Brace Yourselves – Steam Holiday Sale is Coming

It’s that time of year again. Of course I’m not talking about Christmas, no, I’m talking about the Steam Holiday sale. Never before have I known an event to cause such equal parts joy and dread in the gaming community. Now when you see good games like Dungeons of Dredmor going for for say, $1.88 you may find it easy to understand the joy part, but how in the world could anyone expect dread? Because the prices are so low gamers feel almost compelled to buy them. Only a $0.99 crack rock special could evoke a more frenzied consumer. When the entire sale is done all of us will find our wallets lighter, caught up in the sheer game buying orgy. So, be careful, try not to buy to much, and remember… a lot of these games come back even cheaper the next day or at the end of the sale.

That’s how they get’cha.

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SecuROM is the Devil

Contrary to what some of my readers may be thinking, the above is not an opinion, but actually a fact. A fact that bears repeating. There is in fact a hell, and SecuROM, the prince of lies, lords over all of its many honeycombed layers.

Ok, perhaps that is just a teeny tiny bit of exaggeration, but it’s not too far off the mark. You see all of the various bits and pieces of undocumented software that things like SecuROM and Starforce and things such as Gameguard have installed into my various computers have caused more problems and crashed more software and caused me to format and reinstall my machines more than anything else. Think about that. That’s more than viruses, adware, and spyware. That’s a lot of problems for a “legitimate” business.

I’m just so sick and tired of having my expensive high-priced machine being dicked around with by a company that is scamming game companies by promising protection against piracy, a promise that is as much of a boondoggle as timeshares (Which they don’t call timeshares anymore because we’ve all learned it’s a scam.) How many studies have to come out that show it’s not piracy but bootlegging, something the copy protection cannot stop, that are the cause of loss of sales?

Brad Wardell from Stardock put the whole issue together better than I will here, so I’m not going to go into deep analysis here. What I am going to do is relate one of my recent experiences with SecuROM.

Blood Bowl is a game I enjoy. A lot. I bought it direct from Cyanide because I wanted them to get the most money they could from my purchase. Blood Bowl, I found out after purchasing, uses SecuROM. Makes me wish I waited for Steam’s version, but who knows maybe that has some similar DRM  on it too. It’s hard to tell sometimes.

So I installed it on my PC, and shortly after my PC crashes and I have to format and reinstall. Blood Bowl only allows 3 activations. But I’m not too worried because, hey, SecuROM says that I didn’t lose my activation because it is the same PC. I mean, yeah SecuROM is the devil, but devils are lawful evil right? So according to SecuROM I have two activations left. So then I install Blood Bowl on my laptop. No problems, and this means I should have one activation left. So I go to install it on my netbook and BAM!,  failed to activate. What? I only have two copies of the game installed! Where’s did my third activation go?

Well if you haven’t guessed what the problem is I’ll illuminate it for you. SecuROM’s support FAQ is a pack of lies. My first install, the one before the format and reinstall, devoured my first activation and sent it to the farthest reaches of time and space, never to be seen from again despite what the FAQ says. The software will gleefully steal your activations whenever it feels like it and give nothing back in return. The FAQ topic is there to fool consumers into thinking SecuROM isn’t going to bend them over a table and screw them, because if they did they’d avoid anything with SecuROM on it like the plague it is.

But should this be any sort of surprise from a piece of software whose slogan is “Get MAXIMUM Control”. I mean great fishes and little gods. Get MAXIMUM control? What kind of a slogan is that? Only sick people want MAXIMUM control over other people. Also, if this were my slogan, I wouldn’t put it on the internet. I mean if you’re going to go through all the trouble to lie to people about your software you shouldn’t undo the whole damn thing by leaving your fascist slogan out there for everyone to see.

It just all reminds me why I don’t buy things from Sony, the owners of SecuROM, in general. I own one Sony product in out of all the many electronics I own. And I don’t even like that. Every time I’ve bought from Sony I’ve found that LG, Samsung, Panasonic, and Altec Lansing have made superior products for less. Oh, and the DRM, lock you in, you use only our stuff philosophy bleeds over into everything they make. (IE: Don’t buy their ebook reader ever) And in the realm of DRM, all Sony and SecuROM have manged to do is make me a lifetime customer of Stardock, and a lesser extent Valve. Both great companies on their own, but SecuROM and Starforce have made what should be standard business practices of decency and customer service and selling a product that isn’t design to self-destruct into a major virtue.

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First Impressions of Blood Bowl

Being that I play D&D and lot, play and run games at the local game store, and am generally at the game store it’s no accident that I’ve heard of Blood Bowl before. The miniatures game by Games Workshop pits two custom made teams of players against each other each other in an incredibly violet game of a football like sport. Around here they organize into Blood Bowl leagues around this time of year and really get to it. It’s always sounded like something really fun to play.

Now I’ve never picked this game up because I haven’t been looking forward to getting into another game, but also the game isn’t cheap and it requires the assembly and painting of small pewter miniatures. Something I’ve been needing to do with a whole bunch of miniatures that I have. So when I heard about the Blood Bowl video game I was intrigued, but I didn’t pick it up because I wanted to try it. Unfortunately no demo ever surfaced (why?) but I recently got to try it at the local game store that has it installed. And I’ve got to say, wow, this game is just pure fun. I mean I pretty much I have easily emptied out an entire day into play the game after I purchased it. It’s really nice to see a good turn based strategy game on the PC, and the fact that the game is about getting the ball to the goal rather than eliminating the opponent really makes for a great change of pace. There’s just something really magical about having a turn where  you tackle the ball carrier, send your catcher into the end zone, and have your thrower inch up, grab the ball, and toss it through a narrow open lane for a touchdown.  Guess this means I might end up looking at the Blood Bowl pen and paper game box a bit more seriously next time I’m at the store.

