Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Chapter 13: Let's bring in some new things and leave out others

(This play through was recorded before the /who feature was removed)

So, patch 1.2. I heard the Marksman had their class balanced quite a bit. However, since they made some changes to grenades, my Engineer was lucky enough to get a respec token anyways. Maybe I'll plan out to make a viable build out of him now that I know what Engineer skills are there as fluff and which ones bring something to the table. Anyways, I thought I would have a bit of fun with the mail, a feature that is usually launched standard with other online games with a semi-interactive community (I'm avoiding the term MMO here because Hellgate is far from that classification). Despite how long it took to finally arrive in the game, however, is something I was rather willing to overlook. Now I finally had a reason to hold on to all the junk from other classes I was picking up.

E-mail is fun.

To test out the features more extensively, I decided to create a Guardian alt. So I run my Guardian alt through that horrid bit that's called an "introduction" and send him right down through the tube. I then exit and log out of the game (as there is no feature to just log out of your character and be back at the character log in screen) and log back in to my account and select my Engineer. Then I have my Engineer mail some of the items and some palladium to help start off my tad poll Guardian. Then...well, you know what I had to do then. Let's just skip to the part where I log back into my Guardian, shall we?

See that tiny little button flashing red? That's the equivalent to, "You got mail!"

I was rather surprised at first when I logged into him. I mean, I knew where the mail button was (obviousy). I suppose I was just expecting something much more noticeable when it came to you getting a message. Of course, there's the usual, "just hit 'z' every time you log in," excuse, but I believe that's just it; it's an excuse. I mean, we already have notifications when we finish acts "Congratulations! You finished Act II!" How hard would it to have a message pop and say, "You have mail"? Perhaps my biggest gripe, however, is that you have no indicator that let's you know if an alt of yours has received mail as well. Which brings me to my next point.

The mail system works on a dynamic decay. It takes 28 days for mail with money/item attached to it to decay; 21 days once you've opened it; 14 days once you've detached the item.

It's nice the way Flagship Studios combated the inability to know whether or not your other characters have mail (I imagine it's 21 days standard for just a message between people). Besides, mail is so inexpensive (5 palladium fee regardless of what you're sending) that it would be a steal to use in transactions. My only last complaint, however, is the most crucial. I mean, that's just the thing. Transactions. Do they know how easy it would be to get a lot of the trading to be done around in the game if there was a COD option? Come to think of it, every other game that has some sort of mail function has a COD option. Was this just one of those things overlooked as well? Or maybe it was just one of those, "we have the core system of mailing working, so let's just put it out in the next patch without the bells and whistles."

I shrugged, equipped the items, and went my merry way. After all, I wanted to at least get this character to the next station. And so I did. I went through the dismal level once more. Click, slash, smash. The Guardian isn't anything new, he was a class I also extensively tested in the game as well. However, I was surprised to learn that he lost the ability of Heaven's Arch at a low level (another weak argument: "Guardians have the grapler"). I think the key word here is "variety."

When I arrived at the station, I immediately decided to transport myself back to the first station to turn in the dismal quests I did on my way. Of course, I was a little bit surprised when my character sat there frozen for a few seconds before this flashed on my screen:

They sure fixed them bugs good!

So I relog once again just to fiddle around a bit more with my Guardian, but just before I enter the wonderful world of Hellgate with him, I notice something quite peculiar about him.

Now I'm no a doctor of anatomy, but it would seem as if my Guardian is missing his kneecaps.

Thinking perhaps this is just a kink in the uploading of the patch (Yes, I know, I can't believe I used one of those horrible excuses to think that as well), I decided to turn off the game and come back the next day. What was even more to my surprise was when I logged in to my account once more and was met with a loading screen that was downloading something.

Anonymous: "I don't care if the patch isn't stable, just release it and hot fix it as we go on!"

Yep, seems really common for developers to release patches and then to hot fix the client in the later days. Of course, it's more common for developers to only have one or two hot fixes. Here in Hellgate, however, we went through a hot fix each day for the week the patch was implemented--all the way up to Friday. I guess the whole mindset of, "It's done when it's done" isn't a thought they like to put around the office. After all, it would make sense why they then left Blizzard, has Blizzard had the uncanny knack to hold off their products until they were finished. Hmm. I guess nothing really was learned from that experience.

Perhaps the biggest insult to injury of this whole patch deal is how much content still goes untouched or still left on life support. You know, like achievements? Oooh, how about reputation! Yeah, those are really nice things to look at. Too bad they aren't functional in any way besides recording data. My favorite, however, has to be the splitting of stacks. Now here's a feature that is absolutely ridiculous NOT to have at launch--a feature that has been suggested since the hay days of alpha. And how about that, we still can't split stacks. Oh well. At least they know they'll always have about 2,000 loyal fans that think they are doing an "okay" job (this isn't including their "successful launch" in SEA of all 30 players).

