Category Archives: Skills

WORD PLAY: ALBION ONLINE ALPHA FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Albion Online is innovative, challenging, diverse, and frustrating, all at once. In my time in the alpha, I never lacked for something to do, and I felt like I’d only scratched the surface of what the game offered. Being an alpha, it’s still a little rough around the edges, but it offers a ton of freedom that can be both its greatest strength and a notable weakness.

At the start, you’ll be instructed in the ways of combat and, most importantly, crafting. Gathering materials and making your own gear seems to be the heart of the game. Guiding your progress is the Destiny Board, a wide-ranging grid of achievements that gives you light direction in all phases of the game. You can set goals for yourself, like achieving a certain amount of fame or crafting a certain number of items, or just play however you like – you’ll get somewhere, no matter what you do.

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The game plays somewhat like an ARPG, though with less of an emphasis on loot acquisition via monsters and more via gathering. Your skills come from your armor or weapons and are pickable when you craft them, offering plenty of customization options. Want to be a fast-moving, heavy-damage-dealing berserker? Make a sword with Dash and passive attack bonuses. Want to play more defensively? Choose health regen and enemy debuff abilities.

Just don’t plan on swapping between your weapons, to use a bow at long range and a sword up close, without opening up your inventory. That seems like it should be simple enough, and would allow for even more variety in combat, but the devs have chosen not to implement it for some reason. Swapping between weapons and gathering tools is also a pain.

As you might expect from a company called Sanbox Interactive, Albion Online offers lots of ways to advance. Eventually, you can build your own house, with its own crafting facilities and other conveniences. Not surprisingly, this requires a lot of resources and will require you spend a lot of time clicking on trees and rocks, with occasional forays into enemy territory to acquire silver. The game also boasts some intense PvP action, which unfortunately was a little beyond my level in the time I was able to spend in game. Patience is key. The game won’t tell you when you’re ready for a new challenge, except obliquely by noting your achievements via the Destiny Board, so it’s up to you to determine when you’re ready to progress.

This was my downfall. I poked my head into a dungeon/cave, and while I did have a little help along the way, I bit off more than I, and my temporary partner, could chew. And in Albion, when you die, everything you were carrying (except your silver) stays right where you fell. Fortunately, we were near the entrance, so re-acquiring our loot wasn’t difficult – though only being able to grab things one at a time is another inconvenient annoyance that I hope gets fixed.

However, after I left the cave, I found that all the enemies I’d killed on my way there had respawned. I foolishly tried running past a couple, thinking there couldn’t possibly be more lurking nearby; the viewing angle doesn’t give you much for long-range scouting of your immediate area. Needless to say, that didn’t work out so well. My corpse, with all my loot, was left stranded in bandit-infested territory. One half-hearted corpse run later, I accepted my fate and returned to the city, naked and alone, forced to start over in my gear acquisition.

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I suppose there’s a type of player who will like this kind of hardcore, consequence-laden gameplay, but I’m not one of them. Corpse runs seem so 2006, and just aren’t appealing, I think, to the vast majority of online gamers today. There was already a penalty for dying – the loot I recovered after that first death had taken a fair amount of damage – so is there a reason to punish me even further? I was only a couple of hours into the game, with relatively weak equipment, but I can’t imagine having the same thing happen after I’ve spent weeks or months getting fantastic gear, only to have it vanish after one mistake. Even at my low level of accomplishment, it seemed like an onerous hurdle to get back into the game.

My feelings from my first taste of Albion Online are a little mixed. On the one hand, I like the freedom the game gives, but the presentation might be a little too minimal. Maybe a story or some kind of other exposition that explains to me why I should bother with cutting down trees and cultists would make me feel more like a part of the world than just a simple “Here’s some very basic instruction, now go do stuff.” I don’t want point-to-point handholding, but a better concept of where I should go and what I should do might be nice. If you’re an experienced player, you’re free to ignore it all, but for a beginner, it would be helpful to make sure you don’t wind up in over your head. Maybe an expanded version of the mini-Destiny Board objectives, along the lines of a traditional quest log, would help. As it is, all that information – and there’s a lot of it – is a bit of a jumble. It’s alpha, so these are things that could definitely come later.

Albion Online is an ambitious project, and Sandbox Interactive has plans to take it to pretty much every gaming-capable platform out there. It needs some refinement, and I’m still skittish about the loot loss on death, but it’s definitely worth keeping an eye out for.

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GDC 2016: Take a Look at The Tablet Version of Albion Online

Albion Online is in a closed beta right now. In GDC 2016, the developer offered a brief look at how the touch interface of Albion Online is going to work. No kidding, it’s exactly like how it works on a PC with a mouse. One major correction from this video though, Albion Online is going to be universal. The experience likely won’t be as great on the iPhone, but you will be able to play it on any device.

