Friday, 7 September 2012

Guild Wars 2 - Second Look

After my first look at Guild Wars 2 where some of the promises werent met, yet we had some real promise it is time to look at just how gorgeous this game is, not just aesthetically but more about the superb game mechanics they have given us. I will tell this little tale with another sweeping set of screenshots showing some of the things that really do make this another step forward in MMO design.


Lets start here with my Norn Warrior, rifle on her back looking just so nice by the glow of a nearby fire at the camp of a group of Lionguard preparing to head off on an attack on the Svanir which I will be helping with. This one event I have done a heap of time now, seeing that many players come from all around when the announcement comes then the final boss and the long fight to bring him down.

While these experiences are only for the first 16 levels of the game, if they translate into the same or even better things at higher level I cant wait. The 'personal story' does make you feel quite heroic and pivotal, maybe I will get a statue like this of me.

I thought this screenshot of the warrior heal was funny, complete head explosion!

The character creation and logic of the classes is so fun, that creating a new hero is fun and with all the Norn Warriors about, I thought the Elementalist might be interesting. Here is Meridice looking the part in a tavern in her fire stance. You can see in the corner the open heart which shows there is a location based quest here which is all part of completing a zone/map.

The event system may not alter the world in a big way, but they are dynamic and while regular not predictable (at least not by me). For common events, you know the Minotaurs will stampede soon enough, but not know when. This quest shows a veteran mob that was the only target of this little event - certainly would have been too tough for me alone, but people come from nearby to help out and together we can take it down.
The idea that all these players are cooperating and helping each other when not grouped up for mutual benefit is a real revelation. Helping someone can only be to their benefit, loot, experience and completion are all independent of people helping each other. So there is no kill-stealing or loot sharing/rolling and completign a 'collection quest' is a shared endeavour, the more people that help the easier it is.
That said the events seem to scale quite cleverly, dont ask me how, in the rare times there arent many players taking on an event, it is still quite achievable.

Soon after the event above, the children were out playing (hurling snowballs) but then there is the call for them all to run inside and they do. This is the start of the rampaging bears event. This time I think it was just the two of us dealing with the waves of angry bears.
If you do get beaten up, you arent dead yet and from the ground you can keep helping your friends with limited abilities. Anyone can help you up in this state or if you actually perish and with all classes having at least personal heals there doesnt seem to be any need to want for specific roles to be filled (yet).

Here you can see the gold award for helping on the event and the Norn kids running out to play again. So there are some changes in the world relating to events, sometimes some merchants wont be there until we complete the event to recapture their little keep, but once we do they just stand there in the classical MMO way.
Let me reiterate just how awesome the game design is that helping other people and joining in these events without any formal organisation is. This is quite an achievement and for me at least ranks this game in the highest order.

To emphasise the point further, even the resource gathering nodes are for all, If I take a node, so can the next person, here two of us are chopping down a little tree.

Just a quick shot of where my little Elementalists skills are upto. This shows the different abilities available for each weapon for each school of magic in this case, so I need to unlock all 5 weapon skills for each school for the staff, then again for daggers in various combos of main and off-hand use. Add to this the class progression tree, Slot Skills which go in numbers 6-0 at the bottom and there is plenty to evolve into and then customise even before you get to Trait specialisation.

There is the main 'daily' quest that gets you to take on a variety of creatures, harvest, do events and so forth, then you get this nice little chest of goodies - another incentive to participate.

This is a little thing, but I like it - see here how the characters stand on the undulating terrain - nice huh. This shows a bunch of us around the armour repair guy in this area - looking good.
The other important thing to see here is that people have their power scaled down to the appropriate level throughout the world. So you can see here Ingrid is being scaled down to lev 11. This means you can hang in an area doing events, hang out with friends of different levels and also have a nice experience of the content without things becoming too easy.

I have to admit I have only ventured into WorldvWorld once and at that time the fight was so far from where I was that I didnt see any action at all. I love the idea of whole servers coming together to take on other servers, but will reserve judgement for another time. The combat system is quite dynamic though, so I can see it suiting PvP very well. The pic below shows how Sea of Sorrows was fairing at this particular time.
One of the current issues is trying to get people to agree on which server people will be (tricky when lots of them are full)

There are so many other little things that are worth a mention, that you can teleport to all the waypoints you have visited, that you can email trade supplies directly to your bank from anywhere (2 clicks) and then access the bank from any trade station. You can one-click 'sell junk' to a merchant and even scavenge materials from gear you dont want or 'trophy' drops from mobs.

Anyhow, may as well finish with Meridice looking pretty (surrounded by crafting stations)

Verdict = Remarkable!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Clever Robotics

I liked that today presented a handful of nifty robotics innovations. The first those awesome guys at Boston Dynamics are still working on their cheetah-like robots with a new speed record and plans to go outside in the wild soon as well. The little bot certainly looks a blur of legs at the higher speeds which have got up to 45.5 kph now.

I still love some of their other robots like the PETMAN and AlphaDog - lets hope we hear more on these again soon.

[Boston Dynamics LS3 via their site]

Lots of other folk are working with robotics, and the folk at ARGO created the ReWalk hardware that helps paraplegic people to walk again. Lots of promo from Claire Lomas whose regular use and London Marathon efforts are showing how viable this really is. The idea of bringing robotics to the direct aid of people like this must be super rewarding for all those engineers and investors. More info in the Inhabit article.

Plus, dont forget the robot we have all the way out there on Mars doing amazing things, Curiosity is on the move and testing out all his bells and whistles. See all the updated info on the NASA site.

[Mars Curiosity Rover pic via the NASA site]

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Cinematic Wax

As promised a little drive-by of some of the cool cinematic trailers, cut-scenes, TVCs etc coming out of Sydney's Plastic Wax. First up lets just sit back and enjoy their 2012 showreel that shows off the breadth of work and the quality they build on each project.

I like that we have a studio right down the road that can step up and deliver CG worlds and animations of this quality. Here is the list of titles represented here (via notes on the youtube site): Neverwinter, Darksiders II (various projects), Civilization V - Gods and Kings, Inversion, Rift, Warhammer 40K - Retribution, Warhammer 40K - Dawn of War 2, Warhammer 40K - Space Marine, Transformers - Revenge of the Fallen, Saints Row - The Third and Warhammer 40K - Kill Team.

Here are some of the full sequences to drool over:

See the CGSociety article on their Cinematic for Transformers. Revenge of the Fallen.


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Plastic Wax Darksiding

Looking at some of the concept art for Darksiders II the other day segways nicely into the cinematics by local powerhouse - Plastic Wax. The CGSociety feature covers some of the background for creating both the promo and in-game cinematics for the title as well as the pipeline technologies (though I would love more detail here).

Here are some of the trailers from Darksiders II created by Pastic Wax, you can see how they have captured the world and the play while inspiring and fleshing out for us the creative vision.

Plastic Wax have done some great work here, will have to take a grander tour of their work in another post, but it is great to see an Aussie company mixing with the best in this field!