Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Still Playing TERA...

...and it definitely qualifies as my "Game of the Moment".

I've pretty much worked my way through "The Secret World", and I'm waiting for the next update, but in the meantime I've been playing the crap out of TERA. The graphics are amazing, as good or better than literally anything out there right now. The combat is great, challenging to be sure but also not so hard it becomes impossible to progress.

The story...well, TSW it ain't, that's for sure, but it's entertaining enough. The community is great and that's always a plus for me in any MMO. In addition, EnMasse just announced that TERA will be going free-to-play on February 5th, so it fits right into my budget.

Even better, because I bought the game back when, I'll have Founder status when free-to-play launches in a week. That's cool, because not only am I riding around on my nifty Regal Frostlion mount right now which I got as a pre-order promo when I bought the game early this year, but as a Founder I'll get a new one called a Terminus mount, which is believed to be this one (although there's no firm confirmation I'm aware of). On top of that, Founders get 8 character slots, a maxed-out 288 slot inventory (this is HUGE, running out of inventory slots has always been problem for me in this game) and other nice perks.

This is the way to do a free-to-play conversion, folks.

I can say this because I've been through it before. Fallen Earth's FTP conversion was so bad I've pretty much stopped playing the game. Star Trek Online's conversion failed to impress as well and I have a lifetime sub to that game. I'll log into both of these every now and then when the mood strikes me (i.e. when I'm bored with what I've been playing or just need a change of scenery), but the truth is that for the most part I've just lost interest in these games, at least in part because as free-to-play games they're a pale shade of what they once were.

The one part of TERA's FTP conversion the jury is still out on for me is the cash shop. Right now, it's pretty lame. There's just not much to buy and what is there isn't especially attractive to me. I'll be interested to see what EnMasse offers for sale when the FTP doors open.

As a player, I want to have fun and I want to be entertained. As long as that continues to be the case, I'll generally continue to play a game. The moment I don't feel I'm getting that from a game, for whatever reason, I move on. It's rare that I give up on a game that pulls me back in later. Aside from Eve-Online, which I left the first time for strictly financial reasons (read: I lost my job and couldn't afford the $15 a month anymore) and returned to later with no prodding from CCP, so far only two games have done that for me: TSW and TERA, both of which I'm active in right now and which I expect to continue to be playing at least for the foreseeable future...that is, assuming they both keep me as entertained as I have been.

After all, that's really what it's all about, having fun. As an ADD gamer, an MMO has to be pretty special to hold my interest long term. There have been many MMOs which have managed that feat short term, six months or less, but only five that have held my interest longer than that: Eve (which I'm no longer playing), Star Trek Online (which I'm barely playing), Fallen Earth (which I'm barely playing), TSW (which I'm not actively playing right at this moment, but will be again once the next content update drops), and TERA (which I'm actively playing right now and logging in almost daily). Considering how much time I spend gaming, that's a pretty short list.

Oh yeah and there's Aion, which is kind of in limbo for me right now. I haven't logged into it in a while, but I expect I'll get back to it one of these days. The truth is that for me TERA is in a lot of ways like an improved Aion, without all the gold spammers and rift-ganking. Truth is, I don't dislike Aion, I just like TERA better.

Ok, that's enough for now. I think I'm going to jump into TERA for while.

Til next time...

Friday, January 11, 2013

Revisiting TERA

One of the most basic realities of being an ADD gamer is that there's no game, no matter how good it is or how much I enjoy it, that's going to hold my attention in perpetuity. Even with games I'm as into as The Secret World, there eventually reaches a point where I've just gotta play something else for a while, before I become completely bored with what I've been playing and end up ignoring it for months on end, as I did with TSW the first time around. In that case, the decision was made for me by the fact that I just couldn't justify the $15 a month when there are so many free alternatives available. It had absolutely nothing at all to do with the quality of the game itself, but everything to do with the amount of money I had available to spend on entertainment. It was also hardly the first time I'd stopped playing an MMO because of financial issues. In fact, I'd just left another game for exactly the same reason just a month or so before TSW launched: TERA.

I'd followed the last several months of the TERA's development in the gaming press, participated in the beta and pre-ordered the game. The game time that came with my purchase gave me 30 days to decide whether or not I felt it was worth blowing $15 a month on. I played and enjoyed my time in TERA, but when it was time to pay or bail I came to the same conclusion I would come to a few months later with TSW that while I was enjoying my time playing the game, I just wasn't enraptured enough with TERA to be worth what for me is a significant chunk of my rather small monthly entertainment budget. The difference with TSW was that I was into it enough that I was motivated to get a quarterly sub to give myself a little more time to decide, but in the end I came to basically the same conclusion: Yes, I'm having fun, but no, I can't justify the expense, not with my finances being as tight as they are. Just as I had felt forced to choose not to start a paid sub in TERA, it was with a somewhat heavy heart that I cancelled my TSW sub at the end of those three months and moved on to other games.

Fast forward to a few days ago. An email arrives telling me that TERA is going free to play in February. While checking out my old account at the EnMasse website, I log in and run across a  page that tells me that my account has been reactivated and credited with a free week's game time. Since I know I'm getting to the point where I need at least a little break from TSW, which I'd been playing again since the game went buy-to-play, I re-downloaded TERA to my new 2 TB drive and logged in the next day.

I logged into one of my old toons and quickly realized that I had basically forgotten how to play this game, that there was no way in hell I was going to be any good at playing one of my old characters unless and until I got some refresher practice. To that end, I created a new Slayer very similar to one of my favorite old toons and headed out to the Isle of Dawn, the first part of the game which serves as TERA's extended tutorial.

