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51BnFAf-WlL._SX385_A lot of gamers, myself included, have a dim view of motion controls in gaming, and with good reason. The Nintendo Wii shipped with Wii Sports and those games were pretty fun for a while, but the motions needed were very artificial. Sure people did Wii Bowling by stepping up as if they were at a bowling alley, but you could also just pivot the WiiMote with your wrist and accomplish the same thing.

Still Wii Sports was fun, but what followed were all kinds of crappy shovel-ware games that relied on just ‘waggling’ the remote in a way sure to give you carpal tunnel. Most of us moved past the Wii motion controls pretty quickly.

Microsoft’s answer to the Wii is the Kinect. The problem with it, for many of us, is that it requires way too much empty space in front of the TV. (The new Kinect shipping with Xbox One is supposed to address that problem.) If there are great Kinect games I don’t know anything about them because I never had room to get the Kinect working properly. I’d appreciate comments sharing the best Kinect games, though.

Sony has the Move for the PS3, a lighted ball on a stick that, upon being announced, was immediately ridiculed for looking like some kind of weird sex toy (to some people) or at the very least just looking like a toy. The Move works a lot like the Nintendo Wii only with more fidelity. It uses a camera instead of a sensor bar, though.

This year’s E3 has reinvigorated my love of consoles and it has me revisiting some old titles that I played lightly if at all. In the midst of this I decided to give my Move controllers another spin. I mean, I’ve used them in games like The Unfinished Swan recently…games like this use the Move almost like a mouse pointer (and it works pretty well like that). But I wanted to revisit “motion controlled” games.

I’ve been messing around with Sports Champions and the demo for Sports Champions 2 and I have to say, I’d forgotten how well the Move actually works for sports-y games. I’ve played the tennis game on the SC2 demo and a lot of Frisbee Golf in SC1. Both ‘feel’ natural to me. Frisbee Golf in particular…there’s a HUD on screen to help judge how far you’re going to throw, but I don’t need it or pay attention to it. I’ve flung enough Frisbees to know how to throw one soft or hard and the Move translates my ‘natural Frisbee skills’ to the game very nicely.

But the game that really knocks me off my feet is Gladiator Duel. In this one you’re armed with melee weapon and shield, and ideally you play it with 2 Move controllers. One is your shield and the other your melee weapon. This is pretty much the coolest fighting game experience I’ve ever had. You hold up your shield arm and swing it to block attacks while your weapon arm is drawn back, looking for an opening. When you see one, you take your shot. You can do a quick swing for a low power hit to keep the opponent off guard, or you can really haul back and swing as hard as you can…assuming he doesn’t block that can knock him sprawling. And that’s the central game play.

There are some ‘tricks’ to learn. Holding the T button and shoving your shield fowards results in a shield bash, for instance, and when your opponent is on his back, shoving both Moves into the air triggers a scripted jump attack that can do serious damage before he gets up. Worst is the Super Attack mechanic where you fill a gauge by blocking and when you do, hit X and land a blow to do a Super Attack where you have to follow indicators on-screen to do big bonus damage. It’s the Move equivalent of a QTE and it feels cheap.

And the game isn’t perfect… every so often it’ll think your weapon isn’t where you think it is and things get confused. But when it’s working… when you’re standing in your living room in a gentle crouch, left arm holding up your shield while you probe for weaknesees in your opponent’s defense…it can feel pretty damned magical. And it feels even better when you finally land a crushing blow on your opponent’s shield and you shatter it, leaving him or her defenseless.

So I think there’s actually hope for motion controls in a certain context. Or there would be if enough gamers were interested to support this style of game. I’m not sure Sony sold very many Move controllers. We’ll see how Kinect 2 works but somehow I feel better holding something (plus you have button to help supplement the motion controls.. in Gladiator Duel holding a certain button and flicking the control causes you do dodge to one side, for instance).

I’d be playing a lot more Sports Champions except for 2 issues. First is I’m so out of shape that I end up sweating and tired after half an hour or so (of Gladiators and Tennis anyway… Frisbee Golf is pretty mellow). Second, for some reason the dog is TERRIFIED of the Move. Whenever she sees me flailing around with those controllers she runs and hides and when I go find her she is shaking like a leaf! So I have to pick my play times carefully..when she’s on a walk with Angela or is off sleeping in her bed or something. LOL

King Julian

legends_logo_215x120Spartacus Legends is a free-to-play fighting game from Ubisoft that hit XBLA and PSN recently. It’s based on the Starz gladiator series. Already all kinds of alarm bells should be going off in your head, right? A F2P game based on a TV show!? Yegads.

