Category: MMORPGs in general

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Travel log: Orsinium sights

Tonight, our guild group has been to Wrothgar, again. I have to say, i love how we can simply set off out of the city and go exploring. We tried to follow quests, but were soon distracted by stuff we saw in the landscape- and also, because Edu is one difficult boss to kill.

On our travels we saw a museum, fought and were killed by Edu, maybe a Goblin boss, i don’t know, because we didn’t see him for all the ogres he sent our way, an arena where Orc clans settled their war, a giant statue of Malacath and Coldperch Cavern, a delve in Wrothgar. And also, a lot of beautiful sights.

The other resolutions for 2016

Happy New Year everyone! It’s time to take a look at the rest of my gaming-related resolutions for 2016.

Keeping a budget

This sounds similar to what i posted last year- as will some other resolutions further down this post- and i failed to achieve most of them. But that’s all the more reason to try again. We all know this by now, but free-to-play and Early Access are actually quite expensive if you don’t keep your spending in order. If you simply spend money on everything that interests you, you’re going to spend a lot of money for games.

Since i didn’t keep a budget, i can only try to remember what i spent- and i think it amounts to about 1k€….and that’s really too much for someone who’s playing an hour a day on average. So this year, i’m going to cut it down and limit my spending to 300€/year, 25€ per month, give or take a few euros. This, of course, means one thing….again.

Prioritize my MMO gaming

This has been on my list since the beginning of this blog in 2013. I’m stretching myself way too thin in all those MMOs i play and i’m unable to achieve anything in any of them because you can’t play 9 MMOs with maybe 40 hours /played a month. I need to cut some of them loose. I don’t know which ones yet, but good candidates are The Secret World, SWTOR, Wildstar and i need to stop thinking about Rift, WoW and maybe even Lotro.

I’ve still got about three weeks of (wasted) subscription time on Final Fantasy 14, and i’m going to make use of them and see whether FF14 will be on my friends- or blacklist. Elder Scrolls Online is a strong candidate right now- it fits some of the criteria i’m setting for myself: it has a good business model and the subscription doesn’t even tempt me, my small guild maintains a levelling party, all active members in that community like the game and the PvP experience in Cyrodiil is actually quite good.

This selection process will be discussed in an extra post (again), but in 2016, two things are not going to happen: i will not subscribe to more than one game at a time and i will not sub for the longest possible period to “save” money. It never worked.

Spend more time in good games

This might be a seperate blog post, as well, but in general, MMOs are not “good games”. I think the big advantage of a “true MMO” is that it’s actually a genre mix- you have RPG in most of them, of course. Then, there’s the economy, the crafting, the housing/decoration/clothing minigame, small group PvE, solo PvE, instanced PvP, open PvP, the social part, the story, gameplay and more. All these small pieces in one game is what makes MMOs exciting- if you would take a look at an individual element- the RPG part, for instance, you’d find better examples in singleplayer land. The same goes for all the other parts. MMOs mix all these elements into one game and that’s what sets them apart.

Like many others’, my Steam backlog is huge. There are so many great games that i haven’t paid as much attention to as they deserve: Divinity, Cities: Skylines, Pillars of Eternity, Fallout 4, Fallout NV, Wasteland 2, Endless Legend, The Witcher 3 and many, many others. In fact, in 2016 i wouldn’t really need to buy new games or even play MMOs and i’d still be busy the whole year and possibly even well into 2017.

So this year, i’d like to play more non-MMOs instead of playing 7 MMOs in one month.

Spend more time with people / build and grow our guild

Our community is chugging along quite…ok…ish. We’re very, very small. Three active members at the moment. We don’t know how and when we’ll try to grow, but i want to foster that small community. I’d like it to have about 10 active members when 2016 will come to an end. That doesn’t sound like much and it probably isn’t, but i think a small tight-knit community that plays comes together to play once in a while instead of daily is a much better fit for me. As of right now, we have a recruitment form open and we will take applicants in if they seem to be a good fit, but sooner or later, we’ll probably close that form down and rely on direct invitations.

