Category: Community

This week in /saved

This week felt quiet to me. I don’t know, maybe i just missed important blog posts or wasn’t reading with very much attention, but while a lot of things happened, like the announcement of the Guild Wars 2 expansion and Massively’s possible shutdown, i haven’t saved a lot of postings.

Guild Wars 2 expansion

I saved Syp’s assessment of the reveal. As usual, Wilhelm Arcturus also provided a great write-up on the topic and is friendly enough to link to all the other posts he found.

Massively’s possible closure

Really, i would have thought that this would be a bigger topic on the blogs i frequent. I found a couple of posts, but not nearly as many as i’d thought there were.

I got the news via EQ2wire’s Feldon. There are some great posts by J3w3l, Belghast, Roger Edwards and Moxie.

I think these posts show just how important that site is for bloggers in this genre.

Edit: by the way, i think it might be today that we’ll get the news about the shutdown. And from something i read, it won’t be all dark- there was some hope to be found in the comments section of the last Leaderboard column.

Other topics

I loved reading And What about another Middle Earth? by Wilhelm Arcturus- i agree to what he’s writing there, but more than that, i think it is a great write-up that maybe Lotro hasn’t failed as much as some people might believe and other topics.

Joystiq likely to be shut down- Massively as well?

So yesterday this news broke. AOL may be shutting down Joystiq. Massively, being a partner site, might also suffer this fate. I have to say, if it were to happen, this would mark a sad day for the MMO and blogging community. I think maybe the authors saw it coming with the last round of layoffs and budget cuts, because they prepared themselves and set up more prominent personal blogs.

You can find Justin Olivetti/Syp, of course, over at biobreak.wordpress.com, but others made a move, as well.

Larry Everett opened up Hyperspace Beacon to get his Star Wars related posts out, and he also puts at least snippets of his Massively column on this site.

MJ Guthrie has a few projects- her personal Twitch page being one, then there’s lookingforshinies.com and her Landmark-roleplaying-writing-the-games-history-page i just can’t seem to find right now. I’ll look for it later.

Bree has her own blog, as well, at skycandy.org, and then there’s Eliot Lefebvre on his own site.

Others can be found at other places- Beau Hindman is with mmorpg.com now, as is Shawn Schuster.

I’ll update the list if/when i get the other adresses, as well- if i remember correctly, Mike Foster also has some project going on.

With that out of the way, let me say this straight: Massively can’t be allowed to vanish.

You’ll have mmorpg’s closing shop, that’s just business, but Massively shutting down would be a huge loss for our favourite industry. Granted, i liked the page more when it was more blog and less news, when every author was excited for their game and every column made you wonder why you didn’t see all the wonders of these games- the way it was before the last cut. But even now, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a site like Massively. It’s still mostly designed as a blog, even if news take a front seat now and the game columns are not that great when the author isn’t excited about their game, but sees the same flaws in it as we do.

This site is made by enthusiasts for enthusiasts. It also is vital for my interest in the genre in the first place. It is a very important site, in my book. All authors, even the more and more grumpy ones, love the genre and this is what shines through each and every article they put out- and this is what differenciates Massively from other sites who try to write in a neutral tone or something- one might be able to visit other sites for news, but not for the excitement!

Also, one has to wonder- where would the games get appropriate coverage, then? I see no real competitor to Massively, the other sites are even more news-related. I’d hope the Massively writers might be able to stick together somehow and publish something indie, but it really isn’t that easy to earn money in the internet- although i could see ways- maybe offer in-depth game guides, sell them as pdf or something, in addition to the column.

I don’t think these sites where they could get donations would work- maybe, if they really stick together and want to reform Massively, but by themselves, i don’t think they’d be able to do it this way. They would need to offer paid content. But this isn’t the topic for today.

I really hope this are just rumors, or by some magic trick Massively won’t be affected, but to be honest, the pointers seem to indicate otherwise. Most important, perhaps, i hope it works out for all employees, who i feel to almost know in some fashion, so there is somewhat of a relationship there. I know it’s just a second job for most of them, but my guess is that they love it. So they should keep it or land on their feet, continuing to do what they love to do.

Others chimed in, John Smedley, for instance (although he gets picked on by Massively sometimes)- have to say, the thought that maybe someone would buy it didn’t cross my mind. Ah, here’s hoping.

Best wishes and hopefully, this is all wrong.

This week in /saved

Last week i had the problem that there were too many blog posts i saved for later- not so much this week, although i’m pretty sure i missed some interesting write-ups.

In “The Elder Scrolls Online ditching mandatory subscriptions” Wilhelm Arcturus offers his opinion and provides his readers with a list of other blog posts on the topic. Thanks for including mine, twice, although i didn’t really have much to say on the matter.

