This is a little later than I would’ve liked, but I had an amazing time playing Civilization IV yesterday, so no worries. Here’s my impression of 9Dragons by Acclaim.
First of all, a few points of interest. I was required to move the camera via the right mouse button pretty much all the time. Whereas I frowned upon this in 2Moons, here it was more fluid and less of a burden. It could possibly be that I was having issues with 2Moons because I played that in the default windowed mode, or that 9Dragons runs at a lower resolution (that you can’t change… I don’t really mind that, but it would be NICE to have the option to change it). Either way, I had an easier time controlling the camera in 9Dragons.
Here’s a glimpse at the world of 9Dragons (great world map):
Big place, huh? Well, the locality I was in was mostly the training grounds for getting into the Wu Tang (the Tai Chi sword users). I started in Baiyun Village.
There’s more than one faction in the game: Wu Tang, Sacred Flower, League of Beggars, Shaolin, and a couple more that I can’t remember. Essentially it’s three “good” and three “bad” groups. You’ve got a wide variety of weapons from swords to axes to polearms to wheels (yes, wheels). I really appreciated the healing mechanic in this game. Everyone gets a self-heal where you meditate and you can regain your health and your chi (essentially mana).
Also, I really like how the names of the things you kill have different colors depending on your level. This next screen, I’m fighting a guy called “Timid Male Thief” (yes, there are “Timid Female Thief” and Aggressive and so forth) with his name in yellow which corresponds to him being slightly tougher than me, but it’s possible to kill him (and I did).
The skill training segment is particularly cool. In order to be able to use the skill you’ve just acquired at the skill trainer, you have to successfully train it up on a combat dummy. Here’s how it works: you talk to the trainer and buy a skill of your choosing. So, say you want “Basic Sword” and that’s what you shell out the coin for. Well, next you walk over to the combat dummies and (with your sword equipped) you double click the dummy and agree to start training. You get something like this:
Then you play a short mini-game where you have to left-click when the blue ball is in the red zone several times (there are three levels and each level requires 12 successes for a total of 36 successful clicks). I’ll show a “work in progress” on the next screenshot, but first I need to talk about something mildly annoying about the item system. It feels… I don’t know, kind of lacking. Here, let me show you:
Okay, the box on the right is your “bag” or inventory. I know you can get more bags, so space isn’t my issue. On the left is the character page and “paper doll” where you equip stuff. You can also access the bag via the character page and the bag will show up next to the paper doll on the right. If you left-click once on an item, you get a breakdown of what it does or is or whatever. If you right-click on it once, you equip/unequip the item (if that’s possible). It’s hard to explain, but I just feel that this equipment/item system is a little lacking. Like there’s nothing really special about it. The game’s primary focus is on learning and mastering the skills in the game and equipment/items feel a little tacked on to this. Looting is easy with frequent tapping on the spacebar (once per item nearby).
Those are really my only issues: the right click camera and the equipment/item system.
The things I love about this game are (to recap): meditation for healing and recharging (watch out though because you can get jumped when you do this), actually doing something to learn your skills (yay, mini-games!), obvious scaling of the enemies as you level (shown in their names over their heads), the disciple/master system (which I’d like to look into some more in the future), and the fact that the quests just pop out at you and are easy to find (and if there isn’t a quest for you to do, go level and one will show up, pretty much guaranteed).
I actually think I’ll leave 9Dragons installed for now so I can go back to it later and play around some more. I almost wish I could spend more time on it, but I’m still trying to nail down a play schedule for this project of mine and I’d like to give each game only a few days tops. I highly recommend giving 9Dragons a spin, if only to try out the nifty martial arts moves. I seem to recall that the magic or chi moves or whatever they’re called are particularly neat (I do remember having to do a lot of kiting as the caster though). In the meantime, moving on to the next game which will be ACE Online (another game I recall very clearly due to its relative uniqueness).
Until next time, Don’t Forget To Be Awesome!
This game is another Acclaim free-to-play with micropayments. For some reason, the constant rotating of the camera with the right mouse button is less annoying here than in 2Moons. There’s no WASD movement in this game. It’s completely controlled by left-clicking where you want to go. W switches your weapon, A is for auto-attacking your target, and S opens your skills screen.
I prefer the graphics in this game to the graphics in 2Moons, but that’s probably due to the bloom levels in this one. The bloom smoothes out all the edges. The music sounds a bit more environmentally appropriate and the tutorials have actual voice actors with accents to help you understand how to equip your weapons and how to use them.