If we continue to be as happy in ESO as we are right now, there’s a good possibility that we’ll look into growing our guild there- at least up to ten members (to get the guild bank).

Another thing related to this- i wrote about that in another post, i want to reconnect to some people i started a community with in 2012. We had some kind of silly argument at that time and i had thought of reconnecting with them more than a few times. Now, i’ve played Rocket League with two of the three people i really liked at that time because thankfully, one person hasn’t been as much of a craven as i was. That leaves one person to go and it will be the toughest one.

Blog more often/regular than in 2015

Blogging in 2015 has been a mixed bag- i had quite active times and a long stretch of inactivity after the summer holidays. I still love the “Dual Wielding” column and would really like to give that another try this year, but it seems that Ironweakness suffered the same lull after the summer. In 2015, some times i tried to publish daily, but i’ll have to admit that i can’t keep that up for very long. My new goal would be to publish at least one post per week, but to keep this up consistently throughout this year.

Resolutions for 2016: embrace PvP

It’s the end of the year and we’re about to switch (paper-)calendars, so it’s time to make some resolutions. Recent developments in my own gaming habits as well as those of others – i’ve read more than a few “MMORPGs aren’t fun” posts in the past few weeks- made me think about just how i approach gaming in the new year. There are a few things at play here.

Rocket League and Global Agenda

I bought Rocket League during the last Steam sale. And boy, did it grab me, in a totally different way i expected it to. Earlier, i hesitated to buy it, because it’s main focus is what we’d call PvP-centric in MMO-land. Sure, there is AI, but everybody seemed to be playing with or against other humans- and that’s something i usually avoid because i’m not really a very good player, and when it comes to twitchy mechanics, i suck. The only exception is when there’s an option/play-style that caters to a more strategic approach. That’s why i loved Global Agenda- it was a shooter, sure- but as an Engineer you had some very interesting tools that helped and weren’t twitch-based.

Yes, it's rocket car football and it sounds crazy. It's fun.
Yes, it’s rocket car football and it sounds crazy. It’s fun.

I bought Rocket League to play against the AI, but i stay with it because of the PvP. And here’s why: it’s very easy to simply log in and play a match for 5-10 minutes and then log out. It’s also one of these “easy to learn, hard to master” games where you’ll see your skills improving at a nice pace. As a newbie, i was very confused and playing in a very chaotic way. Soon, i started to learn how to push the ball in the general direction i wanted it to go (earlier, it was random). Then i learned that chasing the ball wasn’t the best thing to do. Stay back, watch and learn. Defend. Try and not bump into your teammates or stand in their way and so on. Rocket League is also a trap: “one more match” is a thought that kept me awake past midnight more than once in the last 3 weeks.

And behold: my /played count sits at 29 hours, 12 in the last two weeks. For me, that’s a lot. In a game i spent 13€ for (and 35 for a controller, but i can make use of that in other games, too). Now, if i compared that to my subscribing to, say, SWTOR, FFXIV or Wildstar….well, i’d blush. Usually, i’m ok if i spend about 1€ per hour /played. But Rocket League made me think.

Global Agenda - still one of my "most played" games.
Global Agenda – still one of my “most played” games.

And now, as i’m writing this, i remembered Global Agenda- i’ve clocked 350 hours on Global Agenda and i’m very sure that this is my most played MMORPG (with maybe Lotro coming close or even higher). Granted, those were different times with more time to play and less money to spend on games. But still, there’s a pattern here.

Embracing PvP

When i thought about why i liked Rocket League so much, and thinking the same about Global Agenda now, it’s because they’re not grindy. It doesn’t take much build-up time to get to play, and it is possible to play them in short sessions while still trying to achieve long-term goals. When you think about it, PvP/RvR/WvW is also the only truly dynamic content in an MMORPG. Sure, dynamic events are nice (but were, in my opinion, already done better in Tabula Rasa) and PvE is important, but in 2016, i want to look more into the PvP side of MMORPGs.