My intent in doing this was mainly to re-familiarize myself with TERA enough to go back and play one of my old toons at a much higher level, but as I've made my way through the Isle of Dawn, I'm finding that I'm having just as much fun levelling up this toon as I did with my old ones and I'm seriously considering just continuing the process of levelling her up.

The combat in TERA is unique and challenging, but it doesn't have much of a story and large parts of the game are very grindy. Personally, I don't mind a little grinding especially if the combat is as much fun as it is in TERA, but I also want a good storyline to connect it all together, something this game really doesn't offer.

Aside from cosmetic things like the setting and overall tone and style, that's the big difference for me between TERA and TSW. TERA gives me great combat with a rather dull and simplistic storyline, while TSW gives me an engaging and intricate storyline paired with a rather average combat system. In both cases, I can have one but not the other at any one time, and yet I enjoy both.

This is actually a good thing for a gamer like me. With these games not requiring a subscription going forward, I expect I'll end up continuing to play both, switching between them as I decide I need a change of scenery for a while. And oh yeah, I'm still playing Aion too, though I haven't logged into that game in a couple of weeks now. As with TSW and TERA, though, sooner or later I know I'll get back to it.

For me, just liking a game isn't enough to keep me playing it, it has to earn my continuing interest and keep giving me reasons to play on. Even if it's successful in that, sooner or later I'm going to be taking a break for a while. When you're an ADD gamer, it's less about what you specifically find appealing in terms of overall game design and more about keeping yourself from becoming bored from playing the same game too long.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Problem WIth TSW PvP

I finished the main storyline mission a couple of nights ago. Good stuff. No spoilers here, but I will say that the ending is very satisfying and has me looking forward to future updates. Beyond that, well you'll just have to discover it for yourself when you get there.

After that, I went back to find missions I'd missed or paused on my way. I've found several so far, not only missions from main characters but also side missions I'd ignored or failed to find previously. Some I'm still having trouble with, others I breezed through because I'm much better geared now than I was the first time I tried them. I've got plenty to keep me busy right now, but I can see a point in the not-too-distant future where I'll start running out of stuff to do (or CAN do) in this game.

With that reality in mind, I checked out PvP for the first time yesterday. I entered the Fusang Projects zone, mainly just to check it out and see how this game's PvP plays. Frankly, I was not impressed.

I'm currently geared in level 10 blues and greens, but I didn't survive very long in Fusang. It seems that TSW's PvP zones are mainly intended only for those sporting the very best purple gear. In other words, unless you've been running dungeons and raids pretty consistently and are fully outfitted in 10+ purples, TSW's PvP zones are a complete waste of time as you'll be overwhelmed by better geared players virtually from the moment you enter. How this is supposed to be fun for any player who's not among the most committed and connected in the game is completely beyond me.

Personally, I'd like to see Funcom offer PvP events by gear level. By that I mean that you have events that are open only to those who are geared within certain ranges, say 1-3, 4-6, 7-10, 10+. That would make TSW PvP more of a game about skill and less about who's got the best gear. The way it is now, I can't see a point to anyone who's not already fully outfitted in the very best purple gear available in the game to get involved with PvP.

I really enjoy the PvE in this game. It's why I'm still playing, and even left for a while and came back. At the same time, however, I think it really sucks that what passes for PvP in TSW is really only of value to the tiny minority of players who have managed to acquire a full set of the best gear in the game.

In my opinion, PvP should be fun for everyone who wants to give it a try, not the exclusive province of a tiny segment of the most elite players. What do you think? Do you believe, as I do, that TSW PvP needs a complete overhaul to make it more accessible to lower-geared players or are you ok with it as it is now? What, if any, changes would you like to see?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Enough With The Mayans Already!

Note: This post contains minor spoilers about the "They Mostly Come Out At Night"mission.

So yesterday I'm doing this mission and I'm on the third Revenant, the last one before I get the portal to the next part of the mission. I'm finally within a few good hits of banishing the thing, the furthest I've gotten with this one so far without dying. Just as I fire off an incendiary grenade AoE, a Mayan zombie rises out of the ground right in-between my toon and the Revenent, gets hit by the blast and charges. Within a few seconds, I go from just about to finally defeat this section of the mission to resurrecting in anima form.


When the Mayan event started it was an interesting idea and fun, but the longer this event wears on, the less fun and the more annoying it becomes. That's one thing I hope the devs will consider going forward: That a TSW in-game event should be continue to be as much fun toward the end as it is at the beginning. For me, at least, this event has failed that test.

For me, and I'd expect for you as well, the ultimate goal of any game, be it something as complex as TSW or as simple as a hand of gin rummy, is to have fun. Frustration isn't fun. When that frustration is the direct result of something that you have no ability to predict and defend against as a player, it's even more annoying, particularly when it hampers your ability to progress through the game. 

If Funcom decides to do a similar event in the future, I hope they'll prevent mobs from spawning in the middle of combat. When they spawn around you and you're not already fighting something else, you have the option of attacking the mob and participating in the event or simply ignoring it and moving on. When mobs spawn nearby when a player is already engaged in combat, that choice and sometimes the ability to defeat a tough enemy, is taken away from player and turned in a game of chance. Suddenly, you may have a much tougher battle on your hands and far less chance of succeeding than you planned for when you prepared for combat. Sure, you may get lucky and win anyway sometimes, but other times you'll find yourself in the kind of situation I found myself in last night.

In the end, it's all about having fun. If it isn't fun, where's the incentive to press on and keep trying? Unrestricted mob spawning with no rhyme or reason may seem like an interesting and fun idea on paper and on a test server, but for the average TSW player who's just trying to get through missions and progress through the game, it can often prove to be no fun at all.