Friday, 29 June 2012

Why blog? Why call it the Full Moon?

I always thought of having a go at blogging, but I was too lazy. You know how you get those incredible stories in your head, but somehow they seem to remain there. It's like "Yeah....I'll write that, but I'll do it tomorrow" and then tomorrow dawns bright and early and the story is still there, but the fingers won't type. It was when I was looking through all those pictures I've *cough* posed for and all those I still intend posing for now that a new dawn has broken and Guild Wars 2 is vaguely seen shimmering on the not-so-distant horizon and I thought "it's now or never" and that pent up greatness just popped out! So here I am a couple of posts later. Not bad, not bad at all!

Now why call it the Full Moon. Well, strange things happen when the full moon is out. Wolves howl, faeries go a-fluttering, ghosts glide eerily on midnight breezes and I created avatars that did weird things, like change into neko-tiger-dragon-faery-mermaid-skeletal cat and the list goes on. Now though, my radar has changed direction. I'm not going to transform "myself" into weird and wonderful creatures, but I'm going to extend my heritage and  become a heroine. Let me rephrase that, I already am a heroine (GW1 and all the other extraordinary worlds I've played in). I am just going to transpose myself into a more dynamic and multi-layer universe - drum roll - da daaaa - Guild Wars 2!......... I must say I am feeling extremely clever, I guess it's all that coffee!

........and like all those other expectant pre-purchasers, yesterday I received that long awaited email. Two months is not long and with a BWE in between is enough to keep me happy. Now all I have to do is flesh out my already known character name, character, dive into the lore of GW2 and I'm ready to rock n' roll!

.......and so let me put it to you "What is your story?" *chuckles*

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Story-telling.....cutscene or not!

I don't know about you, but I remember the first ever story-driven-cut scene-decision-making game I ever played;  Indina Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.  What a game! A classic of the 1990s. The game of games that started me off on my journey. I was always a fan of the Indy franchise - I mean who wouldn't be of Harrison Ford! It was the first puzzle solving game I played and it was brilliant. It drew me in like the moth to a lamp, though I didn't get burned I got hooked.  For those who aren't familiar with the game Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis was a point-and-click adventure by Lucasarts and sees Dr. Jones searching for the lost city of Atlantis and the puzzles he must solve to finally discover it's whereabouts.

I enjoyed the cut scenes in the game. They gave me a sense of direction, eventhough I never felt as though I was Jones, only that through my choices I directed his actions. In those cut-scenes I was also given a number of questions I could ask to get more information about a particular object or location. I guess I was just the third person helping Jones on his way. There was nothing really personal about it really.

I felt this was more of the same thing when I played as Lara Croft in all the Tomb Raider games, with the difference that I wasn't really give any questions to ask, but the cut scenes definitely drew me in and eventhough I didn't become Lara I did feel I was there with invisible presence guiding her along the way. I guess this might apply to most games, but then again I'm sure general opinion will vary.

So I ask the question, do cut scenes behave the same way in on-line games? Firstly, I believe that having a game seeped in lore gives it more depth, a sense of direction. The player knows that there is a mainline to follow, but there are other options along the way. In Lord of the Rings Online the main story is lore-brimming, nevertheless you are given you the freedom to discover Middle Earth at your own pace. I am sure there are many like me who through character creation "become" their character - to a certain extent of course. I guess investing so much time in a character you're bound to feel attached and the fact that you're given the opportunity to create a background for that character, which I thought was pretty neat. You're given a page in the character sheet where you can write your character's biography. This, in a way, helped to make my character feel more present in the game. However, I felt that the cut scenes didn't really have any baring on my character or my story, for that matter, they seemed to be only there to tell me what was happening to the nine and where they were believed to be. Though having said that I did get to meet - in the cut scenes - the main protagonists, Aragorn being my favourite!

Wondering through the cold landscape of Forochel

Now Guild Wars was a different kettle of fish! To my amazement my character actually participated in the cut scenes, she spoke, she moved with the other characters. She spoke to Prince Rurik, she walked to meet King Adelbern - she was involved in the story. Here I felt those cut scenes did have a baring on my character. She had something to do with them, some form of influence. Here those cut scenes pulled me into the story, they explained what was going on and "I" was part of it. I wasn't given a set of questions or answers to chose from - the story just unfolded without them...........and, to be honest, I didn't mind. I enjoyed it because I felt I was leaving my imprint on the lore - my part of the lore.

On the other hand Star Wars: The Old Republic gave me choices. I could either lean towards the good or succumb to evil.  Again in the cut scenes my character spoke, I participated in what was going on. Is everything predefined? Well, it has been programmed by other people and the developers have already set predefined lines, all that's left for you to do is chose. Good or bad? Well, I guess a game can never be completely open, unless of course you're in a social interactive environment like Second Life, where you make your own rules and script your own commands, but that is a completely different realm and can't be really placed on the same levelling plain as lore heavy, combat charged games.

