My home on Nar Shaddaa

I’ve begun to think about what to do with my stronghold- after all, i have the Nar Shaddaa stronghold “for free” and housing is one of the features in an MMO i’d consider important, but until now, i’ve been questing happily. Questing-wise it seems i can ignore everything except class story missions on Nar Shaddaa, because i am already level 24 and it seems that’s the “max level” of the planet- by all means, i should be on Tatooine right now. I’ve also respecialized my Commando and have gone for the Gunnery tree, because it seems my newest companion, Elara Dorne, is a medic commando, so i don’t need to do much healing for myself. It also allows me to queue up as damage dealer for Flashpoints without lying.

Nar Shaddaa

I like the place as a home for Soofoo- she might be a republic commando, but she’s not exactly as formal as Elara Dorne and seems to be accumulating Dark Side points at an ever faster rate. Also, i think she needs to be the “lively” one, since my coming Jedi Consular will be more of a calm nature.

Regarding the stronghold, it’s tough to start out with this one, because Soofoo is basically pretty low on credits (~10k) after spending some money on the GTN for crafting material. And Nar Shaddaa is a palace.

The entrance to the stronghold

I have 5 of the 9 available rooms unlocked, and so far i’m thinking: library/office, living/dining room, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen would be appropriate. Yeah, it’s pretty much planned as a normal appartement, but reflecting the growth of the character. After all, if i want to go for other types of strongholds, like a cantina, for instance, i can just buy another one.

The trouble is that the stronghold doesn’t consist of those 5 rooms only, you are bound to have to access them.

I think this will be the...Foyer/lobby?
I think this will be the…Foyer/lobby?

I took those screenshots when almost nothing was placed- there’s a metal couch in the living room, but everything else is in its raw state. The room above is the first room you’ll enter when leaving the landing pod.

The left side of the Foyer/lobby
The left side of the Foyer/lobby
And the right side of the foyer/lobby
And the right side of the foyer/lobby

I think i can access all rooms of this floor- there are four of them and one is the staircase for the lower floor.

One of the rooms on the first floor- bathroom?
One of the rooms on the first floor- bathroom?

There are two rooms like the one pictured above, the other one on the other side of the lobby.

The other one- i'm thinking bedroom
The other one- i’m thinking bedroom

Then there are two bigger rooms that count as rooms- i think one will be the office/library, the other one i don’t know yet. The kitchen will be put into a room that doesn’t count as one on the second floor.

Room 3: Soofoos office
Room 3: Soofoos office
Room 4 - i'll put it into good use
Room 4 – i’ll put it into good use
This is so ugly because of the bars, it'll become either kitchen or some kind of workshop
This is so ugly because of the bars, it’ll become either kitchen or some kind of workshop

The highlight of the stronghold is the living room.

It's airy, big and has a great view
It’s airy, big and has a great view

As i said, it’s big. There’s even a balcony somewhere to be unlocked. Buying all unlocks will cost 6.5 million credits. Yeah, only 6.49 million to go! Also, one has to decorate this stuff, as well. To be honest, i don’t have an idea of what is available as decoration in SWTOR- it might be that my plans don’t work out because there aren’t any decorations for a bathroom, for instance. Or a kitchen. I guess i’ll see about that.

And i thought i had nothing to spend my cartel coins on

Of course, a lot of decoration seems to be available on the cartel market (ingame shop). I haven’t looked at it very closely, just glanced at the possibilities of the strongholds in general. SWTOR doesn’t only give you a list of all potentially available items, but also lists the way to get it – and i read “cartel market”…very often. Also, lockboxes. It seems i needn’t worry about not “being able” to spend the cc anymore.

Taris almost done

Commander Soofoo progresses through SWTOR in a slow but steady pace. I’ve made it to level 23 by now and am finding SWTOR to be an experience similar to Lotro in some ways, but without Moria. Alas, it’s also lacking the Shire so far- i’m not impressed with the planet design. Coruscant i found to be a mess and while Taris is slightly better it still isn’t all that good. What strikes me most is the hub-to-hub quest design and the missing day/night cycle.

But there are upsides, as well. I like the pace of the game, and i like the on-rail-spaceship missions. I can relax playing SWTOR and the spaceship missions provide an activity when i can or want to only play for half an hour or something.

Taris is nice to look at
Taris is nice to look at

What did i do?

Whenever i had time for strolling through Taris, i did some quests- after a while i concentrated on the class storyline which was….ok, i guess. I don’t know, is it a spoiler if i talk briefly about it? I don’t think so, because, well, the game’s 3 years old by now and my guess is that many players have already experienced this part of the game.

