Monday, February 13, 2017

UOD: February 13, 2017

Our adventures have continued in the world of Sosaria.

Nestor wanted to become friends with the Red Solens, so we spent some time running the friends quest for several of his characters. It took longer than the quest normally takes because we wanted to turn in 200 zoogi fungi every time to get 100 powder of translocation.

I want to stock up on bags of sending. We seem to go through them like hotcakes.

Nestor also wanted to build up his swordsman and found some information about one of the Mini-Champs in the Stygian Abyss being a good place to go.

This led to us running through the harder questline to gain access to the Stygian abyss. Since Nestor's char did not have Magery, we couldn't run the easier questline geared towards gargoyles.

This was one of those times where I started to fell the strain of my incredibly high ping. I almost died several times due to lag surges. Fortunately I have enough game sense to be able to pre-cast appropriate spells and take precautionary measures to prevent my own demise. It also helps to have a bard. I love my bard more and more whenever I play her.

Eventually we got through to the Stygian Abyss and used a house teleporter found in a Luna house to teleport right outside this section of the dungeon.

We spent a few hours letting Nestor build up his skills. I provided any backup he needed, peacing or provoking the appropriate mobs to keep the pressure off of him.

Eventually the mini-champ boss, Vitavi, spawned, and we spent a fair amount of time letting Nestor beat him down and gain his skills.

Against my better judgement, I let Nestor swindle me into throwing away $40 on this game - Shards Online. It's being developed by a lot of people who used to work on UO, like Supreem, Draconi, and Logrus.

I'm a ginormous cheapskate. I don't like spending money. I've known about this game (and Shroud of the Avatar) for over two years now, and neither of these games have impressed me.

Nestor became intrigued about Shards Online, however, and he managed to convince me to try out the game with him.

In short, I don't like it.

The game feels incredibly clunky. Bugs litter everyday gameplay, and I feel like I'm constantly relogging to fix issues with my UI or a stuck skill/action. I've had creatures completely disappear on me while attacking, and there were times when Nestor and I couldn't see each other, even though we were standing in the same area. The targeting system definitely needs some work. While it's interesting to be able to cast a spell and have a bunch of keys you can press to select your target (Y, T, F1-F4 depending on how many mobiles are on the screen) it gets incredibly confusing when the creature that I selected changes from an F1 to a Y, then a T. There have been several times where Nestor and I ended up hitting each other instead of our targets, too. When I'm casting a spell, I can queue up my target using this system. In theory, my character will automatically release the spell at her target when it's finished casting. Issue is, the system only works half the time. There are times when I've cast Fireball, queued up the wolf I was killing, and the targeting system goes away as if it's accepted my queue. When my character finishes casting, however, the spell isn't released, and I'm still unable to target anything because the game says I've already queued up a target. So I have to re-cast my fireball and go through the whole process again, hoping for a successful result this time around.

I'm a fan of multi-directional running, as well as actively changing my viewpoint, which in the game can be done by clicking and dragging the right mouse button. Since the WASD directional running is based off the direction of the camera, I cannot easily change my viewpoint around and continue running in my original direction. When going into the settings menu to find a better way to play this game, I grew frustrated and decided to stop changing my viewpoint. Then the issue of things being hidden behind buildings, trees, or mountains became apparent. There isn't an efficient way to switch my viewpoint in the middle of the battle without turning my attention away from the battle at hand.

The art style is iffy for me. I feel like I'm playing a mobile or Facebook game more than an MMORPG. It feels like a merge of The Sims 3 and Diablo 3's graphics. The buildings and characters
come across as overly abstract or cartoon-like. It strikes me as incredibly unfinished, much like Star Wars: Galaxies felt. It isn't something I would expect from a game in this year, much less decade.

The game feels and plays like it draws heavy inspiration from Ultima Online, but it feels like it falls short in so many ways. I don't come across players in the same manner I would for UO. The game feels shallow. I've barely placed a house and I'm already thinking "now what?" I don't come across player groups, or really anyone for that matter, on my travels. From the forums I can already see that there are only a few character builds that lend one to success, and there is little variety to everyone's character lineup. Even in UO, the sampire-favoring game, there can be a lot more variety found in character builds and lineups.

I also feel like the Developers took an easy way out for the game. We've been given a bare bones game, with tons of capability to mod and alter the game to the experience we want. Alright, awesome. Other games have been very successful in providing a basic game with mod capabilities, but the games themselves still had a lot more to offer than Shards Online does. I can play vanilla Minecraft, Rust, or Ark, and still find things to do and be entertained. For Shards, what stops me from instead hopping on a UO freeshard and spending $0 to find an experience "like old UO"? They took all of the hard decisions from UO and refused to make their own choice. PvP or PvM, and in what capacity? Item vs skill based? Skill balancing? Tamers vs. everyone else? PvPing itself feels dull. It's formulaic, much like in WoW.

The game is very much built to be what the community makes of it, and while that might be nice for some games it wasn't what I wanted here. Part of what keeps me in UO is the permanence. I don't know that Joe's SuperUltraAwesomeElite server is going to be here 1 year from now, but Lake Austin will be around until the game itself shuts down and support is no longer provided. If the game is meant to be played in the same way as UO, with long-term skill building and goals, then I want a more permanent place to call home. It doesn't appear that Citadel Studios plans to have many official servers open, leaving little space for those who want an "official" experience to play.

A lot of these particular issues are completely based on the game's Alpha status. I'm willing to give a game lots of leeway when I know it's in the development stages. I have almost 4000 hours in Ark: Survival Evolved and 1000 in Rust if that helps convince you that I'm not very easily deterred by Alpha/Early Access games.