I’m not sure why I downloaded it but I did and tonight I fired it up and surprise! It’s actually not too bad. The core here is a gladiator fighting game, with all the gore you’d expect, plus plenty of salty language just in case we were confused about whether or not a game where you can slice your enemy’s face off their head is meant for children.

The fighting engine… well listen, I’m not a fighting game guy. I can’t remember combos and when I can remember them I don’t have the dexterity to pull them off. But I can play Spartacus Legends, which probably means if you’re serious about fighting games than this is going to be way too basic for you. But for this kind of game/audience, going a bit more casual was probably the right move. Your face buttons are light attack, heavy attack, a block breaker and a grab. Left shoulder button is block, right shoulder button, along with analog stick, let’s you roll. There are combos here if you can figure them out. I felt like after a while my fingers had figured out a few without my brain really parsing what they were.

What I like about Spartacus Legends is the strategy/rpg wrapper around the fighting game. You’re trying to build up your stable of gladiators to make your house/school/ludus famous once again. You start with one poor bastard armed with a piece of junk sword, a busted up shield and a loin cloth. As you win fights you’ll gain both coin and fame. You use coin to buy better armor and weapons, additional gladiators and cells for them to sleep in (more cells = more potential gladiators).

As you gain fame, you (you as in the faceless guy/gal running the ludus) can access more and more lucrative (and dangerous) venues to have your gladiators fight in. I just dipped my toe in the second area after an evening’s play. Early battles are non-lethal (through the magic of Hollywood I guess) but as you advance the “Lethality Meter” increases. It’s probably going to suck when one of my favorite gladiators gets killed. :(

Your gladiators also earn Perks for winning battles. One of the earliest for instance is “Hard Headed” which gives that Gladiator +10 defense.

Of course things get expensive pretty fast, and that’s where the F2P stuff comes in. Instead of earning coin you can just buy it with real money. Gold coins, in particular, are pretty hard to earn and some of the better gear can only be purchased with gold coins. Also each Gladiator has a finite number of Perk Slots (1 to start) and replacing a Perk with a new one costs Gold coins.

There’s an Online Battle component that I stayed far away from. With a game where real $$ can get you the best gear I don’t want to have anything to do with PvP. But if you stick to the PvE side of the game, you can have a pretty good time without spending any money. I may buy some Gold Coins just to support Ubisoft if I play for much longer.

Spartacus Legends isn’t going to win any game of the year awards or anything, but it’s worth downloading some evening when you just feel like something a little different. And gory. And foul-mouthed.

120906_9am_SL_S_003_DD2012

I popped into the blog today to update the backend and realized I’d let over 2 months slip past without a blog post! At my age you have to make some noise every now and then or people start planning your funeral, so I figured I’d best post something.

Thing is, E3 came around and kind of knocked my gaming habits out of whack. I got pretty excited about the next generation of consoles, then looked at my stack of unplayed games for my current consoles and figured I’d better start working through them. I haven’t done any significant PC gaming in quite some time, and I’m in one of my ‘Ugh, MMOs’ phases that I go through from time to time.

Plus working a LOT. Plus the days are so long that we wind up eating dinner late and so my evenings feel really short.

Really I’ve mostly been dabbling. My only ‘serious’ gaming in the past month or so has been The Last of Us which I crammed through in about 4 days (20 hours or so of gameplay). Man, that game got its hooks into me… one of my two favorite games of this generation, the other being Red Dead Redemption. I guess when it comes to games I really like somber, strongly narrative-driven titles.

Whenever I turn on the PS3 though, I feel guilt about not finishing Ni No Kuni. I swore I’d finish that game but DAMN is it ever BORING. On the Xbox I popped in, and threw aside, a series of games before I decided that maybe playing games for the sole purpose of having played them so you can get rid of them isn’t the best way to sample games. So I’m back to slowly working through the Halo 4 Spartan Missions. When the Xbox 360 gets thrown into the Gaming Collection Closet I guess a bunch of unplayed games will go with it.

