Travel Log: Cyrodiil fun

Yesterday evening marked the beginning of our guild-activity series. The poll decided that we’ll go with Cyrodiil PvE first- that means going in there, unlocking skyshards, finish delves and dolmen, explore places and so on. Questing might be part of it, but it’s a sidenote. As we aren’t into PvP, we’ll begin in Aldmeri Dominion territory and simply hope for the best. The best being no enemy players around, all the more as we couldn’t join the non-veteran campaign due to one of us being in their veteran ranks. I’d have thought they get scaled down, but apparently, this campaign is for <50 players, stat.

Suspense is other people

Of course, there’s still tension. After all, enemy players can be anywhere in the landscape, in delves and as you are able to see dolmen/anchors from far away, there’s enemies to be expected. First of all, i’ve got to say that i love this. I wouldn’t want it all the time, but when traveling through Cyrodiil (or mining in a 0.4 sec system in EVE), i’m always on the lookout for others and there are things to be considered as soon as you see enemy players.

So it happened when we met others- a small group of maybe two or three players in one of the delves we ventured in- the Pothole Caverns. I couldn’t make out how many there were, because they went into stealth as soon as they saw us. And that’s when it became really interesting- this group was in a delve, after all, so it was entirely possible that they didn’t want to seek out fights, but so aren’t we and we still fight enemy players when we see them (we don’t hunt them, though). They could also be hiding and sneaking around to attack us. We were hidden by that time, as well, and i don’t know enough about the stealth mechanics in pvp to know how we’d be able to see them. I sneaked around a bit, then i decided to come out of my cover- maybe lure the enemies into attacking us.

On the lookout
On the lookout

Nothing happened. Still, can’t be sure, right? So the next thing i considered was that they were waiting for us to get engaged in a fight with the mobs around- so i started a fight. Again, we were not attacked. We relaxed a bit, but when it came to the delve boss, i became cautious once again- they could be lurking out there, waiting for us to clear the way and then “steal” the bossfight from under our feet. But they weren’t. I don’t know where they went, but we never fought them- at least not in this place.

After some time, we travelled to Vlastarus for a skyshard. Vlastarus is in Aldmeri Dominion territory, if the map is in its initial state. Yesterday, it was at the border to the Daggerfall Covenant, so all kinds of stuff happened- there were DC guards and three enemy players. This time, we got into a fight. While we were first just looking at one enemy and still considering whether and how to attack them, they took their chances when a guard attacked us. And there were some friend, as well. It was a very interesting, not too short fight with some players and npcs- and it was a lot of fun. Made even sweeter by our victory.

When we went to tackle an anchor, i advised our group to avoid standing too close to each other, because i didn’t want enemy players to hit all of us with one AoE attack. Surprisingly, nothing pvp-related happened there, though.

Then, we called it a night. But “calling it a night” in Cyrodiil means trying something new and exciting. So we decided to attack a mine owned by the Covenant close to one of our castles or towers- to teleport to the southwest and then use the wayshrine to get out of Cyrodiil. This was a very difficult fight. I’m not sure if we would have been able to defeat the NPCs- probably not, but it would have been a close call, but they weren’t alone, as some players came by to defend the mine. Then it was over quickly.

Cyrodiil fun

This suspense- or tension, coupled with the open and vast zone design of Cyrodiil, really good loot, resource nodes and so on, are what i love about Cyrodiil. Of course, it wouldn’t have been half as much fun without the company, so there’s that. The funny thing is, the way the players in our guild are, we’re new to many of the things we do together. Many of us play Elder Scrolls Online because they like the IP. They played solo mostly and kept to themselves. So while we have veteran rank players in our midst, many of them haven’t seen a dungeon from the inside, and Cyrodiil, with its pvp nature? It’s new to all of us. So we’re basically noobs, but we’re having some great times together.

 

Advertisements

Adventures in Tamriel

I didn’t get much time to play since i last posted- nonetheless, a lot has happened in that timeframe.

