Game time: Waiting for Final Fantasy XIV ARR

So, i was able to fit in two gaming sessions in the last two days- who would have expected that? With my new shiny arriving on saturday and the newfound freedom to play what i want, i went into two different games.

Star Wars: the old republic

Yes, you read that right. I mean, i bought the game and it’s “free-to-play” now, so why not? Unfortunately, the client is really big and it took some time to get even to the minimal needed download to play on a starting planet. After that was accomplished, i went in with a new character on my “preferred player” account.

The “rumours” stating that SWTOR is very restrictive to free players are true, though. Although i didn’t feel very much in my first evening playing up to level 5, there’s a lot crossed out even for preferred players- you’ll be greeted with a screen showing you right off the bat that you are only preferred and not a subscriber. While i think it is ok to inform players about the restrictions they face, it’s really not welcoming when you see what you don’t have before even selecting or creating a character. The next thing crossed out were most of the available races- but i’d run with a human, anyway, so that didn’t hurt much.

All in all, game-client-wise, it was not a pleasant stay: long download times, two or three crashes and the restrictions presented to you in a “in-your-face” manner. The stay in the game, though, was surprisingly pleasant.

I came to realize i like the graphics- style-wise as well as judging by the look- the quest presentation is very good, as well. If you take your time with it and watch those voiceovers, you’ll start to care for your quests. The dialogue options further increase the feeling of involvement, so that was great. And then, something really surprising happened: i was on a quest, and somebody else was on the same quest. Within seconds i had a group invite! Now that’s interesting, i thought- that hasn’t happened to me at least in this year, maybe even in 2012. I had a nice time in that group until i realised that it was late and i would have to go offline.

All in all, i think SWTOR is a nice “play-to-finish” MMORPG, but don’t fool yourself when going in- i think a sub is the best way to experience this game. There’ll come XP reductions, limited dungeon- and warzone-runs and so on. While i was surprised when i went in with an open mind instead and had a good time, i think i won’t log in again.

Guild Wars 2

This game used to be my big hope for the genre, and for some time it looked as if it would be what i expected it to be. But then, quite suddenly, actually, i got the feeling i was working with a neverending to-do-list of daily and monthly achievements, renown hearts, vistas, points of interest and waypoints. I liked the dynamic events, although they didn’t influence the game world as much as i had liked.

When i went in yesterday, my character logged in while a dynamic event happened around her. I didn’t know where i was, my inventory was overflowing, i had popups because of my achievement points and no idea how to play my character. So that was somewhat troublesome. When i beat this event and tried to defeat the champion to enter a balloon for the queens jubilee, i already had enough of that. The gameplay is nice and all, but GW2 is too fast paced for my taste.

Final Fantasy XIV

I read some nice articles about this game in the last few days- to mention two of them, there’s Keen from Keen and Graevs gaming blog answering common questions regarding FF14 and ZAM prepares us for launch.

What i got out of it: first of all, i can’t wait! There are so many systems and experiences i don’t know in this game that it’ll be a joy to discover them. For instance, i knew there was some kind of multiclassing- in the sense that one character can do it all, but also in some synergies between classes.

What i didn’t know is that some of these combinations form second-tier jobs, and now i’m torn- will i become a Paladin, White Mage or a Scholar? I have no idea how they all work out, and the difference between the White Mage and the Scholar is only in changing around Arcanist and Conjurer as primary or secondary class.

I really like hybrid classes, though, so i’ll want to build something that’s able to heal and do damage- i’m quite unsure which of these three will be my best option. The most fun i had with any class in any game was with the druid in WoW when he got the Bear- and the Cat-form and i could do anything in a dungeon – primarily DPS, but healing and/or tanking when an add attacked the main healer or somebody else. Great times! Unfortunately, those didn’t last long because at that time, you had then to decide where to go with your druid. A combination of two out of the three roles was still possible, but being mainly DPS and helping with tanking and healing wasn’t really viable. So that would be great, maybe the Paladin is the way to go? Hm, we’ll see.

The thing with FFXIV is, i can see a long time ahead and i don’t even know a thing about the game – i just know that i’d like to play one of these three second-tier jobs and be able to craft myself some armor, at first. So i know, let’s say i’ll stick to Paladin, that i need to level my Conjurer at least to 15 (by doing story quests which also unlock the first dungeon and airships ), the Gladiator to 30, and the corresponding gathering and crafting jobs accordingly. With my gaming speed, this can take some time.

Oh, and “Spiritbond“? Didn’t know about that one, either. Great!

So, i am really looking forward to that one.

