Tuesday, February 19, 2013

TERA Lag Update

One of the things that annoys me a bit about the game design of TERA is that a lot of the story missions are level-dependent, that is, besides getting though the preceding story missions you need to qualify for the next one, you also have to hit a certain level in order to get the next mission and move on to the next area of the game. If you do all the BAM missions that probably wouldn't be an issue, but if you solo a lot like I do, you'll often find yourself done with the prerequisite story missions but not yet at the level you need to be at in order to get the next one.

When I find myself in this situation, I'll often go back to an area where I left some missions unfinished and do some of those to get the EXP I need to ding the next level and start the next story mission. That's what put me on Serpentis Isle fighting Malagash yesterday. Generally speaking, I try to go back to an area anywhere from 5-8 levels below where I currently am because that's usually where I find that the BAM missions become soloable, winnable but still challenging, and with EXP and drop rewards that are still worth the effort.

Because of the extreme lag I encountered while revisiting Serpentis Isle, I was forced to stick to lower-level mobs for the most part in that area, but I did manage to gain enough EXP to hit the next level and start the next story mission which took me to a new town, Habere. Here I experienced little of the intense lag I had to deal with on Serpentis Isle, and so the game once again became playable (at least so far), although most of the BAMs in the area are far too strong for me to attempt to solo.

For me, this is a big issue. I enjoy teaming up with other players to take on dungeons and BAMs, but I also enjoy solo play, and I like being able to try soloing a BAM that would have been impossible to take on alone when I was at the level where I originally encountered it in the course of normal questing.

So it seems that the intense lag I've been experiencing is directly related to what particular area of the game I happen to be playing through at the time. This makes sense give that free-to-play opened just two weeks ago and it's likely that most of the new players are still making their way through the lower and middle levels of the game. At the same time, it also points up another problem: As these players continue to level up, it seems likely that the higher levels will become as lag-ridden as the lower and middle levels already are. Not good...not good at all.

The analogy that keeps coming to mind is a tsunami. You can see the disaster coming in the distance, making its way toward the shore you're standing on. You know it's coming, that it will eventually reach you and that it will wreak havok on you and everything around you when it gets there. In this case, however, it seems that EME has to know its coming too, and what's more, they're the only ones who can stop it, or at least limit the damage it does when it arrives.

I hope EME does what it has to in order to prevent the "lag tsunami" from basically destroying upper level gameplay and eventually the endgame as well. If upper level players start deciding in droves that TERA is no longer playable for them and a mass exodus starts, it will be, at best, very bad for the game, and at worst, a potentially fatal blow. I hope we're going to see backbone infrastructure upgrades that can handle the load and quickly, because at the rate many players progress through this game if they wait another week or two, it's probably going to be too late.

Monday, February 18, 2013

No Action Combat

For a while I was able to deal with it, but now it's really getting ridiculous. The lag in TERA is now so horrifically bad that it's actually becoming unplayable.

Just a little while ago, I was fighting Malagash, the Naga boss on Sepentis Isle. I'd experienced some slight lag previously, but nothing really game-breaking. Then while I'm in the middle of fighting this thing, the frame rate suddenly drops to next to nothing and actually freezes completely for several seconds. Needless to say, with this kind of lag it's actually impossible to defeat a decent level BAM. In other words, the game is unplayable in this state, unless you want to ignore all the BAMs in the game and only fight low-level monsters, which is basically impossible if you want to do the story missions and progress through the game.

It's very frustrating for me. I really enjoy the game, but I don't see how I can keep playing when high-level combat is currently all but impossible. The thing that makes TERA great is the fluid, complex style of combat in the game, but when the frame rate drops like a stone and freezes the screen right in the middle of a fight that kind of combat isn't possible, so what's the point of playing?

I know it's not my computer. It's well above the minimum specs for TERA, and I never had this problem during the weeks I played before the official free-to-play conversion.