So the Commando’s looking for former members of Havoc squad and finds traces of “Needles” on Taris. Soofoo went out to find him and in the end, she did. She also executed him. Needles wanted to develop a weapon out of something that could turn people into Rakghouls. Luckily, Soofoo was able to stop him…and take some probes to the general of the republic, earning her some Dark Side points. I don’t really “roleplay” her in the sense of giving her certain motivations for her actions – i always found “military roleplay” quite boring- i might do something with my Consular when her time comes, but Soofoo basically makes the choices i’d make if i were in her place.

Earning 350 Dark Side points wasn’t part of the plan, but killing a war criminal and securing a possible weapon of mass destruction at least for research seemed to be worth it.

Soofoo looking for Needles
Soofoo looking for Needles

In shorter sessions i just went about the starship missions. I know they’ve been criticized a lot for being an on-rails minigame, but in my opinion, they work just fine as a distraction and something to do when there’s less available time. I became used to logging out in Soofoo’s stronghold, since that is a resting place and provides multiple options to travel either to the fleet, the last planet we were on, the starship or the planet of the stronghold. So when i don’t have much time, starting up a space mission is a quick affair and with 2XP active, it gives quite a good amount of XP.

One night i also went ahead and queued up for a dungeon. I was surprise that it takes so long to get in, but even more surprised when i got a group for Athiss and found them to be at some other place on a map i didn’t know. I hurried to follow them, couldn’t find them, asked for help (without an answer), found a hole in the ground, jumped down in a hurry, died, tried again and when the first member of the group came into view, they vote-kicked me. For what, i don’t know. Maybe they thought i was just hanging around somewhere for the XP, maybe it was because i told them i was new. Anyway, i found that without so much as a whisper, it was an unfriendly thing to do. Once again i found myself thinking about FF14’s community (in general very nice) and how that game provides simple solutions to problems like this one: everyone stands in a circle until every player has arrived.

Outlook

Right now is a good time to be in SWTOR. Granted, the 2XP event will be ending some time today, but the 12XP buff for subscribers will be activated on may 4th. I might make use of that primarily to get the Consular past Coruscant and maybe take a deeper look at the Imperial Agent’s story and others, but we’ll see about that. 12 XP is a great thing for those that have already seen all- or as much as they want- of the planets’ stories. I worry about it being too quick a progression for someone like me who wants to see the planets as well as the class stories. On the other hand it’s nice for me, as well, because it is quick progression, after all.

I'll find you, Needles!
I’ll find you, Needles!

I like my experience in the game so far, although i’m a bit worried about the variety of gameplay as well as planet design. For instance, i don’t know if crafting is a thing to follow through on, but i try and gather materials on my way from quest to quest and plan on crafting a bit to see if it’s “worth it”. The strongholds are nice, as are the space missions. If the zones would be more open and a bit better designed (have you seen WoW’s zone design? That alone is a reason to play World of Warcraft), i’d be very positive right now.

I’ll have to look for a guild, though. So far it seems as if the Progenitor’s more social guilds tend to be on the imperial side and i can’t see myself as a disciple of the empire. The most interesting classes to me are the Commando and the Jedi Consular. There are other options, of course. I could look for a german guild on one of the german servers (the german PvE server seems to be the most active server in europe) or even migrate over to NA; i don’t think the latency would be much of an issue. Timezones might.

Anyway, my experience in the game is good enough to put SWTOR on my personal “main MMO” spot for the rest of the month, at least. In may, i plan a return to FF 14 and make a push for Heavensward, but since i’ll still have subscription time left in SWTOR and the 12XP will come, SWTOR will be in my rotation at least until the end of may.

It’s SWTOR week

For now, i’m indulging in my fickle style of “playing” just about every (major) MMORPG there is while still trying to make progress. Double XP events like the current one in SWTOR help with that. Furthermore, i couldn’t resist the recent discounts and other sales there were: i own a stronghold, i took advantage of the offer when SWTOR released the Galactic Starfighter minigame and the most recent one giving two months subscription, Cartel Coins and the Shadow of Revan expansion. So, there’s a lot of incentive (read: spent money) to play SWTOR.

Lucky me, the double experience event lasts a week. I also have some stacks of XP potions that will allow me to further increase XP gain for about 50 hours. So there you go, reasons to play SWTOR. It’s not that i dislike the game, it’s interesting enough, but i couldn’t really connect to it before- i grow tired of the game quickly, sessions rarely last longer than an hour or two; and it’s not so easy to get immersed when you do one of these sessions once a month.