And The Elder Scrolls Online, too

Well, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, really, but it’s confirmed The Elder Scrolls Online will go with a subscription model, as well.

Matt Frior says:

Charging a flat monthly (or subscription) fee means that we will offer players the game we set out to make, and the one that fans want to play. Going with any other model meant that we would have to make sacrifices and changes we weren’t willing to make.

The word “yet” or “at launch” isn’t used, which makes me a little more confident Zenimax really wants that model for their game. And also: no RMT/Gold/subscription time trading stuff.

Is the subscription coming back?

The sub is dead

This is what we keep hearing for quite some time by now. MMORPGs released with a subscription but went free-to-play faster with every year- when we look at the games that made the transition, we have

  • City of heroes (88 months as a sub game, 13 months as free-to-play)
    • Release: April 2004
    • F2P: September 2011
    • Closure: November 2012
  • Everquest 2 (68/84 months as a sub game)
    • Release: November 2004
    • F2P: July 2010 (EQ2X), November 2011 (free-to-play)
  • Dungeons & Dragons Online (42 months as a sub game)
    • Release: February 2006
    • F2P: September 2009
  • Vanguard (67 months as a sub game)
    • Release: January 2007
    • F2P: August 2012
  • Lord of the Rings Online (40 months as a sub game)
    • Release: April 2007
    • F2P: September 2010
  • Age of Conan (37 months as a sub game)
    • Release: May 2008
    • F2P: June 2011
  • Champions Online (15 months as a sub game)
    • Release: September 2009
    • F2P: January 2011
  • Aion (16/18 months as a sub game)
    • Release: September 2009
    • F2P: February 2011 (Europe), April 2011 (North America)
  • Star Trek Online (23 months as a sub game)
    • Release: February 2010
    • F2P: January 2012
  • Rift (27 months as a sub game)
    • Release: March 2011
    • F2P: June 2013
  • Star Wars: the old republic (11 months as a sub game)
    • Release: December 2011
    • F2P: November 2012
  • The Secret World (5 months as a sub game)
    • Release: July 2012
    • B2P: December 2012

The trend is obvious. But we should not forget that this is incomplete data- these are only the games that transitioned from pay-to-play to free-to-play or buy-to-play. There’s no EVE, Final Fantasy XI, FF XIV 1.0, World of Warcraft, Warhammer Online etc. And furthermore, these are only the games i consider- one could add games like APB, Hellgate and Fallen Earth, as well.

Still, it looks like subscription games transition to free- or buy-to-play quickly these days. When you consider ArcheAge – released in January 2013, free-to-play in July 2013 in Korea, there’s another game that didn’t even make 6 months as a subscription game.

Players being cautious of buying subscription games in my opinion is about as much a result of this as it is the unwillingness to pay a sub. If you bought TSW on release and subscribed those 5 months until it went buy-to-play, you spent 125€ (167$) up to that point- and then it went buy-to-play for 30€ (40$). When you did the same in SWTOR, you’d have paid about 190€ (250$) until it went free-to-play, although with SWTOR, the free-to-play option is so bad that a subscription is basically still the best way to play if you do so regularly.

So when you hear “i’ll wait for f2p”, that’s really just a result of past experience, because players don’t question if a game goes free-to-play anymore, they ask themselves when it’s going to happen. And whether it’s more viable just to wait for it to happen. I think it’s unfair to judge these players- maybe they feel betrayed with one of the last transitions.

Now, while i don’t feel betrayed- i made a choice, fully aware about the risk, my own gaming habits and so on- but i spent 250€ (335$ or was it 300€/402$?) on The Secret World- i bought the game and a Grand Master Pack. I do think Funcom made it still worth somehow, but the main reason for me buying the Grand Master Pack was so that i’ll have access to a sub-based game when i wanted to have access- instead of asking myself whether it’s worth to spend 15$ when i’d like to play TSW one evening/weekend. But the access is not restricted anymore, so….yeah.

Long live the sub

I’d really like to see the sub return- for one, i think it’s very good if players really have a choice- devs and “media” alike spin the free-to-play-phase of online gaming as being full of options, but in reality, when i don’t want to see an ingame store in my themepark MMO i’m out of options- except for Warhammer Online. Soon we’ll be able to add FF14 ARR to that list, and considering that the main market for this game is in Japan and free-to-play is not really big there, we can assume FF14 is going to stay sub based.

Then there’ll come Wildstar and TESO (probably), maybe ArcheAge. And it could work- it could even work well, if the devs and publishers finally stopped chasing World of Warcraft. When the devs stop pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the development of one game and stop expecting and/or trying to get millions of subscribers. When they know there’ll be a dip in player population and aren’t afraid to go and build up from there. And when they stick to their business model. Nobody’s waiting for EVE to go free-to-play, and that’s because it’s not likely to happen.

