Tag Archives: phantasy star online

Your Dungeon-Looting Preference: Part Two

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Over the last several months I’ve been trying Tom Clancy’s: The Division on and off, and with Destiny 2 coming along I guess I can talk about loot-oriented action RPGs again. I might have use for a new one, but I think I’m conflicted about The Division. Continue reading

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What Would it Take For Core Gamers to Accept Free-to-Play?

Free-to-play gaming seems to have been nipping at the hells of traditional console gaming for at least a few years now, but over the last couple weeks comments from publishers make it look like it’s really closing in. As I’m wondering if gamers are just gonna have to suck it up, I’m also trying to imagine what it would take for me to start playing F2P games.

Peter Moore from EA has straight up admitted that “hardcore gamers won’t like to hear this”. He ultimately declares that “The $60 game is dying. The mid-range game is no longer profitable. EA has to focus its energies elsewhere in order to meet those quarterly targets.” He puts this all on a timeline of five to 10 years from now.

The main problem here is that F2P gaming follows a mindset fundamentally different from what traditional console gamers have grown up to accept. EA head John Riccitiello put it deftly on the E3 conference floor when he said F2P games aren’t a product you own, but a place you go to. The reason F2P gaming has taken hold everywhere but consoles is because everywhere else is filled with audiences that don’t have preconceptions on what video games are supposed to be. The problem companies like EA and Crytek are gonna have to face is how to make their established fan bases accept the new environment.

In my particular case, the F2P game I play would just have to be a really good game. Unfortunately I still haven’t really had the time to try out an F2P game, but I’ve heard of ones that are either concepts or still in beta that look interesting to me.

The closest example I have played is Jetpack Joyride on my iPhone and I have to admit it is indeed a fun game. It’s actually the only decent example of a singleplayer F2P game I’ve seen (or even heard of). To those who haven’t played it, it’s more similar to an old arcade game than any big singleplayer adventure you’d play on a console today, and I feel like I can definitely reach the end without paying a dime. You just pay money to get upgrades more quickly. For the most part I think it’s a fair system, but without paying real money the game does feel like a grind.

A main issue I think is that we haven’t seen very many F2P games that look like real craft was put behind them. Not having played any of them I can’t really judge, but most of the ones I’ve seen do look like they have painfully low production values. Most of them probably just aren’t targeted at core gamers yet who expect something with a bit more polish behind it.

One exception from what I can tell is League of Legends. Some of my friends play it and I would try it out if I had the time (and a reliable internet connection). I’ve looked at the monetization system and it doesn’t sound like “play-to-win” to me. From what I hear, it also sounds like one of those very delicately balanced games with real craft behind it. The same probably goes for DOTA 2 which I will also at least give a look when it comes out of beta. I don’t think I’ve seen anybody mad about that being an F2P game. Valve also managed to get its hardcore user base to accept Team Fortress 2’s in-game economy with zeal. Another, lesser-known example is a Diablo clone called Path of Exile which I think is going into an open beta sometime this summer.

The final upcoming F2P game that I would definitely want to play is Phantasy Star Online 2 if Sega would just announce an English version. It’s a rare example of a trusted brand going from conventional to F2P. Sega even seems to be taking a risk by only charging for cosmetic items and virtual storage. Everything about PSO2 sounds like they’re taking the high road.

Another conventional game I’ve thought more and more about that might go F2P if we ever get it at all is TimeSplitters. Crytek is going all F2P after Crysis 3 hits and they’ve expressed desire to return to TimeSplitters. For me, an F2P TimeSplitters would really have to feel like TimeSplitters.  It would have to fully retain the controls and the overall feel of TimeSplitters 2 and Future Perfect.

I wouldn’t just play another generic shooter with the TimeSplitters name. I’m not just talking about the weapons, crazy presentation, modes, and maps either. When I play the previous two games, I can still feel the ghost of GoldenEye somewhere in there. I would need to feel it again in order to buy into an F2P TimeSplitters.

Other than that, to be honest I’ve already seen some conventional console games that I think I might play as F2P games if they retained their quality.

