Monday, February 2, 2009

Gave Wizard 101 a bash

First up, I was very impressed with the amazingly small client (I'm a software engineer, so these things impress me). The game downloads itself as you play, which means you only need to download the first 100mb or so and then you can start playing away.

When the game started up, I had to chuckle at the Banjo Kazooie style kiddish graphics. Nothing brings a smile to the face better than the feeling of being a big kid.

I created an apprentice necromancer and set out on a quest to save Unicorn way.

The game designers behind Wizard 101 have done an excellent job. The game is pure genius...

however...

it's not for me, and I'll explain why in a few seconds.

I should point out that I highly recommend this game to every adult out there with an appreciation for good game design. The are so many things done right, that it's really not funny. From the pricing model to the anti-grind design, to the real-time turn-based combat, to the character and item customization... it goes on and on...

Now for what I didn't like:

How many times can you watch the same combat card animation over and over before you go insane? I felt like I needed to unlock or buy new cards just so I didn't have to watch the same damn Fire Cat leap out and vomit up a mouthful of flames on my opponent. It might sound a little nitty picky, and I'm sure kids would love it, but it was starting to feel like an itch I couldn't scratch. For those who haven't played Wizard 101, combat occurs via the use of cards (kinda like Magic the Gathering). When you use a card, an animation occurs and the monster in the card comes to life and jumps into the combat circle (you fight in circles). It then does some funky attack animation on your opponent and disappears. The whole sequence is over in around 10 seconds. Now times that whole sequence by the number of cards in your deck and then by 50 and you've just reached level 7.

I went through the options menu, looking for some way to turn the off combat animations, but then I remembered... it's an MMO. The animations are viewed by everyone, not just yourself. I felt like I had found the one crucial design flaw to the game that had so few...

Like I said, not for me. Brilliant game though.

11 comments:

Tesh said...

The combat animations are indeed one sticking point. They were slower in beta, if I remember correctly. At least they weren't Final Fantasy 8 Summons.

Then again, maybe they just seemed faster to me when I came back to the game after a bout with Guild Wars. I wound up focusing on the card combat strategy, so the animations didn't bother me any more than whacking a GW mob five or six times with my Sword of Smiting before it keels over.

I do think that several of the animations go overlong, and should have been thought out a bit more early on, but really, it could be a lot worse, and there is a hefty dose of repetition in pretty much any modern MMO.

...that said, I'd be very happy with a "short animation" option.

Syp said...

I deeply concur -- the animations and the constant swiveling, swooping camera make combat kind of unbearable to watch. I've gotten to the point, when I'm playing alongside my wife, that I make my card decision and then read a book while the animations play out.

Ysharros said...

Oddly enough, the camera movement in W101 didn't bother me one bit, and I'm usually quick to be motion sick. I think it's because it has almost no elasticity, and that's what really makes me want to hurl (e.g. Oblivion before the anti-elastic mod).

And yes... I tried very hard to not mind the endlessly repeated animations, but it was starting to get to me. Nicely spotted.

Crimson Starfire said...

It's funny, I can't see myself having a problem with this game if I was 10 years old. Kids have no issues with repetitive animations or motion sickness in games. Since children are their target audience, I don't think this issue is of major concern for KingsIsle Entertainment. It's a shame, because I was enjoying everything about the game up until that point.

@Syp
I wasn't sure if you were still blogging mate? By linking this post you have revealed you new location.. ha ha ha (evil laugh). Good to see you again ;)

@Ysh
What do you mean by elasticity?

Melf_Himself said...

I tried it with Crimson and this was the same problem I had. I really wanted to get into the strategy of the card game, but the length of time I had to wait to watch a basic manoeuvre pull off on a trash mob left me grinding my teeth a bit too much. Coupled with the frequent load screens (every time you move in or outside, grrr), it was too high on my frustration meter.

Still, I'll continue to read with interest the accounts of the experiences of Saylah and others, since there are many good features about the game.

Ixobelle said...

children actually thrive on repetition. When they know what's going to happen before it happens, that triggers something in thier brain that make sit a good thing.

As adults, we want to skip the animations, or have them be less than 10 frames in length... THEN AGAIN, having chunli connect on every frame of a 21 hit combo in SF4 NEVER gets old ;) that's technically the same situation, i perform the joystick command, and the game takes over until the last frame is played, but there's something more visceral to knowing that I timed it correctly than just "draw the card, select the opponent, wait", i guess.

I tried W101 last night too, and while being IMMEDIATELY PISSED that i couldn't name my avatar ixobelle, I got over it and hit about level 3 before i had to afk and put the kid in the tub.

I actually love yugioh, and played the hell out of it with my roommates in oakland. We rented some xbox game, and got home to find yugioh was in the box instead. after fumbling around with it, and learning the rules, we decided to fuck this, and let's go get a real deck of cards. we were the 30 year olds in the card shop that would drop 40 bucks and just buy a whole box of booster packs, to the shock and amazement of all the 10 year olds hanging around and dueling each other.

yugioh is actually a fairly intricate game, when you dig deeper into it, but W101 doesn't really deliver on that premise at all, sadly.

Danshir said...

I too tried W101, though a few weeks prior due to the urgings of Tipa. It truly does play a lot like Magic:The Gathering (Which I've strangely had the urge to play some, the old Microprose version at least).

The lack of being able to make your own name was frustrating, as are the animation issues, however for me the biggest issue was the censorship of speech.

The word Ferret is censored for example. As are a large list of non-offensive words. While I can understand why heavier use of censorship for this type of game (for the kiddies), it still made me feel frustrated when I simply tried to use words that were NOT offensive in any way.

Other than that, a great game that is under appreciated by the masses.

Cap'n John's Blog said...

If you really play W101 you'll notice many spells actually have a couple of slightly different animations.

My son frequently uses the Cyclops spell on his Myth Wizard, and the animation we love to see is when the Cyclops roars at his target before smiting it, because a Roar-Attack signifies a critical hit. The Troll spell also has a couple of animations, with its Crit being illustrated by a spin attack into its target.

I'll admit W101 doesn't get too deep, unlike MTG or YuGiOh, but it's still fun stacking buffs & debuffs to turn what would ordinarily be a 500pt spell into a 2K+ attack :)

DeliaFangz said...

Hello,I am very much an RPG "nerd" but a novice when it comes to use of interfaces. I am trying to make screenshots for a contest but I have no control over the controls so to speak. Sometimes I am able to get camera to "lock down" on my mouse so I can freely get all kinds of angles but it is hit or miss .I can find no info in their forums(Wizard 101 that is) on how to control the camera. I can look straight up always but never down.
Any tips anyone could offer me would be greatly appreciated.I am a longtime "rpgophile" especially MMORPGs.But I am an "old dog" trying to learn new tricks.
thanks

Anonymous said...

I understand the concern with the animations and the repetition, but it's never been a problem for me. I actually like like watching them even though I've already seen them a thousand times (I'm level 22,I've been through all these cards multiple times) And it's always awesome to get a new card and see that animation sequence for the first time.

I agree with Ysharros; games tend to make me motion sick sometimes, but this one doesn't oddly enough.

Crimson Starfire said...

Yeah I think I watched too many cartoons as a kid (or not enough).