Been spending a lot of time with the handhelds too. Animal Crossing: New Leaf is a great ‘before bed’ game since it’s so slow and mellow it puts me to sleep. On the Vita I’ve been messing around with Toro’s Friend Garden though I have no idea why; it’s the most pointless piece of software ever invented. Been dinking around with Escape Plan too, which is a nifty puzzle game that takes a while to get interesting.

And that’s it! Mostly I’m waiting for November and new silicon! Though Shadowrun Returns is about a month out and I’m looking forward to it, too.

fire_emblemI’m still playing turn-based, tactical, strategy-RPG Fire Emblem: Awakening on the 3DS. Have been, off and on, since it launched. Suffice to say I love the game.

I’ve actually got two games running at the same time. The one I started first is in “Classic Mode.” Fire Emblem traditionally has had a perma-death feature. If a character dies in a battle, that character is dead forever. The only exception to this (in FE:A) are two of the main characters. If either of them dies it’s an immediate Game Over. If a character who dies is important to the story, he or she will still appear in cut-scenes (when they ‘die’ they leave with a snippet of conversation saying something about needing to withdraw) but you can never use them in battle again.

This, we’re told by the nebulous entity known as gamers, is how we “should” play Fire Emblem and I agreed with that. Perma-death definitely adds a lot of weight to the decisions you make in the game. Of course the reality is that if a truly beloved character falls in battle, you can always reset the 3DS and avoid the dire consequences. I suspect many people play this way. In fact at times I think you have to. Losing 1 character is heart-breaking, yes, but if a battle goes south and you lose 4 or 5, you’re going to be in a world of hurt trying to advance through the game.

At one point in my first game I felt like I had played myself into a corner, so I restarted in Casual Mode. As of now I’ve put about 17 or 18 hours into my Casual game and 10 in my Classic game.

And *drum roll please* I’ve determined that Casual is (for me anyway) actually a more exciting way to play! And here’s why.

In my Classic game I am EXTREMELY cautious. I grind constantly, taking on easy challenges over and over again to level up my characters so every ‘real’ battle is a cake-walk. I haven’t lost a character since Ricken bit it back in February. It’s all rather boring but I can’t help myself; these are my friends, I can’t needlessly risk their lives in battle!

In my Casual game, though, I take chances all the time. I’ve had battles where I went in with a dozen warriors and came stumbling out with 3 barely standing, but victorious. The fights sometimes come down to the wire and I find myself almost holding my breath. I think for me having to re-play the battle if I lose is enough to make me really want to win.

Now on the other hand…in my Casual game I have too many characters. I really only need a core team. With no risk of death there’s no reason to have ‘spare’ characters, so to speak. But for me, I find leveling these characters to be fun so I’m still doing extra quests to level everyone up. But the game is clearly designed around the idea that you’ll lose characters and will need to replenish your army, so there are way more characters than you ‘need’ (or at least can be…many of them come from the DLC or the random armies that pop up via the Wireless menu).

I think if I was King of the World I’d decree that Fire Emblem had some ‘middle road’ mode. Basically it would be Classic Mode but the player would have some kind of (onerous) way to resurrect fallen characters. It’d either be expensive or would incorporate a mini-quest-line that you had to play through, or something. So that when that character who you really, really love fell in battle you could decide to overcome the required obstacle to bring him or her back. But when Vaike fell, you’d just move on. Because really, nobody likes Vaike.

vaike

Last night I finished the “Main Storyline” for Defiance. Or at least the main storyline as it stands now; I expect we’ll see more in the months to come. I still have lots of side quests to do, pursuits to finish, weapons and vehicles to level… and hopefully starting next Monday, Episode Quests.

But today I want to talk more about the main storyline quests. I was not at all pleased with how this series of quests ended, so warning: one of my rants is incoming.

There are a couple ways to finish difficult quests in Defiance:
1) You can be a hardcore shooter player and then probably none of the quests are difficult to begin with.

2) You can fight the best you can until the cavalry arrives in the form of another player (or players). This is my favorite thing to have happen. I’ll be running around, slowly grinding my way through the quest, and suddenly another purple dot shows up on the radar. Help has arrived! Two players are way WAY more powerful than one since with two players you can flank, which becomes important against certain enemies later in the game. Also, this is an MMO…if we wanted to play a solo game we’d play a single player game, right?

3) You can brute force it. I’ve had to do this a few times. You take out a few guys, die, respawn, take out a few more, and eventually you’ll whittle them down and win. It just takes persistence. The ‘death penalty’ is 180 scrip (Defiance’s currency). My character has something like 34,000 scrip and I buy everything that looks remotely interesting, so 180 scrip is so low that there may as well not be a death penalty.

