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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Frogster screw up - TERA sneak peek delayed

Frogster Interactive, the EU publisher of TERA, had scheduled a sneak peek this weekend. Two nine-hour sessions with thousands of players. Unfortunately nobody were able to access the servers when they opened yesterday, "due to the heavy load". A few hours later Frogster announced via their facebook page that they were busy working on their hardware as well as database upgrades. So, a day and a few "we don't know when we'll go online"-posts later, Frogster posted this:
The sneak peek event planned for this weekend unfortunately has had to be cancelled. As we currently cannot foresee when we will be able to guarantee a smooth running of the event, there is no new date as of yet. We're working closely with the TERA developers at Bluehole to fix the remaining issues.
The cancellation was not due to load problems caused by the large number of potential players. Player numbers would have given us a look into possible issues within the scope of a stress test. Due to unforeseen reasons, problems arose already during the entry into the game world.
As soon as we have new information regarding a rescheduled event planning and once all technical issues have been resolved we will inform you on our website, in the forum and via the usual social media channels.
We apologize for the cancellation of the event and assure you that we are doing our utmost to provide all players access to TERA as soon as possible. We thank all TERA fans for their patience and understanding and hope to have positive news for you very soon.
This is certain to create some negative opinions about the company. Shit happens, of course. But Frogster had control over the number of players this time. They knew the maximum player count in advance and still screwed up. TERA isn't even the first MMO they're hosting. So one would think Frogster were fully prepared for this event server-wise.

Confusingly enough, the above quoted post contradicts their previous statement that a heavy server load caused the problem. Bad attempt at saving their reputation? Or maybe they're just telling the truth, and can't elaborate "unforeseen reasons" due to it being a complex issue. Let's hope they straighten things up come closed beta.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

TERA's release date announced

Finally the EU release of TERA has recieved a release date. The day to mark in your calendars is the 3rd of May this year. The game will launch with both a boxed verion and as digital download. As of now there are no details on what other goodies, apart from the game itself, will accompany the different versions or what bonus you get for pre.ordering. When will we know? "In the near future".


Monday, January 16, 2012

TERA Beta Testing

Bluehole Studio is now allowing gamers curious about TERA to sign up for an upcoming beta. Interested? Just head on over to the official homepage!

I myself have had the pleasure of trying out TERA on several occasions. You can read what I thought about the game back in April, 2011 in this post.

Bloodline Champions Review

Bloodline Champions is a competitive game with unique gameplay. It has mixed several basic elements from different genres of games and combined them into a whole new type of game. The basic pillars that define the game are as follow:
  • 3D Top-Down perspective
  • WASD movement and Aim 'n Shoot
  • Hero-based (Heroes of Newerth/League of Legends/Defence of the Ancients)
  • No unfair advantages (No Items/Levels)
  • Marketplace and UI
I will cover each of these points in order below.

3D Top-Down perspective
One of the first games I ever played was Grand Theft Auto, which to me is a classic top-down shooter game. This camera angle is used mainly in RTS games for getting a good overview of the battle, and in such a hectic game as BLC it really is needed. If you do not have a good overview of the battle, it easily becomes hard to keep track of everything going on around you. As many of you know, in World of Warcraft arena 5v5 battles it quickly becomes hard to keep track of who is under CC lock down, who is DPS focused and so on. This problem is solved in BLC by the complete overview of the battle provided by the top-down camera angle.

WASD movement and Aim 'n Shoot
Your success in BLC is essentially only based upon skill, teamwork and team composition - depending on game mode. And since the balancing is pretty damned good you can play any character and still win if you play well enough. WASD movement - instead of "Point and Click" with pathfinding - is also a benefit since this gives you full control over your character; she will not end up suddenly running the wrong way round a pillar and you cannot accidentally give her orders to run to a point on the mini map. This simply removes the possibility for unnecessary mistakes, and gives you that exact control that you want while playing any game that relies on your accuracy. This also applies to the aiming. If you misjudge where an opponent is moving or don't aim well, you will miss. There are no abilities that auto target other players, you only have: melee, projectile or area based abilities. If you miss a lot of your abilities, you will loose damage, healing or crowd control which isn't a good idea given that most of your abilities have a cooldown which can leave you vulnerable if you have wasted all your outs.

Hero-based and No unfair advantages
BLC is a game in which you pick a hero that has a specific role. There are tanks, healers, range dps and melee dps. There are of course heroes that can fill several roles but they still have a basic role that they are made to fulfil. A good example is the Inhibitor; he is classified as a tank, but played correctly he can be a damage dealer or a tank. Luckily most heroes are fairly balanced when matched up in groups. Sadly 1v1 fighting will never be totally balanced, but that I think is too much to ask of a game that is really made for 3v3 fighting. Luckily there are no carries, no Blinkdagger crazy chars and no mid-game floorwipers. There are no items to boost your char, you cannot level up for more health and better skills. You are either dead or you are alive and the only way to survive is to play better than your opponents. This is a great boost to the games balance, but it also removes a certain type of strategy play. As in DotA, HoN and LoL you cannot let a character stand alone and farm up gold, items and levels on a lane as they may become immensely overpowered. Therefore there is a constant need to kill targets that are becoming highly valued. The lack of an experience and/or item system is favourable as it does not let certain characters get exponentially better the longer the game is played.

