Saturday, May 24, 2014

Wildstar beta: First Impressions (part 2)

So picking up where part 1 left off...

The aesthetics of the world are cartoony, colorful and fun. It is kind of close to WoW's style, but seeing as everyone else tries to go for dark, gritty realism, I really don't mind seeing some WoW influence. Sometimes you forget that video games can actually have *gasp* a color palette!

Click on the pic to see it in full size and awesomeness!
Just exploring can be amazing as you encounter new places and weird aliens. Each region has a story to tell and you can help sway the events through quests. For one place on Dominion side, I helped clear up a plague by finding out where it came from and who was responsible. The town went from a burning hell hole with its citizens dripping plague, to a much cleaner version. Oh, and I helped build a hospital--which required hassling the local farmers for money. But that's life in the empire, right?

And that's the another thing: many of the quests have a lot of personality. Granted, you do have the mundane "collect X many bear asses", but there are enough fun ones that bring something new and memorable to the table. Such as (once again, on Dominion side) one quest that took me to a mining station off-world. My toon had to wear one of those bubble helmets that you see in retro sci-fi comics, and due to the difference in gravity, she would gently glide down after a jump. Then I had to go through creepy corridors, discovering parasite-infested bodies and the miner's last recorded words, which reminded me a lot of System Shock 2. Very cool stuff. Not to mention, fucking awesome view!

Wish I had figured out how to hide the distracting interface.

In addition to quests, you've got challenges. They'll be certain items or enemies that will trigger them and you'll have a timer to kill/collect as many X as possible. Sometimes I found them fun, other times annoying. The rewards for successfully completing a challenge will scale with how well you did, although sometimes it's impossible to achieve higher than a bronze.

Something new in this game are paths. You can choose one from four, and they basically are tailored to how you like to play the game. Like killing a lot of stuff? Then you would go Soldier. Exploring? Explorer. And so on. I mainly did Settler path, which was building stuff and came quite handy, because I could build banks, mailboxes and boosts (i.e. increased speed, stat boots, extra merchants). Boyfriend went the Science path which unlocked extra lore about the world, and as he says, you got to "science" stuff. I did try a bit of Explorer, but did not find it as enjoyable or useful. Sure, you get a speed buff to go running around, but twice I fell off a hill and died. I guess the trailer was right!

There's also trade skills, which is an element I did not miss from The Secret World. I kind of hate having to farm materials to make stuff, but I will say they do something different. You've got a trade skill tree, and as you create more stuff, you unlock the ability to craft higher end goodies. And with better quality, you  get to choose the stats for that gear. As I mentioned before, I mainly focused on moxie and finesse for my esper class, so I would make weapons with those stats. You also have power cores for these craftable items, and the better the power core, the more stats you can put on your gear.

I also went with mining, which wasn't made easy because I couldn't see ore nodes on my mini-map (I had to go to my main map, which interrupts gameplay). However, neat things would occasionally happen when I'd mine a node. Sometimes the node would sprout legs and become this bug-thing and I had to kill to quick before it scurried away. Other times I'd get a giant ore worm and when I defeated it, a wormhole (har har) would open up and I got a 2 minute spree to farm as much ore as I wanted in another dimension.

Housing--yes, there is housing in this game. At first I was leery of this, because I thought it was some Second Life crap leaking into MMORPG's, buuuuuut it was actually a plus for this game. Everyone can get a plot of land in the sky and you can build/decorate it with whatever stuff you find. The more decorations, the better experience bonus buff you get if you log out on your land. You also get useful stuff like having your own personal farm, ore mine, exploration cave, even a dungeon! and such to help level up your skills. You can even visit other player's houses and have roomates. And if you're busy and haven't logged in for awhile, then other players can farm/mine/whatever your resources and split the profits with you.

So is this game worth getting? Well I had a lot of fun, but I would still wait six months before committing. Like every MMORPG that thinks it'll break WoW's streak, they're going to start with a monthly subscription. So far, no one but WoW has been able to maintain the monthly subscription model. Wildstar might pull it off because it's pretty damn polished, even in its beta form, and provides quite a few unique things that I think players will enjoy. Personally, I prefer buy-to-play since I don't feel obligated to get my money's worth of gameplay each month, but we'll see how this goes.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Wildstar beta: First Impressions (part1)

So if you haven't heard, there's a new MMORPG on the block calling itself Wildstar. They recently had an open beta, inviting players to come and break stuff before the final release on June 3, 2014. And because breaking stuff is fun, I thought I'd give it a try. Also, because this was going to be a really long post, I chopped it into two.

Like any MMORPG, there are factions, usually two, sometimes three. Wildstar's two factions are Exiles and Dominion. I played both sides, but most of my time was spent playing Dominion, because damn, they're fun. I love the black humor of Dominion; they're an evil empire and not afraid to flaunt it.A lot of times you'll be answering orders from higher ups with a prima donna complex, but it's all so over the top (as is most of the game), one wonders if this empire is run on swagger alone.

