Monday, November 22, 2010

Cash added to Entropia

I decided to take the leap and add $10 to my account at Entropia. I am hoping that I can get some kind of return for this investment, but we will have to see. I noticed that MindArk does take a small fee, plus there is an exchange rate, so that means the $10 translates to about 96.50 PED, not exactly 100 PED.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Crafters shine in Entropia

Entropia is a crafter's paradise. The possibilities for making things seem endless in this virtual environment, but they are limited to the imaginations of the developers, because all items require blueprints, and I think most players cannot make blueprints.

A similarity exists in armor, for example, except in textures and colors. There are so many types of weapons, devices and vehicles, it is hard to list them all. The weapons include pistols, rifles, fist weapons, daggers, swords and more. Vehicles include land rovers, cars, boats, airborne vehicles and more. Most players specialize in making one type of item because their avatars must learn and level up crafting skills before they become proficient. By making items and selling them, players can get a return on whatever they put into the game, although profits are not guaranteed.

My understanding is that it is faster to get to crafting if you put some money into the game, but you must subtract the investment from your revenue to get a true profit. In other words, Neverdie invested $100,000 to buy the club mentioned in the last post, but how much did he put into the game after the initial investment? No one is saying, so the actual profit is unknown. Some writers are presuming to say he made a $535,000 profit from the club, but I doubt that is his actual profit because he must have put more money into his game account. Another person is claiming to have earned his college education from the game, but it is possible it is more like a savings account than actual profit, if he put a lot of money into the game.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Entropia gives incentives for grinding

The news was inviting: An entrepreneur sold a piece of virtual property in the online game Entropia for $635,000, setting a new price record for such real estate. The property was Club Neverdie, which John "Neverdie" Jacobs bought in 2005 for $100,000, then built into a playing environment. Jacobs sold the majority interest ($335,000) in the property to John Foma Kalun, and the rest ($300,000) to 12 other buyers. The property is divided into domes, or separate playing environments. Kalun owns 8 domes and naming rights to Club Neverdie, while the other buyers own one dome each.

After hearing the news, I decided it was time to try Entropia. I found out I was not alone. Many other players are giving the game a try after seeing that some people can make money by playing the game. We all found out that it is not easy money by any means. Earning money of any kind means grinding some of the most insipid gaming ever invented. But don't let that stop you.

Entropia is very similar to Second Life, so if you have tried that game, you will know what to expect. Both games are supposed to encourage socializing and cooperative gaming. Entropia is set in a futuristic environment, while Second Life is current times. Entropia has a currency that is set to convert to the US dollar: 10 PED equals $1, so 1 PED equals 10 cents. Second Life currency has no set conversion rate, and players have to rely on the market value at the time, so there is more risk involved. Entropia says that a minimum of 1,000 PED can be drawn out at a time. According to its annual report, MindArk AB, developer of Entropia, reports a negative cash flow of $2.4 million, so the company has not found a way of making a profit yet. I wonder how long it can last.

Without adding money to their accounts, players are offered only a few activities. By gathering sweat from monsters, players can make a few PED, but it is extremely time-consuming. Players are issued a device on arrival at Planet Calypso and given a mission to gather sweat. Once the player finishes the opening missions, he or she is sent on a mission to go to the Sweat Camp. Gathering sweat is very difficult because the monsters either walk away or start attacking players and the gathering device only works occasionally until you build up your skill level. I have found the best response to an attacking monster is to stand my ground so I can gain skill in sweating as well as defensive combat skills. It is definitely easier to sweat with a group, but often players have differences of opinion on how to do the job. Players are not particularly welcoming to newbies, but some do help new players. I spent most of my time just sweating, not chatting, as usual. When you consider that 1,000 vibrant sweat sells to players for 2 to 4 PED and it takes more than 6 hours of grinding to get that much sweat, you are not going to get rich quick by any means. The same amount of sweat sells for .01 PED (known as 1 PEC) at the Trade Terminal, so it is worth the effort of selling to players.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gamasutra interview compares UO and WoW

An interesting interview on Gamasutra makes a fairly balanced comparison between Ultima Online and World of Warcraft. The interview is with two designers of UO, who are not out to bash WoW, but to give readers an idea of what the differences are between the games. They may be stating the obvious, but I have not read a better comparison between the two games. UO has more of an open-world design, which emphasizes gaining skills, rather than overall character levels. They call the WoW design an on-rails method that emphasizes character classes that are defined, plus leveling that character. It sounds like UO has no character classes, but is designed to make the skills define the character. The designers also point out the Blizzard has put a focus on the action-reward cycle, or the ding factor.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Popularity works against video games

There are people who deliberately pick games that have a small but loyal following and decry any game that has a measure of popularity. Those gamers are interested in games as long as they are in the vein of the Dungeons & Dragons board game, which is played by a select few in small, intimate shops or at home by a group of friends. If the video game is next to inaccessible because of a complicated download or some obscure software that has to be downloaded to get the game, that is all the better. Once the download is made easy by a simple interface, those players are not interested. Fans of Darkfall feel privileged because they play an obscure game on one or possibly two servers. Fans of Shadowbane are happy because the game enjoyed some obscure following for a year or two before it was shut down and now a group of dedicated fans are trying to set up an emulator so they can play the game. The more complicated, difficult to access and obscure, the better. Those fans mock the efforts of really popular games to appeal to the masses and say that World of Warcraft is too easy and Warcraft Online has no good PvE content and even the PvP is no good. The very popularity of WoW and WAR works against them because once they enjoy a large subscription base, certain players get turned off by their universality. Those players would rather play in obscurity in their private rooms and only contact the privileged few who agree with them that popular games are worse than bad.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Ding 60 for Horde Paladin

I dinged 60 on my Horde Retribution Paladin Renon on the Ghostlands server. That was after about 5 days and 17 hours of play, or close to 137 hours, which is not a record but pretty fast for me. I am trying the style of concentrating on my solo play, rather than spending time on professions.

