Two good news in one day

Who would have thought, right? It’s 2015, in some ways a new age of MMORPGs, with smaller titles, less hype and a lot of happiness with what’s already out there. And yet, today there were two big news for the MMORPG player: Blade & Soul is going to get a western version and the Repopulation seems to make it to release– this year!

For me, this means that Project Trinity is almost set for this year- SWTOR should be a side MMO, but is my main pastime at the moment. By the way, i decided to do one run of an Imperial Agent, solely focussing on the class storyline. I can’t see myself stop playing that game right now- it’s fun, it’s rewarding, it fits my schedule, preferences and moods. Final Fantasy XIV should get a bump soon(ish)- after all, it is my “main” game until august, at least. Elder Scrolls Online didn’t see me, this month, and will be swapped with Guild Wars 2 come june. Heart of thorns is going to release soon(ish), if leaked info is to be believed, it will be releasing on june, 30th. I can play- even a new character- to 80, easily, in one month.

Come the end of this year, the Repopulation will release, and that means the second of three games for which this blog was created- as a reminder- back when i started, i looked forward to either ArcheAge, the Repopulation or Everquest Next to be the new home MMO for me. Nowadays, i’m not so positive anymore- and the games are not the whole reason for that. If i were to play only one MMO, that game would have to be very versatile. I don’t think one game can do that.

The Repopulation is interesting to me because, on paper, it offers everything an MMO in my opinion needs- an open world, restricted-but-existing open world pvp, trade opportunities, a player-centric economy, somewhat dynamic pve, crafting that isn’t just an add-on to the game and so on. When it comes, i might even hop onto a hardcore server, for the trade.

The thing is- as much as i’d like to be able and willing to play such an MMO, my time-restraints might become an obstacle. I’m not sensitive in this- if it is possible to enjoy the game with as few gaming hours as i have, i’ll be a happy camper. But it would have to be a “sandbox” like EVE, where there’s not only goals for player groups to achieve, but also for solo/casual players. Then, there’s the “polish” thing- the Repopulation’s tutorial reminded me heavily of Fallen Earth, setting-wise as well as handling-wise. This shouldn’t be much of an obstacle, but it did feel a bit clunky.

Still, i’m very much looking forward to the Repopulations release and might play some of it before it’s happening.

Blade and Soul is a different thing. I don’t really know what it is- action combat, wuxia and, well, outfits. For the last point, there’s mostly the skimpy ones getting attention, but i read that there is more diversity to choose from.

The reason i don’t know anything about it is simple: after the long wait for ArcheAge, i decided i won’t look too deep into new releases over in asia- after all, you can’t be sure if the games make it over here at all. Even if they do, usually there’s a period of over one year between releases- in ArcheAges case 2 years, with Blade and Soul it’s three.

I’m not expecting the game here, but i think NCSoft releases decent MMORPGs, quality-wise, so it’s nice to be able to look forward to a wuxia MMORPG that might actually be good. I always wanted to delve deeper into wuxia novels- they are “chinese fantasy novels”, but it’s quite hard to find wuxia novels who were translated into english- there are fan translations, but somehow those don’t appeal to me. So, if you know about a good wuxia novel that’s available in english or german, let me know.

Blade and Soul might allow me to experience wuxia in a different way. Granted, MMO story is rarely as good as what’s available in book-form, but in this case, i’ll take it happily. If the game is fun and interesting, as well- all the better.

So i’m really looking forward to both of them- it might not be as quiet a year as one would have expected when it began.

37

So, well, today (05-17) is my birthday. This was a good oportunity to review the About-Page here on Party Business, so i did just that. Since birthdays are a good day to form some goals and look into the past, i’ll do that quickly, as well.

On this blog, i’d like to improve three things:

  • i’d like to write more “column-like” posts to add some structure. I’ve said that before, but in the past, i tried to let the gaming inspire the blogging- maybe it’s time to do it the other way round
  • connecting: i really need to comment more on others’ posts and blogs.
  • my writing: it must be painful to read for natives. I think my english is good enough, but usually, i don’t need to use it actively- as in writing, speaking and such. I watch most movies and tv-series and read books english, so if i were to watch/read something that was written in the way of this blog, it would be obvious to me that the source isn’t a native speaker. The key here is more editing- i’d like to think i could do better, but i’m lucky to get as many posts out as i do, so re-reading and editing is the part where i save the time.

There’s more in terms of blogging, though: i’d also like to get some other topics out there- like books, movies, and general life stuff. I think movies and books would fit in here, as well- i often find that people who share one interest at least tend to enjoy similar stuff in other parts of entertainment. So maybe it would be of interest to you why and how i became a Marvel fan (the word “fan” is hyperbole, but still) or why my favourite fantasy author is Joe Abercrombie, but the highlights (and darker moments) of being a dad or our next family holiday won’t interest anyone who’s visiting here for the MMO stuff.

