The Plan of Attack

Just over a week left before Guild Wars 2 early access so it’s time to start planning.

For the first time in my life I’m actually setting aside time for a game’s launch. I’ve spoken with my wife about her being on “baby duty” for most of early access Saturday. That’s not to say I’m going to play all day and ignore my family but I will get in more play time than just during naps and after bedtime. I also have a giftcard to Total Wine that I’ve been saving since my birthday so I’ll be picking up a growler or a couple of bombers of, hopefully local, craft beer. That’s it for out of game, what about in game?

I’m starting with alts of course. I’m thinking about having a morning, afternoon and evening session so it’ll be one character for each session. This works well with my larger alt schedule of three flights of alts. The first flight is comprised of the day-one alts I’ll be rotating through.

Norn Guardian
I first became interested in Guild Wars 2 around the time of the Guardian reveal. I prefer hybrids and my favorite flavor of hybrids are of the tank-y, melee/magic variety and Guardians are a perfect fit. Norn also immediately struck a chord with me. I’m usually drawn to large and/or monstrous races and I’m a sucker for the whole barbarian aesthetic. The more I learned about the race the more I liked it: shamanistic beer-lovers who turn into bears, sign me up.

Charr Engineer
How do you say “large and monstrous” in Guild Wars? Charr. The steampunk aesthetic and Imperial Roman undertones also makes the Charr a very interesting race. I took a liking to the Engineer during the first beta weekend event and decided that it was a profession that I’d be playing and since don’t think there’s a more fitting race-profession combination than an Iron Legion Charr Engineer, my race decision was made for me.

Asura Mesmer
The other profession that tickled my fancy during the BWEs was the Mesmer. The only question was “which race?”. I shy away from playing humans in fantasy MMOs so I was leaning toward either Asura or Sylvari. When it was announced that these two races where going to be playable for BWE3 I decided that my sole purpose for that weekend would be deciding which race to pick. Asura are just too awesome to pass over.

I’ll go Charr Warrior and Sylavri Necromancer for the second flight, about a week or two later, and eventually I’ll purchase some more character slots to pickup the last three classes.

So that’s the plan. Only 9 days left to go and at this point I’m not sure if I’m more excited about the actual launch of GW2 or the idea of having a gaming day to celebrate it.

An Alt Army of One

Now that I’m playing The Secret World I’m left with the question of “what is an altoholic to do in such a single-character centric game?” In my first weekend I stumbled upon the answer: decks.

There are many different reasons that people like to play alts such as varied leveling experiences, different RP outlets and other thematic reasons. For me it’s usually the play-styles. Most of the time when I pick up a new alt it’s because I want to play a different class and experience a different play-style. This is also the reason I typically gravitate toward hybrid-type characters. My first max-level character in any MMO was a Druid in WoW and a Rift Cleric is, to-date, the only non-WoW max level character I’ve played. Hybrids offer some of what I’m looking for in alts: varied play-styles.

So what does hybrid classes and alts have to do with a class-less game that encourages character monogamy? Well, I’m dealing with the “main” issue by playing my Templar as an uberhybrid to effectively create and alt army of one. This way I get all the story, lore and exploration *cough* and costume *cough* unlocks of playing one character while getting the game play experience of multiple alts.

I do have a fear of spreading myself too thin, at which point I will create another character, so I’m starting by focusing on three or four weapons while cherry-picking other low-hanging passives and building them into different decks. Currently I’m running with Blade, Blood and Hammer while alternating between a Penetration/Affliction Blade/Blood deck and a Survivability, Impair-focused Hammer/Blade deck. I’m now looking for a more ranged “alt” so I’m considering at adding a ranged weapon into the mix by picking up either a Shotgun or Pistols. Before I go off on too much of a tangent…

This system seems to be working okay for now and holds quite a bit of potential as I unlock more options. Everytime I login I run off to complete a mission or two and then, instead of switching characters, I switch decks and do another chain or two. I’m very satisfied with the experience and pleased to have found an venue for horizontal advancement.

Thanks Funcom

Wow! I just jumped on The Secret World website to browse the forums durning lunch and noticed the new Item Shop link. Clicked it, signed in and discovered that I got another 1200 bonus points from upgrading to the full game since trying it out over the celebration weekend. Awesome!

Breaking the Funk

Things have been quiet around here, eerily quiet. Has a fog come in and taken me away? Have I been fighting a zombie uprising? Not quite, I’ve just been in a bit of a MMO funk for the past month.

In early July I entered waiting-on-Guild-Wars mode. It might be the hype, I might have been spoiled by the the GW2 beta weekend events (specifically GW2’s action bar/combat system), or it might be something completely different; but I found myself not only bored with SWTOR but also having lost the desire to return to Rift (or any other past MMO).

