Into the Super-verse: Early impressions of Valiance Online

A shell of a cyberpunk world-in-progress

    
20
Into the Super-verse: Early impressions of Valiance Online

When I heard that Valiance Online was going to be running an open beta this week to coincide with the PlayNYC convention, I knew I had to get in and check out what this superhero MMO had going on so far.

Valiance Online’s always seemed like it’s been trailing the other two serious City of Heroes spiritual successors — City of Titans and Ship of Heroes — and for a while there, it had gone so quiet that I wondered if its development hadn’t ceased altogether. Fortunately, the game is still being made, and it was pretty exciting to get my hands on this demo.

So what does Valiance look like, how does it handle, and what’s actually in it? Let’s take a look today.

I think we need to clear up some terminology first: Valiance can call this a beta, but from what I saw over a couple of days playing it, I’d say that the game is in an alpha or pre-alpha state at best. There’s a shell of a game here — some of which looks very pretty — but there’s not a lot of substance yet.

You start to get a sense of that on the character creation screen, which has a ton of placeholders and only a handful of options for looks, powersets, and outfits. I made the best with what was on hand, crafting a green-skinned cybercop who specialized in summoning soldiers and healing. Her headset had some great animations to suggest data flowing in and out of her field of vision.

What I’ve always felt Valiance had going for it in this weirdly crowded field of City of Heroes successors is its visual style, and this bore up in the demo. It definitely has a strong neonpunk vibe across its slightly futuristic city. It kind of felt like I was in the Miami of tomorrow, what with the palm trees and beachfront. So I think Valiance deserves some praise for injecting personality into its environment.

The interface gets another measure of praise. The flat screens didn’t blow me away, but it’s clean, attractive, and easy to use. While there wasn’t a world or zone map that I could find, the minimap did offer the intriguing option to toggle between a 2-D and 3-D top-down viewpoint.

Once I logged in, the big question became… what do I do? The game was eerily quiet, with no other players or mobs to be found. Even the chat window was disabled for the time that I was in the demo, further enforcing this sense of isolation. That’s not the kind of feeling you want when you’re in an MMO.

Without any missions or mobs jumping out at me, I decided to play tourist and slowly jog around the town to see what I could see. I was hopeful that I might actually find an enemy to fight at some point, but that certainly didn’t happen on the first day. Without any way to get XP and level up, I knew I’d be stuck with jogging instead of a cool travel power, and that gnawed at me somewhat.

Still, look at those visuals! Crosswalks and traffic lights never looked so cool.

I kept picking out landmarks to travel to, such as the Skyline Civic Center here. There were plenty of giant statues in the plaza, although I wasn’t quite sure if these were visual placeholders that are due to get more textures later or are made to look like rough polygons as an aesthetic choice.

The city area that I explored was walled in — another City of Heroes nod — but there was plenty of room to explore. Unfortunately, many of the buildings lacked textures and could even be walked straight through as if they didn’t exist. It was really a toss-up in any given area whether there was a lot of detail to look at or just the flat planes that screamed “under construction.”

I spent some time on a local beach to see if there was swimming (there was) and to make friends with the only animals I’ve seen in the game: seagulls. I did amuse myself by toggling my heal every now and then. To its credit, it looks pretty neat and further enforces the neonpunk design of the game.

On my second day, I actually found mobs! At first, I thought it was another player and ran up to happily emote at him, only to get shot in the face. That happens to me too often. So I whipped my soldier boys into action and we gave Valiance’s combat a try.

Again, it’s there, it’s functional, but it’s so far from prime time, so testers and readers and the MMO faithful really need to understand that this is not a game on the verge of release. The animations, hit reactions, and sounds were either off or not there at all. Our guns were solid fuchsia, either because of the game look or as further placeholders. But at least my small team was able to down mobs one at a time, with me healing and attacking as the situation warranted. I looted a few enhancements that I could slot and even leveled up.

And that’s pretty much where I left things because I don’t think there’s that much more to see or do right now in this brief phase of testing. There are hints of a mission system, such as a terminal that I found, but that’s it. Valiance has a genuinely pretty frame that’s still being built, but make no mistake — this one’s a while off from inviting the next generation of heroes to play for good.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Eliot Lefebvre and Justin Olivetti covering superhero MMORPGs, past, present, and future! Come along on patrol as Into the Super-verse avenges the night and saves the world… one column at a time.

No posts to display

20
LEAVE A COMMENT

Please Login to comment
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
Crowe

“On my second day, I actually found mobs!”
I didn’t find any on my first and didn’t return for a second day to look again. It didn’t even feel like it had reached the proof-of-concept stage yet. I may check it out again when they do a beta in a couple of years but it was super rough now.

Reader
Does not check email

At this point this is someone’s hobby

Reader
Adam Russell

Not sure what got tested. Running around seemed fine. No falling through the world anyway.

Reader
Bruno Brito

I think we need to clear up some terminology first: Valiance can call this a beta, but from what I saw over a couple of days playing it, I’d say that the game is in an alpha or pre-alpha state at best. There’s a shell of a game here — some of which looks very pretty — but there’s not a lot of substance yet.

This is a issue, then. Beta shouldn’t be when the game has no meat. It’s not core feature development time.

Reader
bobfish

The definitions do vary across the industry, but the standard for the last twenty years or so has been Alpha = feature complete and Beta = content complete, in relation to what you plan to commercially launch with (so either 1.0 or Early Access, or whatever).

Marketing use of the term is usually where you end up with weird definitions, because its marketing and they only care about coverage/awareness.