So i’m about to change that. I’m also going to take my own advice and make some decisions regarding MMORPGs- which ones to follow, which ones to drop. It’s not going to be easy, because i like all the MMOs i play, ranging from FF14, EVE, over to Lotro, SWTOR, ESO, TSW and so on. They all offer unique experiences. But since i made some recent investments in some games, i won’t be able to narrow it down as much as i’d like to just yet…so i’ll choose a setup for a week and review it afterwards. Expect the start of a new series on this blog in the coming days where you’ll be able to follow the exciting process of me trying to make tough decisions and cut down the MMOs i play to three at a time.

To make it short, for the coming week, the setup will be as follows:

Main game: Star Wars: the old republic
Side Games: The Elder Scrolls Online, EVE online

Anyways, back to SWTOR. My character, Soofoo (The Progenitor) is a republic commando of level 19. And yes, that’s my main. She just got access to the next flashpoint, Athiss. I’m looking forward to seeing it, because i really liked the group experience of the previous flashpoint. What i didn’t like was Coruscant- i found it to be too fragmented and too much playing in buildings. So Taris is an improvement in this regard.

Finally found out how to hide the UI
Finally found out how to hide the UI (ALT+Z)

So far, i’ve only been out there, questing, returning to the fleet when i saw that i had “93/100″ commendations for fear i’ve capped out that currency and need to spend it soon. So i bought some equipment before heading to my Nar’Shadaa stronghold and take a look at SWTOR’s housing mechanic.

I have to say, i like the “hooks” system of housing in general. The total freedom of Rifts Dimensions and to even further extent Landmark paralyze me- yes, i could do just about everything within these systems, but mostly i don’t do anything- although i’d really like to, perhaps, build an inn of some sort. With SWTORs strongholds, i’m just going to think about what fits to my character- what would a commando specialized in healing call a home? For now, i’ve only placed a metal couch, but more will follow. I have to say the stronghold itself feels gigantic to me- there’s so many rooms to decorate, i’ll have to take a closer look and decide what to do with each room. I’ll take care of that when i enter the dungeon queue the next time and wait for it to pop up.

What’s interesting is that SWTOR now offers quite attractive side-activities that play very differently to the usual questing- housing is one, of course, another would be the crafting system, then there are the “space on rail shooter” missions which i find to be fun. Sure, they’ve been criticized for not being “free-roaming” space shooters, but they’re still a nice diversion and offer a lot of additional XP. And of course i could do some battlegrounds and get stomped. It’s not as broad in activities as FF14, but they spice up the gameplay.

I can’t tell much about the story yet, because i didn’t continue through it much yet and have forgotten about where i was when i last played. I know it’s the imperial agent’s story that gets much praise, but i tried the class and wasn’t impressed much (by the class gameplay). Still, i’m looking forward to my experience in the coming week- i’ll move things around come next friday (or thursday even- friday isn’t such a good idea, because in the evening there is the guild project and i can’t play another MMO anyways).

Dual Wielding: one or many?

Dual Wielding: A series featuring two bloggers writing on one topic and answering the question, “If the pen is mightier than the sword, what happens when you dual wield?”

Don’t miss out on Ironweakness’ take: Dual Wielding: Depth versus Diversity.

First things first

I’m excited to start this project in cooperation with Ironweakness over at Waiting for Rez– it was his suggestion in a tweet to prompt each other for topics to write about and an idea i instantly fell in love with. Ironweakness and i share some attributes, the biggest of which is our reason to blog/restart blogging more regularly: when Massively’s closure became known and imminent, we started to wonder where the community might go- we both felt the loss in MMORPG coverage would be big and while we certainly wouldn’t aspire to be a substitute for a site like Massively, we wanted to keep the conversation going and stay in touch with the larger MMO community- so we (re-)started our blogs. In a sense, i think this project fits so well with our motivation to blog. So thank you for suggesting this, Ironweakness, and i hope we’ll have many interesting topics to write about as well as interesting perspectives. Today’s topic is one that seems to be more prominent these days- for me personally, but it appears that in a bigger picture, this is something that touches on the greater MMO community, as well.

Should you play one or many MMORPGs?

