What's New at Amazon.com

Friday, June 29, 2012

Runescape: First Thoughts- Evolution of Combat Beta Trial

 (Quick note:  My screengrabber didn't.  Grab screens, that is.  After writing this, I realized there were no pics of all my testing.  So I went back and re-took some pics, but not as much variety as originally.  That's why most of what you see is from the Abyssal Demons... Sorry!)
By now, anybody who plays Runescape knows about the release of the Combat Beta.  Some got chosen... some didn't.  Monique and I are 8-year members.  We didn't receive a specific email inviting us to the Combat Beta, but since all members for over a year are supposed to be invited, I tried to log in just to see... and it let both of us in.

So anyway, we logged in- who wouldn't?  Monique is high-level combat, but it's not her favorite.  She thought it was overly complicated for her tastes.  Combat is my favorite part of Runescape, so this had a lot more impact on me than it did for her.

My first concern going in: did Jagex ruin Runescape?  And my first impression: No, Runescape is still going to be fun.  That's highly subjective, of course.  For my play-style, I'm mostly happy.  For Pures, it's a nightmare.  One of the mods in the Jagex videos stated that pures can still exist, but leveling up has been 'greatly encouraged'.  He went on to say he'd be interested to see how Pures adjust to the new combat.
Using the Rejuvenate Ability- this replaces the Enhanced Excalibur effect
I've only had a couple of hours to spend in the Beta so far, and for that, I stuck to melee.  To begin with, at any major population center, lag is so bad as to be nearly dead in the water.  Particularly Lumbridge, where all the agents are passing out free armour and weapons.  Yeah, it's a lot of fun grabbing full sets of all the stuff I can't afford.  After a bit, though, I chose to stick with gear I already have, or can afford to buy.  Messing with better gear than I can buy just sets me up for disappointment when the Combat Beta is over and I lose it all.  

Wound up picking up off-hand variants of some weapons, and leaving it at that.  Hopefully as time passes, the lag won't be so bad, and I can go back to try magic and ranging equipment.  Maybe during the upcoming weekend.  Having made that decision, I went to the bank in Yanille to gear up.  Not crowded there at all.  Tried a few combinations, settled on a Vine Whip and off-hand scimitar, just because it looked cool.

Next up, played with the action bar a bit.  Didn't really understand it at first.  Went out and fought some low-level monsters, just to see how it was.  Right off the bat, I noticed basic combat can be pretty much the same if that's what you want.  If you want to do the old eat/fight/pray, so far they've left that intact.  The Ancient Curses icons have been updated, and new prayers added that create a separate version of Turmoil for rangers and mages.  But as far as I can tell, the curses haven't changed function.

Magic is greatly different.  The access menu changed drastically. Didn't impact me much while doing melee, but it'll be interesting to see what happens in mage combat.  The entire Magic Book menu has been changed into an all-encompassing "Ability Book".  I suppose it's going to be all about the Action Bar.

After fighting low-level stuff, the action menu makes more sense.  It's easy to set, and easy to adjust.  Even on the fly, unless you lock the icons to their places.  For a first run, I put food on the first square, Rejuvenate (healing over time- kind of like Enhanced Excalibur) and Quick Prayers.  I like that my Quick Prayers can be activated from the action bar.  It would be nice if we could sort the Ability menu by basic, threshold, and ultimate.  As it is, they're sorted by skill level required, and it's hard to pick and choose when you can't compare apples to apples.

Prayer flashing should still be possible.  With dual weapons wielding, and a multi-combat field day going on, I couldn't manage it.  Just too many distractions.  But if you're using a weapon and a shield, it should work as usual.  Most people are better at combat than me, so it might not be such a big deal to the majority of players.
My first action bar setup!
After that, I dropped in some basic, threshold, and ultimate abilities.  Left 2 blocks empty, thinking it would help separate the functions easier.  After thinking about it, that was dumb.  Later, I added more basic abilities to help me charge adrenaline faster. 

My final two squares went to the Home teleport, and the House Teletab.  I'm sure I'll modify this over and over as time passes.  Whole new combat techniques and improved guides will proliferate all over the web.  It's going to be a lot of fun pre-setting specialized ability bars for specific situations.  The immense amount of variety is literally mind-boggling.  The action bar has 5 alternates, so you can preset your favorites and keep them.  One concern I had was the speed of change between preset action bars.  Scrolling from 1 through 5 had a pause between click and  event.  If you're trying to change combat styles on the fly in a boss fight, this could get you killed.  I saw on the forums where people were suggesting the action bars be stored locally on the individual computers.  This sounds like a good idea, as changing action bars could be much quicker.