Heading into Cyrodiil

Our small guild meets up around a loose weekly/bi-weekly schedule to do stuff together. As many of us are “time-casuals”, these meet-ups might be the only time to log in and see others being online. Before we got our first new recruits, we would just continue our Daggerfall Covenant group, but as that group is full, that isn’t an option if we want to invite the new members along. Since we were already eyeing Cyrodiil, we decided that it was time to put our swords in service of the Aldmeri Dominion.

Of course, we’re PvE players, mostly. So running out of our gates to chase down enemies wasn’t really an option. But Cyrodiil has us covered- there’s much to do there for PvE players, as well. At least if you’re willing to take the chance of being attacked by other factions’ players. There are skyshards, open dungeons, Dolmen, even PvE-quests to be found and completed. And i have to say that we had a great experience.

What a lovely inn.
What a lovely inn. (Vlastarus)

As i usually do, i decided to go in mostly unprepared, without doing much research but with just enough knowledge to get us going. So i searched for a village in a seemingly safe area of Cyrodiil, found one and memorized the general direction we’d need to take to get there. I chose Vlastarus and a northwest direction from where we’d spawn in Cyrodiil.

Taking this approach made the evening an event to remember- at least for me. The moment we spawned in Cyrodiil, i felt “free”. Yes, i had a general idea of direction, but we had no goal other than explore, see what the landscape offers, and having fun. So we took out and explored. When a landmark looked interesting enough, we went there- there might be a skyshard, a dungeon, a lore-book or something else worth discovering, after all. We fought some npc’s, opened heavy sacks, took a look and went on in our business.

What lies inside, i wonder?
What lies inside, i wonder?

I didn’t have the impression of Cyrodiil being an extraordinary big zone- it’s big, but it wasn’t awe-inspiring. There’s a difference, though, to the usual PvE zones i explored so far: the landscape is open- there aren’t many mountains to guide your passage, basically you can go wherever you want to go.

And then, there’s that sense of danger- after all, it could happen that a group of enemy players found their way into the same area we were in. So turning around and taking a look was a good idea. I really liked that combination- the vague sense of danger, direction and a goal, later on even tackling (PvE-)quests combined with the freedom to basically go everywhere we liked and do whatever we liked to do. We were in good company and had a really nice evening- and i even managed to level up once.

Our first two victims
Our first two victims in Vlastarus

In the village, we were attacked by two other players- while i’m pretty sure we would’ve engaged them on sight, we didn’t see them first- they attacked us. When it was time to call it a night i saw there was a siege going on close by- maybe it was bloodlust taking over, but after that evening, i wanted to take a look at a larger-scale fight.

I wasn't disappointed
I wasn’t disappointed- Siege in Cyrodiil. The castle’s behind that rock on the right.

Now, Sieges are a very different matter- it’s chaotic, there are many stronger enemies fighting and attacking you, health is going down rapidly and when you want to join up with the force after respawning, there might be stealthed players waiting for you. It went a bit chaotic there, but since it was the last thing we did that evening, it was ok. Sieges are great, but they need a different skillset- for the player and maybe for the character, as well. With my light armor, i was lying on the ground in a heartbeat.

Anyway, Cyrodiil was great fun- in a group even more so, but i’m sure i’ll revisit it solo, as well. It’s open, it’s free and very lucrative, especially in terms of crafting materials- each sack i opened contained 20 items of some resource.

That beacon

Other than that evening with the guild, i’ve only had one chance to play and tackled only one quest- to free Culanwe from her prison in Coldharbor and see if that beacon would turn red.

Taking in the view to Laeloria.
Taking in the view to Laeloria.

Well, it didn’t. Although the quest surely didn’t disappoint me and it might have had a different ending if i had chosen to kill that winged demon. These ruins in Elder Scrolls Online still baffle me- i mean, they often resemble each other in internal and external design and look and it’s mostly sidemissions that lead you in, but for some reason i can’t put my finger on, in ESO i’m interested. Maybe it’s just plain luck that the ingame-time of day corresponds very well with the feelings i have regarding some of those quests.

