The Elder Scrolls Online: A First Hour Mini-Review

The_Elder_Scrolls_OnlineI thought I’d deliver an initial verdict on The Elder Scrolls Online. Its been a hectic weekend so I’ve only played the TESO beta for a little over an hour, hence the title of the review. So no flaming with ‘but you barely checked out the game!!’ comments. I have no doubt the bigger and better quests are further down the track, but all MMOs live or die on their initial areas, so but here’s my impressions for what they’re worth:

Character creation:  Love it, lots of customisation options (although some don’t appear to be working quite yet), but you can skip them if you want to get set up quickly. I like the number of classes on offer too.

Graphics: TESO copped a hammering from the gaming community based on early leaked footage. Like many others have already said, TESO has come a long way from then and I liked the graphics a lot. Some of the facial features on NPCs are a little bit bland but that may improve further by launch. Loading times for screens seemed very good and I did enjoy the lighting and atmospherics I saw.

Sound: Kudos for both the soundtrack and atmospheric sounds – lots to like here.

Interface: Making a judgement on this is a hard one as I’m guessing a lot of people will like it, but I for one HATE the ‘point your mouse / reticule in the direction you want to go’ style of gameplay. I find it hard on the eyes even with a decent mouse and it doesn’t allow the level of free movement that I like. That said, it does making visual scanning of your surrounds a lot easier. As I said, I think I’m in the minority here, but this is one of the main reasons I won’t be playing TESO ongoing.

Gameplay: this isn’t a criticism, just a fact – TESO is another bog standard questing MMO. For Elder Scrolls fans, I have no doubt you’ll be enjoying the storyline. For me as a first-timer to the franchise, it neither disappointed or impressed me. I like the speed of conversations with NPCs and although the map looks terribly generic in the beta, I’m sure that’ll improve. The mouse-aiming interface annoyed me for combat but again I’m guessing I’m in the minority. Nothing particularly innovative in the quests, but again that’s standard MMO fare.

Performance: I’m impressed with the frame rate and speed of the game overall – I was using the Mac version and it seemed to run much better than WoW for me, and streets ahead of SWTOR and The Secret World, though given I run them on a virtual box it’s not a fair comparison.

Overall impressions: This is a solid MMO, but for me there’s nowhere near enough interesting stuff in it for me to pay a subscription. For our New Zealand readers, you’re being scalped on the subscription price as well. Even if my unreasonable hatred of the reticule / mouse pointing  system weren’t an issue, I can’t see me playing this game ongoing – there’s just nothing unique for me to get excited about. For someone new to MMOs or a long time fan of the franchise – you should have a close look at TESO.

More impressions from the whole team next week on the podcast.

Did you play the open beta? What did you think?

 

 

The Elder Scrolls Online: New Zealanders Beware of Currency SNAFU

The evil Euro monster

The evil Euro monster

Today we had an interesting email come in from a New Zealand based gamer, who like a lot of people is gearing up for the launch of The Elder Scrolls Online.  It seems that New Zealanders are being billed in Euros:

After some back and forth with Customer Support at Zenimax I have found it’s now their policy to charge all New Zealand people their subscription fees and cost of game as well, in EUROS rather than in our own currency or in USD (both would be much cheaper for us).

Obviously it’s odd to charge us in EUROS anyway, we’re nowhere near Europe, plus it not converting very nicely for us to our own currency.

Here’s what we’re getting overcharged –

Subscription fees each month (we’ll be getting charged in EUROS) –

12.99 EUR = 21.422623 NZD

14.99 USD= 17.991116 NZD

So that’s a difference of almost $4 a month we’re being overcharged.

The cost of the game for me was 79.99 EUR = 131.920763 NZD whereas I should’ve paid – 79.99 USD = 96.006686 NZD – so I got overcharged around $36 NZD as well.

Customer Service has told me this is absolute and they are not planning on changing it any time soon (if ever).

Tried getting some attention in the beta forums and while a ZOS staff member passed by the post and edited out the @names of ZOS staff members I has added into the OP (she edited them out so they didn’t trigger notifications to other ZOS staff members) she did not bother answering the thread, so all out of avenues for getting help/getting this sorted for New Zealand people.

Need someone to draw attention to this situation for the New Zealand people. We are obviously a small country and probably not worth paying attention to on a financial level…so yeah, basically this is why we need some help and support. We’re going to be horribly overcharged every month and nobody cares to fix it.

In addition, the NZ gamer received a formal response from Zenimax Customer Support:

Greetings XXXX
Thanks you very much for your patience with this issue.
Due to NZ$ not being supported for now we can not give you an different option then to pay the game and the subscription fee in Euros. I’m aware that this is not the answer you were hoping for and I’m very sorry not to be able to help you with this.
Should we support New Zealand dollars at some point in the future we’ll update the storefront at
https://account.elderscrollsonline.com for the appropriate regions.
I would be happy to help you with any further questions.
See you in Tamriel
[name of support staff member was here]
The Elder Scrolls Online Team

So it sounds like it’s going to take a bigger groundswell of support to get any consideration of a change. We’d be interested in hearing from any other New Zealanders – is this decision going to be a deal-breaker for you?

