Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dawntide Beta Failure - 16 days and counting...

Still have yet to successfully login to the Dawntide beta, despite numerous attempts with more than one character over the past two weeks.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Beta Failure: Mortal Online and Dawntide

Both games severely disappointed me yesterday.

First off, Mortal Online had a new patch on Wednesday, but alas, despite trying a good dozen times throughout the day on Thursday, I was unable to ever connect to the patch server. Actually a fairly typical beta experience (though it shouldn't be for a game that claims it will be releasing within two weeks), but still frustrating nonetheless.

Dawntide failed on a more profound level. A friend got into the beta and had a couple of extra beta invites to hand out. So he assigned one to me, but I never received any email. If I try to connect to the beta/account management section of their website, it won't let me and instead asks for another login (which apparently I don't have. And when I click on the sign-me-up link, it just takes me to the beta application page!) So I now have two confirmation emails about my registration for beta (one from many months ago, one from yesterday), and I have a forum account, but my post on the forum about this issue has received no responses.

Rule #1 of Beta Tests - Make sure your beta testers can actually get into the game.

Rule #2 of Beta Tests - Make sure your beta testers can actually get into the game.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Mortal Online Open Beta: Day Two

Day Two was a bit less exciting than Day One. Again I was only able to spend less than an hour in-game.

I logged into my character who was still standing by a tree near a respawn point. Initial load was extremely laggy, as before. With a plan in mind to craft a bow, I set about whacking at the tree. To chop a tree you have to be in combat mode with your axe in hand. Then, when you interact with the tree, a chopping animation plays and some wood may or may not be added to your pack. I found the animation a little unsettling. Due to the fact that you're locked into 1st person mode, I began to get a little motion-sick watching it. It's also kind of strange to not receive a system message letting you know whether or not your action was successful. Occasionally, I'll see a success message when harvesting, but that is a rare occurrence rather than the norm.

Anyway, I acquired 20 units of wood (which I hoped would be sufficient) and looked around for a town. I had read on the forums that crafting required a crafting table, which could be found in-town (and makes it impossible to bootstrap yourself up in the wilderness). Spying an impressive looking wall nearby, I headed off. However, once I got there, the doors were closed and I was unable to interact with them. I saw that the wall continued onwards, so I followed, hoping to find an open door. But the next entrance was the same, as was the one after that. I tried just running through the door and found I could make it partially in; far enough to see that the inside looked pretty barren. OK then. I guess I was trying to get into a point of interest that hadn't been completed yet. But since there was a road alongside the castle/town, surely it would lead somewhere. After a few minutes of running along the road I came to the end of the wall, which ran into a very tall and impressive-looking tower on the shore of an expansive lake. The tower was also closed.

This wasn't going how I had expected, but with that lush body of water beckoning to me, how could I resist. A quick jump from the cliff and I'll be swimm... er.. wait... I'm still falling.. straight through the water surface until I land on the floor of the lake. Hmmm. Can I swim up? No. Can I swim at all? Apparently not, as my avatar begins trekking on foot across the bottom of the lake. Behind me are sheer cliffs that I cant climb. Ahead I think I see a slope in the distance. So I start running. And running. And running some more. Hmmm. that slope doesn't seem any closer. I look behind and see the cliff I had recently jumped from. And though it's clearly in the distance, it's also astoundingly tall from my point of view. Clearly my target was much farther off than I thought it was. Time for a change of plan. Let's hit the suicide button. I wait the required 60 seconds and them I'm dead. And in ghost-form but still at the bottom of a lake! Crud. OK. However, now I have the option of a "Nearest Shrine" button. Another 60 seconds and I respawn. This time in a town! Hooray!

However, my wood was now lying on the bottom of some nameless fake lake in some unknown location. A quick trip to the edge of town and I harvest some more wood. After an extended run about town I finally find a place with a bow crafting bench (most of the buildings have no distinguishing marks of any kind). Excellent! I open up the interface, select a bow type, drop some wood in the slot and presto! I have a bow (though again no messages about success, skill gain, etc). Yay me! So I equip my new bow and draw on the string, which creates a circular reticule that narrows the longer I hold it (allowing for more precise shots I would assume), but alas, I have no arrows. I return to the crafting bench, and all the ones near it, but none give any options for arrow-making. I check my skill list. No help there. I ask aloud if anyone knows how to make arrows There are 3 other players in the vicinity, but none of them respond.

At this point it was approaching 1am my time, so I logged out on the rooftop, ready to continue my search for ammunition next time around.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Dragon Age: Origins - Impressions

This writeup was originally titled First Impressions, but I've ended up playing much longer than I had planned on before posting this, so First Impressions no longer applies. I would call it a Review, but I feel like that term would be a disservice unless I had finished the game or played through a significant portion as well as experienced the content with different starting characters. But, I've done neither, instead spending my time as a Dwarven Warrior, stumbling around the countryside, looking for trouble.