At times playing Gears of War 3’s horde mode I’ve seen a weapon skin I wished I could buy for maybe 99 cents (not in packs for $4). If I could buy a single character I wanted, like Griffin, for a reasonable price, I just might do it. As long as Epic didn’t lock weapons and fortifications behind a pay wall I’d be fine. The same goes for Modern Warfare 3’s Spec Ops Survival mode.

The thing that nobody can figure out yet is how to make a big, singleplayer adventure F2P. That might be the major barrier keeping F2P from completely taking over consoles. You might see stuff on consoles in the future resembling Jetpack Joyride, but not much else until some kind of breakthrough is made.

I fully believe that F2P is going to be one of the main things separating the next generation consoles from today’s consoles. The main thing setting current gen consoles apart from the last gen is the change in services and online infrastructure. F2P sounds like a logical evolution of this depending on how many established console game developers are willing to offer it.

BULLETS:

  • It seems that people like Cnet are still why Nintendo won’t go mobile and F2P. I’m wondering why they haven’t compared the financials yet. Sure they might be comparing the growth rates, but the raw numbers are still worlds apart.
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Late to the Party: Diablo

After snagging a trial code for Diablo III… I’m still not too sure about it. Being new to the franchise I thought this would be the point where I’d see some kind of light, but a combination of Blizzard’s DRM policies and my own computer have stopped me from playing anywhere near enough of the game to form a complete opinion.

The only other Blizzard game I own and have played is the original StarCraft, and I’ve played barely any of it since 2000, so unlike all my friends I didn’t feel the obligation to immediately lay down $60 on Diablo III, and I’m starting to feel glad I was cautious. There’s a lot that’s telling me this is an exceptionally well-crafted game, but I’m still not sure if it’s one for me.

Since everyone’s talking about the online problems with Diablo III I’ll start with the game itself from the perspective of a newcomer.

At first glance and through the first few minutes of gameplay Diablo III comes off as basically Torchlight with higher production values. Usually that means more intense graphics, but what initially caught me off–guard about DIII is that it feels like a Blockbuster game that deliberately goes for art over tech. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen that.

Anyone who looks closely will notice that the character models are at the level of a PS2 game, but it seems like Blizzard poured all the money into the textures, art direction, and 2D elements (HUD, backgrounds, etc.) to smooth things out. It really lets the art stand out as what makes Diablo III look like a AAA game while also probably allowing it to run on most of today’s computers.

The core game – the combat, is where my jury is still out. Like Torchlight, I immediately noticed a very refined game inside Diablo III despite being unfamiliar with the franchise. All the systems work just about perfectly and feel very convenient which feels doubly amazing for someone who’s only recently encountered them. The thing is though, I’m not sure if it’s totally compelling for me.

I haven’t really started feeling that addictive nature people talk about – the nature that ensures people not playing the game are still thinking about grabbing the next cool piece of loot. All the loot in this game just feels like a bunch of numbers to me.

The game I’m contrasting this with is Phantasy Star Online – my favorite loot-gathering RPG (in which I’m now finding shocking similarities to Diablo). For some reason PSO’s gameplay feels more personal to me. Mainly, I get a better feeling of satisfaction from finding a new sword or piece of armor. Maybe it’s because I see the name first and then the numbers, or maybe certain numbers are more prominent to give them more meaning, I don’t really know. Maybe it’s because I feel a greater sense of agency from PSO’s closer camera, console controls, and slower-paced combat. I’m not sure but I don’t think I can blame it on Blizzard. Maybe I just have that loyalty towards PSO.

…and then I looked at Diablo III’s clock and realized that I’d been playing for more than two hours.

It’s been a very long time since a game actually made me lose track of time. I actually think Half-Life 2 was the last game that did this to me. I’m still trying to figure out what it was with DIII. I think it had something to do with the game’s combat though.

The core of it is that Blizzard simply nailed the feeling of clicking on enemies and getting a tactile response. Somehow the combat even feels more precise than Torchlight, which I could typically only play for around 45 minutes at a time.

In my experience gathering the loot isn’t that exciting at all. In fact I find the skills and abilities to be far more interesting. I feel more enticed to try out new skills than new weapons, though that could be because I’m playing as a monk who strangely must equip weapons he doesn’t actually use. I’d be surer if I could actually play the game.

