Tuesday, May 05, 2015

SWTOR: Ziost Finale and Dailies

This post contains major spoilers for the ending of Ziost.

Yesterday, Bioware unlocked the final part of Ziost. It was a pretty interesting outcome.

The Sith Emperor Vitiate won. He consumed all life on the planet Ziost. What this means in terms of future story is unknown, but it looks like Bioware are setting up Vitiate as the major villain going forward. I imagine the next expansion will focus on him.

Ziost also has a new daily area on the ruined planet. It is unusual because it is empty. There are no mobs other than a couple of champion sith monstrosities wandering around. The daily quests involve recovering data from dead bodies, crashed probes, and destroyed temples.

It's very atmospheric, and a neat change of pace.

In some ways, this is the most frustrating part of TOR. They've cut back significantly on the best part of TOR: the multiple unique stories. TOR went from eight class stories, to two faction stories, and now only has one combined story.

But at the same time, they do try new and interesting things like Ziost. It's a real pity that they do not have the budget they originally had. I think the current team might have been able to do a lot with more resources.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Finishing Things

Lately, I've had a hard time finishing games and television shows. I start them, play or watch for a little bit, but then suddenly stop and switch to something else.

The big game here is Pillars of Eternity. I'm about 20 hours in, and I just stopped. I'm not even sure why, as I was really enjoying the game up to that point. I also have a level 96 Warrior in WoW, a level 7 Templar in ESO, a level 39 Bounty Hunter in TOR, and a Season 3 barbarian in Diablo 3. Not to mention I still haven't finished Transistor.

And then for some reason I downloaded TERA again on this weekend.

I'm also doing the same thing with a bunch of shows I'm watching. I'll get mid-way through and just stop. Even if I'm enjoying the show. Heck, one of the shows on my watch list is at 11 episodes out of 12, and I'm simply ignoring the last episode.

I think part of the issue is that my main games are MMOs, which never really finish and encourage you to play at a low pace but on a regular basis. For example, regardless of whatever other games I'm playing, I'll still log in to TOR twice a week to raid. I'm also still working on the Legendary chain in WoW, and that takes a little bit of effort every week.

Perhaps I've fallen out of the habit of focusing on a single piece of entertainment, and am just jumping around from game to game. It's kind of annoying though. I want to finish Pillars, to finish Transistor, to finish many of these shows on my list.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

SWTOR: Ziost and Patch 3.2

The Old Republic dropped patch 3.2 yesterday. It has a continuation of the Shadow of Revan storyline, this time going to Imperial world of Ziost. In a somewhat unusual turn of events, the very last part of the story is locked, and will only open on May 4th.

Of course, this was not communicated well, so everyone was confused when the questline abruptly ended.

I've only done the Imperial side on my sniper. On the whole, I thought the story was okay. It's on par with the rest of SoR, and not as good as the original stories or Imperial Makeb. It's very interesting for the Imperial Agent, as they introduced a new character who parallels the Light Side Agent in a lot of ways.

One thing I've realized is that I don't really like stories with supremely powerful villains. Villains work best when they are more powerful than the heroes, but within the same "order of magnitude", so to speak. The Sith Emperor Vitiate is so powerful that I don't really see how you could beat him and still feel "fair", as opposed to defeating him because the author let him be defeated.

Heh, maybe with the May the Fourth celebrations it will be revealed that we fling Vitiate forward in time and he becomes the villain for the new movies.

Otherwise the patch was pretty decent. Bioware added a new system for cosmetic outfits. It's interesting, because before this patch, you got your cosmetic outfit by slotting components into the armor shell. There was an in-universe explanation for it. Now, the cosmetic system is purely gamist, with no attempt at explaining how it works in-universe.

They also nerfed a few bosses that were unusually hard, and blocking progress. My group managed to knock out HM Bulo, so we're now at 3/10 in Hard Modes.

The only thing I dislike about the patch is that the sound and visuals on Penetrating Blast got messed up. PB normally fires 4 shots in a volley. But now you only see and hear one or two shots. The ability still seems to working correctly for damage and procs. But it's surprising how important hearing those four shots was for maintaining the rhythm of the rotation.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Holy Paladin Weapons

I've picked up my Holy Paladin again last week and have been doing LFR and working on the Legendary Quest.

In 2011, Blizzard asked for some class feedback. Here's what I wrote at the time:

About the only important quality of life issue I have is placement of weapons on raid bosses. Sometimes I think that Blizzard forgets that Holy Paladins are the only healing spec which cannot use staves or daggers.
How has Blizzard improved on this issue?

