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Kevin's Thoughts!

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NeverWinter - the good and the neutral

In this post I thought I’d comment on the non-pay-to-win aspect of NeverWinter.

The good:

Great graphic detail.  You can actually look at the leave’s on the trees.  Yeah, within a few moments you will see the replication, but they are much actually better than most artificial Christmas trees I’ve seen.

The music sets the mood.  They have done great things with the music and sound track.  The sound affects remind me a LOT of those in The Secret World.

The quest are in-depth and chained, again much like those of The Secret World, which is nice.

Companions are nice.  Most MMORPGs have a class with pets, here it is for everyone.

The Neutral:

A few of the quest are grind quest, but not many.  They do make you run around a bit, which makes the mounts handy.

The dungeons are cool.  The first time I saw a spiral staircase I thought it was really special.  Alas, its a but “building block”.  Once you see the same spiral staircase a dozen times it loses it special trait.  In fact, the “building block” aspect of the dungeons tends to make them all start to feel the same, I actually wondered if they reused some early ones mid-game and simply populated them with different mobs.

One companion.  With two (or 3 or 4) one could run multi-player dungeons solo, which would be cool, but would be a game design change.

Instance matching.  Really mixed feelings about this one.  I tend to play solo most of the time, never having felt “friend groups” worked well.  In Aion I had a strong guild, and could often find players to run multi-player quest with.  Yeah, you tended to run with the same players all the time, until levels drifted due to different play schedules.  But you actually got to know some people.  With instance matching, us solo players can do the required multi-player quests, but the “team” only lasts until the quest is done.  Tera also does it this way (and I have a lot more experience over there with this).  It works, but it doesn’t build friendships, and those really make a game (I still play with Sophie, across a number of games, and we started out in Aion together).  Eve does an excellent job with this, where high level players can run with low levels to help them out, so friendships can grow over time.

End game:  Obviously haven’t made it to that point, but not clear if there really is one or what one would do.  In Tera, there is normal PVP (not voluntary controlled as in NeverWinter), and one can at least play with the idea of becoming a bad-ass good guy and picking on the PVPers.  Reality is bad-add bad-buys seldom run solo, so you would need a team of good guys to be effective.  This was one of the BEST features of Aion, until they tweaked it away with level buffs.  Eve, on the other hand, doesn’t have a practical end-game unless you plan on playing for 5+ years.  That is REALLY nice (and yeah, I’m starting to talk myself into going back to Eve if I get bored with Tera).

Character tuning:  Lots of character creation tweaks – hair style, color, finger nail length/foot width (really?!?!), etc.  Alas, an elf is always going to look like an elf with its big eyes.  Its almost like your can infinitely tweak your characteristics but the results all look the same.  Aion still wins 1st prize with this feature, even if the results do look like a porcelain doll.  At least its a recognizable porcelain doll – I had several that looked like FireFly actors (the quiet girl and profession to be specific).  Tera’s tunes are more lifelike, but lack the details that Aion had.  NeverWinter seems to be a blend of WOW and Aion, which is just weird.  Eve has virtually none, but there you spend most of your time looking at your spaceship, so it really doesn’t matter.

Outfits:  Tera wins by a slight lead over Aion.  Yeah, I’m still a guy, and I like to see sexy outfits. Deal with it.  Tera actually overdoes this a bit, the challenge becomes finding a nice middle – sexy does not mean skin.  I’m leaning towards the elf-mage dress combo as my favorite in Tera now.


NeverWinter – a few days later

Posted by Kevin on June 18, 2013
Posted in Gaming  | No Comments yet, please leave one

NeverWinter - a few days later

Well… compliments of a variety of mishaps, like renters not showing, the end of work assignments, etc.  I’ve had a few solid (12 hourish) days to play this game.

Some of that time was spent with a friend, some spent surfing the web, but mostly I’ve been leveling my Control Wizard (aka – the mage).  I’ve been following the information in this post, since its appears to be one of the better ones:  http://guidescroll.com/2013/05/neverwinter-control-wizard-guide/

Since the servers are now down for maintenance, I thought I’d take a few minutes and post, a bit about game play, a bit more on “Free to Play”.

First, a teaser:  On a scale of 1 to 10, with Wartunes a 0 and Tera a 10, I’d give this game a 4.5 in regards to your ability to play for free (Eve gets a 8.5).  I’ve made some progress, my Mage is level 38 (of 60) now.

Second, a bit on the economy:

Zen – Perfect Worlds Inc universal real money unit.  $1 = 100 zen.  Bought on their website, then permanently transferred to a server.  A player bidding system exist to convert Zen to/from Diamonds.

Gold, Silver, Copper – earned from selling gear at merchants.  Useful for consumables like healing kits, potions, crafting supplies, etc.

Diamonds – used to buy companions, remove gems for reuse, and to buy things from the Exchange (more on the Exchange later).  Also used to buy Identification Scrolls (more on those in a bit too).

The biggest source for diamonds in the game are the dailys (2000 for running two PVP session, and similar payments for running skirmishes and group dungeons).  You can also make some crafting.