Right now, this game doesn't fit my fancy. I may revisit it later and see the changes and the direction the developers have taken the game. As is, it just feels like a faint ghost of the modern UO it claims to be.

Back on Atlantic, I got a Vendor Encampment spot in Magincia. I picked a pet stall and Nestor and I spent some time taming some basic creatures to stock the vendor with. I've already sold two fire beetles, so the vendor stall has started paying for itself.

I haven't been planting any new plants. I need to update my seeds/plants Excel sheet before I go any further. Who knows when that will happen in the sea of my very jumbled to-do list.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

UOD: February 8, 2017

Something awesome happened on Atlantic. I saw a population level of "high" during an off-peak time.
I know I don't have the best indicator of activity levels for the game, seeing as I've been mostly absent from it for the better part of a year and even when I would play I was limited to my own bubble. I'm seeing lots of people mention increased activity levels, however, and that makes me happy. This isn't part of the normal cycle of player activity that happens every year so I'm convinced to some level that there's been a resurgence of players. Nestor's return alone has brought on the opening of 3 long closed accounts, so who knows what others are doing.

We hopped in for another Deal or No Deal this week, this time on Great Lakes. We didn't win anything, but it was still a nice weekly get together to participate in.

I remember the old days of weekly auction houses on Lake Austin. There was one I always went to, ICE auction, that was in the icy mountains northwest of Luna. The two owners eventually got married and there was a big ceremony in game.

I'm still plugging away at my skills on Atlantic. My tamer has worked her way to 95 taming. Woooooooo!

I was having trouble figuring out where to train my provocation on my bard until I remembered the new(er) bard masteries system. Using my provocation mastery, all I have to do is cast a bard song over and over and the gains are really fast. In one day of very relaxed playing and "training" (spamming "cast last spell" macro whenever I was sitting still) I got from a little over 90 to 100. Now I'm at 104.3 and I feel ever so slightly relevant when I play my bard now! She can actually provoke a fair amount of creatures now!

Nestor had fond memories of taming cu sidhes, so we took a gander at taming some to try and get some of the rare colors or even a highly ranked cu sidhe. We had several successful tames (as we did not want to kill them and thus lose karma) but none of the tames were ones we intended to keep. We lasted a few hours before deciding to call it a day.

I found several fabled fishing nets laying around and thought it might be fun to kill some leviathons. I checked with UOGuide and it mentioned that Scalis would only spawn if the thrower had 100 fishing. Perfect!

Unfortunately, UOGuide is maintained by regular players and has not been kept up to date with the lessened state of the game. While that information about GM fishing and Scalis may have been accurate at one point, it was no longer.

Our 2nd net toss ended in disaster. I was desperately trying to pilot the ship away from the ginormous crab-man with my horrible ping and meanwhile Nestor was desperately confused, wondering why the hell I was freaking out. He died, I almost died, my (bonded) beetle died, and his poor dragon got upset at us for not letting him try and eat the boss.

I took some time afterwards to adjust the information on UOGuide, and that led me down a several day path of updating/creating any and all pages I had the resources to. I've had issues with some of JC's actions and words in the past, but it occurred to me that refusing to help keep UOGuide up to date would do more harm than good. Letting the site crumble would be a bigger blow to the UO community than it would be to him, and my issues with him were petty enough that they shouldn't have kept me from maintaining UOGuide.

Long story short, I've been working on filling in any gaps in UOGuide's pages whenever I get the chance. Looking around at the pages, I feel like the most up to date information is stuff that affects and is affected by PvP, so I believe my PvM based gameplay will help keep other aspects of the website up to date.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

UOD: February 4, 2017

The plants on Lake Austin fully matured and I've harvested their resources and set them to decorative.

I pulled my vendors from Lake Austin as they were not selling anything. Just as I feared, the only reason they sold before was due to people cycling through the shard for the EM event. Nestor's account owns the Luna house and he has expressed interest in using that account for another house on Atlantic. I may or may not try and sell the Luna house. If that doesn't work, this house that has been around since 2008 may be dropped.

Through our adventures, we have realized how little activity there is on Lake Austin. While that doesn't completely change what I do, Nestor has decided that he would like to move to Atlantic. It's not a 100% move, as he still wants the Lake Austin castle and it would be nice to be able to run a lot of the champion spawns on a less crowded shard. I'm keeping all of my characters on LA, as I have quite enjoyed building up my own characters on Atlantic.

On the crafter's front, I did make a 2nd character to act as a skill holder. My total crafting skill lineup is:
-120 Blacksmithy
-120 Tailoring
-100 Tinkering
-100 Alchemy
-100 Carpentry
-100 Cooking

Next on my list is inscription. I may make a resource gatherer - mining, lumberjacking, etc. - but it's not a priority right now.

Since I wasn't going to move my own tamer, Nestor insisted on buying me a Mythic Character Token and having me start a tamer on Atlantic. Thus, my elven tamer has been born.

There's been some serious nostalgia with this taming process. I haven't been to some of these areas to train my taming since the early 2000's.

Nestor bought a 2nd home. A nice, secluded tower in the forests of Trinsic.

As part of decorating this tower, I was given free reign to experiment with some of the stonecrafting that was introduced in late 2015. In short - it's incredibly fun! I like being able to breathe new life into this classic house design. Nestor's a huge fan of the changes as well.

That covers all of the main events of the past several days. I'm trying to take it a little easier so I don't burn out on the game too soon.