The Doctor Nick

April 13, 2010 at 3:18 am | Posted in free to play, mmorpg | 4 Comments
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dr nickAt one point in Aika, I had gotten a little sick of the absolute silence. Very rarely did I see anyone talking casually, and my own attempts were completely ignored. This happens often enough in online games that I tend to go crazy from solitude, and this being far from the first time I’ve encountered the problem I’ve developed a technique for dealing with it.

Make a complete ass out of myself and talk to every person I come across. Inspired originally by Dr Riviera on The Simpsons, this is my opening tactic for provoking conversation. “Hi Everybody!”

I don’t think you’d be surprised how many people completely ignore this. So I inquired about people’s Prans. I asked about where they got the name for their Pran, why their Pran name was so boring as to be the same name (what is the point?) as their character, what quests they were on, polite questions or juvenile comments, I tried it all.

Aika is a bit of a tough nut to crack. Out of the 8 or so quest groups I joined to knock off some of the bigger grinds, I think 2 actually had someone reply to my questions or greetings. Normally in any game, if you get invited to a party to complete a quest, they’ll say something to you. Not Aika.

What I find works is taking the time to say someones name. If you stop and actually call out “Hi legolas!”, about half the people you speak to will take the time to say hi back. Unfortunately, that’s all they’ll say.

Kooky, goofy, dumb jokes can sometimes provoke a response, usually my next step. I didn’t get that far. Finding no footing to get a conversation going, and discovering nothing but mindless automatons wandering around, I gave up on all attempts to communicate with others.

That is until I actually needed to talk to someone.

I couldn’t find a boss. I’d been told to kill a boss, I had no other quests, I’d searched the entire area but had never seen him. The quest giver gives fairly bad directions to his location. I asked people at the quest hub. For about 20 minutes. Then I gave up.

Five minutes later, while I was watching tv, I heard combat and checked my surroundings. Someone had run into the quest hub trailing 5 Kubari and looked as though they were about to die. I peeled off two, together we killed them all, and then stunningly without provocation I read “Thank You”. Pouncing on the opportunity to speak to someone I immediately asked where to find Guantanimo, or whatever his name was.

I had a short conversation with someone. And people say MMO’s don’t have any challenge in them any more.

Combat Baby

April 11, 2010 at 3:53 am | Posted in free to play, mmorpg | 2 Comments
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metricGetting to level 20 in Aika is a bit of a job. The best way to do it, it looks like, is to grind out this repeatable quest for lizards or goblin like creatures. I would have to kill around 100-140 of these guys. Much preferable to the slightly higher level bud-worm type creatures, which I’d have to kill around 300 of.

I already went back to the repeatable quest and did it twice, and just couldn’t bear it. I logged out immediately afterward.

It’s not so much having to grind all the way to 20, that’s part of it, but the combat system is very irritating. I’ve got access to 7 or 8 skills at this point, and in general you can strategically use them together. For instance, on my Warlock, start with the Mana Shield for protection, hit a target with Hellfire, which stuns for about 3 seconds. Hit them with lightning orb, which slows them for 4 seconds, then throw the DOT on them Enervate, and by the time they make it to your position, depending on how far away they were when you attacked them, they should be mostly dead. Finish them off with Fireball, and you’re done. Aggro more than one mob, throw Polymorph on one and it’ll be a rabbit for the next 22 seconds.

Pretty simple and straight forward. Almost boring actually. No, come to think of it, very boring. That’s not even what I find boring though. Because you can do all that, if you want, but, all you really need to do is Fireball.

Hit Fireball, and it will automatically fire each time it is ready. It is always ready. Start far enough away and Fireball will have your mob nearly as dead as if you had used all the strategy as above. At the rate you regain mana and health, even if you take another couple hits, the difference is minor.

The result is, I click on a mob, hit my 1 button once, and stand there until the mob is dead.

I’m only level 19, and haven’t really got a chance to use some of the upper level skills, so I’m no doubt being slightly unfair. There are another 10 skills I’ve never had access to. They look like AoE’s and multiple target spells, more powerful versions of the skills you start with. Nothing particularly innovative.

