Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Beta By Any Other Name...

A Beta By Any Other Name...

TERA, Diablo III and Guild Wars 2

A couple of weeks ago, like many other people, I participated in the betas for TERA and Diablo III. While I wasn't particularly thrilled by either, they both had some interesting elements.


I'll admit, I only spent an hour or two on the TERA beta - back issues and a lack of compelling interest in the game got in the way. Overall, it seemed fairly polished, although everything was every bit as crowded as you expect an open beta to be. When I looked at the demo at E3 last year, I was impressed by the combat mechanics, and I still think they are an interesting innovation. However, combat does not an MMO make, so I was more curious about the world and the quests... unfortunately the writing is very uninspiring (Gary Gannon of GamebreakerTV dubbed it "TERA-ble", a pun almost as bad as the writing), at least in the prologue and starting area, and the pretty animations that impressed me at E3 got lost in the overall business of every location (open beta overpopulation). I'm sure if I'd played for longer I could have gotten away from that, but again, pretty animations are nice but not enough to keep me playing. The character designs are pretty but I'm getting a little tired of overly sexualized female characters in these games and it would have been nice to be able to make a badass female warrior who actually looks badass. One thing they did that I thought was interesting was start you out at level 20 for the prologue (you're reset to level 1 once you complete the prologue) so you get a little taste of some of the abilities you'll gain later on.

The game launched yesterday - and Massively has a pretty good link roundup covering the launch, if you're curious.

I think it's worth noting that this trailer includes nothing of quests or in-game dialogue. (The voice acting, in most cases, is also terrible.)

Overall, I'm more excited about Guild Wars 2 right now.

Diablo III

I spent quite a bit more time on the Diablo III "beta" and I actually wished I could have spent more time. I played through the available content on 3 classes (demon hunter, monk and witch doctor) and the gameplay for all of them was fun, although the witch doctor was definitely my favorite, and not just because she throws spiders - I like pet classes (my original main in WoW was a warlock; I played her for 4 years before falling in love with my feral) and the overall flavor of her skills is delightfully creepy. I'm a little concerned that it doesn't seem like you really get to make any choices with your character build as you level up; I've been told that this is not the case as you get higher level but since the beta capped out at level 12 it was impossible to verify this for myself. The crafting system seems interesting enough but there's nothing particularly innovative about it. It seems like you're going to be holding onto all magic items you pick up to salvage them for crafting mats. Gems and gem socketing also weren't available in the beta, hopefully that adds the dimensionality that it feels like the game is lacking. Login problems aside, the game looks fairly polished and for the most part I think the beta testing Blizzard was doing was mostly stress testing/server load. Hopefully they got enough data from the open beta weekend to be adequately prepared for launch.

I did pre-order Diablo III and I'm not canceling it - the game is fun and the gameplay seems solid enough so I'm sure I will enjoy playing it. I'm doubtful that it will suck me in as much as Diablo II did, and I'm still really looking forward to Torchlight II. By the way, if you pre-order Torchlight II on Steam, you get a free copy of Torchlight (I already had one so I gave my copy to my sister).

Guild Wars 2

I haven't pre-ordered Guild Wars 2 nor played in any betas for it, but every time I hear something new about the game I get a bit more excited about it. There's a pretty in-depth interview with Eric Flannum (it's a two-part interview: part 1 and part 2), the lead designer of Guild Wars 2, on Taugrim also wrote a pretty good initial impressions post as did David Jagneaux on Koalition. What I'm excited about, in particular is:  
  • Like TERA, it's an action combat game; I'd like to see more skill based play in MMOs going beyond the typical 'know your rotation, don't stand in the fire' that is standard to most MMOs I've played
  • They have a system in place called dynamic level adjustment making it easier to group together with friends who are different levels
  • You are not required to group with someone to get credit for helping them with a kill - everyone who does a certain percentage of dmg to a creature gets an xp reward and loot that is not divided by number of participants
  • They've moved away from the holy trinity of MMOs (tank, healer, dps), hopefully making it so that most classes/builds are roughly equally desirable
  • Battleground PVP doesn't group people by level range like most other MMOs; instead, everyone is boosted to max level with all the skills that they would have.
Overall, it sounds to me like they've given a lot of thought to some of the major flaws in the standards of the genre and attempted to address them in a way that encourages more interaction between players - both more cooperative gameplay and more competitive gameplay.

My main concern that hasn't been addressed is whether the world is rich enough and the writing compelling enough to keep my interest; a concern that will be hard to address before launch anyway. So I'll probably be picking it up and giving it a try, at the very least.

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