Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Chugging along...

Writer's note: I apologize for the rambling nature of this post, but without having much time I haven't been able to sit down and hammer out a good topic. I promise I'll pick it up!

So I've managed to squeeze in a bit of WildStar time in between massive departmental shifts at work and my WoW raid team working to down Garrosh. I've successfully raised Laffable the affable Esper to level 15 and have begun to reap the rewards of WildStar's robust housing system.

Let me pause for a moment to say this: screw you, Carbine. How am I supposed to make time for leveling and interior decorating? It simply cannot be done!

Ahem, pardon me.

I've been enjoying the Esper still, though at times I do get the itch to be a bit more mobile. The trade-off is, of course, their hefty damage, but I haven't yet really tooled around with the class enough to discover how best to handle enemies. It also seems to me that WildStar falls into some predictable early patterns that are mimicked in many modern MMO's: early on, most classes aren't too distinguished in terms of their output/intake. Now, of course a Warrior will take a few more blows than my squishy little mind-bender, and I don't have the stealth mechanic of a Stalker, but by and large the damage seems to be pretty comparable. I believe that once I have access to more of the AMPs and a variety of heals/CC's, I'll start to feel a bit more of a special snowflake. I'm looking forward to seeing a bit more of what the Esper can do as I move forward into group content, as I definitely think that would put on display how each class handles themselves differently.

Speaking of group content, keep your eyes peeled this weekend when I give Adventures (and, depending on my leveling, dungeons) a shot. I've heard some mixed reviews, mostly due to the difficulty that exists. Sounds like people are still trying to get a feel for interrupts and telegraphs. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


WildStar has released! Huzzah!

After months (years, for some) of anxiously waiting, WildStar is now officially released and ready for mass consumption. Ignore the fact that you could play the past three days had you preordered, and let the excitement wash over you as it is undoubtedly washing over the devs at this moment.

Let's put that into perspective: Carbine has actively been working on developing this game for years and years. Stephan Frost tweeted that he was hired by Carbine in August of 2010 and has been working towards today since then. He, as well as all of his coworkers, has spent four years of his life pouring countless hours, miles, blood, sweat, and tears into this game, and it is finally in the hands of a swarming mob of individuals who are eager to devour everything that has been jammed into this space MMO. I'm sure it's a feeling of pure elation and excitement; I know if I was in their shoes, I would drink to excess and pass out pantsless, because damn it I've earned that right.

But then there's that tiny little stipulation that comes with putting out a major MMO: this isn't the end. Whereas a game such as Watch Dogs can release to huge fanfare and take time to relish its accomplishments, WildStar and Carbine do not have that luxury. As of two days ago, individuals were already approaching and hitting level cap. People are preparing to plow headfirst into the Elder Game (which blows my little level 12 Esper's mind), and are doing everything they can to max out their characters. MMO's grow. By their very nature, they require new content.

It is because of this that I truly applaud not just Carbine, but any company itching to make an MMO; their development cycle mimics the lifecycle of an MMO. You roll up a character, log in, and then there's immediate excitement. You've waited for this moment for so long, and you're ready to go. However, as you're leveling, you're working towards that next goal, and the next step in your character's journey. Devs are doing the same; they will thrive in this moment, then buckle back up and prepare for the journey ahead. It is, many times, a thankless and stressful job, for developers- their work can at times go unappreciated and overlooked, but they do it regardless.

That is why I want to thank Carbine for doing what they've done, and putting the time in to release this wonderful game that we all look forward to playing for some time to come. It wasn't easy and it's not going to be easy, but you did it anyway. In the immortal words of the Narrator, "Way to go, Cupcakes!"

 I initially intended for this post to examine some of the issues and varying opinions on how "smooth" this launch went, but this seemed more appropriate. There will be time for criticism, critiques, and retrospection later. For now, live it up!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Day ONE!

So my foray into the release version of WildStar got off to a decent, slightly rocky start. Unlike many others, I've had pretty decent queue times- don't get me wrong, they're still there (I'm actually sitting at 1087 right now), but overall it seems to be ticking along at a reasonable pace.

