What If Scarlet Doesn’t Die?

Quick word of caution, if you haven’t done the current Living Story story instance there will be some minor spoilers in this article.

The beginning of the end has started for the Living Story Season 1, and with it there have been some interesting developments. Our merry little band of NPC characters has now grown by one with the addition of Taimi, a precocious Asura who pretty quickly attaches herself to Braham despite his protests. Taimi’s ultimate goal seems to be to meet Scarlet and become her apprentice and eventually overthrow her. That’s a pretty big aspiration, even for an Asura. If we assume the speculation about this group of heroes basically being a Destiny’s Edge 2.0 is correct, then with the addition of Taimi we have one spot left to fill. And no Sylvari.

One of the more interesting conversations in the story instance happens between Rox and Rytlock. He finally tells Rox she can join the Stone Warband if she kills Scarlet. Now, I am pretty sure Rytlock isn’t saying Rox needs to go challenge Scarlet to a duel or anything, that would be a bit silly, but rather she just needs to be a big part of the effort to take Scarlet down. Similar to when Rox was hunting down Tequatl. Of course hearing this news upsets Braham because he still is dealing with his abandonment issues and there is a fight between them which is sadly reminiscent of Logan and Rytlock.

However, I don’t think the goal here really is to rip Rox away from this group. I’m expecting some character growth to happen with her where she realizes she already has a group she belongs with despite them not being Charr. Now this certainly could happen with Scarlet being killed and having Rox be offered membership and at that point realizing she doesn’t want to leave her friends behind… but feels a bit meh and formulaic. Now I am finding myself leaning more towards hoping there is some possible way to save Scarlet, and possibly even having Rox be the one to make the call not to kill her. Which is weird for me since I have been championing the idea of Scarlet dying one way or another.

Which leads me to an interview gamerzines posted with lead designer Mike Zadorojny in which he said something really interesting:

“This is the first time players get to see a little bit of the history behind Scarlet and tells the back story of how she looked into the eternal alchemy, and saw something looking back at her.This malevolent being out there was so powerful that it started taking over her mind and giving her suggestions in terms of what she should be doing and things like that. There is a big point here, in terms of the battle between Scarlet’s free will versus this creature’s and you’ll see her transformation.”

Now there are a few important things here. The first is this apparently is confirmation someone or something is controlling Scarlet. Now this is a really sad and almost perverse revelation for Scarlet personally. Right from the beginning she has always wanted to do her own thing and break free from any concept of what she was supposed to do. To know most of what she accomplished has only been under the influence of some other being is just sad. This fits nicely in with the bits from her journal in game which also indicate she was aware on some level of this thing trying to control her and her struggle against it.

The other important part is he mentions we will see her transformation. Which seems to possibly indicate we’ll somehow see the events when she was in the Asura contraption and see this thing take over her. Or possibly the events in the Edge of the Mists update will be a look into the pass and we might see the end of her struggle against this thing. Though it seems like an odd choice to at this point somehow go back in time and see things which have already happened. It’s possible but I’m not convinced that’s where this is going.

Instead, I am leaning towards in the next patch we will learn what is controlling Scarlet and we’ll either figure out how, or start working on figuring out how to free her from the control of whatever it is. Now there is some basis in the lore where Destiny’s Edge used magical tattoos to prevent the dragon champions and even Kralkatorrik from controlling their minds; it should also be possible to free someone of mind control using some sort of similar method. In this case the transformation we would be witnessing would be Scarlet going from this crazy, random, weird mess to a whole person who is possibly a bit horrified at some of the things she has done. If that’s how things play out then it is quite possible for Scarlet to then join up with our merry band of adventurers and work to try and rectify some of the damage she caused.

My only issue is while I could see things playing out like this and it makes sense, I have very mixed feelings about it all. I think it would be really cool if she died in a fiery ball of villainy; but if she is just some evil god’s pawn I’d rather she die under her own free will saving everything. I mean it would be cool to get to know her as a real character with a personality aside from brilliant insanity… Completely depends on how they play it out in game though. But I think it’s a very real possibility she might be the last member of the new icons group.

Wildstar Neighbor Housing Contest

Wildstar shows off more of the Housing possibilities with their latest Housing Contest.

You might recall back in July Wildstar did a Housing Contest to show off the variety of options in player housing. Beta testers were challenged to put forth their creations to see who had the most interesting and creative house. It looks like they went at it again during the third closed beta test. This time there was a twist. During that phase of testing the Neighbors feature was introduced which allowed players to team up and build massive houses, sculptures, and scenes.

The newest contest had people team-up and create things together to earn the coveted Protostar-sponsored Housing Trophy which the winners will get to display in their house after Wildstar is live. Below are some of my personal favorites, but you can see the full list of winners on the Wildstar Wednesday page.