Once you start playing the game, it quickly becomes obvious that this game is driven by it's story and voice acting. Every single conversation you have is completely voice-acted (though oddly enough, your character never utters a word aloud during these talks, making him/her seem like a semi-creepy mute). On top of the main storyline voices, when back at your camp, you can choose to engage any of your party members (you can gather various party members in your travels, each with their own unique personality and interests) in a personal dialogue. These can vary based on previous actions, how the party member currently feels about you, and even items in your inventory! There have been a number of times throughout the game where I felt like I was watching a movie as a certain portion of dialogue played out.

It is not unusual for your party to have conversations amongst themselves while you're wandering around. And oftentimes, one or more of your party members will chime in during a dialog scene, giving their own comments and opinions on the matter. This is really well done and helps sell the world. The characters come to life at every turn, even without your direct input.


Getting used to the combat system took me a while. It is a fairly typical setup, with an overhead view and an action bar full of ability icons, but this game adds a few wrinkles. At any given point you can pause the action and issue new orders to your teammates. You can also give them predefined actions based on certain criteria via a tactics system. For example, If being attacked by melee -> use block skill.

It's a very interesting system. And once you dig into it, you can actually set up some fairly complex AI for your party members. Unfortunately, the limited number of tactic slots really hurts. I often found that I was barely able to give them some basic orders and tell them to try and use a healing potion when near death. It would be nice to have a couple of extra base tactics slots for each character, especially given the number of abilities and stances that are available. Even purchasing extra slots at every opportunity, it still was never enough.

Feeling fairly confident in my brain vs computer abilities, I decided to play the game on the Hard difficulty setting. I do feel challenged quite often, and some Boss fights can be particularly rough, but once I clued in to the healer necessity (see below), things got a lot easier, though it's still no pushover.

I do have to say that I am pretty unhappy with the over-reliance on healing in Dragon Age. Healing potions barely cover it and are an easy way to go bankrupt. Even my dedicated tank character, using all of his stamina-draining defensive stances, gets easily mauled. It's virtually required that you either pick up the healing-oriented party member early on, or you spec one of your other characters into the healing tree. Even if you make maximum use of your stuns and such, there is still way too much damage being slung about for any party to survive the onslaught.

Dying during battle has no long-term effect. Instead (assuming that your party wins), all characters that were depleted completely of HP during the battle get back up, though each will now have an injury that reduces their effectiveness in some way. However, injuries can be instantly removed with application of an injury kit. So this effect never really plays a part in the game unless you forget to use your kits. I found that I was much more likely to either win the battle outright, or fail completely, forcing a reload.


Travel between sites is done in a simulated manner, with the player choosing where to go from a world map, and then watching a little blood-stained trail plod across the map, occasionally stopping for a random or scripted encounter. Once you reach a designated stopping point, there are usually a couple of zones there, one with friendly NPCs who serve as merchants and quest-givers, the rest for the local storyline events and for some random monster-bashing. The zones are pretty rigid, though they all have side quests and points of interest to be found if you go poking around enough.

I loved being able to complete the 'go kill these guys' quests without being required to have the quest beforehand (something that was promised in one of the infamous Warhammer Online promotional videos from Paul Barnett, but which was never delivered in-game).

I wish the talent trees were actually trees, giving you more branching choices rather than a bunch of linear ones.

When shopping with a vendor NPC, a handy-dandy popup window shows up when you mouseover an equipment item, allowing you to compare its stats to what you are currently wearing. Unfortunately, you are unable to compare items to anything any of my party members are using, which makes it a bit difficult to efficiently shop for your party members.

I found that there wasn't enough hotbar space to include all of a character's abilities.

I've had few instances of terrain trouble where a character would get stuck and not move unless I took control of them manually, and I've also had enemies hop up on benches where one or two members of my party would refuse to attack them

Sometimes story choices vanish for no apparent reason; sometimes you're offered dialogue choices that don't actually reflect what has happened previously (for example, one conversation choice I had at one point was 'So only one person can go through', but before this choice popped up, I had no idea that my progress in this particular quest would be limited to one person. That was revealed in another dialog tidbit that I hadn't yet accessed!)


It looks as if DLC will be a big part of this game, with no less than four downloadable options available right from the start (based on your purchase), plus several more available for completing certain parts of their browser-based game, Dragon Age Journeys. And on top of that, even though the game has been out for only two months, they've already released their next purchasable content for the game and have another expansion coming right behind it! They obviously plan on milking this for as much as they can. But if you're one of those players who gets a new game and rapidly burns through all the content, this might be good news!

And as with most games of this time, you can always turn to the mod community to find new and/or altered game content.


To be honest, Dragon Age: Origin was a little different from what I had envisioned. I was expecting a more open world like the Morrowind series. But Dragon Age is much more of a rail-driven game. Sure you can choose what order you visit the cities in, but visit them you will. And you will also solve many of their problems, one way or another. You can't really just go off an do whatever you want to for extended periods of time.