The Zen:Diamond ratio is running about 1:300, so 1M diamonds requires 3333 Zen, which would cost $33.33 (actually $50, since that is the next purchase tier up).  The biggest sink for diamonds in the game is removing gems from armor.  You can either throw the gems away when you sell a piece (player bound equipment is not tradeable) or retrieve them, or avoid the heartache and not use them.  e.g.  Don’t benefit from the extra stats and drag your toon down.   Its pretty clear that those that focus on PVP are using gems, which means they are either not saving up diamonds, or are spending Zen.

The Exchange – a place to offer up unwanted armor, weapons, etc.  An alternative to selling things at the market, but there is no real demand for most of the stuff, at least at my current level.  I have a few hundred diamonds a day from the Exchange, vs. many thousands from quests.

Identification Scrolls – you wouldn’t think of these as a main economy driver, but they are.  They drop fairly frequently, but not at the same rate unidentified equipment drops.  Merchant prices for unidentified equipment is about 1/10th that of ID’ed stuff.  So… spend diamonds on ID scrolls to make gold (or to be a bit selective on what you offer on the Exchange), or make less gold.

Third, where you might spend Zen (aka “Real Money”):

1)  Companions.  The sooner you get one, the sooner you can start leveling it.  Leveling takes time.  As mentioned in the previous post, I bought a tank for glass cannon.  At level 16 (where you get a free companion) I selected the cleric, and am very glad I did.  The cleric really helps in PVE and I find myself swapping him in for a few minutes whenever my health gets low.  My tank is leveling slowing and is currently level 17, while the cleric is maxed at 15.  Yes… the totally free companions max at level 15…  I have my eye on a cat, which is suppose to be the ultimate for a Wizard, but that cost close to 1M diamonds, which will take me a month or three to earn (at current rate of accumulation).  The cat, like my paid for tank, maxes its level at 30.  So… given that as a goal, I have a choice of earning the diamonds in-game, or using the Zen exchange to convert real money into diamonds.  Companions cost anywhere from 1500-3000 Zen, depending on what you want and any current sales ($15-$30).

2) Mounts:  A free one around level 20 that will increase your travel speed by 50%.  Not bad, although mounts are not used as much as you think – mostly they are handy at quest turn in times, or for running through the large cities.  However, Zen purchasable mounts will boost that speed up by 80% or 110%.  So whats a little time?  Well, its more than that… the Zen mounts also take more damage before your dismounted.  This is huge when running through areas you just don’t want to bother slaughtering your way though, and huge in PVP where you sometimes want to run past your opponents to get to their tower.  I believe the best mounts were 2000 zen ($20).

2) Inventory bags, Bank slots.  Yes you can play, at least to level 20 or so, without extra inventory bags.  After that, when you start getting socketed armor, your going to want to start savings gems (4 lowers can be fused into 1 better), and your going to need a place to save them.  The free bank is a teaser, with only 16 slots, it fills up fast.  You get a 2nd, small bag around level 10, which helps, but its just not enough.  The best bags cost 1000 zen ($10).

3) Resets.  As you play, you allocate points into your basic stats (Int, Cha, Wis, etc.), into Powers (basically skills – with limited flexibility – although the skill choices you make for which are active is important), and into Feats (think of them as passives – a lot of flexbility – really how you tune your character the way YOU want to play it).  Play for a few days and your probably going to want to reset for 400 zen ($4).  I view this one as totally acceptable.  Reasonably priced, and very useful.  The developers do have to eat after all.

4)  Zen -> Diamonds.  Weeks if not months of constrained play or spend another $50 to “enjoy” the game.  Easy choice if you have the $50… but I suspect you will spend hundreds if you start down this path.

5)  Crafting.  Crafting is different in Neverwinter.  Closest match I know of is skill training in Eve, with the requirement to gather some fairly easily obtained items.  Its a Real Time thing.  Now, here is the rub…  Want to level crafting?  Well, you spend 6 hours and get 50 leveling points… or you can buy a “bag of gems” (presumably with Zen) and get those points in 15 seconds.  BOO!!!!!

And then there is straight cash payments…

A “Founders Pack”, for $199.99, provides you access to a special race, the Drow, get a special spider mount, a fighting companion, some cosmetics, 2M diamonds, 3 extra character slots, a small bag, titles, priority access to the game if the servers are overloaded, etc.  All good stuff, but $200?!?!?  This reminds me SO much of Wartunes that I had to look… Yep.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perfect_World_%28company%29 Its a Chinese company.  That explains it.  I’ve never seen a Chinese free-to-play that I thought was not money grubbing – they don’t care about their players, all they care about is the players cash.

Well… it was fun, but I think I’ll cut my losses.


NeverWinter - A Perfect World "Free-to-Play" game - Open Beta thoughts

Well… had a friend, Sophie, with whom I have gamed for years, suggest I check out NeverWinter.  This is the latest game from the makers of Perfect World.  Below are my thoughts after playing for something like 8 hours in the Open Beta (Production release is scheduled for 6/20/13).

First off, I highly suggest http://guides.gamepressure.com/neverwinter as a first read.  Its long, over 66 pages in length, but will give you a good overview of the game mechanics.  It is NOT a hint guide or walk-through however.