My first order of business, as with any other game, was to make the "all important" decision about which race to play. Let's get this out of the way first: I'm playing Exile. Dominion have an interesting dynamic, what with being religious zealots in a sense, but how do you NOT choose to be a space cowboy when the choice is available? You don't.

In a perfect world, I think I would have preferred Mordesh- there's something very appealing about their sort of tragic hero story- but alas, it would seem that they don't have the mental capacity to be an Esper (it would probably help to have a fully functional brain). I wasn't about to play a class with big ears, so instead I chose my only other option: Exile Human.

Of course I had to give him a bald head- it's really the only way to ensure that my wiggly blue brainwaves cause maximum damage.

For those of you who have been skipping over the little cut scenes that WildStar offers: shame on you. One of the biggest draws for me when it comes to WildStar is how expressive the faces of their characters are. They have the perfect mixture of cartoony exuberance and badassness that really make them entertaining to watch. Seeing Deadeye Brightland admit that he was glad he didn't shoot me with a coy little smirk on his face was really a sight to behold. Not to mention skipping over these beginning quests takes a lot of some of the emotional impact of what happens once you get off Gambler's Run (that's all I'll say...)

My only real complaints up to this point have to do with the cost of skills (they're effectively wiping out my money with every level), and the fact that I can't quite run the game as well as I would like to. I hear optimization is coming, and the game is certainly playable, but I would definitely like to do more with what I have.

As I sit in queue now (I hopped off for a little to get a bite to eat), I'm already excited to get back to it. I sit at level  7ish and I'm pretty pumped to experience some of the lower-level group content with guildies. I promise to tell you all about it when the time comes!

Back in the Saddle Again (A Reintroduction of Sorts)

As promised, Blue Blades Blog has returned with renewed vigor! Before I get into the meat of this post, however, I should do a bit of explaining as to why I've gone nearly 6 months without so much as a word.

I was fortunate enough to take part in WildStar's Fall beta test weekends. At first, the game really captured me (after all, it's why I decided to start this blog). I played on the designated weekends when I could, and it seemed the game was living up to everything that I had hoped. After the beta ended, I was told that I would more than likely be receiving a spot in the full-on Winter Beta; I was excited, and I waited patiently until that email arrived telling me I was good to go.

I won't lie: upon having more time to sit down and digest the game, it was capturing me in the way I had hoped. Things seemed clunky, slow, and difficult. The game didn't run quite well on my machine, even though I have a fairly new system, and my Esper felt week. I was disenchanted, and stopped playing for quite some time.

Eventually, I decided that I should give the game another go (mind you, this was with only about a month of beta'ing left, and so I didn't have a ton of time to invest). For whatever reason, this time through made the game far more desirable and enjoyable. I had reevaluated what I personally was looking for from the game, and with some research on how to actually play the Esper, I found myself able to mow through enemies in a much more capable manner. I decided at that point to purchase the game, and dive in head-first.

So here we are, back in the saddle again and ready to deliver to you my adventures, thoughts, and stories from the planet Nexus. I think it would be appropriate to take the time and reestablish what this blog is and what it is not:

- For me to document my adventures in WildStar with friends
- For me to share my personal thoughts on the Esper class in mildly educated manner
- For me to try and generate discussion amongst the Esper community about the class and its capabilities

- An official source of any info from Carbine or its developers
- A theorycrafting site (seriously, I suck at that)

Everything I post here may not always be completely optimized or match your experience with the class- then again, if that were the case, why bother typing it out? My hope is that while reading this blog, you get to have a couple laughs and join in the conversation as we explore this brand new world.

Check back a bit later tonight when I delve deeper into what sort of Esper I made, what I hope to accomplish with him, and maybe even a screenshot or two!

Now back to the queue line with you!

Stay tuned...

With the release of WildStar, I'm pleased to announce that my blog will once again become an active contributor to the community! Tune in later today to hear about my first (post-release) steps onto Nexus!

