Tera, Day 3 [video]

I kind of wanted to get to level 20 before I wrote this post but alas, it was not to be. Since my last post I took Bart from level 15 to level 19. So what did I learn?

Biggest thing: skill chains. Turns out you have to set these up yourself. Hit K to bring up the skills window and at the bottom is a Skill Chains button that opens a second panel. The ‘starter’ skills seem to be predetermined but you can drag whatever ‘chained’ skill into the various slots that seem like they’ll fit your style. At my level all the chains are 2 links long.

I also learned a new skill, Overhead Smash, that ‘auto-chains.’ When I spam my main attack a few times (which IS called a “Combo Attack”) I’ll get a prompt to chain (ie, hit Space) the Overhead Smash (don’t shoot me if I have the name wrong).

My friend Gwyn, who you see commenting here now and then, formed a guild with her sister and they invited me to join. OK maybe I begged them to let me join. Either way, I’m member #3. I wanted to check out the Guild Quest system. Turns out this is very similar to the repeatable kill quests that you can get, with the one exception that you can ‘store up’ extra kills. For example there was a Guild Quest to kill 12 Foozles. I killed 12 but as I continued with other quests I had to fight more Foozles. The counter kept going: 13/12, 14/12 etc. By the time I turned the quest in I had 17/12. As soon as I turned it in, the quest reset and restarted at 5/12. I assume that others in the guild will find those same numbers and can take up the baton where I left it.

I finally stopped to do some crafting and my sense is that it’s mostly a money sink in low levels. I opted to work on Alchemy in order to make some potions. To make a healing potion I started with some leaves I’d gathered. I bought and learned a recipe that turns the leaves into an intermediate material. To do that requires the leaves and a reagant that I had to buy from a vendor. Then to make the actual potions, I needed to buy the recipe. Then I combined the intermediate material I’d crafted, another reagant I had to buy from a vendor, plus some glass vials, also from the vendor. It got expensive fast.

You can skip that first step by extracting from items that have dropped from mobs. So the question is which is more lucrative. Here’s another example, this one using metals. I can gather ore, then combine it with a vendor-sold reagant to make Ingots which I can then use to make gear. Say a pair of metal armor boots drop and I don’t need them. I can sell them to a vendor and use the coin to buy reagants. Or I could Extract Metals from the boots, which should provide an Ingot, bypassing that initial combine. At low levels you probably want to sell gear and buy the reagants since you’ll skill up making Ingots but later it’s probably cheaper to just extract your Ingots.

Last thing to hit on for today: the difficulty level of the game. Yesterday I mentioned how easy Tera is, and it has been up until now. But all of a sudden battles are becoming more intense and more interesting. Suddenly dodging and avoidance are becoming essential as I’m encountering baddies that exude poison as their special attack (all mobs in the world of Tera have the same tell; their eyes flash red before they unleash their special attack).

Granted this is just combat difficulty that is ramping up a bit. The rest of the game is still very clear cut. You always know where you need to go next, and what you need to kill. Mobs that will help you towards fulfilling a goal have an icon floating over their heads: yellow for a personal quest, blue for a guild quest.

A limitation of the Unreal engine (I think) is that all zones are essentially very wide corridors, so there’s really not a ton of exploring; it’s more like sight-seeing as you travel through the world.

And yet…I’m REALLY enjoying the game. Maybe it’s because my expectations were so low, or maybe it’s the progression hound in me who is so delighted at doing quests that give great gobs of experience and help you level up quickly. I still don’t know how much fun an alt would be, but I’m finding myself bummed to think of the open beta weekend ending and it’s going to be tough waiting for the game to re-open next week.

Here’re a few short videos I captured of me fighting. They were captured at half-size using Fraps so they don’t look as great as they might. Apologies to those who’ve already seen some of these on Google+.

Tragically, these corrupted unicorns must be put down. This fight has a good example of the great ‘staggering/falling down’ animations that mobs have. You almost feel sorry for the poor thing when it goes down. Almost.

You’ll do a lot of fighting against groups of enemies like this one. This demon thingie is surrounded by a bunch of fairies. The fairies die really quick to AOE attacks but if you don’t take them down they will suck away your health in a ‘death by a thousand needles’ kind of way:

A similar battle. I pop my Shout that gives me some MP to use, then charge into the fight. After a couple of swings I fire off Whirlwind — that double circular attack. That takes out most of the fairies and then knocks the ‘boss’ on his butt. Just before he dies you can see his eyes flash. It would’ve hurt had he gotten his special attack off in time.

I included this one because I love the creature design. Tera has a lot of really weird creatures and I’m enjoying seeing what they all do. This guy spits a nasty poison, though he never did in this battle. You’ll also see me do an overhead smash…into thin air. No auto-targeting in this game and you can get caught in a combat animation facing the wrong way. Just part of the challenge!

Legend of Grimrock combat video

If you weren’t around for games like Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder you might find combat in Legend of Grimrock to be a bit challenging. I decided to record the first difficult fight you’ll encounter in order to demonstrate the dungeon 2-step. (This is from level 2 of the dungeon and my characters are all level 2 as well.)