Lotro's Inns are cozy
Lotro’s Inns are cozy

“Lotro: you’ll never see Mordor” by Syncaine, mostly because i disagree- i’m pretty sure we’ll see Mordor- or at least an end to the story very close to Mordor (i don’t think it is a fact that we would see it- if i remember correctly, the two Hobbits and Gollum were the only ones in Mordor), but i do agree that Lotro is not an MMO we’ll be able to play ten years from now.

“Keep your eye on Crowfall” by Keen. Crowfall caught my eye as well, with Raph Koster on the team and some interesting talk about crafting and economy. Also, i like the artstyle. But there’s not really much to talk about just yet.

“Project Zomboid and surviving in style” by Jewel provides a great overview of the game and lends a helping hand to those who are new to it. Since i’m kind-of-interested in the game, i saved it not only for “reading later”, but also as a resource should i buy it some day.

That’s about it for this week, although i’m pretty sure i missed something- i’m not yet used to saving up posts to use here because they’re good and i don’t save posts i could read in their entirety when i saw them. But i guess we’ll get there…

Friday’s findings

This week

I only played Everquest 2 this week, and i have to say it feels good to do so. I changed my plan, though, and continued questing through the Butcherblock Mountains. My Inquisitor now is level 30 and has a full inventory, so there’ll be some downtime before i get going again. Right now my plan is to finish the quests in my journal and then take a look at a dungeon in the mountains called Kaladim, a dwarven city where something went wrong during the cataclysm. It’s meant for levels 30 to 39, so it might be tough for me and the Merc, but i’ll see about that. It’s also “guarded” by level 35 elite mobs, so getting in will be the first test.

The entrance to Kaladim
The entrance to Kaladim

Before going there, i’ll finish up the quests i have accepted and begin the quest for my Leaper, so it’ll be a few levels by the time i venture to Kaladim to see if i can do something in there. With Level 40, Everfrost is calling me- it seems that it’s a beautiful zone, i like snow zones, so i’m eager to take a look- but there’s also some crafting to do to maybe catch up a little. Oh, and housing.

Well, you know, me and other people who complain a lot about MMORPGs getting more and more shallow, small and narrow minded, would do really well giving EQ2 a look- it’s a great game with a very impressive scope of areas to explore and stuff to do, even stuff that’s not about fighting. There are meaningful, epic, quest chains in the game and great experiences all around.

Who played here?
Who played here?

I’m already planning for Alts and tried a level 90 character, but that’s really not for someone who’s quite new to the game.

Wildstar’s plans

Also, Carbine came out with their plans for Wildstar– these do look pretty good. Broadening the experience for all kinds of players (even non-hardcore soloers!) seems like a good idea. Their plans are in line with the necessary changes they’ll have to put in place to make the game more successful and interesting for players like me- although i’d have to say it was the combat, mostly, that turned me away. I just couldn’t relax while playing Wildstar. Not that they’ll change that, since the combat is one of the better points of the game and it is fun, but in my case, i’m rarely in the mood for that style of combat. Combine “rarely in the mood” and a subscription, and you’ll know i’m out.

See, and that’s what i missed here- there was no talk about the business model change which should happen, as well. I guess they don’t want to talk about that yet, since they know this is going to be their second- and last- chance to (re-)launch the game and impress their players, so other systems have to be put in place beforehand.

This week in /saved

Normally, i save longer, interesting blog posts for reading later and i wanted to publish a list of the posts i liked the most with some commentary here. I’ll begin today, but i do want to expand on this idea further down the line- and give it more room, probably, because my time for writing here is almost up.

Why Massively’s MJ is a Secret World Fan for life. Somehow i get the impression that it’s somewhat cool in some parts of the blog community to frown upon Massively, its writers and most of all, its commenters, but i like the site. I like their writers and i like reading the comments. When you do that for some time, you’ll know which commenters you like, and of course which authors, columns and opinions are for you. I like MJ a lot, because she streams regularly and is very enthusiastic for the games she plays- she’s a positive character, and that’s quite rare in the community these days. In yesterday’s article she wrote about reasons for loving TSW and the developers of the game, and i have to agree to all of them.

I mentioned Jeromai’s question about what to do before the end in another blog post, but i want to leave it here, again. His musings about what might happen come Guild Wars 2’s expansion are an interesting read, but i really liked his approach to screenshotting the world before the change. I’ll give a short quote with the basics:

  • Take the -one- defining picture of the area or zone. Or take a picture of the first thing you think of when you hear the zone’s name. (Those may not be the same thing.)
  • Take 3-5 representative pictures of the zone, covering the major landmarks and scenery.
  • Do it encyclopedia or wiki-style, a picture for each point of interest or vista or named landmark.
  • Do a walking tour of the zone to capture pretty much whatever catches your eye.

