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Guild Leader Returns From Westwood
Posted on on Albino Eatpod
Earth And Beyond Online Anonymous writes: "Here is my personal report:

I’m an old time gamer and a long time member of The Syndicate. Naturally I was very excited when the Guild Master of The Syndicate asked me if I would like to take Westwood Studios up on an offer to come to see Earth & Beyond, an upcoming MMO. Westwood is close to releasing their new game (Earth and Beyond) and they are inviting various existing guilds to come to their headquarters in Las Vegas to see it, and give feedback.

FROM AE: I'm not sure who actually submitted this, since they weren't logged in. If they'd like to resubmit it whilst logged in, I'll change it :)

The Syndicate is a very old guild by standards of online gaming. Founded in 1996, during the pre-Alpha days for Ultima Online, the guild now thrives in EverQuest and Ultima Online with over 500 members. 500 members is a lot of people, so The Syndicate has a very wide variety of players. We’re very diverse when it comes to play preferences. I try to help the Guild Master (named Dragons) by looking at games of the future and trying to figure out if they would be good candidates for the guilds future. As you can expect, we look forward to a bright future in the growing dearth of upcoming games.

My “job” in the Syndicate, for the past many years, is Game Migrations. I evaluate new games and help determine if they are games our guild may want to expand into. This is just something I like to do. I spend a lot of time looking at games that are in Beta and/or being discussed as up and coming with other gamers. Given that, and given that our Guild Master couldn’t make the trip, I was happy to come to Westwood and see their game. Heck, who would turn down an all expense paid trip to talk with a game design company about your favorite subject? And heck, a chance to pretend I’m some fancy-pants game consultant can’t hurt, too! J

I’ve been to Las Vegas on many occasions for business (COMDEX and the Consumer Electronics Show stuff) but I’ve never been put up in a sweet suit in the Luxor or been picked up by a Limo Driver holding my name on a card. I walked down to Game Works where a small reception was planned for me and the other Guild Geeks. Game Works is an arcade on the Strip.

I chatted with the Community Managers and other gamer geeks for a little while. As we discussed DaoC experiences, we figured out that Craig Elliott, Online Community Coordinator for E&B and I had a close personal friend in common and we’d kinda known each other from the Old Neverwinter days. If this wasn’t weird enough, the head of online community stuff (Maria) later told me that the first person who ever beat her in PvP (nearly a decade ago) was a guy named ITB Faust (aka ME!). Hehe… I felt so special ::grin:: In fact, she and I had been officers in the same guild all those many years ago. Weird.

Four other geeks joined us for a beer and a hot dog. One of which was “Shadowsight” a member and former GM of Bane Sidhe (http://www.shadowsight.com/banesidhe), a guild most notable for its efforts on Fenin Ro of EQ. His perspective as a member of a four- guild alliance in EQ would certainly be useful. My guild is huge and integrated with existing chat zones, message boards, member created XML tools, and lots of in-house organization. His group spans 4 guilds that are in an alliance. Surely his communication issues are more complex and his organizational tactics are surely different than ours. He and I talked about this late into the evening over beers.

The next day the four of us were carted out to Westwood Studios where we were treated to breakfast and a tour. We spent a lot of time mid-tour talking about Orc Strategies within War Craft. Westwood is housed in an old Space Systems Loral building and its industrial strength concrete has been lovingly decorated and loaded full of creative types with lots of computer junk and a pretty cool motion capture studio. The walls are covered with posters and game memorabilia. One poster by the door was a large tear-off sheet, which said “54 Days to Ship Earth and Beyond”… I’m assuming the poster below it said 53 days.

(Wolfpack jab deleted )

We eventually found our way to a room full of computers, including a Big Screen monitor. We were shown a demo of the game, signed up for beta accounts, and given a couple hours to dink around in the game. The whole time discussions were ongoing about what we liked, didn’t like, or found interesting. It was very cool that the developers hung around and actually CARED what we had to say.