For instance, the Laeloria quest seemed mysterious to me. There’s nothing really special about some woman being held captive in some place or a cursed building containing a gate to the underworld. Well, at least this isn’t something special in MMO-land. But here, beginning with the quest-giver in that tree-house, everything set the mood in just the right ways.

Where it began.
Where it began.

The whole time i could see Laeloria- i went past it a few times already, but i couldn’t see it in its entirety. There was always that tower looming, though, and i was really excited to explore that place even before i got the quest to go there.

Add to that the story of the imprisoned woman, Culanwe, suffering for a hundred years or longer, in that same prison we, the players, escaped in the tutorial, and suddenly i was game.

There's even a Daedra involved.
There’s even a Daedra involved.

So in i went, in the night, to fight some demons and gain access, first to the basement of that place, then via portal to Coldharbour, to free a woman in a pretty unimportant (i guess) side-quest. And i loved every minute of that experience.

Atmosphere and immersion- it's been a long time!
Atmosphere and immersion- it’s been a long time!

The whole thing took me about an hour to complete. Again, this is one side-quest. But for now, this serves as some kind of iconic place and quest for me, incorporating all the things i really appreciate in ESO right now.

Opening the portal
Opening the portal

Resolutions for 2016: embrace PvP

It’s the end of the year and we’re about to switch (paper-)calendars, so it’s time to make some resolutions. Recent developments in my own gaming habits as well as those of others – i’ve read more than a few “MMORPGs aren’t fun” posts in the past few weeks- made me think about just how i approach gaming in the new year. There are a few things at play here.

Rocket League and Global Agenda

I bought Rocket League during the last Steam sale. And boy, did it grab me, in a totally different way i expected it to. Earlier, i hesitated to buy it, because it’s main focus is what we’d call PvP-centric in MMO-land. Sure, there is AI, but everybody seemed to be playing with or against other humans- and that’s something i usually avoid because i’m not really a very good player, and when it comes to twitchy mechanics, i suck. The only exception is when there’s an option/play-style that caters to a more strategic approach. That’s why i loved Global Agenda- it was a shooter, sure- but as an Engineer you had some very interesting tools that helped and weren’t twitch-based.

Yes, it's rocket car football and it sounds crazy. It's fun.
Yes, it’s rocket car football and it sounds crazy. It’s fun.

I bought Rocket League to play against the AI, but i stay with it because of the PvP. And here’s why: it’s very easy to simply log in and play a match for 5-10 minutes and then log out. It’s also one of these “easy to learn, hard to master” games where you’ll see your skills improving at a nice pace. As a newbie, i was very confused and playing in a very chaotic way. Soon, i started to learn how to push the ball in the general direction i wanted it to go (earlier, it was random). Then i learned that chasing the ball wasn’t the best thing to do. Stay back, watch and learn. Defend. Try and not bump into your teammates or stand in their way and so on. Rocket League is also a trap: “one more match” is a thought that kept me awake past midnight more than once in the last 3 weeks.

And behold: my /played count sits at 29 hours, 12 in the last two weeks. For me, that’s a lot. In a game i spent 13€ for (and 35 for a controller, but i can make use of that in other games, too). Now, if i compared that to my subscribing to, say, SWTOR, FFXIV or Wildstar….well, i’d blush. Usually, i’m ok if i spend about 1€ per hour /played. But Rocket League made me think.

Global Agenda - still one of my "most played" games.
Global Agenda – still one of my “most played” games.

And now, as i’m writing this, i remembered Global Agenda- i’ve clocked 350 hours on Global Agenda and i’m very sure that this is my most played MMORPG (with maybe Lotro coming close or even higher). Granted, those were different times with more time to play and less money to spend on games. But still, there’s a pattern here.

