Monday, May 19, 2008

Beta Phase 1-3 Re-cap and Review

I will try to sum up the last phases testing including my opinions about the various elements.

Engine development across this phase:
  • More textures were added with each patch

  • Complete shaders and lightmaps are not in the game yet

  • Spell effects (particles, cast animations etc) were enhanced throughout so they are working hard on that end. Some computer specs have started to suffer in large battles due to this since the graphic options do not allow to tune down the effects yet (will surely be possible at release)

  • Many placeholder graphics for tactics, spells, morales etc were upgrade to very nice versions

  • Exceptionally stable client. More stable for me than WoW through its first year. I have yet to suffer from a single crash.

  • Animations are improving but are still not where they should be.

  • Still a small delay between click and effect/animation. This improved in Test 3 but was not 100% consistent (so was there are times and at other times not).

Last Phase Overview

Test 1:
Reikland, Praag and Chaos Wastes. The point was to capture keeps and battle objectives to conquer zones for your side. Battle objectives give buffs to the winning side (require you to interact with the lord at the battle objective).

  • Good layout of zones with the Chaos Wastes looking a bit dull.

  • Multiple ways to reach all objectives opening up for different styles of play.

  • Pathing issues for basically all PvE mobs creating 'retreat' bugs making keeps and battle objectives impossible to reclaim once the bug had been triggered.

Test 2:
Altdorf capture. The actual taking of a city involves taking hold of Praag, then the next zone, then the gate fortress (for example the Maw for the Inevitable City), then open city PvP, then an instanced PvE version to capture rewards where the 'king' is the ultimate encounter. We tested the PvE part of the process making the PvP city encounter untested at this point in time (since the other phase tested everything up to the fortress).

  • Beautiful city (in my mind) - even without all the light maps etc in.

  • The pathing bugs from Test 1 showed up and created alot of problems. It improved from Test 1 but did still not work well.

  • PvE scripting needs improvement - sometimes the mini-bosses fought with all glory (adds and abilities). Sometimes they hardly did anything (so pure tank and spank and meh when that happened).

  • Overall good design though (once again IMO). This phase is meant to be the glorious end of a long PvP road. One can debate the logic of finishing PvP with PvE but I kind of liked to casually roam around and be bad once the conquest was over (and hence hope that the PvE encounters are never over-tuned but rather of moderate difficulty - we do not know the final tuning since we had the best gear available and the bosses' abilities were slightly downtuned according to developers)a

A replica of Test 1.

  • Pathing and scripting of PvE mobs improved immensly. No retreat bugs at all this time (for me).

    • With 15min lockouts of BOs and keeps the battle flow was great.

Overall conclusion
I like this game more and more, but...animations need to improve - both characters and NPCs. Most of them are in for characters but they need that final touch in terms of transition from one animation to the next as well as few extra frames for the basic animations such as running. Graphics are improving to a point where I would be very surprised if this game does not look great with shaders and lightmaps in (so I am not concerned). I find the gameplay to be very enjoyable at the moment so this is also an area where I do not really have concerns. With regard to balance I doubt it will be fully balanced at release - they are tweaking TTK and cc every patch and that will probably continue past release. The net code is improving but needs one more layer of sophistication (the delay between click-> animation/effect that is still there).

So I would conclude for now that they should continue to focus on balance (everlasting project I guess) but more importantly the final touch on the net code and the animations. So in my biased view it is coming together nicely.

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