TSW – Finished Solomon Island

TSW had a double AP week, so that prompted me to put aside other MMOs and focus. I jumped in head first and also bought a 3-day timed AP injector as well as a 3-day timed SP injector. While under the effect of these buffs, I’ll get a bonus skill point for every skill point earned, and a bonus ability point for every ability point earned (thus 2 extra, one from the AP injector and one from the bonus effect). Time to make some progress!

As much as I like this game, I’ve been somewhat sluggish moving through the content. Lolly-gagging, unfocused wandering, whatever you call it. Basically at about 100 hours in the game – according to Steam, and this game (unlike many other MMOs I play) I’ve only ever played via Steam – I was only in Blue Mountains, the 3rd explorable area of the initial zone. Essentially, not even finished with the storyline that shipped with the game ~4 years ago (!!).

So I entered Blue Ridge Mine (tier 13 of the Dawning of an Endless Night storyline mission) determined to finish it off.

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I crept through dark mines, fought shadows, and eventually fought Freddy Beaumont, who I vaguely remember from an earlier cutscene (Tier 6, but it has been a long time since I completed that stage).

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We fought and before I could gloat too much, I was pulled away into another mysterious place.

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A disembodied voice offered me power and wealth, if I would only choose to accept their gift. Which I did. ūüėČ And in classic TSW fashion, the contents of that mysterious box are as-of-yet unrevealed.

After a short interlude back at Dragon headquarters in Seoul, I unlocked the Scorched Desert. Finally!

But, before I hurl myself into Egypt, I’d kinda like to finish off a few things in Blue Mountain. I’ve probably only done 80%¬†of the quests there and would like to finish up before moving on. While I plan to get further into TSW, at the same time I don’t want to hurdle the content along the way. I figure what I really need to do is just work TSW into my gaming rotation.

My only real criticism of TSW is many quests seem to me to be unnecessarily drawn out… many¬†quests go a little too far overboard in throwing mobs at you or having you do that same thing too many times.. Somewhere between too few and too many is the right balance, and TSW often leans to the “too many” side.

The Dreamcatcher¬†quest¬†has you step into the spirit world and see what’s bothering the ancestors. Turns out it is a Hound of Corruption, and on the way to fighting the monster, you’ll fight shadow creatures, ones the Hound turns on you, and ones just sitting off the path. Again, you don’t just fight one, five, or 10, but somewhere around 20+ along the way, in groups or 1 or 2.

An non-combat example is Treasure Hunt, where you are tasked with completing a search started by a deceased Orochi agent. Using a metal detector, complete with a sonar ping when you get close to a dig spot, the quest has you dig up 5 items twice. The quest is fun and there is combat as the beach is filled with wandering undead, but 10 items? I don’t think anything would be lost if the quest slimmed down and required 2 or 3 each time – you’d have the quest mechanics but not as repetitively.

The biggest example I have for this is The Haunting, where partway through you fight Billy Lee manifestations. Not one, not 5, not even 10, but around 20 or more? I don’t remember, I lost count. Seriously, it is that many, in groups. They come one, two, three at a time until you advance to kill the actual Billy Lee:¬†at least 10 defending Frida Diaz, another 6 or 7 more while escorting Harriet Braun, and around¬†4 more on the way back to the attic. That should be more like 5-8 for all phases of the quest.

Basically, I think the quest flow would be vastly improved with some streamlining; in particular, thinning out the number of mobs or tasks per tier.

This is one thing FF14 really gets right – every time I’m sent out to kill X number of mobs for a quest, it is usually less than 5 or 6. I can only think of one quest (so far) that requested more than that – 8 or 10 – and that was a Thamaturge class quest. That’s much better balance to me: enough so it isn’t trivial but not so many it become tedious.

FF – Crafting (again)

For a bit of variety I decided to check out crafting again. But a production craft, not a gathering craft like I tried previously. I was interested in alchemy or culinarian, so I figured – why not try both?

Thus I enrolled as a culinarian and an alchemist and found myself enjoying both of these more than the botanist. Part of it is these crafts makes things more obviously useful to me -potions, food. Another is I don’t have to hunt for materials, so far I can generally buy what I need from¬†at the respective guild supply officers.