If you take it step-by-step, from the first bullet point to the last, for every zone, you mapped out a virtual world in a very good way.

I had a few others, but unfortunately, my time’s up- next time, i’ll try and post more links.

It’s not about grouping

Massively’s Jef Reahard posted another noteworthy soapbox column over on their site, stating that of course he cares what “you” are doing in an MMO. I found it difficult to understand what he was expressing, exactly. The only thing he mentioned directly was “solo questing” and the common saying that “you shouldn’t care what others are doing in an MMO”. Funny enough, i agree to the second part and am what you’d call a solo quester. I wrote about the reasons for that, so i’ll concentrate on the second part of his criticism, the don’t-care-part.

So we're in a group- did it help?

 

Normally, i’m with Jef on many occasions- i think he’s what you’d call a “core player”, which in this case would mean that he likes his MMORPGs to be “virtual worlds” more than games. But in this case i think that if games would follow that philosophy, you wouldn’t and needn’t to care about other players’ activities in your MMO. The reason this comes up is because themeparks are designed in a way that makes combat just about the only activity “worth” pursuing, and solo questing / solo progression is just the most accessible part of that activity.

I do, however, agree with two sentiments he only scratches at the surface in his opinion piece- one being that we all influence each other, even more so when we are thinking about a free-to-play game with an ingame shop, the other one being that MMORPG design took a wrong turn at some point in their history. But this is not about grouping up, storylines or quests. This, in my opinion, is more about trying to get attention of a wider market (remember: World of Warcraft is so successful because it gained a lot of players who didn’t play MMORPGs before WoW. Also, as a disclaimer: WoW was my first MMO, as well) and a strong focus on combat and loot. MMORPGs can be social without grouping up and doing dungeons.

Guild Wars 2 event

I could just log in and chat with my guildmates while playing solo. I could gather resources and sell them on the market, someone else could use them to craft something- all the while not being in a group but playing by him- or herself. Maybe i stand at a crafting station and get to chat with another player whom i meet at these stations regularly. Also, i would argue that grouping up to do a five-player-dungeon is not really social in a “massive” sense, because, after all, you are only interacting with three, four or five other players. If you are interacting, that is. With dungeon finder tools, “Hello” and “Thanks!” are often the only sentences someone writes to the group mates.

If we wanted MMORPGs to become more social (again?), there’s really no way around the fact that games need to be designed in a way that favors social interaction, friendlist-building and stuff like that. There are a few good ideas out there, like Guild Wars 2’s loot and gathering system (which has its own problems regarding the ingame economy), The Secret World’s time-to-kill and, for instance, Aions open world group zones, where Elite mobs roam the area, so that you are kind of forced to group up to travel these zones comfortably. Nothing really worked in getting us, the players, to play or interact more often. But i think this is the way to go. Add a good gathering/crafting/economy-component to that and forget the notion of instanced content altogether, and you might be on to something.

The Secret World

Of course, there still is the other side of the medal- the players. After adding incentives to group up, play and interact with each others as an option, which is important- it shouldn’t be mandatory, we would still have to do our part.

What i noticed- and i’m surely not alone in this- is that the perception of other players has changed since we took our first steps in whatever our first MMO was. Mine was WoW, and i was amazed- all these other people played the same game. We helped each others out, gave instructions and advice on how to get better in playing the game, we faffed around, doing things that made no sense in regards to progressing our characters. My wife and an ingame friend of her made a tour to see the world bosses in early WoW when they were level 30 or something. It was dangerous, it made no sense and they had lots and lots of fun.

Today, other players- in a more general sense- are players we meet via dungeon finder tools, who generally criticize what we are doing, have no respect for beginners (or, from the other point of view: steal our time by being beginners), hurry through the dungeon and/or become obstacles in progression (“forced grouping”, “gathering node thieves”) or kill our fun by perhaps killing us in world PvP, or hacking, cheating and exploiting their characters to success in a Sandpark of our choice, thereby destroying an economy and a whole feature for those looking for that kind of experience.

The model home was all i got
The model home was all i got

I’m not saying this isn’t true- i made some, if not all those experiences, as well, and i don’t like them, either. But i think we should look at other players in a better way. Because no matter who you are going to ask, everyone, even the hackers/cheaters and gankers, will say that other people ruin their fun in an MMO. Of course they don’t mean everybody, but each group has another group they don’t like: hardcore/casual, crafter/raider, roleplayers/gankers, pve/pvp and so on. So the real problem might not be “not caring” what others do in your MMO, but “caring too much”. They made Wildstar for hardcore raiders and it didn’t work out so well for Carbine. Now they make the game more accessible and the “hardcore” players don’t like the “dumbing down”.

