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Caught Between Warring Guilds And Natural Selection

Procrastination is in the air.  No progress is being made on my creative endeavors for the past two or three days, and I've a lawn to mow today that, as 1pm, I've thus far failed to start.  I haven't even bothered to get myself a morning meal yet.  But, first, I'm taking a couple comments I made on Rock Paper Shotgun and posting them here on my blog.  Because they're my comments, and this is my blog.  So there.

First, about Guild Wars 2. A TotalBisquit impression video followed by my RPS comment.

I concur [with the original RPS article] that here’s a game that somehow manages to captivate even a repeat MMO burnout like myself. That’s no mean feat. How does it do it? Well, off the top of my head, It’s just different enough to be interesting:
  • No big massive variety of redundant abilities, instead a small selection of useful abilities that change depending on what your character is holding (sometimes current weapons/shield, other times you’re holding some kind of temporary tool).  The result is both a greater variety of play and also a greater significance within individual hotkeys.

  • Combat is a bit more interactive than most MMOs that have come before it.  Combat (like Champions Online) is now pretty fast and furious.  Dodging (like The Secret World) is now something you need to do to survive and you do so by double-tapping a direction.  I am kind of surprised that Guild Wars 2 does not offer a massive "deck" of abilities like Guild Wars 1 did - The Secret World has this yet Guild Wars 2 does not - but what Guild Wars 2 does have is a bit less muddled feeling and a greater significance behind each ability (whereas in The Secret World I felt a lot of abilities were redundant) so I'm not complaining.

  • Everyone can heal, everyone can tank, everyone can DPS.  You hear that sound?  That's the sound of my altaholicism fretting over what it has to fret over anymore.  Your profession choice is pretty much stylistic now, there's going to be some unique niches some classes have that others don't, but it's not nearly as vital as it used to be.  Reviving is a good example of this: only a few classes have the means to revive defeated/downed friendlies instantly, but everyone can revive slowly.

  • Quests are more varied in activity by design: Whenever you approach an area in which a quest is taking place, instead of being asked to kill X mobs or retrieve X of something, you’re instead given a list of about 4-6 different things to do which each progress a bar. Progress the bar far enough, and the quest is complete: you’re done with that area, it’s time to move on.

  • Experience gain is not kill-weighted, somewhat quest-weighted, but mostly experience is exploration-weighted. You get the most experience from going to new places and doing things: harvesting nodes, performing quests, performing dynamic events – essentially public quests – and so on.  This is reinforced by going to "places of interest," viewing "vistas," unlocking more waypoints (that you can instantly teleport to once they're unlocked) and so on.

  • No mana bar. No elves. No dwarves. “What the Hell is going on here?” asks the brain. “Something different.” the game answers.

  • No monthly subscription fee. Because, lets face it, who can dedicate their time to a single game these days? Monthly subscription fees are friggin’ bollocks. I’m talking to you, Funcom of The Secret World making.

Ultimately, I'm really enjoying the game.  But, as I'm fond of saying, "The honeymoon isn't over yet."  Sure, I love the game, but will it captivate long enough to be worthy of a $60 price tag in the long run?  I can never tell.

The other comment I had was about Natural Selection 2.  Honestly, I'm not sure I want to immortalize this comment under the pretext that this is an experience of a yet-to-be-released game during a beta version of it.  But, the thing is, I kinda want Natural Selection 2 to release as a game I'd want to play, and this may in fact necessitate standing on a soapbox.  Same format, another video from the excellent TotalBisquit so you have some idea what this game is, followed by a comment block of what fell out of my head onto a RPS comment form.

I enjoyed the original Natural Selection and have been looking forward to Natural Selection 2 for the longest (read: “delayed time and time again”) time.
I shelled out for the beta via pre-ordering, and I’m encouraged to see that there’s ample-enough of a player community to at least have 3-4 full servers at a time. The main dread of there being a host of empty servers (as is oft the case for this genre of shooters) would seem not to apply to Natural Selection 2. Still, I can’t help but think the game would be better off going F2P with micro-transactions – that’s how TF2 got to be so popular, after all.

Despite being gorgeous and harnessing much of the appeal of the original, Natural Selection 2 needs three core things:
  • Balance – For example, I’ve seen Marine Commanders bawled out for daring to waste our resources to build turrets. That’s crap. All tools need to be useful, viable choices, or else the balance simply isn’t there.

  • Better Performance – My poor babby computer with a 6.9 “graphics experience index” is insufficient to handle the demands of Natural Selection 2. Those little skulks are fast little buggers, and very difficult to hit when your frame rate is chugging, but unfortunately my situation is so dire that I even have a hard time reliably munching on slow, ponderous marines when playing a skulk. But then, I have yet to play the latest, supposedly-performance boosting patches.

  • Stability – Last time I played, the client crashed an average of once a match (which last about a half hour, sometimes dragging out to be considerably longer and more satisfying). Your mileage may vary.

My experiences with Natural Selection 2′s beta state is that it is still very much a beta state, despite how long the game’s been getting worked on. The former problem I’m having has been caused by perpetual redesigns of core mechanics, while the latter problems are a result of an ambitious engine. How things will ultimately turn out with the game has yet to be determined, but it seems I’ve already bought it, so my stake in it is as solid as the next guy’s.
Is it any wonder my cup overflowed with procrastination as of late?  As if it wasn't bad enough I got into the Planetside 2 beta, and the Firefall beta, neither of which I can talk about because they're under NDA, I've actually got some really good games demanding my attention right now.  Heaven help me when FTL comes out next month.  Well, thanks to this blog entry, I think I've procrastinated enough for now - time to go get that breakfast I've been putting off, and we'll see how things go from there.


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