Saturday, 29 September 2012

Legendary or Leisurely? : GW2

In my first post on GW2 in the excitement of the first Beta Weekend I wrote "what I've seen is an excellent implementation of traditional, standard and familiar MMO tropes. Guild Wars 2 looks to be a really first-class AAA theme-park MMO. If that's what you want then you're going to be very happy".

In my defence I qualified that view: "Caveat being that any comments are based on just a few hours gameplay that have taken me only as far as level 6". Oh really? Well let's all just sit here at your feet in awe shall we, Master?

Anyway, how wrong I was. About the "happy" part, obviously.

Here we are a month and change into Live and there's much disturbance in the sphere. Talk of one month or three. All done and over already. Heading back home or on to the Next Big Thing. Maybe just giving up.

Mrs Bhagpuss pointed out something to me yesterday that I had not noticed. On the Character Select screen for Guild Wars 2, over there on the right-hand side, hang your Account Medals. Well, yes of course I'd noticed them. I just hadn't ever moused over them to see what they were for.


What are they for?
 
The top one is for Map Completion, which has nothing to do with how much of the world you have seen, only how many of those little markers on the maps you have made to light up. With a single character. Not the whole account. Mine's at 47%.



The three below are Badges marking initiation into the three Orders of the Pact. Running from left to right, Durmand Priory, Vigil and Order of Whispers. The orders are exclusive. Each character can join only one. I'm in Whispers.



The last row, running again from left to right, are PvP Rank, Realm Avenger and Legendary Treasures. Only my WvW has begun to darken.


What does this suggest? First of all it suggests I'm not very interested in Achievements or in goals set for me by other people. After more than a month of looking at that screen several times a day I hadn't even thought about what those symbols were for, let alone made the small hand-movement that would have let me find out.

More meaningfully to anyone who is not me, the presence of those particular badges of achievement and their specific requirements would seem to suggest a set of expectations. Perhaps they represent what the development team expected the normative player would want to achieve during the lifetime of the game; more likely a benchmark showing the most a player could aspire to; most worryingly, what the development team expected a player to achieve.

Whichever or whichever combination of those, clearly it can't be done with just one character and equally clearly at least one character must reach maximum level. As a player, no part of the game can be skipped. To fill those badges you must defend your realm, you must compete in team PvP, you must do at least some of your Personal Story on no fewer than three characters, you must explore the world.

Ah, but what about crafting? What about Dungeons? I can skip those, can't I? Well, no. Take a look at this list of what's required to complete a Legendary Weapon that I borrowed from Stargrace:

Each legendary weapon requires at least the following:
In addition to the above, the player must also gamble the following materials to obtain Mystic Clovers. One success results in a single Mystic Clover and 77 clovers are needed. The chances of success are currently unknown, therefore depending on the final chances, the recipe could require anywhere from 77 to 1,000 attempts.
 You'll notice somewhere in that frankly insane shopping list mention of 500 Dungeon Tokens and two craft skills at 400. Be thankful they didn't make you do all eight.

You want me to do what ?!


Which brings me back to the beginning. Why anyone would want to do all of this in one lifetime is a mystery to me, but it seems apparent that the people who spent five years building this world thought they were catering for people who would. Either that or they were just so full of themselves over all the marvelous work they'd done they absolutely did not want anyone to miss out on any least part of it.

GW2 is a weird game. In some ways it's the simplest, easiest, most casual knockabout fun; in others it's a truly demented grindfest of the most hardcore proportions. The bone of contention, one of the bones anyway, is in how this all divvies up. The traditional Western MMO grindcore, ready and willing to break raids over weeks then farm them for months to get gear good enough just in time to do it all over again come next expansion are taking predictably badly to being asked to put in similar effort for a flashy weapon skin.

It's not working for them but it's working for me. I don't want to "achieve" anything or"progress". I'm happy to be. Tyria's a great place to hang out and what's more it mellows. I'm enjoying GW2 more now than I was two weeks ago because I'm doing less. My goals are smaller, I'm pottering more and all is good.

One month, three months, five years, a lifetime. Come and go. Visit or stay. Your choice. Play the game. Don't let the game play you.




Friday, 28 September 2012

Never Say Neverwinter

John Smedley believes user-generated content is the future. He may be right. It certainly has been in the past.