Review: The Stanley Parable

The Stanley Parable

Follow the line Stanley

Oh how easy it is to get cynical about games. For those of you that listen to our Flash Point podcast, you’ll know we don’t suffer for lack of cynicism. Which is why I love finding a game that smacks all of that cynicism fair in the face – The Stanley Parable is definitely one of those games.

The game was originally released in 2011, had a substantive remake as a standalone Windows game and last month had a further enhancement via the Steam Greenlight scheme, which is the version I’ve just played.

I’m not going to even begin to try and describe what The Stanley Parable is about, beyond saying that you are Stanley, and you have a narrator along with you for the ride. The narrator (Kevan Brighting) really does make the game in so many ways and I can’t remember the last time I’ve had so many laughs in a game. It’s part interactive fiction, part satire and part puzzle game (although don’t start thinking too deeply about puzzles from what I’ve seen after four hours of play). The writing is simply stupendous, hence the regular laughs. Aside from that, it’s the ‘What the..” moments that really deliver the value in the game.

I’m really hard pushed to find a lot to criticise – the gameplay is different enough that I haven’t experienced any significant frustrations to date. I did consider keeping notes at one stage as a mud map to determine the story paths I’d taken, but given some of the paths change from time to time, I gave up on that idea. I’d love the ability to save a game too, although I can see that the nature of this game makes it a partly redundant idea.

For US$15 this game is more than worth the money and given its reported success to date, I’m hanging out for what comes next from this creative team.

Tips / recommendations for The Stanley Parable

  • Download the demo, no matter how sold you are on the game
  • Explore but don’t expect massive amounts of feedback
  • Stand still in locations for 30 seconds or more
  • Stand in the Broom Closet for at least 3-5 minutes: you won’t regret it
  • If you haven’t got to the story branch with the Adventure Line, you haven’t been trying hard enough
  • If you have kids older than 8 or so, get them involved as I found this led me down routes I may have otherwise missed
  • Don’t give up until you’ve found the ‘game credits’ area
  • See point 1: seriously, the demo is brilliant on its own

Here’s where you go to find out more – and thanks to the Good Game TV team for reviewing this game themselves. This is a game I’ll be coming back to for a while, purely for the fun it provides.

10/10 in its genre for me – just let me know what genre you’d put it in ok?

To finish up, here’s a gallery with a handful of screenshots I’ve taken so far, with an emphasis on the meeting room as I loved the scribblings in there. Don’t view them if you want to go into the game 100% fresh.

 

 

 

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn – Video Guides

If you listen to our Flash Point podcast, you’ll know co-host Kristy loves Final Fantasy XXIV. So in the best community-minded spirit, she’s started creating some great videos introducing the game.

Here are the first two:

1. Character Creation in FFXIV:ARR:

2. Introduction to FFXIV:ARR – The Beginning

Armikrog: Interview With Pencil Test Studios

Armikrog interviewWe all have that game.

That game that you can almost play whenever you close your eyes even though it’s been years since it ever ran on your computer. That game you can hear and almost sing along to even though no music playing (that is, if you can grunt musically).

That game which defined the gamer you are today.

That game for me is The Neverhood. A clay-animated stop-motion game of awesome. Mention The Neverhood to me and I could go on for hours. I have so many fond memories of little Klaymen that it’s the only game left I have on physical disc because I just couldn’t bear to part with it.

So when I heard of Armikrog, from Pencil Test Studios, Inc. I got really excited. A new clay-animated game game from my favourite game developers! I think the majority of us from the glory days of gaming in the ’90s have played or at least heard of The Neverhood or Earthworm Jim so it’s exciting to see so many names coming back to bring us another chance to relive those past memories.

I tried to set up an interview with Pencil Test Studios, Inc. however as you are probably aware I’ve been having some internet issues and so we had to settle for an email one. Mike Dietz and Ed Schofield were very kind to answer my questions over the weekend.

How would you describe Armikrog.?

Mike Dietz — Armikrog is a brand new clay-animated point and click adventure game brought to you by the creators of the Neverhood and Earthworm Jim. While not a sequel, it’s been called by many a spiritual successor to the Neverhood as it’s being developed by the same core creative group and it comes from a similar place in our hearts. Featuring the unique characters and signature art style of creator Doug TenNapel, the magical appeal of stop motion animation, and the musical genius of Neverhood composer Terry S. Taylor, Armikrog promises to be a game that will deliver on the enjoyable challenge, whimsy and humor that made the Neverhood so accessible and fun.

Armikrog tells the story of a space explorer named Tommynaut and his blind, alien, talking dog Beak-Beak, who crash land on a strange planet and find themselves trapped within the walls of a fantastic, mystical fortress called Armikrog. Players will need to solve an array of entertaining and mind-bending puzzles to help Tommynaut out of his predicament, and will quickly discover that the epic Armikrog is much more than simply a fortress from which they must escape.