The rise and fall of free-to-play

It’s been predicted elsewhere, the impending doom for this payment model- and i tend to agree somehow. Going free-to-play used to be some kind of second chance and the numbers reported from the games that underwent the transition early after going f2p are always quite high- they double the subscriptions, quadruple the logins, triple revenue. But after some time, there’s always silence. I don’t think this is because the games are losing money 6 months after the transition, i think it might be because the numbers are getting more complicated- maybe the player counts are the same as before the transition, but the average of money spent in game has gone up. Or maybe it’s because player numbers and revenue went down compared to when the game in question was a sub game.

It’s odd, i can remember Daglar (from Rift) being in a podcast shortly after Rift went f2p. He said the numbers are way higher than they expected but he didn’t want to share those because the marketing departement was preparing an announcement regarding numbers and he didn’t want to spoil it. Funny enough, we still didn’t hear those numbers, the news of yesterday coming closest- and this is literally one sentence, without numbers.

I think we’ll see that free-to-play is not the saviour of MMORPGs in this or the coming year, when closures will begin to happen. Free-to-play used to be an USP, but now that everyone is f2p, it’s not anymore. One could argue that p2p is becoming a new USP, but those who use it that way should be aware that this is a pro-argument only for a minority nowadays.

Time to play

Funny enough, i think players like me are the problem here- and that’s one reason why i’d like to change my behaviour- when you look at the daily grind from massively where they asked how much time people spend daily on MMORPGs, i was surprised to see that many answered along the lines of “not as much as i used to” and “about 1-3 hours a day”. In the announcement article of Wildstars business model (many comments there), some commentors expressed their dislike for the sub model by saying that they played too many games to justify a sub for one game.

Combine these two statements- less total time spent in more games- and there’s the answer for MMORPG design these days. It’s not the devs, it’s us. Now, if we are happy with that, there’s no need to change anything. If we’d like to see the design philosophy of MMORPGs shift again, and many of us are looking for that one game that grabs their attention for years, we need to make a conscious decision that we want that kind of game- and stop worrying for the others.

We shouldn’t complain if MMORPGs are getting shallower with time, are experienced quicker, stop adding “meaningful” content (whatever this is to you) when we hop around in games like bunnies- when we make schedules regarding what game to play on what weekday. Of course developers will adapt to our behaviour, and some will even put it to good use, just like Arenanet does with Guild Wars 2. With their biweekly-living-story update, their game is in the news all the timePlayers like me read those news and begin thinking that they’ll miss something when they don’t log in and get the impression that there’s something going on all the time. GW2 has a good chance to get those casuals to log in at least on a biweekly basis. And the game’s perfect for that, there’s no sub fee, there’s only one toolbar and almost no text in the game. There’s no need to “catch up” to what you were doing last time, you can just go ahead.

I think, this shift in design might have opened up a niche: the game for players that only want to play one game- if the game in question can be that, the players won’t have any problem paying for a subscription again. And sub games have one advantage: nowadays it’s really refreshing to enter a game where you can unlock bank space without seeing any sign of being able to do so with a real money investment.

Conclusion

The subscription could be coming back- when the game in question is designed in a way to encourage a dedicated, longterm stay and the developer is aware that many will buy their game, some will try and “defeat” the game in 30 days, some will sub for one or three months after the initial 30 days of game time, many subs will be lost after 6 months and they are willing to build up from there instead of the number of sales and if they target their market well and stick to their design philosophy, there’s a good chance the subscription system can work.

And, i think it would help a sub game greatly if they remove the upfront cost of buying the game. EVE is 20€ when you start playing- that’s 5€ for the client/account and 15€ for a one-month sub. I think this is a good way to go- charge a sub, but give the client out for (almost) nothing.

If Wildstar or TESO will mark the return of the sub into MMORP gaming remains to be seen, though.

The “hybrid” business model of Wildstar

Business models are all the rage these days. There are many players adopting a “sub only” stance, and there are many players on the “no sub fee”-faction. I fall to neither one, both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Carbine has often made their choice of business model a topic, or maybe they haven’t but got asked about it a lot. Their answer has always been something along the lines of “options for paying”, “hybrid model” and so on.

Well, they disclosed their business model today – there’s even a FAQ section, maybe because the “hybrid” model is so complicated. Now, granted, in the dev blog there is no mention of “hybrid” anymore, but the word “options” is still there.

