I fade in and out of Need for Speed: World.
In a way, that represents the upside of free to play.
As it tends to go, I start playing, have a run at it, tire, and move on for a while. I think I am at the end of the cycle again. The current run started on a new server when Potshot and Earl got into the game for a bit. We had a really fun evening of races and goofing around and then never quite went back to it, except for a bit of holiday cheer.
I managed to get myself hooked on the NFSW version of the daily quest mechanic, then gem hunt. This was primarily due to the explicit promise that the game has at the end of each such hunt.
Each consecutive day gives better rewards! That is what it says. So I decided to test that theory. As you can see, I made it past the 100 day mark. So I should have been getting some pretty awesome rewards, right?
Well, I will tell you about that, plus some other aspects of the game as I see them at this point after the cut.
As the title says, too many words. And probably too many pictures as well. And a freaking video.
Anyway, first things first.
The Gem Hunt
This is called the Treasure Hunt in the game, but since you race around a section of the world searching for giant green gems in the road, everybody seems to call it the Gem Hunt. Even the devs at times.
The Gem Hunt is a daily quest. One part of the game world is highlighted in green, which means that there are 15 gems distributed throughout that area. You have to drive around and find them. As you get close to them, you will get a directional indicator on your mini-map, and as they get really close you will actually see them displayed on the mini-map.
Once you have done it a few times, you will find that the whole exercise takes about 10 minutes, often less. My best recorded time is 4 minutes and 7 seconds. It goes pretty much like this video.
That is typical. I found the first 14 in about four minutes, and then spent the next two minutes looking for that last damn gem.
And now that I am well past 100 such hunts, I can answer the magic question. Do the rewards get better with each consecutive day?
No. They do not get better. At least not in any sort of linear fashion as implied by the quote above.
Gear and skills in the game are now ranked in quality by stars. 1 star items are available for the in-game currency at a store. 2 through 4 star items have to be earned or purchased with the RMT currency.
As I started doing the gem hunt, around day 20 or so I got my first 4 star item. I seemed to have crossed the dividing line at that point. But after that, it seemed pretty random. I would get absolute crap 1 star skills one day.
And then get something completely awesome the next day.
All in all, it isn’t horrible. You do get a lot of useless items. Once you have 4 star parts, I am not sure where you would used the 1 and 2 star items. But you have them around. The time investment isn’t huge.
And considering the alternative, it seems pretty reasonable, because the alternative is card packs.
When I first tried out NFSW, card packs were just in their infancy in the game. The money making proposition seemed to be selling players the RMT currency, Speed Boost, so that they would buy special cars, garage slots, boosters for cash or experience, and special car parts.
The game has since transitioned to a pretty card pack focused effort. Card packs are essentially the same as the odious lockboxes in other free to play titles. They still sell some of the other items… cars are still a big seller… but the better performance parts for your car are only available through card packs or as a random prize on the gem hunt.
The final turn of the screws came when they started offering cars that were only available as random drops from card packs. They put a new Ford Police Interceptor package into the game and gave everybody a code for a one day rental of the car. They were all over the game for one weekend, and looked pretty cool. They were nice black and whites with a flashing light bar and all the trimmings. I was tempted to buy one myself.
Except that the whole thing was a push to get people to buy their new car oriented card packs.
You could not buy one outright, you had to get it as a random drop from a card pack.
That killed my desire to give them any more money. I don’t want to spend money gambling on getting the car I want. But that is the way with free to play these days.
They finally added achievements to the game. I am actually surprised that it took them this long to get there. This seems like a no-brainer in the industry at this point. Achievements will drive at least a subset of your population to play/pay more just to chase them down.
Of course, a bunch of the achievements are around buying cars. There is a series of brand related achievements.
There are achievements for doing things as well. Some are retroactive, so I got credit for all my gem hunt runs.
The minimum requirements are all in there, like popping up when you earn them.
The achievements all have a point value associated with them, which really means nothing in the end except as a bulk measurement of how many achievements you have earned.
But the NFSW team did do a couple of interesting things. One, which is odd, is that they let you pick four achievements that you can display as part of your public profile. People will see them when they look you up or you join an event with them.
They also appear on your menu bar, along with an achievements button that shows how many achievement updates you have, though that last bit seemed to be broken. It shows I have 8 there, but it always says that, no matter what I do.
The game also nicely lets you know when you have done something that has advanced an achievement.
Finally, and probably best of all, every single achievement has a reward you can claim when you get them. Some of them are crap, like 1 star skills. Others are okay. I got a couple of nice cosmetic items for my cars. But at least you GET something for each and every achievement. That has something going for it, even if it is just a fig leaf to cover the naked ambition of those of us who just like achievements.
For me, this is still one of the high points of the game. You can customize how your car looks down to some pretty fine detail. While out driving you will see plenty of stock cars (I think I will scream if I see another default green 1970 Dodge Challenger) there are also many very well done paint and vinyl jobs to be seen. You can find anything from reproductions of racing team livery to outlandish schemes with bright colors and matching neon lights.