It’s a sign I’m enjoying a game when I get into crafting. I’ve tried it in almost every MMO I’ve played. Some systems are simple, basically gather stuff and craft (e.g. Guild Wars, where you really aren’t¬†the crafter – you collect materials and an NPC uses them up to hand back the crafted item; so it is really just trading materials for items), some are a bit more complex (e.g. WoW or LoTRO, but both of these games have a “craft into the garbage” vibe, where nearly everything made that isn’t max level is generally useless, and progressing to max level in crafting means creating a heap of vendor trash.)

EVE has complicated crafting, almost repetitive-stress-injury inducing crafting. You had to hunt down available production lines, import materials to that particular station, obtain blueprints, etc. It was almost too much, given I didn’t want to produce items full time. Even planetary interaction lost its luster after a while; too much time spent fiddling with extractors and then hauling goods to market.

TSW crafting is interesting in that the crafting levels work differently¬†– you don’t have to keep crafting the same thing to incrementally get better (e.g. LoTRO) until you unlock the next level. In TSW, you break down items to get components, then with the appropriate quality level tool kit and items, arrange those into patterns to make any weapon or jewelry. What is awesome¬†is¬†how some missions use crafting as necessary steps to solve puzzles (see Gravity, a fantastic quest). I’m pretty sure if you have the appropriate quality toolkit and materials, you can craft any item of any quality level at any time.

I haven’t really crafted much in ESO so I can’t comment.

And in Black Desert Online, let’s just say I just figured out how to tan hides and make beef jerky – that is I know nearly nothing. ūüėČ I read about all this complex¬†crafting others are doing so the game is apparently deep in that respect.

Anyway, in FF14 I reached level 10 in both culinarian and alchemist, which lets me grab tradecraft levequests – and these reward a lot of experience! By doing a few of those I was able to hit level 12 in both crafts.

Crafting here involves gathering the ingredients and then using some trade-only skills. Every time you perform a step, the durability sinks and if it goes to zero the overall production fails. As you level, you get a few skills to bump quality chance, restore durability, give a better chance of error free steps, etc. There is something to do to create the product (besides clicking “craft it” and waiting out whatever delay the devs put in) which I suppose could be spun as a positive or negative – if you want to mass produce a bunch of items, this is bad (although if you are creating something you’ve made before there is an option offered to “mass synthesize”); but for attempting to make a few items as high quality as possible, this is good.

I do realize at level 12-ish I haven’t learned skills which might add even more to the crafting experience.

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I probably won’t invest giant chunks of time into crafting, but I do like what I’ve seen so far and it’s another thing to do when I want a break from leveling a combat class.

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I find that it is handy to level 2 crafting classes together, because that lets me grab more of the crafting gear from class quests! I wanted the gloves and robe from the level 10 quest, so I took one from the alchemy class quest, and the other from the culinarian class quest.

The subtle appearance above shows my alchemy outfit, which is identical to my cooking outfit except for the class item and offhand. As a cook, the offhand is a knife but as an alchemist, it is an alembic right now.

BDO – Velia

I arrived at the city of Velia and reached level 11… so, poking along and mostly enjoying it.

After exploring the Olvia and Western Guard Camp areas, I followed the quest line and visited the Ancient Stone Chamber the explorers you meet very early in the game speak of.

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There wasn’t any fighting but I suppose you do pass near fields of animals on the way there.

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The game provides a strange cutscene which advances the quirky story a bit… and then you can pick up a quest to learn more about the tree spirits nearby.

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I put that off and decided to play the conversation mini-game with a few NPCs in the Western Guard area, and just mill around mostly.

I found some dwarf workers that gave me a quest to bring beef jerky to a solider – the catch is I had to kill some wolves and process the meat into jerky. I suppose this was an intro to crafting.

The game provides most of the info you need. It tells you to kill wolves, press R to gather the meat, and press L to open crafting, select “dry” (from the various options available), right click from¬†inventory to select the wolf meat, and then start processing. What it neglects to mention is that you need to have a butcher knife equipped in your tool slot. I happened to have a tanning knife equipped, so instead of getting meat, I was getting fur. It took me a few wolves to realize what was happening and then I switched out, after buying a butcher knife. Granted, this isn’t a huge oversight, but I think it might trip some players up especially if they hadn’t talked to as many merchants as possible to see the other crafting tools for sale. I bet if you didn’t have any tool equipped you probably don’t even get the “R to gather…” option.

Speaking of crafting, I wasn’t able to tan my hides because I kept getting errors. One of them was something like “processing step failed” – this one seems harmless, you can just sit there and keep crafting and perhaps the next one will work. Maybe this is merely the working of an invisible success percentage other games are more up front about displaying to the player.