Look, I understand that Blizzard doesn’t want people hacking auction house items offline – that’s exactly what happened to Phantasy Star Online and is why the homebrew version is online-only, but I shouldn’t be experiencing lag in a $60 singleplayer game. I think I’ve been kicked out of singleplayer four times already, though mostly because of my own internet problems. That shouldn’t be an issue for singleplayer though.

I guess the main problem is that singleplayer and multiplayer are linked. If Blizzard really can’t get around that, I’d be fine with starting an offline-only save file. I have no idea how much I’d actually end up getting involved in co-op or the auction house, but I have a feeling that if I bought this game I’d spend significant time in singleplayer, but as-is I can’t in good conscious pay $60 for it on principle. Diablo III is probably a great game, but I have other equally great games on my plate right now.

BULLETS:

  • So Thief and Thief II finally came out on Steam and are now on sale. Took long enough.
  • I never watched Buffy, but apparently fans of that show might want to investigate Persona 3: http://t.co/xSfoXcep
  • I always said Payday was basically Left 4 Dead in a bank, now they’re admitting it: http://t.co/E6IzM8w3
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The Loot RPGs of 2012

A little while ago I talked about the saturation of loot RPGs over the last few years and actually suggested it was tapering off a bit. Not really, since we’ve got half a dozen either coming out or coming out of beta this year.

The problem I noted last time still stands – I can really only devote myself to one of these kinds of games at a time. Given that, it seems even more ludicrous that other developers are daring to release their loot RPGs in the same year as Diablo III.

How many fans of these games do they expect to really divert attention to Torchlight II, Borderlands 2, Path of Exile, Guild Wars 2, and Lineage Eternal this year? The first Torchlight seemed to have been made specifically to tide people over until DIII, and now Runic is in a bit of disarray because DIII is launching sooner than they expected it would.

I mean, I’m interested in these other games but only because I have no history with the Diablo franchise and want to wait until I can get a trial or something for DIII. I don’t have that loyalty to Blizzard (I haven’t played any of their games since 2000) so I’m at least willing to give the others a shot depending on timing.

The only one of these games that feels like it’s going to come out of beta during the summer drought (in North America) is Torchlight II, and finally looking at footage has actually got me genuinely interested in it. I’m surprised at how different it looks from the first game. I don’t know how I’ll stack up in multiplayer situations in this or DIII though.

Path of Exile looks like it might go into a more open beta this summer and it’s almost the only one of these games that’s free-to-play, so that one is at least easy to try out and looks interesting. The graphics are especially impressive compared to all the competitors that have gone for art over tech. I hear PoE is even still just as easy to run as Torghlight II.

The real outlier that actually seems like it has a chance is Borderlands 2. All the other ones look very similar, right down to the red and blue orbs at the bottom of the HUD. Borderlands 2 on the other hand is a loot-driven shooter that will actually launch with a console version. Whether or not I’ll play it depends on what else is coming out in September which right now is just Far Cry 3.

The other major outlier is Phantasy Star Online 2. It’s the one franchise here that commands the most personal loyalty from me, but it’s also the only one that’s not being released in English right now. I’m starting to think that Sega is focusing on Japan right now so their game won’t get squashed by all the other competition. Personally I would recommend they release a console version since that’s where PSO started, and only Borderlands is also doing a console version right now (DIII and Torchlight II probably eventually). There’s a lot less competition in that market for this kind of game. One big reason I’m especially attracted to PSO2 though is because it’s the only game here attempting a handheld version down the line.

Just beating the first Torchlight actually got me in the mood to start playing Mage Gauntlet on my iPhone again. Whenever I’m away from home and can’t play Torchlight, PSO, or Demon’s Souls, I tend to play Mage Gauntlet because that’s the closest equivalent I’ve been able to find for my phone. I hear that for hack n’ slash loot action, Dungeon Hunter 2 is basically it, and I think that’s a real problem.