Ten years ago I spent a big chunk of time working on a module for Neverwinter Nights, much of it struggling with BioWare's custom scripting language, something with which I never really came to grips. Eventually the thing was as near to finished as it was ever likely to be and I uploaded it.

In the way of the internet, I was able to find it with only a small amount of effort this morning, still sitting in the IGN Neverwinter Nights Vault ten years on. As the comments clearly show, my scripting skills weren't up to the complexity of the task I'd set myself, although some people managed to enjoy parts of it despite all the things that just didn't work as they should have done.

I enjoyed making the module but once was enough. I didn't even buy NeverWinter Nights 2. When the Neverwinter MMO was announced, to be made by Cryptic and published by Perfect World, my ears perked up then perked right back down again at the dreaded phrase "action MMORPG".

I never really "got" action RPGs. The first and last one I ever bought was Dungeon Siege, which came out just before NWN in March 2002 (which, incidentally, suggests that MMOs had considerably less of a lock-hold on my gaming in 2002 than I would have remembered). I probably played it for three or four hours, tops. It's not that it wasn't fun; it was just too fast and too very obviously pointless.

Since then, "action" as a prefix has acted as a brake to any interest I might otherwise have had, doubly so when attached to "MMO", although since I've played and very much enjoyed Dragon Nest and DCUO, my longstanding ability to believe one thing while doing another clearly remains unimpaired.

How I felt after ten minutes in Torchlight2
All the same, I had been resolutely ignoring Neverwinter until I happened upon Massively's recent mention of the Neverwinter Foundry.  I already knew of Star Trek Online's Foundry. Tipa at West Karana used to write about it sometimes back when she wrote about MMOs not bridges. It always sounded intriguing but it was coupled to a franchise for which I have little affection so it slipped from my mind.

When EQ2's Age of Discovery expansion trundled up with the Dungeon Maker system in tow I was somewhat excited. I'd very much like to be able to tell some stories inside an MMO that I play, especially if I don't have to wrestle with scripts to make it happen. The Dungeon Maker hit the mark for ease-of-use but it worked about as well for telling a story as semaphore did for Wuthering Heights.

You've ruined your own foundry...
There's not much detail on the Neverwinter Foundry yet. Just a brief FAQ and some indistinct screenshots. Enough to pull the game off my MMO slush pile and shove it onto the ever-growing heap marked "Give this a go".

I suspect that if it's going to work for me, this set of dungeon creation tools will need an easy mode. It's not that I think I won't be able to master a more complex set of commands, it's that when it comes down to it I'd rather be playing. Or blogging about playing. I can knock up a dungeon in EQ2 in three or four hours. I'd be happy to double or treble that writing dialog to tell a story but much more and I'm going to get itchy.

When it comes to dungeons I'm probably more of a consumer than a creator. Won't be long before I can put that to the test. Release date for Neverwinter is listed in the FAQ as "4th Quarter of 2012". Even with traditional slippage that ought to see it out before next Easter.

If I do end up making a dungeon, Neverwinter is completely F2P so you're all invited.



Tuesday, 25 September 2012

International Day Of The Panda : WoW, EQ2

Pandas! Get yer pandas! Pandas! We got 'em!

What's that?

The wrong pandas?

What's wrong with 'em?


Not cute enough!?

video
Hey, buddy, these are all the pandas we got. If you don't like 'em, go back to WoW!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Has It Been A Month Already? : The GW2 Review

I've had a couple of tries at writing a review of Guild Wars 2 but I found myself constantly losing focus, wandering off the point or going into nit-picking detail. About the same as if I'd been playing, then...

Yesterday I read Keen's review and not only did I think it was very fair but I thought I'd steal his format and categories to give myself some much-needed structure. Like any commentary on any MMO, it's no more than a snapshot. A month or a year from now, GW2 may be very different and so may be how I feel about it. That'll be then. This is now:

Overall Leveling Experience: A-


I still have a nagging feeling that leveling in GW2 goes by too quickly. That's about my only reservation. As others have mentioned you can easily find yourself drifting upwards when you didn't think you were even trying and as yet there's no way to slow that down other than not playing. It hardly matters, though because the combination of eight classes that play very differently and far more places to level up than one character is ever going to use puts GW2 near the top of the list of MMOs for people who enjoy the leveling process for it's own sake, as I do.