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Redoubt Operations #1 & #2 Nominated in 2009 Mission Architect Awards

2009 ma awards nomsLast week I had the pleasure to learn that Redoubt Operations #1: Fires over Kalago and Redoubt Operations #2: Wrath of the Imperium had been nominated in the 2009 Mission Architect Awards for Best Villain Group and Best Villain Story, respectively. (I’m not quite sure why Redoubt Operations #1 got misspelled, though.) In any case this news was the highlight of my week last week. Unfortunately, complete victory was not to be as “Internship in the Fine Art of Revenge” won Best Villain Story and “Blight” won for Best Villain Group, but still even being nominated among the thousands of other entries is incredible. Now, here’s to hoping my two arcs can manage to get a Dev’s Choice out of all this. Cross your fingers.

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Brutal Legend for Xbox 360 Impressions

So this week I got my hot little hands on Brutal Legend, a game with big aspirations, amazing visual style, and a hype machine that’s been steadily building once everyone’s eyeballs were finally graced with viewing this piece of eye-candy. I want to say I love this game, but it has two major, and one minor,  flaws that sort of spoiled it for me.

But let’s start with the good. It’s chock full of awesome, metal sounds, it drips style, and it has great voice acting that is fun and humorous, reminiscent of the old Lucasarts adventure games. In addition it has a fun beat’em up aspect that evolves into a competent real-time strategy game that is high on action. Imagine Dynasty Warriors game where you built units, the combat was less repetitive and you had a plethora of buffs and powers at your disposal, that’s what the game’s RTS action is like. This RTS battle game is what the multiplayer is built on, and from trying the single player, I think this is poised to be successful if it keeps up a following. It’s definitely a new game in town for Xbox 360 play.

Now for the bad. The single player campaign is short. (And I did every single side mission too.) I managed to finish the entire campaign in one sitting. Granted it was a very long sitting, but one sitting? That’s pretty insane. I really got the feeling that the last “act” as it were got chopped off. There’s a huge build up to your battle with the demon lord Doviculus’ army, only to have one full-scale RTS battle with him and his hordes, followed by the boss battle with him. Really? You also fight him in the same place you beat the previous faction. While I guess that did help some plot points I was really looking forward to the triumphant march to Doviculus’ new home base on the map, only to be disappointed. Really, you spend more time going after the faction before Doviculus’ demons than you do Doviculus himself.

There’s also a plot point so dumb it makes me want to bang my head, but not in a good way. I’m not going to spoil it for you but there is a name that’s dropped that by the big bad guy that causes a big to do in the hero’s team of Ironheade. Interesting, right? No, because one of the main characters has said name written on their person! How can everyone there, including Jack Black’s character, Eddie Riggs, not already know the name Doviculus drops and diffuse the situation creation by him dropping the name? Am I supposed to believe 3 months went by from the time Doviculus dropped the name and no one said, “Hey <BLEEP>, you’ve got that <BLEEP> name written on your <BLEEP> in big giant easy-to read letters. I think that means we made a mistake about <BLEEP>.” It boggles my mind. Yes, more than people mining rocks with their heads.

A third sticking point that annoyed me. The game is pretty good about giving you tutorials. One of the first things you’re taught is to look around the world for a particular symbol and to use a relic raiser song to raise the relic, and told about jumping for lightning plugs, doing side missions, etc. Simple, no? Well at the same time in the beginning of the game there are serpent statues and hidden artifacts that are bound up.  I found lots of these statues. You can interact with them and Eddie will say something about them, which usually indicates there’s something important. Now I figured later I would get some ability that would let me open up these items, like the Relic Raiser, and similar to many other games with explorable worlds like this. You know the drill, get the upgrade, go back to the places you’ve visited to use the upgrade to unlock the thing that was locked before. I figured I’d get a tutorial about it too, maybe a quest to introduce it like so many other things in the game. Surprise surprise, none of that happened. I found all the upgrades, did all the side quests, and completed the game and then I realized no, no such tutorial and hint would be coming my way. At which point I found these things and messed around with buttons until I figured out that some of my basic moves from the beginning of the game could have opened them up. And then once I opened these things up I got the entry that told me what these things were. Goody. The artifacts tell me about the game world’s history, something I always find interesting, and the serpent statues upgrade Eddie’s health, damage, etc. No wonder Eddie seemed like he was made out of wet toilet paper in the RTS battles. I mean I thought that’s just the way it was as a way to encourage me to use my unit’s and not Eddie’s axe, but apparently it’s just because I didn’t get a single serpent statue throughout the whole game. Aye. Needless to say having completed the game I’m not going to go back through the game and find these things. I just wish the game would have given me a clue, especially when it’s so good about introducing every other element of the game.

Assuming you can get around those sticking points the game is quite simply, awesome. I really enjoyed my time with the game, and I don’t regret my rental of it at all. But I don’t think I could justify a purchase of this game unless I planned to play the multiplayer game a lot. And maybe that will be the case, because the RTS battles are really good and a some of the best action sequences in the game. We’ll just have to see if there is the kind of following this game needs to do well.

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Ringo Star Lives in Bailey’s Nightmares

If I hide under this desk the John Lennon can't get me

If I hide under this desk the John Lennon can't get me

Although I’m sure some people will think this is just a picture of a little dog laying down, those of you who have dogs might be able to recognize the signs of a dog freaked out of his little gourd. This is a picture of Bailey hiding under my desk, curled up into a little ball with his tail tucked in and shivering. What catastrophic event caused Mr. Bailey’s distress? Lightning storm? Hurricane? A nationwide Carrot Top comedy tour? No! It’s “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” being played on The Beatles Rockband. Incidentally Bailey started reacting to the game shortly after I read the trivia about how an ultrasonic sound, like a dog whistle, was added into the song Inner Grove on the album, though that song isn’t present in The Beatles Rockband. It wasn’t just Sgt. Pepper that scared Bailey though, he showed equal fear to “Here Comes the Sun”, “Octupus Garden”, “Get Back”, and every song in between. I guess something about the Beatles’ later years really frightens the poor little dog. After playing the game I ended up having to spend the next hour consoling the poor little dog that the big bad Paul McCartney wasn’t going to get him.

Well, at least the game was loads of fun. Guess it’s a good thing for Bailey it was only a rental.