Stickiness of MMORPGs is a big topic these days- not only am i always returning to this line of thought in search for maxlevel, guilds and communities, but there were some articles on Massively Overpowered skirting this topic, as well. Then there was the MMO Hobo and his very recent post wherein he asked if we, as players who might look for “the one” MMORPG to play, might shoot ourselves in the foot by joining multigaming guilds. I think this topic is very broad- you can view it from so many different angles, but i think you could boil it down to one big question- what do you want to get out of your MMORPG playing experience? Do you play this genre as “games” or do you play it for the virtual worlds they present, the social ties, the community? I believe most MMORPG players want to play “the one” MMORPG- i don’t have a poll up, but my guess is that in the end, we’d like to have that game back that allows us to dive in and play more or less the same MMORPG for years. Sometimes, we’ll look at a game that will be released in the close future and think that this time, it might be it. And it rarely is.

Those hopeful days
Those hopeful days

I’ve seen times when i somehow, without expecting it or giving it a deliberate effort, will stay with an MMO for 2 or three months- Final Fantasy XIV comes to mind. But there always comes a time when i want my experience to differ, i want something else out of a session. And this is a strong reason to go with multiple games.

If nothing’s perfect, why not mix it up?

The MMORPGs we have are surprisingly good. I don’t look at “success” much, because i think in this regard, the releases of the last decade failed to deliver on their expectations and World of Warcraft, while being the most successful MMO, isn’t the best in my eyes. And while we often lament every new release to be a “WoW clone”, by which i think we mean “themepark MMO”, they’re not as similar to each other as one would think.

Still one of the better themeparks out there- wish i had time for it
Still one of the better themeparks out there- wish i had time for it

And these differences make switching between different titles an attractive option- first, you get to use all of those “special weekends” and events like the release of an expansion, a meaty patch or something and see for yourself how they fare. Then, you’ll always have a choice in combat mechanics, depth, even different economies, atmosphere and general gameplay experience. In some games, questing is pretty much all you do (Lotro), in others it’s the same but delivered in a different way (TSW), you’ll have a somewhat lighter atmosphere (FF14, Wildstar) or the more grimdark experiences of Elder Scrolls Online or Age of Conan. There’s polished content without much of a story (Guild Wars 2, and yeah, i know it’s lore-heavy, but i think the story is not presented very well in-game) and story-heavy questing (SWTOR), involved crafting (FF14, EQ2), standard crafting (WoW, Rift, Lotro) and hands-off crafting (Neverwinter, SWTOR), and i don’t even touch on how the game’s paces differ from, say, EQ2/FF14 to something like Wildstar or Neverwinter. For me, playing multiple MMORPGs makes sense because i don’t want to play the same game when i want to play. Sometimes i want a very relaxing and slow atmosphere, sometimes i like to get more involved and these are the times when “action combat” is a major point of decision making on what to play. Wildstar, for instance, with its very involved combat and high mob density is a fun game, but one i can’t play for longer stretches of time. Lord of the Rings Online is quite a slow game, it’s very relaxing, at least in the early zones, but the combat isn’t very engaging. One game that, in my opinion, gets the mix very right, is Guild Wars 2- it’s a fun game, but not too stressful. GW2 has the downside that i seem unable to find “depth” there.

The downside: you won’t set roots

So for almost every mood you might have, there’s an MMO waiting to give you the wanted experience. Only, it’s just not one game and if you don’t have a lot of time, you’ll be having trouble being where the buzz is. It’s also kind of hard to immerse yourself when you play half a dozen MMORPGs at roughly the same time- you’ll forget skills, current goals of your character, the story and other things. It might also be tough to get in touch with a good guild- and a good guild is essential to enjoying an MMORPG.

"Play-to-finish" MMORPGs can be a great addition
“Play-to-finish” MMORPGs can be a great addition

Now, this might not be a problem for someone who’s able and willing to play 20+ hours a week- a player with that mindset could juggle more than two MMORPGs just fine, i think, although i believe even then it might be more difficult to make friends ingame. MMO devs have been criticized a lot for making MMORPGs less social- by adding dungeon finders or even PUG raids- but i don’t think we can put the blame for our less social experience solely on the devs- it’s within our responsibility as players to be more social- the option isn’t removed from the games, we just aren’t forced to connect to other players anymore. If it were a dev thing, especially games like Guild Wars 2 and Rift would be very social affairs- both provide huge opportunities to form bonds with other players- and yet we don’t.

If you want a home, choose it

There was such a great opinion piece on that on the olden pages of Massively, but i can’t find it anymore. What Eliot Lefebvre wrote in his opinion piece basically came down to this piece of truth: if you want “the game”, you shouldn’t wait for the perfect fit. You shouldn’t think that the “next game” will make everything work out perfectly for you. He made a somewhat dangerous connection to a relationship- and the mindset of going to a date with the expectation that you’ll only date the partner three times or something instead of going all-in for a longterm relationship. If you’d want a shorter, more superficial relationship, that would be fine, but if you’re looking for a longterm partner, you should meet them with that in mind. (Edit: Thanks to Eliot for providing the link to the article– it’s a great read.