Dynamic Events: B+


They aren't all that dynamic, are they? I was in Frostgorge yesterday and we were discussing in guild (all three of us) what the schedule was for the Claw of Jormag event. Next dragon attack due in two hours twenty-seven minutes. Get yer Charzooka here! Like the much-hyped ambient NPC conversation that was supposed to make the world feel alive but actually gives me the feeling I'm being held prisoner by the Goldfish Attention Span Experimental Theater Ensemble, the extreme artificiality of the highly non-dynamic events is viciously laid bare every time you hang around in one place for more than a minute or two.

Doesn't stop them being extremely good fun. They are well-designed, amusing, exciting and there's a good deal of variety. In my experience a lot of events work whether you run into them alone or in a massive gang, although there are exceptions. At higher levels I've seen a  lot of bugged events but these seem to be getting fixed. MMOs with old-school quest hubs are going to seem very stodgy after this.


World vs World: B+


I like it a lot. It's fast and easy to get to (assuming your server isn't one of the handful with massive queues) and there's plenty of choice in where you can go and what you can do once you get in. There's always a lot of skirmishing going on, which suits me down to the ground since I've never been all that interested in infrastructure repairs, logistics or any other aspect of quasi-medieval seige warfare. On the other hand I do love defending things, be it castles or big fat yaks, and I enjoy following a badly thought-out strategy shouted at me by a random stranger as much as the next leather-clad lone wolf.

The whole match-making thing and the server rewards for how your server is doing seem like tosh to me. Over the last month Yak's Bend has been Mighty Overlord of the Frontier and Crushed Underdog turn and turn about and blessed if I could tell the difference. Oh, I did notice I was harvesting four Ancient Logs instead of three for a while. That was about it.

It looks like the difficult balance between quick drop-in no-commitment fun fights and properly planned and implemented, committed Realm vs Realm siege-play has just about been struck.


The World Itself: A+


It would be greedy to ask for more than this. The art design is masterful, the aesthetic is gorgeous, the whole place reeks of worldiness. There are places I don't take to, especially in the deep south, but blame that on Zhaitan.The detail and complexity of the landscape  there is no less phenomenal - it's just hard to appreciate with undead gnawing at your legs every step of the way.

VIstas are a somewhat artificial mechanic, but they certainly work to promote this breathtakingly lovely new world we've been gifted. I climb everything, whether it has a flag on or not, and there's always a sight worth seeing. It's a world that richly rewards exploration. Waypoints could trivialize travel if it wasn't for the fact that money is tight enough to prevent me from using them most of the time and the Point of Interest markers deserve to be roundly ignored - there are far more interesting places unmarked.

Most impressive of all are the cities, some of the best I have ever seen in an MMO. There's probably as much gameplay in just Tyria's cities alone as in some entire MMOs, and there's unlimited scope for gawping. I do like a good gawp.

Cash Shop: A 


If Keen hadn't included this as a heading I probably wouldn't even have thought to mention it. It doesn't sell a single thing I would look at twice, let alone buy, other than the account and character services (vault and bag space, character slots). It certainly has nothing that affects gameplay negatively for anyone as far as I can tell.

The Gold-to-Gems-And-Back-Again Converter is weird. Haven't used it yet and can't quite get my head around it. Reserving comment for now.


Crafting: A-


Being able to do all crafts on a single character is excellent. All characters being able to harvest anything is excellent. Crafted gear being desirable both for looks and stats is double-plus excellent. Recipe discovery is fun and so is finding recipes on odd Karma dealers scattered hither and yon.

The crafting interface is about the best I have ever seen. Separate storage for mats and  access to your bank from any craft station is genius. I have form for complaining that things are too convenient and I actively enjoy inventory management, but even I'm not going to pretend I'd rather be ferreting about in my bags for claws every time I want to make a new snout hankie.

The minus is for some poor balance in the mats required. I'm looking at you, cloth! It hardly seems fair that core mats like wood and metal appear in the world in reliable, easy-to-access nodes as well as from deconning gear and drops from monsters while cloth...doesn't. Would it have spoiled the game to put in a few cotton bushes or a silkworm farm?


Lasting Appeal: A+


Before GW2 had been out for a week, Mrs Bhagpuss and I each bought a second copy. It was obvious we'd be playing many characters and even at GW2's enhanced pace, taking eight classes to eighty is going to take a while. We both want to get Rift's "Storm Legion" expansion but November is far too soon for it; there's no chance we will be done even with the first run at GW2 this year.