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Wet for Xbox 360 Impressions

Among all the other games that have come out, Wet from Bethesda is a game that is liable to slip under many people’s radars. A visually stunning and stylish game, Wet is enjoyable and lots of fun to play and rewards the player for acrobatic gunplay with things such as slow-motion effects and auto-targetting, but suffers from some control snafus and the plague of the past two console generations: too-shortitis.

For those who haven’t seen it Wet is an action game that follows the heroine, Rubi Malone, through her exploits as a fixer, doing jobs for the criminal underworld. The game has a Quentin Tarantino style and 70’s drive-in “grindhouse” style look and it simply oozes personality. All the characters are well voice acted and have their own interesting personality quirks, which even though they aren’t original are at least acceptable and consistent, the entire whole of the game fitting together quite well. Everything is stylized to the hilt, from the main heroine to extras like the ER doctor sporting the afro. Even common enemy types are commonly given individual touches, tattoos, country flags, different clothing, personalized weapons, and other things that makes it feel like real film working with a huge cast of extras rather a game where you can simply make one model and repeat it ad nauseum. The entire game is given a film-grain and scratches effect which is very confident, emulating the slight flicker and screen movement these old reels used to display. Even loading screens are disguised as reel changes with cheesy drive-in ads (The one advocating viewers to “Visit your place of worship regularly” is particularly hilarious with the violence-drenched scenes it appears between.) in the interim, and nearing death makes the film-strip begin to come off its track and death makes the film snap altogether.

The gameplay centers around Rubi Malone’s acrobatic prowess. From the moment the game begins players will be diving, sliding, running on walls, sliding down ladders, running along  ledges, and swinging from pole to pole all while participating in rapid-fire gunplay that is more often than not filled with copious explosions. The game allows this to happen by slowing down the action every time you’re in the middle of any acrobatic maneuver while firing. In addition to that benefit while in these maneuvers Rubi uses a gun in her left hand during acrobatics. This gun automatically targets the nearest enemy, allowing the player to control the gun in the right hand and choose to concentrate fire on one enemies or take out a different enemy. While doing this the game gives points for dispatching enemies during spectacular displays of diving, sliding, and leaping with “style points” which are used to upgrade Rubi’s abilities, allowing her to shoot faster and do tricks like wall running off enemies and using them as a springboard for yet more feats of athleticism. This sort of action is the game’s bread and butter and it’s fun to do. Rubi’s moves chain together easily and for the most part aren’t difficult to execute, though there are some snafus with controls, more on that later.  Open areas often become small puzzles making the player think how best to move through a piece of terrain to get the most airtime to dispatch the enemies the easiest, all while trying to keep an eye out for the old video game standby, exploding barrels. (It’s a wonder a whole generation of gamers aren’t developing “barrel-phobia” by now.)

Gameplay really consists of two major segments. The first are long corridors, which are often filled with obstacles which Rubi must use her acrobatic abilities to overcome, and spare numbers of enemies. These areas honestly feel a lot like an old platforming game, which Rubi having to do things like climb up mine shafts, navigate her way along the outside of a building, and escaping a collapsing tunnel. These areas are competently put together and don’t have may overall problems with them, but they suffer from a few areas where it can be unclear what to do. To clear this up the game has the player is given “Rubi Vision” which has terrain Rubi can use in her acrobatic moves glow red. This works very well 99% of the time and gives the player good hints as what to do but in one or two spots you have to make leaps of faith. One part in particular that drove me insane was a gap with a window ledge and a window. The window ledge glowed red in Rubi Vision, making it seem like the player is supposed to jump, grab on, and then maybe vault up to another ledge from that ledge, a platforming element that is used often in the game and before the window. However when leaping Rubi would not grab onto this ledge, causing me to die and having to start over from the last checkpoint. (Checkpoints are frequent through levels and are usually placed right before challenging areas, but later in the game checkpoints become sparser, forcing you to replay easier parts to get back to the hard part where you last died.) I had to look online to find out that I had to shoot the window out and then leap. Note this window looked like it was part of the background, and grabing onto the ledge of identical windows and vaulting past them is something that had already been introduced before, so this kind of thing was an unexpected, and surprising, curveball. Another similar ambiguous element occurs in the William Acker’s dungeon area, a rather bland out-of-place spot compared to the rest of the game, where the player must slide toward a portcullis and shot one crank while Ruby’s auto-aiming left hand shoots the other crank. Granted the cranks glow, and there is a “wet streak” which is often used to denote sliding… but shoot a crank to make it raise? That’s a bit out of left field. It’s sad too because most of the game is put together well, with just a few glaring defects like these standing out against the rest of the game.

The second major element of the gameplay are the “arenas” which are wide open areas filled with enemies. Some of the arenas are simply “kill all” type affairs but most of them need Rubi to close the entrances, preventing more enemies from entering, by doing things like damaging keypads and dropping large chinese gongs over doors.  The arenas are arguably the most fun, and most frustrating part of the game. The arenas are usually filled with acrobatic elements and hazards, and usually the best way to make your way through these arenas is to find the best route through it which keeps Rubi in the air the longest. These areas are frustrating because they’re often the ones that the player will be repeating over and over, either trying to get the best score or simply dying to the onslaught of enemies, and the Hong Kong triads swarming you while they scream, “Taste my special sauce!” is only amusing so many times.  Most of the arenas are straight forward, but one or two of them are particularly brutal and throw curveballs like looking up at one part to see you can wall run up to a ledge, something that’s hard to think about while you’re trying to fight off a wave of enemies and dodge the guy with the gatling gun trying to turn Rubi into swiss cheese.

About the controls. There is a lot of what I would call a “snap to” element to the controls? What does that mean? A lot of programs, especially graphics editing, have something called snap to where if an element nears something significant, like a border, the element will snap to it so it’s directly against the border. This feature usually works pretty well, since usually if you’re moving an element next to a border it’s because you want it next to it. The game’s controls sometimes happen like this, especially where poles are concerned. Most of the time this isn’t any problem, but sometimes the “snap” doesn’t seem to kick in like you expect it, or sometimes you need to release the left trigger, the wall run and Rubi vision button, to make her grab hold when you want her to and most of the time you don’t. Usually when the “snap” doesn’t work right Rubi ends up hurting into a fire or electrical hazard or a pit, and it can be really frustrating when that happens.  The snappyness can also make controls feel a little “locked in”. For example, Rubi will only let go of a pole at the perfect time in her swing, and she always swings exactly to the next terrain element to grab on, sometimes going upwards when her swing animation doesn’t fit it. Granted this makes it a lot easier to do the stunts the game requires, but the disconnect from your controls and what happens can be annoying, especially when Rubi goes around the pole, an easy target, once more because you hit the A button too late.