Clay isn’t the biggest use medium for making games, what made you decide to use it? (besides it looking like awesome fun)

Ed Schofield — Stop motion animation is very different from computer and hand drawn animation. The process of creating it requires you to have a very clear view of the motion you’re trying to achieve, and unlike other forms of animation you can’t go back and make changes once it’s been created. It’s a bit like a tightrope walker working without a net, but that’s what makes the process so much fun!

Mike Dietz — Plus there’s a certain magic and wonder you get from stop motion that isn’t present in other forms of animation. There’s something magical and mesmerizing about knowing those are real tactile objects coming to life seemingly on their own. You can see the thumbprints and analog imperfections that hint at the artists and process behind it, which makes it seem that much more magic – yet accessible.

I still remember the imagine from the Neverhood behind the scenes video of clay everywhere. How much clay will Armikrog, take? Are you able to walk around the studio or has Occupational Health and Safety laws preventing you from stacking them up the stairs and every floor space again?

Ed Schofield — There will be a lot of clay used in Armikrog, but we’ll also be using other materials as well. We don’t want to limit ourselves creatively, so if it makes sense to use plaster, metal or cardboard for to build certain things, we’ll do it. However, this time around we’re trying to keep the hallways clear!

Mike Dietz — But don’t worry, there will still be lots and lots of clay – it’s still the most fun to work with.

As a huge fan of the Neverhood soundtrack (I can still hear some of the tunes in my head), will Armikrog. again have a memorable soundtrack and will it be in the same sort of blue/folk style again?

Ed Schofield — The music for Armikrog will be done by Terry Taylor, the same musician who composed and performed the music for The Neverhood. Terry’s musical sensibilities are perfect for our games and he’s always delivered amazing and inspiring tunes!

Mike Dietz – Terry has already delivered the first tune for Armikrog, which we featured in our Kickstarter video. You can see Terry sing the song in its entirety on the Kickstarter page in Update # 4!

(Kristy: Kickstarter update 4 if you like to here Terry’s song)

Earthworm Jim and The Neverhood didn’t exactly have much talking besides in places – will Armikrog have more conversations or will you continue to use more passive forms of communication?

Ed Schofield — More expansive dialogue seems like a natural evolution to our games. In the Neverhood, Klaymen’s journey didn’t require him to speak much. In Armikrog there will be more dialogue, but it will be used to advance the story.

Mike Dietz – Actually there was a whole lot of dialog in the Neverhood – I know because I had to animate most of it and it was a lot of work! While it’s true Klaymen rarely had anything to say, Willie Trombone almost never shut up!

(Kristy: Is it weird that I just played the full back story by Willie in my head? It’s me Willie, Willie Trombone. Ack, now I’m getting a flowerpot dropped on my head).

Will there be a long and detailed history carved into a long clay wall that will take hours to read and involve many clicks to walk to the end?

Ed Schofield — There will be a place where the player can go to learn about the history and universe where Armikrog takes place, but the stories will be told with much more drawings as opposed to straight text.

Mike Dietz – If you think of the Neverhood’s Hall of Records as a novel, Armikrog will feature something more along the lines of a graphic novel. We promise we won’t make you walk through 30+ screens to read it all this time!

Game play wise, will Armikrog be more like The Neverhood where you find a puzzle and can take your time to solve it, or more like Earthworm Jim with jumping around and shooting things?

Ed Schofield — Definitely more like The Neverhood. Armikrog will be created in the same genre (point and click adventure game). There will be puzzles to solve mysteries to uncover, but it will also expand on the basic genre with some new mechanics as well.

Will you be able to die? And if so, will it be clearly signed?

Ed Schofield — Ha! We always love the responses from the Neverhood death…we tried to warn the player as clearly as we could. For Armikrog, we want to continue to encourage the player to explore and try new things, and not punish them by dying.

Mike Dietz – BTW, that long drawn out scream you hear during Klaymen’s death sequence – that’s Ed!

Your Kickstarter project is nearing the end and funding is getting close. If the unthinkable happens and Armikrog doesn’t get enough funding, what will the future hold for Pencil Test Studios, Inc?

Ed Schofield — The studio has other projects on the table that we would move onto, but Armikrog is what we’re most passionate about. So, of course we are doing everything we can to get the game funded!

Mike Dietz – Failure is not an option!

Such a girly question I know, but will your Kickstarter t-shirts be available in both men and women’s style? (I know I look terrible in a mens shirt!)

Ed Schofield — Hmmmm…good question. No one has asked us that one yet! I’ll have to look into that and get back to you…

Will we be seeing anyone from Pencil Test Studios, Inc at PAX in Australia next month? (please say yes, please say yes).

Ed Schofield — The Kickstarter campaign has really been an all-consuming event. Honestly, we haven’t been able to look at our calendars much past June 27 (the last day of the campaign). But you never know!

Mike Dietz – I’ve never been to Australia but have always wanted to visit. I’ve never met anyone from there who wasn’t super friendly and fun. We had a TV crew from Australia in the office the other day and we all had a great time.

===============

If you missed out on playing The Neverhood, then don’t miss out on Armikrog. too! The Armikrog Kickstarter is only a couple days away from ending. If you would like to become a backer, please go to their Kickstarter page and pledge to Armikrog. Today.