So what have I been playing? A little bit of World of Tanks: I finished the AMX 40 grind and unlocked the AMX 12t  before the release of  patch 7.5, while reconnecting with my German tier V mediums (I’ve missed you Panzer III/IV). I’ve also played some World of Warplanes beta, but can’t share anything other than it’s really fun but I’m a horrible pilot. Steam summer sale: I finally played Portal 2 and also picked up a copy of Quantum Conundrum.

But then this past weekend I broke the MMO funk. As you may have guessed from the first paragraph, I’ve joined The Secret World. I’ve been interested in TSW for quite some time but was leery for two main reasons: I’m not much of a horror fan and I kept getting flash-backs of the buggy, but fun, mess that was Age of Conan at launch. At first I wanted to take a wait-and-see approach but as more and more positive word-of-mouth crossed my Google Reader I started looked into the game more and became enticed at the thought of playing it. The class-less skill advancement, the deck system, the modern setting, investigative missions. They all called to me.

By the end of July I had decided that I was going to pick up TSW, at some point. I was all ready to buy it but one question held me back. Is it wise to buy a new subscription game only one month before the release of, an already paid-for, Guild Wars 2? I said “no, I’ll wait until that new-game-smell wears off of GW2 before jumping into TSW,” and was satisfied with my decision. That was until Funcom went ahead and threw a free-trial/celebration weekend into the mix.

I installed the client, logged in, created Chester “Cheka” Kasorski, and entered London. My first thought was that the game runs significantly better than I had expected from my experience in one of the beta weekends and AoC. I picked my starting weapon and, taking some “I wish I knew this when I started” advice from the forums, I then grabbed one of each weapon from the Crucible and headed off the Kingsmouth.

TSW has really impressed me. All of the little things that enticed me are there but what really makes the difference is the quest log/system. I enjoy the investigative missions; I didn’t think I’d like googling clues to solve puzzels but it feels very organic and natural. I’ve found that the one story, one dungeon, one active and three side mission quest log encourages exploration and makes you focus more on the mission at hand, which greatly adds to immersion. The mission system is truly new and different, it gives the game a very unique feel and I can’t but to think that this is what MMO vets must have felt when WoW was fresh and new with the great innovation of quest-based gameplay.

I was sold. While it may be a little stupid to pick up a new MMO only weeks before I’ll be starting another one, TSW is offering me a unique enough experience that I feel comfortable being able to get the most out of both TSW and GW2 at the same time. So, with my MMO funk broken, Sunday night I bought a game key and subscribed to The Secret World.

So the question left now is “what is an altoholic to do in such a single-character centric game?” Well, that’s a post for another day.

Good Job Catching Yourself

“Good job catching yourself” is a phrase I found myself repeating every time my 2-year-old daughter stumbled when we started our family walks. She’s quite a bit more stable these days.

The same phrase came to mind when I heard the news of SWTOR’s impending F2P transition. It should come as no surprise to anyone who keeps up with MMO news since for the past couple of months Bioware and EA have been hinting at a pending F2P transition, and by hinting I mean directly stating that they were looking into it. Between the layoffs and declining subs, SWTOR has been stumbling but under this new model it looks like they’re doing what they should have been doing from the start: selling a box to the casuals while getting the hardcore to subscribe.

So good job catching yourself SWTOR, I really hope that this works out well for you.

Will I return for F2P? Assuming that free players aren’t too restricted, I’ll probably jump back in here and there to finish leveling some characters and see the story lines unfold while fulfilling my duty as a free player: cannon foder for Warzones and a warm body for LFG flashpoints.

Perfect Timing

So August 28 for Guild Wars 2, awesome! I was really expecting a much later date: December, maybe November. Not that I think the game needs that much more time, I was just excepting ArenaNet to take as much time as they could to continue tweaking and polishing it.

But I had to just laugh at myself for the launch date and the last BWE dates. I have two “work things” going on this summer. The first is a company gathering during the July BWE and the second is a business trip the week of launch. Luckily I’ll have early access and a couple of days before I leave for a week but I still found it funny.

On another side note, that release date made up my mind on whether to go for Rift or WoW. I don’t have time for both before GW2’s launch so it’ll just be Rift.

Rumors of my Demise

Yeah, so there aren’t any rumors but it has been a while since I’ve posted. The past month has been rough but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Without getting into the gory details: the problem I’ve been having at work has been fixed and I’m happy with the solution, a family incident that occurred recently will never be resolved but at least there’s some closure now, and my home improvement project is now on track to be completed next week. Soon enough I’ll be back to a normal gaming schedule.