The other hitch was getting an error something like “insufficient materials available”. I kept getting this error while trying to dry a single fur. Apparently, and the UI doesn’t really tell you this, but you need an even number of furs to tan – I guess the crafting takes 2 furs and gives 1 hide. When I tried my pile of wolf furs, it worked because I had more than 2 of them.¬†Perhaps that ratio changes depending on what you are trying to make, but if you see this error the solution may simply be: farm more items and try again.

Anyway, I’m slowly figuring stuff out! And that is important to me – not to puzzle everything out, I’m happy to watch some videos or read a nice guide – no, what’s important is figuring out the crafting options and non-combat activities, because that is my long term end-game here, if I keep playing. I’m having fun and all, but I don’t want to do PvP especially non-consensual, nor do I want to be a full-time crafter.

If I understand how PvP works correctly, at level 45+ of the US release (50 in the Korean release, so the cutoff seems to vary), you are eligible for “non consensual” PvP. As in, other players can flag you and fight you, whereas when you are lower than that level, you can’t be flagged (but you can voluntarily flag). Since I’m really not interested in open world PvP, the only kind I enjoy is zoned battleground style, I’m going to stop leveling in the low 40s so by then I’ll need to have some other stuff to do figured out.

Every time I get frustrated about the lack of information the game provides, I think of EVE Online and how tough it must have been for the early adopters. I first tried EVE in 2008, and by that time the game had been out 5+ years, EVE University was up and running and had an excellent wiki with great information. I see Black Desert Online in that “early adopter” phase right now (ok, the game has been out for 2 years in Korea so I’m assuming there is some great info out there, in Korean!) where the current batch of players is in a game with a large¬†amount of content available, but it isn’t always easy/straightforward to figure out how to do it. Several in-game “get help” buttons open up pages on the¬† Black Desert Tome, so over time I think more and more information will be available. Plus there are even in-game videos to view.

In the meantime, now that I’m in Velia, I withdrew all my contribution points from the Olvia area. Next time I’ll speak to all the NPCs and try to figure out node investment, workers, and all that other stuff.

Getting to Velia is important for two reasons: it is the first big city you come across, and at level 11 it really isn’t that far away, time-wise. Velia has various quests that introduce you to crafting systems: fishing, cooking, etc. The second is that two quests along the way (the Ancient Ruins exploration and another that sends you to Velia to speak to Eileen ) expand your inventory by a few slots, which is huge this early in the game.

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One activity I tried was fishing – you can pick up a fishing quest at the docks and witness dozens of players standing on the pier, fishing. I moved over to one side so I could actually see my character, and started it up.

I tried 5 or 6 times, and only got one success, and it wasn’t even the kind of fish I need to finish the quest. It takes some precise spacebar-hitting and apparently I don’t have the reflexes required.

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My future as a fisherman isn’t looking to bright. I’d just like to clear out the quest from my log so I’ll probably try again when I’ve got a few spare minutes.

So for now, I’ll¬†stay in the area for a while and explore around Velia. It is fun to explore since the game is really scenic in every direction!

FF – Into the Beast’s Maw

More progress in FF14 – the next dungeon in the main scenario questline: Thousand Maws of Toto-Rak. Once again, to get an idea of what I would be dealing with, I watched MTQCapture’s great summary:

 

I’ve had a switcheroo on my character – since Arcanist is higher level than Pugilist, I decided to go in as a spell caster instead of melee. I do like fighting at range since it lets me see more of the fight.

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The Arcanist is a DOT class so I summoned my DPS pet instead of my tank pet, and dotted everything up in rotation. The run went very smoothly and we were fighting the end-boss Graffias in no time at all.

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Later I did a few grand company levequests to upgrade my uniform; I thought this shot of 3 sweet tooth goobue’s standing next to each other looked funny. I’ve been switching off level Pugilist by doing a few levequests as well – I don’t want to let too much of a level gap in.

I’m looking forward to reaching level 30 on my Arcanist and opening up the Scholar job, and then reaching 30 on the Pugilist and opening up Monk.

BDO – Minor Progress

A quick note about FF14 – I saw that goobue plushies are¬†available for pre-order. I’m not a doll or collector person, but I will make an exception for this!