Alistine of dragon kind, Spirit and Fire
(in Second Life)

Alistine in scripted combat

I appreciate cut scenes. I find they help the storyline - personal story. In Guild Wars 2, having participated in both beta weekends, I enjoyed the cut scenes because they were so different from what I had experienced already. I wasn't given options to chose from, though I have to point out that they were eventually given to me when the cut scenes ended and I spoke again to the quest giver and depending on what I chose would influence what I did and what happened to me along the way. So in actuality I was given a choice, but I didn't directly influence the cut scene as I would have done in SWTOR.  Guild Wars 2 gives a whole new presentation to cut scenes, they are not only stylised, but they feel classic close to being vintage.

So do we need cut scenes to tell the story? I believe we do. I feel they give added depth to the story where information can be given without the player feeling too overburdened. I enjoy cut scenes and sometimes I don't feel I need those choice integrated into the scenes as long as I am given the opportunity to choose somewhere down the line. I want my character to feel part of the story. I want to be part of the lore, but then again I am a lore-aholic!

"All the world's a stage........"

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Drip! Splash!

So the fist time I ever saw water in a game was Tomb Raider II. I could actually swim in pixelated water and it was fascinating! I could swim on the surface, dive down and interact with objects, it was brilliant! However, it turned into a whole new realm when I dived into the water in Second Life - this was 2007. Before then I thought creating realistic water was reserved for pc games - you know, the solo-player ones you bought in a box, though this doesn't hold any water now (*sniggers* no pun intended) because MMOs came in a box too. So, here I was, or rather my avatar (she was nicknamed Ama, by friends, for short) swimming in this extraordinary graphics-enhanced-dynamic area that so looked and reacted like water that I actually stood up and peeped behind my monitor just to see if it was leaking - well, you never know! Amazing! How do these clever people do it? Well, am sure there is some straight forward explanation using layering or particles, but as far as I'm concerned it certainly made my virtual experience more entertaining.

So I took it a step further and transformed Ama into a mermaid. I guess some psychologist could read something into that and believe me I have found some strange things out on the web explaining the meaning behind being a mermaid........but all I can say to that is -  Hell, yeah!! People 'acquainted' with this fluid substance called water and who try and swim whenever they can, I'm sure, want to turn into some aquatic- like creature to be able to swim, breathe and last forever underwater without getting that wrinkly skin on their fingers. Here I must pause and mention an aged old series I used to watch - The Man from Atlantis - though I wasn't too keen on those hands of his. I guess you didn't have much choice being a humanoid fish.

Ama in water perfection
(the little fish - his name is Nero!)
So Ama can swim underwater, build underwater, practically live underwater - in this world it was allowed to happen, but could I do this in the other MMOs I played?

Well, in Lord of the Rings Online I couldn't swim underwater or build, but I could definitely tread water and the water looks so amazing and real that, if I could get my hands on that genie, I would dive into my screen!

Water brilliance!
Hang on a second, I have to digress again here. You may have fabulous water, but would it still be 'water' without sound? Obviously not! - in my opinion. you need the 'splash'. You might not have the sound of waves washing up on the shore,'ve got to have the splash and Lotro had it. Run to the water, jump........SPLASH! Magic!

............and now comes Guild Wars 2 to revolutionize my world! This game just blows me away. Not only can I step into the water and get the 'splash', but I can dive, I can explore and fight UNDERWATER!! -  doing it most appropriately with a breathing mask over my face!

Tigger is such a good swimmer!
Not only that, but when my camera comes out of the water my screen looks WET! I've got droplets on my screen! At one point I so got into it that when I resurfaced I was just about to wipe them off the screen - you may laugh if you like!! Hello! Another fun thing, the UI changes when you're underwater. You get a stylized watery effect and your weapons change - harpoon gun, spear, trident. I love the harpoon gun - blast those buggers out of the water!!

For me the mere fact that I can explore underwater is just incredible and coming across the remains of old Tyria beneath the waves just added to the amazing quality of the game. I just can't wait to see what other hidden secrets I'll discover beneath the flowing seas of Guild Wars 2.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Those fun surprises!

So in BWE 2 I decided I would stick with my ranger and had a grand old time trying to find all the different animals I could tame and I found quite a number of fun ones - lips are sealed, don't want to spoil anything for prospective rangers! Anyway, I digress. There I was exploring Queensdale (my ranger being human) and came across the farming town of Beetletun, a lovely town you must visit it. I came across a group of people escorting a laden wagon into the town and obviously I tagged along, despatching anything sinister creature that popped up along the way and as I panned my camera around I noticed some electricity-type-thingy going on up on a little hill not so far away. Interesting! So having escorted the wagon into town I jogged off in search of the aforementioned activity.