The last big problem for Wet is that it’s short. I was able to finish the game in about three days of playing, and that’s taking my time about it. Once you have a sense for how things will play out even I can finish the game in a single sitting. Once you finish the game all you have really to look forward to is score mode, playing a higher difficulty, or trying the “Golden bullets” mode where enemies die in one hit. Granted, playing again can be fun, especially in golden bullets mode, but once you have a play through under your belt another one isn’t really needed. There isn’t much new to find and Rubi can’t carry her upgrades with her between games.

Because of the game’s length and lack of replayability I can’t really recommend it for more than a rental. Granted it is a fun, enjoyable rental, but once you’ve gone through the game once or twice most people’s desire to play the game will be ended, with those bearing the curse of completionist braving the game time and time again to find hidden monkeys and unlock achievements. There’s nothing wrong with being a good rental, and in a game of on-demand games I wonder if Wet would have done better as a game that a player would rent online and download, similar to a pay per view movie, then as a full retail box game. Wet is a fun ride, but just like a rollercoaster it’s something best sampled than owned.

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Let Free-dom Ring: Getting the most out of DDO Free to Play

So after reading my previous article on the subject of free to play, or Premium accounts, in DDO you’ve decided that you want to go the free to play route or premium account route in DDO. However you’re not sure what is available, what there is to do, and how to make your free to play experience better. That’s where this article comes in. Today we’ll be discussing which quests are free to play, what sort of favor you can get out of them, and how you can roll that favor over into Turbine Points using Free Player and Premium accounts in game.

To begin with here is a chart detailing exactly what quests are available to you for free. Next to each quest is the amount of favor you can gain on the quest by completing it on elite difficulty.

Free to Play Quest Index with Favor Listing

Quest Favor Quest Favor
Level 1 Level 5
The Store House’s Secret 6 The Lair of Summoning 9
Stopping the Sahuagin 9 The Depths of Doom 9
Sacrifices 9 The Depths of Discord 9
Redemption 9 Archer Point Defense 9
Necromancer’s Doom 6 Taming the Flame 15
Heyton’s Rest 6 Level 6
The Collaborator 12 Ruined Halls 12
The Cannith Crystal 6 Redwillow’s Ruins 15
Level 2 Purge the Heretics 12
Walk the Butcher’s Path 12 Mirra’s Sleepless Nights 12
The Sunken Sewer 9 Gladewatch Outpost Defense 12
Stop Hazadill’s Shipment 6 The Forgotten Caverns 12
Stealthy Repossession 9 Dead Predators 12
The Smuggler’s Warehouse 9 Caged Trolls 12
Retrieve the Stolen Goods 9 The Bounty Hunter 15
Recover the Lost Tomb 9 Level 7
Protect Baudry’s Interests 6 The Tear of Dhakaan 21
Missing in Action 9 The Pit 27
Misery’s Peak 12 Gwylan’s Stand 18
The Miller’s Debt 2 The Graverobbers 15
The Kobold’s New Ringleader 12 Level 8
Information is Key 12 The Xorian Cipher 21
Garrison’s Missing Pack 12 Stromvauld’s Mine 15
Durk’s Got a Secret 12 Stormcleave Outpost 18
Defend Haverdasher 2 The Paths to Madness 9
Bring the Light 6 Haunted Library 15
Arachnophobia 2 Faithful Departed 12
Level 3 Caverns of Korromar 15
Where there is Smoke 9 Level 9
The Swiped Signet 12 The Church of the Cult 15
Redfang The Unruled 9 Level 10
The Kobold’s Den: Clan Gnashtooth 12 Tempest Spine 18
The Kobold’s Den: Rescuing Arlos 12 Sykro’s Jewel 15
Kobold Assault 9 Reclamation 15
Home Sweet Sewer 2 Level 11
The Captives 9 The Spawn of Whisperdoom 18
An Explosive Situation 2 Made to Order 18
Ven’s Trail: Ven’s Fate 9 The Enemy Within 24
Ven’s Trail: Clan Tunnelworm 12 Dreams of Insanity 18
Rest for the Restless 9 Level 12
Level 4 Invaders! 21
Proof is in the Poison 15 A Relic of the Sovereign Past 21
Irestone Inlet 12
Freshen the Air 9
The Depths of Despair 9
The Depths of Darkness 9
The Camber of Insanity 9
Number of Quests 79 Total Favor Possible 916
Quest Favor Quest Favor
Level 1 Level 5
The Store House’s Secret 6 The Lair of Summoning 9
Stopping the Sahuagin 9 The Depths of Doom 9
Sacrifices 9 The Depths of Discord 9
Redemption 9 Archer Point Defense 9
Necromancer’s Doom 6 Taming the Flame 15
Heyton’s Rest 6 Level 6
The Collaborator 12 Ruined Halls 12
The Cannith Crystal 6 Redwillow’s Ruins 15
Level 2 Purge the Heretics 12
Walk the Butcher’s Path 12 Mirra’s Sleepless Nights 12
The Sunken Sewer 9 Gladewatch Outpost Defense 12
Stop Hazadill’s Shipment 6 The Forgotten Caverns 12
Stealthy Repossession 9 Dead Predators 12
The Smuggler’s Warehouse 9 Caged Trolls 12
Retrieve the Stolen Goods 9 The Bounty Hunter 15
Recover the Lost Tomb 9 Level 7
Protect Baudry’s Interests 6 The Tear of Dhakaan 21
Missing in Action 9 The Pit 27
Misery’s Peak 12 Gwylan’s Stand 18
The Miller’s Debt 2 The Graverobbers 15
The Kobold’s New Ringleader 12 Level 8
Information is Key 12 The Xorian Cipher 21
Garrison’s Missing Pack 12 Stromvauld’s Mine 15
Durk’s Got a Secret 12 Stormcleave Outpost 18
Defend Haverdasher 2 The Paths to Madness 9
Bring the Light 6 Haunted Library 15
Arachnophobia 2 Faithful Departed 12
Level 3 Caverns of Korromar 15
Where there is Smoke 9 Level 9
The Swiped Signet 12 The Church of the Cult 15
Redfang The Unruled 9 Level 10
The Kobold’s Den: Clan Gnashtooth 12 Tempest Spine 18
The Kobold’s Den: Rescuing Arlos 12 Sykro’s Jewel 15
Kobold Assault 9 Reclamation 15
Home Sweet Sewer 2 Level 11
The Captives 9 The Spawn of Whisperdoom 18
An Explosive Situation 2 Made to Order 18
Ven’s Trail: Ven’s Fate 9 The Enemy Within 24
Ven’s Trail: Clan Tunnelworm 12 Dreams of Insanity 18
Rest for the Restless 9 Level 12
Level 4 Invaders! 21
Proof is in the Poison 15 A Relic of the Sovereign Past 21
Irestone Inlet 12
Freshen the Air 9
The Depths of Despair 9
The Depths of Darkness 9
The Camber of Insanity 9
Number of Quests 79 Total Favor Possible 916