With the advent of dual-wielding, another issue is going to be bank space. If you want, for instance, to use a whip with both hands, you'll need 2 bank spaces rather than one.  Weapons are specialized per hand.  You get a main-hand weapon, and an off-hand weapon.  Not absolutely sure why this is, but have read that off-hand weapons are weaker than their main-hand versions.  In short, I'm hoping we'll get more bank space to accomodate the extra weapons.

There will be no more special attacks based on a specific weapon.  Instead, you have 'abilities' that can be used based on your skills and type of gear setup.  I would NOT buy any new weapons or equipment based on speculation, unless you're making an educated guess.  Things like Godswords and Dragon Claws have lost their specials, potentially ruining their usefulness. 
Enhanced Excalibur is now an off-hand weapon.  It's special (healing) has become an ultimate ability (Rejuvenate) under Defense.  Exalibur itself has been upgraded to be the equal of a standard whip.  I don't mind this change on a functionality basis, but I worked hard for the Enhanced Excalibur, and like many before me, feel a little 'robbed' of my favored status...  :^)
I'll get over it.  As long as the function is still accessible one way or another so that I can use it, I'm happy enough.
With my newly customized action bar, I decided to pay a visit to the Abyssal Demons in the pseudo-rift.  Haven't been there in ages.  Hoping nobody else was crowding the place.  Turned out empty of other players, so it was a great place to try out different things.  I hadn't really thought out that multi-combat thing though.  Now that EVERYTHING is multi-combat, it's a completely different experience.  After a few minutes, they lost their hostility, and I could just attack what I wanted.  But it's a pain to have every creature in sight be hostile, and they all get to attack simultanously! 
Multi-combat everywhere???  Not too happy with this at first glance.  Jagex mentioned (I think in an Og-Blog) they will be making more monsters and faster respawns to compensate.  I'm just not sure that's an equal compensation.  I like having fighting single monsters, and being guaranteed nobody will take the kill from me.  Seems like this will allow 'Runescape Bullies' to ruin the fun for other players.  Here's hoping Jagex has thought this through and taken preventative measures.  If I had to pick one thing about the Evolution of Combat that I do NOT like, it would be multi-combat.  I suppose over time we'll all develope new techniques and ways of dealing with it.

New graphics and animations abound -- much of the gear has been updated visually, new pieces added to complete old sets (like Bandos), the new fighting animations are amazing.  Even the fighting stance vs the 'just hanging around' stance are different, with the character sheathing weapons while standing at rest or walking.  Player avatars have much more detail and shading. Very impressive improvements.

The 'hit-splats' are too much, though.  They obscure the cool new graphics.  I'm hoping they'll move them to the side, or make them semi-transparent.  It's not bad enough to ruin the game, but I definitely would like to see the combat graphics without the obstructions.

 My combat skill is now 200!  Sounds pretty awesome until you look at the new formula.  It's 2 + Defense level, + your highest level from among Attack, Strength, Magic, or Ranged.  Using this formula, it'll be far easier to be high-level now.  As I understand it, this is the main complaint of Pure accounts, because a pure works by hiding his true combat capability.  Additionally, use of defense plus the highest combat stat could destroy an existing pure.  That carefully crafted low level will show a truer damage potential under the new system.  It won't surprise me if Jagex loses a few customers over this issue.  Personally, I don't like pvp, so it's fine with me.  But I can deeply empathize with the loss of all those careful hours building the perfect pure.  

Pures aside, I suspect the new gear stats/requirements are going to make and break some banks in Runescape.  In the new fallout, it's anybody's guess what equipment will be worth having, and what's going to collect dust in the GE.

This has been a pretty random review.  Mainly because the Evolution of Combat updated is such a huge complex beast.  Since my perceptions are jumbled and random, my thoughts are coming out the same.  Tried to organize it a bit, but if I'm skipping all over the place, that's why.  If you don't have access to the Beta, and you want to get an idea of what you can do with the Action Bar, check out Wiki's Action Bar guide.  They have a complete list of all the Abilities you can use, and the requirements to use them.