The followings are another three videos of what high-level Albion Online play looks like:

Open World PvP

Hellgates PvP

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Look at Albion Online the Destiny Board

Albion’s method of progression isn’t based on levels, but rather achievements. These are handled through a system that is called the “Destiny Board,” which shows how to move to higher tiers of gear and crafts, as well as the exact path that needs to be taken to achieve the things you want. This gives a very open feel to the game, while at the same time allowing a somewhat clear-cut path (despite being vastly different from one player to another). There is really no right or wrong way to go through it – simply find what you want to work towards first, and go do it.

Current Achievement Progress

Across the bottom of the screen is the current achievement progress. Look at the screenshot below for an example.

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This makes it quick and easy to see the progress you’ve made on three separate achievements, and you can disable their tracking if there’s one you just don’t want to do. Note that it tracks based on the latest one you have added progress towards. For example, killing a creature would put the Journeyman Fighter tracker on the top of my listing. And then mining an ore would bring the Journeyman Gatherer one back to the top again. This helps further organize things by letting you see what you are actively working towards, without necessarily having to keep organizing them on your own.

If you want to take the easiest method of doing the achievements, just work on whatever is in that list at the bottom of the screen. As one is completed, another will take its place, creating a revolving door of things to do. In all actuality, you never even have to take a look at the full Destiny Board unless you want to see what is coming next, what you have already achieved and what bonuses were unlocked (or are going to be soon).

The Destiny Board Screen

Once you get into the Destiny Board, you will see a very large area with a lot of interconnected spaces. Each of these is a different achievement, with its very own requirements and rewards. If you scroll all the way down to the bottom of this screen, you will see the yellow spots going northbound. This is where you started out when entering the game for the first time. It isn’t until you get to the very center of the board that you can start unlocking other achievements.

image2Really, this beginning area is simply the learning phase. So while it may seem like a lot of work to get to the unlocking area, it isn’t. After just a few minutes of playing, you will already have it all ready to go and open for exploring!

Viewing Unlocked Achievements

Viewing unlocked achievements is as easy as clicking one of them that is already colored in. This will show the name of it, that it’s completed, and will also give a listing of the rewards that were unlocked as part of it. For example, in the one below, the ability to both craft and use Novice items (gear and buildings) were unlocked. The downside to this system is that you can not view what it took to unlock each achievement. So once one has been completed, you can’t look back to see what you actually did to make it happen.

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Viewing Current Achievement Status

While the listing at the bottom of the screen in normal play will show progression through some achievements, they don’t tell what you are actually working for. This can be done in the Destiny Board, by clicking on one of the achievements that have already been started. As an example, the one below tells the name, that it’s in progress, that I’m about 15% of the way finished with it, and that completing it will unlock the ability to create and use Adept’s items (mounts, buildings and accessories). Considering this is the set of gear I am currently needing to make, this is what I need to work on before doing anything else so I can get it knocked out and move forward with the ability to make other gear sets.

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Conclusion

In most games, achievements are just a form of bragging rights. They allow players to show off what they have completed, and they give a sense of accomplishment. Along with this, they also keep drawing players in, since they give a pretty big challenge. With Albion, however, the achievement system is also the method of progression. Everything in it deals with things that are done through normal game play, and they represent both necessary actions and optional ones. They allow each player to choose their own path through the game, working as fast or as slow as they please. And due to the way they work, players that want to experience all the game has to offer have no choice but to do a lot of achievements and explore game areas they might otherwise never touch. This puts Albion is a very unique space, in that it opens the doors for choices, while at the same time forcing certain gaming styles on its players. And one thing is for certain: this is a completely different way of handling progression than other games use.

ALBION ONLINE’S ARTIFACT WEAPONS ARE COMING THIS SUMMER

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Coming this summer to an MMO near you will be mighty artifact weapons — and no, we’re not talking about Legion here. Albion Online is preparing to introduce these craftable weapons into the beta sometime this summer.

So what are artifact weapons? Sandbox Interactive explains: “These weapons will have unique abilities and can only be crafted from artifact pieces that drop in PvE. Stay tuned for more information on these items in the future.” The studio gave a sneak peek at two of these weapons, the Cursed Skull and the Black Monk Stave.

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In other Albion Online news, the team is finishing up work on another environment, the steppes. This week’s dev blog shows a few glimpses of this biome as well as an animated impala. Enjoy your peace now, majestic impala, for your season of slaughter is coming soon.

Albion Online Shakes Up Traditional Levels with Destiny Board

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Sandbox Interactive today unveils the new Destiny Board feature for their upcoming cross-platform Sandbox MMO, Albion Online. Eschewing traditional level ups, players instead earn small perks and bonuses over a period of time by performing actions based on what their character is learning. Players can learn more about the full Destiny Board and sign up for the upcoming closed beta test .

