Shadowbane Update

I’m a wandering gamer, for those that don’t know (random linkers maybe, I should do a raw logs check to see if I get any interesting links a la Grimwell). I’ll probably never go back to AC1 ever again (not unless they give the graphics engine a complete overhaul with a future expansion, oh yeah, and improve gameplay a wee bit), primarily because of the reliance on Decal and it’s various plug-ins just to be even marginally competitive. DAoC – I enjoyed it, but again, the lack of purpose to the game (RvR has no real, viable implications) leaves me cold. I’ve heard from guildmates that the Shrouded Isles expansion made a ton of changes to the game, but the end premise – Realm v. Realm combat – is still the same old thing. AC2 – I had such high hopes for this. My beloved Dereth, alive again after a major catastrophe, with an all new graphics engine and a newer Dereth to explore! Oh joy? After seeing “teh pretty” it showed about as much depth as a sheet of paper, with even less purpose. Once again, no real PvP with consequences to speak of. Holding towns was useless and they served as little more than landscape markers on the path to elsewhere. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.

So that brought me to Shadowbane again, and what I saw in beta gave me hope enough to purchase two accounts from the beginning. Now, it’s 3 months later, and what does Shadowbane do for me now? Well, I’m still playing it, for one thing. I doubt I’ll ever play a MMOG for as long as I played AC1 (three years), but I do try to stick to a game once I’ve committed to it. Not just because I seem to keep getting appointed a game leader for my guild, but because I feel a sense of loyalty to the game I’m in at the time. That is the primary reason why I’m not playing Planetside or Star Wars:Galaxies right now. The former because paying monthly to play what I’ve heard is Tribes2 is silly, and the latter because I just got through / am still going through the stellar (/sarcasm) launch for SB; I have no desire to repeat that with SWG as well.

To say the SB launch was an unmitigated disaster wouldn’t exactly be fair. It was nearly as bad as WWIIOL was, nor as bad as AO’s launch. But it had major problems from the beginning, including the fact that the retail gameplay seemed to be worse than the end of beta gameplay was. Servers crashed on a regular basis, the login server was cranky and temperamental and managing to accomplish anything ingame was pure luck. Still, I (and my guild) persevered and stuck it out. We went on with our plans of building an open city and became the largest city on the server.

We fought against the odds and against the most organized of the beta guilds – the R30s nation with included longtime PK guilds like SiN, CC, DDH and others. And in mid-May, the leadership of R30s (BoneDancer of SiN and Angus the Grim of CC) quit because the game was “boring” and they had “won” it all. This occurred just as all the other nations were becoming strong and catching up with the R30s in levels, numbers and basic game knowledge, and immediately after they had been handed their first major defeat. The bad guys were swollen with their accomplishments of taking down our home city of Baishi (using siege equipment that the other guilds hadn’t gotten access to in time) and taking out Money Tree, our open city that fell with the aid of other “unusual” goings-on (namely the fleeing of all the freeholders bound to the tree and the mysterious manifestation of R4 mobs on top of our defending siege equipment).

Yet, there remained a cloud over the R30s collective heads, especially after one former sub-guild (one that had quit shortly before) and the R30s premier architect and one of the nation ICs were all banned from the game for blatant cheating. Trying to get away from the taint, R30s disbanded and their remaining guilds reformed into two separate nations. Our nation (LAPD) eventually reformed into Reborn and our battles continued between the 5 major nations – Reborn, Tombstone, 187, Dark Horizons and SkyFang clan. Numerous little trees have popped up all over the place, but most are simply empty towns or fronts for the nations.

The severe technical issues that have plagued the game haven’t entirely disappeared yet (lag can still be a serious factor in large scale battles), but things are slowly getting better. Sieges aren’t rife with near constant sb.exe errors any more, and the login server issues seem to have smoothed out. Battles, either at sieges and banes, are more often decided by skill and numbers and less by which side had the fewest members lost to crashes and lockups. Bugs and technical screwups aren’t affecting the game to the same degree that they did at launch.

The only down side to the improvement in gameplay is that it’s too close to “too little, too late” for many. So many players (and entire guilds) have left the game now, either to go one to the “next big thing” or to return to an older, more stable game that numbers on many of the servers is less that half of what it was back in April. At it’s peak, Scorn server had around 1200 players regularly. Now we are doing good to have 600 max logged in on the weekends. Some of the other severs are better, but I don’t think any are worse yet. It’s sad, because things have been improving, it’s just that the fixes have been so long in coming that many didn’t wait, and getting new players to come into an established PvP-centric game is rough.

Hopefully things continue to improve, because the fun of owning and managing a city, controlling resources, and player accountability are what many dedicated PvPers are looking for. Yeah, I’ve heard that SWG is going to offer something similar with player owned cities, but the chances of dewdism and mega RP-geek police types would turn me off, at least for a while. Either way, I’m having fun in SB (much more than I though I would during the “bad” times at the start) and I have good friends in the guild to play with. In the long run, that is all that matters. 

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