But there are 2 main quests where these rules don’t apply. (Well, Rule 1 still applies.) In these quests you enter a solo instance so there’s no hope of friends, and if you die, the mission enemies reset and you have to start all over again. To add insult to injury, your ammo will be depleted so the first thing you’ll have to do on your next try is sprint for an ammo box and replenish.

The final Main Mission is one of these two missions. [Gameplay, but not story, spoilers incoming.] It’s a multi-phase mission. First you have to clear a bunker with the help of some NPC friends. Then you have to enter a solo instance and fight an enemy, three times. It’s that old-school ‘boss that keeps getting back up’ system. I don’t play modern shooters so I don’t know if they still do that, but it’s how designers used to finish their games: one last frustrating battle where the difficulty spikes.

Each of the three phases is different and at least if you die you respawn at the start of the current phase (thank heaven for small favors). But this being an MMO, you can’t save your game and walk away for a while. I -assume- that if you log out and come back in, you’ll have to restart the mission from the very beginning. I wasn’t about to test this but this seems to be normally how Defiance works. And there’s no Pause button.

So once you get into this last mission, you’re going to want to complete it in one sitting. It is far, far harder than anything else the game has thrown at you up to that point. Or at least it was for me. Invariably when someone says the mission is hard on a forum there’ll be ‘that guy’ who says “Hard? I finished the mission using only my starter weapon and it took me 5 minutes.” But my ‘straw poll research’ tells me I’m not alone in finding the mission to be difficult.

I did it, eventually. Died about 8 times altogether I think. There’s nothing like having the baddie down to a sliver of health and taking an unlucky hit and having to start all over again. Eight deaths doesn’t sound bad but I was trying to be careful. The mission, start to finish, took me about two hours and when I finally finished it, I felt more angry than satisfied.

It didn’t help that I encountered a couple of bugs. A couple times my Self-Revive refused to work (the message to hold E to revive was on-screen but holding E did nothing) and a few times when I died the Extract feature didn’t work so I had to sit around and wait for the timer to count down to auto-extract me. The first one was by far more infuriating but it only happened twice.

So two hours later, I was finished. I glowered at the following cut scene, flipped the bird at the crappy weapon I got as a reward (a freakin pistol? REALLY?) and dumped out of the game and stormed off to bed. Now that’s just me. I’m sure some players finished the battle, did a fist pump and a cheer and were elated. If you were one of those, I’m sincerely happy for you. In my opinion, though, this mission needs to be changed. We’re playing an MMO because we want to play with other people. Let us bring in help if we’re stuck. If that’s asking too much, at least tweak the difficulty so it is more in-line with the rest of the missions.

I’m not against hard games, but Defiance, overall, is a pretty casual game. (There’s one other mission that is a bit difficult but you can go online and research ‘tricks’ to make it easier. I couldn’t find any tricks for this one.) In my opinion it’s a game design mistake to spike the difficulty so drastically at the very end of a quest line like this (particularly since you probably want players to stick around after the final quest finishes). I’m hoping Trion decides to tone this one down a bit. Maybe after a certain amount of time or deaths they can spawn a powerful weapon or something to help those players who came to Defiance from other MMOs rather than from Shooters.

I’m just glad to have it behind me. I’m actually looking forward to going back to cruising around the world, doing side missions and helping other players clear their main missions. That’s what makes Defiance so fun. Not being trapped in a solo instance with a boss that doesn’t have the sense to stay dead after you kill him!

Defiance has been out for 19 days as of today. I don’t think there’s been a day when I didn’t log in, which is pretty unusual for me. Raptr says I’m at 57 hours but for the first few days of launch week I wasn’t running Raptr since I was ‘hiding.’ I was logging in before work and on my lunch hour and didn’t want any co-workers to notice and think I was playing on company time or something (yeah, I’m paranoid). So I’m guessing that my real figure is somewhere around 65 hours.

Over-compensating So clearly I enjoy the game, a lot, but anyone looking at it objectively will tell you its buggy/quirky as hell. Somehow the issues don’t impact my fun significantly, though. This week saw the first major client-side patch, but even though the list of fixes went on and on, the game didn’t feel significantly different when I logged in. Also some new bugs were introduced. I’m looking forward to the next big patch which should be in a couple of weeks.