After playing for about 40 minutes, I came across this player who asked me to be his disciple. Apparently when you’re on while your master is on, you gain a serious bonus to your hit points and chi. Great system. Oh, also, the skill training system is actually a short mini-game with a sliding ball and you have to click when it’s in the red zone. This is for combat skills like using a sword, though, and I’m not sure if it applies to all of the skills in the game yet.
I’m still playing with it and I’m actually enjoying myself. I encountered a bug that is remedied only by quitting the game and loading it back up again where you can’t do combat at all while you’re under the effects of this bug. Irritating, but I looked it up and yeah, restarting the game fixes it.
I’ll get down to playing it some more in the near future.
Until next time, DFTBA!
Hello to everyone who’s decided to entertain my delusion of grandeur!
I’ve been noticing a couple of friends who, when I tell them what I’m doing here or when they find out, aren’t sure what this project concerns exactly. Allow me to explain in something akin to a wall of text.
Basically, not to sound condescending or anything (but I am going to treat you like a small child for a moment), things are made of parts. In the case of food, the parts are ingredients. In the case of a book, the parts are pages and words. In the case of a game, the parts are called mechanics. The mechanics compliment and supplement each other to provide a whole experience. We, the audience, typically only see the finished product (like in books and food) unless we make our own (we’ve all written something for school and we’ve all made sandwiches). Regarding games, not a lot of people (on the same scale as my little examples) have made games and so we’re all enjoying the finished product without really seeing the components of that product separately as their own entities. This is an exercise in separating the mechanics from the game or, if you will, taking the cheese out of the sandwich or citing a passage from a book. I can’t entirely remove the context of the mechanic, in fact, as is evidenced in the 2Moons screenshots I posted earlier, I showed the mechanics in question IN the game.
I’m not doing this little project as a way of reviewing games, I’m doing this as a way of figuring out which mechanics appeal to me. By doing so, I hope to become a more educated participant in the medium and to also appreciate the complexities before me in my preferred form of entertainment. It’s just like watching a show or reading a book to see if you like it: did you like this program for its character interaction? How about the story? I’m just taking notes while I go.
Further, I don’t intend to spend a lot of time on these games. I’ve played MOST of the games on the list I’ve put up here and I can get past the “honeymoon” phase pretty quickly. Some games (like Dungeons and Dragons Online) will probably be hard to break down into the individual mechanics that appeal to me if the game as a whole has strong appeal for me. I figure probably no more than three days playing any of the Free-to-Play (F2P) games but I’m flexible.
Oh, speaking of F2P… I should probably post a few terms on here as I go to clarify for some non-gamer friends who are interested in my project nonetheless. I’m a huge fan of accessibility and while I’m breaking down games, I should be breaking down terms. I’ll try to keep it rather general so as not to lose some of you.
Free-to-Play (F2P) is just that: the game is free to pick up and play. No guarantees on the quality, but developers are surprisingly proficient in churning out a very pretty and quite functional F2P game. There are a LOT of F2P games out there.
Pay-to-Play (P2P) is also self-explanatory: you pay a subscription fee (like to a magazine or HBO) to access the content of the game. These games tend to have production values (brand names, higher quality graphics and mechanics, big company backers), but can sometimes be outdone by their F2P counterparts.
Micropayments are F2P games where the player can pay a little cash to gain an in-game benefit of some sort. Some games (like Dungeons and Dragons Online) have an in-game store or a website store where you can spend your real money to gain virtual benefits. These benefits range from consumables like magic potions that are not found in playing the game normally or special equipment that is difficult to find or just plain expensive if you were to use the in-game currency. This is sometimes viewed as a happy middle ground to players because you don’t have to pay any money if you don’t want to. Fortunately, enough people want to pay for these little enhancements to game play because it gives them that extra edge and, as a result, the game sticks around funded by these generous souls.
I’m not going to get into the politics of F2P versus micropayments versus P2P (because there’s a lot of outcry over subscriptions). Suffice to say, those are the three financial flavors of online games and each category has a sparkling gem or three. Further, some games cross all three categories like Dungeons and Dragons Online (there’s that game again, but it’s a great example of this). DDO allows players to play for free and enjoy the game with some restrictions (2 characters per server, no special quest trees/dungeons, etc), but they also have a subscription system that gives incredible benefits (10 characters per server, access to every special quest and dungeon, etc) and if you ever stop paying your subscription, you still have SOME benefits but not as many as you had while paying for the subscription (4 characters per server, among other things). Further, they have an in-game store where you can shell out DDO points (which you can buy with cash or accrue through completing quests) for anything from magic potions to magic arms and armor.