OK, now onto recent Black Desert playtime:

Black Desert seems to be having some problems with its servers – I triedto play but I get booted out within 5 minutes. I tried a half dozen times and am going to give up tonight and do something else.

I did manage to play a bit over the weekend and reached level 9 on my tamer and also hit level 9 on my valkyrie. Combat is a bit different even though similar key presses are involved – eventually I’ll need to study the skills for whatever class I like more and figure out skill synergies and so on.

I reached level 9 following the quest line given to me by the black spirit helper. It starts off showing you how to move, then introduces you to a few townspeople, the trainer, and then gives a series of combat challenges: foxes, wolves, imps, steel imps, etc.

During that, you learn some attacks and the game suggests you try a combo attack.

Let me pause and describe how combat works. It’s pretty fun, action based, and revolves around key presses and mouse button presses. You can set some attacks to hotkeys, but there are dozens more skills than hotkeys so to use “everything” I think you’ll need to use your memory. Plus, the chart specifically says “can use with quickslot” so that leads me to believe some skills cannot be placed in a quickslot.

So far I have the following skills:

  • leaf slash – LMB
  • soaring kick – E
  • tree climb – ‚ÜĎF
  • flurry of kicks – hold F
  • flash –¬†‚Üď LMB
  • heilang: whiplash – RMB
  • heilang: lightning of earth –¬† ‚ÜĎ RMB
  • heilang: upward claw –¬†‚Üď RMB

BDO is a “WASD” movement kind of game, so those arrows actually mean W for¬†‚ÜĎ, S for¬†‚Üď, etc. But that’s how it appears in the skill chart (K hotkey).

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Soon the black spirit told me to try a combo: ‚ÜĎ leaf flash / whiplash; so I did those two back to back, finishing it but unsure of what extra¬†goodies come along with doing a combo (I’m expecting extra damage or something along those lines). In the skill chart, the lower right corner shows videos of combos for each class, but those look like 4 step ones.

Anyway, combat is fast and fun, there is some kind of cooldown because after defeating the enemy, I’ll get a floating “XYZ skill is ready again”. But given the number of skills still to unlock, I can see high level combat being chains of attacks with ideally useful side effects – maybe like the Warden in LoTRO builds combos out of three basic skills but without the slightly sluggish building phase.

Combat in this game is a lot different feeling that FF14 with its long cooldowns; this is more fast and fluid especially with the ability to unleash 3+ different skills by changing the order you press the keys involved. I’m not high enough level to know if this carries forward and I hope it does, rather that boil down to random button mashing – I’m hoping higher level skills and combos have secondary effects that are important to use tactically.¬†Actually I have a feeling this will be true; one current skill (tree climb) is a jump forward, attack, jump back – so that’s useful for closing a gap and then getting a bit of¬†distance.

It got dark in game, and I read that mobs get tougher at night (very cool game mechanism) so I spent some time wandering the starter town of Olvia, talking to each merchant/NPC, to start unlocking conversations and build “knowledge”, which I’m unsure what that specifically does.

I haven’t touched any of the other game systems I read about players swooning over, such as crafting, trading, housing, fishing, cooking, horse taming, etc – can a game have all this stuff? (Answer: yes, look at EVE Online for a working example of dozens of in-game activities). I know there is a ton more to do and as much as I hate to just sit and read about a game rather than play it, I might watch a few helper videos to get an idea of what else is available. Noarey makes a series of “two minute guides” that look ideal.

FF – Pacing

I’ve come to really appreciate the pacing in FF14, especially the availability of levequests.

It’s tough to get a solid block of playtime during the week, which means I can’t do much in most MMOs. GW2 tries to address this with daily login rewards, plus an ever-changing set of daily/weekly activities – gather X in region Y, kill Z, etc. At least I remember those, I haven’t looked into too much lately. There is always exploring a bit and so on, but most MMOs are setup to require a chunk of invested time per session, which isn’t all the convenient for me anymore.

Take EVE Online, a game with tons to do. EVE is many things, but fast is not one of them. I can’t even fit a ship in 30 minutes unless I already everything at the station the ship is docked in. Sometimes I would spend an hour, roundtrip, just traveling from the wormhole I was farming¬†planetary interaction in, to the nearest market. That’s just¬†jumping through gates, accelerating, decelerating, dealing with market stuff (buy/sell), and often, the initial scan-for-exit. EVE isn’t setup for the person who can sometimes get 30 mins to 1 hour during the week, and then random amounts of time on the weekend.

