Wednesday, July 27, 2011

TF2 : Late to the Party

I've only just started playing Team Fortress 2. I'm really late to the party on this one, but it doesn't hamper my enjoyment of it.

It's giving me a PvP experience superior to what I was getting in WoW, for the following reasons:

  • Classes! I can switch between classes whenever I want. Some classes I'm okay at, and some I am not. There's no roles to buy, no duel spec to be concerned with.
  • No Levelling! From the get go, I can jump in and start contributing to the team. There's no levelling.  Sure, there's skill to be concerned with, but it's nothing like the difference between a level 10 and a level 85 in WoW.
  • No Gear Grind!  There's crafting in TF2, and there's a degree of persistence that allows for collection of gear (although the mechanics of that are a little mystery to me, at the moment).  However, there's no immediate gear grind that I have to.  I don't have people on the team inspecting my gear (probably because they can't) and calling me a noob.
  • Instant Gratification!  I can jump on a server, play a few maps, and disconnect. No LFG, no waiting in queues.
  • Low Pings!  Since I can play on servers located in Australia, I get to enjoy 45ms pings.  This makes a big change from the 400ms latency I'd have to endure while playing WoW.
TF2 is going to have my attention for some time, until I have a hankering for some dungeon hack and slash.  At which point, I'll try some more Torchlight, or fork out for Diablo 3, if it's available.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

User Interface : Comment

Klepsacovic at Troll Racials Are Overpowered did a post on the User Interface. Once again, I started with a comment that turned into something more.

The default UI will get you going. It's also great for those who have trained themselves to ignore it, and just go with pure keymappings and macros.

I've got a friend who got sick of the UI tussle on patch day. It interfered prep for raiding, or for the actual raiding itself. Stuck with the default UI for all of WotLK. He might have done it parts of TBC, as well. I'm not sure how pure he was with that lack of UI mods (he probably still had Omen and some sort of threat meter), but I think for unit frames, and action bars, he just went naked (or, you know, what Blizzard gave us).

Conversely, I'm a horrible clicker. I'll use keymappings after a while, but some times my brain just can't remember things, and moving from alt to alt doesn't help. So I end up having all the abilities, consumables and quest items on the action bar, where I can see them. And then, right next to that, are my unit frames, because eye movement from my action bars (at the bottom centre), to the default location for unit frames (top left), is a strain, when it happens as much as it does.

I've seen postings who have done more study about where eye placement should be, and they all seem to say that eyes should be in the middle of the screen, and radiate out from there. That's where the action is. But the action is also in the chat window for instructions, or emotes, it's in the party or raid frames from debuffs, flailing health, and is that guy even targeting the boss, it's in the action bars for how long you've got left on that cooldown, or abilities that are triggered via other abilities and the RNG, it's in the mini map to show that re-enforcements are coming to your BG base. And that's just while in combat.

Then there's all the other stuff. Professions, training, AH, mail, guilds, latency, inventory, friend and ignore lists, reputations, quest tracking, buffs, debuffs, and more.

Blizzard has provided so much information (and sometimes not enough), and it's all over the shop. I'm very glad they've allowed customisation of the UI via addons. If it didn't, it might not have the success that it enjoys today, or at least the community that surrounds it.

Right, now that I've got all that off my chest, I'm re-reading the original post, because I'm sure I was countering something at some point. Ah yes, not liking the customizable UI as a band-aid to get the job done. Calling it a lie. Well, it's not a lie, it's a tool. That's what makes us humans. Usage of tools, and making our own tools, and opposable thumbs, and discussing stuff on the internet! Sure, usage of these tools won't make you a great tank, or a great healer or a great at dealing damage, but it will help to lower the barrier to success.

The greatest addon I've every used to help with a particular role is LifeBloomer. During my resto druid phase, this addon made managing the particulars of druid HoTs easier to manage. Keeping an eye on a colour coded sliding bar that takes latency into account was a lot easier that watching a number panel count down. And then placement of that on the screen where I needed it most (just to the middle right of center) was also awesome, as opposed to the top left corner of the screen. This method of healing also taught me the value of mouse over macros. Just hover over that unit, and hit that key mapping. Much easier that targeting a friendly (via mouse or key), and then hitting a key.

Healbot was a close second, and helped me with pally healing during TBC. Though I think I might still have been clicking targets in and via Healbot, then clicking abilities. Or maybe I was just doing combinations of left and right clicks with modifiers.