I agree- but having started with great hopes in Guild Wars 2 and Archeage, i can attest that even when something looks good on paper and makes you think you found the game, it can still be screwed up in a million ways.

Everything looks good on paper
Sometimes, things look good on paper

I would argue that if and when you choose to play one MMORPG exclusively, your experience will be much better, because you can dive deeper into the game mechanics as well as interact in social groups within that game. You’ll be there for content additions, you’ll sometimes log in and “just chat with guildmates/friends” and so on- you won’t do something like that if you’re playing too many MMORPGs at a time- because before you log in just to chat you’ll be launching something else. On the other hand, if you’re a “time-hardcore” player, MMORPGs might not provide you with enough content to play in your time- so maybe you might be able to juggle more than one MMO and guild- and then there’s the topic of “play-to-finish” MMORPGs which are basically all about the journey and not-so-much about endgame (The Secret World comes to mind). If a game really doesn’t provide you with any activity you’d want to do, switching to another one might not be such a bad idea. But this is a problem for players who play a lot, really. From my point of view, TSW, for instance, would provide me with enough questing and story-related stuff for…well, maybe for its whole lifespan.

And sometimes, it doesn't look good on paper but is surprisingly good on screen.
And sometimes, things don’t look good on paper but are surprisingly good on screen.

I wrote about reasons to play only one MMORPG earlier- in fact, it was one of the first posts on this blog. I think many of these reasons come into fruition now when you read about how more and more bloggers make their way into Final Fantasy XIV- others are there, there’s even a free company of (not only) bloggers somewhere, they stick with the game and have a great experience others want to have, as well. If you think about interesting blogs to read, at least in my opinion, it’s written by people who mainly stick to one MMORPG and can provide deep info, interesting, different ways to play and experience “their” game. Their excitement and dedication is infectious, they stick with a game long enough to alter the experience in these games beyond the obvious while us game-hopping individuals only see quests, quests and quests.

So you’re saying playing only one MMORPG is better?

No, i’m not exactly saying this straight- i think our experiences would be better if we stuck to as many MMORPGs as we can realistically handle. That number would differ from player to player. I’d say that if i were to choose one MMO to play with my ~10 hours a week, my enjoyment in this MMO as a “virtual home” would grow, i’d have more interesting topics to write about here and maybe would even be able to form friendships in that game- all of this isn’t possible when you divide your 10 hours to 4 MMORPGs at a time. Someone playing a lot would possibly be able to handle that number.

But still, as noted earlier, the games are quite different to each other, so much so that only one MMO wouldn’t fit into all our moods. So i guess my suggestion would be to “choose” one main MMO that you play for depth, social ties and as a “virtual home” and spice it up with some other games that offer different experiences. Also, i’m somewhat in agreement with Isarii right now: maybe don’t join multigaming guilds if you want to find an MMO home. But i don’t want to open that can of worms right now.

Age of Conan – The Secret World’s previous life

Ah, Tortage. When Age of Conan released, it caused some problems for the players- namely, that it was a polished and story-heavy part of the game that didn’t translate to the later game.

I never liked it. It’s a matter of “instanced” starting zones- when i play an MMORPG, i want to join the “open” world as soon as possible. Granted, in AoC, the open world isn’t much more open than Tortage, but in starting zones, i always feel left out and want to leave them as soon as possible. So Tortage’n night time questline is a hindrance to that goal.

If you didn’t know, in AoC’s Tortage, where all characters begin their journey, you can- and have to- switch manually between day- and nighttime. Daytime is just about what you’d expect from an MMO- it offers quests, other players, NPC vendors and so on. When you switch to night, you’re all alone. The questlines differ from class archetype to class archetype- warriors play a slightly different story than thieves, mages or priests.

Jingci on White Sands (Nighttime)
Jingci on White Sands (Nighttime)

But one does have to give credit where it’s due. It’s funny in a way, because The Secret World kind of opens the door to better understanding Age of Conan, its mechanics and the story-heavy introduction. I’ll see later how well it transports over to the open world, but for now, i find it to be very interesting.