Feels good to be back!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Holidays in WildStar

For the past few weeks I have had a bit of trouble coming up with topics to write about. For an individual who hopes to play a class completely based on brain-power, mine was hitting a proverbial wall. Throw in a hefty-helping of holiday hustle and bustle and you have a recipe for a rather boring blog (I'll try to cut back on the alliteration from this point forward).

However, upon opening up Microsoft Word in preparation for some sort of post, I locked in on one thing that always amuses me around this time of year: MMO holidays. I want to take a look at how WildStar may handle holidays, and how other games use them as a way of breaking up the usual ho-hum content schedule and kicking my sense of immersion square in the nads.

I have a real love-hate relationship with MMO's when it comes to holidays. On one hand, I loathe the fact that we often see the most blatant Santa Clause rip-offs ever crop up this time of year. It's totally ridiculous and often times doesn't fit with the flow of the game in even the slightest way. There's no better way to say "Hey, our world is being threatened by monsters/demi-gods/masterminded villains!" than throwing up a bunch of trees in a capitol city and giving us a bunch of random fetch-quests. It's dumb. That said, I love doing holiday events, and they tend to get me in the spirit of the holidays just as much as putting a random tree inside my house and eating cookies until I vomit. There's something sort of wonderful about seeing snow on the ground in-game, and I even get little twinges of excitement when games give me presents to open. It calls me back to my youth.

So how can I be satisfied with what WildStar does? After spending some time (see: a few minutes) thinking about it, I decided it came down to a few different things.

1.) Give me cool goodies. Equipment, house items, gifts, and buffs all help to make the season bright (thanks, Bing Crosby). I want to feel as excited logging in around Christmas as I do when I step out into my living room in the morning, knowing I get to engage in a vicious package-opening extravaganza. Additionally, a lot of games offer various little food buffs, such as cookies and milk, that increase a stat. However, I think goodies that increase XP gain or gifts that give a chance for a rare item would be even more exciting.

2.) Give me some fun mini-games. I'm not sure how many of my readers (all seven of you, by my estimation) played City of Heroes back in the day, but they used to have a little snow ramp you could slide down. It was very simple, yet very effective at being an absolute blast. Seeing how much speed your hero could gather before being launched off was crazy fun. I may be mistaken, but there may have even been a little course that you could slide down, which would be even more awesome. The reveal of hoverboards makes me hopeful that WildStar could implement a similar system, or even a limited-time snowball fight that (in keeping with the idea of not breaking immersion) takes place inner-faction. So instead of Dominion vs. Exiles in an all out blood-bath, have Dom vs. Dom in a little snowball fight. A guy can dream, can't he?

3.) Don't break immersion. The above two points are good and fine, but don't just force the holiday into the game if it is going to make no sense whatsoever. These two factions hate each other, and it doesn't make much sense for a Chua to walk over and hand a chunk of fruitcake to an Aurin, even if he is holding a snowball behind his back. The greater likelihood is that fruitcake would be filled with razorblades and grenades (which I still think would taste better than actual fruitcake). If you're going to stick Christmas in my game, at least make it make sense; that might mean that both factions have a different idea of what the holiday means, and if that's the case, then so be it. It's better than half-assing it, in my opinion.

So there you have it, the three points that would really make holidays in WildStar stand out for me. There are some other things I would like to see, such as great holiday quests and some cool seasonal decorations, but I can't stress enough that if it doesn't make sense in the story, the whole thing is lost on me.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

We Can't All Be Espers: The Spellslinger

It's been a little since my last post, mostly due to the fact that I was out of the town the past few days and have come down with a bit of a cold (damn you, sickness!) The large amount of dancing and yelling I did at a wedding two days ago did little to help the situation, but alas, here I am fighting through my illness to bring you my thoughts on Carbine's newest class drop: the Spellslinger.

I know, I know, this is an Esper blog. But I would be remiss if I did not mention our gun-toting brethren, who we may have to share some gear, tactics, and group space with. And despite not being nearly as cool as the Esper, there are some takeaways from the Spellslinger livestream that can be applied to not only our class, but the entirety of the game.