I play Defiance solo, which means I side-step a lot of the major issues which have to do with chat, both text and voice. Friends who’re trying to put clans together are, I think, experiencing more frustration there. Grouping for missions can be problematic, too. There seem to be 3 types of main missions: open world missions that everyone can jump in and help on, ‘instanced’ missions where you have to activate a portal to enter, and the confusing ones: phased open world missions. With this last type, you don’t see any loading screen or anything, but you can be grouped with someone and you’ll each be in a different ‘universe’ so to speak. The person with the quest will see enemies to fight and objects to activate, the other person will see an empty landscape. This has led to a lot of frustrations among friends who like to Group to play these games. Unfortunately I don’t think this issue is a bug so much as a design decision but I still hope Trion eventually changes things so you can help out a friend in need.

Mutants in San FranAs I said, I play solo, but I don’t play alone, and that’s a lot of what I love about Defiance. I spend a lot of time just helping strangers complete missions; there’ve been missions I’ve done 8 or 10 times by now even though I only ‘had’ the mission once. I don’t really play Defiance for rewards…I don’t play it like a Roll Playing Game. I play it like a Role Playing Game (and to be clear, Defiance is a third person shooter, pure and simple, not an RPG of any sort). So I help people out because that’s what heroes do! And I’m trying to be a hero this time around.

Then there are the massive ArkFall events, which I find fun now and then. They’re not my favorite aspect of Defiance since they start to feel pretty generic after a while. And last night I did my first Co-op Mission via the Matchmaking feature, which put me in a PUG. It was surprisingly fun, but when the leaderboard came up and I saw I came in 4th I felt like I’d only held the team back. In my dubious defense, they all seemed to know where to go and what to do so that may have hampered my efforts somewhat.

Earlier this week, Defiance the TV Show premiered. I enjoyed it quite a bit and I’m looking forward to more. I was expecting actual Episode Missions to debut in-game after the show aired, but instead we got Episode Pursuits. Pursuits are essentially clusters of Achievements. “Find these 4 items, kill 10 of that kind of enemy, do this mission.” These “Episode Pursuits” are only in-game for a limited time, so I felt a lot of pressure to complete them quickly. Since one of them revolves around completing events that spawn randomly, it meant (for me at least) 3 nights of driving around semi-aimlessly, completing random events to ‘clear them’ so the ones I needed would pop. This was, by far, the least amount of fun I’ve had in Defiance and for the first time since the game launched I found myself logging out frustrated and looking for something else to do. Last night I finally finished them (well, all of them except for the one that involves PvP…I’m no PvPer) so hopefully I can get back to the good stuff.

In a Raptr Q&A earlier this week, Trion mentioned a few times that since so many people are frustrated by having time-limited content, they might decide to just leave it in. They were talking more about the Episode Missions that were in game from April 2nd – April 15th before being removed, but I hope they do the same thing for these Pursuits. They would’ve been more fun if I felt like I could’ve searched a bit, then gone to do something else, then searched a bit more at a later date.

Anyway I also hope we see more actual Episode Missions in weeks to come. Pursuits are a nice ‘side line’ activity but I love the real missions. Speaking of which, at 60-ish hours and EGO rating of 650 or something, I still haven’t finished the main storyline. I keep getting distracted by helping strangers and doing side-missions, which is weird because I’m actually enjoying the storyline quite a bit.

Trion seems committed to Defiance (and they sound as frustrated as the players are with the number of bugs and issues) so I’m hopeful the game will have a long life. 5 DLC packs are planned and they’re scheduled to roll out between Seasons 1 & 2 of the TV series. (I got this info from the Raptr Q&A.) At that point Trion gets to move the story forward on their own, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with. While the DLC will have a paid component, my understanding is that all the world content (which I assume means the story stuff) will be free to everyone since Trion doesn’t want to fragment the playerbase.

Free is always good but I’m wondering how they’ll sustain the game financially. There’s no subscription fee. There’s a cash shop but nothing in it seems all that compelling. I did buy some ‘Bits’ (the cash shop currency) to expand my character’s inventory space but nothing else is really calling to me. Anyway, hopefully they have some ideas; I’m sure they’re pretty much 100% focused on killing bugs and polishing rough spots for now.