I think, in the end, what i’d want to say is: we should give every player we meet the chance to get in your friends list. I think most players aren’t the monsters we make them out to be.

Also, if your MMORPG is a “real” MMORPG, there’s enough room and stuff to do for all kinds of players.

Another thing would be cash shop purchases, of course, which directly influence what the developers do in the future- you don’t like lock boxes, labor point potions or raid gear? Don’t buy them- not even when/if the publisher “forces” you.

So why am i playing MMORPGs?

Whenever someone admits to playing MMORPGs by themselves, the suggestion will come up that singleplayer games are better suited to their playstyle. The gameplay would be better, as well as story and the delivery of said story. So, after yesterday’s reasons for me playing solo, mostly- and by the way, this isn’t out of some kind of principle since i’d also like to group up and do stuff with other players- i’ll look into reasons for still playing MMORPGs.

They’re relaxing

I didn’t like Wildstar very much, although i’d say the gameplay is quite good for an MMORPG. But it wasn’t relaxing to me- the UI shot information and stuff to do at me like there was no tomorrow. Quests, Challenges, these solo-instances, crafting, gathering, housing and others. The combat is very active and involved, so much so that chatting with guildmates became a difficult thing to do. Almost every time i got a tell i had to move out of some spawn zone.

But the other games, especially stuff like Everquest 2 and/or SWTOR, i find to be very relaxing. You can do quite a lot of different activities like questing, housing, yeah, pretty much everything i’ve mentioned above. But where i felt “bombarded” in Wildstar, other games pace this stuff a lot better. I can do whatever i’m in the mood for, whatever fits in my schedule and i still get to do it with other people.

Crafting, for instance, i found to be a tedious and senseless affair in singleplayer games. I don’t know why that is, but i couldn’t get into it- maybe, because the economy was missing. Which brings me to the next point.

MMORPGs are still social, even when soloing

You don’t have to group up or do dungeons to have your MMORPG be a social activity. Of the top of the hat, there’s guild chat, tells/chatting with friends, the economy/auction houses, helping others out in the world (without grouping up) and, of course, seeing other characters in the world. An MMORPG always feels more alive than singleplayer games, because they are (except if you’re the only player in a zone).

Your gameplay will also be influenced by others- for instance, in the economy, if it isn’t borked in some way. Or by meeting others out in the world, maybe appreciating their equipment or looks, maybe cursing, because they stole a resource node or a quest mob or in a positive way by doing this together. This is why i’d tend to put Elite:Dangerous in the “almost-an-MMO”-bucket, too, because storylines and the economy depend on other players in the game and not on your actions alone- even when you play the “solo online”-mode.

MMORPGs evolve

Singleplayer games do have DLCs, but MMORPGs change in a course of years. You can begin playing one right now, stop, return in 5 years and it will be almost like a different game. It’s always nice seeing expansions or content updates for MMOs. The last expansion of EQ2 was the reason i went there (again) in the first place.

There’s lots to do and see

Housing is back- 2 years ago, there were almost no MMORPGs that featured it, but 2014 brought it to a lot of MMORPGs and it seems to be somewhat of a standard feature again. MMORPG worlds are big, there’s always a nice scenery, a quest hub or other stuff to explore. For someone like me, who doesn’t play that much, it’s practically endless stuff to do, sometimes it’s even a little overwhelming, as is the case in EQ2. There’s systems to look into, zones to explore and goals to set everywhere. Singleplayer games are quite directed in the most cases, and deviating from that linear progression is, in most cases, ineffective.

Not so in MMORPGs- you can do it all, at your own pace. And it makes sense. Even in todays very streamlined and often “linear” themeparks, you can often change course and do something different if you drop the experience-point-glasses and just look for entertainment.

Out-of-game community

We’re legion. 😉 Massively, MMORPG.com, all these blogs that i’m enjoying and reading, the out-of-game-community is very much alive, and, in most cases, made up of nice people (yes i know there are many trolls, but usually they’re quite easy to avoid and, to me, the positive outweighs the negative by a landslide).

Of course there are- at least i think so- similar communities to be found elsewhere, maybe in the Skyrim-Department (i don’t know about a active blog just focussing on that game’s content, though) or others. But, see two points above, the MMORPG community will always have more to talk about and discuss- play styles, patches, new games, expansions, in-game-stuff and so on. Or we’ll just open up events for ourselves, like the NBI or the Bloggy XMas. I don’t think you’ll find that in other gaming communities.

Why i play solo

Solo-play in MMORPGs seemed to be the hot topic yesterday. Massively was looking for the best Solo MMORPG, Keen looked into reasons for playing solo and offered some suggestions to encourage grouping via game design and Syncaine also chimed in. So i’d like to visit that topic, too, because i feel every article states something that’s worth mentioning.

