MrAngryFace's Earth and Beyond Beta Impressions
Ok, so I started playing Dark Age of Camelot a bit a go. I then uninstalled it when I realized I hated gamers too much to enjoy a MMORPG.
Yet every @#%$ time a new one comes out I run to it hoping its better than the last when I KNOW the only way to fix MMORPGs in my eyes is to include a people patch that makes everyone shut up and do what I want. I signed up for the Earth and Beyond Beta a while ago hoping to get in since it reminded me a lot of Privateer 2, but with nicer visuals, and online.
I am going to make this easy, good and bad points:
***Spaceship customization and upgrade process is awesome.***
- Not only are there a lot of hull colors to choose from, but the process in which your ship is upgraded over time is very rewarding and well paced. Of course since its a beta there are a few bugs holding some players back (TreDay). There are lots of engines, guns, shields, and various add-on devices to tweak your ship to do what you want it to do best. Fighters want the best guns, explorers/miners want the best engines and drilling devices.
***Grouping has rewards, big ones***
- Westwood has added enough group bonuses and race specific group bonuses to enforce the idea of a group of mixed ship types working to support each other. Great job.
***Each Race operates in a very different manner.***
- As noted above, your ship can be outfitted to suit your needs directly. While an explorer can be a fighter, the quests they partake in as well as their home sectors largely steer them in the direction of the career their race excels at. Explorers make good miners as well as the ability to brandish various techniques that make travel a breeze, affecting their single player game or their group game. Need to transport a friend across sectors? Make a wormhole. Need to get out of trouble? Fold Space around your whole group to get out of a tough situation. You could get to level 30 like I have just by exploring and trading, you don't HAVE to fight much at all.
***Lots and lots of well written quests and 'jobs'.***
- While the lore probably isn't as deep, the actual NPC interactions are colorful and interesting. There is some history but for the most part your character must live in the moment. As for the technical aspects of the mission structure, very well done. Each part of a mission is easily accessed, directing you need to be without making things too easy. The bigger quests are also largely rewarding, offering new skills and ship upgrades.
As for the jobs, you can stop at some stations and check a job station for contracts you can accept. These offer up experience through the process of carrying them out as well as a good amount of credits for your trouble.
***Levels Vs. Equipment levels handled well.***
- What keeps the low levels from being handed high level equipment and going while are the various restrictions placed on skills. Everything has a skill. Weapons, Shields, Engines, Devices. You can raise these skills through points gained by leveling up. So say for example you get a level IV gun, if your weapon skill is at II, you cannot use the gun under any circumstances. This keeps lower level players even with the others, and the game relatively fair.
- I really love this game's tutorial and interface. The Tutorial Assistant is awesome. She manages to always offer friendly advice early game without totally pissing you off. The tutorial is also structured so it doesn't push itself into your experience, but you can skip it whenever. Nice.
Not that a tutorial is really needed. The interface is FANTASTIC. Everything is actually intuitive (BUZZ WORD!) and took me a few minutes to pick up. Now I fly through the cosmos at blinding speeds, making high priced trades all over.
***Mining/Salvaging is FUN***
- So I get off an eight hour shift, come home, and what do I do? I get in my space ship and spend the next 4 hours digging rocks and selling what I find. It's fun! Knowing where to mine is awesome, and happening across those random broken space hulks usually rewards the player with neat and pricey items that either can be equipped or sold for lots of l00t.
***Asteroid Mob Spawning = Dumb***
- Ok, listen. When a ship is spending most of its time mining in an asteroid field, it's doing that FOR A REASON. It's because IT CANNOT FIGHT. YOU HEAR ME WESTWOOD? Why I am I so upset? Picture this, you are good at mining, that's what you do, so you go do that. During an operation an Asteroid EXPLODES revealing a LEVEL 94 AGG MOB that kills you in ONE HIT. Yeah, that's awesome. Thanks westwood. I understand you are trying to make mining as challenging as fighting, but I THINK the fact that you populated the Asteroid Fields with already super powerful AGG MOBS is enough challenge thanks. I am already using my cloak and warp to outwit them. The last thing I need is a mean surprise like that.
