Thoughts on the alpha test
I played for a decent chunk of time during the alpha and wanted to give my thoughts on things. I'll start by saying I know it's an alpha and not everything is implemented or in it's final state, so I'm not treating it as a final product. I've played in an alpha much earlier in development too (before there were towns I believe)
Overall I had a great time. The game is fun, it evokes a sense of adventure and I think it has a massive amount of potential that it's already capable of living up to.
The game became progressively choppier over the course of the weekend, like it was dropping frames, but it seemed to be server side. As a performance test I guess that's one of the things you wanted to see. It didn't seem to make a difference where in the world I was or how many people were around me, though I missed out on the REALLY crowded stuff because I'm in a very bad timezone for it.
The main gameplay issues for me were UI/UX
The map wasn't very clear or readable. I'd struggle to find where I was on it because the marker doesn't stand out very well. When things show up and don't show up on the map at different scales feels off for me, made the map feel not very informative at useful scales.
The hotbar and ability slots could do with a fair bit of improvement. There's a bunch of things like toggles and abilities you don't use much that you should be able to click to activate without having them on one of the hotkeys. This also applies for consumables on the bar. Also, you have to remove a consumable from the bar before you can replace it with an ability in the slot. If you try and just drag an ability into a slot currently occupied by a consumable, it won't go in.
Creature names are never displayed except in knowledge. Long term this could be a problem. If I forget what something is called and have full knowledge on it already, I will never be told again what it is. My suggestion is that names be displayed when you have your cursor over them, just as resources do. If you want to limit it to creatures you have knowledge of, that's fine too, if the no names thing is part of the mystery. But never showing the name isn't a good idea.
Some other gameplay aspects I noted:
The world design with areas surrounded by cliffs and funnelling people into a few bottlenecks to enter is mostly just frustrating. Roads are already faster. The blocking areas off behind cliffs just adds a lot of travel time to and from areas, particularly when you're just trying to leave. While there should be bottlenecks and areas with only a few entrances, currently there's too many set up like that. Particularly when walkable and non walkable terrain is not always that clear. While I support making travel epic and encouraging exploration, I think too many barriers to a combat hotspot just makes the experience frustrating. If you want to prevent players just rinding through, then perhaps some travel debuffs instead like "rough terrain" that makes it impassible for horses or slows them down significantly would do it. Or just add more ways in and out of the areas, or one way ways out so at least it's easier to leave. Players have lives outside of games and it should be made relatively easy to jump OUT again without causing yourself major setbacks.
The camera is too zoomed in. You can only see about 4 or 5 steps in front of you and that feels way too close.
Also rocky terrain looks a lot like small rocks, which makes it difficult to actually find small rocks in an area covered in rocks. Which is also odd because often there are NO small rocks in an area that is very rocky.
Which brings me to a broader point about regions - the currently feel very samey. As this is an alpha that's fine, but longer term, a lot more detail should be put into the effects and materials used to make each area feel like something different to every other area. Even areas like heartwood and the area with all the spiders and undead feel pretty much the same even though there are some palette changes and effects to make them feel different, the contrast isn't very strong and lacks atmosphere. As I said, since this is alpha that's fine for now and has no impact on my assessment of what I think the game will be like, but definitely needs refinement for release.
I also think if you're going to have a short test, you should probably give player characters a boost, or they're going to spend a solid chunk of it scrounging for resources instead of crowding around doing the things you want tested.
Sound - I found a lot of the sound effects, particularly of creature movement vague and unclear. I couldn't tell what direction something was coming from. Clearly different creatures have different movement sounds but I could tell what was what. Even my horse made sounds I wasn't sure were from a horse. So I think the sound design needs refinement to make it clearer what is happening. Particularly since you can hardly see anywhere, sound is an important cue.
I think that's all the feedback I have on the alpha test. The next block is just things I'd like to see in the game, based on playing it and not really alpha related.
The game has huge rp community potential, so there's some extra things I'd like to see to support that
Out of combat clothing: Give players options for some purely cosmetic clothing that they can display while not in combat to show off their character's identity. Could be all kinds of crafting recipes in there, which also creates another market for crafters.
