WildStar: State of the Beta

While I’m glad to see the WildStar dev team seriously addressing major gameplay issues (that have been leaked by closed beta testers for months now), it’s a bit concerning that for all their “next gen action combat”, they ignored some of the fundamental group, XP earning, questing, and overall gameplay issues. It also sounds like the betas are on hold for further fixes and will resume “sometime later this year”. Given they’re expecting to launch in 2013, me thinks they need to investigate whether that can even stay on track with how many other issues are still affecting gameplay. Most players want a release pushed back if the game’s not ready for primetime.

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WILDSTAR WEDNESDAY: STATE OF THE BETA

During each phase of beta, I try to make a big post to the testers about the feedback we’ve received and the things we were doing to address it. Based off the feedback we’ve seen in CBT2 and CBT3, we’ve decided to make some big changes to address the hottest topics we’ve been seeing, both from our beta testers as well as from outside sources (Yes, that means you, guy who comments on all the leaks). We wanted to take some time to communicate those changes to our wider community as well, to bring you into our plans a little earlier than usual to give an idea of how we react to feedback. There are two main areas we are working on updating:

There’s no “player choice” involved in character progression

We’ve gone through two iterations of the Milestone system so far, but we never really spoke about it publicly because it wasn’t in a place we were happy with. The first version allowed you to slot passive abilities alongside your active abilities, but were tied to hitting certain stat thresholds to unlock them. The second version removed the “slotting” and simply unlocked more milestones as your stats increased. Long story short, the system was purely gear-based, and players didn’t like that their character had no progression on its own.

The Combat team has been working on a design of a new player progression system which allows you to customize your character’s development as you level through the game. It’s a little early to reveal any details about the new system, but the design of it has been completed and is moving on to the implementation stages.

Mob tagging and shared quest credit are not emblematic of a modern MMO.

Our solution to this hotly debated topic is by far the biggest change we’ve got planned, and it will fundamentally change the entire quest system in our game. After taking a step back and evaluating our current questing system, we’ve come up with a redesign that we believe addresses the concerns our players have expressed about the current quest/tagging system while remaining true to the vision of WildStar.

So, what is this change? Well, it comprises two major shifts in design:

  1. We are going to remove numerical quest objectives from the game (i.e. “Kill X Vinds” and “Collect X Sentient Veggies”) and instead introduce a “quest completion bar.” For kill quests, this bar will increment the player’s quest progress in relation to the amount of XP earned. For other quests, this bar will simply increment in set amounts for each completed interaction. This helps improve the system in the following ways:
    • By basing quest completion off XP gains, players can now choose to go after larger targets or smaller targets and earn quest progress appropriate for those choices. While killing harder things is slower, you will earn more quest progress for it. Those who prefer to fight easy things will kill faster, but progress more slowly for it.
    • This approach also helps groups stay on target for leveling progression. Even though groups will destroy creatures much faster, they will need to kill more in order for each player to earn the credit needed to complete the quest objective.
  2. By making this change, we have the opportunity to remove mob tagging, with regards to XP, from the game. XP gained per mob death will generally be based on the amount of damage a player contributes to that kill. This will still encourage players to group (where they would get full XP credit for the kill rather than a percentage), but also encourages players to help out a passerby in the open world in order to receive a comparable XP reward.
  3. One of the concerns that came up repeatedly from the beta community was how we would account for pure-support characters with this new system? The simple answer is that we expect players will group with other players, as they do in the current system. The longer answer is that by speccing your character to play a pure-support role, to the exclusion of all damage-dealing abilities, you are building a role meant to work in conjunction with other players. Grouping will remain the primary method for this. That being said, we are investigating ways to make grouping much easier to do. We want grouping to be useful enough to our players that they not avoid it out of convenience, so anything we introduce to simplify the act of grouping will build on that intention.
  4. Another concern that’s come up is the question of “in-group” rewards. That is, once your support character joins a group, he’ll still get less XP than his DPS brethren. This is not the case now, and it will not be the case in the future. XP distribution in a group is already based on the amount of damage the group does to a target, and is shared among all members of the group. Your class and spec do not matter.
  5. Our current plan is to have some minimum threshold of damage that needs to be done before credit can be earned. This is an example of a design challenge for us, because we have to find the right damage threshold, where we catch most of the people who are using cherry-tapping to take advantage of other players, while catching as few legitimate players as possible.