More importantly, there's no way GW2 will only have one run. With no subscription it's a certainty that even after we move focus to another MMO, we will be back in Tyria whenever there's something to see or simply when the mood takes us. This game is going to be around for a long time.

I would add that I believe the days of playing one MMO all the time are dead and gone and very good riddance. Lasting Appeal means it goes into the rotation.


Personal Story: D-


The one thing I really don't like (and which Keen didn't even bother to mention) is the Personal Story. From what I have seen the scripting is weak, the voice acting poor, the cut-scenes remind me of those cardboard theaters for kids where you poke the flat actors onto the stage on sticks. Not the only thing about them that makes me think of cardboard, either. Added to that, combat in the Personal Story instances is often horribly badly tuned.

On the plus side, nothing in the Personal Story matters a jot, it's entirely skippable and comprises about 0.001% of the available gameplay.

Dungeons: No Grade


Haven't done one, can't comment.

Overall Grade: A-


It's hundreds, even thousands of hours of top-quality entertainment for the price of a pub lunch and a movie. Seriously, what more could you ask? How do they even make money doing this?

I reckon this is as good as we are likely to get, although I'd love to be proved wrong.

















Saturday, 22 September 2012

What's My Motivation? : GW2

Tyria is a land not just of seasons but the archetypes of seasons. The country of the Charr glows with the rich tones of deep autumn. Honey gold and darkening blue, all the colors of the Fall. Queensdale stretches out across the long, high summer of between-the-wars. North with the Norn midwinter snow lies Christmas card pristine.

Mmm! Smell that mountain air!
Look past warring centaurs, angry ghosts, berserker insurrectionists. What's left is idyll. This is how most MMOs begin; blue skies, green fields, warm sand, clean snow, bright, clear sun. Villages, towns and farms where people, still familiar furred or feathered, huge or small, go about business that's easy to understand, asking only help that's simple to provide.

These are places that feel good not just to visit but inhabit. Life could be good here. Life is good here. 

Carry your rabbit? Why certainly, madam!
Fast-forward to the end game. Such a loaded term. Beckett took the title of his masterpiece from gaming but it sometimes seems gaming has snatched back from Beckett tropes of alienation and despair. Shall we go? Yes, let's go. They do not move.

It's not Beckett I blame for all this, though. It's Tolkein. He's generally the go-to guy for blame it's true but in this case there's a specific. It's that "journey", isn't it? The little guy starts out in an idealized Edwardian vision of the Cotswolds and ends up in Hell. He marked the trail that we have to follow. Only when Frodo got there he threw the damn ring down the hole and came back. We get to stay on Mount Doom forever.

My eyes! My eyes!
There's always just been a cataclysm and there's always about to be a war, if it hasn't already started, and it's always the Last War (and where have I heard that before?). There's always a Dragon to kill and the undead are always swarming out of their graves and the sky is forever rent with purple slashes and a hand reaching through from The Void. End game? If only! It never bloody does end, does it?

For once, how about we start after all the misery? How about we step into a world torn asunder by malefic forces, riven by war and shattered into ruins and we put it back together? How about a narrative where our characters leave the scorched and blackened lands where nothing grows but poisoned purple rot and set out on a quest to find somewhere worth living? And find it!
Here should do nicely, once we get rid of these locals

I'm tired of guiding my characters through fascinating new worlds for hours, days, weeks only to be rewarded with barren landscapes, ugly scenery, harsh colors. The air gets thicker, the horizon closes in and it no longer matters what dyes I used because the light casts everything in a sick, green hue. I came all that way for this?

Dunno about you, boss, but I feel right at home here!
Ah well, the lot of the Hero I suppose, and mustn't we all be heroes if we want to grow? No settling down in The Shire for you, my lad. Just shoulder that pack and off you go. Gandalf wouldn't take "bugger off, you interfering old man" for an answer and doesn't every game designer secretly see himself as Gandalf, moving each mere mortal player to take up a destined role in some greater plan they cannot hope to understand?.

Thank the gods for snow, at least. Even a miserable, trammeled snowscape like Carpathian Fangs is nicer to look at than ash and magma or brackish swamp. Seems Frostgorge Sound's my new home for a while. I just wish I could find somewhere warm to sleep.