My initial thoughts on these type of games always focuses on the character creation panel.  As my readers know, I loved the character creation in Perfect World, which was surpassed by those in Aion (which to date still has the best modeling tool), had more lifelike but less control in Tera, and feels just a bit strange in NeverWinter.  One has a LOT of things to tweak, like finger nail length and hand width, but a female elf face is going to look like the same basic female elf face no matter what you do.  Yes, you can change hair styles, hair color within race specifics, etc. but the basic structure is pretty fixed.  I’d call it “good enough”, but found myself spending 10-15 minutes tweaking things instead of the hour+ I routinely spent in Aion.

Of course, more important is game play. The UI is a natural for any MMORPG player, with WASD movement and mouse control.  A bit odd is the use of the ALT key to toggle cursor control.  If you want to click on a control button, you need to tap ALT to do so, then tap it again to return to normal more.  The only other key related thing I struggled with until I accidentally figured it out was invoking the class specific “mechanic”.  Apparently this changed a bit during alpha and beta since various guides talk about using the Tab key, or double clicking the shift key.  Currently, you simply double click the WASD key (at least for my Mage-like character) – that causes her to teleport a few feet and is really handy for getting out of AOE circles.

Having been badly burnt by Wartune’s “free to play” model I remain highly attentive to spending real money to play NeverWinter.  So far, it is similar to Perfect World, which I suppose shouldn’t be a surprise.  The difference is that virtually required items, like companions and mounts, do eventually become available for free.  For instance:  Companions are the classic “pets” – they level with you, and can help you attack, or act as a tank, or I’m told play a healer role.  You get a free on when you hit level 16.  You can buy one with Zen (the Perfect World’s universal real money currency – 100 Zen = $1 USD) I suspect immediately.  I bought one around level 8 in order to write this commentary (and to help!). Zen Companions are suppose to be better than the free ones and will set you back $15-$30.  Good news is they are permanent.  Bad news is that they, like virtually everything, are associated with a specific character.  Reroll and you won’t have access to your Zen based goodies.  OK news is that they appear to be tradable.  (Trick:  Register two accounts with PW, use two computers, and bounce your items between toons).  So… if you spend money early, you can start leveling your companion sooner – and it does make the game a whole lot easier.

Like Wartunes, if you want to speed things up, you can spend in game currency (diamonds in this case) to do so.  Of course, you can trade Zen for Diamonds…  So far, I’ve found (2) real-time events this works for:  Training your companion, which is required to level it, but during which its not available to help you, and crafting.

Crafting is, well, different.  You hire (apparently for free) workers to craft things for you.  It takes real time.  At level 1 start, just seconds, by level 2, hours can be spent.  Good news – its real time – you can start a crafting task and log off and the clock still runs.  There is also a “Leadership” “Craft” which yields coins, exp, and crafting skill levels.  At my current level, as an example, I can do some 5 EXP, 5 Skill point tasks that take 10 minutes, or something that generates 100 copper, 20 EXP, and 20 Skill points in 2 hours, or something that would generate 40 skill point in 4 hours (great when you log out for the night).

Game play starts out very prescriptive, like most games with an initial training area.  That is OK, one needs to learn how to move around, etc.

One has an option to engage a “sparkle trail” that will lead you to your next quest area (and sometimes to individual quest items).  That’s handy, but know you need to go “off trail” if you want to find some treasure chest.  Chest and other reward items often require usage of a skill kit – thievery or nature or dungonning, or … which are for sale fairly inexpensively at most merchants.

One can also pray to your god (called “invocation”) once you hit the first main town and find the quest to do so (near the top of the map).  Some guides say this in only available after you reach level 11 – took me awhile to find the lady to talk to, so I was like 13, so can’t confirm that.  You can pray once an hour and get various goodies for doing so.

This real-time activity stuff is a mixed blessing.  In theory, you would need to login in every hour to maximum your goodies.  That is also very WarTune like where people spend their lives around the game clock.  The real-time training and crafting is very Eve like though, shy the training queue, and apparently escalates fast enough that I hope it will simply be a once a day thing.

PVP is different, and so far, nice.  You queue up to join a PVP team, everyone on the team is artificially set to the same level with the same gear – so it really is about your skill rather than equipment as it is with so many games.  A PVP event takes 15 minutes or so (or so it felt, might have been longer) and consist of a red and blue team battling over ownership of a central tower.  You get points for being the owner, first team to 1000 points wins.  This is very Wartune GuildWars like from a goal perspective without the domination of static op teams.

In the open beta, your allowed 2 characters – more slots available for Real Money.  Likewise, larger inventories, more bank slots, and the universal fancy clothing options all cost Real Money.  I much prefer Tera’s model where Real Money is only spent for costumes, character renames, and things like that.  In NeverWorld, spend rate will make a difference in the ease of playing the game – but I’m still way to young in the game to understand the total impact.

Bottom line:  I’m looking forward to spending some more time with this game and seeing where it goes.  Its my hope that it truly is, like Tera, very playable for free.  My fear is that it won’t be at higher levels.