So what has the schedule looked like lately?

Goodbye Yellow Lightsaber

I’ve officially cancelled my SWTOR account. I don’t hate the game or anything, I just haven’t been having much as much fun and wasn’t logging in. I’ve got a couple of weeks left in  my sub so I’ll give the LFG tool a try before leaving but it’s time for a break. I hope to give it another try sometime in the near future, and would still highly recommend it to anyone considering giving it a try.

Bioware sent me a survey asking why I was leaving and what it would take to get me back. Two of my reasons are thing I’m sure they’ll never “fix”: playable Yodas and Wookies, damn you Lucas! Other than that I stated my disappointment in the Legacy system: I was really hoping for an alternative advancement for altoholics rather than a credit-sink and incentive for bored 50s to re-roll. I also requested that they add my favorite GW2 feature: downranking. At the end of the day I kept burning out on characters because I was out-leveling content faster than I could complete it so any kind of downranking or mentoring system would be much appreciated.

Roll Out (How did I never before notice that WoT stole the Autobot’s catchphrase?)

I’ve adjusted my focus in World of Tanks yet again. Mediums, with a side of TDs. I’ve got my M4, PzIII/IV, PzIV, and AMX40 all in rotation along with a T82, M8A1 and Hetzer. As soon as I elite the T82 I’m going to pick up a BT-2 and start on the Soviet medium line.

I dread the AMX40 every time I login. It has replaced the M3 Lee as my most hated tank. Even fully upgraded it’s slow and can barely damage anything, it doesn’t help that most of the time I’m matched up against high tier tanks as the tier IV light. The big difference between the two tanks for me is that somehow I actually did pretty well in the Lee. It seemed that I would get at least one metal in every match, even getting a Billotte’s Metal on my last match with it (my only epic metal to date). So even though I wasn’t having much fun with the Lee there was some consolation in the fact that I was at least doing well, not so much with the AMX40. I’ll just keep plugging along until I can trade up to that AMX 12t and the reasons why I’m playing the French line.

Which Road?

I’ve been interested in getting back into Rift and have even been playing Rift Lite lately. I’m still enjoying my little forays into Rift but keep finding that I’m really not enjoying the Cleric. My old main was a Cleric and I’d like to get him ready for Storm Legion but every time I try playing a Cleric I find myself logging out with little-to-no desire to log back into Rift at all. If I go back to Rift I’ll probably be playing a warrior and trying to get him to 50 before the expansion comes out but I’m a little weary about my feelings toward the Cleric right now. The experience has me thinking about another game I’d like to get back into and get ready for the up coming expansion.

I like to start by saying: I like Pandas; I didn’t see the Mists of Pandera announcement and think “oh, Kung Fu Panda in WoW,” I saw Kung Fu Panda and thought “oh a movie about Pandaren, I wish they were playable in WoW.”

The primary reason I stopped playing WoW and have had little desire to return was that the design direction of the Druid class had hit the tipping point, for me, from the “Jack of All Trades, Master of None” type of hybrid to the “can specialize in any role” hybrid. I even missed having spell power and intellect on my feral gear. While they’re not turning the ship around, MoP is seeming to re-introduce some of that overlap between specs that I used to enjoy so much. It’s worth a look and that has me wanting to give the game another try, level my Druid to 85 (and see how things stand with my Shaman, Warlock and DK), mess around a little at 85 (since I never did that) and get prepped for MoP.

I do want to pick both games back up sometime this year but the question is “which one now?”. I want to return to Rift as a more long-term gaming plan, something I will play until GW2 releases (and maybe continue after since there’s no sub for GW2). I just want get back into WoW to prep for the next expansion with no intention of staying long-term.

So does it make more sense to take care of my business in WoW and then move onto Rift to stay there comfortably, or should I just jump back into Rift, with all the cool stuff in 1.9, and then get my WoW house in order when the pre-expansion world events start happening?

Pay to Lose

Today I caught a Massively article from yesterday about leveling via crafting in Guild Wars 2. One of the devs, Linsey Murdock, had posted an explanation of how leveling by crafting works in GW2, basically leveling a trade skill from 1-400 grants 10 levels of XP so leveling all 8 trade skills grants 80 levels. While that’s interesting in and of itself what really intrigued me was the forum thread that prompted that explanation.

One player had started a thread in the crafting forums titled “Cooking = Buy to Win.” The poster stated that he or she had sold gems for gold and then used that gold to power level trade skills and gained 15 levels in the process. In his or her eyes this was a pay t0 win scenario: money was paid to accelerate leveling and apparently leveling is winning.