Their skill system does have a saving grace. You can also reset your skills for a fee. 10k gold at my level, affordable. Not all games do that. Runes of Magic will charge you real live money for the privilege, if you can’t figure out a way to do it with gold anyway.

My goal of actually getting to 20 may not be completed. At this point I’m just not seeing a reason.

Getting TAikanical

April 10, 2010 at 4:12 am | Posted in free to play, mmorpg | 2 Comments
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aikaYou just don’t know how hard it is to use Aika in a pun! It’s hard! I’m doing the best I can! I did my best! *tears* I did my best!

I’m getting pretty close to dropping Aika. At level 19 I’ve run out of quests again. My own fault, truly. Skipping those dungeons because I got cold feet about joining PUG’s may have saved me a whole lot of aggravation, but getting stuck without enough experience to level twice now has really soured me on the game. That’s not the whole reason but I’ll post about that later.

Getting to some of my technical quibbles, I can’t add friends unless they’re online. This is a problem in many games I find, and jesus does it ever annoy the shit out of me. I’m not talking just MMO’s, but in what universe is this helpful to anyone? You should be able to add people any time. Basic.

I also never really figured out to join and play with my friend on another Nation. Honestly if you’re going to have everyone playing on the same server A La Guild Wars, but seperate them by districts or nations, then you should allow them to group up despite faction differences. There’s an NPC that allows you to travel to allied nations, but my nation has no allies at the moment, and I haven’t had the chance to try it.

I ran out of room in my Blocked list twice. Each time I log in I have to block about 5 or 6 people. When it’s full, you scroll back, unblock the ones at the top of the list, since the newest are at the bottom. When I do this though, I have to unblock about 10 people. Why? Because they still haven’t banned the people at the top of the list! They’re still there spamming! So I’ll unblock someone only to block them 30 seconds later. Great. At least you can block around 50 people.

Kudos to them on one technical aspect though. After logging in, and entering my password or whatnot, at my character selection screen I am again asked to add my 4 digit number code. It’s on a number pad that I have to use my mouse for. Another layer of security in an MMORPG is becoming an absolute must. I wish more games had something like this, and I believe Runes of Magic had a secondary password as well, although I can’t remember how often I had to use it. Guild Wars recently added a security feature where you have to name at least one of your characters at the log in screen. Another good reason to pick simple names and not XXXX133t5auceXXXX.

I like the variety of chat options, general chat that can only be heard nearby, world chat, alliance chat, nation chat, guild chat, party chat. The best chat in a game I ever played let you make your own chat rooms in addition to private messages, public chat, and the pvp faction chat of whatever side you were on. I could be in 10 chat rooms, talking with various groups of friends at the same time.

Oh, and I bought a new dress for Cringer, Tight Khaki Mini-skirt. In the description it says “Tight mini-skirt that will add hotness”.

I figure I’ve got about one or two play sessions left before I give up. Maybe I’ll make it to level 20, maybe I won’t, I’m definitely not going to try to get Cringer to level 20, she’s almost level 9, which would mean I’d have to level to about 45 to get her to her Teen phase. I just wish I had some meaningless quests to keep me busy. Even the worst games usually have that.

The Potato Famine

April 8, 2010 at 4:44 am | Posted in mmorpg | 2 Comments
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GoroI got a little curious as to who develops Aika, and what their mindset might be while making the game. I did fly into Aika pretty blind after all. I figured it must be Asian, what with the style choices, the fact I’d never really heard of it before. But Allods is developed by Astrum Nival, and they’re Russian, so I wasn’t making any assumptions.

I went to the Gpotato site and started looking into their history first, since I’m just as interested in them. They’re owned by Gala Inc. A Japanese company with their hands in more games than Goro from Mortal Kombat. Gpotato is basically just a way for Gala to house all it’s online games in one spot, a portal.