One thing I do know...  I had a LOT of fun with the new combat options and graphics.  There's so many ways to fight, so many ways to accelerate adrenaline, so many great uses for the adrenaline.  It's pretty cool to watch it build up until you can use that Ultimate ability!  The level of customization is intense.  Intimidating.  Complete freedom to play any way you want.  I've only barely scratched the surface.  Can't wait to see what we all do with it now!

(Next time I'll try to do better with the pics!)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Runescape: Get Your Flaming Skull (While They Last!)

My last post, I was trying to decide what to work on (again), and had chosen Thieving.  At the time, the Pyramid Plunder mini-game was keeping me occupied.  Since then, I've picked pockets from knights, guardsmen, robbed from the mummies, and stolen seeds from the Master Farmer.  It's nice to have so much variety.  
Before logging in, it's always good to check the Runescape site for updates.  This time, the headline read "Get Your Flaming Skull!"  Okay.  I'm thinking Ghost Rider, or maybe Dormamu from Dr. Strange.  Clicked to see what was up.  Turns out it's a purely cosmetic item to wear in the headgear slot, and yes, it looks kind of like Ghost Rider.  Pretty cool, actually.  But the Flaming Skull is only given when you redeem a 90 or 100 day gift card between 22 June and 15 July, 2012.

I'm not fond of those kind of deals, but usually the hook isn't something I want.  This, on the other hand, sounded way cool.  Didn't just want it, I needed it.  Looked to see where the cards are available.  Ordinarily Monique and I just pay online.  Since we've been members for about 8 years now, our monthly dues are about $5.00 each.  Not too bad for all the time we play.

There were three places that might work.  Gamestop, Wal-Mart, and Target.  All are local.  Today Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer came out, and after the showing at 4:30, it was time to hunt cards.  Theater and Gamestop are both in the mall, so a quick visit there was up first.  They had 30-day cards, but I didn't think 3 of those would count the same as a 90-day gift card.

Next stop was Wal-Mart.  Had to do a bit of digging around, but common sense and luck led me to them.  Weren't many on the peg, maybe 3 plus one that was all dinged up.  That's okay... All I needed were 2!  Together, they came to $45.  But that's okay, it was money we would have spent anyway, since we always keep our memberships up to date.

Got home, redeemed our gift cards, logged in...  and found a Flaming Skull in the bank. 
Flaming Skull and Standing in a Fire... Looks like a spirit of vengeance!
Like I said, I usually don't like these deals.  It's not always convenient nor available to find a gift card.  Normally, the incentive is something purely cosmetic and has no appeal for me.  But this time, it was just calling to me.  I knew if I didn't make the effort, I would always look back and wish I'd gotten a Flaming Skull.

Yes, it's useless.  I didn't have to accomplish anything in-game to earn it.  Though I did have to go on a real-world quest to obtain mine!!  But doggone, it just looks cool.  You can change the color any time to blue, green, or purple, and back to red.  When you move, you leave colored flame trails.  And it makes you look like Ghost Rider... maybe next time around Jagex will offer a flaming motorcycle.  :^)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Runescape: It's Time for some Pyramid Plunder!

I've been bouncing around Runescape recently. Mostly trying to make a bit of gold. I like the Grotworms best at the moment; they're not the most profitable, but they're new and fun. Unfortunately, many many other people think the same thing. It's a bit crowded down there right now. Not in the mood for Frost Dragons, bored with Rum-Pumped Crabs...

 Flipping used to be a good way to make some fast cash, but I noticed recently that Jagex has reinstated the 4-hour delay. So now I can only flip the same category of items once within 4 hours. Guess I need to move up the chain to more expensive trades, but not sure about taking that risk just yet.

In addition, all my combat skills are maxed, so I'm kind of not accomplishing anything fighting. It's just fun.

With all that in mind, it seemed like a good time to re-evaluate my current goals. Maybe find a skill that makes money in the process of training. Mining could work. It's mildly profitable, and has been fairly high on my 'want a 99' list. I like to do Agility, too, but there's no money in that. Still, Agility is one of my favorite 'easy time-killers' when I'm on the phone with someone. Same thing for Dungeoneering. It's a lot of fun, but not immediately profitable. I should work on it for the rewards, but that's not top-listed yet.