Screenshot taken on: March 18, 2008, 11:00PM EST (otherwise known as peak time)

Chapter 12: Losing interest

I always say that if you commit to something you should finish it, and I intend to keep my word. My apologizes for my hiatus, however, as the situation in trying to remain positive about this game has been dismal at best. I haven't played the game since the 1.2 patch went up and it was only for a little while as well, which is really due in part to me having lost a lot of interest for this game. So to try and play catch up with the game (as I have over 40 shots from pre-1.2, and we all know that since the 1.2 patch fixed a few bugs, this makes all of the recorded content of things found within the core game obviously dismissable), I'm going to try something different here by just writing a little synopsis of what I was thinking when I captured these shots.

Ah, the good ol' "first quest in a line of generic quests" quest. What's this? Explore an area and recieve 550 experience and 0 palladium and a pair of unidentified green gloves? Why, sure, why not! Sounds rewarding!

Rather then waste my time clearing out a low-level area to complete a dismal quest I didn't have time to do my last play through, I just decided that sprinting through this area and avoiding the enemies was a good idea. Want to know the sad part? I was able to.

Wow, that's some great shadowing work. I especially like how the shadows on the left there are cast by a non-existent object.

This is a great-looking gun. Too bad it's completely worthless when it comes to doing battle with it. I wonder how many more of these useless weapons I'll come across? Anyone want to take bets?

Hooray! I just achieved another worthless achievement! Chalk one up for a 100% on a list of features that haven't done anything since they were implemented!

And here we have the third respawn of a unique enemy I have already killed twice now (check my quest log there). Seems like each time I kill one it has the uncanny habit to respawn.

Why thank you Warden of Stonehedge. You certainly are allowed to break immersion for the sake of advertising an area I would have to pay $10 a month to explore. To the management: Have you ever heard of "free content patches?" Hmm, I guess not. Turbine must be losing tons of sales for not charging extra for those Book patches.

This was the first time I stopped to admire my surroundings. Why is it this one wall has detail that the entire game doesn't feature?

This is where I finally had a bit of fun in the game. With the Quake 2 soundtrack blaring in my headphones and a pack of Templars storming down the street, I certainly felt like something new was finally happening.

Of course, that feeling dropped like a rock when they all decided to run into a wall and then decide to stand still. Oh, and don't forget the part where they're copy and pastes of one another.

A "thing." That's rather descriptive. It's nice to see an alpha-esque placeholder quest actually be formed into a "real" quest.

Do I really need to say something for this picture?

Remember when I said I liked the Templars romping around the streets? That was before I knew they killed all the zombies that I needed to kill myself for a quest.

So that's what happened to George's immersion-breaking voice set. They stuck it on the most unimaginative Hobbit in the game.

I thought these hubs were supposed to be "hidden?" How does one pre-build a giant Mario-esque tube in a ten-times-too-big Cathedral?

Alpha Ravager? Does that mean he's from alpha? Must be. I've seen floating dead enemies, but not floating alive enemies.

I never knew stone could be as flexible as plastic. But what am I saying. Practicality does not mix well with this game.

These cardboard boxes are called "sensor arrays." Maybe there's a person inside with a walkie-talkie? If so, they picked a hell of a hiding spot. No one is going to find them here in the middle of a street.

There's about 50 Templar here in the planes of Oblivio--Hellgate. It's a wonder that they apparently can't deal with the gate crisis.

Well this is interesting. I thought I already saved Brandon Lann? Ooooh, never mind. It's one of those, "We didn't bother to remove him once you completed the quest" things. Silly me.

While this gun looks like it could create new doors into walls quicker than the Kool-Aid guy, we are learning, however, that looks don't mean a thing in this game (except my black dye kit, which I've stored away in a dark corner in my stash). This weapon does as much damage as a pee-shooter.

Lord Slornas! Wait, didn't I kill you already? Oh, you're back for revenge for the fat jokes? Bring it on, Chunk!

Drones might be one of the few things that impress me in this game (if not the first). I like their complexity in options when it comes to weapons, it's just too bad there isn't a weapon switch so I can have him switch between swords and rifles.

"Fringe protrusion?" Do I even want to know?

My mini-game finally unbugged.

You know, with all the time and effort they put into adding "help" text from Murmur, you would think that the game would also reflect this sort of pinpoint detail in it as well. I thoroughly believe, however, that this function was left to one individual (or group) who, apparently, pushed the envelop to actually finish the task he was given before the game launched. It's just a shame that his co-workers couldn't do the same.

Wow, a quest devoted to forging bits that you collect from dead enemies. How so imaginative and fun. I feel memories from The Wall quest coming back.

Station medics, or, otherwise known as, "stacked women wearing pieces of leather that serve as a totally useless and redundant feature."