The story revolves around a town, Tortage, where some dark power overthrew the previous leader of the town- and it’s your job to help the resistance in getting the power back. Once successful, you’ll be able to leave the town. It’s quite long- i just tried to finish as much of it as possible since we’re playing AoC in a group (or two, as was the case last friday) and we’ll have to do the nighttime questline at some point. I played about 2 hours and could still go on, but i don’t have time for that.

AoC’s Tortage offers great locales- there’s a volcano, underhalls, a lighthouse and the isle of White Sands, a surprisingly dangerous place, be it night or day. The difficulty is one of the things that stick out in AoC- it’s far more difficult than what we’re used to nowadays. Even Solo, you have to pay attention to your pulls and body-pulls have a long range. It’s not rare to fight against 3 or more opponents at the same time. Three, i always manage. When i made a mistake and get to fight four or five in a row, it will be a close fight.

I had to respawn more often than i thought
I had to respawn more often than i thought

Age of Conan still looks great (for an MMO)- although i’d say at least Elder Scrolls Online is more beautiful, AoC has a good look that aged well and it offers really atmospheric zones. And these are all things we see come to a high point when playing The Secret World- atmosphere, story, difficulty and to some extent, freedom. AoC offers some of that- not only does it still boast the initial skill trees that used to be standard but by now have become the exception in MMO design, but there are skill points you can distribute to activities like climbing, running speed and perception, which enables your character to see hidden opponents.

I’m playing a Dark Templar because our group(s) were short of tanks- not that i’d know how to tank, i’ve never done it, but Dark Templar was also the class i played when i joined AoC for some time, so it is a style of play i’m still somewhat used to. My favourite thing about the DT are its leeching abilities- with level 13, there’s not too much yet, but later on, by level 29, i had about 4 or 5 buffs i could activate and i was leeching health the whole time.

Even the guards change at night
Even the guards change at night

I can only stress once again that sounds, graphics, the story and the general theme of AoC make for great atmosphere- and the game is kind of fun, as well. The combat style isn’t as actiony as it was advertised back when the game released, but it is an active style of combat, with the combos and quite unique skills all around. I’d also have to give AoC credit for its classes- they’re really unique- you won’t find something very similar to a Bear Shaman, Herold of Xotli or Tempest of Set in other MMOs.

I’ve written about the business model before, so i’ll make it short: while levelling to level 80, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a need- or even a reason- to spend money. I don’t know if this is very wise of Funcom, but for us players, it’s a good thing in some ways. If you really want to, you’ll find some stuff to buy in the ingame-shop, but there’s not much that’s needed. All that changes when you’re level 80, though. To progress further, a subscription might be required and you’ll have to purchase the one and only expansion of the game.

I didn’t take a look at the newly-released achievement system, although they recently added “vistas” and treasure chests to the open world and these additions seem interesting enough. I guess we’ll see about that at a later point in our group’s journey.

Saving a boy
Saving a boy

For me, as much as i’d like to dive into AoC, for now i’ll constrict it to the guild group. But AoC is worth a look if you’re curious- and it’s cheap (but not small on the hard drive). And somehow, i feel it’s kind of a look into The Secret World’s past.

The cycle

I play MMORPGs almost exclusively- there used to be only one, World of Warcraft, although i didn’t linger there for as long as most players do- i played for about 6 months before questing in Stranglethorn Valley and the Un’Goro crater put an end to a fun progression and made it a grind. Since then, i’ve gained maxlevel only once, in Rift, and that was because i had great fun in a great group- i think i did play only dungeons from the mid-thirties to level 50. Everything else i played, i got stuck in the early mid-levels. Let’s say level 30 usually is when i hit a wall. Curiously, i’m not alone in this, as Ironweakness has a post up to announce a series on his blog about levelling from “One to X”.

That post made me think about reasons for my not being able to do something like that, as much as i’d want. There are some.

Something else beckons

I like most mainstream MMOs that are out there. Often, when i return to a game, i wonder why i left/didn’t continue/don’t put more deliberation in that particular game. It really doesn’t matter which game it is we’re talking about- i cycle through Lotro, The Secret World, Final Fantasy XIV, SWTOR, Elder Scrolls Online, Guild Wars 2, Marvel Heroes, maybe even EQ2 and World of Warcraft (not really) all the time. It’s offers and updates that are calling me.

Just to take the more recent events- i’d like to play FF14 and Guild Wars 2 for their respective expansions. I wanted to get into SWTOR for their housing system, always want to continue Lotro for its story and world, The Secret World for the New player experience and so on. But while i am on game x, there’s always something happening in game y. I really wish i’d be there, at the level cap, to witness all new content. If i were to make an effort to play “One to X” in each of these games successively, i’d be in a happy place.

