Some thoughts on a beta I can’t mention

Champions Online

Oops, I did mention it though I only do so because I waited until after the NDA dropped to publish this.

Some notes:
This is not a review or even a preview.
It is simply practically a stream of consciousness list of my thoughts as I took a look at the game.
The list is long and covers a few play sessions.

One of the reasons I created this blog was for me to keep a record of my thoughts on games I played. Particularly my first impressions so I need to make sure and record my thoughts as quickly as I can after my initial experiences of a game, or else they will start to fade.

Note on beta thoughts

I have played lots of games that were in development, and alpha, betas, and preview stages, I know how much things can change from build to build. I get that. I have first hand seen a programmer make a few changes and have a games FPS jump way up. I have seen options added, art tweaked, sound levels adjusted, on and on.

So please don’t tell me “Its beta, live with it.”   I know its a beta, but these are my impressions of the game at this time. When the game is release I will post again and I will applaud them on changes.

Impressions and Thoughts

These impression come out of the time I spent creating a character and playing through the “starting zone” a single time.

  • Lots of character creation options. So many ways to customize, and not just in looks but in function.
    • Along with that though, there seems to be a level of additional complexity that is right up in your face.
  • I did not see a save character in progress/template options this is bad. I want to explain more, but… Just know that character creation is something people will want to spend time on, and they should allow you to save and come back.
  • The initial pose in the creator is Terrible. Seriously. Fix it.
  • The music fits the setting and action.
  • The initial fly in and voice over was reminiscent of wow sort of sad there is only one.
    • I think they could have really shown some polish if they had slightly different VO depending on some character creation choices.
    • Another idea, which would have required a LOT more content work would have been to make the last creation option a choice of tutorial, or have it based on a creation option. Yes,I am saying create multiple tutorials. Believe me I think its worth it.
  • I can invert the mouse! Yay.
  • Quest text is to LONG. No really. To Long.
    • There is a WAR going on. Explosions and combat everywhere and they want me to read a novel. It was not right.
  • Quest text is small, and I did not find an option to increase the font size.
  • I could not find an option to allow me to move UI elements around. I am fairly certain I know the reason for this, which I can’t mention now, but I will say I disagree.
  • The default hot keys for the actions/abilities worked well.
  • I felt strong right from the start.
  • Overall the starting zone was a good solo experience. There was one point that was sort of like a WAR public quest but I did not even notice that until it was almost over.
  • There area few NPC voice issues.
    • Example: One character starting giving a speech as he ran down a hall, as I followed the volume of the speech faded. When I quickly ran back to where we started, the volume increased. So the speech emitter is located at a location and not on the character.
  • The overall perf. is bad. Really bad. I am hoping this is a case of debug code and logging taking place, but as of now the perf is very distracting.
  • The colors on my character in game did not really match the ones I picked in the creator. Actually something about my character model did not look right in game.
  • Being able to on the fly pick/change the color of my, um, “abilities” is cool.
  • Along with changing color is how players can change the point on the character in which character abilities can originate.
  • Its not a secret that I like finding loot. While loot is not “as” important as some games there is loot to be found, and its fun to find.
  • That said the stats system was a bit obtuse. How stats effect the characters need to more obvious and explained; and not in a tiny quest box window.
  • There is some collision detection happening between player characters and other NPC, but
  • Like most tutorial areas it was fairly linear. Designers have to keep it this way or some new players can get “lost”. Though I feel designers should not let the tutorial-ness of starting zones pigeon hold them into not adding a bit extra for returning players.
    • I did find what I think was an optional (one not hand fed to the players in the main line) quest and it made me wish there were more.
  • I am not sure about the object interaction mechanic. From what I could tell you had to stand next to the object and press a hotkey. Some of the objects did not get “selected” the same way as others, and I sort of expected to be able to interact with objects / NPC via mouse clicks. *shrug* not a game breaker.

I forgot the beta time was limited which made me sad this morning. I had a raid in WoW last night so I expecting to play more of this beta today, and was sad when I found it closed. I had thought they were running their betas all weekend now, since they did recently, but I guess not. Oh well, I guess will play more next time, and not spend so much time in the character creation process.


I was able to play for a couple of more hours this last weekend and with that I have more thoughts.