Wow, that was a lot to go through, and that’s only a few of the major things we’ve been tracking from our beta test. As you can see, we’re making some complex system changes to the game based on the huge amount of feedback we received during the first three phases of beta. Now the teams are going to be putting their heads down and work on implementing the changes we talked about above as well as lots of other changes in preparation for the next phase of beta, which will start later this year.

We want to extend a huge thanks to the beta testers from CBT1 through 3, as well as all the Stress Testers who’ve helped push our servers to their limit so far. We’ll be starting back up later this year, and will make sure we both invite our old testers back to see the changes as well as bring new testers into the fold to get us some great new first impressions. We’ll be back before you know it!

Elder Scrolls Online: Interview with Lead Gameplay Designer Nick Konkle (TenTonHammer.com)

This is a nice article that covers first person view, alliance wars, endgame theorycrafting, and next-gen consoles.

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ESO Interview with Nick Konkle

We recently sat down for a candid discussion about the unstoppable MMO juggernaut in the making, Elder Scrolls Online, with lead gameplay designer Nick Konkle. Topics of discussion included the implementation of first-person view, cross-platform gameplay considerations, and the ways character builds will be a constantly shifting component of Alliance Wars PvP.


First-Person View in ESO

For a lot of gamers, the seminal Elder Scrolls experience involves playing in first-person view. While plenty of MMOs give players the option to zoom the camera into first-person, few really factor in the visual aspects of seeing equipped weapons and the sizable impact it can have on feeling truly engaged in combat. In other words, it’s kind of like playing an FPS, only without seeing the assault rifle you have equipped so the bullets just magically appear from somewhere off-screen each time you pull the trigger.

Earlier this year we were given a sneak peak at how this aspect of ESO was shaping up, but at that point it wasn’t a playable option in the press demo builds. It certainly looked badass, but we were curious about how has that aspect of the game’s development been progressing, and if there were any unexpected hurdles in the implementation process.

Lead Gameplay Designer Nick Konlke explained, “It came together much faster and better than I was expecting. Sometimes when you go from prototype to playable, it’s pretty good but then once you get to mass production it can introduce 75 new issues. It didn’t go that way this time. Instead, it was suddenly two months later and it’s in and we’re done, so that was good.

A thing that did surprise me is that I’m not really a first-person gamer, though I do play Elder Scrolls interchangeably. For example, I played Skyrim in first, and Oblivion in third-person. So when first-person went in our game I was expecting it to be similar, like I could play it this way, but I probably won’t. But I do. It’s absolutely my preferred way to play now. It’s just super immersive and cool, and it’s the only way I play now. We’ve noticed with MMO purists, they start liking first-person with a ranged weapon like a bow or staff, and then after they get used to the basics of the perspective change they take the whole thing on that way.”

Alliance Wars and the Character Build Metagame

While I’m more inclined to stick to third-person in most MMOs, it’s rarely a matter of immersion for me so much as the heightened spatial and situational awareness. Even having gone through a fairly hardcore period playing first-person shooters, I want as much visual feedback as possible in competitive situations. This will no doubt hold doubly true when it comes to the size and scope of Alliance Wars PvP in ESO.

Speaking of Alliance Wars, we were really interested in learning more about how that slice of the game is progressing given it’s a major component of the long-tail gameplay and endgame for Elder Scrolls Online.

Nick explained, “All the testing is still internal, but we’re pretty excited to get that part of the game into the beta. We just had a big office-wide PvP test that was quite a bit of fun, and there are any number of anecdotes that I could share from that experience. But let’s just say it’s pretty big; there are some epic battles going on with 50 on 50 groups meeting on the open field.

The main thing that I’m really happy about as a result of this is that we’re getting a lot of builds tested. We’re in the middle of a lot of balancing and adjustments in development, and a lot of times even a small balance tweak will lead to whole shifts in the metagame around the office in terms of what build is now the popular one.