The iOS version of PSO2 is going to be a kind of companion app – you’ll be able to bring your character down to a single player experience similar to the main game. It’s just something to do in the game while on-the-go, which would be awesome for Torchlight and Diablo. That’s not even mentioning the PlayStation Vita version of PSO2 that actually will have cross-play with the PC version.

The main factor influencing which of these games I decide to devote time to and when I play them however is how I view them as products in the grand scheme of things. I don’t know how many people dedicate hours at a time to Diablo but I mainly see all these games as really advanced time-wasters.

It was hard to play more than maybe 30 minutes of Torchlight at a time – it seemed more like a comfort-foot game with actual deep mechanics, and I already have plenty of those. DIII seems to me like the game you play every weekend instead of Team Fortress 2 or Modern Warfare. I don’t know if I can go back to the days of spending three hours trying to find one sword in PSO.

BULLETS:

  • So at some point the guys who made Super Crate Box made (or are still making) some kind of hip-hop inspired first person shooter in the style of DOOM, and I’m trying to figure out how to get my hands on it. Something to do with a kickstarter that’s already funded.
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Your Dungeon-Looting Preference

In order to get my index finger in shape while deciding whether to buy Diablo III I’ve finally gotten started on Torchlight – two years (I think) after buying it on a Steam sale. I ended up waiting so long because I feel like I’m saddled with way too many games of its ilk.

For the last few years, the loot-driven game has become all the rage in RGPs – strangely on both the western and Japnaese sides. Y’know, games where nearly the entire driving force is the thrill you get upon finding a slick halberd or helmet and selling the rest of the crap. Those games are great, but I can only really devote myself to one at a time.

I don’t know if anyone else feels like this, but I think we hit a saturation point for this kind of game a while ago. Maybe that’s already tapering off, but it’s still left behind a pretty serious backlog for people like me.

At the time I got Torchlight I think I was already on or about to get on Phantasy Star Zero – which many proclaimed was the true successor to Phantasy Star Online. Personally I enjoyed it a lot – my favorite action RPG combat (before Demon’s Souls) was back, the loot drops were as compelling as ever, and it was all on a handheld now… until I picked up Phantasy Star Portable 2 on a half-off deal. That game felt like a proper advancement on top of the PSO design, but for some reason there’s still nothing like the original, which miraculously came back on homebrew servers. Even today I still log into PSO’s SCHTHACK servers every now and again, especially since they just released a massive client update. The price for that though is a line of abandoned dungeons and characters in my wake.

This is exactly the reason why I haven’t bought Borderlands, don’t plan to, and have passed up numerous Steam sales for the game. It’s probably a very good game, and a co-op loot-based shooter is something I’ve wanted to see for a while, but I don’t need one more of that kind of game.

Even now I’m deciding what to do after finishing this blog – log back into PSO, or boot up Torchlight. Just starting up Steam drew my attention to this new little game called Hack, Slash, Loot.

Finally getting into Torchlight, I can definitely feel the craftsmanship Runic put into this game. Having never played previous Diablo games, I can tell this is of some highly refined game design which I guess has been enough to draw me into Torchlight. If this is a hint of what I’ll find in the big DIII then I’ll definitely consider getting it.

On the other hand, for some reason I still can’t get over the sense of desire that Sonic Team still manages to illicit in Phantasy Star. With everything going on on-screen in Torchlight, each new drop you get just feels like a bunch of numbers to me. If I happen to finally find a red lightsaber in PSO though, it genuinely lights up my gameplay experience. It’s probably a less advanced game than what I might get from Runic or Blizzard, but everything in it feels more personal somehow.

Most people are probably gonna drop everything else when DIII hits. I still don’t know yet as I have a strange feeling I’d be stepping into something way out of my depth. If Sega can get us an English version of Phantasy Star Online 2 though, that will definitely be my game.

BULLETS:

  • I can’t be the only person who keeps having 240 Microsoft points in change left over. Somebody’s gonna tell me the best way to spend those points every time this happens. This is one thing that’s better about PlayStation Network: they tell you how much it actually costs and only transfer the exact required amount of money to your account.
  • “You won’t like me when I’m angry. Becase I always back up my rage with facts and documented sources.” – The Credible Hulk
  • Had no idea they were making another Total Recall.
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