Armikrog will be available DRM-free for PC, MAC and Linux through GOG.com, The Humble Store and on Steam (visit their Steam Greenlight page and vote Yes!)

 

Starcraft 2.08 Full Patch Notes

Starcraft 2.07 Patch Notes

Quite a few bug fixes this patch, read on for the full 2.08 patch notes:

STARCRAFT II PATCH 2.0.8

GENERAL

  • The “Damaged Units Only” status bar option now applies only to life, shields, and energy. All other status bars behave as if “Always” is selected.
  • Custom observer interface files are now read from the “My Documents/StarCraft II/Interfaces” location rather than account specific locations.
  • The Idle Worker button now plays a subtle glow animation while active.
  • The Regions button on the Login Screen is now visible at the password entry step. Upon selecting a region, players will be logged out to account entry with the proper region selected.
  • A confirmation dialog now displays for players attempting to login to regions running a newer version of StarCraft II than their current version, rather than automatically closing the game client and patching up to the newest version.
  • Replay files now contain additional game information and statistics for data analysis. (Stay tuned for further instructions on how to utilize this data in an upcoming blog post on the StarCraft II Community Site.)

BATTLE.NET

  • Recover Game UI no longer shows any events after the “Game Ended” event. For 1v1 matches, it is no longer possible to accidentally recover the game after one of the players has already been defeated.
  • “Internet Cafe” has been added to the list of Group categories.
  • Lobby countdown timers have been reduced from 10 seconds to 3 seconds for “Recover Game” and “Watch with Others” game lobbies.
  • The order for “Most Recent” and “Highest Rank” in the “Sort by” dropdown menu on the Profile > Ladder > Career Summary page has been switched.
  • The “Career” heading on the Profile Summary page has been renamed to “Statistics”, and “Total Career Games” has been renamed to “Games Played This Season” to more accurately reflect the data being displayed.

EDITOR

  • A new “Show Game Start Countdown” option has been added to the Game Options window in the Map>Map Options menu. Enabling this option will display the 3-2-1 countdown timer that was added in Patch 2.0.4 for the Take Command and Recover Game features. This option is disabled by default.

