Filed under Tim

Virtual Virtual Warfare

1.8GB of patient downloading later, Game Update 4 for Planetside 2 arrived. I have to say, SOE are really earning their wages with the update schedule of this thing, cracking on with many and significant improvements month by month since release, to a game that didn’t even launch that broken in the first place.

You can find the full patch notes here:

PS2 Official Forums: GU4 Patch Notes

 

Loads of things there as usual, but the big headline item is the new VR Training Area, which I’ve already had a run about in and think is genius. Accessible from the Warp Terminal screen as a small button beneath the islands, this takes you to a Star Trek Holodeck inspired mini zone containing terminals, shooting ranges, a large bit of Indar-Greenery style terrain to drive and fly about on, and even a practice Watchtower structure in one corner. Apparently, it even has a Quad Bike racing course, which as yet is incomplete, but Soon…

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Street Sovereignty

So in spite of myself, I appear to now be liking Ingress, the Google Citizen Monitoring System masked as Augmented Reality Game. That it is recording my every move for some sinister future purpose, I do not doubt, but figure that Google already know my… well, pretty much everything that I do online and over email anyway by now, so where is the additional harm?

The thing still seems to be in beta, but I don’t recall any NDA being mentioned and don’t generally care about those anyway. Basic gameplay is somewhat new and interesting to me, never having had a phone capable of this stuff before. Two factions, the Enlightened and the Resistance are battling it out in a secret invisible and made-up world, trying to have the most territory under their control at any given time. Something to do with Mind Units, which isn’t sinister AT ALL!

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Reviewlets: A30 Walker & M60 Bulldog

Two guns for my newest favourite Planetside 2 vehicle, the Galaxy. The Galaxy is a highly situational choice; a twelve-man troop transport VTOL aircraft and is very iconic, being a firm favourite from the first game. Unless you just want to use it as a flying kamikaze bomb to burn up otherwise unwanted Aerospace resources, you’ll want at least five crew for this plane to get the most out of it; a pilot and four gunners. Seven additional passengers can be loaded for the full 11-man paradrop on target facilities, and the whole paradrop thing is the Galaxy’s primary purpose – rapid redeployment across awkward or distant terrain. Everyone except the pilot is protected from falling damage when jumping from this plane, at any height. Static and regular squads should be looking to have a few members practice and pimp their Galaxies to increase squad mobility in general. To beat the Acquisition Timers and Resource Costs, have several Galaxy Pilots work in rotation.

The secondary purpose of the plane is a bit more hit and miss; the ‘Galaxy Gunship’ concept from PS1. With all armaments upgraded from the stock M20 Drake average-at-everything heavy machine guns, can the Galaxy become a potent offensive unit in its own right?

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Thoughts on Squad Leading

Planetside 2 continues to entertain, and like most of these MMOs for me these days, seems to shine as a venue for good friends to have quite casual social hijinks of an average evening. Some of us are better than others at the whole shooty shooty thing, but there’s a good general atmosphere on Mumble in the Fire Rounds Rapid outfit of which I seem to have become somewhat in charge of.

We’re there to have fun, of course, but there is an actual game going on too, and I’m slowly learning what is involved in leading a squad in PS2. One of the great and unique selling points of PS2 over, say Borderlands, Halo or Battlefield 19-whatever is the sheer scale of the fighting. These are really large maps, with a LOT of participants, dozens at any given base and likely thousands overall. Making some kind of sense of it all is very much part of squad leading. Continue reading

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Reviewlets: Saron HRB & G40-F Ranger

Two ground vehicle weapons today. These are a funny thing to review well, especially in the multi-crew vehicles, since you, the paying customer, will rarely be using them yourselves. The person who spawns the vehicle is also the person who gets to fit all the modules and weapons on it, including the big ticket unlockable turrets. This basically ends up with you putting down cash in a game for the better enjoyment of other people, which is an odd state of affairs.

Naturally, this will appeal to regular squad-folk more than determined soloists, although perhaps those with an eye on bigger empire-wide picture may see the benefits in acts of cash-shop altruism which give random gunners the tools to perform better. Very hit and miss, literally! I’m lucky enough to have a fairly large squad of regulars for our nights out in there and this opens options for effective coordination in the multi-crew vehicles, which we use a lot; Sunderer, Galaxy, Magrider and Liberator.