Marketplace and UI
If you have played LoL, you will be very familiar with Bloodline Champions currency system. The main difference is that in BLC it takes a long time to earn Blood Coins(in-game currency) and this brings down the review score. I played 121 custom games and 10 rated games, with a win ratio of 67%, and I'm still only at 12500 coins, while to unlock a character you must have 17000 coins. It will take a long time to get all of them if you do not wish to pay for the game. And with only a 4 char/week rotation it will be hard to figure out which characters you want. Although they did do a great job with the UI while in battle, where it is minimal but has all that you need, the menus outside of battle are very clumsy, hard to navigate and not very thought through.

The game runs runs flawlessly on any midrange PC which is a big benefit if you can't afford one. Unless you want to play with a free game account; then pricing is quite hefty and is a big drawback.

Free edition accounts can be registered at BloodlineChampions.com
Champion edition (basic) costs 29.99€ + 10€ for 4 more characters
Titan edition (full edition) costs 89.99€ and includes all characters including unreleased characters.

Final Score: 82%
+Runs well on most systems
-Hard learning curve
-Bad menus

Sunday, April 10, 2011

TERA = awesome

As I wrote in this post, a Community Play Event for TERA was held last weekend. I'm disappointed to say that I didn't have as much time to play it as I'd wanted.  But no matter. I promised to write down my thoughts about the game, so here it is.

Nice, convenient, and not too much clutter. Check out the screenshot. (If you think the text seems small or unreadable, that might be because the screenshot has been scaled down from 1080p) Points for being highly customizable. You can move around and resize every object of the interface.

As you can see, there's two mini maps. The one in the middle marks out camps, quests and other points of interest in your current area. A nice touch is that you can change it's transparency. In the upper right corner you have a kind of battle radar that displays primarily two things; a light cone that show your visual field, and circles that mark out the different ranges of your attacks and skills. Simple but oh so useful. Especially since this game is so action oriented, making it really important to know the distance between you and your enemy.

Combat and camera
Dynamic combat system - check. You really do have to move around during battle. If you just stand still like you'd do in a "regular" MMORPG, expect taking some heavy damage. Most enemies vary their attacks. So you have to constantly pay attention and look out for signs of bigger attacks. Many have the ability to knock you down, punishing you greatly for an idle fighting style. So basically, if you have the skills, you can avoid taking damage at all. This is a fresh breeze indeed for MMORPGs. It certainly makes it more interesting and kills off some of the repetitiveness you get in your standard game of this genre.

I didn't do any PvP at all so I can't say anything about it really. And En Masse excluded a lot of the PvP content, having only duels available. Not sure if I would have wanted to do PvP anyway because of the small bit of lag I had. But that was to be expected, since the servers are in the USA and I was playing from Sweden. From what I saw though, 1 on 1 battles seems to be fairly balanced between the classes.

Camera control is a bit more advanced than just zooming closer or further away from your character. Zooming has 3 stages. The first one has your character in the middle of the screen, with the crosshair above his or her head. As you zoom in close enough the camera shifts its position slightly to the right of the character. I think it is meant to look something like a Gears of War style over the shoulder view. This would have been really neat for rangers, if it didn't do it so poorly. The character still feels in the way. This could easily be fixed if the camera just positioned itself even further to the right. As you zoom in even further the camera turns its focus right on the character. This stage is purely for checking out your awesome character in detail. It ranges from a view of the full body to a close-up of the face.

Oooh pretty Unreal Engine 3. And as you can see on the character design this game is Korean. Meaning women with perfect curves and jiggle physics. Yeah...

The environments of TERA are stunningly detailed. Impressive for such a huge world. It has that handcrafted feel instead of that "generated world" feel that plagues some games with a large world like this. Unfortunately I didn't play enough to leave Newb Island. I would have loved to share some screenies with you of the world outside, just to show how huge and free it is.

I don't know if you notice in the screenshots below, but the game currently lacks an option for anti-alias. What's up with that? Great way to ruin such beautiful graphics...

So is TERA something I want to play when it's released? Yes. I love MMORPGs and I've played my fair share of 'em. But eventually, as with most games, you become bored and hunger for something new. I feel that TERA has the potential to become a really great game and satisfy that hunger a bit. The action-based combat system will definitely bring in a lot of players. That alone might not be enough to make them stay. But TERA seems to have some more tricks up its sleeves, like the political system. Innovative or not, the general feel of the game is currently enough to keep my interest. I'm also hoping for a roleplay server. A game like this is great for it.