I’ll make it short- you know about EVEs business model? Yeah, that’s Wildstar’s model, too. Just that the PLEX is called CREDD and costs 20$ instead of 15$. The normal subscription fee is 15$, as usual. A subscription is mandatory to play the game. You can buy those CREDDs, which grant subscription time, and sell them ingame for ingame gold.

Now, as i said, i am neither for nor against subscriptions out of principle. What i don’t like is when something is made up to be all obscure and great and innovative when it really isn’t. Like Wildstars business model. It’s a sub with some gold trading on top of it.

In the end, this won’t decide whether i’ll try the game or not, but a sub game would do well to at least make me think i’ll be playing it for longer than 2 months, which is not an easy feat, even when i’m not the most stable guy in this regard.

And there’s another thing: the blog entry starts talking about the business model like this (emphasize mine):

We’ve decided to go with two major options at launch for how you can play the game.

At launch. Yeah…nowadays every dev should know the market. If you want to go p2p, that’s fine, but stick with it. Or at least give the impression that you are willing to stick with it. That part just reads like a disclaimer for going whatever-to-play later on.

Oh, and Wildstars launch window is now spring 2014 instead of end 2013.

Final Fantasy XIV ARR

It’s time to confess. While i’d made a point for playing and sticking with one MMORPG, it doesn’t come easy for me, as well. Sticking to Rift is as good a plan as any, but when you don’t have any urge to login, something isn’t right with your choice.

On friday, i remembered there was going to be a Final Fantasy XIV ARR open beta this weekend. With time to play and the urge to find out why some players seem to be very happy with how the game turned out i decided to give it a go.

First off, i own a copy of Final Fantasy 14 1.0 – i didn’t like it, but one thing stuck out positively: in general, i liked the approach to crafting. I didn’t quite understand it at the time, but i saw similarities to Vanguard’s crafting system. After spending every available minute of the weekend playing FF14ARR, i’m happy to say that i still like the approach to crafting- and better yet, i also like the game.

The good

I won’t go into changes from 1.0 very much, because i didn’t come to know the first iteration of the game, but one thing needs to be pointed out: the user interface is hugely improved, not only in design but also gameplay-wise. I remember it being quite a pain to group up in 1.0- while i didn’t group up at the weekend, i can’t imagine that it will be troublesome in ARR.

There’s an old school feel about Final Fantasy 14 that i liked very much. I liked the idea of (level-)gated  content options. I wanted to craft as early as possible, but had to find out that you can only get your second class after finishing up the level 10 quest of your first class. I wanted to go to Limsa Lominsa to become a weaver, but had to find out that i’ll have to finish the level 15 storyline quest to unlock airship travel and so on. So there was always something i look forward to reaching- at first it was level 10, then level 5 of my first gathering profession (botany), then level 15 for going to Limsa Lominsa.

Final Fantasy 14: a realm reborn also has a remarkable love for details. I don’t know if this will continue through the zones, but the early ones around Gridania all struck me as being believable. I prefer to see some civilization when i’m out adventuring, and fact is that most MMORPGs lack that kind of design- you’ll start in a pretty wood, maybe with houses or small villages strewn about, but the second, or third zone at the very least is wholly devoid of many signs of humanity. The early adventuring zones around Gridania still have villages, houses and other buildings in them, which makes for a pleasant stay in those areas. Also, the scenery is very beautiful and changes a lot from day to night.

The combat also gets a positive mention here- it is on the slow side of things, but i like that. Action combat doesn’t leave much time for chats and so the whole experience in those games can feel somewhat lonely, despite there being 10 other guys doing the same quest as i do.

The highlight is still the gathering/crafting. It’s some kind of minigame- when you chop at a tree it’s not only lumber you can get- you’ll have a selection of items you could get out of that tree, each one coming with a chance to get it. You have abilities in your hotbar according to your gathering/crafting job. For botany, there were abilities to show the next tree in my levelrange, raise the chances for successfully farming the materials of a tree and so on. For crafting, i only came up to level 3, but it looks beautiful and most importantly: no crafting job is self-sufficient. You can, of course, level all gathering and crafting jobs, but my guess is that this will be a long term project- if you’d want to be self-sufficient all by yourself, you’d have to level all crafting and gathering jobs parallel to each other. I didn’t count, but i think that would be about 9 jobs to level- in addition to your adventuring job.

So my guess is that at first you’ll be better off just buying things from retainers when you need materials from other jobs. When you start crafting as early as possible i think you don’t really have a choice, since you can not travel to the other capitals to learn the other gathering/crafting jobs.