The three or four builds that are really popular changes every couple of months, and they don’t always align with what you’d expect. So what’s the coolest to me is that people will have their weird random builds that they make out of their Elder Scrolls characters and they go into PvP and they make them work. That’s my dream.”

One of the signs of a great elder game competitive system is that you never reach a point where things feel static. As new flavor-of-the-month builds rise to prominence, the system needs to offer enough flexibility for proper counters to those builds to be formulated.

Nick was quick to agree. “Any particular build needs to have a counter. Similarly, with any ability that’s more powerful or possibly sets up a sequence for a style of play, you need to make sure that there’s something you can do when you fight against that. As long as I don’t think the counter system comes down to A beats B, B beats C, and C beats A and that’s the metagame. You want a really big wheel that no one can actually map all the way out so that it constantly shifts. You don’t want it to be cookie-cutter at any level.”

Simple rock-paper-scissors systems definitely don’t cut it when it comes to metagame balance. With the three factions present in ESO there is potential for that layer to be present, but that’s on a much grander and more tactical scale as opposed to the drilled-down character build level. In ESO there will no doubt be certain builds that are considered a bit more iconic. A pure healer build where you focus on the healing staff and full light armor would be one such example.

We were also curious if there were any team-level build concepts that have come into play so far in the office play sessions that were either unexpected, or have in some way helped influence how different counters have been introduced. A perfect example here would be in any MMO that has PBAoE abilities, you’re bound to see character stacking occur; the idea being you stack a bunch of DPS and healer builds in one big clump and they can be extremely difficult to take down unless proper counters exist.

Nick noted, “It’s funny you should mention that, because early on that was a very common thing where people would essentially create a giant PBAoE bomb. That was actually super popular in Dark Age of Camelot.

To counter that, there’s a skill called Anti-Magic Field that drops down a bubble where anyone who tries to cast a spell will get zapped: they’ll be silenced and take a bunch of damage. So if you’re an opposing sorcerer and you’ve got that on your bar, and see a group getting ready to do a PBAoE bomb, you drop that down and all they do is stun and silence themselves.

Anti-Magic Field is interesting in that it provides a strong counter for that, but it’s also an Ultimate, so it takes a pretty long time to charge. But then there’s kind of that risk vs. reward layer about using it. So you can potentially bait it and get a player to use it too early and then do the bomb immediately after.”

ESO and Next Gen Consoles

The launch delay announcement for ESO during E3 2013 caught a lot of people’s attention, and became one of the biggest news stories out of the event for MMO gamers. What’s interesting is that there hadn’t necessarily been any specific dates previously announced, other than a loose target window for the latter part of 2013.

That said, the other major part of that announcement involved Elder Scrolls Online being developed for the upcoming PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles, keeping with the cross-platform release model that helped both Oblivion and Skyrim become such huge commercial successes. While that announcement obviously needed to be held back until after Sony and Microsoft had their grand reveals, we couldn’t help but ask Nick how development on the new consoles had been going so far.

“I think the main thing we discovered was that we were already headed in a certain direction with the style of game we were making in terms of a lot of things that are in common with modern console RPGs. So the technology just happens to line up really well with where we are in our schedule. So the technology is there and we can do it, and the design of the game didn’t have to change. It was more a case of making a few tweaks here and there, but fundamentally the game is identical. That allows us to present the same game across all platforms.”

In terms of any special considerations that needed to be made for things like the pacing of combat or the active dodging mechanic, Nick went on to note, “For someone like me who is into the nitty gritty details of it sure, but for the majority of players, not so much. There are some things like locomotion or run animations where you have to make those a bit smoother to account for joysticks. Then you also have to make sure the keybindings work across everything.

So there are some minor things here and there, but we haven’t had to adjust any major mechanic as we intended it to work in the PC version of the game.”

Still no word on whether a special netbook client for ESO will be made available, but we’ll keep you posted on any new developments in that department.

Original TenTonHammer Article

Elder Scrolls Online: 2-Hour E3 Gameplay Review (TenTonHammer.com)

As TenTonHammer mentioned last week, more coverage of their E3 gameplay was coming and here’s the second part of that. Basically, it’s a 99.9% approval review. I’m hoping we start to see over the next few weeks some more pessimistic posts that offer some kind of “cons” for the game, but we’ll have to wait and see.