It would be great to finally beat the Queen Black Dragon- but she's the reason my cash is low in the first place. Need to make more to continue trying. (I hope I'm better with the new combat system, because I'm pretty awful with this one!)

Farming is one of my ... sorry... is my most hated skill. It will probably be the last 99 I ever get. It was Monique's first 99, and she got a lot of respect for her untrimmed Farming Cape, back in the day. Now, of course, farming is far easier than when she 99'd. So maybe I wouldn't hate it so much now. But I doubt it.

Thieving occurs to me as an interesting, and potentially profitable, skill. Me and the Master Farmer go way back, and sometimes just for fun, I still visit him. You know the one... on the farm just north of Ardougne. He's a great one-click place to train thieving, and sometimes drops good seeds. Only, recently he's been kind of chintzy.

By this point, Thieving has my interest, but maybe not the Farmer any more. In looking around, I found the Pyramid Plunder minigame. Can't remember if I've ever tried it before. It seems kind of familiar, but that might have been from a quest. Looking it up on Wiki, it seems pretty easy. I'm trying to save up for a Chaotic Rapier, but instead took the plunge and used Dungeoneering points to buy the Anti-Poison Totem. If I'm going to spend a lot of time here, that just seems like a worthwhile expense. It pretty much makes me immune to poison, though it goes in the shield slot. Fair trade-off.

Following advice from Wiki, geared up with the Ardougne cape, a Wealth Ring, and weight-reducing armor. Bought a scepter for easy teleports, and a few jewelled gold statuettes to make recharging the scepter easier. Teleport twice with the Pharaoh's sceptre, on the third trip bring a jewelled gold statuette for a recharge.  Bring a Tokkul-Zo ring for bank access.  Enhanced Excalibur for healing, and a bit of food in case of emergency.

My Thieving is currently 84; not bad, not spectacular. It means I can access all the rooms in Pyramid Plunder except for the next-to-last one. Most guides I found recommend looting half the urns and the chest in your next-to-highest room, and all the urns plus the chest in your highest room. I'm still finding my comfort zone, but that's working out pretty well. Not sure how profitable it's going to be. For now, I'm just banking everything. But the experience rate has been nice. Faster than the Master Farmer, anyway.

So far, this is working out. Having fun, training a skill, and making a profit. It's been a pleasant change of pace!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Runescape: 2012 Cryptic Clue Fest, Queens Diamond Jubilee, and a really cool cutscene!

Look Ma... it's Me- way, way, way down at the end!
This year's (2012) Cryptic Clue Fest was very different from the usual.  Not because of the rewards.  As usual, they were cosmetic only.  Though I really liked the emotes they came with.  Tickled my funny bone.
Monique and I hamming it up
No, what made this so different was it was incorporated into the Varrock Diamond Jubilee Celebration.  Timed in honor of the real-world Diamond Celebration for Queen Elizabeth II, Jagex really went all-out for the event.  In addition to the Cryptic Clue Fest, Minnie Coop was handing out pet Corgi dogs to those who helped her find all the missing ones.

Finding the Corgis was kind of fun, and they make a cute pet to roam around with.  Certainly not going to replace Baby Jad any time soon, but I still like them.

The festive atmosphere in Varrock Square was nice, and very well done.  Though I noticed a bit of lag whenever I zoomed down for a ground-level view.  Lots of details and NPCs, plus all the usual players milling around.  There was a lot to explore.

To be honest though, it wasn't the Cryptic Clue Fest that caught my interest.  Nor the Corgi dogs, as cute as they were.  Nor the decorations, though that's leading into it.  What totally blew me away was the cutscene.  After completing the required steps, we were treated to a really cool Runescape video.  The procession, all the royal pomp and circumstance.

...  and ME...  standing at attention in the welcoming line-up of Runescape's 7 Signature Heroes.  Did you see it?  See yourself, as one of the 7?  Way down at the far end, but there it is.

If you haven't run into the label yet, Runescape's Seven Signature Heroes are the NPC's that you interactively share certain quests with (plus yourself as the seventh).  Most recently, the "Song from the Depths" quest, where we (sort of) worked with Raptor.  You'll see him at the extreme left of the lineup.

There's the 6 NPC heroes standing on the left, and on the right, an impressive looking Dwarf (Who IS he?  I can't place him off the top of my head... is he Veldakan?)  and then ME!!