One thing i wish i knew before changing over to gathering: you should keep some level 1 clothes- otherwise you are going to begin your gathering life in your undies. Fortunately there’s new clothes when you get to level 5 in your job. I guess one could buy something from vendors or other players, but i just “walked it off”.

The hunting log also gets a positive mention – i understand this as some relative of the deed system from Lotro: you get a list of enemies to hunt down and get extra rewards for doing so. Tier 1 of those was quite easily completed just by following quests and backtracking a bit for enemies i fought before attaining the hunting log. There’s something similar for gathering- you can see where to get resources and what resources you already gathered. I don’t know if this one comes with experience bonus, as well.

And finally, i really liked that i could retire to an inn room before logging out to get resting experience, which amounts to experience bonus for defeating enemies as in most other games. As said, this game seems to have a love for details- resting in a guest room is one of these things.

The downsides

Every MMORPG has them, right? So far, i’ve only encountered one- and a highly subjective thing at that- there’s cutesy stuff all over. But really, i’m happy with those as well if i’ll continue to have as much fun with this game as i had this weekend.

Other than that- well, some might call the game “business as usual”- when you look at mechanics, combat mechanics especially, there isn’t much new about this game- and also when you look past combat, almost everything has been there in other games.

Conclusion

FF14 won’t get your attention by proclaiming innovation and/or new features, but somehow it manages to bring older, missed ones back into a new game. I had a lot of fun with it, it even made me read quest and help texts…and enjoy it. It’s a long time ago that i chose to fight some more enemies or gather some more resources than needed just because i had fun doing it, but it happened to me in this game.

Once again, i was in for a big surprise- it’s funny that this seems to happen always with games where i don’t expect much. I’m really looking forward to next saturday when early access starts.

The Repopulation: primer

It’s time to check out the second of the three future MMORPGs i laid my eyes on: the Repopulation. Now, the Repopulation is in Alpha 2 right now, so it may be some time before we get to play it, but the general direction the game is going is set and made available for your reading pleasure with great articles and descriptions by the devs.

The Repopulation is set in the quite-distant future and a time when earth as we know it is no longer there. Fortunately, we aren’t on Earth anymore- scientists had sent out some spaceships to habitable planets 200 years ago and we are going to be inhabitants of a planet called Rhyldan.

The Repopulation calls itself a sandbox and it is quite obvious from their design descriptions where this is coming from. You could summarize it by saying “It’s a lot like SWG pre-CU”, but if you are like me, you don’t know what Star Wars Galaxies was like neither pre- nor after CU.

Factions

There are three factions in the Repopulation: the OWON (One World, One Nation) and the FPR (Free people’s republic)- we can summarize these by saying one is the oppressive empire and one are the rebels. Of course, it’s more complicated than that- and there’s a great backstory on the official homepage.

The third faction is no faction at all- all players start as either OWON or FPR characters and are put in a generic nation (tR’s equivalent to guilds) of their faction. Eventually, players can form their own nations and align them to one of the two factions or become a rogue nation. A rogue nation has no allies by default and therefore has to conduct diplomacy by themselves. Nations can start out as being a part of OWON or FPR and become a rogue nation, but they can not revert to being part of one of these two factions.

Now, while it does seem somewhat generic, i still enjoyed reading the Lore to the Repopulation and think that this is a great way of doing things- Sandboxes usually tend to offer free-for-all PvP, additionally with full loot systems (Darkfall and EVE come to mind), but i think it is served better when there is some kind of alignment- i mean, when you enter the game, at least you know there are people out there who do not want to kill you. In my view that’s a big step forward from my panic attacks while picking iron in Darkfall.

PvP

The interesting twist with factions will influence PvP, as well. Now, nations can own cities, outposts and harvestable areas in this game, they can lay sieges on other cities and so on. So there is a massive amount of possibility in the Open PvP realm.

Other than that, tR seems to be somewhat like ArcheAge’s PvP system, at least under what the devs call the “normal ruleset”- in which there are protected areas, no loot system and no heavy death penalty. Furthermore, there’s a distinction between reserve and active soldiers. You start out in reserve status and are protected in non-contested areas controlled by your faction- you can’t attack anyone there and nobody’s able to attack you. When you venture out of your faction’s area into the contested land, though, there’s open PvP between the factions.

Every faction owns around one third of the game world, the last third being contested by all factions and nations. I think there’s only cross-faction PvP, but the article isn’t clear on that.

PvE

PvE in the Repopulations seems to look like standard fare when looked at for a short amount of time- there are Missions (Quests), Engagements (Public Quests), and a general system of delivering those that is similar to something like Rifts or Dynamic Events.

