Auraxis, How I miss thee

“The planet of Auraxis in a distant star system cut off by a collapsed wormhole from their homeworld, locked in a three way struggle for power on an alien world where the dead come back to life.”

Over the last 8 years I’ve attempted to find another game but too many MMOs seem to focus on tempting you deeper into the game with various phat loot carrots, rather than inspiring a sense of accomplishment or teamwork. Running through-out Planetside was a underlying feeling of comradery that I haven’t encountered in any other game, this was every person working together as part of the global team and thus giving reward to everyone for their hard-work if it came to fruition.

The game is designed around support, both direct and indirect, it was the back-bone and heart of the game. It was sadly was discarded as they began to reward people for less team-work, for achievement whoring and kill-stat information, it was at this point the foundations of the system began to crumble and the 110% effort that people gave began  to drop and loyalty wavered. This was followed up by a never ending stream of cheaters that slowly strangled the last good elements of the game.

Some of my best and most vivid memories include base re-secures with 5 seconds left on the clock, a wave of MAX suited troops charging across the terrain of Cyssor & the determination that people had to stop just one base falling to the enemy. A unified feeling from all players that what you were doing no matter how trivial was important and that the global fight could benefit.

Here are a few screenshots from my time in Planetside and with it my hope that the sequel is half as good as the original was.

OK stop the press! As if by magic I started to write this post and discover that John Smedley has tweeted this:

And my faith in the new version of the game increases slightly.

If you want to learn more about the history of Planetside I suggest you start here :

Soloing, bliss or burden?

On occasion I enjoy time playing MMOs alone, that’s not to say I don’t like company or don’t see the benefits in teaming, but for me the enjoyment of a game can be enhanced by tackling it alone sometimes.
Of course you may ask what’s the point of playing an MMO rather than a single player RPG and the answer is other people, yea it sounds silly but single player games lack in certain areas like a player driven market, folks standing around benches crafting or just a general feeling that the places and regions of the game have other people doing the same as you . I supposed they have that “Lived in” feeling that single player games often fail to deliver.

What did I miss?

If I had to choose one thing that I find better about playing solo it would have to be the ability to see  a lot more of the content, you have the time and chances to read the history behind a quest, discover the reasons behind them and actually read the dialogue. I’ll not deny it is going to take longer to reach the end game content and I may never see the level cap but the general idea is to enjoy the journey as much as the achieving the ultimate goal (max level).

Currently I heard the Van Hemlock podcast episode 135 in which Mr Vanhemlock explains the vast world of tome unlocks he has encountered in Warhammer Online and how he tend to approach it alone and not as part of the static group. I have to agree that soloing is perfect for those players that enjoy achievement whoring. I must have spent a massive amount of time in City of Villains just working toward various badges (sell X number of items on the market, Craft 1000 recipes, take Y million points of damage, kill 250 enemies of type Z) the solo play-style is wonderful for picking away at those ingame achievements without boring fellow players to death, unless they are after the same achievements of course.

Easy Ride?

I don’t expect any game to give me an easy time just because I’m not teamed up, generally I will approach a game with the assumption that I’ll be completely out of my depth. That said we are starting to see games now are altering the lower end content to make it easier for soloing, in a hope that players can reach the level cap sooner but this also double up as an incentive for us solo players to give that game another try. A while back Matt “Positron” Miller wrote about solo players on his MMO Designer blog and it’s nice to see how developers think about solo players and how to take them into consideration when balancing game-play, even though we seem to give them a headache most of the time.

Messing with your play-style

With solo game-play comes adjustments to your play-style, taking a more strategic approach to quests & tasks. Without doing so you’ll find wading into an enemy mob, with swords flailing will most likely result in failure. You have to choose your targets, carefully watching that you haven’t aggro’d more than “you can chew”. Unless your character is blessed with a heal ability you’ll need to equip yourself with some kind of health restoring device (potion/medkit) to help when you get into trouble.