In general these quests are those that ae “Standalone”, meaning they’re usually not part of a large series or they aren’t tied to a large area outside Stormreach. (EX: Sorrowdusk Isle, Threnal Ruins, etc.) To those new to DDO you might not be familiar with what favor is, and why this is important to you. Favor is a lot like faction standing in other games. Each quest in the game is being presented by one of the factions within Stormreach. Completing a quest for them gives you a certain amount of favor with that faction and when you reach certain milestones of favor with each faction you get certain benefits, and when you reach certain milestones of total favor you receive some benefits as well, like Drow Access, 32 Point builds for new characters, and Favored Soul access. But favor now provides more than just those benefits. Now in module 9 favor is also the mechanic that awards player free Turbine Points in the DDO store. This is important because, as a free to play player, unless you intended to buy adventure packs with your own money you are going to need favor to get free Tubine Points to take any quests over level 12, not to mention you may need to buy leveling sigils if they haven’t dropped as quest rewards for you in time.

There are two kinds of awards that are given out for favor. The first award is for reaching a total favor milestone with one character on a server. Once you’ve reached the milestone with one character on that server you cannot earn that reward again with another character on that server. The second award is a per-character award that is granted for every 100 total favor reached with every character you create.

Favor Milestone Turbine Point Rewards

Once Per Server
Total Favor Turbine Points
5 50
25 25
50 25
500 50
1000 100
2000 100
3000 100
Once Per Character
Total Favor Turbine Points
Every 100 25

As you can see from this chart, if you plan to earn as many favor points as possible what you’ll need to plan to do is to make characters on all of the available servers in the game. As you can see from the first chart you can only earn a total of 915 points of favor from free quests. Doing that with one character on one server is going to earn you 150 Turbine Points in Once Per Server awards and 225 Turbine Points in once per character awards for a total of 375 points, though you would be earning points faster if you stopped at 500 favor and moved on to the next sever, at least until you ran out of new servers to make characters on. How much is 375 points? Well The Vale of Twilight, a good area to goto when you are level 12, costs 700 turbine points, and VIP subscriptions get 500 a Turbine Point stipend a month. There are a total of 6 servers available. Let’s say you have a free player account instead of a premium one. That means you have 2 slots per server. If you completely maximize your favor on all six servers  on each of your two slots you’ll gain a total of 3,600 Turbine Points. That’s enough to purchase The Vale of Twilight, The Devils of Shavarath, The Ruins of Gianthold, The Reaver’s Reach, and The Restless Isles to give you all the quests you need to reach 20. If you at one point spent money on the game, giving you a premium account, you would gain four slots total meaning using only free quests you could gain a maximum of 6,300 favor, just 4,345 points shy of being able to buy all the adventure packs. Also remember, any adventure packs you purchase are going to give you more quests which mean more possible favor for you to access.

What is all comes down to is how much time you have to spend to actually gain this favor to get the turbine points. To reach that maximum of 6,300 favor you’d have to level up 24 characters to level 12 across all six servers, or by finding high level players willing to run you through all 79 quests, on elite, for each of those 24 characters. If on the other hand you’re happy sticking to the selection of free quests above only intend to buy items to allow you to gain more quests past twelve then you may find a happy medium. Picking up The Vale of Twilight and The Devils of Shavarath will give you quests to get you to 20, and picking up The Reaver’s Reach and The Ruins of Gianthold will expand that quest selection. Just don’t forget to plan to buy some leveling sigils along the way.

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The True Price of DDO Unlimited Free to Play

D&D and cost/benefit analysis: a match made in geek heaven

D&D and cost/benefit analysis: a match made in geek heaven

With Dungeons and Dragons Online Eberron Unlimited now in the world of free to play there has been a lot of talk about how the benefit of each price structure stands up to the other. For those of you unfamiliar with the Free to Play model for DDO Unlimited the way it works is that there are three types of accounts, VIP, Premium, and Free. In this article when we talk about free to play we’ll be referring to Premium accounts, which are those accounts that were at one point subscribers or any account which has purchased Turbine points. Here’s the quick rundown on how those accounts types compare to each other.