When you read upon the details, however, there are some very interesting twists. One twist is that you don’t have a linear path through the world- missions are tailor made for your character and reach you through the ingame mail system. They take your skill & gear levels (there are no character levels) and previous actions into account and offer branching dialogues and outcomes. In the article, there’s an example of an NPC who changes its mood to “angry” based on your actions- now he might reference you in a bad way to other players, insult you when you walk by and offer varying missions. Engagements don’t have to be combat related, but could, for instance, involve building up a city. Instead of spawn points the game uses Dens. Dens can spawn various amounts of mobs in number, strength and type, but still fitting to the area the dens are in. Oh, and they can spread if players don’t take action.

Crafting and Items

Now, here comes the core. See, everything mentioned above is interesting and all, but this is it- at least for me. If a Sandbox doesn’t offer a complex crafting and trading system, it might just as well be a first person shooter. Fortunately, crafting in tR is complex and rewarding- i’ll start that off with a video.

Crafting will be interdisciplinary, so chances are high that you have to depend on other crafters to focus your own progress. The only bound items? Cosmetic ones from the cash shop. Items degenerate in quality and become useless with time. So there is opportunity in crafting and market, here.

Items you craft will have a quality range from F (bad) to A (good) and a subquality ranging from 0 to 9- so you can craft items with qualities from F0 to A9. Quality is determined by your skill, the quality of the ingredients and some luck and decisions made during the process of crafting itself. From what i saw, i think the crafting system will be similar to those of EQ2 and Vanguard (and FFXIV), but a bit more complicated.

Impressions

I’ll finish this entry, for now. The systems i mentioned are more complicated than i have made them to be, of course. But let’s have a look how the Repopulation measures up with some of the points i made in previous entries.

Virtual World

The worldbuilding seems fine to me- the Lore doesn’t seem like much, but i enjoyed reading it nonetheless. There don’t seem to be fast travel options like teleports, but one can craft vehicles. The world seems to be as open as possible with some sensible restrictions put into place.

I was surprised, however, that after really reading about this game for this post i found there are many systems at work here that EQN is advertising for, as well. But to me, it seems as if players make a bigger impact in this game.

Player-to-player interaction

There seems to be a lot in this regard. From building houses (in-world as well as instanced individual housing), cities, a crafting system that’s complex and involves other players to PvP, PvE encounters, open grouping, item degeneration, a reduction of bound items there are many options to play with, alongside or against others.

While the auction house seems to be global and i’d prefer locally different prizes, a good crafting system can make up for that. We’ll see how that goes.

Conclusion

I’m really looking forward to the Repopulation. What i read is encouraging, this game is developed as an MMORPG at its core. There are many systems in place that will allow for longevity- actually, even if EQN hadn’t disqualified itself for me, right now i’d place the Repopulation higher in regards to expectations. Also, tR might release before EQN, but since it’s still in Alpha2 it’s too early to estimate a release date- although it is slated for 2013.

The Repopulation will be free-to-play, which, at the moment, is my main concern. They’ll have to earn money and with Sandboxes, i think it’s quite difficult to strike a balance in a free-to-play title that’s both good for the devs and the players. Either they’ll offer convenience/fluff items only, and leave me wondering if many people buy those, or they’ll interfere with gameplay- for instance by selling repair kits that should be crafted and traded by players.

Above & Beyond Technologies are an independent dev studio, so there might be some concerns in regard to polish and gameplay feel, but i don’t think this is critical- if it’s playable, it will be alright. Fallen Earth is a good example of a game developed by an independent studio with not-so-polished gameplay that’s still highly enjoyable.

I can see this game being a huge contender for ArcheAge when it comes to my personal “next MMO” decision.

So…is that it, then?

Yesterday John Smedley, president of SOE, tweeted:

Clearing up a few misconceptions about EQN in Europe and UK. All players including ones from Prosieben can play on all servers.

If you are from the Eu or UK you will go through Prosieben but it will be playing on SOE servers.

And there was a disturbance in the force as if thousands of EU players cried out in pain. Now, this could be a misunderstanding based on the nature of the selected medium- 140 characters might have been too short to add “if you have an SOE account you’ll be able to use that”- but given that John Smedley was quite active in conversations on twitter yesterday but didn’t react in any way to the outcries of the european players, this might just confirm EU players will have to go through P7S1 games and corresponding accounts for EQ Next.

