I finally got my new PC put together and am back at it and checking for Guild Wars 2 news, seemingly every two minutes. One of the first things I saw was Arena Net’s blog about micro-transactions and the cash shop. One of the second things I saw was all the whining and worrying from the GW2 ‘community’ about micro-transactions and the cash shop. I swear I don’t remember MMO fans whining so much and so easily back in the early DAoC days but maybe that is just rose-colored glasses?
Anyway, the whining started immediately and has not ceased since. To further increase whining, yesterday leaked screens of the cash shop hit the internet, thanks to 4Chan. I am not going to post them here but you can find them easily with a google search.
A little background on me, I have always been extremely leery of cash shops. I was burned once, with Allods Online, and I won’t be burned by them again if I can help it. Nothing kills my enthusiasm for a game as much as a cash shop that sells ‘pay to win’ items. I have no problem at all buying items on a cash shop but if there are items on there that make one person more powerful than another because he or she spent more money……..well, consider me out.
Is the Guild Wars 2 cash shop pay to win? Before we can answer that we must sit down a foundation on which to judge it. These are the facts, as I know them:
Fact #1: Gear in GW2 is not equal to gear in WoW, Rift or LotRO. In Rift a character that just hit the level cap had a distinct disadvantage against a character that had been at level cap for a few months and done end-game raids or PvP. This gear discrepancy does not exist in GW2. Most gear is cosmetic, with very little difference in stats, and a fresh 80 will be able to compete against a character that has done all the high level content for the last few months.
Fact #2: Levels and leveling in GW2 is not equal to levels and leveling in WoW, Rift or LotRO. GW2 has a mentor/sidekick feature that will allow low-level players to play higher level content with a high level friend. In PvP low level characters will automatically be boosted to the level cap to compete. In Rift, a level 15 could really only do content designed for his or her level, this is not the case in GW2.
Fact #3: Much of the gear in GW2 is gained through Karma, which is not tradeable. The gear obtained through Karma is also not tradeable.
Fact #4: All items on the cash shop can be bought with gold and not one dollar ever has to be spent in the cash shop.
The Cash Shop Items
So, with that framework in place, let’s look at some of the items on the cash shop. Let’s find out where the whining is coming from.
Experience Boosters: These are pretty self-explanatory. Buy one, use it and you get a x% experience boost for x amount of hours. These existed in Rift as part of their veterans reward. I didn’t mind them in Rift and mind them even less in GW2. Why? See Fact #2.
Karma, Crafting Boosters: Just like the experience booster but boosts Karma gains and crafting gains. The crafting one does not bother me in the slightest. Gives you a chance to score bonus experience when crafting. Negligible. The Karma one does not bother me either. First, see Fact #1. After you see that one, take a look at Fact #3 and #4.
Magic Find Boosters: People seem to be whining a lot about this one. Improves your chance to get a rare magic item when looting. This one would worry me but then I remembered Fact #1. Suddenly I am not really worried about it anymore.
Loot Bag: Oh, no. This one says LOOT….it must be bad. Oh, never mind…..Fact #1. Gives one random item. Could be anything. A fool and his money are soon parted and all that…..
Resurrection Orb: Revives you from the dead once. I didn’t like this one. Then I saw the disclaimer: Does not work in PvP or WvW. Oh, nevermind……
Mystic Key: Unlocks one Mystic Chest. These drop randomly from kills. Okay, I don’t like this one. Not because I think it gives an advantage (see Fact #1 and Fact #4 people!) but because I think I will end up carrying around about 140 of these chests before I get around to opening them.
Instant Repair Kit: Repairs your gear no matter where you are. Here come the conspiracy theorist! ”The only reason Arena Net put repair into game is to sell these!’ Maybe but who cares? Fact #4 or go to town and repair, ya lazy git!
Megaphone Broadcast: Broadcasts one message, server wide. Okay, I don’t like this. Not because it gives a competitive advantage but because it has the possibility to be really freakin’ annoying.
The remaining items are all either cosmetic, give extra bank or bag space or have to do with account slots etc.. Again, not worried about cosmetic. Extra bank or bag space is nice but see Fact #4. I do find it cool that because of Fact #4, you can buy character slots, server transfers and maybe even expansion packs with in-game gold instead of actual money. That is pretty cool.
The Bottom Line
Bottom line, coming from a person who hates cash shops, this cash shop is mild. It gives no competitive advantage to anyone. No matter what they spend. I could spend no money at all and destroy a guy who spent $200 in PvP and that is all I can really ask for.
