Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Current State of MMOs

With my recent ban from Eve Online, I have been going through MMO withdrawal. To try and satiate my need of the giant virtual world I turned to both Age of Conan and Warhammer Online. I avoided WoW for two reasons. First, because I have played it in the past and the grind fest completely disinterests me, and second, because the PVP element of WoW is just about pointless.

Both AOC and WAR are supposed to focus on the PVP experience. This is how my experience has been thus far.

Upon entering the world of WAR my initial though was, "this looks exactly like WoW". It's almost as if the WAR team was using WoW as a template and then just copying the entire art style and engine feel. The UI, animations, quest setups, and art direction are all disgustingly similar to WoW. The good thing about this, is that I like the art style of WoW so the lack of ingenuity in WAR doesn't hurt it as much as expected.

The PVP element of WAR:

WAR focuses on realm vs realm (RVR) combat and scenario combat. The scenario combat was easy to get into and the aspect of leveling up in PVP was quite appealing. That being said, I found myself in too many battles where our team was doomed to fail from the start. Sometimes we would start with no healers, or the level difference between the two sides was substantial enough to make any strategies on our part useless. For someone who likes to play PVP games where strategy is the most important factor in deciding victories, the combat in WAR was extremely aggravating.

RVR combat was fun... at first. Initially, it was quite a lot of fun to roam around in 30 man groups crushing everything in sight. However, during one of our "campaigns" we were stopped by a lesser force at a seemingly impassable choke point. The final castle that we needed to capture had a single stair case leading up to the boss and capture point. The entire enemy team was camped at the top of the stairs raining down death and destruction to anyone who tried to emerge. 20 players were able to stop a group of 60 plus. There were no other ways up to the second floor and eventually our party disbanded. I heard that this was going to be changed in the next patch but for a game that has been out for almost a year it seems like a pretty big imbalance considering RVR is the main feature of the game.

Next I tried AOC:

After downloading all 16gigs and waiting about 5 minutes for the client to verify that all the game files were intact (it does this every time you start the client) I was ready to go. I created a demonologist and started the game. I heard that the graphics were pretty impressive so I had them cranked to the max. Bad idea... DirectX 10 and max setting had me chugging along at 12 fps. This is with a 295 GTX video card, and 8 gigs of ram...

After reading around on the forums for a while it became apparent that DX10 was just too buggy for AOC. Fine.. I switched the client into DX9 mode and cranked the graphics. Now I was getting 90 fps plus, but there were major artifacts appearing all over the screen. After tweaking with the settings for a while, I discovered that having shadows turned on created this game breaking effect. Reading up on the forums again, it seemed that there was no way around this other than turning off shadows and waiting for them to patch the game.

Being annoyed with the whole situation I continued with the shadows off. The first couple missions were actually quite fun and the voice overs were a nice surprise. The world felt alive, I saw other players running around and questing. Then I entered a series of missions that put me into an instanced state of the world. The world stays the same but all the other players disappear and its a single player game. This continued for several missions, and after a while of playing without seeing any other players I logged off.

I'll give it another try but at the moment WAR is getting the majority of my play time, and I don't much care for it either.. Basically Eve is getting reinstated the second my ban is lifted.

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