Monday, 17 September 2012

GW2: The Existential MMO

I don't know what I'm doing. Three weeks out from launch, Level 80 already. Dressed in leathers I sewed myself, blue in quality, cinnamon in color. Wielding weapons prized from the hands, paws or possibly stomachs of my hapless victims. Studded with jewellery lovingly handcrafted by Mrs Bhagpuss, also mostly blues. Nothing in my upgrade sockets but fresh Tyrian air.

This is not great gear. It's not end-of-leveling gear, let alone end-game gear. I could buy better on the Trading Post for pennies. It looks fantastic but I haven't even matched the stats, let alone chosen them for a particular purpose. I don't, in fact, have a particular purpose. As I said, I don't know what I'm doing.

Gear's not the half of it, either. Look at my Traits. Look at my Skills. When I hit 80 I had over 50 Trait Points and 58 Skill Points unspent. This morning I tried to spend some but I didn't get far. It isn't that the things I could buy with them aren't useful or interesting. It's that I don't need any of them.

Yah! Stupid catapult can't hit me here!
As I type this I'm logged into the game, tucked safely on a ledge below The Colonnade. Three events ticked past as I was typing and I got Gold for two of them and Silver for the third. If I contributed anything I have no idea what it was. Except when it isn't, GW2 is easy. Very pleasantly, enjoyably, comfortably easy. All you have to do is turn up. Sometimes not even that.

I was there! Kinda.
I'm easy with easy but easy doesn't offer much in the way of a plan. Levels drift by like dandelion clocks on the Queensdale breeze, events give out rewards whether you win or lose, and though the gear you have and the skills you've chosen do make a difference to how you perform, how you perform doesn't make a lot of difference to how much fun you have.

There, that's the nub. It's far too easy to enjoy yourself. If it's all fun all the time, where's my motivation? That's something with which some people are having a hard time coming to grips.

My contribution
It certainly wasn't worrying me until I hit the level cap and it's not worrying me now. Puzzling me, yes. Mrs Bhagpuss and I had a long discussion about stats this morning. That's not normal. We do not talk about stats. We were talking about stats on a Monday morning because on Sunday afternoon, while we romped across Malchor's Leap and Cursed Shore, knocking the Risen back down and filling our pockets with Orichalcum, somewhere along the way we bumped into the Karma vendor who sells a full set of Exotic Quality Level 80 armor for 42,000 Karma the piece.

That's a lot of Karma. After 80 levels during which I have barely spent any Karma at all, I have enough squirreled away to buy the coat and one leg of a pair of pants. If you're going to try to collect another quarter of a million Karma points to get the set, you want to be quite sure that what you buy with them is what you really need.

Stats? Who cares? I got a giant matchstick!
Which is how Mrs Bhagpuss got to be thinking about stats and asking me what were my thoughts on the matter, which in turn is when I realized I didn't have any. I've just been living in the moment, going with the flow, doing my own thing. I only tend to start thinking about stats and builds and gear when I hit a roadblock that stops me doing what I want to do and in GW2 there are no roadblocks. (Outside of Dungeons, that is, and I don't plan on going in any of those thank you very much).

So where does that leave us? Confused, mostly. Confused, directionless and happy. My current plan, if it can be dignified as such, is to fiddle about with a few "builds" and see if I can tell the difference. That's always fun. In The Secret World, tweaking my build changed things up hugely in a way I wasn't expecting. Maybe that will happen in GW2.

First of all I need to work on, guess what, bag space. If I'm going to try out different combinations of stats I'll have to lug around a load of gear. GW2 doesn't provide much in the way of convenience for holding or swapping gear sets, unlike TSW. I quite fancy running as a Condition Damage ranger, and as Heal/Support. A Trap/Spirit build could be interesting, too - Natural Engineer I could call that one.

There. Now I have a plan but I still don't really know what I'm doing. Perfect!

Dragons Vs Airships : GW2

So, I went to Orr. It took me two hours from Straits of Devastation to Cursed Shore, at which point I discovered Mrs Bhagpuss, on her new Charr Warrior, hadn't been representing, didn't know I'd left and hadn't heard a word I'd said as I oohed, aahed and wtf'd my way across Southern Kryta.

We stopped for lunch and re-started.

Take two and as a duo we covered the same ground in twenty minutes. As reported, Orr is all undead all the time. I recognize this theme from several previous MMOs. Really, what is it about the undead? Maximum level means Undead, Dragons, Demons or The Void and that's about it.

Seriously, someone come up with something new.