Massively’s Bree mentions, for instance, that soloplayers are often seen as “violating the rules of the genre” by other players and sometimes even as one of many reasons the genre’s not doing so well. This doesn’t sit well with me, too, because i think there are valid reasons to solo in a MMORPG.

Being a father of an 18-month-old toddler i can tell you; grouping up with me often isn’t as much fun as it should be. When he wakes up, i’ll have to take care of him until he falls asleep again. This can take 5 to 60 minutes. So when i group, i need my groupmates to be understanding on the one hand, so that they won’t hold a grudge on me for leaving quickly and maybe for a longer stretch of time. On the other hand, i’d like to know that they won’t just stand there and wait for me while their mood gets worse with every minute. I need to know that at some point, they’ll just log out or continue without me. Now, there are people i know who fit this description, but there are only two of them and i know them for quite some time. Nowadays, i don’t think i’ll be able to get to know someone on that level in an MMO.

It’s not really about the games, though

While Keens observations are good and valid points themselves (i also preferred the lfg tools over the lfd tools), he’s looking at game mechanics mostly. I think the reasons for people playing solo- at least those in a certain age, or let’s just say living a certain kind of life (job, other hobbies, friends, maybe neighbors, kids etc.)- are mostly found in our lives, which doesn’t mean game design can’t help us out, but “quicker progression”, “boring group classes”, “ability to do everything” aren’t really the reasons why i most of the time end up playing solo.

I think TSW has found a sweet spot in the “quicker progression”-part Keen mentions- the mobs take time to kill; you’re always having an easier time if you can find 1-2 other people doing the same quests. But still most people play solo and TSW is often mentioned as a good solo mmorpg in that Daily grind on Massively.

Here are some of my out-of-game-reasons for playing solo mostly:

  • i can go afk whenever i want without feeling guilty. A bio break, getting a drink or something are easy, but what about a friend calling/visiting, a toddler crying/waking up or the wife wanting to discuss something? These are not “finished” in a few minutes and while it is true that in the beginning of WoW, this would be just fine and resolved with a quick message, i think the normal players don’t really put up with stuff like that. You won’t be added to friendlists as quick as others
  • i can play the game at my own pace. Even if nobody says something, i always feel pressured to not-read-quest-text/skip cutscenes/not enjoy the scenery/don’t look over that hill/don’t gather ressources when grouped up. I don’t like that.
  • This is something that turns up in guilds, mostly, but still: i don’t like voice chat very much. It used to be that i preferred to listen to music instead. Nowadays, my talking might wake up our son. “But you can just listen”, i hear you say, but really, 99% of conversation via voice chat is small talk, i don’t see a reason why this couldn’t happen via chat.

So, what can a game do?

I think the best solution might be some cross over between GW2’s “alone together”-mechanics and TSW’s ttk (time-to-kill). Also, stop putting group content in instanced areas- i think it would help a lot if you could just meet people willing to group up in the world. Aion comes to mind, with the Elite/group zones they had in 2009. Don’t know if they’re still there, but they came quite early in the progression and while you could do the quests there solo…somewhat…it was difficult and slow. So people grouped up, spontaneously.

LFD-tools don’t help, either. The other players are often treated as if they were npcs, so there’ll be no socializing. And i agree with Syncaine here when he writes that the social bonds are going to help players grow roots in your game. But i think those social bonds will grow better if their seeds are planted in the open world, not in instanced dungeons.

So another general suggestion would be to stop pulling people out of the worlds- battlegrounds, dungeons, raids, housing- put it in the world. Also, a game should provide more than one hub where players can get services.

Finally, yes, please, bring back lfg-tools (Blizzard has done it in the latest expansion, don’t know if it is used by the player base).

Darn it, my list is filling up again

Now, concerning myself. I started this Blog with a few games and a resolution for myself: i’d pick one of three candidate games- ArcheAge, EQ Next or The Repopulation, stick to my choice and keep this blog as a journal-type recording of how i got to select the MMORPG in question and how i experienced it when it released. In the meantime, i wanted to stick at least to my resolution, since i don’t have much time and wanted to experience at least one MMORPG to the fullest before moving on.

Moving on, though, has become somewhat unlikely. I still look forward to all three of these games, but something’s telling me they won’t be exactly what i’m looking for, as well.

Plus, there’s another thing: the sticking to one MMORPG at a time doesn’t work for me. First, i chose Rift, but Rift being what Rift is, it still didn’t provide me with the experience i was looking for. Many people describe Rift as being quite soulless- and i think for me, this is the problem with the title, although the accusation doesn’t hold itself when you enter expansion terrain. The content of Storm Legion has lots of soul.