I don't think leveling is the only achievement worth pursuing, because a game like World of Warcraft offers so many other achievements. One problem with WoW and other games is that professions are not always well designed. In WoW, professions fail to help a player all during the leveling process. In the current iteration of WoW, the only use for professions is for raiding at max level. The time spent for professions is a waste until the character reaches max level, so my advice is to level first, then develop professions. It makes leveling easier and makes the professions easier to build as well. Drops from monsters and quest rewards are always better than the armor and weapons you can make. Enhancement and buffs for raiding are not really needed early in character development. I raised enough gold for two characters' mounts by selling cloth and other items from my Paladin.

I am using Jame's free guide from WoW-Pro to level. I think it is the best guide out there, regardless of price, even though there is some unevenness in the guide, like misplaced waypoints and features that don't work, like an attempt at putting a series of waypoints down to guide the player. Another problem is that I keep exceeding the leveling goals of each section, meaning that the guide is always slightly behind. I skip many parts of the guide, like the whole section that takes the level 58 character from Outland to the Eastern and Western Plaguelands to level to 60 before returning to Outland. The guide misses the mark there, because it is actually easier to stay in Outland and level there before taking the quests that require level 60. I also do no group quests unless I can solo them.

The Paladin class has to be one of the easiest classes to level in Patch 4.0.1. I have no mana problems and seldom run into difficulties, unless I am surrounded by monsters more than 5 levels above me. Consecration is a little weaker now, but Holy Wrath has been buffed for AOE.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Smoother play for WoW

I finally ironed out the video jumping or hiccupping I was experiencing in WoW after Patch 4.0.1. The hiccupping consisted of a brief freeze of my character when it went in or out of combat, plus very slow tooltip response every time I moused over an item. I decided to follow Blizzard's advice to repair the installation, then delete the Cache and WTF folders. I deleted the many patch updates that were cluttering up the WoW folder. I made the agonizing decision to delete some useful but unnecessary mods to improve the frame rate as much as possible. For example, I deleted Decursive because, although it is useful, the functions are duplicated in Healbot. I also stripped any map utilities because the stock map is OK. I finally deleted NotesUNeed, which does not work as well as it used to and can be annoying. After a long download to replace the patch updates, I changed all the settings of the mods to make them behave like I want them to.

New adventures in WAR

I decided to start a free trial of Warhammer Online. The game is pretty much the same as it was before the "endless free trial." But the experience was an eye-opener for me, after about a year or two away. My old characters were not present. I may have to renew my subscription to get them back. I found that WAR has four servers for free trial members but many more servers that are for subscribers only, so I was wrong to repeat the cant that there are only four servers in a previous post. My new High Elf Swordmaster was put into the Empire starting area, and I found that all free account characters are placed in that starting area, rather than the racial starting area. I breezed through the beginning quests and a starter public quest with few problems and got past level 3. The game is very accessible and easy to play, which is more than I can say for games like Darkfall, which I found was hard to download and even harder to play on my machine. The open areas of the game are also more pleasing to me than the instanced areas of Dungeons & Dragons Online. I have had many unsuccessful attempts at playing downloaded content. It could be the age of the machine and operating system, which game developers no longer want to support. Accessibility is one of the key reasons people play games. If a game is hard to access, the game will not have many players.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Most WAR entitlements make sense

Mythic has begun a series of Warhammer: Online entitlements designed to make more real money for the company. Only one of the entitlements is cause for concern on my part. I think it is fine to offer cosmetic or meaningless changes to characters, such as transfers to another server, trophies, mounts, vanity pets or even items like non-uber armor or weapons. I do have an issue with the offer of another level for all of a player's characters for real money. I simply do not like the idea of someone else paying for a level that I want to earn by playing the game. After all, the idea behind a video game or MMO is that the players play the game, not pay real money to be boosted even one level. Admittedly, Mythic is limiting the purchases to one per account, so no player can buy his or her way to max level on a character, but I still find the offer of a level for real money very objectionable.

Blizzard 's new community site sports open look

The preview of Blizzard's new community site has more of an open feeling, without all the borders and lines of the previous site. The old site now looks clunky by comparison. Now I wish Blizzard would change the user interface in World of Warcraft to a more open design, without all the clunky borders and ugly art. I have always liked the look and feel of the Skinner addon, which gives the game a more streamlined appearance with no distractions in the form of art. Skinner is definitely hardcore.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Neverwinter book part of game announcement

I received an email that announced a book, Gauntigrym by R.A. Salvatore, published on Oct. 5. It was sent to me because I subscribe to the Neverwinter newsletter after I played Neverwinter Nights from Bioware for years. I never played Neverwinter Nights 2 by Atari, but I still had an interest in the game after playing the original version. I never purchased NWN2 because it didn't seem to live up to the hype and would not improve on many of the features of the original. I continued to play around with Neverwinter Nights and used some of the development tools to see if I could design my own game. I did learn how hard it is to develop a game.

Anyway, I don't remember receiving any notice of the game Neverwinter, which was announced in August and is being developed by Cryptic Studios, maker of Champions Online and other titles. It is expected to be released by the end of 2011.

Announcing a book before the game is a strategy similar to what Blizzard did when announcing Cataclysm books before the expansion is out for World of Warcraft. The book could help players get into the lore, which can be intriguing for some audiences, especially role-players.

Neverwinter does sound like an interesting game, especially because there is supposed to be a persistent world multiplayer environment, rather than an instanced environment like Dungeons & Dragons Online.