MOBAs out the A

The wheel of online Player vs Player gaming started turning when dedicated online connections started to become mainstream. Instead of huddling around your friends old basement CRT, eyes focused on your quarter of Goldeneye’s screen, you could finally start competing against random strangers without leaving your house or making sure you had enough Cheetos and Jolt to share.

Player vs Player has quickly evolved since then. Starting with quarter-screen, then to LAN connected tournaments, to college shooter-game networks, to full internet shooters. Shooter titles like the Call of Duty and Halo franchises became synonymous with Multiplayer PvP. I’m sure those games have a storyline in them somewhere… but who the heck cares about it?

I read an article not long ago (I’m sorry it’s not linked. I can’t find it again. If I do, I’ll re-link.) all about how shooters in the past were competitive because everyone started on the exact same footing. You could find weapons on the map levels, but everyone already knew those map levels, and so even the weapon spawns were all about resource control. Through this, you could know and track your enemy. And then shooters changed.

Now, I’m not a fan of playing shooters against others, with the headset and smacktalk and what-have-you, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but I hear it’s not like that anymore. Now there’s character progression. Random weapon spawns. Starting on an equal footing wasn’t rewarding to those who played more than others. They wanted tangible rewards and a system to progress through. I don’t blame them, as that’s what I go for, that sense of permanence in the games that I play, but I don’t play player vs player titles. However, if making a true competitive game is your focus, starting players at different power levels ruins the entire effect.

The wheel of online Player vs Player has stopped turning and has landed on the iteration that, I believe, will become the true standard of competitive team online player vs player: The MOBA. The popularity of League of Legends initially blew me away. How could a game, that was essentially a copy of the gameplay of Warcraft’s RTS games, become this wildly successful?

Strategy and equal footing.

Online shooters are losing these traits to the monetization of the genre, but that leaves a whole subset of gamers without a home, and MOBAs have picked up the slack. A MOBA is a “Massively Online Battle Arena”, a real-time strategy game with competitive elements, designed specifically for player vs player gaming. Just to solidify the fact that the MOBA is here to stay, two more have entered the fray today: Magicka: Wizard Wars by Paradox and Infinite Crisis by, of all companies, Turbine.

Personally, I love Magicka. It’s an action title using the top-down approach already found in MOBAs, but also uses an ingenious magic system. Spells in the game are cast using rapid-succession typing. For example: Thunderbolt: QFASA ; Tornado: DQFQQF ; Conflagrate: FQFFQFFQ ; Thunderstorm: QFQFASA where Q, F, A, S, and D all represent different elements with the spells a mixture of those elements. Magicka as a MOBA is a no-brainer and I’m glad to see Paradox make the move.

Turbine making Infinite Crisis is a little more confusing. Yes, Turbine is a subsidiary of Warner Bros and Warner owns the rights to the DC Universe. Having superheroes fight each other is also pretty standard and yet… I wonder what new things they might bring to the table. It feels like they’re jumping in while the water is still profitable, but the pool is getting really crowded.

You probably won’t be seeing me try either title anytime soon. Beating on other gamers and getting beat myself is just not how I roll. However, competitive strategy on equal footing is very respectable and I can appreciate gamers who are into that.

The smacktalk I can still do without, though.

// Ocho

Dungeons and Dragons Online is Different… But In A Good Way

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m in a regular gaming group. I know, I know. Me. Why is this a surprise? Well, gaming has never been one of my big hobbies until recently. Sure, I played games and I was a fan, but I was never the “gaming group” kind of guy. Raiding? Nah. Never liked scheduling gaming. What made me switch, I guess, was Twitter. I started using Twitter a few months ago for the giveaways and prize opportunities you see from time to time and at the same time I started following a few of my favorite writers, game companies, bloggers and well… one thing led to another. Syp, a very prolific blogger and spearhead of the Newbie Blogger Initiative (of which I am a part of), posted a question if anyone wanted to form a Dungeons and Dragons Online gaming group. My first thought was… Nah. No way. Its not me. Despite this, though, I found myself saying “Yeah, sure!” and after the feeling of foreboding that formed in my stomach cleared and we started playing I started really having fun… and found out exactly how much all the MMO experience I have from other games is worth nothing in Dungeons and Dragons Online. Here are a few things of what makes DDO different.