It gets cumbersome

The early levels of many MMOs are quite fun. Even when you are a time-challenged casual player like myself, you’ll be able to make some progress- even if it’s just “finishing one quest” in MMOs where one quest really matters, like in ESO or TSW. In Guild Wars 2, even in the higher levels, i manage to get a level out of most play sessions while mostly just taking a look around.

But sometimes, it’s just getting very cumbersome to make any progress in the games. So much so that i’ll need a whole play session just to figure out where i left, what my goals were and how to play my class. Quests and other ingame goals take you to places all over the virtual worlds, the inventory is cluttered and i don’t even know what is useful and what isn’t. Mobs take ages to get down and so on. Life in the midlevels is busywork.

The most recent example in my personal experience would be Final Fantasy XIV, where i simply wanted to get the main story quest up to the level my character is. It took me about two months and still i didn’t reach that goal. Of course i did other stuff- i made progress in crafting, different combat classes as well as gathering. Unfortunately, this all didn’t really feel like progress because i was merely catching up on all positions- trying to get the gathering and crafting jobs as well as the main storyline up to par with my combat class level- and it took ages.

Zone design

I don’t believe in worlds- even virtual ones, that are devoid of any humanity. Often, you’ll have the starting zones and they’re happy places- there are villages, woods, beautiful sights all around. All this vanishes when you hit the early midlevels. Think about Lord of the Rings Online- you start either in the shire, bree-land or Ered Luin – all beautiful places, with villages and signs of humanity all around. Then you’ll continue to the Lonely Lands- ok, they’re named fittingly, but all you get there is an inn. The North Downs aren’t much better- from the second area up until Moria you’ll only get ruins, cabins and other small places. There’s Rivendell, of course, but not much of cities in other ways. And then…comes Moria, the epitome of boredom in zone design (in my opinion; it’s designed in a very good way, but these are still basically caves).

And later on, there will be desert/lava zones. Nobody wants to see something like that. Of course, i can see why dangers must present themselves and an all-green happy-place world might be equally boring, but i still can’t understand why people build great cities in the early game and live in tents from level 20 onwards.

Ways out

So i was thinking- how could i do something like Ironweakness and Syp, who also plays a bajillion MMORPGs but somehow manages to be at (or almost at) the top of the content curve in all of them? Of course, one way to do it would be to not play 30 MMORPGs at the same time and instead reduce to a number i could handle- namely, one at a time. This won’t work, of course, because diversity is the spice of life, after all.

“Going buy-to-play”, as i’ve mentioned in my previous post, would be another way to reduce the amount of concurrent MMOs as well as lifting some pressure off me. There would be three games available- Elder Scrolls Online, Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World. They would offer a diverse diet as well as some depth in their gameplay. All i’d really cut out would be Final Fantasy 14, SWTOR and the newly-returned-to EVE. And Lotro. But frankly, i doubt i’ll ever make it through Moria.

So i don’t know, this is still a topic. It’s a funny thing- this blog was created because i wanted to document my finding of a new MMORPG home- i guess it worked in that way. Unfortunately, when i started it i was of the opinion that i’d found it by now.

 

What to play and going buy-to-play

The recent weeks didn’t see much of MMORPG playtime. I was sick, playing singleplayer games, sick again and on vacation. I briefly considered taking an MMORPG sabbatical for some time, because right now i just feel i’m not in the mood of playing regularly. Gaming, and especially MMORPG-related gaming, tends to become so much of a focus in the private life that launching a game becomes the standard option of things to do in free time- and i don’t want that to be the case anymore. I don’t want to “automatically” sit in front of the PC as soon as i have some room to breathe, because in these last weeks, i found that to be suffocating. I don’t know if you can relate to this, but that’s where i’m coming from right now.

So now i’m going to give gaming a lesser focus in my free time. It won’t be the standard option anymore- see, raising a child for the last two years saw me getting out of touch with some other hobbies of mine- reading and watching tv-series or movies, for instance.

Anyways, this is still my gaming-related blog here, so let’s take a look at what i’m planning right now.

Final Fantasy XIV

As it happens, each and every time i play this game, somehow when i lose focus and momentum, interest goes full on zero. There are reasons for that, of course, the main one being that this game, despite its mechanics, also doesn’t appeal to me on many levels- the relatively small zones, the kind-of-grindy gathering/crafting, the cuteness and the fact that it is- well, i don’t know how to put that in words, but i find it cumbersome, sometimes- it’s almost as if everything in FF14 needs to be done in a deliberate manner.