The “Most Joyous Wedding” Award

I admit it, most of what I love about this one is all the Rowsdowers. I mean just look at them sitting in chairs and stuff. I also really like the two beds stacked with boxes and what looks like a tv or a computer there? Totally looks like a fort I would have built when I was a kid… if Rowsdowers were a thing back then…

The “Lopp Of The Rings” Award

This one gets me on mood setting, the fact there is a spidery thing looking there, surprise that you can have spider webs, LOTR reference, and cuteness 🙂 The bunny on the left even has a sword and a light source to use to save his friend! I definitely can see why this was one of the winners.

The “Game Of Veggies” Award

I’m not sure much needs to be said about this one, it just makes me smile 🙂

Wildstar’s Subscription Model

It’s been a few days since Wildstar released their business model plans to everyone and I have finally been able to gather my thoughts on it. Initially I was a bit disappointed because I was hoping for a b2p model with an optional sub. The model Carbine has come up with could workout similar to B2P (for some people), but if it works or not is almost entirely out of their control.

Part of Carbine’s plan with CREDD is to undercut gold sellers. How I see this working is people who don’t mind paying a little more for their gold to get it from a safe source will see CREDD is as a good option (assuming enough people are spending gold to buy CREDD in return). The downside is gold sellers probably will be able to undercut whatever the average gold gain per dollar works out to be. Which highlights a glaring issue, the amount of gold you’ll get for you dollars isn’t set. Markets ebb and flow, the result being a player’s choice will ultimately be between receiving a variable amount of gold through legitimate means or getting a specific amount from a gold seller.

Another cause for concern is they keep comparing the CREDD system to the PLEX system in EvE, except EvE didn’t launch PLEX until 2008. The reason this matters is five years into the game there already was a pretty solid player base who had the resources to be able to afford to buy PLEX time from other players in amounts which made the transaction worthwhile. In other words there was a cushion to help PLEX catch on.

When Wildstar first launches we aren’t going to have anything. Sure there will be some people who race through the content and save up their gold… But are those people more likely to be the ones selling CREDD or the ones buying it? My instinct says they are more likely to be the ones selling. If that’s the case is there going to be a price point where lower level people can afford the CREDDs but it would still feel worthwhile to those who are buying them for cash? Additionally if not enough people are spending their gold on CREDD or are willing to buy at a price point sellers are happy with, it might get to the point where no one buys CREDD to sell because there’s to much risk involved.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. I was reading a Blog over at Wildstar Fansand Anhrez brought up an interesting point about guilds and CREDD I hadn’t even considered.

The ideas was bounced back and forth and I have to wholly agree that with what we know about Wildstar guilds now have something to ‘award’ its players more than loot. A good guild will accumulate gold. With unclaimed loot, high end materials that can be sold, etc gold comes to those guilds that are solidly managed. Once guilds have certain bosses on farm status maybe players will hire out for raid boss safari’s and the gold earned goes the the guild to then be shared for CREDD? So besides maxing out your guild bank and guild hall (tbd options for Wildstar) could gold be shared with players to help off set costs of their gaming?

While some of this depends on how easy it is to get gold in game, the basic idea of guilds being able to reward their members with a free month here and there is great. I mean how nice would it be to get a free month of game time from your guild? Though again it hinges on how easy guilds find stocking up on gold to be.

The last bit which sort of rubbed me the wrong way was the fact they won’t say outright there will be no microtransactions; which makes it feel like there probably will be. Now I know the only game out right now which you can sub for and doesn’t also have a cash shop is Final Fantasy XIV. Even so, I still cling to the idea your sub gets you everything in the game. The concept of paying a company the box price, a monthly sub, and then extra for cosmetic things just seems like a crap situation for the consumer. However, the ship has probably sailed on that concept.

Don’t get me wrong I am still really looking forward to Wildstar coming out. I will definitely play. I am just concerned if things don’t go perfectly they’ll be looking at some hard choices pretty quickly. I really hope they are planning for a large drop-off of players after the first month. I also really hope their projections for player base after the first month are sane.

Revisiting Star Wars: The Old Republic, Part 1

After taking about a ten month break from Star Wars: The Old Republic I have decided to go back and give it another look. Sort of see how the game feels at this point sort of thing. One qualification is I haven’t resubbed, I am getting the experience of a preferred account (with the benefit of having about 2k cartel coins from when I was subbed but not actually playing.

First here’s some background on where I was with SWTOR in the past. I pretty much fell in love with the game during beta. I loved the storylines and really loved the dialogues. Leveling was a ton of fun, I did it with a friend (consular), my husband (trooper), and I played a Knight. We were really impressed with the quality of the story telling and how we could follow each other’s class storylines. There were tons of bugs, but as a brand new mmo we were sort of willing to let those slide, none were game breaking for us.

After reaching max level we realized the hard mode flashpoints were a bit over tuned for fresh 50’s and that we could get just as good of gear through PvP which would allow us to start raiding. Raiding was a ton of fun, and there were some different and interesting mechanics to learn. Of course once you learned them it was much easier, but that is true of pretty much everything. There were some frustrating bugs, but we tried to not let those get to us too much. We weren’t a super hardcore guild or anything, we did some hard modes but it was always more about seeing the content for us.