Most of all you have to accept that you are playing a game designed for groups and you may no be able to check every box. At times you are going to get splatted over and over and there isn’t a great deal you can do about it other that come back in a few levels time and try again. City of Heroes is great game for solo player as you can raise or lower the difficultly as you see fit, this allows you to still enjoy the game despite you character not being great at offensive attacks.

Learn the classes

A big factor in the solo game-style is the class. Knowing the game is really the only clear way to understand which classes work well in a soloing capacity. There are normally good guides about which classes work for the solo gamer, generally they tend to be those with massive armour or healing powers. Some people will like the challenge of attempting to solo a class that isn’t one that is typically used, I have one such character in City of Villains that doesn’t sound to fun to the normal player but I have some wonderfully different experiences that make them a pleasure to play.

In all soloing isn’t everyone idea of fun, but we each enjoy these games in different ways.

2010 Round-Up / a view to 2011

Worry not as I’ll not be trying my hand at the prediction game as I’d likely get them all wrong. No this post is to write about my gaming year and what I’m looking forward to in new one.

The year 2010

It was a busy year, much of it spent attempting to get the balance of work/family/gaming right since mini-troll came along. Thankfully being married to a gamer makes having a gaming as a hobby much easier.

Here are my gaming highlights of 2010.

  • BF:BC2 : This game demonstrated how a FPS should work and play, it made ‘Modern Warfare 2’ pale in comparison. Great single and multi-player experience.
  • EVE : I have tried my hardest with EVE but really can’t get into the groove with this game for longer than a few weeks.
  • Fable 2 : I eventually got into how this game worked and it became one of my favourite console games of the year.
  • City Of Heroes : Sadly the Going Rogue expansion didn’t revitalise our interest in CoH and we left our subscriptions to expire.
  • DoWII – Chaos Rising : The sequel/expansion to the 2009 game was OK, but I felt it wasn’t long enough or maybe lacked content. I was disappointed overall.
  • GSB : See my last post.
  • All Points Bulletin :  It had potential but didn’t deliver and suffered from cheaters,lag & too high specs. That said I really enjoyed the short time I spend playing this with the KIASA folks.
  • Assassin’s Creed II : I’m still playing through this game, but I have enjoyed it immensely, it certainly improved on the original.
  • Blade Kitten : This small XBLA game was a really enjoyable combination of platform and puzzle genres, I look forward to future releases.
  • Trials HD : Another XBLA game that I thought was rather beautifully realised and reminded me of Junior : Kickstart.
  • Deathspank : This game gave me a lot of laughs, certainly glad I got it, I may even complete it one day.
  • Minecraft : There isn’t anything that hasn’t been said already about this game, it let your mind go crazy for a while.

With many MMO games going free to play (or with a free to play element) there certainly is alot of choice out there , unless you dislike the Fantasy genre, the you are pretty much forgotten about.

On to 2011

There have been many games announced or pushed back into 2011 or are games that I hope will start their hype-engine during 2011.