Embracing PvP

When i thought about why i liked Rocket League so much, and thinking the same about Global Agenda now, it’s because they’re not grindy. It doesn’t take much build-up time to get to play, and it is possible to play them in short sessions while still trying to achieve long-term goals. When you think about it, PvP/RvR/WvW is also the only truly dynamic content in an MMORPG. Sure, dynamic events are nice (but were, in my opinion, already done better in Tabula Rasa) and PvE is important, but in 2016, i want to look more into the PvP side of MMORPGs.

Luckily, there’s new stuff coming. I do like what i read about Camelot Unchained and Crowfall, but up until a few days ago, i filed them under “PvP-centric, not really for me”. But what is “for me”, nowadays, anyway? If there were a game coming up with all the features i wish for (deep crafting, nice exploration in a big, open world, interesting trade mechanics), would i even be able to play it on a level that made it interesting? I guess i’ll see when The Repopulation releases, because, on paper, it has everything i’d want from an MMORPG.

camelot_unchained_logo

Or maybe it’s time to try something new? Maybe these pvp-centric games will fit better to my actual lifestyle by not having long grinds, having no endgame and catering to both- shorter sessions and long-term goals. Maybe it’s not only the MMORPGs that are “stuck in the past”, but me as well. We often say/write things like “MMO players claim wanting something new, but when something fresh comes up, they complain” (see reception of TSW, nerfing of Rift’s zone invasion events, changes to Firefall and so on), so i guess it’s time to change things up a bit.

And think about this, as well: a pvp (read: player-) centric game doesn’t need to provide tons of NPCs, thousands of quests (linear content), dungeons (finely crafted experiences) and voice-overs; it can concentrate developement resources into that stuff that actually differentiates the MMO genre from simple Multiplayer games: interaction between players, a dynamic, persistent world, crafting, trading and systems in general. More focus on systems is a good thing, in my opinion.

I’m actually quite confident and decided to back/buy Camelot Unchained…and i’m really looking forward to playing it.

The present

Until that is playable, however, i’ll also look into this kind of stuff in other games. As far as i know, there are two MMORPGs with a good, more open-worldy PvP: Elder Scrolls Online and Guild Wars 2.

Daggerfall is one of my favourite MMO-cities.
Daggerfall is one of my favourite MMO-cities.

Seeing that The Elder Scrolls Online is my (and my guild’s) main MMO right now, Cyrodiil and Imperial City will be the places where i’ll look for PvP-fun in a short while. I really enjoy playing Elder Scrolls Online at the moment, and i might write about the reasons another day, but of course it suffers from my Rocket League addiction. So i still have to get one of my new characters to level 10 (very close) to get access to Cyrodiil/Imperial City. I’ve noticed their RvR campaigns have changed quite a bit since i last played- there’s a non-veteran campaign now that maybe allows players to enjoy the RvR before hitting VR16.

The Repopulation: hardcore servers

When i contacted an old gaming community’s leader about the Repopulation, something caught my eye: despite being hopelessly casual in nature and also with a few set-backs in the closer past, he wanted to join what they call a “hardcore ruleset” server in that game. I hadn’t made the research yet, so all i was thinking was “FFA pvp”- but it turns out it’s so much more in this game.

The Repopulation

PvP

Yes, PvP is harsher on the hardcore servers, looting is also possible, from what i understand, as is degrading of items. They’re taking the EVE approach, though, with areas that are not really safe, but close enough, thanks to “police”. The security status lowers the farther away you get from the capitals of your faction and will eventually be zero, which would of course mean that everyone can kill you. It’s possible to lose inventory or at least it will be lowered by one quality tier or destroyed if it reaches the bottom of this line. And there’ll be crafted “Biolocks” that can be used to make looting your corpse more difficult for other players.

So why, after asking the leader about it and questioning this plan, am i now in full favour of this mode?

Economy

There will be no global auction house. No, that’s not entirely correct, since you can buy stuff from the auction house globally, but there’ll be only local delivery. Also, there will only be local banking.

The Repopulation

You can put out delivery contracts and pay other players to deliver your goods from one place to the other. If you take this route, you’ll need to assign a value to your goods and need to pay the player who takes the contract at least 10% of this value. This player would need to make a security deposit that equals the given value and receive his or her payment upon as well as the deposit back upon delivery. There might be NPC delivery, as well, although it won’t be as fast and more expensive than paying other players- but this is still under discussion.