Like I said, there’s a lot to learn about these games, but if you stick with me here, I’ll do my best to explain as I go some of the little differences and a lot of the terms. Remember, playing games is supposed to be fun. If you know the terms, the fun comes to you a bit faster.
Until next time!
P.S. I’ve just finished downloading and updating 9Dragons and I’m looking forward to reentering the F2P world of Chinese martial arts! DFTBA!
It’s time for my general impressions of some of the basic game play mechanics in Acclaim’s 2Moons.
Initial disclaimer: I gave this game a try some time ago and made a variety of characters and so forth. Trying it out again this time was an opportunity to focus more clearly on a couple of things for the purposes of analyzing the mechanics. I’d like to emphasize that I’m not here to comment on how awesome or un-awesome the game is, I’m just trying to see different game play mechanics in practice and see what I like best about the game I’m testing.
So, I hopped into 2Moons and snagged a few screens of the elements I was talking about in my In Progress posts. Here’s hoping I can put them in here with a minimum of fuss!
2Moons has a common base mechanic of zooming in and out on your character with the mouse wheel, moving your character via the left mouse click on a location or the WASD keys, and rotating the camera via the right mouse button. I found it very frustrating that I had to continuously rotate the camera while moving in order to see where I was going and I believe that a chase camera is something very important in a game like this.
I would like to point out a couple of cool elements that made the trip into 2Moons (however brief) worthwhile. First is the Auto Potion option:
Second, I’d like to point out the NPC Find pull-down menu on the local map:
Third, the available quest menu, first as an exclamation mark in the upper left of the screen to keep it out of the way and second as a list in the upper left when you need to see it:
Those three elements definitely appeal to me. Thumbs up to Acclaim for innovations and the like. Thumbs down for scenes like this keeping me from actually getting to NPCs in common areas:
I know it’s hard to read what all that text says, but you’re not missing out. I’m actually relieved to be done with 2Moons and hope I find more cooperative and less demanding camera work in the next game! I hope to have another game on my list looked at by the end of this week. Here’s hoping!
Until next time!
EDIT: I forgot something I thought was really cool: If you kill something and it drops loot, you hit the spacebar and your character automatically picks up the loot. Very nice feature for those of us who remember Diablo II fondly but are tired of clicking a lot. Also, like in Diablo II, if you hold the ALT key, it shows the loot on the ground. This is a cool mechanic that should be in any game that has open loot drops.
I’m going to start off by saying that this time around I started playing WHILE irritated with things.
Already after a few seconds of moving around, I’m irritated with the camera and the movement controls. Further, I find it very extraneous to have a run/walk toggle in the R key when it actually serves no purpose whatsoever to walk in this game. You move FAR too slowly when you walk and it takes a long time to get anywhere even while running.
Also, I’m of the opinion that music really sets the atmosphere and I find that the TWO tracks that alternate in town get old rather fast (however decent they are).
I wish there was an in-game control listing so I could… ah, found it. Okay, hitting the spacebar picks stuff up, great, good to know! Of course, like in Diablo 2, holding ALT shows the stuff on the ground.
Okay… yeah… I think I’ve gleaned enough from general game play to give my overall (admittedly sparse) impression. Look for that in the next post.
Once I’d fixed my whole password issue, I managed to get the game up and running. I picked a server and looked at a list of “classes” that had associated genders. Apparently the Azure Knights can only be male (and all the girls are very good looking) but I liked the name so I settled on that class. Then I was prompted with a starting location. I chose Loa Castle because I liked the picture they gave it. Yay, frivolous decisions?
I figured out the controls pretty quickly: Right mouse drag to move the camera, Left mouse click on a spot or WASD to move there. Further, after looking at some of the standard screens (Character, Inventory, Area Map) I did actually remember playing this game once upon a time. Haha! I remembered something! Success!