I think i’ll end up occasionally talking about movies/series/books here and keeping the private stuff to me.

NBI talkback challenge: early access and kickstarter

So do i support unfinished games? Why, yes i do; at least if you asked my wallet. I ‘bought’ Shroud of the Avatar, Landmark, Divinity: Original Sin, ArcheAge, Skyforge, Neverwinter and Elite: Dangerous before they released. To be fair, only the first three were actually unfinished when i bought them.

If you look closely, however, you’ll find that none of them needed my money when i “kickstarted” them- SotA’s Kickstarter campaign was well finished when i bought into it via Steam, Landmark was started by SOE, a company who didn’t really need my money and D:OS was bought via Steam.

Reluctant backer

The reason for this behaviour is that i’d actually like to see if the product they put out to ‘testers’ resembles the design goals outlined in the Kickstarter campaign- i’m not a huge risktaker when it comes to the product- it’s more my fickle nature i’m taking risks with, so i want to at least know that i’m interested in seeing the product as is when i ‘buy’ it.

A spiritual successor to Syndicate? Yes, please!
A spiritual successor to Syndicate? Yes, please!

And there lies the key, in my opinion: you should be interested in the product that’s available when you buy it, because there’s actually a chance that it will never really see the light of day. Granted, i don’t know of many failures, but still. If i wanted to promote an idea, i’d also do Kickstarters. For instance, i’d have backed Satellite Reign if there would have been signals that it wouldn’t make its Kickstarter goals. There weren’t, so right now, i’m waiting to become interested in the product that is available- when i am, i’ll buy it.

You should know what you’re spending your money on

Don’t think you buy a game when you’re supporting an idea by kickstarting a game, because what you do is give money to the devs so they know someone is interested in seeing their vision come to fruition. Right now, if you’re buying a 200$ starship for Star Citizen, you won’t help make the product better, become available quicker or make it happen at all. You’re buying a virtual ship in a game that might release at some point and that you know virtually nothing about. Would i do that? Oh for sure i wouldn’t.

This could become a great game- it puts the RPG back into the MMOs.
This could become a great game- it puts the RPG back into the MMOs.

If a release date is set, you’re actually not backing but pre-ordering a game. You might get early access, too.

Is kickstarter / selling early access bad?

No, i don’t think so. The thing is, if we’re spending money on it, we deserve what we get. It’s quite the same as with lockboxes in MMOs- if that is what the devs make their money on, they’re well within their rights to sell them and make them attractive. I don’t think adults need help in getting their spending habits under control- and if they do, it’s on them to realize the problem, not on the devs.

A spaceship for an unfinished game? No, thanks.
A spaceship for an unfinished game? No, thanks.

In free-to-play-land early access is similar to a box sell, in my opinion- and that’s especially true if you get to play a longer period after the final wipe in that game. Everywhere else it’s selling a product- an unfinished product, at that, but it is a product.

Now, if we, as customers, should tag along in this venture, i don’t know. I don’t think there are many products that made a 180-turn in terms of product design between early access and release. There are, however, some products that were left behind by their devs. This isn’t a problem that’s unique to early access titles, though- just remember how Hi-Rez, a dev team i used to respect greatly in the times of Global Agenda, treated said title and Tribes afterwards. Or remember Vanguard. Or Champions Online.

On the other hand, sometimes, Kickstarter can be the only way for ideas to become products. I think we should back ideas we like to become reality- if we can afford to. I don’t think we should spend money on spaceships in a game that isn’t released yet and got 60,000,000$ already. But in the end, it’s your money and how to spend it is your decision to make.

Dual Wielding: the ideal levelling process

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 on the subject.

Introduction

This time, Ironweakness’ and i chose to tackle another subject- the ideal levelling process. For me, this is a difficult topic since i never really finished levelling in most of the MMORPGs i play- so voting for a longer levelling experience seems to be quite the opposite of what i’d want- but since i am someone who likes MMORPGs to be “virtual worlds” with a heap of different activities and a somewhat robust economy, a longer levelling experience makes sense. So here are my thoughts on how levelling should be- in my opinion, of course.

Neverending

I do like the arbitrary level number next to my character’s portrait. It’s an easy way to gauge overall progress of that character in the game. I don’t think that journey ever ends, though, so the concept of a “max level” doesn’t appeal to me. Just take a look at the achievement list in your favourite MMO – the developers agree! But they put another arbitrary number on achievements instead of making use of the existing one, character level. I could, of course, use that arbitrary number to see where i stand in regards of overall progression within the game, but i don’t really see the point in adding another value instead of using the one that has always been there to do exactly that.