DDO VIP Premium Player Free Player
Turbine Points 500/month free Buy Buy
Classes All included free* Basic, can purchase more Basic, can purchase more
Races All included free* Basic, can purchase more Basic, can purchase more
Adventure Packs All included free Some free, can purchase others Some free, can purchase others
Character Slots 10 free, can purchase more 4 free, can purchase more 2 free, can purchase more
Shared Bank Slot Included free Can purchase Can purchase
Login Queue Priority High Standard
Chat Unlimited Unlimited Limited
Auctions Unlimited Unlimited Limited
Mail Unlimited Unlimited Limited
Gold Storage Unlimited Unlimited Limited
Customer Service Full Full for 45 days Self-service online
Compendium Read/Post Read/Post Read-only
Official Forums Read/Post Read/Post Read/Limited posting
Beta Priority High Normal Normal

* Select races and classes may still require the use of game mechanics to unlock for free

Got all that? Good. Now in this article we’re going to assume that to a player with a free to play, or premium, account the main cost to them is going to be purchasing adventure packs, leveling sigils, classes, races, and extras like the shared bank tab. Character Slots aren’t going to be considered a primary concern for price because the number of character slots a player would want to have is highly subjective. We are going to assume that being able to reach level 20, and being able to join any party’s quest, regardless of were it is, being able to try all the races and classes, and having the bank tab are something that most players are going to find worthwhile to have. We’re also going to assume that US Dollars is the unit currency that you will be using to make any purchases. Before we begin, let’s review the VIP subscription prices as a basis for comparison.

VIP Subscription Prices

Months Price Price / Month
1 $14.99 $14.99
3 $41.85 $13.95
6 $77.70 $12.95
12 $143.40 $11.95

Now free to play players aren’t going to be making their purchases directly in USD, but instead in Turbine Points, or just points for short. Now while it is possible to acquire points by earning favor, we’re going to assume that points spent throughout this article are points that have been purchased in the DDO store. That makes our first task to determine the exchange rates of points to $1 USD. Below is a chart detailing the point packages available and how many points per dollar spent  is actually received in the purchase. Included in the chart are two 5000 point packages that are not noted as being standard, and at the time of this writing cannot be purchased in the DDO store. To explain their presence on 9/12/09 Turbine sent out an email with the statement, “Limited Time Only! Get 5,000 points for $49.99. This would normally be priced at $54.99. Best. Deal. Ever.” In their DDO Store Guide the 5000 point package replaced the 3300 point package and was listed as being on sale for $49.99 and that package was listed as having a regular price of $54.99. This package was avilable only on 9/12/09 and 9/13/09. On 9/14/09 the 5000 point package was removed from the DDO Store and the 3300 point package returned, and the DDO Store Guide was later edited that day to have the 3300 point package replace the 5000 point package once again. As you’ll see in this chart, the 5000 point package has a better exchange rate, even at $54.99, than the 3300 point package at $38.99. It’s currently unknown if the 5000 point package is intended to return frequently, though sales in the DDO store are fairly common, something we’ll get to later. Either way, these packages are included in this chart and later charts for players who may have stocked up on points during this weekend sale, and as a point of reference in case the 5000 point packages make a return.

Turbine Point to USD Exchange Rate Analysis

Turbine Points USD Price Points / $1 Notes
400 $6.25 64 Standard Package
900 $11.99 75.06255 Standard Package
1500 $18.99 78.98894 Standard Package
3300 $38.99 84.63709 Standard Package
5000 $54.99 90.92562 Price reported as “regular price” for 9/12/09 Weekend Sale, disappeared on 9/14/09
5000 $49.99 100.02 Sale price of pack for 9/12/09 Weekend Sale, disappeared on 9/14/09

So now that we know what $1 is worth in points for each pack we can begin to convert the Turbine point prices you see in game into what their actual cost in USD is. Now first we will analyze what I consider to be the biggest sink of points, adventure packs. Adventure packs are a big sink of points because typically parties don’t make a party based upon if the pack is free to play or not. Now the “Grouping” listing under the social panel is supposed to tell free to play players if a quest is in a pack they havent’ purchased by replacing the listing of classes needed with a large “BUY NOW” sign, but this hasn’t been working consistently. It also requires the party leader posting the looking for members listing to enter the right quest in the looking for members listing, just putting the quest series in the comments won’t work. Needless to say spending time getting ready for a quest only to realize you can’t go is embarrassing and frustrating. Below we have two tables showing the cost of all the adventure packs currently available  and their price in USD depending on which package of points you decided to get your Turbine points from. The first table shows the adventure packs at their regular price. The second table shows those same adventure packs at their sale price. Sales in DDO are generally %25 off the regular point price of any item, and with any decimals dropped. The current sales at any given time can be found in the “Today’s Deals” section of the DDO Store. Obviously Turbine can, and has, offered sales at different values, such as 20% for XP Boost Potions for the 9/12/09 weekend sale, but for this article we’ll assume any sale is the common 25% discount. The adventure packs are listed from low-level to high-level in the order they appear in the DDO Store with lower brackets given preference if the adventure pack is listed in more than one bracket. Once an adventure pack is bought it is applied to every character on that subscription and never needs to be purchased again. Owning an adventure pack allows a free to play player to purchase guest passes for that adventure pack also.

Adventure Pack Costs – Regular Price

Adventure Pack Points 400 Std 900 Std 1500 Std 3300 Std 5000 Std 5000 Sale
Shan-to-Kor 250 $3.91 $3.33 $3.17 $2.95 $2.75 $2.50
The Sharn Syndicate 350 $5.47 $4.66 $4.43 $4.14 $3.85 $3.50
The Catacombs 250 $3.91 $3.33 $3.17 $2.95 $2.75 $2.50
Tangleroot Gorge 550 $8.59 $7.33 $6.96 $6.50 $6.05 $5.50
The Necropolis Part 1 250 $3.91 $3.33 $3.17 $2.95 $2.75 $2.50
Three-Barrel Cove 650 $10.16 $8.66 $8.23 $7.68 $7.15 $6.50
Delara’s Tomb 750 $11.72 $9.99 $9.50 $8.86 $8.25 $7.50
Sorrowdusk Isle 400 $6.25 $5.33 $5.06 $4.73 $4.40 $4.00
Dungeon: Devil Assault 150 $2.34 $2.00 $1.90 $1.77 $1.65 $1.50
The Ruins of Gianthold 995 $15.55 $13.26 $12.60 $11.76 $10.94 $9.95
The Demon Sands 850 $13.28 $11.32 $10.76 $10.04 $9.35 $8.50
The Necropolis Part 2 350 $5.47 $4.66 $4.43 $4.14 $3.85 $3.50
The Ruins of Threnal 550 $8.59 $7.33 $6.96 $6.50 $6.05 $5.50
The Vault of Night 800 $12.50 $10.66 $10.13 $9.45 $8.80 $8.00
The Restless Isles 600 $9.38 $7.99 $7.60 $7.09 $6.60 $6.00
The Necropolis Part 3 350 $5.47 $4.66 $4.43 $4.14 $3.85 $3.50
The Vale of Twilight 700 $10.94 $9.33 $8.86 $8.27 $7.70 $7.00
The Devils of Shavarath 650 $10.16 $8.66 $8.23 $7.68 $7.15 $6.50
The Reaver’s Reach 350 $5.47 $4.66 $4.43 $4.14 $3.85 $3.50
The Necropolis Part 4 850 $13.28 $11.32 $10.76 $10.04 $9.35 $8.50
Total Cost 10645 $166.33 $141.82 $134.77 $125.77 $117.07 $106.43