Myself, I have been driving around with a subtle black customization, so as to blend in and go unnoticed.
That car actually started as bright red, but then I put an 8-ball vinyl on the roof, then expanded it to the point that the whole car turned black save the circle 8 and the letters on the side.
The one key item missing from the whole thing is wardrobe slots.
When you are done customizing a car, you have what you have, and if you want to do up a new paint scheme, you must them give up all your previous work. So it seems like an obvious move to me to sell the car equivalent of wardrobe slots, so I could have different customizations for different moods.
A prime example of why they should have such slots is in their April Fools special. They did up a Toyota Scion tC as a “Cardboard Fiber” special. (As opposed to Carbon Fiber.) The aero kit on it appears to be made of old cardboard boxes complete with “this end up” type of markings.
It is an amusing look and you wouldn’t want to throw it away, especially since the vinyl on such cars are one use only, and are destroyed if you remove them. So if you choose to customize the car beyond paint color, you lose the pieces that came with it. Not good.
But maybe they expect you to buy another car for that sort of thing. I cannot quite bring myself to do that, as then you get into parts and skills and what not.
Cars, Ratings, and Levels
Back when I started playing NFSW, your levels earned you skill points which made you better at certain aspects of driving and which, in turn, put you in various skill brackets for race matching and course access purposes.
All of that has been done away with.
At this point, as far as I can tell, levels do nothing save unlocking certain vinyl packages in the customization shop (why would you link those?) and earn you a few achievements.
Race matching is done, instead, based on a rating given your car. Your car’s performance is averaged into a numerical value and assigned a bracket. The brackets are, in descending order, S, A, B, C, D, and E. Each corresponds to a 100 point segment in car ratings. So B rated cars have performance values of 500 to 599.
So there is my Skyline 2000GT-R right on the border between the B and A brackets. Pretty sly, right, being at the top of the pack? I did that on purpose.
Except that the match maker algorithm weights heavily on time in queue, or so it seems to me. It would rather make more, quicker, but badly matched races than balancing things out. And I get the reason why. People hate waiting around for stuff like that. But I have been in a few races where I am the sole B rated car in with 3 A and 2 S rated cars. You really have to hope somebody screws up to have a chance then.
I have also been the only B rated car in a match with C and D cars though, and did as well as you might expect, so it all evens out I guess. But you feel screwed by the match maker in NFSW even more often than you do in World of Tanks. (There is always somebody complaining about the evil match maker in WoT.)
However, the real problem with public races is that hacks and cheats are still pretty rampant. I won’t run multi-lap races because the “extend the race by one lap for everybody but me” hack still seems to be in place. And in sprints, which are races from point A to point B, I have run into flying cars, invisible cars, and teleporting cars.
Once I ran into what I guessed was a pre-set group where two of the cars literally flew 20 feet off the ground to the finish line while a third car acted as a jammer. It drove in a circle in the middle of the road and teleported down the track so you would keep running into it. I am not sure why they felt they needed that car, other than to piss people off. But maybe that was the reason, since they were going to win in their flying cars in any case.
Basically, public races seem to be a crapshoot, with the dice coming up “frustration” more often than not. Once in a while there is a good, clean, well matched race. But that seems to be the exception more than the rule.
The races Potshot, Earl, and I had in our stock Lancias were the most fun I have had in the game. So if you want to race, it seems like bringing your friends along is the best choice.
No Car Clubs
I still do not know why they do not have the NFSW version of guilds or clans. A grouping, call it a car club, seems to be a natural. Allow them to set up club races or challenge other clubs or set races with specific parameters of for given cars.
Here is the part where I am always a bit disappointed. NFSW has a detailed world in which to drive around. There is a wide array of places to visit, from Silverton, their mini-Vegas, to golf courses, to industrial plants, to residential zones and down town areas with towering skyscrapers, to a ship yard with an aircraft carrier.
There are all sorts of hidden places and jumps and destructible terrain. You can roar through a residential area and crash through people’s garbage cans on the curb or hit the urban areas and plow down parking meters that explode in a shower of coins.
But like any such things in an MMO, once you take out those parking meters, they simple respawn back again. The feeling that you have no impact on the world starts to creep in on you and saps the thrill out of such things.
The detailed world should be a huge asset to the game, but it feels under utilized. Aside from the gem hunt, which occasionally helps you discover hidden places, not much happens in the world. Races are instanced in their own version of the world that puts up walls to keep you on the race course. Police escape events likewise happen in their own version of the world. And while you can use the destructibility to your advantage there, nobody but you sees how you outfoxed the cops. It is not a shared experience.
The world is a giant lobby, and like the real world, everybody is in their own car. Talking directly to somebody or even getting a good look at their car can be a challenge. You cannot even get the crazy antics that used to happen when they had server issues any more.
Anyway, I will wrap this up with pictures of the world in which we drive alone, together.
(Oh, and I am still annoyed at how hard it is to take a decent screen shot in-game. You cannot turn off the UI, you cannot move the camera, blah blah blah, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.)