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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Monkey Madness: Preliminary DoF Impressions

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Alright, as the title says, these impressions are preliminary. I never understood how review sites claim to review MMORPG's when they are only out for a few weeks, so I'm definitely not going to do that. This is just a scattering of minor issues I had. On the whole I am enjoying DoF immensely thus far. This post is part one of a two-parter.

Okay, let's get the monkey mayhem out of the way first. As you probably know, the whole preorder situation was a disaster. Many reported that retail stores ran out of the preorder boxes and my personal experience was that no one at my EBGames even knew what I was even talking about. "Jim, we got someone out here who wants a monkey!" Whether this is SOE's fault or EBGames' fault is unclear to me. But SOE has to shoulder a good part of the blame.

To me the situation is absurd. Why? These are virtual items we are talking about. That bears repeating, EBGames ran out of virtual items. And yes, I know they ran out of the preorder boxes with contained the code which unlocked the monkey, but, seriously, there has to be a better way to accomplish this logistically. How about when you preorder you are e-mailed the code? Would that be so crazy?

But, the funny thing is, the whole incident actually gave me a better impression of SOE in the end. They realized they made a mistake and they fixed it. I believe it was only one or two days after the release date when a server wide announcement was made that all retail customers would receive the monkey. To me, making things right in an effective manner is a very positive thing. By the way, the sounds my monkey makes while I'm trying to focus on setting prices for my vault items made me consider feeding it pepper (a la
Patches the kitty).

So how was the launch? From my personal experience (note: personal experience) it was pretty close to being perfect. I came home the day of the launch, installed, patched and was in the Sinking Sands minutes after. But, before you angrily e-mail me, yes, I am aware that I was one of the lucky ones. People on other servers, notably the largest, Antonia Bayle, reported major problems with characters being locked and serious zoning issues. This is a shame. Still, I'd say the launch was not terrible by any means. Yes, I know there were and are bugs but I don't think anything was major. From my experience, it was a B+/A- launch. But considering the problems on other servers I'd have to drop it to a C+. Well, since I initially wrote this I have been hit with some severe zoning issues where the game freezes up on the Loading UI portion of the zoning screen. Also, the epic Angler was bugged. Sigh.

Moving from launch to launch window, I enjoy the layout of the new launch window. The design is nice, the character links are cool and the Did You Know? link is a good touch. But, I have one problem which would make me prefer the old window. Whenever I log in after any patch (even a minor one), which is often, I have to start in windowed mode or my firewall freezes the game. On the old launch pad you merely clicked Game Settings and unchecked the full screen box. Now, you have click Preferences, then click Game Options, then wait for a new window to pop up, then uncheck full screen, then close the Game Options window and finally click Save on the Preferences window. Yes, the whole thing only takes a few seconds but it is an annoyance.

Let's move on to the actual game. One of my first impressions in the Sinking Sands was "Wow, there are way too many solo mobs." What's more, there is an entire zone (and it's not a small one) called the Clefts of Rujark which is essentially a solo zone. Well, it can be a bit tough (though fun) so possibly a duo zone. But then, when I wanted to solo before my group got together, I was loving all the solo stuff. So, it turns out I'm enjoying the solo flexibility.

I'd like to say that as much as I complained about the climbing feature, I did run into people who thought it was fun. And there definitely are places where it is very cool, adding something to the geography of the zones. However, I can not climb down. I immediately fall and have to hope to grab on again before I hit the ground. At first I honestly thought that I had impaired motor skills or something. But I soon found that
this was a bug which effects certain genders of certain races wearing certain armor. This should have been picked up in beta.

The zone design is fantastic in my opinion in terms of visual appeal and geography. The graphics are truly incredible. There is so much to the Sinking Sands and the Pillars of Flame that I continue to be surprised with. Just last night I was nuking harpies while perched on a rocky desert ledge with a steep drop to beautiful water on one side and dramatic mountains in the distance. Truly impressive. I will say that certain areas of the zones, while visually beautiful, seem a bit dull because there is nothing special going on. There are large areas with "friendly" mobs that seem like nothing more than a place to run through.

So far there are not enough quests for my taste and too many NPC's that have literally nothing to say. Some of the quests are, of course, the usual kill ten mobs quests, but it would be unfair for me to rate the quests when I have so little experience with them. I did enjoy the Genie arena-style quest and the beetle herding quest a great deal. And some quests do lead you to explore more of the game and help you get an idea of the zone layout which is nice. Also, there are roughly two million new collection quests. I happen to love collection quests so I'm really enjoying that. On the negative side, at least some quests do seem to involve lengthy camps.