BUG FIXES

  • General
    • Fixed many text and sound localization issues throughout the game for all languages.
    • Fixed many keyboard layout and hotkey issues across all languages.
    • Fixed multiple crashes that could occur when utilizing the Take Command feature.
    • Fixed an issue in which multiplayer replays could not be re-paused if a player left the game while it was paused.
    • The Watch Replay Solo button is now properly disabled upon completing a game of StarCraft Master.
    • Replays no longer always play Terran music. Music for observers will now always match the race of the last player in the lobby. (In a future patch, this will be further addressed to play a random selection of music from all races for observers.)
    • Fixed an issue that affected the accuracy of APM calculation. Additional changes to APM calculations will be coming in a future patch.
    • Cloud saves are now properly created when exiting completely out of the client from Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm campaigns.
    • Fixed a rare crash that could occur when launching a Challenge mission after playing an Arcade game with an unusual dependency configuration.
    • Fixed a rare crash that could occur when closing StarCraft II.
    • Fixed an issue in which the “Waiting for Players” dialog could occasionally appear on the loading screen and drop players from the game.
    • The “Pauses Remaining” counter is now consistent with how many Pauses are available.
    • Fixed a number of streaming failures that could occur when streaming and repairing certain game archives.
    • Video subtitles use the locale found in the Text Language field rather than the Speech and Movie Language field in the Options > Language menu.
    • Training Mode maps are now properly categorized in the Match History page as Versus AI games rather than 1v1.
    • Stage 1 Training Mode Help Menu now properly states that Reapers can be trained from the Barracks.
    • Fixed multiple issues which caused Reduced Violence mode to display red blood.
    • Fixed an issue which caused text glow to display improperly.
    • Fixed a number of outdated loading screen tips.
    • Lighting now behaves consistently for the Razer Marauder keyboard, Spectre mouse, and Banshee headset.
    • Fixed a rare crash that could occur with particles made using the StarCraft II Art Tools Beta.
  • Heart of the Swarm Campaign
    • The following achievements no longer restart their tracking progress when playing across multiple missions: Smoking Corpses, Leaping Death, Get a Grip, Unchained, Shifted Priorities, Where the Wild Things Are, So Many Banelings!, Worker Rush, and Surprise!, FFA Gladiator, and Free-for-All Crusher.
    • The Monster Smash achievement progress bar is no longer set to zero when loading a save or checkpoint.
    • Fixed a graphical issue that could occur during the control room cutscene for the “Back in the Saddle” mission.
    • Fixed a graphical issue that could occur when alt-tabbing out of StarCraft II from the Travel screen.
    • Fixed a number of animation issues for Kerrigan and Raynor “Lab Rat” mission debriefing scene.
    • Fixed a number of streaming failures that could occur when traveling to Skygeirr Station before the “Infested” mission.
    • Fixed a number of icon image display issues on the Kerrigan upgrades screen.
    • The correct campaign progress is now displayed on the Heart of the Swarm campaign select screen after beating the campaign and logging in from a different machine.
  • Battle.net
    • Fixed and clarified multiple unfriendly strings, error messages, and text input bugs that could occur when performing various operations on Battle.net.
    • Fixed many display and navigation issues that could occur when performing various operations on Battle.net.
    • The “Watch with Others” and “Recover Game” features are now properly disabled for Offline Mode.
    • Fixed an issue which occasionally caused players to enter a locked state if they were dropped from a match and selected “Watch Replay as Party”.
    • Fixed an issue in which the Save Replay button appeared active but was non-functional after navigating back to the Score Screen from the Map Info page.
    • Fixed a number of sound issues that could occur when repeatedly interacting with a replay timeline.
    • Clan entries are now properly removed from the Groups list when a player is removed from a clan while in-game.
    • The Create, Edit, and Delete buttons now display properly when navigating directly to a clan’s News tab.
    • It is now possible to invite non-friends from the “Players Near You” list to a Group or Clan.
    • Spam clicking the Leave Clan button no longer opens multiple confirmation windows.
    • Fixed a display issue that could occur when banning and unbanning a player from a Group.
    • A scrollbar is now created in the Edit Info window for a Group or Clan populated with enough text that scrolling is required.
    • Maximized Group windows are now properly unmaximized upon double-clicking on the window header.
    • The Groups list is now sorted alphabetically rather than by online member count.
    • Fixed a rare crash that could occur when the maximum number of player slots were filled for certain Arcade games.
    • Fixed an issue in which review text for Arcade games could become distorted.
    • The review screen for Arcade games now properly displays character portraits rather than the default SC2 logo.
    • Closing the Game Info screen for Arcade games can no longer cause closed chat windows to reopen.
    • Fixed an issue in which the dropdown menu on the Profile > Ladder > Friends page always defaulted to 4v4 Arranged.
    • Bonus pools no longer display negative values if the system clock is set to a time in the past.
    • Chat window sizes are now preserved when closed and reopened.
    • Fixed a display issue that could occur for players who are ranked in 15 or more teams.
    • Fixed an issue in which creating an offline custom game occasionally caused players to  enter a locked state.
    • Fixed an issue that could cause dropdown menus to become disabled on the Custom Games, Browse, and Open Games tabs.
    • Fixed an issue in which 3vAI placement matches could occasionally become stuck at 2 matches remaining.
    • Active Live Event banners no longer cause the Kerrigan or Planets backgrounds to pop in and out when transitioning to and from the Home Page.
    • Fixed an issue in which the Rewards screen could occasionally show incorrect information for the selected tab.
    • The Social bar can no longer overlap UI buttons during the Credits.
    • Players can no longer become stuck in an infinite loop when launching and quitting out of the Tutorial.
    • Rank frames now display around non-friend character portraits.
    • Frame rate performance has been improved when mousing over or scrolling through a populated Match History.
  • Gameplay and Races
    • General
      • Fixed a display issue in which Worker Status UI could cover town hall status bars in very high resolutions.
      • Fixed a rare crash that could occur when attacking an AI base.
    • Terran
      • It is no longer possible for SCVs to be left inside of a vespene geyser after canceling an under-construction Refinery.
      • The Collector’s Edition Thor wireframe is now displays properly.
    • Protoss
      • The Void Ray’s Prismatic Alignment ability now plays a sound effect when activated.
      • The Mothership’s Time Warp ability now plays a dissipation sound effect.
    • Zerg
      • Fixed an issue that caused uprooted Spine Crawlers to occasionally appear rooted.
      • Creep Tumors being created from an existing Creep Tumor can no longer be attacked before they are visible.
      • Zerg eggs no longer play extraneous sound effects when units hatch.
  • Graphics
    • Impact effects can no longer change location when units are turned quickly.
    • The Oracle’s Pulsar Beam can no longer extend behind the Oracle when attacking large targets.
    • Fixed a graphics crash that could occur in a variety of map loading scenarios.
    • Fixed a rare graphics crash that could occur when playing certain Arcade games.
  • Editor
    • General
      • Fixed many localization issues across all languages.
      • Publishing a 1-player map with the “Hide Battle.net Lobby” option enabled no longer prevents users from playing that map in the Arcade.
    • Terrain Module
      • Fixed a rare crash that could occur when using the Undo/Redo operations while modifying water cells.
    • Data Module
      • Simultaneously modifying the cost of multiple units no longer causes a crash.
      • Switching between Categories (such as Units or Combat) in a Behaviors (Buff type) Modification table now occurs more quickly.
  • Mac
    • General
      • Macs using Nvidia GTX 680MX graphics cards now default to max resolution and Ultra graphic settings rather than low resolution and Medium graphic settings.
      • Anti-aliasing now works correctly.
    • Editor
      • Changing Language and Text settings in the Mac editor no longer causes a crash.

 

My First Week in Neverwinter Online.

cleric1a I came to Neverwinter with no preconceptions, or indeed any idea, as to what the game would be like. All I knew about the forgotten realms came from reading a handful of books more than a decade ago. So what drew me into this game?