It seems clear to me that EME seriously underestimated the influx of new players they'd get when the game went free-to-play and thus failed to upgrade the tech backbone to handle it. In all honesty, I've never seen lag this bad in any MMO I've ever played, and I'm starting to question how or if I can continue with TERA if something isn't done about it and quickly.

For myself, I'm not quite sure what the answer is. I suppose I'll keep trying for a while because I really do enjoy the game and want to keep playing, but sooner or later if nothing changes I suppose I'll have to give up and move on.

After all, what's the point of a game that touts True Action Combat with action that plays like an old celluloid movie projector running a broken film that keeps jumping off the guide reels? As far as I can see, not very much of a point at all.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Another Day Spent In TERA

Yeah, pretty much all day today. I made it as far as Akasha's Hideout, where I made the mistake of trying it solo and getting obliterated pretty quickly. I did the whole Core series of missions and just about all the side missions along the way.

I also tried instance matching for the first time today. That was actually a lot of fun. I haven't done a lot of grouping in this game so far but I must admit I was having some big fun with it today. Nothing like teaming up with a bunch of people you just met to go take on some BAMs. It took us the better part of three hours to get through the Golden Labyrinth, but we did have a lot of fun doing it.

I also made it up to level 49 in the process and got some pretty nice gear too, most of which I'll be able to use once I ding 50, most likely sometime tomorrow. It is just me, or does it seem that the higher level the armor female toons wear, the tinier those outfits become? Right now, my toon is wearing an outfit that not only seems to defy the laws of physics in terms of being able to stay on her body, but would also probably get any woman arrested who tried to wear it in the real world outside of a strip club. Oh, those nutty Koreans. I can't wait to see what the outfit I picked up today in the dungeon looks like when I hit 50 and can put it on. Shit, she's practically naked already!

I'm still really looking forward to Issue #6 of TSW, but that's not expected to drop until the end of the month, which I think really sucks. Basically that means it'll have been almost a month and a half between issues, and having a bought a six-month membership that doesn't thrill me. At least I have TERA to keep me busy in the meantime.

I'm playing a Slayer and I'm having a lot of fun with her. I'm planning to level her up to 60, maybe do some endgame with her, but next time around I think I'm going to try a Warrior. I generally go for the DPS classes in these kinds of games, but just playing one class can get boring after a while. I suppose we'll see. As a Founder, I get eight character slots and so far I've only used three so there's plenty of room to experiment.

I've also started crafting my own healing potions. This can get a bit expensive, but nothing compared to how expensive it is in Aion. It's also a hell of a lot faster than in Aion as well. The more I play TERA, the less motivated I am to return to Aion. I've popped in now and then, but the truth is that I'm just having a lot more fun with TERA right now.

The story in TERA is getting better as well. I wasn't too impressed early on, but there have been some decent twists and turns recently. I'm well past where I took my first two toons now, so it's all new. It's still nowhere near as deep as TSW, but I am looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Alright, that's enough for now...til next time.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

TERA Fall Down, Go Crash

Jeez, it was fine this afternoon. I go get dinner with friends, come back, and it looks like no one can log into the game. It's definitely a server-side issue, according to EnMasse. Well that's fine for now as far as I'm concerned. It gives me a little time to blog.

Y'know, one thing I didn't mention in my last post that has really had an impact on my game since the FTP launch yesterday is those egg thieves. So far out of those eggs they drop I've got some regular Alkahest, a nice amount of Refined Alkahest, and a bunch of other assorted goodies from cracking those suckers open. Very nice...and it would be even better if I were actually wearing anything enchantable at the moment. Doesn't really matter though...I'm sure I'll find a use for it sooner or later.

Right now, I can't even get a login screen, which kinds sucks. I wonder...could the servers be massively overloaded from bazillions of people want to check out the game now that it's free?  That's my bet.

It seems that no matter what MMO I'm playing at any given moment, there's always one guaranteed commonality among them all: When the servers go down unexpectedly, someone will post on the game's forums that the publishers/devs/mods/whatevers are idiots and launch into an apocalyptic rant in which said and game and company will go under soon, never to be heard from again. We were not disappointed today.