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The last time I got my grubby little hands on The Elder Scrolls Online was during a press event Bethesda hosted a few weeks ago in Santa Monica. This time, they were showing off the game at E3 and rather than play the same areas I had at the previous event, the team was kind enough to let me break the rules and start a brand new character to see the beginning of the game. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity because it was, in a word, awesome.

The Elder Scrolls Online starts off in a similar manner to the other games in the series, in which you’ve had something happen to your character and need to make your way to civilization to begin the completion of an epic destiny. Being the eternal RPG player that I am, I immediately hopped on that rail and followed it through to completion. Oh, I’m sorry. Actually I meant to say, “Hell no! I’m going my own damned way and there’s not a thing you can do to stop me.” And that, my friends, is exactly why I love The Elder Scrolls series of games so much. After you complete a very short period of mandatory gameplay, you are completely free to pick whatever direction you want and just go. In my most recent play through, I even took this to the extreme by jumping off the dock walkway rather than even go into the first town the moment I got off the boat the game starts on.

ESO-Screen-E3

Splashing my way through the water, swimming around the island and hopping up onto a mound of rocks, I was immediately set upon by a starving wolf. Easily enough (thanks to the combat lessons given to me by Combat Designer, Maria Aliprando, during my first play through), I made short work of him and was quickly on my way. Whether it was bandits, assassin beetles, wolves, or any number of other manner of death dealers, I was able to handle the situation with my character. As a quick hint, I advise always choosing at least one skill that allows you a bit of crowd control capability, no matter which class you choose to play. It will make all the difference in the world when you find yourself taking on more than one opponent at a time.

Quests are scattered throughout the land and easily found by checking the mini-map and heading to any gold dots. Those dots on the map correspond to people or items that will begin a quest line for your character. As you may have already guessed, you are free to accept them or not, all depending on your particular whim of the day. Even though I’m a huge fanatic for free roaming in any game, I went ahead and did a few of the quests I came across just to check out the writing to see if it lives up to the excellent lore-filled tales and exploits that we’ve become so accustomed to over the years. I’m happy to report that you won’t be disappointed.

ESO-Screen-2-E3

Within the first 30 minutes of following one quest, I had donned a costume to pass unscathed through a town of bandits, poisoned a maid and let her die (there was an option to save her), stolen a gem for one quest giver, and then betrayed them by giving that same gem to a completely different NPC that asked for it. After that, I spent another 30 minutes assisting a mage gain entrance to an ancient ruin that had been sealed for an untold number of years, battling machines of ancient power, bypassing traps, and unlocking puzzles to reveal magic knowledge not seen in centuries. These were only two quest lines out of nearly a dozen I saw within the very beginning areas of the game. Considering the fact that The Elder Scrolls Onlineis bigger than any other game in The Elder Scrolls series, I can’t imagine just how many quests are actually in the game.

The most amazing thing to me during my play time was the fact that I not only didn’t notice how long it took to get from level 4 to level 5, I also didn’t care. It probably took almost an hour to gain that level. The entire time I was playing, I wasn’t paying attention at all to what level I was, whether I was gaining experience at an efficient rate, or anything of the like. I was just out there playing, having a good time, and getting into all the trouble I could manage. And dear gods, is their more than enough trouble one can find themselves buried neck deep in.

ESO-trailer-screen

So what’s my verdict after getting my hands on The Elder Scrolls Online for only the second time (once again, playing for nearly two hours thanks to the kindness of the Bethesda team)? Plain and simple – I can’t wait for the game to come out. Between the complete freedom to engage in or ignore any quest I choose, the return of open dungeons (see more about them in my previous ESO article here), and the amount of just plain fun I’ve had while playing, it’s impossible to state just how good the game is looking so far. At the end of the day, I know everyone wants to know if The Elder Scrolls Online genuinely feels like an Elder Scrolls game, and the answer to that is a resounding, “YES!” The game certainly isn’t perfect right now, and there are some issues the team continues to work on, but it is incredibly fun and in the end should prove well worth the wait!