Let it take forever, because there would need to be a soft cap applied. I’d prefer the soft-cap-max-level to be high, though, to allow for tangible progress early on. Let’s say your maxlevel is 255; just let it take 3 months of ingame time to go from 254 to 255, i don’t care. It shouldn’t be reached, anyway.

Of course, the problem is skill/class progression, which is often tied to the levelling process, but that’s a topic for another day. For now, i’ll make it short and simply state that i prefer skill progression over class progression because it allows for horizontal character progression- see EVE or The Secret World, for instance.

Uses all activities

If we take another look at achievements, the funny thing is that there are achievements for almost everything- yet, in most games, the only things that grant you “experience” to raise your level are killing mobs and completing quests. In my opinion, everything an MMO offers should contribute to your characters’ progress in levels. Good examples are Guild Wars 2, where pretty much everything you can do rewards experience, but also Final Fantasy XIV by use of gathering/crafting classes and SWTOR, where, as far as i know, most things you do give some progress to your characters, although it won’t always be towards levelling them but provide the player with alternate currencies.

Is heavy on story

But please don’t let me be the chosen one. I want to see an MMO-story that actually makes use of all the other players out there and it doesn’t make sense that we’re all superheroes, demi-gods or immortals- if we were, we were the ‘normal’ ones in the setting and the world dynamics would change.

Story-heavy MMORPGs are often criticized for being too solo-centric, but i feel that, while this might be true for the MMORPGs that are released, it doesn’t need to be this way. There are great, story-heavy movies/books out there that don’t just focus on one character. The key is that those characters have different opinions, different goals and different motivations behind their choices. In my opinion, we could do this in MMOs.

I think Star Wars: the old republic actually gives us a glance at this possibility- when you are in flashpoints, dialogue opens up. As in normal quests, the player characters will be prompted to answer. Every player of the group may choose an option to his or her liking, but what is actually said- story-wise, is decided by dice roll. This allows for situations where something happens, story-wise, that wouldn’t have been your personal choice and is still very interesting to observe.

So i don’t think it’s impossible to do. Of course, creating story takes some time, so how much story there is for players to experience should differ from game to game (and budget to budget), but if you’re a themepark MMO, story is part of the package.

Gives weight to activities

This ties in with the previous point- not everything there is to do in an MMORPG is totally epic stuff- there’s going to be the basement full of rats, the odd delivery quest, the filler content. And also, baking bread, smelting iron and so on. A game that wants to provide a good levelling experience gives weigth to activities- for instance by not throwing tens of quests at us when we enter a “quest hub”.

The Secret World and Guild Wars 2 do great in this regard- TSW only allows the player to have one story mission, one main mission and up to three item missions active at the same time, making each mission seem more important and easier to follow. Missions in The Secret World are often multi-tiered, as well. Guild Wars 2 doesn’t have quests, at all, and makes heavy use of location instead. Be in place A and there’s this thing to do, in place B it’s another one (often even providing multiple ways to finish these quests- by collecting items, killing mobs and so on), dynamic events are location-based, as well. Only your personal story and daily/monthly achievements are similar to what you’d call quests in other games.

Doesn’t change at endgame

The ideal levelling process doesn’t suddenly change the game surrounding it when it’s finished- “endgame” and “levelling” should basically be the same game. I see no reason why raids should be a max-level-activity. Sure, if the levelling process is short and players enter and leave the corresponding level-brackets very quickly, it doesn’t really make sense to create complicated content before max level. If, on the other hand, the bracket in question takes time to traverse, there could be dungeons/raids or whatever for earlier levels. If you take a look at EQ2, for example, it does a great job at providing content for all group sizes at almost all levels- this should be the norm.

Gives choice

I think if we’re talking about a linear quest-driven-progression, there should be multiple ways to level through the content. World of Warcraft and Everquest 2 are great examples – you could level multiple characters without entering the same zones (or minimizing this) on more than one of them, because for every level bracket, there are more than one or two options in playing. But even if we’re looking outside of zones, crafting, exploring, gathering, these are all activities that should be rewarded by raising that arbitrary number of character level.

What SWTOR needs

…in my opinion, of course. It’s quite a silent week for me, this one, at least in regards to writing here. The reason being that the nursery school teachers in germany are on strike indefinitely, which means at least this week, possibly going into next week. So our son is home and i stay with him- which in turn means that the time i usually write something is blocked. In terms of playing, his being sick at the moment doesn’t help. It’s nothing too bad, bad his sleep is uncalm. So, well, not much of a gaming week here.

