E3 2002: The RPGs

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Shadowbane: Ubisoft and Wolfpack's upcoming MMORPG was one game I did not want to miss while I was walking the floor. I spent almost an hour watching one of the developers (I never did get his name.) go through various aspects of the game, including character creation, spell-casting, crafting, and training.

Character creation grants you a great deal of customization, allowing you to choose your base class, race, hair type, hair color, beard type, beard color, skin color, and more. You are allotted a certain number of points (depending on your choices) that you can distribute among your different attributes. Differing from other MMORPGs, you can also distribute points among a plethora of different starting skills such as (Eagle Eye), which grants a 5% bonus to your ranged weapon skill. This ensures that virtually every character's starting attributes and skills will be unique.

With Shadowbane's strong focus on PvP, an intuitive and efficient interface is a definite must. From what I saw, the game allows for quick execution of both melee and spell-casting commands, and training your character as he or she increases levels couldn't be easier. While watching one of the developers train his character, however, I inquired whether or not they would be implementing a way for players to reallocate their character's points if they were not happy with some of their training choices later on. Unfortunately, the answer was, (No, not in the initial release anyway.)

The transportation system in Shadowbane will incorporate a couple of ideas from previous MMORPGs. Those of you who may have played Ultima Online will remember the spell (Recall), which allowed you to teleport to virtually any area in the game, as long as you had a rune marked there previously. Although not entirely finalized, Wolfpack will be allowing characters similar teleportation abilities, but only to a city under your control. Since I was impressed with Mythic's implementation of horses in Dark Age of Camelot, I asked if something similar would be available in the initial release of Shadowbane. According to the developer I spoke with, Wolfpack (plans on implementing horses, but not until sometime after release.) Hopefully they'll find a balance that reduces any tedious running around, yet allows one to appreciate the enormity of Aerynth.

I had always been a little skeptical of the game's graphical quality, but after seeing a character run through a burning city, it looks like it might yet put up a good fight against its competition in the (eye candy) department. However, the graphics did become fairly choppy when there was a considerable amount of animation on the screen, and I am a bit worried that large-scale battles might be laggy, even on the fastest computers. Aside from the graphic lag, another aspect that bothered me was the numerous crashes (a half dozen or more in less than an hour), some which even required rebooting the computer. Obviously, Wolfpack has a few bugs to work out, but hopefully we'll be seeing a finished version of Shadowbane in the near future.

Dark Age of Camelot - Shrouded Isles: Unfortunately, Mythic really didn't have a whole lot of information to share about their upcoming expansion just yet. During my meeting with Sanya Thomas and Scott Jennings, I was shown two cities - Avalon City and Trollheim. In comparison to existing cities such as Camelot, Tir Na Nog, or Jordheim, these new cities had a lot more features that caught my eye. Trollheim, for example, contained a network of bridges above a vast pit that provided the transportation throughout the different areas of the city.

One of the aspects of the expansion that I personally can't wait for is the enhanced graphics engine (NetImmerse 4.0 - the same one used in Bethesda's Morrowind). Not only will the new engine enhance existing effects, such as water reflections and lighting, but both Sanya and Scott assured me that large-scale battles will be much more fluid. In addition to those enhancements, anybody who has played DAoC is well aware of a bug that causes your screen to be practically unreadable after a period of time. Will the expansion fix these types of graphical errors as well? According to Scott, absolutely.