Original TenTonHammer Article

Neverwinter: Streamer’s Day (June 12)

Well, this is a bit novel – especially in this volume. Lots of games, especially MMORPGs, offer live stream on Livestream, Twitch.tv, Justin.tv, etc. Here’s a concerted effort by Neverwinter to drum up as much business as possible prior to their official launch on June 20th.

As it’s an extensive list, just pay attention to whether you want a 24-hour stream or a stream that may be available whenever you are, per hour.

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Hey adventurers!

Wednesday, June 12 is Neverwinter Streamers’ Day! Tune in to watch your favorite streamers play Neverwinter, or jump in to play with them during their broadcasts!

Keep an eye out for Neverwinter devs and giveaways throughout the day too – we’ll be making our rounds playing alongside streamers and handing out fun items in stream chat!

A full schedule of Streamers’ Day livestreams is below, detailing each streamer’s Neverwinter @handle, channel, and planned content.  All times are PDT, so please click here for a time converter.  And join theNeverwinter Streamers’ Day conversation on the forums!

24-Hour Livestreams

@adamupco | twitch.tv/ellohime | Leveling a GWF from 1 – 60 in 24 hour livestream (9PM PDT Tuesday – 9PM PDT Wednesday)

@Elderfro | twitch.tv/elderfro | 24 hour stream, whatever I feel like PvP, PvE, funny Skype convos

1AM PDT

@Mjroots | twitch.tv/rootsmj | Devoted Cleric PvP mostly. Maybe Skirmishes and Dungeons too

2AM PDT

@madfool4 | twitch.tv/madfool4 | T2 Dungeon crawling and Foundry runs

3AM PDT

@IRNOEbot | twitch.tv/irnoebot | Continued main leveling/preparing for new content/ALT praying/Salad fixin/Hat Wearing/Tune Whistlin/And All around Awesome Doing

5AM PDT

@mrvincent1959 | twitch.tv/ncognito1959 | Devoted Cleric playing T1 Epic Dungeons/will stream on Preview Shard if available

@panda9lc | twitch.tv/chinglishtv | Lots of PvP

8:30AM PDT

@tiaestikilia | twitch.tv/hagigamer | Playing some Epics and PvP, with German commentary

9:00AM PDT

@CraftChest72 | twitch.tv/craftchestii | Gameplay, character builds and opinions, shopping, viewer help, etc. Maybe even some giveaways!

@heldenfeld | twitch.tv/mmoden | Castle Never and T2 runs (Q&A about builds, launch date, upcoming changes, and more)

@hunter4017 | twitch.tv/hunter_128 | New player leveling 10+, with commentary etc.

@MeresTV | twitch.tv/Merestv | I have been streaming Cleric endgame, theory crafting multiple classes, and state of the game. I do everything from PvE – PvP, with my guild and with viewers

@rawrnold1991 | twitch.tv/rawrnold | I have been streaming since release and currently have a 60 CW and TR

@ScoobyDoo4u | twitch.tv/thexbigxbouncer | Solo leveling. New character creation. Dungeon/PvP runs

10AM PDT

@mikieceberg | twitch.tv/mikeiceberg | Castle Never fast runs/Q&A about all classes (high-end Wiz/Rogue focus play)/Gauntlgrym discussions

11AM PDT

@rexthemarred | twitch.tv/rexthemarred | Solo/group leveling. Will start from scratch (everything from Skirmishes, Dungeons, and PvP will be included)

@rumikolol | twitch.tv/rumikolol | Leveling 48+ Trickster Rogue – quests, Foundry, Dungeons and Skirmishes. Taking requests and questions on chat/Twitter as well

@supjeremiah | twitch.tv/supjeremiah | GF/GWF PvP

@Thorbone777 | twitch.tv/the_e_wok | Streaming Trickster Rogue lvl 60 doing Epic Dungeons for The e-Wok

12PM PDT

@fishstickz22 | twitch.tv/darenniisama | 13k GS GF PvP and Dungeon Delve PvE (Karrundax, maybe Spellplague, Frozen or Spider)

@ovansama1 | twitch.tv/lolovansama/old | Cleric Castle Never runs, leveling a GWF, PvP when I need a break from dungeons

@[TBD] | twitch.tv/ice_ee_ | HD gameplay including solo questing, PvP, and commentary (Control Wizard!)

