GW2: Heart of Thorns Beta Screenshots

gw2-masteries

Masteries are now in a more readable UI.

One has to select a mastery that one wants to level up, and earn experience towards that goal. Seems to be an alternate advancement system for those who love the leveling aspect of an MMO. Presumably after you unlock it with experience, you can then spend a mastery point to purchase it.

I got to within an inch of gliderhood but unfortunately didn’t quite get it before the first beta closed. Let’s see if they save character progress in between each stage.

gw2_verdantbrink

Much more of the Verdant Brink map was opened up, though only a few areas were heavily populated by Mordrem so far.

Map has a day/night zone cycle, day apparently set to 75 minutes and night at 45 minutes or thereabouts. I logged in to about 15 minutes of day, and then it quickly switched to night.

There seems to be an overall zone goal of holding/defending Rally Points, escorting Pact Soldiers to said Rally Points and bringing Pact Supplies to build up each Rally Point to eventually unlock more (unknown) stuff. So far only one or two Rally Points got defended consistently, so there will be more to do when it finally launches, I’m sure. I’m looking forward to more organized attempts at this zone goal.

(A beta map is naturally not a place for massive map coordination and organization, everyone’s squirreling off to see the new things, and about 85% of the people were Revenants unfamiliar with their skills and all that.)

After a first hour of intense battlefield Mordrem fighting, I found myself getting tired of the endless war going nowhere (need my organization fix) and wandered off to the quieter and probably still unbuilt areas.

I do hope that the designers don’t forget in their excitement over playing with complex and sophisticated dynamic event chains to look after the little guys, the solo explorers and casual levelers that need a calmer exploration fix from time to time, those surprisingly numerous players who enjoy and miss the feeling of leveling in their starter and intermediate leveling zones – more pastoral surroundings, less tightly packed and threatening mob densities.

Personally, I do suspect we will still have some of these areas, even in the Heart of Maguuma. Even the Silverwastes has its peaceful jumping puzzle, to take a breather from the constant combat chains.

From my short glance at the zone and the spaces and scenery therein, there seems to be a goal to pack a lot into it – something for groups (PUG or organized), something for achievement-oriented soloists, something for explorer-oriented soloists and so on.

But I dunno, I have no words to argue or defend the Vision that others seem to hate so much.

If you like it, you like it. If you don’t, you don’t.

So instead, I will just post the screenshots that -I- had fun taking.

gw2-purple

I remembered to take a PURPLE one for Eri’s theory of depressing endgame maps.

gw2-skyrim

I think this one is GW2’s claim to a Skyrim look-alike. The treetop textures, the lighting, the photo-realism just kinda blew me away.

gw2-itzel

I have… no words to describe the Itzel stare.

gw2-moreruins

More of those Maguuma Wastes-style ruins we’ve all come to know and love in Dry Top and Silverwastes. Dying to know more about the origins or creators of these structures.

gw2_pit

They weren’t kidding about the verticality of this zone. (I briefly considered spectral walking my way down – I played a necro rather than a revenant this time around – then in a brief fit of sanity, managed to find the NPC that teleported you into the pit.

Apparently it’s one of those new soloable “Adventures,” which usually challenge you to achieve some sort of task, except that it was either nonfunctional because it wasn’t done yet, or because we hadn’t unlocked the Rally Point that would unlock it, or I was just missing the whole point of what one had to do for the event.)

gw2_drop

The cloudy ominous drop that awaits clumsy glider-less travelers.

gw2_caves

There were some nearly empty caves under the Wyvern Cliffs, save for a few new Mushroom mobs, which were quite cute, in a nightmarish Mario Goomba sort of way.

And then I crawled through one snaking tunnel and went down another and stumbled into the as yet unpopulated Temple of Ameyalli. (Ameyalii possibly being to the hylek as Mellaggan is to the quaggan, an interpretation of the human god Melandru. Or maybe not and she’s just an unconnected animistic goddess of nature. Who knows, at this point.)

gw2_ameyalii

gw2_lights

gw2_shrine

One moment of perfect beauty.

That’s all this explorer soul needed.

CoH: Screenshot Nostalgia Trip #6

*plays the Pink Panther theme*

The Rikti were an interesting mob faction in City of Heroes.

The First Rikti Invasion apparently capped off the City of Heroes beta (wouldn’t know, wasn’t there, just read the previews mostly).

The backstory was that this group of science and tech-using aliens invaded the Earth of City of Heroes (aka Primal Earth,) ensnaring the globe in a massive Rikti War. Eventually, most of the superheroes of the world mobilized to conduct one gloriously bold strike at the invasion’s source, the portal to the Rikti Homeworld.