This does make sense from the perspective of the publisher- the deal with P7S1 was announced shortly after the first bit of news of EQ Next hit the media- so my guess would be that EQN is the main interest of P7S1 getting the publishing rights for the EU. Now, Planetside 2 might play a role, as well. but my guess is the main bullet point of the deal in some office somewhere in germany was EQ Next. So forcing us to go with them is not unexpected.

Now, there are a lot of reasons why this is a bad idea and, if true, why i’ll choose not to play Everquest Next- some of them are rational, some others not. Let’s start with the irrational ones.

  • P7S1 is a media company that owns around half of the private tv stations in germany. And they’re bad- i mean, basically all channels in germany- excluding the public ones- show the same crap. I really, really, don’t like the company- neither this one, nor the other big private tv channel owner. So i don’t want to give them my money.
  • Furthermore, i don’t trust german companies in the web very much. I don’t want to go into much details (word count is high, again). To summarize- german companies often think of the internet as a new way of tricking people out of their money and i don’t like that very much, either. I’d also like to point out that “earning money via the web” and “tricking people into spending their money via the web” are two different things.

P7S1 games could be different, of course. But then you’ll have the more rational stuff/stories i read about P7S1 in the past.

  • There is a paragraph in their TOS about deleting account information, including characters and paid ingame-store currency after 90 days of inactivity (Paragraph 3.6 – in case you’re wondering: Alaplaya.net is owned by P7S1 games). Now imagine that. You pay for 100$ worth of currency, then go on a vacation, work as an expat or whatever. When you return, your account and your store currency is gone.
  • They published real names of players who missed subscription payments in their forums. Apparently they implemented a “more professional” way to track payments in the meantime.
  • There was a security issue with Planetside 2 accounts.
  • A CM, asked about a triple-station-cash sale suggested (physically) migrating to north america if you aren’t happy in the EU and with the sales of P7S1- but when you’re there, don’t complain if you miss the sales on other continents.
  • They messed up the transition of services of DCUO, bad. From what i hear, accounts got lost, DLCs got lost, store currencies got lost. When asked about it, customer service told the person they have the option to register for a new account (losing everything they spent with SOE).
  • P7S1 has not much experience in this business. Look at their portfolio and remove the SOE titles, and you have almost nothing in terms of MMORPGs. My guess is many people outside of germany have never heard of them being a publisher of multiplayer games before the SOE deal.
  • I have station cash i wouldn’t be able to use with P7S1. Granted, they offered an account transfer, but since i didn’t want to go to P7S1 then, as well, i chose to stay with SOE. And i’ll tell you that: even if they offered the same thing again, i’d still not do it.

So, this all might be hyperbole- it might be somewhat irrational, but these are the reasons i won’t play EQ Next via a P7S1 account. At all.

Fortunately, i’m not alone. It’s refreshing to see that the massively community seems to agree this one time- and i sure hope SOE got the message by now.

Why i chose Rift…for now

Since i started this blog, i tried to pin down my expectations of a good MMORPG, why i chose to stick to only one of them right now and what/why i’d like to see in a Sandbox MMORPG. Now, i repeat myself (a lot), i guess that’s part of being new at this writing thing, as well as having difficulties in expressing thoughts in a short and concise way.

Today i’d like to elaborate why i chose Rift as my MMORPG of choice right now- see, i tried returning to it in the beginning of the year when it was still a subscription game, bought Storm Legion, got to play three times in the month i subbed and left again- only to return when they announced Rift going free-to-play. Why?

Rift has a classic feel

Nowadays Rift feels like one of the last members of the “WoW-Clone”-Club. When you think about it, it released in March 2011, only 9 months prior to Star Wars: the old republic. Now, SWTOR already chose to shake mechanics a little up, put more emphasis on the storyline of their classes, shrank the group size to 4 and tried to do something different. Rift didn’t. Rift was released very much as something you might call a newer World of Warcraft with one new mechanic, the Rifts.

At release time, that was a negative for me- sure, i had fun for three months, reached the level cap and asked myself if i really want to do the same dailies every time i log in- Raiding is not really my thing and i had levelled by way of dungeons i think starting with level 30, so i really didn’t want to continue doing only dungeons, so i quit.

It was only after certain modern games released- these improving gameplay, especially combat, very much in comparison to the WoW-era-MMORPGs that i suddenly started missing the “modern classic” feel of games like Rift (WoW, AoC, Lotro, Aion etc.). Combat being a little on the strategic side, Dungeons with the familiar holy trinity, Quest texts (i never thought i’d miss those) and so on.