Character Creation

The way characters are created and how they level up is completely different, and this is where I feel the most inexperienced. I created a Bard, which I assumed would stand in the back, play a little music, and essentially offer support. So how does it play? A Two-Handed Axe wielding damage dealer that gets up in your face! Every once in a while I’ll play a song or two to buff my group or daze some enemies, but really its all about going toe-to-toe and smacking baddies upside the head. This has confused me to no end.

Character Creation overall is very open. Every level you gain is a momentous occasion! So much so, that you don’t automatically level. The choices made during leveling are so important, it gives you as much time as you need to figure it out. Most other MMOs you visit your trainer and get new skills, but in DDO you have the ability to gain the abilities of other classes entirely. Say you start a rogue. Well, after a couple of levels you could switch it up and take the rest of your levels as a wizard. This could help to increase evasion in combat or help you with traps. Multi-classing seems to be a very popular thing to do in DDO as it helps create very customized builds.

Personally, although I love a lot of depth when it comes to character creation, I’m afraid of it becoming an illusion of choice. If you don’t pick the best options, then you can very easily break your character and make it so you become less effective at the high levels of the game. I guess I’ll find out, although if anyone experienced has advice about building Bards, I’d be happy to hear it.

I’ve got bad news… I think I dropped my keys…

Loot

Just like other games, beating up bad guys, opening chests (which might be trapped, by the way), and completing quests gets you loot. The loot, though, is just… different. Its hard to explain. Instead of getting gear with stats where the weapons you have are based on your class, loot is meant to simply complement your skills chosen during leveling. If you pick proficiency in swords, you can still wield a club, it just won’t do as much damage or your chance to hit won’t be as high as a sword, but the club might be better against some enemies. Armor can protect you, but it also makes you less dexterous or can make your spells fizzle. Boots, wrists, rings, helm, and cloak instead of offering armor and stats can give you a new spells to cast, or buff a skill, like “spot” or “listen”.  So the way loot is given, confusion easily sets in when every item choice is not an obvious upgrade. Suddenly, I could wear a cloak that increases my Charisma, or wear a cloak that lets me cast “Mage Armor”. I right now have both… as I really can’t choose between them as I still don’t have a full grasp on what my character can do.

Traps and Puzzles

Picture this, you’re sneaking through a dungeon (because everyone can sneak, too… just maybe not as effectively as others) and your senses point you out to a trap ahead. A trap. Nothing obvious, like a spot of fire on the ground that you shouldn’t stand in, but a spot where spikes will come out of the ground and run you through. If you’re a rogue, you could try disarming it. If you have enough skill in “Jump”, you could jump past it and try to avoid the damage. Tricky. Or when you hit a lever, the floor gives out just like you’re Indiana Jones or something. This truly makes every dungeon feel a little more suspenseful. There could be a trap right in front of you, and if you don’t have the proper skills, you would never know until it hit you.

Then, the prize you seek is sitting on top of a pedestal surrounded by a bubble of magic. How do you get rid of it? By shifting floor panels on the ground until a beam of light hits the pedestal. A puzzle! Not a difficult puzzle, mind you, but a puzzle! A real puzzle! Now, I haven’t been playing it that long, but I really can’t wait to encounter some real mind-benders. Not going to cheat and use a guide, either. In my opinion, that just takes away the fun, but the more puzzles in the game the better.

Killing Monsters Does Not Give Experience

Unless the quest was to specifically kill a monster, experience is gained by completing quest objectives and you get no experience for killing monsters. This means that if you’re not the most hardy of characters, and killing the monster isn’t necessary, you could just sneak past them. Most times, they don’t even have loot on them. Unlike other games where you could pass a group of mobs, but doing so means missing out on their loot and experience, there is no penalty for skipping them. It becomes a tactical choice instead of mandatory or a punishment. This gives the feeling that every encounter is important, and gives many different ways to complete each quest.