When you step on the central tile in this room, the door behind you shuts and 3 skeletal knights enter the room, one at a time. With 3 enemies your options are fairly limited so your first goal is to kill one of them as quickly as possible while keeping your party alive. You’ll see that I focus on one then switch targets. I did that because my rogue in the second rank was taking heavy damage. By turning 90 degrees I took her out of danger (but put the even squishier mage in harm’s way).

Once you’re down to 2 enemies you can start moving around the room. This was basically the original form of kiting a mob. Our gaming roots on display!! With 2 baddies (as long as nothing goes badly wrong) the fight becomes fairly easy.

Casting a spell is a bit cumbersome and you’ll see me fizzle once because I chose both the rune for the fire spell and the rune for poison cloud. The devs have said they made casting spells deliberately more difficult than other forms of combat as a kind of balancing technique. They WANT you to get frantic and mis-cast, like I did here. Evil devs!

Also note [spoiler] that each alcove that a skeleton comes out of houses a lever. When you pull all 3 of those levers the doorway to the room opens. You could quickly do that and escape into the hallway if you’re nimble enough, and from there you can kill the skellies one at a time.

Video: “The Secret World” GDC Presentation

Last night I decided to spend a half hour watching Funcom’s The Secret World video from GDC. I’m not really sure why; I’ve finally come to accept that MMOs aren’t a good genre for me, but I guess old habits die hard. I’m sure I’m going to keep buying these games, playing them for a few weeks and then becoming disgruntled about them. I’m just too curious for my own good and I still long for a virtual world to call my own. Not that most of today’s MMOs are virtual worlds, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Anyway, I haven’t been paying much attention to The Secret World to be honest. The setting, or at least what I thought was the setting, wasn’t all that compelling to me. That much, at least, changed last night. The game has instances that feature “time travel” to crazy situations. The one they show in the video is of Native Americans and Vikings banding together to drive off a Mayan invasion! How awesome is that? [The Mayans sure have been getting a bum rap lately; wasn’t it their neighbors, the Aztecs, who were the bloodthirsty ones? Perhaps my understanding of history is flawed, but let’s get back to the game.]

The low point of what I saw was the combat; there was just nothing very compelling about it to me. That’s not to say that it was bad…until I play it I won’t actually know. But it just seemed ‘safe’ to me, with mobs that had very short aggro ranges and (spell-based) combat animations that looked like avatars standing in place doing their cheerleading practice. Hopefully they punch those up a bit; this was early footage after all.

The high points were character development, which looks incredibly deepcomplex, no let’s be optimistic and stay with deep. There are a ton of skills..did the dude say 500!!? Maybe I’m forgetting…it was 12 hours ago after all and I have a mind like a sieve. Anyway there are a ton of skills that you can put points into, but you can only equip 7 active and 7 passive at any one time (a bit like Guild Wars). You can change the load out at any (almost?) time though (not sure about during combat), and create pre-made sets of skills for fast switching. Anyway, it looked like there’ll be a ton of ways you can go with your character and there are no predetermined classes.

The other thing that looked cool was crafting. They’ve borrowed from Minecraft to a certain extent. You can salvage a weapon to get materials, then (this is the Minecraft-y bit) you lay those materials out in a particular pattern to make a particular item. You can then tweak the item by attaching “prefix” and “suffix” enhancements to it. The hope was that people will not only make their own weapons and stuff, but would be creating thise prefix and suffix enhancements and trading those among the populace. We’ll see.

Just a few final thoughts. At this point The Secret World didn’t give off the vibe of an AAA title; the polish just wasn’t there yet. Maybe it’ll get there, but then I almost hope it doesn’t. I’ve been having more fun with games that have a few rough spots and some personality than I’ve been having with games that are so polished that they have neither high nor low points.

I also found myself thinking about The Matrix Online while watching the video. I’m not sure why…maybe because the female character they created started in Seoul and was slinking through the streets rolling her hips like they were on ball bearings? In fact, the overt sexualization of the female characters really felt kind of dated. Y’know, the low-slung jeans with the T of a thong pulled up above the waist? It did look like that was a choice the person running the demo made, though, and that there were outfits where the outerwear actually covered the underwear. Imagine that!

Anyway, if I’ve piqued your interest, get comfortable, grab a beer or a cup of coffee, and check out the video:

Video: Ubisoft introduces Farcry 3’s Dr. Earnhardt

Kindly old Dr. Earnhardt is there to help you feel grooooovy in Farcry 3.

Creepy stuff, eh?

Here’s the old boy’s official bio:

Dr. Alec Earnhardt basks in an artificial glow of life generated by the pills he takes daily. He hails from Oxford and went sailing around the world after a personal tragedy. This is how he discovered Rook Island and all of the wonderful chemicals growing in the local flora. He set up a lab on the island and now makes his living selling drugs on the black market.

Watch “Jill Bolte Taylor: My stroke of insight”

This isn’t new, but someone in the TwitterStream shared it the other day and I just got around to watching it.

It’s a fascinating talk by Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor about the two sides of our brain, how they see the world, and what that means to us. Her revelations came during the process of having a stroke. Talk about lemonades from lemons.

Anyway, I just wanted to do my part to spread the word on this interesting and powerful talk. Get a cup of coffee and make yourself comfortable, as the video runs about 20 minutes.

Rather than embed, I’m going to link to the video so you can get all the additional information contained in links off the page that holds the original embed.

Jill Bolte Taylor: My stroke of insight