The Exiles are, well, the exiled people of Dominion. They're basically tree-huggers. No, really. They seem to want to do general good, and their missions tend to revolve around saving this or that, and preventing the destructive forces of the Dominion. Whereas Dominion quests will deal with more political intrigue, betrayals, empire infrastructure. Which is good that each faction feels distinctly different in both goals and philosophies--it's just I prefer evil overloads to goody two-shoes.

Yes, there is even a quest to save sentient root vegetables!

Basic story is that this new planet, Nexus, has been discovered, and is considered very valuable to both factions, thus becomes the apex of galactic conflict. And that's as much story as you need for an MMORPG.

As for combat, there is no auto-attacking (yay!). You also don't have a bazillion abilities on hand like in WoW. There's no skill tree, you just buy abilities and slot them, but you have a maximum of eight slots, which are only unlocked as you level. Why yes, that means you need to think about what you slot. Combat is much more active, requiring you to dodge out of enemies attacks, which are made visible with red areas on the ground.

Not sure how I feel about the quick time events that occur whenever you get stunned. You need to hold down a key--and fast--because they will be a lot of hurt coming your way. Personally, I don't care for quick time events, but some people might find this an interesting mechanic.

The two classes I played were esper (aka psyblades) and medic, and both had a pretty good rhythm to their combat. I'm quite use to The Secret World's combat where, depending on your weapons, you build resources before firing off a consumer ability, or start with full consumers and build resources back up. Esper has resource building while medic starts with full consumers. Both are different and both work well. I probably lean toward esper just because seeing my character throw phantasmal swords at foes was pretty awesome, although do like how the medic's weapon is a defibrillator. Both of these classes can heal, and all classes have duel roles. Once again, it just depends on what you slot.

Stats are, err, interesting, but not entirely clear to me. Especially how they translate between classes. Like for my esper character, I mainly focused on moxie and finesse, because moxie would give me more assault power to hit stuff harder, and finesse would give me crits. However, when playing my medic, tech gave me assault power and moxie gave me crits. Which I guess makes sense because medic does tech damage while esper does magical, but on the other hand...that's going to be a challenge to keep track of, especially if you have multiple characters. Perhaps this is a way to make gear a bit more unique to each class, because in other games, similar stats could be used across multiple classes which would inevitably lead to fighting over gear.

So last but not least: character creation. There are seven races (humans are in both factions), and the differences are all cosmetic. No special race abilities of the sort. I went with cassian human on Dominion side, making her in the image of Mirage from The Incredibles. Funny enough, the cartoony look of the game could easily go along with any Pixar movie.

Also, cassian were the only other race that can be esper; the other is a race of psychotic rats with tourette's syndrome. Dominion also has giant robots and a dragon-like species. For Exiles: furries. Well, not exactly, but expect most players to be running around as humaniods with fuzzy ears and tails. They also have rock people and cyberpunk zombies. I of course chose the zombie.

Part 2 coming soon!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

What's that fad!

I've been doing some catch up on reading and have noticed a few trends. So I thought, why not make a game of it? Can you predict the fads the editors are all going after?

1) Lesbians -- I'm guessing this is part of the "increasing narrative experiences" or some nonsense like that. However, no hint of gay males. Bonus points if the males (if any are actually present in the story), are viewed as all rapists! (Joking here, but I have read more than a few stories that take on this viewpoint, which I find very troubling.)

2) East Asian settings -- This fad started toward the end of last year, but has been going strong. Not always directly Asian, though the fantasy world may have a heavy flavoring of Chinese, Thai, Korean, and so on. There have also been quite a few translated stories from Asian cultures. Not so much India (although you do see some veiled references to Kali popping up), but I'm sure as writers delve more into all the different cultures of the East Asia continent, we may be seeing more.   

3) Fairy Tale Retellings -- This has been a big one. Many, many anthologies carrying this theme, and even a few magazines that are nothing but this theme. I blame the popularity of shows such as Once Upon A Time and Grimm.

So if you've got a fairy tale retelling with an East Asian background involving lesbians, best get that thing to an editor--quick!

Any other fads you've noticed? Name them here!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

W1S1 April Update (2014 edition)

 Well April flew by, didn't it? Was a busy month, had moved from Tucson to south Texas (a loooong drive)--which isn't reflected in my author bios, but oh well. 

So how did this month go?

Stories written: 1 (for Sword & Sorceress)
Stories submitted:18 (mostly resubs with a couple new things)
Stories accepted: 2
Stories rejected:18

A much slower month compared to the others. I usually send out many more submissions, but since very few were coming back to me, well, you know. Maybe editors go on Spring Break, hmm...

Received an acceptance from Horror D'oeuvres--that'll be out next month, and another acceptance from The Red Penny Papers for "Eat a Sandwich, Man"--which I'm quite relieved to have finally sold, seeing as it's been around for, oh, about 2 years, racking up 15 R's in that time (horror-humor seems to be a tough sale). That one will be out in Spring 2015. 

And in case you missed them, publications for this month:
"Twisty", part of Unlike Story's April Fool's Day issue (free to read!)

"Mapping in the Darkness", from Perihelion (free to read!)

"Spirit Flare", from Spark: A Creative Anthology, Volume V