So i moved on from Rift to find a surprise- Final Fantasy XIV, a game that has lots of soul, as well. I can’t see a downside to this selection- the game is an experience coming quite close to what i’m looking for- there are things i like very much- the dependency on others in economic matters as well as progression, the fact that gold sinks >= gold fountains (the balance has yet to be found, though), it is great.

As an addition, Firefall offers a different game experience- quite action oriented, quick, and a deep experience nonetheless. Plus, at this stage, it suits very well as a second MMORPG- there’s still lots of development to be done, it will not be provided very quick and vertical progression is not very long. I still like Firefall a lot, even if i didn’t get around to play it for quite some time.

The same goes for FF14, i have to admit. It’s been more than a week ago that i played it; there has been real life stuff in the way, other hobbies (watching football/soccer), meeting real friends at the weekend, so all in all, i clocked 8 hours game time last week, 6 of which have been in FF14, while the other two feature a new, old newcomer and my biggest surprise in released MMORPGs from last year: the Secret World.

Hanging out in Kingsmouth
Hanging out in Kingsmouth

This week, it looks like TSW will win the fight for my gaming time. In general, i think this is a good thing- see, i did buy the grand master pack shortly after release, but really didn’t play it enough to justify the expense, and i am generous on that front. While Funcom didn’t devalue the lifetime subscription in my book, i didn’t do as well on my end. So playing it again is a positive in this regard.

As in many others. The Secret World is a much underappreciated effort done by Funcom. It’s an MMORPG with loads of good stories in it, a good, but not very good, fighting experience, a great way of progression- at least for non-raiders and/or content locusts and some very interesting mechanics above that. What FF14 is for 2013, TSW was in 2012- the biggest positive surprise in MMORPG gaming in my book.

I haven’t really decided yet whether i’m going with my “old” character on the english RP server or with the new one on the german server. The german server seems to be business as usual for german servers- it’s quite silent and not so very populated, but i have to say i enjoy Sword+Fist more than Sword+Assault rifle. Also, i enjoy taking my time in the zones i visited earlier, but the decision to stick it out with the new character could turn into a bad decision when i realize that progression is too slow, when i remember all the missions and know how much of that is still waiting for me before i enter new territory.

So, all in all, i’m back up to three MMORPGs- Final Fantasy 14, Firefall and The Secret World. It seems i’ll achieve none of my goals when starting this blog, but at least the third reason for opening it up at the time i did will present itself soon enough- the Newbie Blogger Initiative 2 is going to start in a few days, this time mentored by the two sites Contains Moderate Peril and T.R. Red Skies. I wanted to join that, so i probably will, because i think this initiative is a great way to encourage new bloggers like me and foster the MMORPG/gaming community.

Edit: i’ve decided on continuing my “old” character, Eliza “Lisah” Ruben, on Arcadia and updated the Group up – page accordingly. As always, feel free to contact me in- or out of game.

5 ways to make your gaming experience more social

They put the multiplayer part out of the MMO. That’s what they- meaning us- say. Is it true, though, or is it just us who go about differently nowadays than we did 10 years ago in the time when MMORPGs rose to fame?

I was thinking about The Secret World quite a lot, recently. For one, in my opinion it was the big hit in 2012. Unapreciated, underrated and with a release date too close to GW2 to make an impact. But it is just such a bold move from Funcom- they really tried- and in many ways succeeded- to bring change to a tired themepark formula. With many great additions in this game, there’s one part that i think gets overlooked a lot: it’s just so group-friendly, without tossing soloability aside. Maybe it is my build, but the time-to-kill in TSW is considerably higher than in most other MMORPGs- and this is where a group comes in handy, especially when it’s a small group of 2-3 players. With 5, it can go too fast, but it’s still very much enjoyable.

And yet, you don’t see small groups running around the zones, at least i don’t. There aren’t many requests for grouping up besides going for dungeons. This is one reason why i think it’s more “us” – the players- than “them”, the developers, who are going solo nowadays. With my newfound focus here in the blog as well as when playing MMORPGs, let’s take a look at 5 ways to make one’s experience in MMORPGs more social.

1. Be your nice self

Yeah, it’s obvious, right? No, it isn’t. I know many nice players who think all other players in MMORPGs, besides those on their friendslist or in their guild, of course, are asshats. They steal loot and resources and act like a jerk when you are new to a dungeon or the game itself and make mistakes in group content because of that. When those players use the dungeon finder equivalent in their game, they stay silent- but what we should do instead is the opposite- be friendly, communicate with others, offer advice (instead of criticism) and add loads of people to our friends- and blacklist (won’t go into that very much, this should be a positive posting).