If we wanted to discuss UI being a lie, we could go back to my rant on Assassins Creed 2, and the lack of UI options it gives in certain parts of the game. You can also draw the parallels with vehicular combat in WoW, where your characters abilities are ignored, and you're forced to learn a new set of abilities. At least Blizzard gave us dailies, or 5 man dungeons with similar vehicles in which you can practice this style of play before fronting up for the raid.

When I see someone play, and I'm in a position to see what their UI is, the UI is the least interesting feature. I might be curious, but usually the playback is via YouTube, and UIs get horribly blurred to the point of scrolling text is reduce to red and green blobs, and the action buttons look the same, and if you're lucky, you can make out 10 or 25 small toons on the perimeter of a hot box of a boss with no head. Unless you're watching a nelf rogue take down a raid boss from the first tier for that expansion. That can be a good watch, and is helped greatly by putting it in fast forward mode.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Assassins Creed 2 : Leave my camera view alone!

I'm having some pretty happy fun times with Assassins Creed 2. Or rather, I was having some pretty happy fun times. Game play, for the most part, is fluid. Quests are interesting, and don't get you bogged down with twitch reflexes too much. Goals are achievable, so far.

I'm taking a 5 minute break at the moment to bitch about AC2 taking control of my camera, and my key mappings.

In certain places, like a tomb, there will be a timed event. You flick a switch, and you've got some unspecified amount of time to make it to the end of the section before whatever door or switch that was opened or reveal disappears again. And that's fine, except for one small feature. Your camera view and key mappings are no longer the same. You get put into a third person camera view that is not of your control. You get stuck having to do keyboard turns, instead of moving the camera to point in the direction you want to go. Forward is maybe forward, unless it's left, or backwards, or left of forward, or whatever arbitrary direction that is least convenient for you.

I'm currently stuck in the Auditore Tomb, with one of these special sequences. There's an initial three jumps that are easy enough, with a small landing, and then a jump on to some narrow archway pillar join. All's fine. It's broken a bit, so you need to move to the left, jump that bit, then launch into a swing and three more jumps to a wooden platform. That bit with the left movement. Well, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes left is some angle the character isn't facing. Really annoying. At that point, if you fall off, you need to start again.

And then to the platform. It's in the corner of the room, and you need to do a 180 degree turn (or maybe 160 degrees), and jump up to a beam, climb it a move on to the next platform. Very doable when the event it's active, when you have control of the camera view. Not so much when it's fixed, and forward is no longer strictly forward. Anyway, I think you get the idea.

Hey, game developers. Suddenly changing the controls of the game is not cool. Now I realise why WoW players, and raiders in particular, get so pissed with vehicular combat in raids. You spend all this time honing your craft, training your fingers to go to certain keys for certain abilities, getting the most out of your DPS, healing, threat generation. Then all of a sudden, you're controlling something else, key mappings for abilities, that are not yours are now completely different, and it's on the critical path to progression in the game. If I want to play with controls set up like that, then I'd have it so it happened all the time.

When I'm done with AC2, I'm hoping to play Assassins Creed : Brotherhood. But if that kind of game play is going to feature, I'll be giving it a swerve.

[Update 1: About 5 minutes after publishing this post, I was able to make it through. Not sure what buttons I pushed, and I'm not sure I could do it again. Hopefully, I won't have to, but then again "hopefully" is one of my magic words]

Friday, July 01, 2011

It's Gamer Over, Man, Game Over!

A couple of nights ago, I cancelled my RIFT subscription. I hadn't played for what feels like an age, and the desire was just gone. I think it's still active until sometime in October, but for now, I'm over the MMO (until SWO or GW2 is released).

I tried giving LotRO a go on the weekend, firing up my F2P characters I created and played way back when. For the most part, just general confusion. My 3 bags are full, combat was a random smashing of buttons and it seemed like just a bunch of running around. I think that will do me for another couple of months. Maybe I'll drop a bit of money on it, even if it's just to buy some more bag space.

So, for a while, I'll be going back to single player games, or games with less persistence. I downloaded Team Fortress 2 and Assassins Creed II, and played about 3 hours of AC2 last night.

I never made it to the end of AC, but from the intro of AC2, it looks like I didn't miss much, except for a lot of riding between cities and jumping off tall buildings. Maybe there will be more of the same in AC2, but so far, it's been a bit of fun.