I'm going to touch on dueling for a bit. As I've mentioned before, PvP is not really a big draw for me, although I am not opposed to it. But let me tell you, when you are waiting for a group member to arrive, it is a great deal of fun to break out the /duel command. I am by no means going to comment on PvP balance here but I have seen the following:

1. Duels both long and short
2. Interesting strategies being employed
3. A person in one class defeating a person in another class and then losing again to that same person.
4. People enjoying dueling and even enjoying watching duels.

These are all good signs. Since you can turn off the duel invites, I find it hard to understand how even the most vehement anti-PvP'ers could protest. Even if you never duel once, I think it can still have a positive effect. Why? It's so cool to walk into a nomad camp in the Pillars of Flame and see a Guardian battling with a Swashbuckler in a wild duel. People always want more of the elusive "immersion" and to me that is immersion right there. It just adds to the atmosphere.

As I stated before, this is not a review, just some random impressions and comments. I have many more impressions but this post is long enough. You can count on another post with more impressions tomorrow.

Oh and don't forget, Wednesday at 11:59 P.M. EST is the deadline for the swag contest.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that anyone with prior MMO experience would agree that the DoF launch went relativity smoothly.

I saw a few complaints on the boards but they were the usual gripes from the usual people who couldn't fathom the sheer complexity and vastness of such an undertaking that the launch of any major patch and content update has.

I agree that DoF is stunning and your other comments but I'm disapointed on three accounts:

1. No NPC voice overs. Or am I missing something?
2. No new armor graphics (so far).
3. No low level content. Seriously, the top-heavy imbalance is killing the games longevity.

5:12 AM  
Blogger Anskiere said...

Don't the Clefts have group content once you go up some elevators? (Just an inquiry, only been in there once or twice)

And I'd have to agree about how wonderful everything looks. Just the other day I was running around the beach north of the docks, and saw some scout standing on top of a big rock fighting a deepwater croc. The sun was almost right behind them and it was such an amazing view I took like twenty screenshots of it.

8:36 AM  
Blogger Anskiere said...

er.. it was a duid not a scout *just looked at the pictures*

8:37 AM  
Anonymous fergle f. fergleson said...

There is a hot-key for toggling the full-screen state. It's something like alt-enter or ctrl-enter. But you don't have to go to the preferences just to go in or out of exclusive mode.

9:49 AM  
Blogger Anskiere said...

"ergle f. fergleson said...

There is a hot-key for toggling the full-screen state. It's something like alt-enter or ctrl-enter. But you don't have to go to the preferences just to go in or out of exclusive mode."

I think it is that the game freezes after a patch unless he is in windowed mode.. IE can't do alt-enter because it freezes and he needs to have it start in windowed :) At least thats what I thought when I read it.

10:19 AM  
Anonymous Ell said...

"How about when you preorder you are e-mailed the code? Would that be so crazy?"

Not crazy, and actually, this is how I got my codes from... EB Games!

I ordered 2 copies on-line and they sent me the codes via email at the same time as they shipped the boxes.

11:06 AM  
Blogger jaipehg said...

If you camp/exit/etc while in windowed mode it'll stay in windowed mode the next time you start the game. Then you won't have to switch it each time?

Dunno if that helps any, but I thought I'd try. :)

3:35 PM  
Blogger Aggro Me said...

Thanks for the comments.

Jaipehg's suggestion does work but I usually forget to switch before I camp.

Regarding the Clefts, you're probably right, Anskiere. I haven't been there in group yet. But it's really fun to clear a cave full of solo mobs and then be rewarded with a named solo boss at the end. It gives it a more exciting feel than blindly killing sand crawlers in the Sinking Sands.

I also agree with the first poster that compared to other MMO's this was a relatively smooth launch. But there were problems on certain servers.

I'm with the first poster on the lack of NPC voice overs and new armor graphics (so far). As to the lack of low level content, well, I'm going to have to think about that one. They did make it pretty clear that this expansion was 45 and up (except the Arena). I think they chose to focus on the people who needed new content the most. It may be my personal bias to agree with that decision. Like I said, I'd have to consider it further before I could really make an argument either way.

6:50 PM  
Anonymous Darchangel of Allure said...

The Clefts of Rujark, like so many area's of mobs in DoF I've seen, progress from easy solo to difficult solo to small group to full group. I've been extremely impressed with this implementation, as it allows you to hunt in the same general area irrespective of how many people you have with you; and if you feel like an extra challenge, you can easily go up a level :)

Clefts is something I hadn't explored until last night, where my Blade faction quest forced me in there. I found solo mobs on the ground floor, group mobs on the 1st floor, and EPIC mobs on the 3rd floor (where our group was able to kill a few named, but wiped several times). Lots of fun if you explore the depth of the zone :)

12:17 AM  
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1:22 AM  

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