I have spent at least $10 dollars a month for a MMO subscription since 1999, I have no problem spending a bit each month. The glory of this cash shop is that I can still do that if I want to but I don’t have to
and if I don’t, I can still play the game and not be at a disadvantage at all. Sure, someone may get more experience for a kill than I do, or get more Karma or be able to repair instantly but because of the facts above, it doesn’t matter. Who cares how fast I get experience if I can mentor up and play with my friends? Who cares if someone buys a random loot bag if gear is on an equal level? Who cares if someone can repair anywhere if I can go to town and repair or buy the ability to repair anywhere with in game gold?
There is no Pay to Win here, people. It is much ado about nothing.
With the news that Blizzard was cutting PvP in Diablo 3 from launch, my respect for the company went down yet another notch. What happened to this formerly great studio? What happened to the ‘it will release when it is ready philosophy’?
I will admit forthright, that I never liked Diablo 1 and 2, nor did I particularly enjoy any of the Warcraft series (prior to WoW) or the Starcraft series. I admired them for their polish and attention to detail but the gameplay never appealed to me. Blizzard was always a solid developer. But, after the series of bad decisions after the release of the Burning Crusades, the horrible Wrath of the Lich King expansion, the even worse Cataclysm expansion and now this news, I can no longer fool myself into thinking Blizzard is a solid developer.
The same can be said of Bioware. I loved Baldur’s Gate, Baldur’s Gate 2 and Icewind Dale. I thought Knights of the Old Republic was fun, if a tad overrated compared to Baldur’s Gate. Now Bioware is releasing junk like Dragon’s Age 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic and ripping off their customers with DLC on day of release in Mass Effect 3.
I feel the same way about Mythic. They never had the long track record of great games that Blizzard and Bioware enjoyed but they made Dark Age of Camelot. DAoC is, in my opinion, still the greatest MMO of all time. Then they release Warhammer Online and it is an atrocity. Now they are merged with Bioware and I doubt we will ever see greatness from them again.
The obvious answer to what happened to these studios are the merging with bigger publishers. Blizzard with Activision and Bioware and Mythic to Electronic Arts. It is amazing how quickly a studio can be ruined by a merge like this. From a great studio, who cares about their customers and has great attention to detail, to a studio that rips off their customer’s with day one DLC and pulling launch content to make a release date.
It is sad really. These great studios are gone and will probably never return. In their place is another soulless studio that is out to gouge money from their customer’s and cut content in search of the all-mighty dollar.
Once again, the time has come to build a new PC. I normally do this once every 2-3 years or for a new upcoming game. In this case it was a bit of both. It has been around two years since I built my last PC and with Guild Wars 2 coming out, I figured it was time.
Quick rundown of my build:
I started out, this time, with an Eight-Core AMD FX-8150. I have always had a soft spot for AMD. They make great processors, price them fairly and give a lot of bang for the buck. They don’t always have the fastest processor on the market at any given moment but they are always competitive and normally priced less than the comparable Intel model. Plus, AMD is the type of company I think people should support, if only to keep competition up with Intel. Without AMD, Intel would have zero competition and processor prices would be outrageous.
Just as important as the processor is the motherboard. There are a lot of great motherboards out there for the 8150 but Asus has always been solid. When in doubt, go with Asus and you can’t go wrong. I ended up with the Asus Republic of Gamers Crosshair V motherboard. I even got the one with the Killer NIC in the package. It has gotten fantastic reviews and it looks awesome to boot. I am very interested to see how the Killer NIC performs. I have heard varying reviews on it but, what the heck, it is at least as good as a standard NIC and if it does end up improving lag and latency, all the better.
Up next is RAM. Luckily, I can get Corsair RAM at a really good price. I decided on 16GBs of Corsair Vengeance RAM. I went two sticks black and 2 sticks red, to go with the MB color scheme. 16GBs is a lot of RAM but I subscribe to the “you can never have too much RAM” school of thinking. The RAM is fast, there is a lot of it and it looks awesome. Can’t go wrong.
I decided on going with the Corsair H-100 Liquid CPU cooler. I’ve always wanted to go liquid cooling but I don’t want to take the time to build a custom set-up and this is the next best thing. I intend to overclock my processor a bit and this should help keep heat down immensely. Its gotten solid reviews and, for once, I will have a PC that doesn’t sound like a B-17 bomber on the runway.
Keeping with the Corsair theme, I finally got a solid-state HDD. The difference in general computing speed is amazing and the price has finally come down to semi-affordable regions. I chose the 240GB Force 3 version. I plan to put my O/S and select games on this drive and use my 3TB standard drive for storage. I really look forward to the 15 second boot times and level loading in games should be phenomenal.