Then some content lag happened. And then after new Ops were added and they didn’t continue the gear progression and it became harder to get people to show-up for ops. They felt like once we did it once there wasn’t much point to keep working on things or to try on a harder setting, and they really weren’t wrong to feel like that. There was so much potential for SWTOR which just felt squandered after awhile.

What did it for me was the way the transition to free to play was handled. I went into it with very hopeful feelings and it just ended up feeling like the people who were in control were bitter about the need to transition. It is easily the most restrictive model out there, and I can’t help but wonder if that actually costs them money. It’s one of those things which we can never really know for sure. Either way the whole thing rubbed me wrong and I quit playing and canceled my sub.

Let me be clear on one point though. It isn’t a case of me not liking f2p models, I am actually a fan of well done f2p games. My issue was completely about how they were implementing restrictions and communicating with their fans. An example of this failure to communicate properly was in the midst of announcing all the restrictions they posted something saying people shouldn’t be upset about the restrictions because they had considered not letting f2p people skip dialogue. Which was intended as a “see it could have been worse” but really just served as a “see how much the people running the show are out of touch”.

I was mostly upset about things like having showing titles, unify colors, hide head slot, and quest rewards all behind pay walls. You might say unify colors and hide head slot are cosmetic so it shouldn’t matter if you have to pay for these things, but for me they are things which matter a lot. I like controlling how my characters look. The not being able to show titles is just inane. If you did the things required to obtain the title you should be able to show it. Same thing with quest rewards. You did the quest, why shouldn’t you have access to all the quest rewards?

So after many moments of facepalming and just being generally disappointed I called quits. However, now I have been wonder how the Imperial Agent storyline ends so I have decided to return and chronicle the experience as a preferred account here.

More Player Housing Info

In a recent Uplink post Loic “Atreid” Claveau discussed Player Housing and revealed some more information about what we can expect. I have some thoughts about Lighting, Expeditions, and Renown to share with everyone.

Player Housing, now with ambient lighting!

Ok so it’s pretty clear I am excited about the concept of choosing the ambient lighting on a room by room basis. This is basically how light or dark a room is before you put any sort of light fixtures or candles in the room. It might not seem like a big deal, but it really goes a long way to being able to decide just how a room will feel. Take a look at this example Claveau provided.

Now just imagine if the default lighting was really bright, making a dark and moody room like this wouldn’t be possible at all. Additionally, say if you did want to make a bright room but the default was completely dark. You would have to use a ton of lighting to get the room bright and it probably still wouldn’t be the effect you were looking for. With the addition of room by room ambient lighting they have added a ton of options which I am super SUPER excited for.

Get Ready to Rumble!

I’m just going to quote what Claveau had to say about expeditions:

Now I’ve made mention of Expeditions in passing in a couple of places on the webz, but now I’d like to show you a picture of one. For the uninitiated, an Expedition is a type of plug that you can put on your property that connects to a scaled group instance. The one I have pictured below is the Graylight Grapplefest, a notorious fight club. In it the players are tasked with defeating foes inside the spotlights in order to get the maximum points per kill. Winners are awarded with Renown and unique housing trophies.

So basically it looks like a sort of arena where you and your friends can enter and fight various foes and test their skills. He goes on to say they plan on expeditions taking about twenty minutes for each one. Which all of that sounds awesome. I wonder how hard they will be. I hope there is a scalable aspect to it, otherwise it’ll get boring pretty quick and since it’s a way to earn Renown you’ll probably want to keep doing them for awhile. If nothing else I hope they will at least have some variability to it (like puzzles and raids).

Speaking of Renown…

The biggest news in this post is Renown. It’s described as a sort of social currency. You earn this currency through completing content on your property or through doing grouped content anywhere in the game. Sounds awesome right? The main possible issue I can see is how earning Renown is balanced.

For example, say you earn 20 Renown for doing any kind of content for which Renown is rewarded. I can easily see people getting mad because their 40 man raid (which probably will be a larger time commitment) will earn them just as much Renown as someone doing an expedition and I can definitely see how that might feel unfair. Not to mention as a “social currency” it would seem weird if actives where you were doing things with more people didn’t earn you more Renown.

On the other hand if smaller groups earn too much less than the large raiding groups the system will feel really unfair the other direction. I mean not everyone wants to or even can do 40 man raiding. From the rest of Wildstar’s game design they seem to think that’s fine. But if the only people who can earn enough Renown to get the cool items (in a reasonable timeframe) are the people who do 40 man raiding, there will be a problem. As always balancing the desires of different groups is one of the biggest challenges MMOs face.

What is Renown used for? Oh it’s for purchasing things for your house and “some other interesting rewards”. So only people who are interested in Player Housing should care about it… which seems to be the vast majority of people. Also those “other interesting things”, I wonder what those will be. I would think not anything vital to gameplay since those sorts of things would be a bit more than “interesting”. Man if they make Renown pay for housing things AND pets/minis I just won’t know what I’ll do.

That’s about all I have for now. You can read their whole post here. Can’t wait for the possible Race/Class reveal at ComicCon on Friday!