Initially it was definitely the fact that it is free to play. Entirely free to play. You do not have to spend a cent of your hard earned money to play this game. In games like SWTOR, players have to shell out Cartel Coins to run Flashpoints and the like, or they can pay a subscription. So far in Neverwinter I am level 29 and I have run multiple dungeons, skirmishes and foundry missions all for the low, low price of $0.

Buying Zen will certainly help you in this game – it will make profession levelling much, much easier and convenient and there are debates on the official forums and within the community about the effect it will have on end game PvP as the game ages. Neverwinter offers us the advantage of being able to buy Zen with in-game currency (astral diamonds), while at this stage the pricing is inflated it will (hopefully) begin to even out and settle into a manageable conversion rate as the game progresses. Though I have not seen specific proof of this I believe Zen is also hard capped on how much can be charged for it in regards to in-game currency.

So if F2P is what drew me into the game, what is it that is keeping me here? I can sum it up in one word: Foundry. The Foundry is an amazing resource, by which players can create their own content. This ranges from simple kill ‘X things’ quests to elaborately designed multi-stage group questing.

When I first started playing I was enjoying the game, though I didn’t feel that it would hold me for very long. The main quest line is rather linear and I couldn’t see where the replay value was and then I found it in the Foundry. The first quest I did was I am Slayer and I was hooked. I still primarily play the main quests but when I get a little tired of them I switch to the foundry for an added level of enjoyment.

If like me you have ever thought about looking in to what it takes to design a game, you will love the Foundry. It enables players to create intricate and rewarding content and publish it themselves. I have spent a little bit of time learning its systems and I have to say it is not overly complicated. It may take the novice (such as myself) time to come to terms with the initial learning curve but once you have the foundations it is really quite simple to use.

There are plenty of gameplay reviews of the game so I won’t go into that here. I will conclude with a recommendation for everyone to have a look at the game, I am confident that like me you will be pleasantly surprised.

 

World of Tanks Patch 8.5: The Leopard 1 Is Here!

wot-blitzkrieg-banner

Blitzkrieg is a regular column devoted to the very popular MMO World of Tanks. If you’ve got a topic you’d like our resident expert Matthew “Scope” Pearce to cover, drop him a line!

G’day readers. First of all I would like to apologise for my absence over these last couple of months – real life decided someone needed a good kick up the butt and the boot just happened to land on my ass. Moving house, another family member being placed in hospital in critical condition as well as full-time study has put a lot of pressure on myself and my family these last few months.

Real life aside, Patch 8.5 of World of Tanks saw the launch of the new German medium line which includes the tier 8 Indien-Pz the tier 9 Leopard PT A and finishing off with the amazing tier 10 Leopard 1.

World of Tanks Leopard 1

The Leopard 1 Isn’t she a beauty?

So why have I been looking forward to driving the Leopard 1 for so long? well the short answer would be that the tank was the first Modern era Main Battle Tank. The long answer will be an in-depth look at the strengths and weaknesses of the Leopard 1 during this article.

So how good is the Leopard 1?

I’m going to go through the three main areas of tank warfare and grade each area out of 10.

Firepower: 9/10

The Leopard 1 comes equipped with the German modified British L7A3 105mm, which has 268mm of penetration with 0.3 accuracy at 100m an aim time of 1.9 seconds 390 damage a hit with a rate of fire of 6.67 rounds a minute. This gives the Leopard 1 2601.3 DPM stock. Equip vents and a rammer and you are looking at 2992.3 DPM. Max out the Brothers in Arms perk on all of the crew and you have a total of 3121.56 DPM

The Leopard 1 is amazingly accurate at shooting on the move and even better at sniping at very long range and the aim time allows you to switch targets on the fly without having to worry too much about waiting for the gun to focus before firing.

Maneuverability: 9/10

The Leopard 1 is currently unmatched in maneuverability in World of Tanks – it has a top speed of 65kmph which it can reach in just seconds and it also has amazing off-road performance and terrain negotiation, meaning it retains the most of its speed when going bush. It has a traverse speed of 54 degrees a second while its turret has a traverse of 36 degrees a second. The high amount of traverse and speed allows you to flank and make sharp turns very quickly while maintaining your speed and allowing you to avoid incoming fire or move from one side of the map to the other if support is needed.

Survivability: 6/10

shot_003The Leopard 1 has no armour to speak of, to the point that a tier 3 tank could penetrate it. You only have 70mm of frontal hull armour, 35mm of side hull armour and 25mm of rear hull armour – the turret is just as bad with only 52mm of frontal turret armour and 60mm of side and rear turret armour.

With the low armour in mind, the one redeeming quality of survivability for the Leopard 1 is the fact that it can use its speed to survive.

 

Overall score and thoughts

The Leopard 1 gets a very solid score of 24/30

Train sixth sense as soon as possible so that  if you are spotted you can react and stay artillery safe as much as possible, because artillery can one-hit you if you are not careful.

If you are looking for a fast and mobile sniper platform with an amazing rate of fire with great accuracy, aim time, view range and DPM you are going to enjoy playing the Leopard 1.

Neverwinter: First Impressions

Neverwinter reviewA big welcome to guest writer Wayne Hewitt, who has penned a detailed review of the soon to be launched Neverwinter MMO.