How many times was your gaming experience ruined by some kind of jerk? I’d guess at least on some occasions this happened, and you took notice. But there are many times when your gaming experience has been enhanced, as well. That one guy or girl who helped you with your quest? Or the group member who took his or her time to explain an encounter in a dungeon? Yeah, they’re there. Next time, try to be that guy.

And if you think “i have to rush to those resources to get them, because everybody else is so rough and will just steal it”- stop that line of thinking, now. Because if you walk into this mindset, the next time you rush to a named mob or resource node, you’ll be the asshat “stealing” someone else’s stuff. Instead: invite to party, group up, chat, ask, tell, add to friendlist, be social.

2. Open your eyes

Now the first part is mostly valid in dungeons while this one concerns our behaviour in the world. When you see someone having trouble, give them a hand- i know this used to be troublesome and sometimes it still is. Once, i was in a group in Lotro and we saw a single player challenging the named mob we wanted to attack next. We decided to lend im a hand when it happened: before he tagged the named mob (the player was busy with adds), that mob attacked one of our groupmates and got tagged by us. This was not our intention and we waited around with the other player to lend them a hand when the mobs respawned, but it was still unfortunate. Nowadays, things like this don’t tend to happen anymore. When you play a game from 2012/2013, the mob tagging system has become different- usually, you won’t steal anyones XP or quest progress.

So help others out.

3. Fill your friendslist

It’s easy to assume that you won’t meet anyone again in the game. That’s how we perceive this nowadays, we are used to filling our contact list from the guild we’re in- but those guys you meet in the world? They’re at the same stage in game as you are. If you’d be like me and everyone else is much farther into the game than you are, maybe you’ll meet someone on your travels whose pace is closer to yours. So when you meet someone who acts kind- either following points one and two of this list or reacting positively when you do so, add them.

4. Group up

Don’t wait for others to ask- and don’t ask if anyone “needs help” in Zone or guild chat- ask if anyone is willing to group up to do x, y or z. Offering help is nice and all, but with the soloability of games nowadays, few people will actually respond.

If you’re in a guild, no matter what rank you possess in this guild, pay attention and don’t always group up with the same people. Cliques in a guild are a problem on many levels, but when you’re playing with the same people all the time and your group is full, you isolate yourself and/or others. Especially newcomers to your guild will feel left out.

If your game supports on-the-fly public grouping, whether in a official way (Rift, parties are formed) or inofficially (GW2, no groups are actually formed, but you play together with others), the temptation is high to just think of the other players as “content”. They’re not. They’re people. Say something. Or at least emote after the fact. Don’t ignore other players.

5. Find or form a guild and stick with it

Guilds have been changing recently. GW2 and FF14 allow you to join multiple guilds or guild-like structures. You shouldn’t really do this, though. The key is to find one guild that fits to you and where you can blend or even step in. If you’ve got a lot of time, you might be able to do that in more than one guild, but if you’re like me, that won’t really be possible.

Now, joining a guild can be achieved in different ways- i think the most promising approach is to just play the game, join group content / group up in the world, filling your friendslist and finally joining the guild of one of your friends. The upside to this approach is that you already know at least one member of your new guild.

Another way of doing things is to find a guild in the forums. It is a somewhat good approach, since you can sort out which guild advert suits you in terms of concept, language and playstyle. Still, i think if you have the time, you should go with the first approach, it is indeed more promising. While i have joined good guilds in this way, i’ve found the guilds either founded or joined out of friendship to other members have more longevity and fun.

There’s a new way- Massively started a new column to fit players to guilds. I welcome the idea behind that, so i’d like to encourage players and guilds to join the activity there.

Doing it wrong

Yesterday, i read the massively opinion column titled “Maybe it’s time to admit you don’t like MMOs” and it made me think- about the general perception of MMOs, their communities and my interaction with other players in the games themselves.

I came to the conclusion that i’m doing it wrong- i mean, in Final Fantasy 14 i am member in what seems to be a great linkshell/free company. My interactions with the other members have been saying “hi” and “bye” as well as one dungeon run, which was fun. In Firefall, i had fun doing stuff with one or two other players, but when our army grew to be bigger than the squad size of Firefall, i became reluctant to log in.