  • The perf was a lot better. Still pushes my system, but it was smoother this time around.
  • There is a level of complexity in the game that can be a bit daunting. I like complexity if it is presented well, but there are some systems that I believe are not communicated well to the player , the two big ones were the “builds”, and crafting systems.
  • The general feeling from the tutorial and the first quest “hub” is one of “linear-ness”. I did get to a point where I believe I can now travel to other places, but I did not have time to explorer that option.
  • They have about a month left before launch, and there are still some of what I would call rough spots; bits of the game that could be polished up a bit.
  • Spawn camping is not fun. Don’t give me any of that “encouraging socialization” crap.
  • I did find out how to move my UI around, and that made me very happy. Thank you.
  • Respeccing powers in the game. Thank you!
  • Testing powers before committing to them. Oh yes!
  • Body, and costume redesign in the game. More thanks.
  • I like the cinematic cut scene moments, they really help ‘sell’ the story line.
  • I must have missed something with crafting. I could not figure out how to get my skill up without a lot of time. I had something I could make, but needed mats. I could get mats, but the nodes were few and slow to appear. I will have to investigate more next time I play.
  • I soloed the whole time. It was ok, but I can see where it would be a lot more fun with a group of friends.
  • Targeting still feels sloppy to me. I should only ever see one mob with a targeting reticule on them. When I click next target, I expect it to pick the next target near the one I have selected in my view, and I expect the targeting indicator to instantly swap.
  • PvP queuing system seemed to work well.
  • Though the PvP match I was in, did not do a very good job identifying who was on which team or the objectives of the match.
  • It was fun seeing a lot of different powers being used back and forth. And it would have been much nicer to be able to co-ordinate team actions. Need to investigate that more.

If I was pressed for a “buy or not buy” decision right now I would say “buy” with the condition that several other friends also buy and we agree to at least one group night a week.

I still think are being dumb about their lifetime and 6month subscription offers.  While I don’t think my opinion will have any influence over the decision, I am still going to say it.

Asking customers to spend that kind of money on a product they have not seen borders on Dishonest, and it is stupid.   No really, its dumb.

What would I do? I would provide all customer the lifetime option if they purchase it within 30 days of activating their account.  And maybe re-offer it again as part of a special promotion to people who initially passed on it. People should be allowed to make an informative decision, not a blind one; give them time to play it, and give them time to talk to people that have played it.

(Last update for this post)

I was able to squeeze in just a little more time before the beta ended, and had a couple of more thoughts.

First I spent zero time in a group. This was completely on purpose, since I wanted to actually read stuff , mess around with options and other such things that just hold groups up.  Though this means I have yet to test / experience some mechanics that I believe are going to be key in the games long term “fun-ness”.  My plan is to try and plan a time to join up with some friends in the open beta, that are of like mind so we can test some things together.

Targeting is better, and there are lots of targeting options. Yay.

Perf is better. Not great, but much better, open beta will be the real test.

There are still some issues with the controls, and they changed some defaults.

There were a few changes to the default controls. They were a bit odd but at least I can adjust them.

Compass on the map.. but mission waypoints not on the compass.  I really wish they had a selct a mission option, when selected you (and your teammates) get a waypoint to it.

My second character felt a whole lot squishier than my first. I am not sure if it was gear, stats, or abilities. It could also have been my play style, or monsters I was fighting, or maybe something else, for now I will simply cough it up to me needing to learn to play.

After the tutorial there there are two areas you can go to. You get to pick one, and once there you are stuck until you complete a quest line. After which you can travel opens up and you can go to the other zone (post its quest line) or a city.

While I only saw a bit of three zones (tutorial + parts of the next two), I liked the variety of the zones I did see. Based on that, and the descriptions of other game locations, I have hope that the variety keeps up throughout the game.

I also found the “fly-through” intros to the zones I visited were, while bad perf wise, an excellent why to intro the story overview of the area.

Overview and Future

I enjoyed what I have seen, and suspect that they will get the bugs, polish, and perf worked out.

The open beta starts in a few hours and I look forward to doing some actual grouping during it. I also hope I will get a chance to hook up with some of my regular gaming friends and see if the game clicks for us as a group.

I want to give the game at least one month of real play time, and I will be pre-ordering. Heck, if my income stream changes I might even play longer.

I will not be buying the lifetime sub.
The only game I have played long enough to have made such a purchase worth it has been World of Warcraft. And even with it I did not know that It was a game I would keep coming back to until after I had played it a few months.   Thus there is no way I am plopping down $200 more for a game before it launches.

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