Adventure Pack Costs – 25% Discount

Adventure Pack Points 400 Std 900 Std 1500 Std 3300 Std 5000 Std 5000 Sale
Shan-to-Kor 187 $2.92 $2.49 $2.37 $2.21 $2.06 $1.87
The Sharn Syndicate 262 $4.09 $3.49 $3.32 $3.10 $2.88 $2.62
The Catacombs 187 $2.92 $2.49 $2.37 $2.21 $2.06 $1.87
Tangleroot Gorge 412 $6.44 $5.49 $5.22 $4.87 $4.53 $4.12
The Necropolis Part 1 187 $2.92 $2.49 $2.37 $2.21 $2.06 $1.87
Three-Barrel Cove 487 $7.61 $6.49 $6.17 $5.75 $5.36 $4.87
Delara’s Tomb 562 $8.78 $7.49 $7.11 $6.64 $6.18 $5.62
Sorrowdusk Isle 300 $4.69 $4.00 $3.80 $3.54 $3.30 $3.00
Dungeon: Devil Assault 112 $1.75 $1.49 $1.42 $1.32 $1.23 $1.12
The Ruins of Gianthold 746 $11.66 $9.94 $9.44 $8.81 $8.20 $7.46
The Demon Sands 637 $9.95 $8.49 $8.06 $7.53 $7.01 $6.37
The Necropolis Part 2 262 $4.09 $3.49 $3.32 $3.10 $2.88 $2.62
The Ruins of Threnal 412 $6.44 $5.49 $5.22 $4.87 $4.53 $4.12
The Vault of Night 600 $9.38 $7.99 $7.60 $7.09 $6.60 $6.00
The Restless Isles 450 $7.03 $6.00 $5.70 $5.32 $4.95 $4.50
The Necropolis Part 3 262 $4.09 $3.49 $3.32 $3.10 $2.88 $2.62
The Vale of Twilight 525 $8.20 $6.99 $6.65 $6.20 $5.77 $5.25
The Devils of Shavarath 487 $7.61 $6.49 $6.17 $5.75 $5.36 $4.87
The Reaver’s Reach 262 $4.09 $3.49 $3.32 $3.10 $2.88 $2.62
The Necropolis Part 4 637 $9.95 $8.49 $8.06 $7.53 $7.01 $6.37
Total Cost 7976 $124.63 $106.26 $100.98 $94.24 $87.72 $79.74

As you can see the price of all the modules isn’t too out there. Assuming you bought all your points from the 3300 point package you could buy every single adventure pack in the game at $125.77, a little less than a 1 year VIP subscription, and only $94.24 if you were willing to wait for those module to come on sale. And if you had stocked up on points during the weekend sale and bought the adventure packs on sale you could get them all for $79.74, slightly more than a 6 month VIP subscription.

Now adventure packs aren’t the only cost the free to play player is going to incur. Each character a free to play player has starts out only being able to access levels 1 to 4 instead of 1 to 20. To be able to reach levels 5 to 8 they need a copper leveling sigil, 9 to 12 a silver one, 13 to 16 a gold one, and 17 to 20 a platinum one. Unlike adventure packs which the free to play player will only need to purchase once ever each character the free to play player has is going to need leveling sigils to advance so these can often be considered a fee for having a character above and beyond actually having the character slot.  Leveling sigils may be received for free in the course of playing as quest rewards. The lesser value the sigil the easier it will be to find with copper sigils easy to acquire and platinum sigils very difficult to acquire. Below are the tables for the leveling sigil costs.

Leveling Sigil Costs – Regular Price

Leveling Sigil Points 400 Std 900 Std 1500 Std 3300 Std 5000 Std 5000 Sale
Copper Leveling Sigil 120 $1.88 $1.60 $1.52 $1.42 $1.32 $1.20
Silver Leveling Sigil 180 $2.81 $2.40 $2.28 $2.13 $1.98 $1.80
Gold Leveling Sigil 240 $3.75 $3.20 $3.04 $2.84 $2.64 $2.40
Platinum Leveling Sigil 300 $4.69 $4.00 $3.80 $3.54 $3.30 $3.00
Total Cost 840 $13.13 $11.19 $10.63 $9.92 $9.24 $8.40

Leveling Sigil Costs – 25% Discount

Leveling Sigil Points 400 Std 900 Std 1500 Std 3300 Std 5000 Std 5000 Sale
Copper Leveling Sigil 90 $1.41 $1.20 $1.14 $1.06 $0.99 $0.90
Silver Leveling Sigil 135 $2.11 $1.80 $1.71 $1.60 $1.48 $1.35
Gold Leveling Sigil 180 $2.81 $2.40 $2.28 $2.13 $1.98 $1.80
Platinum Leveling Sigil 225 $3.52 $3.00 $2.85 $2.66 $2.47 $2.25
Total Cost 630 $9.84 $8.39 $7.98 $7.44 $6.93 $6.30

So in conclusion the free to play player can basically be expected to be charged a fee of $9.92 for each character they create, or $16.95 if that player needed to purchase a character slot for that character. (See below for character slot pricing.) That’s over a month of VIP subscription! Also remember, if you delete a character and re-create them you’ll need to pay the $9.92 for new sigils for the new character all over again. For some people this isn’t going to be much of a big deal, but for anyone who plans to create a lot of characters this is going to be a big problem. One more thing to note, if you have a VIP subscription and level your character to say, level 8 on it, and then let your account go back to a premium account that character wouldn’t need to purchase a Copper Leveling Sigil. Leveling sigils only stop you from going to a trainer and training up your level. Once you have that level the game is at least nice enough not to take it away from you.