It’s hard to tell what they own and what they’re licensed to distribute world wide, but Aika appears to be developed by Joy Impact, owned by Hanbitsoft. They are in turn owned by T3 Entertainment, makers of Audition Online. Don’t ask me how the makers of Audition Online bought out the distributors of Starcraft in Korea. I think my mind just exploded. Otherwise Gala appears to have some licensed games and own the developers of games like Flyff and Rappelz outright. Most are Korean, some are Russian or Chinese.

Anyway Joy Impact has a total of 5 games on their website, WYD, Tantra, NeoSteam, Aika and StarCrash. So no help there as far as recognition goes. Good luck reading Korean, that’s where I stopped.

The only thing I learned that was really enlightening was just how pervasive Gala is becoming. They’re setting up shop world wide, from India to Brazil. I suppose that’s a boon to people in South America for instance, where it might be harder for people to get their hands on a good internet connection, good computer, a game that’s translated properly, affordable, and you know, fun.

It saddens me to think that Korean grind fests are the wave of the future for millions of people. All free-to-play, with Micro-Transactions.

Sweet Tooths of Aika

April 5, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Posted in mmorpg | 4 Comments
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aikaPlaying through Aika has improved since I cleared up my quest level problem. I’m level 19 now and only a level away from where I aimed to stop. The thing is, I might actually continue playing. I don’t know yet. It’s not that I’ve grown to like Aika, it’s that I’ve grown to like Cringer, my Pran. Okay sure, I can’t keep track of whether it’s “Pran” or “Pram” half the time but she’s adorable!

“Master, I don’t want them to hurt you!” “You can do it!” and other phrases my Pran utter in a sweet, 6 year old like voice, must be designed to release serotonin into my brain or something. Okay I know of at least one friend of mine who thinks the English voice acting is terrible and in a somewhat pretentious move has switched over to the Japanese voice acting. but it doesn’t bother me. It’s just so stylistically sweet.

What does bother me is the constant creepy vibe I keep getting from the game. This time it’s a Pran npc offering to give me a good night kiss every time I speak to it. Ugh. Did the Catholic Church design this game?

But I do adore Cringer, and I’ve discovered that her child like form isn’t forever. Eventually she evolves into a Teen and then even an Adult. They’re pretty rare so far as I can tell. At least in the lower level areas. I have seen one and it was taller, looked about 12, and had different idle animations, like dropping to do a few quick push ups while you’re standing around.

Another thing I discovered from this gentleman’s blog is that all those little conversations I’ve been having have an effect. Depending on my answers my Pran is going to develop a personality. I’m no expert but there appear to be 7 different personality options. Cute, which all Pran’s start with, Intelligent, Sexy (ugh again), Hyper, Valiant, Corrupt, and Devotion.

I guess that’s what makes me want to keep going, but at the same time I have to get my Pran to level 20 to evolve, and she’s level 8. I’m not sure I’ll have the will to live if I grind that out.

Hell Is Other People

April 2, 2010 at 4:03 am | Posted in mmorpg | 2 Comments
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aika childWhen I hit level 15 in Aika, I came across a problem. Since I had stubbornly decided not to get involved with the instances, for various reasons, I had bypassed loot, gold, and experience. I am not the Jedi I should be. All the quests were above my level, the mobs I was killing were slightly tougher than they should have been, and I didn’t have the gold for the armour I would need to buy in just one more level.

Why didn’t I do the instances? Well as I’ve said, I’m not planning on playing this game forever. The main reason though, was fear. I am terrified of PUG’s. I don’t think I need to go into detail about how Pick-Up Groups are probably the worst thing in any MMO. I still have nightmares. My first completion of Thunderhead Keep in the early days of Guild Wars, when the game was new to everyone, took more than 9 tries. All due to bad Pick-Up Groups. I could write a whole article about that disaster.

And the people, dear god the people. I’m sure there’s plenty of awesome people in PUG’s but I haven’t met them.

The instances don’t exactly sound like fun anyway. A bunch of kill ten rats quests inside a dungeon? Fantastic, gang-way everybody! The constant stream of people in world chat spamming for groups wasn’t exactly winning me over either. After you block however many gold sellers in chat, that’s the only conversation going on. Maybe I’m just making excuses, but it’s not like low level dungeons are going to help me much when I’m only planning on sticking around til around level 20.