The weekly DDO group watching the scene unfold below.

A Brave New World

Overall, all of this leads to one conclusion: I have no idea what I’m doing. I probably won’t for quite a while, either. The learning curve is pretty steep. With all of these points, even though some of them can be found in other games, like puzzles in Star Trek Online or situational loot like in Guild Wars, they really set Dungeons and Dragons Online apart. My main fear is somehow messing up my character with the really complex character system, but this is the way Dungeons and Dragons players like it.

Even though it’s totally out of character for me, I’m really glad that I’ve joined this weekly group. Not only are the guys I’m playing with awesome, but the game itself is growing on me week after week.

\\ Ocho

P.S. – For some good reading, check out some of the blogs by fellow weekly group members: Professor Beej, Psychochild’s Blog, Warrior Needs Time Badly, and Bio Break (although Syp hasn’t found time to play with us, despite starting the group in the first place. 😛 )

Lord of the Rings Online Mithril Edition 50% Off on Impulse – May 10th, 2012

'Get Her'. That was you plan all along? 'Get Her'?

[Just FYI: This deal occurred around the time of posting, May 10th, 2012 and has already ended. It may go on sale again in the future, but this is only about that one time deal. I still highly suggest picking it up if it does go down in price, though, as it’s well worth it.]

For all of you deal hunters, going on right now until May 15th, Impulse, GameStop’s online presence, is having a sale on the Lord of the Rings Online Mithril Edition for 50% off. That brings it down to $15.

If you have a lifetime membership to LotRO, this is worth picking up. If you are a current subscriber, this is worth picking up. If you are a Pay-as-you-go player, this is DEFINITELY worth picking up. If you live under a rock, you may want to pass. But here is why you want to get it as soon as possible:

1) Steed of the Horse-Lords Mount – A nice steed so that you don’t have to spend in-game money at a low level for your first one. You still have to spend Turbine Points to get the riding ability, but they are easy to get in-game at that level.

2) 2000 Turbine Points – 2000 TP generally costs around $25, so if for no other reason the TP alone is worth the price.

3) Trollshaws, Eregion, Mines of Moria, and Lothlorien quest packs. – If you are not paying by subscription or don’t have the lifetime account, you need to purchase Quest Packs. If you don’t have these areas, this is a great way to pick them up. Also, if you are currently paying by subscription and decide to stop, you’ll still have these quest packs.

4) Possible Glitch – VIP status for 1 day – No, really, I bought the deal, and it instantly set me as a VIP to expire the next day. If you are a free player, you know how Turbine rolls… if you want to use more traits, extra bags, currency cap, fast travel, auction slots, you must subscribe or pay for them piece by piece. However, if you do subscribe and then stop, Turbine isn’t going to pull the rug out from under you, you get to keep the individual character improvements you already have. Disclaimer: Just a word of warning, though, the 1 day VIP is a glitch and is not intended. Since it is not intended, it may not work in every instance.

The process is a little tricky. You pay for it, then a code arrives in your e-mail that you enter in Turbine’s Account page. But watch out, you have to mark it as owning a game card, but then opting to enter it in later.

So there you go. Mount, Turbine Points at a great discounted rate, quest packs, and individual character unlocks. If you play Lord of the Rings Online, you have no reason not to pick this up.

\\ Ocho

P.S. – A Casual Stroll to Mordor has a write up about this deal as well, and Goldenstar is one of my favorite bloggers, so check out her take as well.

EDIT: It has come to my attention that the 1-day VIP is indeed a glitch, and I have edited the post to reflect this. You might still get it, but it is certainly not intended. It is far from game breaking, however, and I still highly suggest picking up the Mithril Edition while you still can on sale. As I mentioned, the discounted TP alone is worth the cost.