Of course, you’ll get better and more resources when harvesting in more dangerous areas. Also, skill gain will be increased there. There’ll be no skill loss upon death in any ruleset.

Fast travel

There are two options being discussed- remove all fast travel options from the servers under this ruleset or fast travelling without inventory- all items in the inventory would be lost if using fast travel.

I’m sold

First of all, i really like The Repopulation – on paper. I also know it plays like an indie game at the moment; it’s a bit clunky. But then again, i can live with that if the features are implemented in a solid way and there’s a player-driven economy making crafting and trading a viable pastime in the game. This is something i always wanted to see in an MMO.

I don’t really care for the PvP part, either, but as with the lower production quality, i’ll take that if the economy is as great as it sounds.

I have to get into this game soon and see what i can do to help my old and perhaps new guildmates to get a foothold into this game. To get there fast, i’ll first “check off” Guild Wars 2 from my to-do list and try to get the Elementalist to 80 as fast as possible- then i’m not under pressure there, anymore and can raise my Ranger slowly whenever i feel like playing the game.

While i am sold on the server ruleset, there’s another thing the leader wants to do: forming a rogue nation. As of right now, i don’t agree on that part, but i’ll have to do my research on that one, as well.

The Repopulation: primer

It’s time to check out the second of the three future MMORPGs i laid my eyes on: the Repopulation. Now, the Repopulation is in Alpha 2 right now, so it may be some time before we get to play it, but the general direction the game is going is set and made available for your reading pleasure with great articles and descriptions by the devs.

The Repopulation is set in the quite-distant future and a time when earth as we know it is no longer there. Fortunately, we aren’t on Earth anymore- scientists had sent out some spaceships to habitable planets 200 years ago and we are going to be inhabitants of a planet called Rhyldan.

The Repopulation calls itself a sandbox and it is quite obvious from their design descriptions where this is coming from. You could summarize it by saying “It’s a lot like SWG pre-CU”, but if you are like me, you don’t know what Star Wars Galaxies was like neither pre- nor after CU.

Factions

There are three factions in the Repopulation: the OWON (One World, One Nation) and the FPR (Free people’s republic)- we can summarize these by saying one is the oppressive empire and one are the rebels. Of course, it’s more complicated than that- and there’s a great backstory on the official homepage.

The third faction is no faction at all- all players start as either OWON or FPR characters and are put in a generic nation (tR’s equivalent to guilds) of their faction. Eventually, players can form their own nations and align them to one of the two factions or become a rogue nation. A rogue nation has no allies by default and therefore has to conduct diplomacy by themselves. Nations can start out as being a part of OWON or FPR and become a rogue nation, but they can not revert to being part of one of these two factions.

Now, while it does seem somewhat generic, i still enjoyed reading the Lore to the Repopulation and think that this is a great way of doing things- Sandboxes usually tend to offer free-for-all PvP, additionally with full loot systems (Darkfall and EVE come to mind), but i think it is served better when there is some kind of alignment- i mean, when you enter the game, at least you know there are people out there who do not want to kill you. In my view that’s a big step forward from my panic attacks while picking iron in Darkfall.

PvP

The interesting twist with factions will influence PvP, as well. Now, nations can own cities, outposts and harvestable areas in this game, they can lay sieges on other cities and so on. So there is a massive amount of possibility in the Open PvP realm.

Other than that, tR seems to be somewhat like ArcheAge’s PvP system, at least under what the devs call the “normal ruleset”- in which there are protected areas, no loot system and no heavy death penalty. Furthermore, there’s a distinction between reserve and active soldiers. You start out in reserve status and are protected in non-contested areas controlled by your faction- you can’t attack anyone there and nobody’s able to attack you. When you venture out of your faction’s area into the contested land, though, there’s open PvP between the factions.