From what I can see, Valiance is probably in mid-production, maybe 12 to 18 months away from an Alpha, then around the same amount of time until Beta. Given the small team, Beta might actually be even further away. MMORPGs are quite content heavy, so team size is going to be the big factor here and I have no idea how many are working on this game.

As a comparison, Ashes of Creation which looks much further along in development, is three years from launch.

Reader
Adam Russell

I agree. Most people that join a beta expect to see some game there. Not to say things cant change, but if you dont show what you have in beta you wont know what is needing change.

Reader
MrSaxon

As someone starving for superhero MMO action, I contemplated trying this Beta out but it’s just too early for me. It’s a shame because, as I’ve said before, I truly love superhero MMOs but the only two available are very out-of-date at this point (and I don’t regard the pirated version of COH to be a legitimate MMO). I’m going to keep rooting for Valiance, as I do with the other two contenders.

Reader
Valiance Online

Hope you will at least give it a quick look and give us your feedback but either way thank you for your support!

Reader
Dug From The Earth

Thanks for the brutal but honest opinion of things.

So much nicer than many other journalistic sites that often try to pander to the companies they write their articles about, who would have pulled a lot of punches here.

Reader
Bhagpuss Bhagpuss

You did better than I did, Justin. I logged in twice on two consecutive days and spent a total of maybe an hour and a half to two hours running around but I never found a single mob to fight. I did see two other players, one on each day, but only vanishing into the distance as they ran around. I also found a training dummy so I did at least get to see my one attack in action.

Valliance has always been my preference of the competing superhero games and I think the world looks pretty good but there was actually a lot more to do in the sneak peek they did a couple of years back. I’ve seen from the forums that there is content there, or has been, sufficient to allow people to level up – someone mentioned having got to level 20 that I saw. It would be nice to have a look at that.

Maybe in the next “beta”.

Reader
Valiance Online

There are some mobs but we are also adding more over time… and when admins are in-game we sometimes are spawning some for impromptu live events. We’ll try and put some closer to the spawn point… though not TOO close!

Reader
Valiance Online

Generally an alpha is to set the basic gameplay and beta is where you start refining it, adding more content, fixing bugs, etc. but honestly if you look online you’ll find countless different opinions on what alpha or beta is. For us, this is an early beta where we wanted to get feedback on some of the basics and also test the server – the primary function of the initial open beta is a network test which is what people are in as we improve server performance. We received A LOT of feedback and information from the test so far which we are addressing in the next update we are preparing, hopefully ready in the next few days.

The plan was to add more content and fix bugs over the course of the open beta but we received so much feedback we wanted to address a lot of it with the next update and are considering extending open beta now. We’ll be posting more about that later today.

We do plan to better name our beta phases to be more clear, this could be called beta1 (right out of alpha) but since this was running in conjunction with Play NYC we wanted to keep it simple. The next patch includes a lot of polish and fixes in it as well as the world more fully decorated with mobs, NPCs, more power sets, better environment sounds, and more.

To be totally honest, we could have taken more time before moving to beta but development has been going on for awhile and we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to both get some awareness of the game through Play NYC as well as get feedback from a wider audience of players and developers through the event.

Thank you for the coverage and the honest and useful feedback!

Reader
Dug From The Earth

Beta really is just where you start to have real users test your software.

Thats it.

Most companies try to have their software at a stage where its framework is fully functional, so that it CAN be tested by real users.

Polish, extra content, and bug fixes dont have to be completed before the beta starts, but should be completed by the time the beta is over.

This issue with Valiance is that in addition to the normal lack of polish, the existence of bugs, and all the missing content that are part of a beta, it has a severe lack of core framework functionality. Add all those up, and it makes people question “Why is this being tested by real users already, when it should still be being tested internally only”

IE: alpha

Reader
Valiance Online

Some of the core functionality is disabled for the network testing and being rolled out as we update in conjunction with content updates and bug fixes. We did used to roadmap a lot more, we’ll see if we can start doing that more. After we make a roadmap of the roadmap to make a roadmap of course. I believe that is how it is done these days. :D

Reader
Dug From The Earth

There is also the risk you take by letting real users test your game (ie: beta) before certain core elements are in place.

Even if those elements might be considered “polish”

A good example is model animations. These usually arent key to any game functionality, unless animations affect skill use time, and work needs to be done on animation clipping or canceling to keep ability usage timed correctly.

However, having a beta without something like that in place, leaves a lot of users skeptical that it wont actually be in the game by the time of release. Its absolutely not needed for a beta to work, but since a beta involves real people, and the goal is to ultimately sell the game, trying to put on your best face for said real people is typically something a company tries to do.

Not that I have any love right now for Blizzard, but they are just the best example of waiting until some of the unnecessary polish is in, before they start letting real users test their games.

Reader
Ironwu

I have always thought that with three CoH contenders and H:COH that there were at least two to many. And maybe even three to many.

This one is so far behind the curve now that I suspect it will never really see the light of day, and if it does, will be DOA.

Reader
Valiance Online

We’ll keep plugging away and hope eventually to change your opinion. Any specific feedback on the beta (if you tried it)?

Reader
Ironwu

I wish the three in-development MMO Superhero games would have joined forces. Would have had a great chance of success, I think. As it stands, historically, there was barely room for one fully formed game.

NCSoft chose to kill it because it was not making mondo dollars, shame on them. But there it is.

How can the superhero fan base be divided among *four* competing products? I just don’t see it. Assuming all four of them even make it to full release.

Reader
Ironwu

Make that five! Forgot about Champions Online. Heh.

Reader
Rodrigo Dias Costa

Still forgot DCUO.