As a pen-and-paper Dungeons and Dragons player from the early 80s, I have always had a soft spot for games set in the Wizards of the Coast gaming worlds. Neverwinter Nights and Baldur’s Gate, both set in the Forgotten Realms are arguably the best in a long list of games.

When a closed beta for the up and coming Neverwinter MMO was announced, my Visa card jumped into my hand and begged to be unleashed – who am I to knock back a request like that. So with a small fanfare I was granted access to the closed beta. Yes, you had to pay to be in a beta for a game that is going to be completely free to play. Go figure.

As with all betas there has been an amazing amount of changes from one version to the next, and now that the final closed beta has finished up we can look forward to the open beta (which is really a soft launch as there will be no character resets from this point on and anyone can play). The game will launch as a free to play title and if the closed beta is anything to go by, only boosts and cosmetic items will be sold in the cash shop. With all cash shops there is always the fear of Pay to Win, but I think Cryptic have been very conscious of this and have gone with the cash for convenience model.

Neverwinter lore is set in the Dungeons and Dragons Forgotten Realms universe. The game has been created by Cryptic Studios in partnership with Wizards of the Coast. It is an action based fantasy MMORPG that uses the Dungeon and Dragon 4th Edition rules as the inspiration behind its game play.

Creating a character in Neverwinter starts as it does with virtually every MMO. First select a race and gender. Neverwinter has 7 races to choose from based on the 4E DnD core rules. There is a choice between Human, Elf, Half Elf, Halfling, Dwarf, Half Orc and Tiefling.  For me selecting a race was pretty easy – how could I pass up the chance to play a Tiefling (A humanoid with a tail and Horns).

Next, select a class. As the game stands in beta there are only 5 classes to play. Cryptic has stated that there are more on the way, but for the moment this is probably the most limiting feature I experienced. The classes stick to the Holy Trinity with a Guardian Fighter (tank), Devout Cleric (heals), Control Wizard (controller – CC specialist / ranged DPS), Great Weapon Fighter (striker – 2 handed melee AOE DPS) and a Trickster Rogue (striker – single target melee DPS).

The character customisation was enjoyable. There are an adequate amount of default looks to choose from with sliders to adjust features in the advanced menu. All up I was able to make a character I was happy to play and it had a feeling of individuality that I would expect from an MMO.

Neverwinter is of course steeped in lore. A lot of this lore originates from the DnD pen and paper game material, previous computer games as well as a swag of novels (more than 70).  The game takes place 100 years after the spell plague and volcanic eruption that destroyed the city of Neverwinter. There is a real feel of depth to the game from the moment you arrive shipwrecked off the coast of Neverwinter city.

The first thing that stood out was a golden sparkly trail leading from my character to the first quest giver. Just like the yellow brick road this wonderful trail would lead me from quest area to quest NPC. No more looking at my map staring blindly in an attempt to figure out where I need to go next. This feature can be turned off for the more adventurous player. The tutorial missions introducing you to the story, explain the movement and combat system taking you from the beginning area through to the city gates, leading up to a boss fight on the bridge entering Neverwinter city.

nwn2Combat in Neverwinter is a lot of fun and the action based combat is a breath of fresh air in the MMO world. As your character advances in level you gain more and more skills. These skills are made up of ‘At-Will’ powers that are automatically mapped to the left and right mouse button, these are your main abilities and as the name suggests you can use these at will. You also receive ‘Encounter’ powers. These are more powerful abilities that have a short cool down. You can have 3 active ‘Encounter’ Powers mapped to your ability bar. Lastly you have daily powers. Daily powers require action points which are earned through using your other abilities. When you have enough action points you are able to use your daily power. You may map two daily powers to your action bar.

After finishing the tutorial you enter into the Protectors Enclave. Here you find all of your merchants, banks, auction houses and other game necessities. I love the views from the Protectors Enclave – they give the game a real sense of the size and grandeur. On first entering the Protectors enclave I did have one of those wow moments when I saw my first player mounted on a rearing horse. This would have to have been one of the best rearing animations for a horse mount I have seen. And yes, when I got my first mount at level 20 I spent a good five minutes making it rear in front of other lower level characters.

At level 16 you get a companion. The game has a huge variety of companions that you can acquire from the standard races and classes to animals, magic weapons ghosts and demons. Companions earn experience while they are questing with you and need to be sent off to training to level up.

Questing really displays Neverwinter‘s Dungeons and Dragons side, with many of the quests taking place inside instanced dungeons that can be ran either solo or in a party. As you would expect, from a Dungeons and Dragons based game, dungeons come fully equipped with all the things we have come to love. There are monsters to fight, traps to disarm or avoid, puzzles to puzzle over, chests full of treasure, and of course Bosses to kill.

Where the questing in Neverwinter really sets itself apart is in the style of quests. The typical ‘go grind X of these’ type quests are rare, with most quests feeling like part of a story, often with multiple parts in different scenarios. The other interesting concept for quests is the foundry. The foundry allows players to created content that is available to all players. By the end of beta hundreds of player created quests and quest chains existed, some as good if not better than the main quest lines. Ultimately the foundry provides an interesting way for anyone to be able to tell their story.

