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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.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The 3DS; to buy or not to buy.

Since Nintendo announced the 3DS I've been thinking a lot about whether or not I should purchase one. Right now I own a DS along with nine games that I've wasted a lot of hours on. I love it and consider it my most trustworthy boredom killer while travelling. I even upgraded to the DS Lite because it was shiny (and for the brighter screen, of course). But am I ready to upgrade once again? Does the 3DS bring enough changes to persuade me to bring one home? Right now the answer is 'no'. I'll try to explain why.

Let's begin with the 3D. This seems to be the biggest selling point for the system. Great move, seeing how crazy the world is about 3D nowadays. But I couldn't care less for it myself. I've been to the movies and seen a couple of films in 3D, like Despicable Me. While a bit cool, I only found the effect useful in one scene, where a huge round object appeared. It helped me get a better feel for how large it was. But just one moment in an entire film isn't enough. No, in my opinion today's 3D is lacking appeal. The technology just isn't there yet. I feel the same about it on the 3DS. 'Cool', I though, as I tried it for the first time. But that was just my inner tech geek having fun for a minute. It adds nothing to the game really. I only played Super Street Fighter 4 for 10 minutes, so I can't say if the increased depth perception is useful in any other game. But I highly doubt it.

Augmented Reality. Now that part looks fun. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out this video demoing the feature.) But it will probably not entertain one for long. You'll try it out a few times thinking 'awesome!' and then stop, never to return to it again. Well, maybe you'll boot it up occasionally to show someone new to the 3DS what it can do. Hopefully developers will find some interesting ways to utilize it in their games.

Thumb stick. This is the best thing about the 3DS. A must for 3D games. If only the system had two, I would have bought it at release. (Go NGP!)

Ocarina of Time for the 3DS

But what really makes a console is its games. And right now, there aren't any released games that I find interesting or play-worthy. So maybe, when something I do find interesting is released, I'll buy it. The remake of Ocarina of Time is something I definitely want. But I'm not the type who buys a console for just one game.

What do you guys think? Do you own a 3DS and if so, what are your thoughts about it so far?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Heroes of Newerth, DotA cloning 101

To me HoN is just an updated version of DotA. Although I am sure many disagree with me; HoN is better than DotA. DotA is a great mod, made by countless hours in the WC3 mapeditor and it really has given results. Character design, balancing and items are all given a lot of thought and all input is used for positive change. But there are some things that one cannot change about DotA: User interface and Graphics engine, both of which are extremely lacking for an Action-RPG-RTS game such as this.
New Tremble, Tundra and Slith skins

The whole setup of interface (mostly keybindings/customisation options) is a lot better in HoN compared to DotA, and this shows very clearly if you look at these two games. You can quickly assess the situation with a quick look to your left to check your friends' hp and mana. And lets not get started on the modability, where HoN is totally open to mods which I suppose the WC3 engine is not.

Graphics is another sticking point for me. DotA is ugly, yes I said it... BLASPHEMY! HANG HIM! But lets be honest, HoN is not beautiful, but it looks good enough when zoomed out and runs smoothly on any semi-tops computer rig. WC3 runs even smoother, but it looks like it came from a second-hand internet shop for 3d-models.

I loved DotA and now I love HoN.
Give us your thoughs upon DotA and it's clones!

Oh mother...

Bioware have been keeping their games interesting and cuddly by bringing romance subplots to games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age. I'm currently enjoying Dragon Age 2 as a female mage, trying my best to get on the good side of Merrill, the female elven mage.

Mother and Daughter
So as I get to the second act of the game my character buys a huge residence for her family. My mother is so proud of my success and is finally able to relax. Her daughter's got it all under control. But as I talk to her, she suddenly says that she better start looking for a suitable husband for me... *awkward silence*
She's completely oblivious of her daughters sexual orientation. I feel like I'll need to sit down and have a talk with her...

Awkward conversations aside, what are your thought about the game in general? And if you haven't played it, any particular reason? I'll be writing a short piece about my thought of the game once I finish it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Testing TERA

Around December 2009 I was lucky enough be chosen for the English focus group test of TERA. I had a blast playing it with some people from the official forums. Only a tiny portion of the game was being tested, but it had me entertained the whole weekend. And that's a bit rare in MMORPGs nowadays. So what's special about TERA? Here's a quick explanation from the official site:

TERA is the first true Action MMORPG, providing all of the depth of an MMO with the intensity and gratification of an action game. Players fully control their characters using the game's dynamic battle system.
Player actions can change the balance of power in a world threatened by dark powers as seven allied races try to work together to protect their lands from marauding monsters, underworld dwellers, and evil scheming gods.

I love you too, random female human.
If it's the first I don't know, there are a few others floating around (like Vindictus). But the part about "true action" is all but a lie. Click your mouse button, your sword swings. If you miss, you miss. No target select resulting in you being able to hit someone even if your weapon is off visually. It's all about hitboxes and a dynamic combat system. Being a pretty Unreal Engine 3 game doesn't hurt either.

Anyway!  This weekend En Masse Entertainment (the game's North American publishing company) are holding a Community Play Event. Everyone from the focus group tests are invited, as well as some people from the community. This time around we will be testing an English translated version of the client, more or less identical to the Korean release client. And unlike the FGTs, players won't be under an NDA. This means that we will be free to spread any screenshots and recorded footage of the game we get during the event.

I'm kind of excited to see what has changed since 2009. I spent a lot of time during the FGT just exploring the world. It was quite refreshing having such a huge and open world that still had a lot of detail to it. But back then I only got to see a few areas and most of the world was empty and unfinished. Hopefully I'll have time to both explore and try out PvE with all the classes.

So look forward to some screenies and hopefully a couple of videos, as well as my impressions of the game this weekend/early next week. And if you want to read others impressions and thoughts you should check out the Comunity Play Event forum over at the official site. Only participants can post, but the board is open for anyone to read.