Finally there’s one section of fees that I consider to be a big part of the cost of getting your free to play account “up to snuff” as it were, and that’s those little extras like the Drow and Warforged races. Now in the interests of being fair remember that you can still get the Drow race as a free to play player by getting 400 total favor, and the favored soul class by getting 2500 total favor.  Also important to note is that additional character slots increase the number of slots you have across all six severs, not just one. As with the previous entires these are going to be posted with a regular price and 25% discount price. A small disclaimer though, none of the items on this table have yet to be discounted at all so there is no way of knowing if they ever will, or at what discount they will be offered at.

Account Options – Regular Price

Account Option Points 400 Std 900 Std 1500 Std 3300 Std 5000 Std 5000 Sale
Character Slot 595 $9.30 $7.93 $7.53 $7.03 $6.54 $5.95
Shared Bank Tab 1495 $23.36 $19.92 $18.93 $17.66 $16.44 $14.95
Warforged Rage 595 $9.30 $7.93 $7.53 $7.03 $6.54 $5.95
Drow Race 795 $12.42 $10.59 $10.06 $9.39 $8.74 $7.95
Favored Soul Class 795 $12.42 $10.59 $10.06 $9.39 $8.74 $7.95
Monk Class 795 $12.42 $10.59 $10.06 $9.39 $8.74 $7.95
Total Cost 5070 $79.22 $67.54 $64.19 $59.90 $55.76 $50.69

Account Options – 25% Discount

Account Option Points 400 Std 900 Std 1500 Std 3300 Std 5000 Std 5000 Sale
Character Slot 446 $6.97 $5.94 $5.65 $5.27 $4.91 $4.46
Shared Bank Tab 1121 $17.52 $14.93 $14.19 $13.24 $12.33 $11.21
Warforged Rage 446 $6.97 $5.94 $5.65 $5.27 $4.91 $4.46
Drow Race 596 $9.31 $7.94 $7.55 $7.04 $6.55 $5.96
Favored Soul Class 596 $9.31 $7.94 $7.55 $7.04 $6.55 $5.96
Monk Class 596 $9.31 $7.94 $7.55 $7.04 $6.55 $5.96
Total Cost 3801 $59.39 $50.64 $48.12 $44.91 $41.80 $38.00

As you can see, some of these are pretty expensive, with the shared bank tab running a whopping $17.66 all by itself with the second biggest purchases being the Drow, Favored Soul, and Monk classes at $9.39 each.

Now then what does all this mean? Well if you’ve been paying attention there’s been a number totals on each chart. So now we come to the time to add everything to reach the true cost of what it costs to get the entire DDO package through Turbine points. Note that in the tables below Account Options does not include Character Slots, which is accounted for in it’s own entry.

Grand Total using only the 1-4 Character Slots granted for a Premium Account

Item Name Points 400 Std 900 Std 1500 Std 3300 Std 5000 Std 5000 Sale
Adventure Packs and Account Options 15120 $236.25 $201.44 $191.42 $178.64 $166.29 $151.17
Sigils for Character Slots 1-4 3360 $52.52 $44.76 $42.52 $39.68 $36.96 $33.60
Grand Total 18480 $288.77 $246.20 $233.94 $218.32 $203.25 $184.77

Grand Total with slots 5-10 purchased to be equal to the VIP Account

Item Name Points 400 Std 900 Std 1500 Std 3300 Std 5000 Std 5000 Sale
Adventure Packs, Account Options, and Sigils for Characters 1-4 18480 $288.77 $246.20 $233.94 $218.32 $203.25 $184.77
Character Slots 5-10 3570 $55.80 $47.58 $45.18 $42.18 $39.24 $35.70
Sigils for Character Slots 5-10 5040 $78.78 $67.14 $63.78 $59.52 $55.44 $50.40
Grand Total 27090 $423.35 $360.92 $342.90 $320.02 $297.93 $270.87

As you can see from the Grand Total charts if you’re happy with slots 1-4 you’ll be looking at a total of $218.32, which is about equivalent to 1.5 years of VIP subscription. And if you want slots 5-10 you are looking at a total of $320.02, or 2.2 years of VIP subscription. Remember that this is only taking into account one server. You’d still have to buy more sigils for characters on new servers, though luckily the character slots apply to all servers. Also remember that the VIP subscription is going to give you 500 points every month just for subscribing, which can be used for the purchase of adventure packs, items, etc. that the free to play player is going to generally have to pay for out of their own pocket. Note however that to actually buy something the VIP subscription gives you access to you need let the subscription run out since the store won’t let you buy anything you already have access to from the VIP subscription.

So there you have the actual cost of what the free to play, or Premium Account, option in DDO is really going to cost you. Needless to say after I did this analysis I decided to stop buying adventure packs and instead switch to the subscription model as there is no guarantee the game will even be open long enough to justify the cost of purchasing everything a la carte, and I’ve become used to having a diverse quest selectiion and all the account options. For those of you who want to stick with the free to play options, check out the article following this one where I tell you how to get the most out of your Free Player or Premium account in DDO.

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Paragonian Knights Signature Designs

As some of you may not know, I have a bit of an artistic side. Hours whiled away drawing in my free time have more recently transitioned over to doing a little bit of graphic design here and there. Not too long ago I did a new signature for my guild the Paragonian Knights in the game City of Heroes. I call the signature design “Hologram” and here are a few examples of that design for your viewing pleasure.

pksigholo2-apolly

pksigholo2-fencernaiad2

pksigholo2-empyreal

pksigholo2-crimsonsiren

pksigholo2-graeknight

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