Although I only had the opportunity to run a couple of the 5-man dungeons over the beta week ends, I would have to say the first dungeon, ‘the clockwork tower’ was my favourite. As a healer I did at first find the idea of relying heavily on splash healing from my attacks rather than direct heals an odd concept. But as I got into healing with the devout cleric, I came to enjoy the liberty of being able to both heal and attack at the same time. And don’t worry healers, there are some direct heals as well as AoE heals.

Questing and dungeons are not the only things to do. There is PvP – both 5 v 5 Arena style matches and 20 v 20 matches. Unfortunately I am not much of a PvP’er so I spent a lot of time dead. Another game mechanic that I found to be enjoyable was the skirmishes. These are quick PvE encounters where a group would protect an area from wave after wave of enemies. I must admit I spent a large portion of my game time playing in these encounters. Even with the mad combat caused by large waves of enemies, the combat system never leaves you feeling overwhelmed.

Overall, for a completely free to play game Neverwinter really hit the mark with its questing. Although a lot of the quests are instanced, this is not at all detrimental to the game play. If anything it enhances the feeling of a Dungeons and Dragons game. I did spend a lot of time running around with friends and we were able to do all the instances together and having an absolute blast doing it. There are plenty of large open areas for questing as well, with great opportunities to run into other players.

I must admit I would have liked to see a larger variety of classes at launch, but I am sure they will not be far away. The classes presently available are a lot of fun to play.

See you all at launch on the 30th April!

Wayne Hewitt (http://www.terinu.com)

Starcraft 2 Achievements: Zergling Rush

Zergling Rush Achievement

Zergling Rush Achievement in the bag

I thought I’d share some solutions to some of the SC2 achievements I’ve finally nailed down. This week I’ll start with:

Zergling Rush Achievement

You have 255 seconds (4 minutes and 15 seconds) to morph in 20 Zerglings. It’s pretty easy once you get the order right and I can confirm I got the achievement by:

1. Have the five drones you start with immediately start collecting minerals (which is the default now anyway)

2. Once you hit 200 minerals build a Spawn Pool -leave the remaining 5 drones to collect minerals

3. Once you have 100 minerals morph an Overlord

4. Once your Spawn Pool has been created, morph Zerglings as soon as each larvae spawns

5. Done – with a few seconds to spare.

Hope that helps and post in comments alternate strategies if you like!

 

Starcraft 2 Patch 2.05 Notes

swtor-patch-incoming-banner

Blizzard have had a busy 24 hours rolling out patches, including what is likely to be the last one for SC2 prior to Heart of the Swarm. This is more of a bug fix patch than anything else, but here are the Patch 2.05 notes in full:

GENERAL

  • Global Play is now live.
    • Players can now easily switch between regions via the new “Regions” button on the StarCraft II login screen.
    • Your game language and user interface will not change when you change regions.
    • Your character profiles and ladder data are unique to each region.
    • When your region’s game servers are undergoing maintenance, you may be able to play in a different region that is not down for maintenance.
    • For more information, please visit our Global Play FAQ on our support site.

BUG FIXES

  • General
    • StarCraft II will no longer download upcoming patch data while the game is running.
    • Fixed an issue where players would be unable to change their language if patch data was not 100% downloaded via the game launcher.
    • Fixed several issues causing the game to turn unresponsive when pausing and leaving the game in various states.
    • Fixed an issue that would cause the game to run low on video memory.
    • Fixed a desync that could occur between Mac and PC if an AI was scouted with a cloaked unit.
    • Fixed a crash that could occur in rare situations when force-quitting StarCraft II.
    • Fixed a number of crashes that could occur when viewing and rewinding replays.
    • Fixed an issue where players could not hear voice chat when using the FMod provider.
    • The language selection dropdown should no longer display an incorrect language.
    • Fixed a crash that could occur when playing some Arcade games when using a custom hotkey profile.
    • Fixed a countdown display issue when utilizing the Take Command feature in the Korean and Taiwanese game clients.
  • Battle.net
    • It is now possible to properly un-bookmark Arcade maps from outside of the Bookmark page.
    • Fixed a number of issues related to the “only officers will be shown” warning text reserved for Groups with large rosters.
    • Clans and Groups rosters are no longer sorted in reverse order.
    • Clans and Groups are now defined properly in chat when typing in a game.
    • Fixed a crash that could occur when creating a Clan or Group using certain combinations of special characters.
    • Fixed a display issue that could occur when scrolling down a large Group roster list.
    • It is now possible to use special characters in Clan and Group names.
    • It is now possible to use spaces in the names of groups in the Russian game client.
    • Fixed an issue for players in Korean or Taiwanese game clients who were unable to add Battle Tag friends in certain situations.
  • Editor
    • Fixed a crash that could occur when double-clicking an .SC2Map file while the editor was downloading required dependencies.

SC2: Vengeance Trailer

The time until the launch of Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm draws ever closer, and with it comes the trailer build up. This one’s called Vengeance and it’s another pretty piece:

Are you an SC2 player? If you are let us know what you’re most looking forward to with the expansion.