We have some things in common...

Like the Esper, the Spellslinger is a ranged class that has a focus on healing and/or DPS. They stand in the back and heap huge piles of damage on the enemy, or pewpew their friends in the back of the head with heals. In addition to this, both classes wear light armor, and as such, there will be some competition for armor (more on that shortly). Overall, that's about where the similarities end. It looks as though both classes may spec to be somewhat similar, but what's the point of different classes if they do everything the same?

We have our differences...

Unlike the Esper, whose telegraphs range from wide cones to huge point-blank AOE's, the Spellslinger is a far more mobile class with a larger amount of straight-line, narrow telegraphs. During the class livestream, Hugh Shelton frequently referred to the Spellslinger as  an "assassin," likening the abilities to that of a sniper who lines up long range skill-shots and fires with deadly accuracy. While the Esper looks to allow a bit more room for error with their wide telegraphs, anyone playing a Spellslinger will have to get used to lining up their abilities. This holds true for both damage and healing specializations.

As I mentioned previously, the Spellslinger allows for a bit of the "run-and-gun" offense, if specced to do so. At the expense of raw power, they can utilize a variety of quick strikes and movement abilities to make their away around the battlefield at a quick pace. This differs a bit from our Esper, who utilizes CC abilities to prevent the enemy from moving around as much. The stationary vs. mobile dynamic will definitely be something to keep an eye on in PvP.

Secondly, while both classes use light armor, the attributes they focus on will be different. Shelton mentioned that Espers focus on "Moxie" (whatever that is), whereas Spellslingers focus on "Finesse". The (perhaps obvious) takeaway here is that all classes have a few primary attributes. While this holds true in nearly all games, it's good to see that both classes will not be competing for the exact same gear every time they roll through a dungeon. A little variety, despite narrowing down the choices in armor, may keep conflict from arising when two players feel the armor was "made for their class."

What else we learned...

There we a few other little tidbits that made this stream particularly juicy. The biggest for me was the drop that not only would dual specs be available, but Hugh Shelton mildly hinted that they may be additional chances to create more loadouts. One of my biggest fears was that I wouldn't be able to switch from solo DPS to dungeon heals on the fly, and thankfully that fear has been assuaged. I guess I shouldn't be overly surprised, as this feels like a feature that is sort of becoming a must-have in MMO's nowadays (for better or for worse). I do not miss the days of being limited to one specialization at a time, with a huge money sink involved to discourage players from changing roles rapidly.

Another interesting note that I think will prove important to Espers, Shelton mentioned that as opposed to abilities devoted to granting long-term buffs, most buff skills would have something else tied to them; i.e. a damage ability might grant attack power to any friendlies caught in its radius, or a heal might grant extra health for a time. This is very important, as Hugh pointed out; with only a limited number of abilities able to be placed on a hotbar, having a singular ability that is only used once an hour feels like a pretty big waste.

Also, and this is a brief note, but it's something that I find super cool: disorient. They team only briefly mentioned this, but when your character comes under a disorient effect, it randomizes your movement keys (forward could be back, left could be right, left could be up, etc.) I love this sort of stuff, and I hope we see more examples, such as abilities that blind perhaps effecting your view of the screen.

So in conclusion...

I recommend everyone go take a peek at the Spellslingerstream, even if you have no intention of playing one. The bits the team shows of Stormtalon Lair are great, and they address a bit of the random dungeon idea in that as well. A lot of questions are of the "Esper vs. Spellslinger" variety, which is good, and you even get to see Nick Roth (Content Systems Designer) play an Esper and wipe the floor with Marc Matzenbacher, as a Spellslinger, in a duel (then, subsequently, have his own butt handed to him). Tasty bit of PvP action there, if you're so inclined. So while the Spellslinger may not be as inherently awesome as the Esper (they get real bullets, we get mind bullets), I have a feeling I'll end up enjoying one as an alt at some point.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to down some Dayquil and condition my stomach for turkey and stuffing. You gotta start early if you wanna put on a show.