That is a bummer, because you know these times when you can’t wait to log into a game? I’m in one of these phases. Doesn’t matter if it were FF14, SWTOR or ESO- my current trinity- i’m really enjoying my time in those games i play- although it has been SWTOR, exclusively, in the last week.

While i like the game very much and am surprised at how good its design fits both my preferences and my available time to play, there are some things i miss in SWTOR. So here are a few pointers.

Planetary storylines should be their own thing

I do realize that this is what later on happens anyway, after the class stories are finished. But i wished quests in SWTOR came three-fold: class quests, planetary quests and sidequests. With 12XP currently going on a seperation like this would help a lot in making use of the experience bonus in place while still following the main theme of the individual planets. If there is a way to tell the planetary story apart- or experience/read it ingame without doing every quest there is on a planet, let me know. I’m unaware of an option like this.

Is that...a gate?
Is that…a gate? Also, while we’re at it: please add a keybind for hiding/displaying nameplates!

If planetary quests were highlighted in some way, i guess my approach to quicker levelling in SWTOR while still experiencing more of the story would be to finish the planetary questlines first and the class stories after.

Mentoring

Ok, i don’t know anyone in game (yet – made contact with Shintar, though), so this wouldn’t be of much use for me except maybe in flashpoints, but every MMORPG, in my opinion, needs to provide the option to experience content together in a ‘challenging’ and ‘worthwhile’ way for friends to play together. It would certainly help social guilds in planning and executing social events that make use of available content.

A little help for the srubs
A little help for the srubs

If there was the ability to set your own level, it would also help with the 12XP issue of “levelling too fast” since you could do both- level quickly and experience the stories you’d want to experience.

Usable decor

Shortly after the FC meeting in FF14, i went out of our guild house (or whatever they’re called), saw a fountain and clicked on it. To my surprise, something happened. That, of course, was after we sat on couches while discussing FC-related stuff in our house. In SWTOR, as far as i can tell, usable objects are in the majority. Sure, you can read mail, store items, gather resources and probably do other things i don’t know about. But sitting on a couch is done by jumping on the seat and using the /sit command- success varies. It might be an engine thing, but it’s a bummer that housing is mostly limited to “looking nice”.

Account or legacy wide friendlist

This is a stealth-edit. When i tried to contact Shintar, i added her to my friendlist. For a while afterwards, i kept wondering why i didn’t see her online anymore. Then i realized that i was on a different character, so i’ll have to add her 6 or 7 republic chars to each and every friendlist of my characters- if she’d want to do the same for me, it would involve even more work. I appreciate the ability to sometimes play with a “secret” character if you don’t want to meet anyone (especially useful for guildleaders), but it would still be a great help if there was at least a faction-wide friendlist for accounts/legacies.

That’s all?

I’m pretty sure there’s more. I could join the chorus and wish for more open planets. I had a disappointing experience the last time i played Soofoo on Tatooine. I saw a gate-like structure on the edge of the spaceport/first town and, of course, went there to explore. I was out of the gate for a few meters/yards when i got the warning: “exhaustion zone. Turn back”.

See, open space! But don't go there....it's exhausting.
See, open space! But don’t go there….it’s exhausting.

But i’ve made my peace with the zone design, realizing that maybe it isn’t really about the planets. When all those important people in the movies land on a planet, they don’t go hiking, after all. They are on these planets for a mission- so are we, the players. So i changed my stance and just view them as setpieces/backdrops where the action takes place. Still, i hope for more open maps sooner or later, and as far as i know, they’re there.

I’m still hugely enjoying my time in both FF14 and SWTOR, hope to be able to join the next fc meeting in FF14 as well as a guild in SWTOR soon.

Changing galaxies

Transferring to the Red Eclipse

Yesterday i decided to move Soofoo over to The red eclipse from the Progenitor. It wasn’t an easy decision since i always have roleplaying or at least participating in community events in the back of my mind, but i feel in SWTOR, roleplaying is an activity mostly confined to internal guild events and community events aren’t actually large-scale. I’m also unsure anymore that the community is much better, since my first flashpoint experience wasn’t very good. The Red Eclipse is also a much more active server, the fleet was full of people/characters.

The transfer didn’t happen, unfortunately. I’m not sure if it is processed by now, but it wasn’t until midnight despite the fact that it should take only 1 hour and me queueing the transfer at 2 p.m. I opened a ticket at 9 p.m. yesterday; we’ll see how far i’ll come today. One of the main reasons i want her over there is the fact that she’s the furthest along in terms of progression and also because i want the legacy on the new server. It’s still not level 2, but i don’t want to lose even this progress.