So in FF14, the levequest system is awesome. They are auto-generated quests you can pick up that don’t take too much time to do, reward xp/gil (money), and in the case of grand company leves, company seals. Those seals in turns can be used for promotions (not sure what that gets you besides access to better stuff I assume), weapons, gear, crafting materials, etc.

The levequests take place in the area of the quest giver, don’t start until you get to the general area and initiate them, and after completion, optionally let you warp back to turn in and collect the rewards!

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After earning enough seals for my chocobo mount, I looked over what else is available and worked on cranking out enough seals for the basic armor set: gloves, boots, cap, overcoat. I think it looks pretty nice! OK, I might hide that hat but it doesn’t look terrible – the overall appearance is pretty good to me. I look like a number of the guards hanging around Limsa Lominsa, haha.

I also picked up a nice grimoire, and am thinking about also getting a hora (weapon for my pugilist class).

Since I can’t play tons during the week, I always have rest experience so that’s a nice boost as well.

Soon I’ll get back to the storyline quest. Aurora is now level 23 in arcanist as well as pugilist – if I can get to 25 in each, do the next set of class quests, I’ll feel well prepared to continue the story!

Favorite Mobs

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I’ve fought plenty of the Sweet Tooth Goobbue’s for various leves, and I think they are my favorite mob. They just look cool, with the giant mouth containing rows of teeth. When they fight their arms get all rubbery and stretch out to pound the ground. One of their attacks is “moldy sneeze”!

A mini-sweet tooth goobbue would be awesome. Heck, so would a megalocrab, I like the name of that mob too. Even better, a megalocrab mount! ūüėČ

BDO – Curiosity

I almost had my MMO gaming down to a nice balance: taking a bit of a hiatus from LoTRO and GW2, backburnering Wildstar, and switching off between FF14 and TSW. I find that I tend to split 2 games 80-20 (playing time wise) rather than 50-50… nevertheless I was optimistic I could get to 60-40 and perhaps even do something crazy like work ESO back into the mix.

But then, I read all sorts of posts about Black Desert Online. Many are conveniently linked in a MassivelyOP post.

I was apprehensive at first, because I understood¬†Black Desert Online is a PvP endgame MMO. After researching this more, reading about the karma system and other various posts on reddit, I decided it is probably avoidable enough for me to deal with. For now I’m playing¬†under¬†two assumptions: PvP is voluntary if your character is lower than level 45/50 (reports differ from US/KR versions of the game);¬†a PvP main doesn’t auto-flag alts (a lower level crafting alt on an account isn’t forced into PvP due to a high level main char).

So I said what the heck and bought the game. After all, the only real way to find out if you like a game is to play it. With no sub fee, I’m willing to give it a shot.

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It took 3 hours to download, so by the time I was able to log in (to a world where every server was “overrun”) I didn’t have much time at all.

The character creation went smoothly, except for the naming portion. This game requires a unique family (last) name, and unique given (first) names. WTF?! It’s difficult to get a reasonable name in an MMO, much less essentially two unique names for the¬†first char.¬†I don’t see the point of requiring unique first AND last names – a unique last name should be all that is required, with no duplicate first names with the same last name.

I ended up creating a ranger and a valkyrie, and literally spent more time naming those two characters than I spent creating those two characters. It was kind of frustrating.

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I logged in real quick and all I did was advance to a quest giver, and then log off. That’s the screenshot above – I’m the yellow arrow, the pillar of light is the quest objective, the glowing line is the auto-route your character will take if you hit ‘T’.

A day later I read that¬†MassivelyOP plans a Black Desert Online guild on the Orwen server… great!¬†I think this game is one I’ll definitely want to join a guild in, as early as possible. Unfortunately¬†I didn’t create my characters on the Orwen server, so rather than go through the naming gyrations again, I deleted those characters in order to reuse the names on Orwen.

Except the deletion process takes 24 hours to complete (!).

I get it, ESO makes you wait a few hours, EVE Online does the same Рa restriction meant to prevent an exploit: create characters, strip them bare, delete and repeat, as a way of building up some initial resources. But a 1 day hold is long and annoying.

In summary,¬†I’ve spent an evening and got shockingly little done besides install the game and create two characters. Just those two tasks took more time than typical. Two chars which I have to delete to re-create on another server. After sitting out a long ass deletion hold.

It has not been the greatest start.