“The Destiny Board was designed to give players some direction in a world in which there are no levels,” said David Salz, Technical Director at Sandbox Interactive, “Though players are not relying on a traditional level-up system, they are still able to plan their own Destiny in the world of Albion, and become their own unique hero.”

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Via the Destiny Board, players themselves could decide how to focus the development of their character. Depending on which of the three paths players choose (Crafting, PvE, and PvP), there will be various unlockable bonuses to acquire, which will help players design and support their own play style. Missions on the Destiny Board will range from gathering a certain number of materials, taking or dealing damage, getting a certain number of kills, a certain level of fame, and other goals.

The Destiny Board is divided into three major areas:

The first consists of a number of missions and quests which will reward you with various vanity items as well as some small bonus stats. These missions are divided into 3 branches: PvP, PvE and Casual.

In the center of the Destiny Board can be found all of the items in the game. Here you can unlock both the skills to equip and wear these items as well as the ability to craft them.

In the lower part you’ll find everything relating to the buildings in Albion Online. Here you can unlock new and more powerful buildings to craft.

When objectives are completed, a reward in the form of an item or building recipe, or a permanent bonus to a character’s hit points, carry weight, armor rating, or damage when using a certain weapon is granted. This will ensure players rise swiftly up the ranks in a way which complements their individual play style. The Destiny Board is a way of providing direction to players while avoiding classification and restriction. Creating a mage with ranged weapons, or a tank with healing spells, any combination is possible in a classless system!

In addition to the full Destiny Board, which can be reached straight from the HUD, players are given a prompt for three or more current objectives at the bottom edge of the screen at login; with these reminders, you’ll be able to pick up from where you left off last time.

Albion Online is the first true cross-platform MMO, running on different devices including Windows, iOS and Android at the same time and in the same world! Albion Online will go into beta in early 2014.

Reducing the fame grind across the board

I mean if you and Vanity are farming in a yellow/red zone and your son comes to join you, is his account going to be considered “scouting”? If you are gathering and your son comes and picks up materials off you will that be considered a “direct advantage” and all accounts banned? There’s so many scenarios that can be taken any number of ways other than what it is it’s just not possible to create and justly enforce these kinds of scenarios.

That is why it’s critical for game design to be done that discourages the advantages of multi-accounting so long as they don’t, in process, harm normal, healthy game play habits as well. Reducing the fame grind across the board, reduce refinement times (which serve no purpose), and other similar changes will go a long Albion Online Power Leveling way in reducing the desire to multiaccount.

What happens when my family three man’s a dungeon? Are we banned? If you’re going to stay at a guildmates house for a week long visit, (dating gamers or friends) you can’t play or it’s a ban? Some of the proposed approaches being discussed are so out of touch it boarders on comical. It’s starting to feel like we are MMO gaming in 1996 again.

Some of the biggest financial contributors to the gaming market are families and couples, married or dating. These are professional adults that actually invest money into the gaming industry for multiple accounts. If you lose one you lose them both, or in this case all three. It’s just a terrible business model to cut out that source of revenue from a game that has such a small market share already. If you want to sell vanity items you want girls in the game and this pushes them out. I mean my wife’s character name IS Vanity lol. She has and will spend untold amount of money on how her characters look in a game.

The Long-term Repercussions Of Albion Online

Anytime an MMO announces a change or nerf, lots of people in the community wiBut then, think about the long-term repercussions of this change. Most of us probably have a pretty good inventory of resources from the previous bountiful laborer system. That will eventually dry up. Once it does, what will that do to resource prices? If they skyrocket, won’t that make people more likely to risk going to red/black zones to obtain resources to sell? If so, is this a good or bad thing for the economy overall?

With complex systems like MMOs, it’s always tough to predict the downstream effect of changes. Sometimes it’s better to just try things and see what happens.ll scream and cry that it’s the end of the world, even though that’s rarely the case. Sometimes it’s better to push proposed changes to Live and then track the actual results, rather than try to make adjustments based on community (over)reaction. This is especially true during beta, when there’s still plenty of time for things to change without too much pain/effort.

Personally, I’m glad they put this patch in without holding it back due to concerns. Not sure the level of telemetry and data they have available, but it’d be super interesting to see the amount of total fame being put into books now, versus before. As well as the number of folks harvesting in red/black zones, etc.

From my own (very anecdotal) perspective, it seems like hardly anyone is gathering in red zones now, as I’m finding full nodes and dire wolves choke full of skins. This makes be wonder if a lot of the traffic wasn’t caused by people filling books, people who are no longer bothering to go out and fill them.