You’d think that to solve my problem, I’d buckle down, bite my lip and join a pug. Instead I started to grind. I know right, massively multiplayer. What can I say, I’m anti-social, that doesn’t change much just because I’m playing an online game. Shameful as it may be.

Deliver Me From Aika

April 1, 2010 at 2:47 am | Posted in mmorpg | 6 Comments
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aika teenWandering around in Aika today, I came across a quest entitled “Boring Errand 1”. 1? This does not bode well. It’s a simple fedex quest, ergo the boring part, and I head off, across the entire length of the zone to deliver it. I get there, and hilarity ensues when I discover that the quest giver was wrong about who I was supposed to deliver it to. Oops.

I head out on Boring Errand 2, to a different npc who I happened to pass right by on Boring Errand 1. “I’m no Hick!” he says when I greet him. He’s a hick. He’s also not the right recipient for this fedex parcel either. This leads to Boring Errand 3, and yes, Boring Errand 4. By the time Boring Errand 5 rolls around I’ve been half way across the map and back again. Thankfully Boring Errand 6 has to be the last one in the quest line right? I mean the little mole-person npc seems quite convinced and snotty about it. Unfortunately, I’m practically back to where I received the quest from and once again, have to travel across the entire zone.

I had this really annoying coworker once. The job was horrible, he wasn’t a bad guy, but everybody hated when every day he said “Are we having fun yet?” No dude, we are not and have never been having fun here.

Boring Errand 6 did take me to the correct npc, but my hopes were dashed when she sent me on Boring Errand 7 to thank the original npc for her. You know the original npc? The one on the other side of the zone?

I used to watch Saturday Night Live a lot. The thing about that show is, they have these great periods with really funny sketches and funny comedians, and then they lapse into long boring periods where they aren’t funny. Usually the problem is they take one joke, and try to fill an entire sketch with that one joke. I like jokes, I don’t like it when they’re repeated over and over.

Boring Errand is supposed to be funny. I get it. Fedex quests are boring, you’re addressing the problem, you even have attempts at humour in the dialogue. Comedy, it’s funny. Just not repeated over and over.

You know what else? I’d be fine with a series of fedex quests. I’d be great with it. If the rewards were worth it. In Runes of Magic you get xp (and gold) for talking to people. Quest after quest of simply “talking” to npc’s, reading walls of text, if you want to bother to read the quests anyway. I’d say a good 15% of all quest xp in RoM is running around and talking to people. The first 6 quests in Boring Errand reward you with 60 xp. Total. I can kill one creature and get twice the xp.

After I wasted that much time for so little reward, I logged out. I just felt like I’d rather do something productive, like get a lobotomy.

Ghosts of Aika

March 27, 2010 at 4:18 am | Posted in mmorpg | 2 Comments
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cringerImagine a cute, squeaky voice.

“Uhhmmmmm hi?” asks my pran. I click on her little dialogue box. “Master, do you believe in ghosts?” I don’t even remember how I responded but I must have mentioned ghost stories, because next she says “I don’t like ghost stories, I like ghost movies!” Admittedly, I’m a little confused. Are there movies in Aika? I click next and sure enough, there are movies in Aika. “Which ghost movie do you like master?” And I’m given a choice. So I think to myself, “do I like Ghostbusters, Casper, or Ghost“? I chose Ghostbusters.

You get a lot of little dialogues with your pran. It’s one of the more enjoyable things about the pran, even though only the initial cue that she wants to talk is actually voiced. I’m guessing why they threw pop culture references into the game is to fill out what must be a large amount of conversations. I suppose I can forgive them for completely breaking immersion.

Because that’s exactly what they did. I literally stopped playing, thought about those movies, and was taken completely out of the game. I started trying to remember the line from Lazy Sunday.