Why ask guilds to check it out? E&B will soon add Guilds. As each members gains experience the guild will get some too. This can be applied to special features which membership in that particular guild will allow. Guild Decals on the side of ships, even hull upgrades or rocket boosters for membership. We were asked what other things would be nice. My hand constantly shot up with regard to collection and distribution of stuff between guildmates. My wife spends an hour or two each night organizing, collecting, and distributing spells/gems in EQ… she doesn’t complain (much) but that kinda stuff can’t be fun. Westwood also showed us their In-Game browsers, which will show guild rosters and tradesmen abilities and all kinds of neat stuff.

Lots of other discussion and ideas went on for hours and hours until, at last, we pooped out. Soon I was back on a plane with a short stack of Beta Accounts, a bunch of swag, and hopes to provide ample feedback to cover Westwood’s expenses.

How about I STFU and get to the game:
(link to Part2)

The game is set in space some time in the distant future. Starting the game requires selecting between 3 races which each have two professions each (more to be added later, I’m told). Your avatar (humanoid) gets lots of customization, which is kinda cool. You then select your ship. Each profession has a basic “look” about it and you can pick wing styles, colors, and a decal, which goes on the side. You then launch into the game.

Should you select it, the first couple HOURS of the game is a tutorial, or you can leap into the game itself which, additionally, will provide lots of pop-up “Hi, it’s me again… let me tell you how to Warp” stuff from the NPC Trainer-Chickie. I found this quite an improvement over games that seem to throw you into the world alone with a rusty dagger.

The game has three types of experience: Exploration, Combat, and Trade. You can get up to level 50 in each (total 150) depending on what you do. I selected Exploration as my characters major thrust. In a system map each item within the game (usually beacons) are represented by a question mark. As you warp to these, more question marks become blips. You can then warp to the next question mark. Each time you get to a new place you get Exploration Experience. Thus, while we chatted about the game I played Connect the Dots and ended up at level 16 doing very little work. When you get a level you get Skill Points. These can be spent on profession inherent abilities or on the ability to use better equipment such as better engines or reactors, or whatever. As you add this stuff you get stronger and your space ship adds more junk hanging off it. Changing question marks into blips doesn’t pay much so I never upgraded.

They showed us a level 150 super-uber ship and it was loaded with cannons and big cargo bays and all kinds of neato looking space junk. This, I imagine, must be pretty impressive to the average newbie… although you generally only see other players as zipping vapor trails in space… as far as I could tell. You can “land” on planets and cruise around in their atmosphere in your ship. Perhaps this will be where you show off all your gear to newbies. You can dock into a starbase and walk around to interact with other players and vendors too.

For the combat there are various critters and bad-guys floating around in areas. We saw a couple “Epic Battles” in progress: Higher level characters were defending an NPC Star Base from a bunch of NPC Pirates who were trying to spring an NPC Pirate Leader guy. We also saw a Westwood crewmember spawn a heap of pirates on the heads of several high level characters (aka a Verant style “Dynamic Quest”) Monsters are clearly described by level and agro variety. They kinda hover in space and you blow them up.

Trade will be rather cool. You can build things and transport things from one starbase to another for profit. Also, from time to time, a super rare item might drop. You have a choice of analyzing it (which destroys the item) and, if you are skilled enough, learn how to make it. Thus you could be the ONLY guy on your server who can make the Super Duper Mega-Cannon.

PvP does not exist. It goes on the list of “like to have” which, as every gamer knows, means “don’t get your hopes up”.

The overall story line is that rips in space are occurring out there and nobody knows why. Over time this will become a Meta-Plot and NPC’s will react to and direct Characters to this. This is, essentially, the ongoing Lore, which combines with all the historic and race stuff. The overall story line will not be effected by players. Local stuff will (maybe) be part of GM events and such.
Just wondering - 2002-08-05 23:40:00
Mostly Harmless
Joined: 11-Jul-2002
Posts: 2
From: USA

Albino_Eatpod was there anyone from Krieger there? Sorry I was just wondering
Re: Guild Leader Returns From Westwood - 2002-08-05 23:43:00
Joined: 11-Jan-2002
Posts: 342
Guild: British Space Corps
From: Reading, UK

I don't know, I didn't go to the guild event, that was the week before.

To be clear, this is not my article - I don't know who submitted it.