Chairs you can sit on - another good thing for rp and housing
wilderness buildings - solitary building spots out in the wilderness that have specific functions and are not attached to towns and so don't receive all the benefits of towns. Potentially player owned, but possibly just player maintained, requiring resources of specific types to be donated to them to keep them running.
These would also make useful landmarks and meeting places for players teaming up on the fly.
Examples would include:
-Roadside Inns for resting on long journeys. A relatively safe spot to rest and get a meal - perhaps for a fee. Perhaps they need to be maintained and protected and so accept donations of resources and coin to keep them running.
-Hunting lodge. A building found off the main roads in areas where frequently hunted creatures are found. Provides campfire rest and basic facilities for repairing or ammunition. Perhaps holds records for epic hunts eg "golden stag" or the like.
-Witch's hut. Isolated little shack with a cauldron for a campfire rest and some cooking. Bring your own fuel for the fire and maybe leave a donation of herbs or reagents to use.
I think it would be really fun to have an entirely different set of skills for mounted combat that need to be learned to use, perhaps including skills or equipment to unlock it in the first place to turn mounts into more than just transport, perhaps battle mounts operate differently and when you are dismounted stay in the world and can be attacked, as the health system would probably have to work different for combat mounts to the travel mount system (which basically gives you a whole extra shield before you start taking damage)
I think being able to be a knight, a lancer or a horse archer could be a fun thing
Hot bar ballance is a hot topic that has been discussed at great length and heavily tied with the ballance between items that replicate skills but do not require the effort of hunting the mob for the skill, and spending knowledge points for the skill.
There is talk about there being more consumables as part of the 'alchemy' system that is not yet implimented which just increases the debate.
The devs have never weighed in on the discussion. As such it is unlikely to change.
A picture to go into the beast book would be nice.
The cliffs and terrain funneling are absolutely intended. The best guess is to make player ambushes possible which would also encourage traveling in groups. There are paths up and down the cliffs that are minor changes in texture and take time to get used to. The windy maze into the bone yard, ogre city, and bandit layer are also absolutely intended and will be kept. Plan on gearing up, gathering friends, having plenty of consumables and moving as group when going after big targets like dragon. I got lost three times trying to find the path to him two alphas ago but finally figuring it out was worth it.
Camera zoom is likely tied to wanting to keep ranged combat characters from having too much of an advantage. I and others have argued that the zoom means that any character is always just a step and hop away from melee which greatly gives advantage to melee players. The apparent response is that we should be moving in groups deliberately with melee in the front and ranged behind them. Rogue stealth ability helps a lot by the way.
There is a fair amount of diversity in the regions but can be hard to see until you go through each and discover the resource variety of each. Some small stones are common, others have no flax plants at all, some have purple mists, some verdant growth, some heavily restrictive hilly bits. It is there but hard to notice in this short test.
They have armor skins advertised already, same with furniture (dont know about functional tho).
There are lots of places where a player could set up an atmospheric hunting lodge or witch hut (with building skins) already in the game. The brown squares in the picture are such places:
With higher player count more of these spots will be occupied and could be used for that.
Mounted combat would be totally OP and yet another unbalancing factor in favor of heavy armor melee who already have the most advantages in the human world... at one point in time your characters movement speed was tied to your dex, there were players that could move faster than horses. It was totally removed. As such I do not expect to see it come back at all.
"Hot bar ballance is a hot topic that has been discussed at great length and heavily tied with the ballance between items that replicate skills but do not require the effort of hunting the mob for the skill, and spending knowledge points for the skill.
There is talk about there being more consumables as part of the 'alchemy' system that is not yet implimented which just increases the debate.
The devs have never weighed in on the discussion. As such it is unlikely to change."
