • Keepers of the Moon: The other tribe of the Mi’qote call themselves “The Wards of the Moon”. They are the many followers of the Moon God Menefina, and many follow a nocturnal lifestyle. Many of the Moon Keepers apply vivid war paint onto their face.

Roegadyn (Galka in FFXI):

A muscular race of fishermen, the Roegadyn live near the Northern Sea.

  • Seawolf: Known as “Seawolves”, this Roegadyn tribe is feared as marauding pirates from the northern seas. Nowadays, the number of Seawolves who fare the high seas are becoming numerous.
  • Lohengarde: Residing in the vicinity of volcanic craters, the Lohengarde are a tribe of Roegadyn who are faithful in the “Gates of Hell”. They are called the “Gatekeepers of the Flame” . Not only are their bodies hard and tempered, their “fire-walking” asceticism allows them to nurture the qualities of magickal ingenuity.

This adds up to ten distinct races.

In addition, a new Youtube channel is available that currently contains a preview of FFXI. Check it out in all of its Japanese goodness:
Read more…

PAX East 2010: First Look At Monday Night Combat

Posted by on March 30, 2010 - 1 Comment »

When I was getting the lay of the land of the Hynes Convention Center I was caught off guard by Monday Night Combat.  I was minding my own business, following up on appointments and seeing what the con had to offer, when I was struck by this colorful class-based shooter and its sizable booth.  To be entirely honest, I had never heard of the title, so I strolled up to an official looking person to find out some details.

The XBLA title obviously took some cues from Team Fortress 2.  Not a bad thing considering it is one of the most successful class-based shooters out there.  That being said, Uber Entertainment is going its own way with Monday Night Combat, including moving things to third person.  As the name may suggest, its world is a mockery of the ad-based football show that is Monday Night Football.  Perhaps that is why each character contains at least one well-animated melee move.  The demo showcased the Crossfire multiplayer mode, one of a handful of modes, that forces two teams of six to assault each other’s home base.

You can see some of my success in the full interview below:

Monday Night Combat is heading to XBLA sometime in 2010.  It’ll cost some amount of Microsoft Points…The closest I could get to a concrete number was that “it will be priced similar to offerings of this magnitude on the platform.”  That leads me to believe Monday Night Combat will set you back either 1200 ($15) or 1600 ($20) Microsoft Points.

PAX East 2010: Geek Chic Gaming Tables

Posted by on March 30, 2010 - 1 Comment »

As it turns out, one of the coolest things at PAX East wasn’t a video game at all. It was furniture. But not the kind your rest your grimy feet on while you stare blankly at the television. This is some serious, high-quality stuff, hand-made with all the ephemera a hardcore nerd would need in a gaming table. Geek Chic really does take everything into account, from special surfaces designed to make your WoW CCG card stay put to built-in cup holders so your condensating drink doesn’t sweat all over the quality wood finish and leave a stain.

Geek Chic‘s motto is “come out of the basement,” a sentiment which more or less means that your gaming habits shouldn’t remain a backroom habit. Their collection of tables and storage solutions practically beg to be shown off in your living room, and even when you aren’t using them as a staging area for your latest game of Warhammer (the tabletop version, not the MMORPG), they still brighten up the room. And, hey, even if you aren’t much into analog gaming, there’s plenty of places to stick all your other video game hardware and accessories when they aren’t in use.

iTZKooPA got a chance to talk up Geek Chic‘s founder, Robert Gifford, at the event and gives us a tour of the booth (and, therefore several of the tables) in the video below. Watch it, then come back and tell me you don’t have the sudden urge to blow several thousand dollars on a new piece of furniture.

PAX East 2010: Civilization V Developer Chat

Posted by on March 30, 2010 - 1 Comment »

Announced only about a month-and-a-half ago, Civilization V is one game that people are really eager to learn about. The latest in the, um, revolutionary series is set to change up the formula in some big ways. From switching to a hex-based grid system to taking cues from its highly-successful console counterpart, Civ V is set to deliver the same addictive gameplay in refreshing package. Not that a lack of evolution would ever keep fans from losing hours, days, and months the prized nation-building sim.