Having been a forum mod several times and having even been a forum owner once or twice, I know that no matter how good a forum you start with, sooner or later the trolls are going to show. It's simply the nature of the Internet and a function of the anonymity and safety of physical distance has on a certain type of person.

Personally, I've learned to deal with it, and in fact even have had fun with it. Of course there are limits and I've whipped out the ol' ban stick on several occasions and I've seen it used by others on many more. The trick is to keep out the true jerks without coming across as a complete asshole. Forums run by assholes don't get a lot of traffic. On the other hand, forums inundated with trollish drama don't get much traffic either, at least not good traffic anyway.

TERA's  forums have good moderators, that is, simply put, they're not assholes. This has not always been the case in some of the games I've played.

In one game, Crimecraft,, a fellow player and I started a blog for the game and invited players to post. The Community Relations (or whatever) head decided that he didn't like that we had some negative things to say about the game and the way it was run and banned us from promoting it on the official forums. It got so annoying that I actually left the game. It's a pity too. We probably could have had a good thing going there if that guy hadn't been such an asshole. As it was, I just decided that I didn't really care enough about that game to deal with the bullshit so I sailed off toward sunnier shores.

TERA's forums are about average in my experience in terms of traffic and temperament, and the mods do a pretty good job in terms of not being too heavy-handed while at the same time knowing when a topic has run its course and it's time to lock the thread.

This matters. MMO's are social games, and those social connections can and do spill over into the forums. A shitty social experience can make the difference between a great MMO experience and a mediocre one.  Crimecraft was like that for me. I was at one point into it enough that I co-created a blog for the game, but all the negativity and drama that ensued as a result inspired me to move on.

Alright that's enough for now. I wrote this over the course of the entire day in-between server failings. Here's hoping they've got it together tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Aaaaand, We're In!

So I woke up this morning and patched TERA to the FTP model. So far, so good. As far as I can tell, aside from a few new perks it plays exactly as it did before, but I've also only played for about a few hours so far. I've acquired a some strongboxes but no keys so far. The new Founders mount is indeed the one I linked in a previous post and it's pretty cool. Founders also get a title, but I've already acquired so many different titles that that's pretty superfluous for me.

TERA: Rising has only been active for less than a day and already they've had one server restart to correct some minor issues in lower level areas. Hey, no complaints. I've seen far worse in games I was paying subscription time for.

The one still unknown factor is the store which hasn't been brought up yet and that's interesting to me, for this reason: Right now, until they bring the store up, TERA is literally completely free to play. That is, you actually can't buy anything from them right now but they prioritized bringing the servers up so people could play as soon as possible rather than waiting until the store was ready as well. It's a small thing to be sure, but it's nice to see them prioritizing their players over their bottom line, at least in this small way. Sure, the store will be open for business soon enough, but they could have chosen to just make everyone wait until they were ready to launch the store as well and they didn't. That says something to me.

In any case, in case you couldn't tell, I'm already back into this game as if I'd never left. I got a few missions done in the Citadel of Torment before they announced the server restart and I bailed to write this post.

Now, it's after dinner as I finish this up and get ready to get back into it. I'm having a good time with it, but I'm also anxiously awaiting the next TSW update. It seems that at least for now I've got two favorite games that I'm comfortable switching between, but also no shortage of gap-fillers for when needed. Not too shabby.

Monday, February 4, 2013

I Ain't Playin' Nothin' Today

It's true. The reason, though, isn't because I'm in mourning for the "Day of No TERA for Anyone" or anything silly like that. It's because I'm brewing either a whopper of a cold or the flu. I feel like crap, and I have the mother of all headaches, so anything that involves loud noises just isn't on the agenda today.

I'm sitting here wrapped in a flannel blanket, with a big can of Campbell's Chunky Chicken soup and every anti-cold and flu medication I could find in the house (which ain't much...this doesn't happen to me very often) coursing my system without much effect.