***Experience Debt = Worst Idea Ever***
- Just cause it's different doesn't mean it's good. Listen, I already make Car payments in real life, the last thing I need are these financing plans creeping into my games. Here's the way it works out. You die, the game says, you owe us such n such experience. We won't take it right away, instead we will take half of the earned experience from now on by force until you have it paid off. DUMB! DUMB! DUMB!
Currently Westwood admits it's broken, as it is you can become 24,000 exp in debt rather easily. Granted, when it IS fixed, your debt will degrade while you are not playing, but damnit, this is a stupid system. I couldn't believe it possible that a developer managed to find a bigger stick in the eye than the standard "take your experience" system.
***Mob Spawn/Quest Item Spawn***
- HELLO EVERQUEST! Hi! I am a quest item! I spawn A mob in A area. 31 other players currently need the item I am carrying. Get in @#%$ LINE!
Yay, sounds fun huh? Well it ISN'T! There's a reason I have been ignoring certain quests. Currently I need to collect a bunch of crystals in order to make a key of some sort. These crystals are found in a certain place. There are at least 30 other players in the same sector with me fighting over asteroids. It sucks. I hate it. They also need to fix the LEVELS that spawn in certain areas.
Listen. If you put a bunch of quest type items in an area to be harvested by LOW LEVEL PLAYERS, you don't @#%$ POPULATE IT WITH HIGH LEVEL AGG MOBS! Talk about an exercise in frustration. Add all of that to the fact that level 97 AGG mobs can often appear out of asteroids and blow you up with one hit...well there ya go.
***ALL STATIONS ARE CREATED EQUAL***
So I stop off at this place that is a so called 'recreation station'. Having been to at least twelve other stations that night I was anxious to see something different. What did I see?! Almost the exact same layout!!!! Come ON!
Stations also point out something fundamentally wrong with MMORPGs. You have your selling area, your diner/bar area for TALKING, and your main area that has stalls for mineral refining and device construction.
Guess which one of these rooms is empty. EnB is currently a bunch of people rushing around crowding around sales/quest NPCs. Never talking aside from trying to get groups in space, which are so utilitarian it's @#%$ SCARY.
It IS fun, lot's of fun. It's different, and in most of the areas where it counts, it's extremely refined. Yet there is A LOT of work and balancing to be done to make this the kind of MMORPG ill play for more than a month.
I've been playing it too, and I agree with most of what you have to say as it applies to what little I've played. I'm a merchant and I'm not very far at all, but I'm enjoying it for the most part.
Ultimately though, I still don't think MMORPG's are my type of game either and I think a lot of it boils down to the (lack of) character interaction. I just can't stand the IRC-like interface. Oddly enough, I think it was Phantasy Star Online that spoiled me. Little cartoon bubbles with text above character's heads, while certainly impractical for long discussions with many people on the screen, were so much friendlier to me than seeing bits of conversation scrolling by in a window faster than you can match it up with who's saying it.
For some reason it's a lot easier to lose track of who is saying what in a tiny window at the top of the screen than watching little voice bubbles flash above a player's head.
I think for talking in space, the chat panel works well, but when you are in the station it totally kills the FEELING of any community, or hell, animation.
I've been spending unhealthy amounts of time with the EnB beta, too. What bugs me the most is that it's a space MMOG where you own your own ship, but where the actual task of piloting that ship is so trivial that it requires zero real-world skill. Click on a waypoint on the map, hit the Warp button. Close to within docking range, hit the Dock button. Click on a target, press the short cut key to fire a weapon at it. While I am sure that a lot of players won't miss the busywork of docking and actually steering their ships around and pointing their guns at moving targets, I find this aspect of EnB to be the most unsatisfying.
Hmmm. Perhaps it's time to reactivate my Jumpgate account. :-)