@thewalatt | twitch.tv/walatt | Trickster Rogue lvling, maybe another class also

1PM PDT

@chili1179 @nyghoma @zovya @apocrs1980 | twitch.tv/the_forge | Dungeon Masters guild on Dragon shard hosting a live stream of some of the more popular Foundry quests. Hourly giveaway and a bonus giveaway at the end of the stream

@Colonel_Black | twitch.tv/gamingprotocol or gamingprotocol.net | Gameplay (leveling up + Skirmishes + Dungeons)

@Oranosx | twitch.tv/OranosDaZerg | 12.4k Control Wizard farming/PvP from MindFlayer, commentary etc.

2PM PDT

@maiku217 | twitch.tv/maiku_ | Opening 500-600 Nightmare Boxes

@turucian | twitch.tv/wolfejagsch | Trickster Rogue

3PM PDT

@maxisdb | twitch.tv/thegamelesswonders | PvP Domination!

@pulsefireyoda | twitch.tv/pulsefireaatrox | Level 60 End Game stuff (PvP, Epic Dungeons, helping viewers with questing, etc.)

@Techcenterz | twitch.tv/Epitrop0s | Possibly taking part in a level off (solo race) 1-60 with @Bamfy and @Ellohime; yet to be confirmed

3:30PM PDT

@isngarbattlehammer | twitch.tv/king_icewind or kingicewind.com | Shooting for level 45 on my Guardian Fighter and possibly starting a new character!

4PM PDT

@faust291 | twitch.tv/pl4gu3d0g | Foundry Missions! I’ll come up with a list to do with my guild!

@WebslingeR67 | twitch.tv/webslinger67 | Multiple toon leveling, Foundry question answering

5PM PDT

@coreyadgrho | twitch.tv/coreyADGrho/new | I’ll be streaming either Domination or Dungeon Delves if it’s up. I’ll also probably be taking requests from chat on what to stream

@kaz350 | twitch.tv/fg3000 | “I can haz Control Wizard?” (Control Wizard Speed RUN! As many levels as I can get!!)

@KillinU | twitch.tv/IGunited | PvP and current lvl dungeons

@Strikes12 | twitch.tv/strikes12 | Epic End Game Dungeon runs (Guild Group / GF PoV)

6PM PDT

@Cloudtears96 | twitch.tv/cloudtears | Level 30 Great Weapon Fighter with commentary, music, and I will help people in chat if needed

@unah1 | twitch.tv/maevetrinity | lvl 60 T2 Dungeon crawling!

6:30PM PDT

@dconner1 | twitch.tv/davidconner | Playing Epic Dungeons and PvP, while jamming out to some Nightwish

7PM PDT

@thedeathshades | ustream.tv/channel/gamer-s-overnight | Start of a bi-weekly show on Neverwinter. Q&A on game and what’s new in game world. Also gameplay tips and clearing things up for players

8PM PDT

@Bamfyman | twitch.tv/bamfyman | More shenanigans about my next 24+ hour stream and giveaways

@MarioSS666 | twitch.tv/uspstyle | Leveling

8:30PM PDT

@warrenpeace82 | twitch.tv/neenstite | CW PvE/PvP

9PM PDT

@Mdubzx | twitch.tv/Mdubz | HD high end lvl 60 group PvP and Delves on Cleric (DoT Spec Righteous) or Rogue (Crit Spec Executioner)

11PM PDT

@littlediobolic | twitch.tv/Littlediobolic | Basic gameplay, me running through Dungeons/completing quests/etc.

TBD

@DAOWAce | twitch.tv/daowace | General gameplay (leveling, Skirmishes, Dungeons, PvP, looks like it will be anywhere from 9AM PDT to 9PM PDT)

@TheTherirah | twitch.tv/thetherirah | Leveling and Foundry quests (time unknown, keep an eye on my Twitter for updates)

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