While poking through the game options, I noticed something really cool: Auto Potion settings. Basically the game has an option to automatically use a health or mana potion if you reach a certain percentage of health or mana. The default settings were 82% and 20% respectively, but they’re on sliders, so it’s easy enough to change them… of course, the sliders are VERY sensitive. In two clicks, I dropped the health one down to 75%. It’s cool to see something like this in a game, but it seems to be kind of, I don’t know, unadvertised? Not obvious? Hidden? I don’t know how well it works, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye out for.
There’s this exclamation point at the upper left of my screen and clicking on it reveals quests that are appropriate for my level 1 Azure Knight. I don’t know as yet if they’re the same quests for everyone (I have a hunch that they are), but I also don’t know if there are any class specific quests in the game (apparently the main quest is tailored to each class because it led me to an Azure Knight specific trainer). Oh, but one of the coolest things ever is this “Find NPC” pull-down menu on the area map. I was able to find the NPC I was looking for in just a couple of clicks… unfortunately, it’s a bit of a walk to get there, but I could use the opportunity to get familiar with the city I’m in, so it’s not a wash. (Edit: Okay, I didn’t realize just how often I’d need to use the “Find NPC” thing in the area map. It’s a tool you HAVE to use if you’ve NEVER played the game or if you’re just not familiar with the area you’re in.)
I’m not sure I like how there’s no option for a “chase camera” in the menu. I’m not a huge fan of moving the camera around ALL of the time. I like having a button to switch between “mouse look” and “mouse control” modes. There’s also no obvious auto loot option (yay clicking the ground for stuff you can grab) and it’s sometimes rather hard to select targets for attacking (moving targets suck). Auto attack is very nice though, but my character seems to “walk fight” as it were. I mean that he winds up traveling across the area while beating on his target. This could be a problem if I were in a very aggressive zone or (in this case) if I wind up hitting another monster because the first one was pushed up against the second one and I killed the first one and whacked the second one with the same blow but wound up not continuing to attack the second one because my target for auto-attack was dead and so I had to select the second one and hit auto-attack again in order to keep from dying. (Woo, run-on!)
Interesting side note: I didn’t know moths and beetles had red blood.
I find it highly annoying that everyone’s personal shop was covering up the NPC I needed to talk to. There’s no way to target aside from clicking, so I got rather annoyed with all of the obviously AFK players. Oh, and the constant spam of “gold-farmers” (I assume that’s what they were advertising) in the chat channel was extremely tiresome. I eventually turned to party chat and left it there.
Interesting side note: I didn’t know large lizards that look like oversized iguanas had green blood.
Okay, it was at this point where I found myself getting highly aggravated with the camera PLUS all the AFK shops in the way of the NPCs I needed to talk to so I could continue the “tutorial” quest tree. I decided to stop playing for a bit. More of 2Moons later after I’ve chilled out some.
Okay, how in the world am I going to approach these games?
I think maybe I could do a couple of days of gameplay of the ones I can’t remember all that clearly. Some of these games I really haven’t touched in a long while (see Dungeon Runners… ooh, how am I going to write about that one?).
Hm… well, there’s a short list of games I definitely don’t want to play again for a reason or two (like I played it to death and the game makes me want to beat myself senseless if I tried to start a new character). Okay, there’s really only one game that makes me feel that way and that’s Ragnarok Online. Nothing against it, I just OVERPLAYED it. There is definitely a point where you just can’t play any more of a game… ugh… that was just… yeah. I’ll talk about that more when I get around to discussing Ragnarok Online.
I’m having issues figuring out which one to talk about first. Maybe I’ll just do them in alphabetical order (like that convenient list I put up, how convenient!). In choosing which order to talk about the games, I won’t play favorites (except when they actually ARE a favorite – see the ones I pay to play).
It’s going to be hard to get past the whole “honeymoon” period of gameplay for a couple of games. By that, I mean, there’s a sweet period where everything’s new and interesting and happy. Since I have actually tried these games before (well, except LOTRO) I should be able to skip the honeymoon period and just get right down to discussing what I like. I’d expect a turnaround time of about 2 days minimum in order for me to fiddle around enough with the game to experience enough of it to discuss. Oh, and I do have games I play with friends relatively regularly, so I’m going to be interspersing gameplay of these “review-ables” with my usual gameplay of Galaxies and DDO. Gotta get my money’s worth!
I think I’m going to start with 2Moons as soon as I can remember my login information and get it downloaded/installed/running okay.
For the record, it’s hard to watch YouTube clips while writing this. I should do something about that.