So I'm "carrying" this piece to replace a train (why exactly it's strewn across this demon-infested area is something we shouldn't question) and my speed is drastically reduced. So, while trying to serve as a function to "realism," I am instead, in effect, wasting quadruple the time of having to complete this innate quest. Bravo!

These huge beasts thought that if they line up in succession and just stay in one spot that they could "stop a train." Of course, how these things even got down into the subways first is a mystery to me.

Notice the first text that pops up. "Wait for the train." Reading through the transmission, I only find out at the very end that the train is "coming my way" and I should "move out of its way." It isn't until I scratch my head at the first suggested advice, close the transmission, and turn around to see this train coming at me do I then decide that I shouldn't adhere to anything the game tells me to do any more. Sure, while I was able to simply respawn, but as a hardcore player, I know I would be extremely pissed if my character died permanentely because I followed the game's advice.

Two out of the six items that dropped are items that I could use (a pair of useless green gloves and a rare rocket mod no less). Oh, how I absolutely LOVE these loot drop tables.

Oh look, another floating book cut scene. This just screams effort here! At least I know I'm on Act 4 now.

What's this? Murmur finally doesn't have something to say for a quest? And on a quest involving the "truths" (see: things that are never fully explained as to their purpose in the game) no less? Why, I am not suspicious at all. Nope. Not one bit.

Oh look, more "healing." Point and activate, point and activate, point and activate. Phew, that was HARD.

I'm fondly reminded of O'ma from the SG-1 TV series. She says a lot of imaginative mumbo jumbo that seems like it means something on a deeper level, but, in truth, it's nothing but garbage writing material.

This is Arlo, otherwise known as the NPC that was added later on to appease the people that cried when they removed Holloway's old sexual innuendo voice set. Arlo cusses like a sailor and makes as much sense as a pebble. I hear he's a hoot with the 15-year-olds.

Ah, the good ol' corpse stretching glitch that was prominent in alpha/beta. I'm also glad to see you made it to the finished product as well.

So apparently this huge-ass demon can only be damaged when the turrets are activated to shrink him. Of course, why he doesn't just smash the turrets (or me, for that matter) is beyond me.

Lord Yerination? Let me guess, he has a brother named Lord Defecation?

Lyra tells us how she survived a grenade blast in her face (after you complete a slew of useless and tedious quests for her first, of course). [Note: If that is too small to read, try this.]

This was my most fun experience in this game to date. I partied up with a guild mate to do the quest that has already been done in the comic book. Not only was I glad to see a new tileset, but the difficulty level was also increased. Couple that with the Quake II music and it was some fun, mindless running-and-gunning.

Um, hello? Who's Sydonai? Anyone? Oh, you're not going to explain who he is but you'll mention him through Act 4? Ah, okay then. Glad to know we're on the same page.

Why is it Act 4 is the only act that has a clear distinction from the other acts? I suppose the introduction of new tilesets might be it (even if it is barren tileset).

Looks like someone forgot to finish up their work here.

You can't see it, but I'm actually falling in this picture.

Apparently scaling your monsters smaller and making them run quicker makes them also 10 times as strong as their regular counterparts. Oh, and don't forget that it makes them "new" enemies as well.

While this beast looked ferocious and is tremendous, he still fell like I was smashing through crates. Another question: How exactly does this humongous creature even end up in an enclosed warehouse where the passageways are smaller than his entire body?

What was that, Murmur's twin? You're speaking in riddles about information I'm searching for? Oh, and enemies don't attack you as well? Oh, and you're out here by yourself? I'm callin' it; you're a fraking cylon!

Gravity? In my Hellgates? Preposterous!

Of course, if you're sitting there and saying, "All these complaints are null because of patch 1.2 lol," then I would please ask you to exit stage right to the deinternetized zone and stay in school. For one, patch 1.2 did NOT fix the graphical bugs and glitches I posted (the only real fix I am aware of is the invisible rifle). Second, more than 95% of the content I have covered here deals with the core game (quests, quest rewards, quest text, enemy practicality, enemy projectiles, enemy design, etc.). The only reason why I didn't extensively cover my pre-1.2 experiences is because I was so far behind in updating this content that I needed to seriously play catch up and bring myself back up to speed. Either way, all the arguments made here? They are still valid. So, sorry, that weak argument isn't going to work.

As for the future of this blog; like I said in the beginning, I plan to see this through, even if it means taking month hiatuses to regain my sanity and play something that holds my interest. In the mean time, however, I would suggest to frequent your visits to flagshipped.com, as I am now a writer over there. Many of the issues I bring up here on this blog I also put forth and discuss there as well. Either way, this doesn't mean that I'm going to stop with this blog. Oh no, far from it. When I said I would see this until the end of the game, I meant it. So here's to more headaches and drowsiness!