My video card is probably the best on the market at the moment, Nvidia fan boys be damned. The AMD 7970 is getting rave reviews and it pairs with my CPU phenomenally. I plan to Crossfire two of these eventually but I just can’t afford it at the moment. Still, one will be fast as hell and I believe I can live with that for quite a while.
Finally, I struggled over the case but ended up with the Corsair Obsidian Series 800D ATX Gaming Computer Case. It looks nice, has plenty of room and I got it at a good price. Once everything is in and set-up it should be a handsome PC indeed.
For the most part, that is my build. I am really excited about it, as you can probably tell. The last of my parts should arrive early next week and I will begin setting it up. By this time next week, I should be rocking a much faster PC. Guild Wars 2, here I come….in style!!!
Yesterday Blizzard expanded their ‘Scroll of Resurrection’ program and by expand it I mean they buffed it to old Ret Pally proportions. What once was just a standard ‘Welcome Back’ type program, now gives the former player seven days of free playtime, one character boosted automagically to 80, free realm transfers, free faction transfers and a free copy of Cataclysm!
If this is not a desperation move by a company bleeding subs at an astounding rate, I don’t know what is. The first move, giving away a free copy of Diablo 3 for a year WoW sub, was bad enough but this is taking it to an entire new level. After two mediocre expansions and a design philosophy that has killed the old feeling of a living world, WoW is finally feeling the burn of bad decision after bad decision.
I don’t buy that SW:ToR, Rift or GW2 is killing WoW. Blizzard did this all by their lonesome. They are now reaping the consequences of killing ‘Vanilla’ WoW and changing it to what we see today; a game with no server community, no open world interaction, no server rivalries. A game that has become a virtual chat room while waiting for the next mini-game to pop.
I could not be happier and the MMO world will be much better off for it.
No, I was not invited and for that I am sad. But I have watched a few hours of footage, read a novels worth of impressions and kept up with nearly all the various forum arguments. Through it all, I have continuously impressed by both Guild Wars 2 and ArenaNet. There has been some tremendous information that has come out in the last week and it almost has me frothing at the mouth. Below, in no particular order, are random impressions from the Press Beta.
The Guild System
One would expect that a game called Guild Wars 2 might have a pretty robust guild system but this one takes the cake. All the normal options are there; roster, ranks, guild messages etc. but they have also added a bit to the standard MMO guild interface. Influence can be gained by every member by doing almost anything in the game. PvE events, crafting, PvP and WvW all add influence to the guild the character is representing. And that is where it gets interesting….
Influence can be used to buy everything from PvE political influence, to Keep upgrades in WvW, to Guild banks and Guild armor. Each upgrade, once purchased, has a ‘build time’ of anywhere from a few days to a week or longer. This can be reduced further by another influence purchase.
All in all the guild system looks pretty involved and gives a Guild leader plenty of ways to administer and grow his or her guild. Check out this video for an in-depth look at the Guild system, courtesy of Guild Wars 2 Guru!
The best thing I can say about the classes after watching video from the press event is that I am at an even further loss as to what class I want to play. They all look very fun. Heck, I hate mage style classes and the elementalist even looks fun to me.
I think the clear winner coming out of the event was the Mesmer. It looks so fun and fresh. The abilities all have great animations and the stuff with the great sword is especially impressive. It looks like a very unique class. I think my favorite video I have seen with the mesmer is from mmogamer.es, which is a spanish language website. The video is supposed to showcase some instanced PvP but there are a couple of one on ones with a thief that are just awesome. Check it out and make sure to watch until the one vs. one starts!
There were a ton of other nice class videos out there and, after watching them all, I think I am still leaning toward the Ranger. Unfortunately, there were few really good ranger vids out there. I think the best was this one by Curse Network.
World vs. World
This is what I was most excited about by a long shot. Thankfully I was not let down. There was tons of video footage out there detailing WvW and most of it was fantastic. On paper GW2 is closer to Dark Age of Camelot than anything we have seen, including Warhammer Online. The maps are huge, the objectives are diverse and there is a lot of strategical depth to WvW. I love that the walls of Keeps can be knocked down and not just the gate. I love that the supply system adds some depth to sieges. I love that there are objectives all over the map and not just Keeps. I love that siege engines can be placed anywhere and not just on specified spots. I love the Relics masquerading as ‘Orbs of Power’. I love the look of the map. I love the trebuchets. I love the supply caravans. And I really, really love the siege Golems.
Of course, this is all on paper and reality will eventually rear its ugly head. Will lag be too bad? Will players ignore the intricacies of the supply system and just zerg? Will the instanced PvP content take precedence and make WvW an afterthought for players? Will players treat WvW like WAR players treated Keep sieges and only attack undefended Keeps?