Luckily, there’s new stuff coming. I do like what i read about Camelot Unchained and Crowfall, but up until a few days ago, i filed them under “PvP-centric, not really for me”. But what is “for me”, nowadays, anyway? If there were a game coming up with all the features i wish for (deep crafting, nice exploration in a big, open world, interesting trade mechanics), would i even be able to play it on a level that made it interesting? I guess i’ll see when The Repopulation releases, because, on paper, it has everything i’d want from an MMORPG.

camelot_unchained_logo

Or maybe it’s time to try something new? Maybe these pvp-centric games will fit better to my actual lifestyle by not having long grinds, having no endgame and catering to both- shorter sessions and long-term goals. Maybe it’s not only the MMORPGs that are “stuck in the past”, but me as well. We often say/write things like “MMO players claim wanting something new, but when something fresh comes up, they complain” (see reception of TSW, nerfing of Rift’s zone invasion events, changes to Firefall and so on), so i guess it’s time to change things up a bit.

And think about this, as well: a pvp (read: player-) centric game doesn’t need to provide tons of NPCs, thousands of quests (linear content), dungeons (finely crafted experiences) and voice-overs; it can concentrate developement resources into that stuff that actually differentiates the MMO genre from simple Multiplayer games: interaction between players, a dynamic, persistent world, crafting, trading and systems in general. More focus on systems is a good thing, in my opinion.

I’m actually quite confident and decided to back/buy Camelot Unchained…and i’m really looking forward to playing it.

The present

Until that is playable, however, i’ll also look into this kind of stuff in other games. As far as i know, there are two MMORPGs with a good, more open-worldy PvP: Elder Scrolls Online and Guild Wars 2.

Daggerfall is one of my favourite MMO-cities.
Daggerfall is one of my favourite MMO-cities.

Seeing that The Elder Scrolls Online is my (and my guild’s) main MMO right now, Cyrodiil and Imperial City will be the places where i’ll look for PvP-fun in a short while. I really enjoy playing Elder Scrolls Online at the moment, and i might write about the reasons another day, but of course it suffers from my Rocket League addiction. So i still have to get one of my new characters to level 10 (very close) to get access to Cyrodiil/Imperial City. I’ve noticed their RvR campaigns have changed quite a bit since i last played- there’s a non-veteran campaign now that maybe allows players to enjoy the RvR before hitting VR16.

Overthinking social

Back when the Massively team started the Kickstarter to launch their own site, i spent some money on my favourite MMORPG-related website. That enabled me to provide a question for the team to tackle in their “Massively Overthinking”-column. Yesterday, it was published and today, i’d like to share my thoughts on that.

The Question

This is what i wrote:

We criticize MMO devs for making our MMO experience less social, but are they the only ones to blame? I think our (the players’) behaviour to others and within the games themselves has also changed. I’d like to know if you can think of ways we players could improve that situation – from behaviour, less game or guild hopping, ways to grow our friends lists – to make our MMO experience more social again.

I knew from the beginning that some answers would suggest behaviour that i’m struggling with myself- for instance, i expected an answer along the lines of concentrating on one or two games.

Now, i’ve thought on how to formulate the question for a long time- i think i’m one of the last backers to have their question posted. Reading the answers, i wonder if i did phrase it correctly, because staff and commenters alike mention genre-developments and “forced grouping” as solutions or problems, depending on their point of view. I’d have liked the answers to concentrate more on the player-side of things- what can we do to make our MMORPGs more social again, grow our friendslists.

Thankfully, the staff and most of the commenters didn’t forget about that part and so i still think the answers are great and- in context of the guild/community i might be starting with an online friend- inspirational.

The answers

You can read them in their entirety on Massively Overpowered, of course. And you should. Here’s my take on the staff’s answers. They suggest to

  • focus on a few games, if it has to be more than one
  • building your own guild/community or actively take part in your guild
  • think about your own behaviour
  • just be! (Syp, my personal casual-superhero)
  • be the change you want to see

All of them ring true, but i think in Bree’s answer there’s a sentence that basically tells it all without being too general.

[…]attend events, host their own parties, put together their own painstaking groups, promote guilds and forums, form alliances, work around the game’s limitations. Does it suck? Hell yes. It’s work.