Anyway, so that’s what I’ve been doing the past few weeks. Defiance, Defiance and more Defiance, with a short break to watch Defiance. LOL I’ve even had to set Fire Emblem aside since I keep getting to bed much too late (Fire Emblem has been ‘play a mission before bed’ game until Defiance came along). It’s still buggy so I’d still suggest that if bugs make you crazy you should continue to hold off, but I’m having more fun than I’ve had in years.
Coop!

I keep meaning to write up a big fat blog post about Defiance, but every time I think about doing so, I realize I could instead spend that time playing, so that’s what I do. That’s the mark of a game that’s an excellent fit for me; I play it every time I get a free moment.

You can find plenty of things to complain about in this game. It’s still fairly buggy, the UI is kind of awful (maybe less so if you’re using a controller, but I’m not 100% convinced of that) and it overall lacks polish. In spite of all that, I’m head over heel in love with it, at least for this week. (You know me and my gaming ADD.)

On the bright side, they’ve had a decent launch week on the PC. Decent, not super. Servers still come down too often for emergency patches and stuff, but to the best of my knowledge the PC servers haven’t had any extended outages or outrageous queue times. I guess the Xbox 360 version hasn’t fared as well, though.

But playing the game is a hell of a lot of fun and you always have many options. You can follow the main questline or the episode questline (and I assume we’re getting a new episode quest once a week one the show starts up on April 15th). You can do side quests. You can explore in an attempt to complete Pursuits or to learn about the lore and backstory of the game (Pursuits also give EGO levels). You can race vehicles. You can roam around taking on random spawns alone. You can jump into ArkFalls and join a mass of players taking on huge encounters. You can do structured PvP or open world PvP. [Disclaimer: I haven't actually tried the PvP...hopefully it's all up and working!] You can join with friends to do co-op instances. You can do solo instance challenges. You can complete Contracts to earn favor with one faction or another. Taking a page from Guild Wars 2, almost everything you do in Defiance earns you some kind of boon.

(This one looks best in HD.)

The problem is that almost none of this (except completing quests) is obvious when you first start playing. Well, the main quest and side quests are pretty obvious, but a lot of this stuff is tucked into the Goals system and the game never points you at that as a source of things to do. It should. In the same way it never really tells you to check out the Intel system for more about the world (a lot of lore is fed to you via audio transmissions).

Here’s an audio log example. Not one of the best, but I chose it because it has no spoilers in it:

A couple of warnings: Defiance is a shooter, not an RPG. You don’t have stats and you do need to be able to aim. In theory you could set yourself up as a kind of healer but I’m not sure there’s enough there to make that a rewarding career path. Basically you really need to want to shoot stuff to get much out of the game. It’s also still rough. If bugs, server crashes and a lack of polish is going to drive you nuts, give this one a pass for now.

As an MMO there’s a lot we expect that isn’t there: banks, a mail system, an auction house. “Levels” are here in the form of an EGO Rating and that’s mostly just there to gate content. Some weapons require a minimum EGO Rating, and as your rating goes up you unlock inventory slots, loadout slots and things like that. You do ‘rank up’ in weapons and vehicles; when you do you’ll get a minor adjustment. Extra boost time in vehicles, slightly less ‘bloom’ (bullet spread) with weapons…things like that. Nothing all that over-powering. There are only 4 skills and you can only equip 1 at a time. There are lots of passive ‘perks’ to earn, though.

Honestly it’s hard for me to quantify what I love about Defiance, but I’ll try. I love that I can jump in and play for 10 minutes and feel like I got something done, but if I have 3 hours I don’t get bored. I love how I can help (or be helped by) people without forming a Group. I love that it’s a shooter that is casual enough to be fun for me…someone not a serious shooter fan. And I feel like I’m pretty good at it (I’m perhaps delusional…but the important thing is I FEEL good about my progress, rather than feeling frustrated). I love that I can get involved in a gloriously chaotic Arkfall event with 50 other players…or go off all by myself and see what I can accomplish on my own. When I get tired of shooting, I try the races. If I get tired of those too, I just go and explore. I’m always feeling like I have more to do than I have time for, which is, to me, a good thing.

Anyway I wasn’t going to blog about Defiance and now I’ve gone on and on and I could be playing so.. off I go to play!

I’m super excited for the launch of Defiance on Tuesday, but that excitement put me in a kind of gaming no-man’s land this weekend. I felt like playing an MMO but knew that come Tuesday I’d be moving to Defiance in a major way. I just needed a short-term diversion.