I spent the weekend replaying most of the single-player campaign in Max Payne 3, but even the thought of playing something with that much loud violence in it today makes my head throb. I can barely tolerate the television at normal volume, forget about endless gunfire and explosions.

So, as an ADD Gamer I guess if I were able to schedule a day when I wouldn't be able to deal with actually doing any gaming and I were looking to ensure that my interest level in the currently completely offline TERA were maintained (at least as well as any game an ADD Gamer like me plays) this would probably be the day I'd pick.

One thing that's nice is that the TERA producers are doing an hour-long intro of all the new features of the Rising update at 2 pm Pacific (5pm Eastern for right-coasters like me). I'll definitely watch that and that's about as active a gamer as I plan to be today. Tomorrow, though, assuming I've kicked this bug, I suspect I'll be firing up TERA along with everyone else.

In the meantime, I think it's time for another sickie rest period before showtime.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Am I The Only One Who Thinks This Is Just Astoundingly Dumb Marketing Strategy?

Was it only a couple of days ago when I said that TERA's free-to-play conversion was the way to do it? Um yeah, it was. And yet, leave it to the gaming industry to find a way to screw up an otherwise great marketing effort.

In order to bring lapsed players back into the fold, TERA publisher EnMasse Entertainment offered former players like myself a free week of play time to inspire us to return to the game. Many players, like myself, took advantage of that offer. Even better, when that week ended we got another free week of the grace time EME offers as a matter of course to allow players to renew their subscriptions without losing access to the game. Pretty great, right?

So how come after all that effort to recapture these players as customers they then do a complete 180 and risk all that marketing effort and all that free access by enforcing a gap of several days in-between the end of that free time and the beginning of free-to-play on February 5th?

Every MMO gamer knows well that generally speaking we're a pretty fickle and disloyal lot. We're constantly looking for the next big thing, and a new big shiny on the horizon can and often does cause players to quickly abandon one game for another they find more attractive for whatever reason.

By creating a totally unnecessary and artificial gap in access between the free time that attracted these players back into the fold and the time when the game actually goes free-to-play, EME risks losing a significant portion of those players to the other games they'll seek out during this period when the doors have suddenly slammed shut in our faces again, and just before the start of a weekend no less, which of course is MMO gaming prime time.

Of course, some players will wait patiently during this time and then return to TERA once the free-to-play gates open in the middle of next week. Others will not be content to twiddle their thumbs (and other digits) for the better part of a week and will seek out something else to play while they're locked out. Some will abandon the games they get involved with to return to TERA on the 5th, but others will not.

I don't have a marketing degree, but I do have a lot of experience in retail sales, and I think it's more than reasonable to ask: Why is EME investing all this time and effort to bring former players back into TERA if they're just going to cut us off again right when we're getting back into the game? It makes no sense whatsoever to me.

Personally, I'm not going to be spending my weekend twiddling anything. I've got plenty of other good games I can play and I'm going to do just that. I'll return to TERA at some point because I enjoy the game, but I'm not in love with it enough to limit myself to not playing anything while I wait. If I'm so inclined, I'll be back on the 5th. If I get involved with something else in the meantime, it may be a while before I get back to it. No promises. no commitments. This is about my own entertainment, not about loyalty to any particular game or company. Since TERA isn't entertaining me anymore, I'll find something else to do the job. If I'm having fun with whatever I'm playing next week, I'll probably keep playing it until that's no longer the case.

The truth is that EnMasse entertainment gave me two free weeks of game time and they owe me nothing. However, the reverse is equally true as well. If EME is unwilling to keep me interested and entertained until free-to-play starts, that's fine. It's their right to make that decision. But then they shouldn't expect my loyalty and interest in TERA to continue indefinitely regardless.

Maybe I'll be there on the 5th, maybe I won't, because while the decision to cut off access to players like me is entirely within EME's rights, so too is the decision not to wait around and be bored for the better part of a week entirely within mine.