At least I’ve gotten my pran to level 6, she’s a little girl now, and she’s got her name Cringer floating above her head. Her namesake would be proud. I find it ever so slightly disturbing that when she evolved she showed up in little girl underwear, and I’ve always felt the amount of skin shown in the close-ups was…weird. So the instant I got her I had to shove a sundress on her, and throw her teddy bear into her inventory. Now she picks the bear up and kisses it, or sets him down and dances with him. Mostly she hangs it at her side and sucks her thumb.

I feel like a grown man playing with dolls.

I’m a little confused as to why sometimes she won’t buff me. I keep hitting the one skill I have for her, and she’ll say, audibly “No master, I don’t want to! And you can’t make me!” I’m not sure if I need more favor with her, if I’m not feeding her right, or what the problem is. I could feed her all day though, as long as she says “That was yummy in my tummy!” every time.

My ex always used to call me a girl, sometimes it was hard to argue with her.

Thing is, now that Cringer is awesome, I don’t have much of a purpose. I suppose I could try to figure out how to get one of the mounts that look like giant house cats. I’m betting they cost money. Honestly, the combat is really beginning to wear on me, and I really don’t want to do the instances. Which leaves PvP, but I think to do that I need to register as a citizen, and I’ve been trying to find the ingredients to do that since level 10, 5 levels ago. No luck. Not even on the Auction House.

I’m going to need a reason to continue playing this game pretty soon or else it’s back to Morrowind which I’ve been neglecting. I’ve got Mass Effect 2 sitting here, not to mention a couple other online games I want to give a try. I don’t want to abandon my pran baby, but this game better get it’s hooks in soon, or I’m ghost like Swayze.

What I Like-ah About Aika

March 24, 2010 at 11:36 pm | Posted in mmorpg | 2 Comments
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aikaMaybe I’ve given the impression that I completely hate Aika, I don’t. It has it’s good points. I don’t think I’m going to play this game long term, but I will give it until level 20 at least. I think the prevailing logic these days is that a game has to grab you in the first couple hours of play. For me, I need longer than the first 5 levels.

I didn’t even get my Pran, Cringer, until level 8 or something. It’s definitely one of the things I like. I’m definitely going to get my Pran to level 5 so that it turns into a little girl Pran instead of its current form. It’s current form is a fairy that constantly floats around you. That’s not so bad, but a little Pran girl following me around holding a teddy bear would be about 10x cuter.

Another thing I like is the dialogue, particularly with your Pran. I get stopped a couple times a session because she’s demanding to speak with me. She’ll ask what a dragon is, give me a riddle, tell me to stop killing monsters because it’s mean. It’s kind of funny and, if questioned I will not admit it outside this blog, utterly adorable. Quest NPC’s occasionally have mildly funny dialogue, like when they’re cursing me out, arguing with my Pran, or asking me to kill their father, but nothing approaches those regular conversations with Cringer.

I’m not sure whether to like or hate the combat system. I can essentially just hit a button and wait for it to kill the monster. Ultimate laziness.

I love the trade system. There’s an Auction House (which I haven’t used much) and in particular, there are banners and floating gold coins above peoples heads when they are selling something. Need essences for your Pran? Look for a guy with a banner saying “essences” and click on it, you’ll see exactly what he’s got for sale. As a result there is zero trade chat. Having an AH is great, having both is wonderful.

I like the Mounts. They’re cool looking.

Not much more I can honestly mention without dragging in some bad points. So let’s stay positive folks!

Aika Rumba

March 24, 2010 at 4:42 am | Posted in mmorpg | 6 Comments
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AikaAfter logging back into Aika after a couple days off, I got straight to work.

The first thing I had to do? Block about 8 gold spammers. Aika’s blocking mechanism isn’t overly complicated so it didn’t take long, just right click and hit block. Still, I couldn’t read anything because of the large amount of spam until it was done.

After that I reviewed my quests, and decided I needed some pumpkling tissue. You guessed it, they’re little vegetable pumpkin monsters about a 3 or 4 minute trip from the starting city where I was. I made my way through all the vendors with admittedly useful gold coin icons and little banners over their heads saying what they were selling (including gold sellers taking advantage of the feature) and left the relatively crowded city.