Finding excuses for solo-play

Now, i know what this blog’s title suggests, so i am aware of how these games are meant to be played, but there always seem to be obstacles to experience these games this way. For me, it comes down to:

  • Voice Chat. I don’t like voice chat. Yet, in many guilds using it is de facto mandatory. In my Rift guild, for example, guild chat would always just entail fragments of conversations that happened in voice chat. Yes, i might use voice chat once in a while, but don’t expect me to launch it with the game. I might want to listen to music/podcasts or whatever. Voice chat directly affects my ability to relax and enjoy an evening of leisure.
  • Log-In times. We have a toddler in the house. When he screams, i’m afk. When my wife needs assistance, i’m afk. Often, when i log in, i don’t know how long it will be- it could be 2 hours, but it could also be 15 minutes. I don’t want to ruin someone else’s evening by signing up for a dungeon run i can’t finish- or doing something in the party and let them wait for my return in a quest hub.
  • My own mood. I play these games to relax. I take my time, i play them slow- my Conjurer in FF14 is level 22 now and will remain there for a time because i want to catch up with my botanist and weaver classes. If i were to group up with my level 22 i could suddenly find myself being at level 30 without progressing in the storyline and my crafting jobs getting far behind. Playing at my own pace in groups becomes running after someone else very quick. I wouldn’t want that.
  • Other people’s progress. I’m slow, others aren’t. One reason i haven’t done very much with my linkshell is that many are in their 40s or at max level (they played 1.0) and therefore what they do isn’t available to me.
  • Other people’s playtimes. I guess this goes hand-in-hand with my last point, but there’s more than just the progression. I’m always somewhat surprised that even players who call themselves “casual” play 4 hours each day. As i mentioned, i average at about 10-15 hours a week and i consider that playing quite a lot. In Firefall, i saw how others in my army spent every free minute available to them in the game- when i see that, i think to myself how quickly they’re going to burn out and leave the game- and true enough, last week the guild leader played 2 and a half hours Firefall. As i said, right now i think Firefall is a great game, but you have to consume it bite-sized, or you’ll be burnt out when the really cool features come into play.

Resolutions

Good excuses, right? Well, no, maybe not. Maybe, if i don’t want to play with others i should just start up one of my many single player games i didn’t finish (or pretty much didn’t even start them). Sure, MMORPGs nowadays are soloable and especially the gathering and crafting bits of FF14 lend themselves very good to solo-play.

Maybe i should just scrap crafting first and just level my most advanced class to 50 as quick as possible. But then i wouldn’t be able to craft equipment for myself during the levelling process. Also, endgame is usually not what i’m playing these games for. When i reached endgame in Rift in June 2011 i just quit- doing daily quests or repeating the same dungeons over and over again doesn’t appeal to me. Levelling as quick as possible is also not what i’m there for. So that’s not going to work.

I made a resolution, nonetheless. I want to party more, and usually, when i do, i get something out of it. The other day i helped another player in a really dense spawn point- he was going to fill his hunting log, but no matter how he’d do it, he would pull 3-4 enemies to get to his targets. So, as a healer, i asked him what he wanted to do, grouped up and helped him achieve his goal. One more member on my friendslist.

So i want to do that some more- go around with open eyes and help players i see having trouble. I did that before, as well, but it was a case of throwing out one or two heals and going my way. Also, i should ask in linkshell chat if somebody wants to group up- either for my most advanced class or for some of the classes i want to play down the line. I mean, there’s many of them. Just for adventuring classes, i aim to play:

  • Conjurer
  • Arcanist
  • Thaumaturge
  • Archer
  • Pugilist
  • Lancer
  • Gladiator

All this to get the jobs of White Mage, Black Mage, Bard, Monk and Scholar- more or less in that order.

Making (and keeping) friends

One problem, of course, is that none of my friends play MMORPGs. Many players just enjoy group content with either real life friends or acquaintances from the game(s) they’re playing- none of the two are available to me, for different reasons, many of them my own fault. If you jump around in games and guilds very much, you’ll have a hard time making “online friends”. And when you do make them and let the connections somehow fall apart (as i did with the guild i co-founded in GW2), that’s your own fault, as well. Maybe i’ll talk more about that last mistake some time.

This blog

Now, there’s a topic for a series of blog posts that fits right into this blog’s title. Party business- how to put the multiplayer part back into MMORPGs from the perspective of a casual player.

I haven’t written for some time, because when commenting around at the last post i realized that the reason i started this blog- or the topics i wanted to cover- aren’t really hot anymore. EQ Next is a thing of the past- i’ll look into it again either when SOE scraps P7S1 or when i cave in and decide that making an account there isn’t the end of the world. With EQN, there’s another thing: i can’t shake the feeling that this will play very GW2-like. ArcheAge seems to become a lot more themeparky than expected and The Repopulation seems still to be far off.

Final Fantasy 14 caught me by surprise- i didn’t expect to enjoy it so much, but as you can see above, i have goals that last for quite some time- for me, at least- and i didn’t even mention crafting. But i’ll have to put some thought into how i’m going to develop this blog further, since it really doesn’t bother anyone what i’m doing in my MMO and so the journal-type i was using isn’t of much interest. That’s not to say i won’t continue like that, but there will be another theme to my blogging, and right now i think it’s going to be somewhat community-focused, which might be an odd thing to do for someone who’s doing it wrong.