Tag Archives: beta

And Then I Said, “HOLY @%*#!”

I actually chuckled (really it was closer to giggling, but…), all while mashing buttons and furiously trying to find the right angle of attack.

Like many people this weekend, I grabbed a key for the “Open Beta” of Vindictus. Technical difficulties earlier this week aside, I have to say it went fairly well as far as beta’s tend to go. This one felt like a real beta, too, because late last week they were still patching issues, and one of said patches actually required me to uninstall and reinstall the client. Normally, I would count this as a solid strike against a game, as Turbine and others have set the bar high for smooth launches, and most “open” beta’s these days tend to be marketing tools using a client that’s as close to release as possible. But something about this struck my nostalgic nerve and I actually didn’t mind.

Of course, all of the issues happened after I had gotten a few hours into the game so none of it really mattered at that point. It blew me away. The title and lead paragraph pretty much sum up my initial reaction. Luckily my children weren’t around to hear my stream of expletives (“potty-mouth” as my older son describes it). I’ve been playing games for a long time, and would say I fall solidly into the “jaded-but-optimistic” category of MMO gamer; any game that can make me laugh with the pure joy of unadulterated fun has done many, many something’s right. That was what Vindictus did for me.

The game’s combat is what I think Age of Conan was supposed to be – brutal and fast and cinematic and brutal. Instead of the wall of buttons plaguing so many titles, there are two basic techniques – light attack and strong attack. Special attacks are a matter of combining strings of light and strong attacks. It plays much more like a brawler than your typical MMO. Except this brawler has has cooperative online play with a host of RPG systems piled on top (character advancement, questing, crafting, etc.). Ravious at Kill Ten Rats has a great breakdown of what it’s all about.

Personally, there are a lot of things I think Vindictus does really, really well. The combat is immensely satisfying. The game is gorgeous and, because it uses Valve’s Source engine, it is highly interactive – good portions of the dungeons are destructible, and debris can be picked up and used as temporary weapons. The game uses physics to great affect, both in a few environmental puzzles and in combat itself; being thrown across a room by a huge gnoll both looks extremely cool and made me cringe at the same time. So far, it doesn’t appear that the primary goal is the better-to-best gear hamster wheel; equipment does bring stat boosts but more than gear, titles and achievements confer significant bonuses. It’s a nice departure from that particular grind, though I get a feeling there will be some kind of grind. Isn’t there always?

The only issues I currently have are minor for now, but could prove to be bigger problems in the future. One, there are currently only two classes (out of five) that are open to play. One is a dual-wielding DPS class and the other seems to be a sword-and-shield tank (I didn’t get around to playing this class). Not sure of what they plan to offer, but I seriously hope there is going to be a ranged class (at least) and, ideally, a something like a stealth class. Two, there are only two areas to play in right now – Perilous Ruins (the starter dungeons) and Hoarfrost Hollow. However, it looks as though Nexon has every intention of opening up more content, as there is an inactive “warp” point leading out of the town (presumably to areas inland) and the docks that currently lead to the dungeons have many more boats than the two that lead to the open areas. Also, considering the game is free, both are minor and should be resolved quickly if Nexon wants to see any kind of success (I haven’t done any research into what’s currently available in Korea where the game is live under the name Mabinogi Heroes).

I’ve read a few arguments over whether Vindictus should be classified a real MMO; honestly, I don’t think it matters. In many ways, its closer to Guild Wars or Dungeons & Dragons Online (is it any wonder I like it so much?); there is a town that functions as a lobby, leading to instanced areas (dungeons) where you complete quests. Considering both Guild Wars and DDO are both acknowledged as MMOs, I’m not sure of the merit of denying Vindictus the same classification. Again, not that it matters. The game is enormously fun, and that’s what it’s really about.

The game still has some issues to iron out, but so far it’s a solid offering from Nexon that, all things considered, will probably get me to spend some money. Right now I can’t see playing it full-time, but as a Free To Play title, it’ll be easy to come and go as I please. And right now, it’s at the top of my list, and was the only game I played this past weekend.

That’s So Professional

Both Nice, and Disappointing...

I’ve begun to realize over the last year or so that I’m moving beyond the desire to participate in any MMO beta programs. This is for several reasons. First and foremost, any of the increasingly limited time I have for playing really should go towards something more “polished” and “permanent”. Two, of the betas that I have participated in, I can honestly say that only a few actually had structures and processes in place that encouraged “beta testers” to provide feedback and bug reports. Three, for the games I already know I’m going to play (The Old Republic, Guild Wars 2), I’ve realized that I’d much rather go into launch day fresh with no previous experience or impressions; and I’d rather do that on the “production” version of the game. Finally, MMO “betas” – both Closed and Open at this point – have actually become an institutionalized version for what most gamers use them – previewing the game to decide if they will buy it (or buy into it for the F2P titles). It’s almost like the developers recognized why most people applied for their beta and threw in the towel. At most, Closed Betas have become load and balance testing for the hardware, software, and game mechanics, and Open Beta has become a preview event.

That doesn’t mean I don’t apply for betas anymore, particularly for titles in which I am keenly interested, or those that are trying something new. For something like Vindictus, which seems to really be trying something new, I was actually interested in testing out their combat system and running it through it’s paces. And, yes, I’d have liked to get an early look! I’m no fool; there’s always a chance.

What most (or any for that matter) MMOs don’t do is ever provide players with feedback about the status of their beta application. Nexon’s email letting me know I hadn’t been selected is the first I can remember. Most times you throw your name into the mix and never hear anything again. You may as well be screaming into the void. I have to say it’s refreshing to have a company actually treat it’s prospective customers with a little respect and professionalism. Most developers seem to consider gamers-as-testers, potential PAYING CUSTOMERS mind you, are a commodity that can be fully taken for granted. They know they’ve probably got you, even before they release their product, based on the fact that you’ve applied to be a “tester”; and if they let you in and you never test anything, or never buy afterwards, what have they really lost? The only thing keeping them from letting everyone in are the limits of their test hardware (and maybe the current version of the software). Oh, and the Marketing Department. Nothing builds hype and a sense of importance like exclusivity. Good hype means unit sales.

On the home front, the camping trip was especially nice this year; good weather, and the kids really loved the beach. And the campfire. Especially the campfires. Like most times I take a vacation that excludes gaming, it made me think about the things I wish could be done in our virtual worlds. Things like campfires. And, no, LotRO’s campfires for cooking and morale don’t count. I mean the social types.