Every faction owns around one third of the game world, the last third being contested by all factions and nations. I think there’s only cross-faction PvP, but the article isn’t clear on that.

PvE

PvE in the Repopulations seems to look like standard fare when looked at for a short amount of time- there are Missions (Quests), Engagements (Public Quests), and a general system of delivering those that is similar to something like Rifts or Dynamic Events.

When you read upon the details, however, there are some very interesting twists. One twist is that you don’t have a linear path through the world- missions are tailor made for your character and reach you through the ingame mail system. They take your skill & gear levels (there are no character levels) and previous actions into account and offer branching dialogues and outcomes. In the article, there’s an example of an NPC who changes its mood to “angry” based on your actions- now he might reference you in a bad way to other players, insult you when you walk by and offer varying missions. Engagements don’t have to be combat related, but could, for instance, involve building up a city. Instead of spawn points the game uses Dens. Dens can spawn various amounts of mobs in number, strength and type, but still fitting to the area the dens are in. Oh, and they can spread if players don’t take action.

Crafting and Items

Now, here comes the core. See, everything mentioned above is interesting and all, but this is it- at least for me. If a Sandbox doesn’t offer a complex crafting and trading system, it might just as well be a first person shooter. Fortunately, crafting in tR is complex and rewarding- i’ll start that off with a video.

Crafting will be interdisciplinary, so chances are high that you have to depend on other crafters to focus your own progress. The only bound items? Cosmetic ones from the cash shop. Items degenerate in quality and become useless with time. So there is opportunity in crafting and market, here.

Items you craft will have a quality range from F (bad) to A (good) and a subquality ranging from 0 to 9- so you can craft items with qualities from F0 to A9. Quality is determined by your skill, the quality of the ingredients and some luck and decisions made during the process of crafting itself. From what i saw, i think the crafting system will be similar to those of EQ2 and Vanguard (and FFXIV), but a bit more complicated.

Impressions

I’ll finish this entry, for now. The systems i mentioned are more complicated than i have made them to be, of course. But let’s have a look how the Repopulation measures up with some of the points i made in previous entries.

Virtual World

The worldbuilding seems fine to me- the Lore doesn’t seem like much, but i enjoyed reading it nonetheless. There don’t seem to be fast travel options like teleports, but one can craft vehicles. The world seems to be as open as possible with some sensible restrictions put into place.

I was surprised, however, that after really reading about this game for this post i found there are many systems at work here that EQN is advertising for, as well. But to me, it seems as if players make a bigger impact in this game.

Player-to-player interaction

There seems to be a lot in this regard. From building houses (in-world as well as instanced individual housing), cities, a crafting system that’s complex and involves other players to PvP, PvE encounters, open grouping, item degeneration, a reduction of bound items there are many options to play with, alongside or against others.

While the auction house seems to be global and i’d prefer locally different prizes, a good crafting system can make up for that. We’ll see how that goes.

Conclusion

I’m really looking forward to the Repopulation. What i read is encouraging, this game is developed as an MMORPG at its core. There are many systems in place that will allow for longevity- actually, even if EQN hadn’t disqualified itself for me, right now i’d place the Repopulation higher in regards to expectations. Also, tR might release before EQN, but since it’s still in Alpha2 it’s too early to estimate a release date- although it is slated for 2013.

The Repopulation will be free-to-play, which, at the moment, is my main concern. They’ll have to earn money and with Sandboxes, i think it’s quite difficult to strike a balance in a free-to-play title that’s both good for the devs and the players. Either they’ll offer convenience/fluff items only, and leave me wondering if many people buy those, or they’ll interfere with gameplay- for instance by selling repair kits that should be crafted and traded by players.

Above & Beyond Technologies are an independent dev studio, so there might be some concerns in regard to polish and gameplay feel, but i don’t think this is critical- if it’s playable, it will be alright. Fallen Earth is a good example of a game developed by an independent studio with not-so-polished gameplay that’s still highly enjoyable.

I can see this game being a huge contender for ArcheAge when it comes to my personal “next MMO” decision.