Well, I took a look at the Blackrock Foundry loot tables, to figure out which boss I need to use a coin on to increase my chances of getting a weapon.

There is not a single Holy Paladin weapon in all of LFR Blackrock Foundry! There's a staff, a wand, and a dagger.

Seriously Blizzard, this is amateur hour. Is it really so hard to write a tool/script/test that checks the loot table and spits out any spec/slot combinations which are missing?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Steam's Mod Marketplace

Valve has come up with a plan to allow mod-makers to sell mods on Steam. By and large the community reaction has been unfavorable. Many gamers are unhappy that something which was free, is now going to cost them money. On the other hand, a lot of industry players feel that it's only right that mod creators are paid for their efforts.

My thoughts are mixed. In addition to theoretical changes, there are also practical issues with Valve's plan.

Practical Issue - Revenue Split

The first issue is the revenue split that Valve is using. Valve takes 75% and the mod creator gets 25%. Now, Valve is probably giving a portion of their take to the original game creators, which is reasonably fair. I've seen estimates that ultimately Valve gets 25%, the game creator gets 50% and the mod maker gets 25%.

I don't think this is a sound plan in the long run. I remember reading an article on startups (by Joel Spolsky, I believe) and he gave the advice that if you make a startup with partners, you should split the ownership 50-50 (or 50%+1, 50%-1 for control issues). At 50-50, both of you are truly partners, truly financial equals. Trying to apportion responsibility and unequal ownership makes individuals resentful. In the long run that creates more problems than being a little over-generous in ownership.

In the same way, I think that Valve should strongly consider a system where the game creator and mod maker are treated as equals, as partners. A split like Valve 20%, game creator 40%, and mod maker 40% would be better. You give up a small amount of revenue, but the mod maker is an equal, a full partner instead of a junior partner.

Practical Issue - Copyright

Most mods are not compiled. That means that it is really easy for other people to copy the mods. Piracy in itself will be a problem for mod makers, but people reselling other people's mods, or creating derivative works, on Steam will be a problem for Valve.

Hopefully Valve puts up a reasonable barrier of entry for mod makers. Something along the lines of Apples $100 dev licence would be a good start.

Theoretical Issue - Open Source

Right now, mods operate much like the Open Source software community does. It isn't explicit, especially with licensing, but it's very similar. The thing is that, by and large, the Open Source movement works. In fact, it's very arguable that in a lot of areas, open source software has swallowed up closed source software.

I think the mod community will split into two. One that is for-profit using Steam's marketplace, and one that is open source, using the current distributions. Mods may even be explicitly licensed with the GPL or similar.

I think the open source mod community will end up crowding out the for-profit community. They will have more users and be able to hit critical mass a lot easier than the for-profit mods will. As well, most mods, unless they rely heavily on artwork, can be duplicated fairly easily. Think of how many different DPS parsers exist. If a for-profit mod becomes popular, I imagine that a free mod with the same functionality will appear quite quickly.

Perhaps ultimately most mods will be free and open-source, but a Premium version with a better user interface or extra options will be sold on Steam. Very similar to how many current open source programs are sold.

Conclusions

There is nothing wrong with selling mods on Steam for money. In fact, it's probably a good thing that mod makers get rewarded for their time and effort.

However, in the long run I don't think it will make much difference. The pressures that push towards open-sourcing software will exist in the mod community. Most mods are written not for profit, but "to scratch an itch" for the modder. That same philosophy will still exist.

This does not really apply to artwork-heavy projects, or massive mods which essentially change the game into something new and require a lot of content creation time. This might very well be a good platform to sell those types of mods. But realistically, there aren't that many of those mods made.

Of course, now that money is involved, anything that requires a team is going cause massive organizational headaches for amateurs. You may still see massive mods being released for free, just because everyone who worked on it getting nothing and doing it for fun is easier than trying to pay individuals for their contributions.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ultimate Fight Final Fantasy XIV

I'm not really sure why SquareEnix decided to make this video for FFXIV. But it's pretty hilarious.



The best part is Thancred being Thancred.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

FFXIV 2.55 Patch

Oh wow! What a way to end the main story and set up for the expansion!

Can't really say much else, because pretty much everything is a massive spoiler.

FFXIV is simply the best MMO on the market at the moment. I am eagerly anticipating Heavensward.

Edit: Also, I can't believe I forgot about this because of all the stuff that happened afterward, but the new 8-man fight is glorious. One of the best dragon fights I've seen in any MMO. It's not very complex, but tells its story perfectly, and has a great enrage mechanic.

(Warning: there may be spoilers in the comments.)