Alpha Team, led by Statesman, was the frontal distraction, with a corresponding death toll of 4 out of 5 heroes.

Omega Team, led by Hero 1, dived through the portal during the distraction. Soon after, the portal exploded and closed, the fate of Omega Team unknown. Heroes doffed their capes in remembrance (which was, in reality, a sneaky excuse for “we haven’t figured out the tech to let you have capes yet.”)

What heroes saw of the Rikti from then on appeared to be the straggling pink/beige remnants of this alien invasion, though certain storylines let on to a more sinister and intriguing undertone, where one witnessed the human Lost faction gradually mutating into Rikti, and this mutation being induced by other full Rikti.

coh_riktishipcrash

Rikti Crash Site was a max level 50 zone with not much in it besides a lot of apocalyptic urban skyscraper wrecks, the world’s largest collection of tightly packed Rikti spawns for tanks to farm to their heart’s content, and the mysteriously shielded crashed Rikti Ship, looking for all intents and purposes like a giant alien flying saucer.

Some time in 2007, the Second Rikti Invasion struck Primal Earth. This was a threat that united heroes and villains alike, allowing crossovers and teaming up in a special zone for the first time.

The invasion arrived in phases, first with sinister bombs sprouting all over a zone.

coh_riktibomb

Rikti drop ships would glide impassively across the now green skies, striking anyone who got too close with bright green energy blasts.

coh_dropship

Then finally, the Rikti themselves would beam in.

coh_beamusdown

Not even the villains were safe.

coh_villainbeam

Mechanically, this was, I suspect, one of the earlier examples in MMO history where an MMO introduced an automated ‘public event’ that scaled to player densities, and linked it to an ongoing storyline.

(Sure, MMOs before this had events, seasonal or otherwise, but most were either triggered by a GM manually spawning something or set out in the usual quest-giver format for individual players to run through. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, I did miss a lot of the earlier MMO days.)

I think one of the biggest innovations of this ‘invasion tech’ was the idea of adjusting mob spawns and dynamically scaling encounters based on how many players were locally available in the area. We see other games now applying similar concepts.

coh_riktiinvasion

Back in the day, it sure made for great action screenshots.

(Not to mention, encouraged players to actually clump and gather up as a large social group, in order to spawn the elites everyone desired for an achievement – amazing, I know, that this was such a new idea then and not looked down upon and disparagingly called “zerging” in our current day and age.)

Ultimately, the heroes and villains would venture into the newly rechristened Rikti War Zone…

(The problem with a dark/dark powerset)

(My defender main, showing off the problem with a dark/dark powerset. Not only are most of your powers various tinted shades of inky black darkness – kinda like GW2’s shadow dyes, come to think of it – you had to keep making excuses for the inky black blob with eyes that was your pet spilling oil slick all over the landscape. “Don’t mind Fuzzy, he’s toilet trained. The black stuff evaporates shortly, I promise.”)

…to launch an attack on the Rikti Mothership itself.

coh_riktiship

The big bad Rikti at the very center had an unfortunately cheesy name, victim of a designer in-joke. U’kon Gr’ai, or “You con grey.”

coh_ukongrai

The Rikti armor designs of this period were significantly improved, as can be seen in this Paragon Wiki article about the Rikti. No longer were they the naked beige/pink slightly awkward aliens of the past, but a more tech-like robotic enemy, with color-coded armor (warning: TV Tropes link) indicating different powersets.

Ah, dark/dark defender woes.

Ah, those dark/dark defender woes. “No, really, the shadowfall protects you and gives you stealth! How no one can see us in the middle of all this incongruous black splotches, I don’t know, but there’s superhero powers for you…”

The Vanguard were also more fleshed out, along with two Rikti factions, one attempting to sue for peace with humans – hence the conference table setting, and one continuing on their militaristic warlike ways so that our heroes and villains had someone to keep beating on.

coh_riktihonoree

Eventually, we would discover the fate of Hero 1, changed into a Rikti-fied Honoree, who could be fought in the co-op Lady Grey Taskforce, as well as the initial Incarnate introduction mission as seen above.

The story, unfortunately, never really continued from this point, after the game decided to dive headlong into Praetoria instead, getting more and more incoherent as the designers/writers tried to shoehorn in time-traveling and strange in-game lore excuses for however the Incarnate system had to work.

Was a good arc while it lasted.

NBI Writing Prompt: What mob factions in your game are an integral part of its storyline(s) or lore?