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Reviewlets: Solstice SF & Eidolon

So here we are in an F2P Age, more or less; a state of affairs which generates mixed feelings among many. I always liked the idea in principle, but with provisos. Opportunities for idiocy and avarice certainly do exist more now than under the one-monthly-fits-all age, and it’s very much up to us to evaluate all new cash shop offers carefully, with an eye to what is right for us. I always thought that this would be our new role as MMO bloggers; to highlight and scorn the stupid, but also to assess and praise the good ideas too, in the form of mini-reviews of the new and more granular level of consumerism we now have in front of us. The dedicated LOTRO blog and podcast Casual Stroll To Mordor illustrates what I mean, with regular reviews of specific items and deals, along with recommendations (or otherwise) from folks who know a bit about what they’re talking about.

I’ve found those helpful in the past and would love to see more of this sort of thing across the whole genre; expert players giving detailed scrutiny to specifics, rather than the same old tired ‘All F2P is Bad/Good’ rhetoric.

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Roadmaps and Rapid Rounds

Meanwhile, in games which aren’t Guild Wars 2, Planetside 2 is going pretty well. Getting the K/D out of the way right now, I seem to be consistently coming in at 0.3 or so, which is similar enough to my six years of on and off Planetside 1 play. Sometimes I finish a night with over 1.0! It doesn’t matter though, because the main reason I loved Planetside 1 was the sheer spectacle of the ongoing massive fighting, which very much exists in the sequel.

The differences between the first and second games are many and varied, but the essential spirit of the game seems intact. The art and engine are both huge improvements on the first game, delivering a very modern feel to basic gameplay, on a par with current console shooters in a way that Planetside 1 never really managed against Counterstrike and its contemporaries.

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I, Mesmer: Shattering

Guild Wars 1 has Attributes, alterable point scores in four or five disciplines for each class, which govern how powerful the skills of that discipline are, and also which carry some innate passive effects as well. For the Memser, these would be Fast Casting, Domination, Inspiration and Illusion. One of these would be the Primary Attribute (Fast Casting for the Mesmer), and unique to that class. It was this, and the armour piece stats, which would make a Mesmer/Ranger subtly different to a Ranger/Mesmer, who would get Expertise instead.

Guild Wars 2 has gone with a more conventional Talent Tree style of customisation, often using the same names, but something of the spirit of the Primary Attribute lives on in the Profession Mechanic. This is different for each class and usually involves the F1-F4 keys, and the UI area just above the Weapon Slots. For the Mesmer, this is Shattering.

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I, Mesmer: Spear and Trident

New and different in Guild Wars 2 is Underwater Combat. All characters start life with a miraculous Aqua Breather item in the appropriate slot which makes all inhabitants of Tyria amphibious! Its actually a bit of a stat-holding placebo designed to trick the nervous fish-people of Tyria into using their previously untested gills – try going deep and then unsloting the breather; nothing happens! All a bit creepy! Many of the zones contain large expanses of deep water, often with important hearts, vistas and events going on in them, and of course fighting.

The texture of underwater combat is quite different to the usual land-based shenanigans, and requires a slightly different, three-dimensional mindset which many players can find tricky. Without the ground as a familiar distance and perspective cue it can be tricky to judge ranges, particularly with point-blank melee-based underwater weapons, and of course, enemies can come at you from all directions, not just the horizontal.

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I, Mesmer: Elite Slot

The cornerstone of any exotic quirky Comedy Mesmer Build in Guild Wars 1 was always the Elite Skill. You’d only be allowed one of these in a bar at a time, and they had to be captured off monster Bosses out in the wide world, using the Signet of Capture. This was an element of game play that struck a particular affinity with me. I loved it and over about five long years I eventually ended up completing the Legendary Skill Hunter title, gained by capturing every Elite Skill in all three Guild Wars Campaigns, about 140 of them in total. Go me!

An Elite Skill was typically a powerful thing, opening up entirely unexpected play styles, or in other cases offering a much more powerful version of a normal skill you used a lot anyway. Builds on wikis were typically named for the Elite Skill in use. They were powerful and significant. How has that translated into the newer game?

 

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