But despite my complaints and nit-pick, the story, characters and just plain 'fun-factor' are excellent. Overall, a very entertaining game.

Mortal Online Open Beta: Day One

So the Open Beta for Mortal Online began yesterday. The client was available via torrent, but it seems today they simply have a direct download link.

Anyway, I had no technical issues with my setup. The download worked fine the first time around, installation was simply extracting the files from the zip, the updater ran, showed me the most recent patch notes and downloaded everything successfully (though there was a significant pause before the download actually started).

When I first tried to login at about 11pm PST last night, the servers were down. I checked back about an hour later and they were up, so I tried again, go in, and was soon making my first character.

The rough edges were immediately apparent. There were no mouseovers telling me what all the stats I could edit were for, there was no info about what differences there were between the races. I ended up just kind of speeding through the process, eager to see the world first-hand.

Waking up in the game world proved to be a laggy affair. My hard drive was given a thorough beating as the scenery and textures slowly popped into place. So the first thing I did was go and turn all the graphics options to the lowest settings. Some took effect immediately (such as turning off shadows), but something else I did (not sure what) said a client restart was required. But I was impatient, and once the trees had finished loading, the client seemed much more responsive.

There I was, in front of a nondescript wall in a forest with a bunch of other similar looking players, all with our starter axes. Of course, it was only moments before one of them came at me with murderous intentions. Luckily, being in combat stance causes you to move slower, so I was able to get some distance and give myself time to figure out how to wield my own axe! Once that was done, it was back into the fray! A few awkward blows were swung (combat feels very clunky), a few hits made, but no deaths that I saw. Quickly tiring of this, I instead turned my axe on some nearby trees, acquiring some wood. I noticed a small deer grazing nearby, so I decided to try my axe-wielding skills on the local fauna. But as I approached, the deer ran! It stopped a short distance off, so I tried again, and the same thing happened (though I did manage to get in one swing first)! It was a very cool moment to realize that this creature had some sense of self-preservation, and that I would probably need a bow to kill it.

Giving up on the slaughter for the moment, I scrolled through the very strange and confusing skill tree interface, trying to figure out if I had any crafting skills and how to use them. Alas, that quest was unsuccessful, but I did discover a Snooping skill! So off I went towards the nearest player who wasn't swinging their axe at me. Success! I could see in his pack, and it looked just like mine, empty except for a bit of lumber. Obviously this player either got some warning message about my actions (or he was just paranoid from all the axe-wielding maniacs in the vicinity), because he spun around and took a swing at my head. Departing the area quickly, I decided to just snoop as I was passing others, rather than standing around waiting for them to get angry. It was a mixed bag of failure and success, but it was interesting to notice how cautious everyone was. Noone attempted to run through you if they saw you coming and most people seemed to give other players a wide berth!

A short run down a nearby road and I found myself in a town. It had a number of buildings and seemed to be a decent size, but it felt oddly empty. The buildings were just lifeless husks, and all of the NPCs seemed to be gathered in a central market area, standing about in random spots (at least I saw no pattern in their placement). I checked a few of them, and all of the ones I saw seemed to be selling raw materials. Seeing some other players around, I again tried my hand at Snooping. Unfortunately, one of the players called for the guards, and I was quickly slain.

Now this was something new (in an old-school sort of way). Rather than being transported somewhere after death, I instead became a ghost. I couldn't see the nearby players or NPCs any longer, and the scenery gained a sort of washed out and smeared effect. I checked the in-game help to see how I could return to a more fleshy state, and found that I was supposed to look for the 'white lines' which would tell me where the priests were. I looked around and saw a number of white pillars of light extending into the sky. The brightness was supposed to tell you how close they were, but with the Death effect making everything blurry, it was difficult to get a good read on the markers. I made a brief stab and tracking what I thought was the brightest one, but when I climbed up to a second story and it appeared to be beyond a line of hills, I gave up and used the beta suicide option, which transported me to the closest priest. I expect that experience will help in the future when trying to locate a priest for resurrection, but they really should try and make it a bit clearer.

Once I was back in the land of the living, I made sure that I still had my newbie axe, and went to sleep next to a nearby tree. I was going to try and create another character before calling it a night, but the game crashed when I logged out.


In this short adventure, I could tell that the game is very unpolished and unfriendly to new players. There seems to be a severe lack of feedback given. A number of times I would try chopping a tree and receive no message about success or failure. My Snooping attempts never told me that I was being flagged as a criminal (which I assume is why I was guard-whacked in town). When first starting the game you're given a list of starting areas to choose from, but no information at all about what the differences between them might be. Melee combat is extremely crude. Supposedly they have a major combat patch on the way, but until it's implemented, I can only comment on what's actually in-game.

Despite all of this, I did feel engaged and I'm eager for another chance to dive into Mortal Online. Hopefully I'll be able to allot some more playtime this week and get a better idea of how the game works and what it's all about.

My next goals are to craft something and to learn a new skill! Oh, and maybe kill someone!