Still and all it was hella fun. And when a shadow passed over me I looked up, and...




C'mon ArenaNet. Don't tease. If Allods can do it, you can. Let us up there!



Sunday, 16 September 2012

Hail, All-Powerful Hero! : GW2

Last night my Charr Ranger dinged 80 and one of those wordy, somewhat stilted letters popped into my mailbox. My mysterious Herald spamming me again.

Just who is this guy anyway and where does he get off styling himself "Your Herald"? Did I hire him at some Charr hiring fair one morning after Meatoberfest, when I was so badly hung-over I'd have put my paw-print on anything just to get him to shut up and go away? Is he some petty functionary of the Charr military-industrial complex, locked away in a windowless back-office deep in the Black Citadel, endlessly checking dispatches on field promotions and scribbling details of new deployments?

Whoever he is, he always knows how to find me and boy does he love to gossip. I've long-since screwed up and thrown away most of his missives, but re-reading the most recent ones he seems hell-bent on keeping me informed on the state of mind of a bunch of people I recall meeting just once in Lion's Arch.

Boy, what a day that was! I kept my head down and stared at my claws while they bickered and postured and rehashed old glories or poked each other's old wounds. Metaphorically that is, although come to think of it literally might have been less embarrassing.

This Herald seems to think I have some responsibility for these people, that I should be doing something to help them with their mental health issues, death wishes, personal grudges and plain lack of judgment. He tries every trick in the passive-aggressive, co-dependent book to try to get me to care. He was calling me "Mighty Hero" for a while but now I've hit eighty he's upped that to "All Powerful". He flatters me with references to things I don't recall doing: "Whatever you did at the Citadel of Flame, it seems to have taken". Was I ever even at the Citadel of Flame? Maybe it was that pub in Ebonhawke. That might explain why I can't remember anything about it.

Then he tries to press all my buttons with vague hints that Eir (who I barely know) is going to "do something rash" (She's a Norn! Tell me when she's going to do something reasonable. That would be news!). Not only do I apparently need to be guilt-tripped about this, but he's volunteered me to sort it out. "I said you would catch up with them to help Eir", he writes. Well, thanks! Now I'm going to look like an ass if I don't go.

Yes, well I'll just have to look like an ass, then, won't I? I am not dropping my plans, which include wandering aimlessly all over everywhere taking lots and lots of snapshots and randomly slaughtering everything that doesn't run away fast enough so I can see what it's got in its pockets, just so I can match up to this frankly hysterical image you have of me as some kind of Warrior Psychotherapist.

The Herald, of course, is but the most insistent of my coterie of correspondents. Living in Tyria sometimes feels like waking up inside an eighteenth century epistolary novel. Everyone writes letters all the time. They've all been so well brought-up. Even the roughest frontier guard knows the importance of a "Thank You" note. No good deed must pass unremarked, or unrecorded.

The mail system in Tyria outdoes even Victorian London, where there were up to a dozen deliveries a day. I get my mail anywhere, anytime, immediately and not only does everyone know where I am, some of them even know my name. Here am I, trying to be a cross between the Lone Ranger and The Littlest Hobo, the mysterious stranger bounding into town on all fours with a snout-hankie over his face, righting wrongs and moving on without waiting for a word of thanks, and what do I get? A neatly-written note addressed to me by name, thanking me for my efforts and with a couple of silver pieces slipped inside the envelope by way of a tip! I'd be insulted if it wasn't that I need the money.

So here I am at eighty, a trail of wrongs righted and thanks accepted stretching all the way back to Smokestead. What now? My Herald tells me it's off to Orr. Do I listen to him for once? Well, he mentions airships and I do have a thing for airships. Maybe I will go take a look, this one time. Just don't think I'm making a habit of it.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Please Take My Money: SOE & PSS1

Something that isn't Guild Wars 2 for once:

If anyone from a PSS1 territory*  has an All Access account they are entitled to keep it running until such time as PSS1 can offer an equivalent. Since to date the only SOE MMO that's transferred is DCUO and transition for the second in line, EQ2, has been delayed with no new date yet given, that could be a while.

To keep your Access account, though, you must continue to keep up an uninterrupted payment schedule. As I understand it (and please correct me in the comments if I'm wrong) SOE is no longer opening new Access accounts for customers from PSS1 territories and moreover, if your current Access account lapses it can't be re-opened. 