All of the above are unfortunate possibilities but most of them are community problems and not real problems with the game. Hopefully the systems in WvW will allow us to skip most of the above unpleasantries.
The biggest worry I have is lag. There were a number of videos where lag was a major factor in WvW and nothing kills large-scale PvP like lag and performance issues. Luckily ArenaNet has said that they are still heavily optimizing the engine and we should see major improvements by the next beta event. Even with that fact, I did see some videos with a noticeable absence of lag. The best probably being the one below from Yogscast.
I am going to wrap this post up for the night. However, expect more from me tomorrow about Guild Wars 2 and focusing on PvE, Dynamic Events and the Tombs of Ascalon instance!
If you read my last post, you may have come away with the thought that I ended up disappointed in Rift. To the contrary, I think Rift is the apex of post-2004 ‘WoW-Style’ MMOs. I think Trion did a fantastic job with almost all aspects of Rift, while staying pretty much within the standard quest-hub leveling, raid endgame style of MMOs that we have all seen since the launch of WoW in 2004.
Indeed, Rift has everything one could want in a themepark MMO of this style. The questing is standard MMO fare, the raids are at least as good as WoW, the instances are fun and plentiful, the graphics are solid. To top it off, Trion is, without a doubt, able to get new content into the game faster than any other developers around right now. The amount of content they have gotten into the game since release is astounding. Simply astounding.
Trion was able to create a MMO that check marked all the proper boxes (questing, raids, instances, battlegrounds, crafting, dailies etc.) while adding some unique twists of their own (Rifts, Raid Rifts, PvP Rifts, Instant Action etc.). I don’t think there is another themepark MMO out there that has as much pure value as Rift does. If I was recommending a MMO to someone who had never played a themepark MMO before, I would recommend Rift. Its quite simple the best themepark style MMO out right now.
I will continue to play Rift for quite a while, even after GW2 releases. I still find the game fun and Trion is one of the few MMO devs that actually deserves to be supported. They are a fantastic, hard-working company that seems to care about the product they are releasing and the fans who are buying it.
Trion certainly did not turn the themepark MMO world on its head when they released Rift. It is too similar to other MMOs to be truly unique but they did create a very feature rich, quality MMO in its own right. Which brings me to the polar opposite new release MMO: SW:ToR.
A few days ago I mentioned that I was going to enjoy the inevitable fail of Star Wars: The Old Republic and, of course, I had a few people on Facebook and such asking me exactly how I could think that a game that sold as many copies as SWToR could fail. Quite simply, I believe it failed before it was even released.
Bioware took a mediocre single player game and tacked on a 2004-era MMO on to it and called it done. The story told in SWToR is okay, I guess, though somewhat hokey and gets less compelling as the levels wear on. The vaunted cut-scenes get old very fast and are skipped more often than not. The story is certainly not enough to sustain long-term interest. To hold a MMO player for any length of time you need a compelling end game and SWToR does not have that at all.
Matter of fact, if you take the cut scenes out of ToR, you would have a MMO that would be regarded as laughable at best. Very few features, mediocre instances and raids, boring combat, laughably balanced PvP, snoozefest crafting. Everything about ToR in regards to the actual MMO side is horribly done but because its tacked on to a Bioware single player story it was overlooked…..at least at first.
That is quickly changing. The general dissatisfaction with ToR is starting to border on hate among most MMO sites and forums I frequent. People are starting to see what it truly is and are leaving in droves.
I said in my last post that you could take away Rift’s most unique feature (the Rift and invasion system) and you would still have a solid, feature rich MMO. The same can not be said about ToR. Take away its most unique feature (the story and cut scenes) and you would have a very, very poor-man’s MMO.
The biggest problem faced by Bioware now is how to address future content. If they concentrate on releasing standard MMO content then the one feature that they have touted the most gets left by the wayside but if they focus on story the content releases will come much to slowly. Nothing takes as much time to produce as fully voiced and cutscened story. Funcom and Sony Online Entertainment both realized this quickly. It simply takes to long to produce so they abandoned it. Bioware will come to the same realization. Either take their time to release the story content and piss off a lot of players with lack of true content or abandon the story content and abandon the one thing they have that separates them from WoW.
I think ToR will end up being the biggest disappointment in MMO history. Players are already abandoning ship and it will just get worse over the next few months. When Guild Wars 2 releases it will have a heavy story emphasis as well but it also has a fully featured MMO to support it. The next few months will not be kind to SW:ToR.