Well, would you believe it! There stood an asura, Moa Trainer Kappa, surrounded by her magical-electricity-pulsing gadget! ......and she gave me a quest. Oh, wow, this was going to be good! Was I to help her overcome some magically complicated  obstacle? Or help in an experiment?.......forgive me, I have to stop a while and giggle......ok, I can do this. I had to escort Kappa and her dancing moa birds into town! I mean, come on! How fantastic is that! Off to town we went and when we got there I was rewarded with the most extraordinary thing ever! Kappa and her colourful Moa birds danced. Incredible! That was the most fun and hilarious thing I had ever seen. Totally unexpected!

........and that, I think is one of the most extraordinary things of GW2, when you least expect it, BAM! your socks get pulled off! You never know what's going to happen and where, whether it's going to be something chaotic as a centaur charge or as entertaining as dancing birds.

I suspect I'm going to have my socks yanked off quite a bit!
Moa Trainer Kappa in Beetletun

Friends Abound!

One aspect of MMOs that I never really got quite into was the group thing. I've been very much of a solo player for most of my short game play career. I'm not one to chat much in group. Most of the time I tend to get carried away with what I'm doing to really pay any attention to what goes on in the group. When I did join up with anybody for some reason I always ended up doing what they wanted. That's why I was so surprised and solo-player-shocked that in GW2 getting into a group just happened so naturally.

You're exploring an area and you're told that something is happening and me, being a naturally born nosy-parker, I always have to check it out - and suddenly I'm in the middle of a centaur onslaught, with hooves flailing and arrows streaming by, a hero of Tyria doesn't let such an opportunity pass by. So in I jumped into the chaos with all the other heroes..........and I had a blast! I didn't know who the other players were, we didn't speak to each other and yet reviving each other was the most natural thing to do. I never knew that teaming up with anybody could be such fun!

The next really fun packed experience was when I teamed up with my guildies and ventured forth with them into WvWvW. In the first BWE I didn't get a chance, but in  BWE2 I was determined to see what all the fuss was about. Well, they were right to fuss. It was terrific! At first I went into it on my own. I ran around exploring a bit, killing some vicious bats and joining up with a group of people clobbering some beasties in a bog. According to the map I was on the Green Team so I journeyed to a green supply camp and was checking things out when suddenly, out of nowhere this mob of people just descended on us (me and the NPCs!) and I went down faster than it takes to swot a mosquito! Crazy, I tell you! Whatever you do don't go alone in WvWvW! Sometime later my guildies followed me in and I had the pleasure of giving the opposing team a good clobbering! Payback is fun! *Sighs* I sat back and happily sipped my glass of wine, thoroughly pleased with myself. Honestly I have never really participated in such an open world before and for a first-time  pvp'er that was absolutely brilliant! Apart from that I have to give credit to my guildies, who are an amazing group of people and who made the experience more entertaining.
My guildies - Knights of the Isle
(picture courtesy of Mark Brincat)
GW2 really knows what it's about when it comes to community. It has pulled out all the stops and has made it so easy for a not-so-much-solo-player (now) such as myself. It has certainly given me a shove out of my solo-ing stuper and that working with others is just as gratifying. Now I have an idea of what guild wars really means.........Let me sit back and enjoy this!

The landing!

I never imagined that while playing SWTOR I would be drawn back to playing Guild Wars! Diving back into the game was just brilliant and it was at this time that I started hearing alot about Guild Wars 2. So I began searching for all the content I could find, from Youtube to blogs to GW Wiki, which at the time only seemed to hint at things going on. It was when the closed beta happened and new footage started coming out that I really got on the bandwagon!.......and I don't plan on getting off!

Together with millions of other players I pre-purchased the game, 10th April and have taken part in both Beta Weekends and the stress test and now can honestly say that I am hooked - line and sinker! I have never been so drawn in by a game before. I've gone as far as to read up as much as I can about the lore, going through every part of the Wiki, both of GW and GW2 and even bought the books, Ghosts of Ascalon and Edge of Destiny, which I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend them to all who haven't read them yet. If you want a short history of who's-who and what's-what or you're just like me, crazy about GW and Gw2, then these are the ones for you. Now I'm sitting back waiting for the third installment, Sea of Sorrows, which, I think, will nicely round things off.

One of the fun things I enjoyed doing in both beta weekends was exploring and finding the old remains of Tyria or revamped areas that I could recognise.
Lion's Arch before and after.

......and the fun one was coming across the Wizard's Tower and then going back to GW, travelling back to the Kessex Hills just to make sure that it was the same one. Absolutely fabulous!
TheWizard's Tower in Wizard's Fief, Kessex Hills
Guild Wars 2 is a snapshot waiting to happen and I want to be there to snap every one of them!