Before I got to the pumpkin patch, there’s a bit of a gauntlet of Mogun mobs you have to run through where I had previously been questing. They’re goblin like creatures. Easy to deal with alone, but they’re tightly packed. As I ran by I noticed at least 5 or 6 people doing the various quests nearby. One of the quests is to retrieve a battle standard from the middle of their “village”. Calling it a village is a joke, there’s like 3 tents, surrounded by wooden barricades and about 30 mobs. Anyway if you try to do it on your own, the spawn rate is such that you’ll always have around 3 aggro’d. Meaning: Good luck with that.

So of course, I’m wandering by, and someone has aggro’d 3 Mogun. People in Runes of Magic might think I’m a jerk, but I took pity on them and started to attack. They survived, but they still didn’t have the flag, so I continued to randomly kill Mogun in the area while they worked their way over, and another person took quick advantage, rushing in from behind me to go for the same thing. Meanwhile I’m continually having to kill Mogun after Mogun because these guys are trying to get the quest and fight their way out, and I’m trying to keep the path clear for them to run for it.

Two more people show up. One of them notices that I’ve got aggro on 3 Mogun, helps me out, the other one fights his way in, while the other two are leaving. When my three are dead, the guy helping me, understandably makes a mad dash over to the flag, and more Moguns are spawning. It’s a very quick respawn.

Two more people show up. They want the same thing. By then I’d killed 12 Mogun, when I’d intended to kill about 2. The original 2 people I was helping have long since run off, helpfully leaving their aggro’d Mogun for me to kill. The second group of 2 people are about done and making their way out, so the third group of 2 are having an easy time going in, but they don’t seem to have any idea how fast the respawn is, because they aggro a ton of Mogun, they get their battle standards, but on the way out, they aggro around 10 Mogun.

What do newbies do when they’ve aggro’d more than they can handle? They run, and for a half second, I think it’ll be fine, they’re not running in my direction. They run about half the distance you need to run before you lose aggro and then tragedy strikes. They stop to fight. I ran over and killed as many as I could, but soon one of them died, then quickly after, the other. Most of the mobs returned to their position but not before I aggro’d 2 myself.

All in all I ended up killing, I don’t know, 20-25 of these effing things.

I wander over to the pumpkin patch nearby. If ever there was a time to have a quest that funnily references Charlie Brown somehow this would be it, but no. I kill a pumpkling and get the tissue I need instantly. Shaking my head at how annoying it is to receive a quest in the city, travel a few minutes outside of town, only to kill one mob. I headed back.

I can’t recall the exact sequence of events, but not long after that, I recieved a quest to go kill 3 pumpklongs. They’re the slightly larger version of pumpklings. I love going back to a place I just came from. Best quest ever.

The pumpkin quest line eventually leads to a boss fight. Surprise! It’s kind of a weird one though. Essentially the bad guys of Aika have covertly tricked a high ranking member of my order, the Aitans, into drinking a vile concoction made of pumpkin juice, I guess. I’m a little lost because it has been a few days. He went nuts and led the Moguns into battle with the military killing several former comrads.

His son, Charlie, has been looking for him, and I had previously helped out the kid by trying to find him. The kid is pretty weird, the voice creeps me out and every time I talk to him he greets me with, “Can you come down here, my neck hurts from looking up at you!” He’s my height! He has to look up maybe one inch. Check out this posts image. I can’t imagine what he says to the short female avatars. Anyway, when his kid discovers that his father has attacked and killed people, the kid asks me to go kill his father.

Sound reasonable to you? It doesn’t sound reasonable to me. The commanding officer standing 5 feet away doesn’t ask me to take him out, the various soldiers standing nearby don’t say anything. A 9 year old boy, by the sounds of his voice, wants me to do a little wetwork on his old man.

Oh and some dbag got me killed while I was AFK writing this post. I have never been killed while AFK before. Oh sure, I’ve heard about it, I’ve seen it happen, I’ve laughed my butt off as guildies died. Not me though, not until someone, and it had to be someone, trained some mobs on to me. Growl.

Aye carumba.

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