What I imagine PSS1 Customer Service to be
If you have an Access account and want to hang on to it as long as you're able, be sure you know when your Credit Card expires and be aware that SOE's account page won't automatically allow you to update payment details for the current card or add an alternate payment method. You'll get a message saying the Access account isn't available in your territory if you try.

Suspecting something like this would happen, I tested mine a few weeks before the critical date. I have subsequently been in conversation with several customer service people at SOE, from whom I have had the usual exemplary courteous and efficient assistance (and no I am not being ironic - in more than a dozen years I've always found SOE's customer service to be excellent). 

That said, I did initially get different replies on the two tickets I submitted and one of the replies wrongly stated that due to the PSS1 issues the Access pass wasn't available to me. If you get that response, query and escalate it because it's wrong. My error quickly got corrected and with the assistance of Customer Service I have been able to update both accounts. The final proof will come at renewal when we'll see if I get billed correctly but at least I have the paper-trail now to confirm the accounts are meant to pass this hurdle.

It took a while to get this sorted, so if anyone is in the same position, don't leave it til the last minute. 

Please give generously - large castle to maintain
Ironically, it's now somewhat in doubt whether I want to carry on paying two SOE subs indefinitely, because what with GW2 and the upcoming Rift expansion (which will also require a subscription and which we are now very likely to buy) we may well decide to let the Access pass lapse anyway.

At least with this sorted out it will be our choice, which makes a big difference in terms of sentiment. We've had fantastic entertainment from SOE for well over a decade and despite my well-documented irritation verging on anger over both the existence and the handling of the PSS1 transfer, I do not intend to let this lead to a permanent parting of the ways (nearly said "rift" then!). 

Indeed, with SOE now embracing the free-to-play model so wholeheartedly, the real issue isn't whether I'll go on playing their games but whether I really need to go on paying for the pleasure.

*(that's Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom in case you were wondering)

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

To Be A Charr : GW2

In a comment over at KIASA, Spinks said "GW2 is fun but (dare I say) not very compelling". That hasn't been my experience, not exactly, but I have found that my first compulsion hasn't so much been to play the game as to document it. I've taken hundreds of screenshots, made copious notes, taken videos and written blogs.There was a point when I was beginning to wonder whether I was playing a game or doing a research project.

Thankfully, that moment has passed. This weekend, for the first time since beta, I felt that I wanted to play the game more than I wanted to write about it and even as I type this I'm aware that I would rather be playing. That's a good thing.

Finding His Voice
The tipping point has been the coalescing of the character of my Charr ranger. I loved the Charr as a race from the moment I first created one in beta and 99% of my entire time in GW2 has been spent as a cat but it's taken a while for that general adoration to refine into a specific affection for the singular Charr that represents my viewpoint out onto Tyria.

No MMO really falls into place for me until I reach an affinity with character. The world can be beautiful, the gameplay fluid and thrilling, the storyline fascinating; none of that will hold me for long if a character I'm playing fails to take on a life of his or her own. I don't roleplay but I do character-play and developing an innate understanding of what the character I'm directing would want and, especially, how he would express himself, is the paramount factor in whether I find myself immersed in a virtual world or just playing a game.

Name one.
Since I'm not a gamer and not much interested in games or gaming, playing a game won't hold my attention for long. Longevity in an MMO requires that at least one character finds a voice. That's just now beginning to happen in GW2 and I have the feeling it will happen again and again, because the world of Tyria offers an exceptionally strong platform on which characters can be built.

Just as the eight classes appear even at a quick glance to be very different from each other, so do the five races. Playing an Asura will not feel like playing a short human any more than playing a Charr feels like playing a Norn in a fur coat. Will it even feel the same to grow up Charr as Ash or Iron? I don't know but I want to find out. From such different and fully-realised starts in life each new addition to the team that can never meet must stand the finest of chances to make that elusive transition from notional to natural.

Skritt are in Whispers. Just sayin'.
And then, beyond lie such possibilities. It's far too soon to be thinking about expansions but already I am. In all the time I've played MMOs I have never wanted to be a frog. The one and only time I ever played one was at the launch of Everquest's Legacy of Ykesha expansion and that character is long gone, never to be missed. Now, though, I would play a Hylek in a heartbeat. Or a Quaggan. It will come as no surprise, naturally, to know that before either of those I would play a Skritt.

One day. One day. For now, to be a Charr is enough.



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