Rift has changed

Trion did a very good job in transforming their game from being almost exactly like World of Warcraft to being more alike to Everquest 2. Now, fans of EQ2 might not agree with this; their favourite game surely is its own thing- i never saw the housing of EQ2 and i don’t think the crafting is similar. But Rift grew, not only vertically, but also to be a broader experience. Trion added so many things to the gameplay experience that Rift 2013 doesn’t look very much like Rift 2011. Off the top of my head, they added:

  • Fishing and Survival as two hobby experiences
  • Instant Adventures
  • Onslaughts
  • Chronicles
  • Dimensions (the housing system)
  • Hunt Rifts
  • Ember Isle
  • the Storm Legion Content

The two new continents have a very unique look and feel, and exploring them has been fun.

Free-to-play

Now, when you get to play the game you subscribe to three times a month, you could argue it’s not really worth a sub. But that’s not why free-to-play is a reason to choose Rift- the players are. At least when f2p was new, Telara was bursting with new and returning players in a good mood and a willingness to play that game- as opposed to a launch where the mood is usually a bit more sceptical. It seems to be a good time to pick that title up again.

The model Trion uses is very fair in my opinion, especially when you bought stuff prior to the transition- i can access all of the content without restrictions.

Something to return to and variety

You can do PvE in a lot of different ways, PvP is still there, of course, as is crafting, the shinies (collectibles), Achievements, hobbies and finally, with the introduction of dimensions, Rift has something a player would want to return to. I still haven’t started with that, but it’s something i very much look forward to do.

Outlook

Rift doesn’t bring all i’d expect to the table, but it’s as close as it gets when you put fun in the equation. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s not tempting to visit other worlds, as well- i might even look at Wildstar or TESO if their release dates are much closer than the release of ArcheAge in the west.

I don’t expect EQ Next to release before the end of 2014, EQ Next Landmark will get released this year and i’ll surely have a look at that (if i can do that with my SOE account). I’m not sure about the Repopulation. Wildstar and TESO seem to be headed towards an early 2014 release, but i expect ArcheAge in that timeframe, as well. And, judging from all i know so far, ArcheAge is the game i expect the most right now.

Rift, on the other hand, will continue to change. What’s revealed about 3.0 so far sounds intriguing- we’ll see how that goes. Until i leave for greener pastures, i’d like to bring my mage to level and crafting cap, build a dimension or two and start playing the “side-games” of shiny-collection, fishing/survival and Achievement hunting.

Game time: Rift

Wow, yesterday i found some time- about half an hour- to play some Rift. I’ll confess, though: the new Massively columnist for Guild Wars 2 and his posting yesterday made me want to play Guild Wars 2- go ahead, read it. He almost makes it seem as if there’s a story in the game. I know, i know, some of it seems to come from the personal story quests and it’s totally my fault i didn’t get invested in it. Anyway, his writing is excellent. (Un-?)fortunately, my GW2 client decided it needed to download the whole client again- i don’t know why, but it took to long and so i found myself in the MMO i wanted to stick to.

My “second main” is situated in the Moonshade Highlands, which is a beautiful enough place, but levelling is not my main concern these days. Still, i fired up a round of Instant Adventure to finish the daily IA which granted me around 55k experience in a very reasonable amount of time.

In the Moonshade Highlands
In the Moonshade Highlands

Right now, though, my priority is to find a home dimension where i’d like to build. I got Faen’s Retreat by way of my loyalty, but i don’t really want to build that zone up, because it doesn’t seem to fit what i have in mind for my character. I’d like to build up one of the following:

  • A place where Elomina can charge her batteries. Since every build she has contains the Chloromancer Soul and will probably continue to do so, even when it’s not her main soul (i like hybrid characters of dps and some healing) it would be nice to see some green/wood area. I am kind of waiting for the Three Springs dimension, thinking that one might fit. But there might be others…the Moonshade pools look promising, as well.
  • A place where Elomina does business. I mean, you’ll have to earn some money while saving the world from all the evils, right? A tavern might be too obvious, but is still tempting.
  • A place for hobbies. Unfortunately, i haven’t decided what her hobbies are. Reading, for sure- in her home she’ll have a library (don’t know if it’s possible, but i’d try, at least). Another option would be mountain climbing – a base camp might be something that looks affordable for the beginning.

So, i guess it’ll be one of those three options, and so i spent the rest of my time looking at various dimensions and almost buying one to start building.

Another thing that’s still bothering me is the guild i’m in- i’m pretty sure that i’ll be far behind in levels in almost any guild i enter, but as i already said, it’s just strange when you can only read fragments of a conversation that happens on voice chat. I could join them, of course but it’s not really me and i’m pretty sure i’d need to always join them there to stay in touch. They seem to be nice people, but still.