The Sage

So yesterday i dabbled a bit in playing Samdhara, the Jedi Sage i started on The Red Eclipse.

I have to say, this might be the class- mechanically- i’m looking for in SWTOR. I chose the “Balance” specialization and it seems that i not only have healing spells available, but also “leeching skills” that provide selfhealing in relation to damage done. While this still won’t be what i’d call a “true hybrid class”, it’s close enough, at least from what i saw.

I’ve progressed her through Tython making use of the 12XP buff- so i only did the class quests. Doing this left me basically without credits and somewhat underequipped. And unsatisfied, but that’s a topic for another post.

12XP

I’ll make this short remark, though: i feel 12XP is a thing most useful to players who already did the planetary questlines on other characters and who are to supplement their 12XP characters with credits and equipment. For me, the pace felt wrong; it was too quick to experience what SWTOR has to offer. In this regard, i prefer the 2XP- it is quicker in progression while still allowing the newbie player to experience the planetary questlines, flashpoints and group quests without feeling like they could do “better” if they’d only follow the class quests.

I might have to re-think my approach on that buff. There are workarounds, like maybe first get into the planetary storylines before doing the class quests on the respective planet. On the other hand, the release of The Secret World’s update 11 showed me once again how much i’d like to have a character at the pulse of the games i’m playing. I’m reluctant to deactivate 12XP for me until i have a max-level character, though, because i fear on missing out on the buff entirely because of my slow levelling.

As for the item to remove the 12XP; i tested it yesterday: it’s an item in your inventory granting an 8-hour-buff you can deactivate and that has no cooldown.

Something’s wrong here

Final Fantasy XIV should be my main MMO now; and i enjoyed my return there immensely. This week, though, saw me being able to play quite late in the evenings- mostly 10 p.m., and that’s a time of day when i feel more comfortable launching SWTOR instead. Last week saw 5 hours of SWTOR and 3 hours of Final Fantasy XIV- i think i’ll make the 10 hours complete tonight, because the general direction still stands: i feel more invested in playing only two MMOs and play more- it’s just that i didn’t have much opportunity to do so this week.

The downside is i don’t have much to tell you. I still need to enter Tarvus’ ship with Soofoo and Samdhara is on her way to Coruscant. In FF14, the next step is gathering and bring the Botanist up to level 13 or maybe even higher.

When Soofoo arrives on the Red Eclipse, i also want to explore the group content of SWTOR further- after all, there are quests for groups of two or four characters on the planets, and groups are often built using the general chat. Furthermore it’s time for a second go at a flashpoint.

I’d also like to get into the lore more, though i’m still unsure whether the better approach is to make use of ingame-tellings (the codex, datachrons) or simply reading something on the internet. I feel like games should provide their lore in-game in a somewhat convenient way.

Short message regarding yesterday’s post

Maybe don’t post numbers. I wrote yesterday’s post because when i started this blog, i didn’t know what to expect. I mean, MMORPGs are a big topic, right? I know what to expect from a normal new blog and it isn’t much, but with this topic, i didn’t know if i’d receive visits in the tens, hundreds or thousands a month. I was thinking that maybe, sharing my viewcounts could serve as a signpost for people just starting out.

I regretted yesterday’s post almost immediately, surely after the first comments came in. It wasn’t really because people kind of disagreed, but because they made compelling arguments. And also because the exact numbers didn’t need telling- it would have been enough to post abstract numbers like “i’m receiving visitors in the two-digit-numbers”.

Also, it seems my rough draft gave the impression i care much about numbers and less about conversation. It’s the conversation i value, though, and one thing i’m trying to improve upon is commenting on other blogs.

This being the internet, my initial protectionist thought- pulling it back out- couldn’t work and it’s not the thing to do. Instead, it’s owning-up time. If you feel like i don’t value your input and instead watch visit numbers grow, i apologize, this isn’t the case but yesterday’s post could be understood that way.

While i still feel posting abstract numbers is helpful, yesterday’s post was badly written and too exact. I’d like to pretend it never happened, but it did.

So here’s why you should avoid the same mistake in posting numbers:

  • it opens a can of competetiveness we don’t need in the blogging community
  • it is easily misunderstood as caring more about numbers than the topic or the community
  • if they’re too high- and actually, you have no idea if your viewcount is high or low- they could even discourage people just starting out. Which would be the opposite effect of what the community wants to achieve in the NBI event

It’s interesting- after the talkback challenge and yesterday’s post, i didn’t really expect the latter to be the one i’d feel bad about. But i do. I feel like i did the community- and the NBI- a disservice. So once again, i apologize.