-I can already open my inventory and use food or a poultice, it doesn't need to be on the bar to use, so there's no reason why I shouldn't be able to access it without needing to
"The cliffs and terrain funneling are absolutely intended. The best guess is to make player ambushes possible which would also encourage traveling in groups. There are paths up and down the cliffs that are minor changes in texture and take time to get used to. The windy maze into the bone yard, ogre city, and bandit layer are also absolutely intended and will be kept. Plan on gearing up, gathering friends, having plenty of consumables and moving as group when going after big targets like dragon. I got lost three times trying to find the path to him two alphas ago but finally figuring it out was worth it."
-I don't think they should completely eliminate them, but I think there's too much of it in too many areas adding too much travel time. Even if they just make it easier to get OUT again as travel already takes so long, it adds a lot of extra time just getting in and out of areas.
"There is a fair amount of diversity in the regions but can be hard to see until you go through each and discover the resource variety of each. Some small stones are common, others have no flax plants at all, some have purple mists, some verdant growth, some heavily restrictive hilly bits. It is there but hard to notice in this short test."
-I know about that but visially the differences between most of these places are minimal. I noticed the fog, but I barely noticed a difference when I was in it and when I was out of it. Moving in and out of heartwood was also barely noticable apart from the creatures in it. The differences are there, but they're not very strong. A world that emphasises exploration needs more - but it's only alpha so I'm not expecting it all to be there yet.
"They have armor skins advertised already, same with furniture (dont know about functional tho)."
-I'm going further than armor cosmetics, as it would be silly to reskin a plate helm as a floppy hat in combat, but perfectly reasonable for someone who wears full plate to wear a floppy hat around town. What I'm talking about is purely cosmetic gear. UO used to have some clothing layers that had no stats on them (until they made veteran reward pieces that did). I'm talking about that sort of thing, pieces that are for personal character, not items of gear for their stats. Good for RP, potentially good for trade (depending on how they're made or acquired) or for cash shop items.
"Mounted combat would be totally OP and yet another unbalancing factor in favor of heavy armor melee who already have the most advantages in the human world... at one point in time your characters movement speed was tied to your dex, there were players that could move faster than horses. It was totally removed. As such I do not expect to see it come back at all."
-There are plenty of ways to address this - giving them their own abilities so when you're dismounted you're at a disadvantage, various abilities causing dismounts vs save. As always, give it advantages and disadvantages as a playstyle. Dismounts could cause stuns too, making you extremely vulnerable. There's plenty of ways it can be addressed to balance it out. But I'm not expecting any such system would be in at launch.
Overall, while I don't agree with all of your points I totally get where you're coming from on them.
The ability to fight with an open inventory and thus access the consumables there is a issue that is going to be patched.
Presumably the other continents in each world will help with the enviromental variety.
yea, cosmetic gear would be fun, but likely done from a in game store and lower on their priorities at the moment.
Some great suggestions in there.
For sure the game lacks a bit of eye candies in the environment.
That's cause almost all the areas which new players accessed during this test were done long time ago. The more recent areas like bone pit and ogre city are much more detailed, so they are getting better at it.
Also, the next continent is frost themed, I expect great things there.
@OlivePit tbh I don't think they should patch it out. I think the number of slots is too small and they could address it better by having slots that will take items but not abilities if the ability thing is an issue. You can already equip 3 weapons and they all share ability slots, which severely limits the utility of having other weapons in the first place, but I can understand the need to strictly limit how many abilities you can have equipped at a time. I played Darkfall. If you can do everything at once, then the only viable playstyle IS to do everything at once. So I fully support keeping the number of equipable abilities at a time limited. I think there are better ways to deal with it than just having a tiny number of slots for absolutely everything.
I played for about 11 hours according to the game clock.
I didn't have any slowdown or chop until the final big event. It was so bad that most of the time i couldn't even see who the bad guy was we were fighting. Even when I could see them targeting was a nightmare. Aside from that my ping stayed steady around 140-150 and my FPS was more less constant at 60.
I didn't progress very far in part because I played through the tutorial for all 4 characters. Definitely a fan of the Ranged, not so much the melee. Both melee, at least in the early game play more or less identical. IDK when the street rat gains rogue like abilities like stealth, backstab etc, but they should happen fairly early to set them apart.