Rift sprang to mind, probably because I’ve been spending so much time on Trion pages and watching Trion webcasts on Twitch. I haven’t played Rift in a good long while but my strongest recollection is a constant struggle with inventory space. My highest level character has his bags and bank packed full of veteran reward potions and appearance gear, and crafting-related stuff that I’m too stubborn to just sell off to NPCs (stuff is so low level that it won’t move on the auction house).

So I decided to create a new character to be a mule, and that’s what led me to a bunch of surprises. None of these changes are new (as far as I know) but if you’ve been away as long as I have they’ll probably be new to you too.

build_windowFirst big change… when creating a character you still pick an archetype (Warrior, Cleric, Mage, or Rogue) but after that you’re offered a selection of builds. Now before anyone freaks out, you still CAN pick and choose the souls you want if you care to, and advanced players will probably want to do so. But as a virtual newbie (it’d been so long since I created a character) who didn’t want to spend a lot of time reading build guides, I loved this feature. I’d chosen a warrior, and then choose “Pathfinder” which is a support role based primarily on Beastmaster (54 points) and Paragon (22 points) with Riftblade as the 3rd soul (with no points). If you enlarge this screenshot you can see an example of the info you’re given on the various builds.

As you level up and earn skill points you can just auto-spend them to follow the template of the build you’ve chosen, or you can decide to make your own choices. Again, it’s a brilliant system that makes getting into the game super-easy for newcomers (I didn’t have to fret that I was gimping my character) but which gets out of the way for more serious players.

Once I got past character creation and hopped into the tutorial zone I got another huge surprise. The tutorial bit (before you get to that first rift) has been super-streamlined. All the sidequests have been eliminated, as has any and all backtracking. You’ll zip through the tutorial zone so fast your head will spin. Maybe too quickly for a newcomer, to be honest. I can’t help but think a new player will wonder what all these monsters and features are for since you just run past them (most have been made non-aggro). As a returning player though, I was really happy to get to the ‘real’ game very quickly. And I think I was level 6 or 7 by the time I was done (which took me 20 minutes maybe, and would’ve been faster if I hadn’t been stopping to tweak my UI and running around wondering how I was missing so many of the old quests.)

Once I got to present day Telara it seemed like most (but maybe not all) quests were intact, but still some streamlining has been done. There’s a new feature where you can turn in some quests without returning to the quest giver, which cuts down on back-tracking. There’s also a pop-up window telling you about all the buffs you have as a subscriber. Rift has an ‘endless trial’ that lets you play to level 20 for free; I’m assuming these ‘subscriber buffs’ end at 20.

By the end of a casual evening of playing, I’d gotten my ‘mule’ to level 9, and if I’d been focusing instead of stopping to chat with Angela or popping over to read email I’m sure I could’ve gotten a lot farther. I’m guessing that whole sped-up leveling will taper off at 20 (where the free trial ends) but we’ll see.

As for my mule, well, the joke is on me. The character had a mailbox full of Veteran and other rewards that essentially filled her inventory right up. So she’ll have to keep working for now until she gathers materials for my crafter to use to make some bigger bags. That’s my excuse anyway… actually she’s just pretty fun to play.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post title Defiance and I are having our first fight. You can go read it if you’re got time to kill but the gist of it was that I was concerned about their announcement of DLC for the game, and here’s why:

My logic was that if a big part of Defiance is the ‘transmedia’ aspects (in which events in the game and events in the tv show will intermingle in some way) then, assuming the transmedia ‘updates’ were packed into the DLC, we’d all need the DLC to get the full game experience, and so if that’s the case why not just charge a sub fee and be done with it.

Anyway, I reached out to Trion to get the straight dope on what’s going on here. It took a few weeks for them to get back to me, and the news is brief, but good. Here’s a quote of everything they were willing to share:

“Crossover stuff is NOT part of paid DLC. As a matter of fact there is a good amount of content updates that are not paid DLC dependent.”

So there you have it. You can buy the game, watch the show, enjoy the transmedia aspects, and not feel pressured to buy the DLC.

Personally I’m thinking I’ll buy it anyway since I enjoy the game so much, but it’s nice not to feel like I ‘have’ to buy it in order to get the full experience.

You’ve probably seen this already but just in case… it’s an ad for the upcoming Star Trek shooter I guess.

I originally spotted this on Joystiq.