  • Planetside:Next (working title)
    As indicated in Smeds annual livejournal update game is coming and by the sound of things is nearing beta, which was a big surprise to everyone. So as we all try and figure out how the game will change, we are also reforming connections with past allies, looking for the best way to approach the outfit setup and dusting off our Gauss Rifle. We all have our fingers crossed that the core game will remain but a shiny new engine and anti-cheat measures will be the predominant features. I for one hope that as more players are drawn into FPS games, thanks to the Call of Duty, Halo franchises, the populations will be rather healthy.
  • Torchlight 2
    I really enjoyed the first game and the opportunity of being able to enjoy the game in Co-op is very appealing to me. I’m hoping that the game continues to the excellence of the first and is naturally a stepping stone towards another game or a more on-line centric game. After hearing about the XBLA version of torchlight coming soon I wonder if we will see Torchlight 2 release in 2011.
  • DC Universe Online
    This game looks set to launch early in 2011 Today, It was nice to see that SOE didn’t feel the need to prove themselves against Cataclysm and postponed the launch, plus it gives a little more time to add more shine. A solid game that everyone says looks very polished already and with well designed gameplay. I’m still unsure if i want to invest in this title at launch, but I’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on it.
  • Age of Empires Online
    AoE was always the perfect RTS for me, it never felt too rushed, anything beyond fun. I’m hoping that this new F2P model will bring back a little of that old school magic back that drew me into the game originally.
  • The Sims Medieval
    From what I’ve seen of this game its looking to branch out the Sims game into new areas, not just obtaining goods for your pad but actually taking place in a different time. This is very interesting as the Franchise was looking to stagnate and appeared to be treading water with same-old-same-old content updates. This certainly looks set to rock the boat in this genre.
  • Dawn of War II: Retribution
    This third game in the DoW 2 series looks set to make the greenskins and tyranids playable races and rumour has it that base building may be making a comeback, well of sorts.  Most likely will add increasingly more content for multi-player and not much for us single players that aren’t interested in it. Hopefully the one good element of this game will be the removal of the Games for Windows Live, which has certainly hampered this games success.
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution
    The first of the franchise relaunch titles, Will be interested to see how the game will treat all those fans that have been playing games like Splinter Cell etc since Deus Ex 2. The expectations will be high for this game and it may struggle to meet them.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine
    This game will be a must for any fan of the Warhammer 40k universe. The game set you as a squad leader with a team of various troops each skill differently and from what I read you will control only one at a time for their unique perks. After reading about this I did wonder if it would work in a similar style to Full Spectrum Warrior, but then I feel that maybe too complicated to combine into the 40K world. This is very high on my ones to watch this year, even if it doesn’t release.
  • Max Payne 3
    The return of the man that slows time to ensure there is maximum carnage, infact the Rockstar look to the game sees the hero look like a cross between John McClane(of die hard fame) & Stone Cold Steve Austin, I’m not completely sold on the look but we’ll see. Sadly it looks like the game may have been pushed back beyond 2011 at this time, hopefully more news will appear.
  • The Secret World
    This game has been simmering away building up followers and momentum in the last year or so. Funcom are building the game on the same engine as Conan, which removes that whole “hang around 2 years while we build the engine then another 2 for the game” approach yet history indicates the game was originally started in 2002. The game is rumoured to be without classes and levels, a brave move that could work very well if it’s managed correctly. I’m looking forward  hearing more about the game in 2011.
  • MechWarrior
    Nothing says “Fight me” like a massive robot armed to the teeth. Our 3rd reboot hasn’t seen any love in quite some time and playing in the BattleTech universe is likely to be a first for newer gamers.
  • Guild Wars 2
    The hype-bubble has really put me off this game and it’s not even out. Yes I’m interested in knowing about an upcoming game but for GW2 it feels like it’s being pushed into your face continually. I’ll play it when can be bothered.
  • Battlefield: Play4free
    Building on the success of their Battlefield Heroes game EA are making a non-cartoony Shooter game based on the Battlefield series. The videos and demos look good, just wondering what cash-shop options will be purchasable and if they give too much of an advantage.
  • Battlefield 3
    Just as I was completing this list I hear that EA are aiming for a new Battlefield game aside from the free to play version. I think the Battlefield franchise is certainly one of the most popular, if not the most popular FPS on the platform.
  • All Points Bulletin : Reloaded
    If they can pull of a relaunch of APB I will be very impressed, but the amount of work needed is going to be rather large I’m afraid. We’ll just have to wait on this one and see what happens.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic
    I’m not a big fan of the Star Wars Universe, that’s not the say it doesn’t entertain or interest me. But I really don’t have that same faithful dedication that others of my age have. The big idea with TOR is making story line a large part of the game rather than just a medium to level.

I think this could be my most wordy blog post for sometime, but then I enjoyed the topic.