I may be in a minority here but to me, that’s paying to lose. It’s one thing if you enjoy doing nothing but crafting, have at it and take advantage of the ability to skip things you don’t want to do (grind gold and/or mats) to do the things you want to do (craft). But paying money to grind, just to make a little number go up isn’t winning anything. It’s doing something you don’t want to do just so that you can skip the bulk of the game, and paying for the privilege; in effect it’s paying to not play. If that isn’t the raw end of a deal, I don’t know what is.

Big Bada Boom

Tanks, turrets and flame throwers; that seems to have been the theme last week. As anticipated, I didn’t get much gaming in but that’s not to say I didn’t get any in. Even though my feed reader keeps filling up faster than I can go through it I did get some game time in. Though no WvW for the BWE.

Didn’t I have an empty garage slot?

I started my garage cleaning in World of Tanks, and immediately started filling it back up. USA TDs, here I come. I’ve been seeing a lot M8A1s zipping around and think that might be fun thing to try so I bought a T82 and started at it. But that’s not my main focus right now. The hit-and-run flanker play-style of the French lights and mediums appeals to me. That’s how I play my PzIII and M4 so the prospect of a tank actually designed for that play style is enticing. Last week I moved from the AMX38 to the AMX40 so it’s just one more tier to go. I have heard that there are many people out there who assume that French lights are the same as the other nations and berate players who use their French lights as force multipliers instead of scouts. Hell, I even got called a noob for the crapy radio (that was fully upgraded) and slow speed of my AMX40.

Rift Wars: Knights of Telara.

Yeah, I didn’t get a single chance to login to either SWTOR or Rift. This week I’d like to finish up Nar Shaddaa on my Assassin and, since I’ve been itching to play them, dust off my 37 Shield Spec Vanguard and 22 Sawbones Scoundrel. I’m still interested in going back to Rift for a little while in July so I’d like to roll up a Warrior and see where that takes me.

Go to plan B.

BWE 2 Score Board

A typical WvW score board during BWE 2.

First the bad news, none of my plans for Guild Wars 2’s second BWE came to fruition. Now the good news, I got to play more than anticipated and had a lot of fun with something I wasn’t expecting.

As I posted on Saturday, there wasn’t much WvW to be had on my shard: Tarnished Coast. We dominated WvW by what I can only assume was shear force of numbers, since the one time I saw action there it was just a zerg, and every time I opened the WvW pannel it was all us.

So Instead of jumping into WvW I ended up just running around and PvE-ing most of the time. During the first weekend I created one each of the four professions that I was most interested: Guardian, Mesmer, Engineer and Warrior. My intention from the start was to play a Guardian and I enjoyed it as much as I thought I would. I also greatly enjoyed the Mesmer and decided that would be one of my day-1 professions. The Warrior and Engineer didn’t impress me as much. I enjoyed both but walked away thinking that neither would be a big focus for me.

My Engineer running through Divinity's Reach

My Engineer running through Divinity’s Reach

But there was something about the Engineer that called me back. In other games I’ve always been turned off by engineer type classes but then enjoy them if I try so I thought I’d give Engineer another shot. I’m glad I did. Once I started to get the hang of switching between kits while fighting and choosing the right kit to complement my weapon and situation everything started to fall into place. I found myself ignoring the hearts and just fighting stuff for the fun of it. It was one of the few times I’ve ever grinded just for the fun of combat.

Things were a little different in sPvP. On Sunday afternoon I got around to playing some structured PvP and could not get into the grove with the Engineer. I fumbled around and got destroyed, contributing virtually nothing to the group. The Warrior was just the opposite, everything just clicked once I entered the Mists. I had a blast and did well with the Guardian too, even if I did get a little cocky when I tried to take on half the enemy team by myself. So a tentative plan for the next BWE event is to figure out the Engineer in PvP and give the Warrior a shot in PvE.

Being a beta still one would expect a certain level of roughness but the game was running incredibly smooth. The only hitch I encountered was connection issues on Sunday evening. Based on general chat it seemed that I wasn’t the only one. Over the course of a half hour or so the problems not only persisted but expanded, culminating in a crash to desktop. After the crash I started the client back up and everything was smooth again. Hopefully they’ll get that issued ironed out.

Looking back it seems that I played a lot more than I thought I did last week. But maybe it wasn’t the quantity of gaming, just the quality.

So Much For the Zerg

I logged onto the Guild Wars 2 BWE briefly last night and jumped into WvW. My shard, Green team, was dominating solely by force of numbers. The zerg moved from tower to tower, destroying everything in its path. After the fact I thought, “hey that would have made some nice screen shots.” So once I got an opportunity to log on tonight I immediately jumped in WvW to join what I assumed would be another zerg to take some screen shots, instead I found this…

Where are the blue and red teams?