Another reason is, of course, that i don’t have social ties in the game. Right now, i’m kind of waiting for my current guild to kick me for inactivity (they will, despite me being in the community) and i will look out for other groups when i return to the game next month.

Now, having already bought the expansion (it’s quite cheap on greenmangaming VIP, by the way), i plan a return somewhere around may to make an effort and see where i will be when the expansion hits. Having done that is one of the reasons i didn’t make the titular deliberate choice of going buy-to-play yet, but i kind of expect to do so come the end of the year. Or maybe not. Deliberate choices in MMOland don’t go particularly well for me.

EVE online

Now that’s funny, considering the above paragraphs and the contemplation to go buy-to-play (i’ll muse on that later), but as of today, i returned (if you can call it that) to EVE online. See, EVE is the only MMO out there that provides the features i’m looking for in an MMO- the local/regional markets, the player driven economy, distance being a part of gameplay. They had an offer to reactivate for some discount, and this time i took it- after being three years absent from the game.

Most everyone will tell you that EVE is not a game to play casually and/or solo, but to be honest, i don’t really believe that. EVE is a game where you set your own goals, so when i set my goals accordingly, i don’t see why one couldn’t play it casually and/or solo. Of course, i don’t know the game very good, the learning cliff is still waiting for me, and i fully expect to fall off of it again, but i’ll give it a try nonetheless.

Here are my loosely drawn-up goals:

  • get some capital by doing the tutorial(s) and maybe some mission running to get a feel of the game
  • start mining
  • at some point, i’ll do station trading- when i feel i have some money to play around with (the mining should help with that)
  • way further down the line i want to become a manufacturer- as far as i understand it right now, miner – refiner – industrialist is my preferred “progression path”, if you can call it that- the goal is to become an industrialist and trader. The path should help me getting an understanding of the process involved as well as capital. I also don’t know if being an industrialist really is soloable.
  • maybe i’ll take a look at exploration

I’m at the beginning of this process, my current capital is 8 million ISK (haha! :D) and i’ll need to learn a lot. It’s going to be slow, as well, but this time i didn’t want to miss the offer- i missed it two or three times already and every time i wanted to get back into the game it wasn’t valid anymore. We’ll see how it goes.

Elder Scrolls Online

Some project also “requires” me to play ESO, and i’m glad for it. I’ll not talk too much about it now, but i’ll start a Templar (continue my level 7 Templar) in an attempt to re-explore the game and try to be a combination of healer and dps, as i always try to be in MMOs.

Age of Conan

The guild project will move to AoC tomorrow. As it looks right now, we’ll be almost two groups of people who play and i’m really looking forward to it.

The Secret World and Guild Wars 2

TSW brought itself back into my MMORPG diet with its New Player Experience. I like what Funcom did there and plan on playing TSW on an irregular basis.

Guild Wars 2 fits into my “going buy to play” plan and would be a good addition to the other two b2p games out there- Elder Scrolls Online, Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World would be a great combination of games to play- if one was in the mood to play, i think these three games combined provide almost everything an MMO player needs, if paying a subscription fee is not what this player is looking for.

Going buy-to-play

Yeah, the title is misleading in this way. I’m not. But remember when i wrote about priorities in the first paragraphs? Subscriptions really don’t fit into this- for me, at least. When i’m paying a sub, it’s not that i want “as many hours as possible” out of the games, but there’s still the nagging feeling of “i’m paying a sub. I should play that game (if i’m playing at all)”. It seems a waste to pay a sub for FF14 but launch Guild Wars 2, for example.

Most free-to-play games are hybrids with an optional subscription. When i play, say, SWTOR, i will sub up because i find the experience to play it without subbing severely lacking. The same would go for ArcheAge, if i were to play that game.

So that’s when i thought about going buy-to-play, and if my EVExperiment doesn’t work out, i might still do just that. The b2p games out there are of a high quality, they don’t have intrusive cash shops, they don’t try too hard to make you subscribe. Buy-to-play is the business model that fits best with my priorization of gaming in my free time.

If i were to make the deliberate choice of only playing b2p games and it would make my (gaming) life so much easier- first, i might not always be tempted to take offers the f2p/p2p games put out, there would also be a very much smaller selection of titles that i’d consider to play on a given night when i want to play and there would be no pressure at all- imagined, self-imposed or otherwise- to play more often than i’d really like to. It would be a good choice for me.

For now, though, there’s still the EVExperiment and Heavensward in my plans.