CoH/NBI: Screenshot Nostalgia Trip #5 – Scary Places

This one might also double up as a “The Scariest Place” themed post for Murf’s NBI Screenshot Challenge, except I have trouble deciding which one might be the scariest in terms of looks, nor were they exactly scary to the player most of the time either.

So I will leave it to Murf to decide which, if any, counts as part of his challenge, and continue on to the nostalgia. :)

coh_drvahz

In a world primarily composed of office and warehouse tilesets, Dr. Vahzilok’s set piece lair in the sewers was rather memorable. Dr. Vahz is also pretty spooky in his own right, teeny featureless face in a massively brutish body cobbled together from various bodies.

coh_cot

The Circle of Thorns are kinda magically demonically spooky… and then there were the endless Oranbega maps which nearly everyone dreaded, with its neverending corridors, connected by portals that would never let you through (your whole team would get through on the first or second try, but you’d just keep bumping and bumping into them and getting teleported back a dozen times), plus more portals that you had to close at the end (all twelve or thirteen of them, behind the narrowest tunnels and corner curves one can never spot) with the constantly respawning demons… which then got nerfed into not giving ANY xp after some patch or another…

coh_hole

Then there’s falling….

seemingly forever…

…down something that looked like the petrified gullet of a ginormous beast.

(This might have been the Eden trial, but I’m not 100% sure anymore.)

coh_maw

A set piece mission map villain-side, but I can’t remember what it was about either. I just remember the very ominous looking cavern at the end, shaped like a big ol’ toothy maw.

coh_arachnos

Arachnos-controlled areas were ominous, in a shadowy kind of way.

coh_worldburn

A hero-side map (Croatoa, I think) that happened to have a nice set piece of it being aflame, with the conceit of this screenshot implying that my fire/fire dominator and his imps were the scary badasses to blame.

coh_notskyrim

I believe this was one of the “more recent” set piece maps that entered the game nearer the end of its lifespan. I was pretty impressed by the update in graphical style, this spooky crypt entrance to a cave system looking like something that might belong more in Skyrim (or Legend of Grimrock, at least) than City of Heroes.

I dunno, I find it hard to judge what’s scary or not, because the honest truth is that I don’t really find even games specifically in the horror genre “scary” these days.

FEAR was effective on me because it was one of my first introductions to the concept of horror movie jump-scares being used in a first-person shooter game.

(Also, they twisted the then-common expectations of the time – ie. you’re always safe on ladders cos you were locked in a ladder climber animation and it would be unfair to present a player with a situation if you give them no animations to react with – almost reach the top and AHH, freaky little girl face staring right at you and then ghosting away. These days, stuff is sophisticated enough to let you dangle from ladders and shoot now, I think.)

But then I started watching a couple of horror movies and being mostly squicked out rather than scared per se at the repeated tropes that lent themselves more to gore and gross-out factor, and recognizing jump-scares for being what they were, and then I played Doom 3 and most of the horror kind of drained out of the genre from the endless repetition, and by the time everyone was singing the praises of Amnesia, I got about fifteen minutes into the game before getting bored out of my skull from the darkness and sneaking and “you don’t actually see anything but there’s spooky horror sounds and shit, and if you don’t act like how we want, it’s an instant game over, try again” mechanics…

…and stuff just stopped being scary for me because I ended up viewing them from a more meta design or film-critical lens.

“Ah, note the shaky camera angle meant to imply uncertainty in the protagonist, or induce a sense of motion-sickness in the viewer/player.”

“Here comes the mysterious magical little girl/doll meant to prey on our mental imagery of small female children being vulnerable and helpless and needing to be protected, turning instead into a monstrous crone figure or a giant threatening vulva or yeah, something of that nature.”

Also, there’s that whole ‘game’ aspect: it -is- a game, the real self is one step removed, the character you’re playing is in a scary, threatening situation, but you’re not. (At least, I hope you aren’t. Don’t look out the window at night while you’re mucking about with fictional horror, yeah?)

NBI Writing Prompt: I could cop out and ask you to tell me about (or show me screenshots of) things you find scary (or not) in your games.

Or I could ask you to write about stuff that scares you, and whether or not you have the same response in games.

(eg. Snakes and scorpions freak me out in real life, and I generally have a big healthy fearful respect of any critter that’s venomous or fatally dangerous to a human and am perfectly ok with this response and not interested in dulling this instinct.

A picture of a snake or scorpion in a game or a video is okay, no problems with that.

In real life though, I’ll just be way over there if something that could kill me is over here though.)