Unfortunately, footage of the game at PAX East was shown behind closed doors and video-taping any of it was a big no-no, but iTZKooPA managed to catch up with one of the developers outside the booth for a quick Q&A about what he saw. One tidbit that didn’t make it into the vid? Apparently, Civilization V will be making extensive use of DX11. For the rest of what we learned, watch the full interview below:

Star Trek Online: Season One Impressions

Posted by on March 29, 2010 - 1 Comment »

The first major content patch for Star Trek Online was released a few days ago, something Cryptic Studios is calling Season One: Common Ground. The patch includes a long list of fixes and additions, including some that address many of the major concerns that players have voiced in the weeks since STO launched. Some of the highlights of the patch are new missions, a fleshed out Klingon experience, and even more customization options.

At least some of the missions that have been added to the game are geared towards end-game players, an area where STO has been lacking content since the first captains hit the level cap. With an additional Special Task Force mission in Season One, the game should hold hardcore players’ attention at least for a little while longer. The additional content is welcomed, but there is still a bit of a dearth of activities for Admirals. Thankfully, Cryptic has been releasing new content on a regular basis, so the number of missions for level capped players should rack up quickly.

The rest of the new missions are mostly fleet actions, or large scale public missions. They are different enough to be fun for the first couple of times, but I’m not really one that enjoys grinding them out over and over. I find it’s usually worth weaving in story-based episodes between them to keep things interesting.

On the Klingon side of things, players finally have some PvE content that they can do between demolishing the Federation. Klingon players can now access some fleet actions including the new Big Dig fleet action. Again, this is a step in the right direction, but the Klingon PvE experience still needs some work. Klingons are also finally able to customize their ships.

Last, but definitely not least, players can now respec their captains’ skills. This simple and long awaited feature should make leveling a bit less stressful, as making the decision as to what skills to level is no longer binding for eternity but can be changed relatively simply throughout the leveling process.

All in all, Season One is a much needed chunk of content that should push STO towards being the game Star Trek fans hope it will be. It is by no means a fix for every problem (diplomatic missions where are you?), but it is a huge step in the right direction.

PAX East 2010: Fallen Earth Patch V1.4 Preview

Posted by on March 29, 2010 - 2 Comments »

My sit down with Dave Haydysch did not begin with complaints regarding cell reception or gazing at the screen of a GM.  No, we had a far simpler first conversation.  It turns out that the company is not only working on the most amazing mobile application for a video game ever, but also another immense patch for Fallen Earth.  Patch v1.4 has two main components to it, the addition of PvP by way of Blood Sports and the new PvE lands of Deadfall Point.

Players have been asking for PvP since time began and v1.4 is going to deliver a fleshed out experience thanks to the bankers of Fallen Earth.  The entrepreneurial-minded folks have devised four different ways for players to tear each other apart, all in the name of making a buck.  Players simply copy their DNA into the banker database – free of charge – and then they can participate in any of the four PvP modes thanks to clones.

Deathmatch and team Capture the Flag subscribe to the standard FPS game modes.  Survival is every-man-for-themselves as the soul goal is to not die.  Therefore killing isn’t rewarded, other than it means you did not die.  Assault is the most unique game type to Fallen Earth.  It pits teams against each other.  One is forced to run a gauntlet of monsters as the other teams tries to stop them.  Every mode caps out at 16 players, either in 8v8 teams or solo.  All of this is available without leaving your current line of progression, thanks to a handy queue from anywhere system.

Rewards include monetary gains, as well as marks to purchase additional PvP-centric gear.

Players that would rather see the fruits of their labor, and not that of greedy businessmen and women, should head out to Deadfall Point.  In this not-so-desolate area, players will be greeted with six new instances and 130 new missions.  Many of which are tied to the new faction, Sheva’s Favored and spread across a land the size of half a sector. You’ll want to be sure to complete them though, because v1.4 will also be raising the level cap from level 46 to level 50.  New crafting recipes, weapons armor and two new mounts (one of which can be seen in our random chat video) round out the offering of new content.

Last, but not least, is a technology upgrade to the tools the developer uses to make those gorgeous landscapes.  Dave showed off the ability for level designers to actually work with the terrain, instead of getting something to look like terrain.  Gone will be hard or jagged edges pulled and stretched across the ground under out feet.  The structures will appear more rounded, weathered, and natural.  Following the precedent set by the earlier graphical update, the sculpting ability will make every bit of landscape in the game prettier, not just the new stuff.

Patch V1.4 is set for release in the same time frame as the amazing mobile application, Q2 2010.  It is certainly shaping up to be a patch that has a little something for everyone.