Handiwork. Do it yourself. That’s something i read on a forum these days, as well. The author pointed towards the /who feature to build groups. That’s a really old-school way to build groups, but truth be told, i’ve always found it to be one of the most effective. Dungeon finders “improve” on the efficiency, but the social part falls by the side there. When i played WoW and needed a group for a dungeon, i started by asking for others in guild chat. Then i tried to fill the gaps with my friendlist- if i couldn’t do it, i’d ask in general chat but would simultaneously seek out players of missing roles by searching through the /who list and sending them a tell. Usually, the ones that joined the group were those who i talked to directly. They’d also join the guild from time to time and if not, some of them made it on my friendslist.

There’s another comment, again made by Bree, that’s significant to me:

Social once existed in the cracks between the game, and those cracks have been sealed up.

That’s on point on where i wanted the discussion to go- i’m totally against forced grouping or some kind of “hardcore” mentality and i don’t want to be surrounded by people who only care for ingame progress. So this is it- “social” isn’t really a part of game design, it used to be a lack of game direction that possibly made those “older games” and/or the players behave in a more social manner.

So in part, it is a matter of game development these days, but let’s not forget that it’s us, the players, who drive development- that’s where Larry was going with his answer- customers feed devs who feed customers. Nobody is really “wrong”. If the cracks are sealed, though, i’d like to think about ways to open them up again.

The other day some commenters here were stressing/agreeing that to enjoy Wildstar you have to force your pace on the game. I guess this is one way to open the cracks back up.

All staffers on Massively have a point, and of course, as is usually the case, i’ve found myself agreeing with Eliot. It’s strange, because his opinions also make me feel guilty most of the times- but he’s still right- you can’t expect to make social ties when you only use other players as a means to an end (which i rarely do) and guild- and game-hop like a crazy frog (guilty on all charges- or at least the second part). I have to say Eliot’s answer surprised me the most, not in attitude but in execution- it’s a great and unexpected point-of-view. I expected him to concentrate more on continuity.

Syp is just…well, Syp. I really don’t know how he does his thing. He’s casual, he’s got three kids at home (and a fourth on the way, i think?!?), other responsibilities, plays like a thousand games at the same time, with hundreds of characters in each of them and yet….he’s got maxlevel characters in most of the games he plays. He also has a really good track record of finding nice guilds, so i wasn’t surprised by his answer. He still has a secret, because there’s talent in finding and engaging those. My guess is that he is quite outgoing himself- combined with his positive nature i can see why he doesn’t really struggle to create social bonds.

Jef and MJ concentrated on the “play one MMORPG and create the community yourself”-part. I really like MJ’s way of putting it.

In my ideal gaming universe, folks would settle in a virtual world (or two) and spend their time, effort, and resources on building up their community. There are many ways to bolster a community, from running guilds and events to joining said guilds and attending those events.

Jef’s opinion is similar

Do that by being an active guild leader, organizing server events, constantly communicating the need for more social gameplay to devs, and basically spreading the gospel of MMOs by showing people how and why MMOs should differ from single-player games.

Brendan focused on the technical part, unfortunately, but he also states that you should

deliberately seek out guilds of likeminded individuals

So what did it accomplish?

Maybe i’ll take on the comments one of these days, because there are some very note-worthy comments below that article, but this post has already gotten very long. It’s a coincidence in timing, really, but what these answers achieved was to strengthen my resolve of founding, co-leading and maintaining that guild we’ll probably create.

All staffers- magic Syp aside- agree that it takes some considerable effort to create and maintain social bonds in the genre. We can’t do that in a passive way, “social” won’t come to us anymore like it used to when we were all flabbergasted by the fact that we could play games on the internet. We have to build that part actively.

I honestly can’t and won’t believe that we can’t have social (gameplay) elements and ties in MMORPGs anymore just because we’ve gotten more casual. And honestly i think this blog proves that assumption wrong- not because of its contents, but because i’ve made some ties this way already. And i’m a casual blogger.

If you have anything to add or suggest on topic, i’d really appreciate if you’d comment on that- still looking for input!