Or... YOU!  So there I/You are, standing in a line of heroes, at the foot of the castle stairs.  Position of honor.  It's not a clear and focused view, because honestly, it's not about us, it's about the queen!   :^)

And lucky me, I just happened to be all spiffed up in my formal Armadyl gear (I was getting ready to let the Queen Black Dragon kill me again).  So for all posterity, there I am, looking just as cool as all the other heroes in line.

 For my own personal benefit, I recorded the video, uploaded it to Youtube, and present it here as well.  If you haven't checked it out yet, I wouldn't wait too long.  No telling how much longer Runescape will continue to offer the video.  By the way, if you've already watched the cutscene, but missed yourself being in it, you can replay it if you go back to Big Ben and talk with him a bit.

Just silly fun, I know.  But that was a truly cool touch, Jagex.  I tip my helm to you.  Great job!!
Even the dragons liked it!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Runescape: Evolution of Combat- Good or Bad?

By now, most of us are aware of the "Evolution of Combat" forthcoming update announced by Jagex.  Touted as one of the most awesome and all-encompassing updates ever... and this is both elating and frightening when you think back to some of the massive changes Runescape has gone through in the past! 
On June 1st, Beta signup rolled out.  I tried to follow the link first thing that morning, and couldn't even load the webpage.  I'm sure the Runescape servers were overloaded!  Anybody with a paid membership going back continuously from now for at least a year received an invitation.  In your inventory if you had room, in the bank if not... and if your bank was full too, it was given to you as soon as a slot became available.

If you're not in the initial invitation roster, don't panic.  50,000 additional players will be invited based on activity and play style.  You may be invited as one of the 50k.  Even if not, the Beta world (worlds?) will be open to everybody during the weekends.

After all the hype, I'm very excited to see the future of fighting in Runescape... and worried.  While there's a lot to be desired, I'm used to it.  Been pretty much the same for the 8 years Monique and I have played.  I'm already combat challenged enough.  Learning Jad took me 2 months.  Still haven't beaten the Fight Kiln.  Been trying to beat the Queen Black Dragon that came out this week, and she's kicking me from one end of the cavern to the other.  But I still like the game.

Will this mean the end of AFK training?  Will it be the end of 'grinding' for those combat levels?  Will combat be fun, or frustrating?  From the behind the scenes, it sounds like this could be the end of 'pures'.  I've never pk'd, so never experimented with creating a pure.  But a lot of work, time and effort goes into the making of a pure.  I get the feeling many people will quit over that alone.

I may not be a pure, but I'm still worried.  Runescape has been my game for a long time.  There are years of play invested in my character.  Combat-challenged or not, all his combat skills are maxed.  How is this going to affect actual game-play?  The in-game graphics look cool, yes.  But will it change the game so much that it won't be fun any more?  Jagex says a lot of reassuring things to keep players from panic.  They always make the claim of necessity when major changes happen.  Okay, let's say I believe them.  They DO want to stay in business, so any huge changes must be carefully weighed out. 

There will always be ragers.  I'm not worried about the small percent who react without using their brains.  No big loss there, even if they do quit.  What bothers me is the quantitative feel of the game.  I'm all about fun.  If Runescape stops being fun, I'm not going to rant, rail, and demand a return to the old days.  But I will quietly roll up my gear, pack up my weapons, and search for a game that meets my needs.

I've been faithful to Jagex for years.  Through updates I've loved, hated, or just didn't care either way.  This will probably go the same way.  Whether I love it or hate it, it seems likely Runescape will still 'feel' like Runescape.  At least, enough to keep me playing. 

I guess on June 26th, the Beta test will begin, and we'll finally get some real answers.  Until then, we don't have much to go on.  Jagex released an update video the shows a lot of the combat graphics being tested on a 'dummy npc' with immense hit points.  I have to admit, it looks very cool.  All this worry could be going for nothing.  Won't know for nearly a month, though.  For now, the only real clue available is their video.  Assuming many people still haven't seen it, or don't read Runescape's updates, here it is.  At the top of the page.  Skip past the Fish Flingers update, and you'll get a glimpse of our future.  For better or worse, this it it. 

Have any inside info?  Thoughts on the update?  Share them with me... I'd love to exchange speculation and ideas.  Here's hoping for the best!