Games for 2016

2015 has, similar to 2014, been all about dabbling in a myriad of MMORPGs. There are so many downsides to this approach to MMO gaming that it could become a post for itself. There are, however, three points that make me want to try and focus again this year.

Why playing fewer games is a good thing

For the wallet

First, dabbling is expensive. When you are MMO homeless, each and every bit of hype, patch, update and expansion is going to lure you to spend money for Early Access, a subscription, the expansion and/or shop currency. Furthermore, and i think this is true for a lot of folks, you’re way too optimistic in your spending, so you’ll choose the more expensive way of buying things- the collector’s edition, a longterm-subscription, bigger shop-currency-bundles and so on. Now, i am in the lucky position that i don’t need to think that much about spending a bit for my hobby, but still, playing MMOs and gaming in general should be done on a budget these days. Publishers have become very good in getting money out of our pockets to buy without thinking. Playing fewer MMOs, and games to an extent and putting my gaming under a budget will hopefully result in spending less this year.

For more quality time

I don’t play a lot. Well ok, the truth lying in that statement depends on your perspective. Normally, i spend about 40 hours a month in gaming (with peaks and valleys, of course…darn you, Rocket League). Now try and play 7 MMORPGs and multiple massive single player RPGs within that time. You don’t achieve anything. Even if/when i focus for some time, by the time i’m returning to an MMO, i feel lost- don’t know anymore what i wanted to do with the character i played last time, don’t know where she was in terms of questing progress, what the items in the inventory mean and so on. So more often than not, i’ll create a new character. I have very deep knowledge of the first 10 hours in many, many MMORPGs, but more often than not i don’t know the mid-levels. So when i play fewer MMOs, i might actually see more, feel more motivation to play them and will feel more immersed.

For our fledgling community

The small community we’ve founded in september has played The Secret World, Guild Wars 2, Elder Scrolls Online and Wildstar together. We wanted to make Wildstar the main MMO, but that didn’t work out. After that became clear, we didn’t want to focus anymore and instead just play together. Turns out that, since then, we’ve only played ESO. If we want to grow a bit, the community needs to focus.

My games for 2016

Elder Scrolls Online – the Community game

After Wildstar didn’t work out, we met up in Elder Scrolls Online and really liked the experience we had so far. We have a regular group going in the Daggerfall Covenant, but the majority of our solo characters are with the Aldmeri Dominion. Currently, we are discussing if we want to change the alliance for our existing guild over to the Dominion. In my opinion, this would make more sense, although i’m having trouble arguing for it in terms of ingame mechanics. Sure, there is an influence in Cyrodiil, but i’m guessing this won’t play a large role for us- even if/when we plan to play there, it seems unlikely that our guild would be able to hold something. But it seems counter-intuitive to me to have a guild with the DC, when all we are playing there is our regular group. Furthermore, we are looking at recruiting some people to our guild/community and here, as well, the Aldmeri Dominion seems to make more sense.

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ESO is a good game- i like the possibility to skill your character in the way you like, i like how the newer DLCs provide activities independent to the level of the character and i think ESO is one of the few games with a good 2016 ahead of it, maybe they’ll even include housing, which would improve the game a lot.

For me personally, it fits the resolution to spend more time with PvP and fostering and playing with our small community. It also has a great business model, in my opinion. Everything other than DLCs is optional, and even those are to an extent. So if we’re guessing, maybe 15000 Crowns for 4 DLCs in 2016, factor in the 9000 Crowns i have right now, we’re looking at an investment of, say, 70€ this year. It would be on my terms, though, and could become less if i make use of special offers for crowns like those they had on christmas.

Final Fantasy XIV – the game to relax

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For me, personally, ESO has a few flaws: it’s somewhat linear and in the end, most activities are combat-related and it is an “action MMO”. With those, i do have a hard time to relax from time to time. I need a hotbar-combat-focused MMORPG in my rotation. There are a few good ones out there- Lotro, SWTOR, Rift, EQ2 and WoW, to name some. I’ve decided for FF14 as my MMO to relax, because i paid for Heavensward and haven’t seen anything of it yet, because it’s a simple subscription MMO with a heavy PvE focus and it also seems to have a good 2016 ahead of it. There’s a lot to do in FF14, as well.

the Wildcard (currently Blade&Soul)

Yes, that’s cheating. But last year, i decided to spend money on Blade&Soul and i don’t want to see it go to waste. I also don’t regret “buying” it, because i’d really like to see an MMO with an eastern setting. In the closed beta i attended, i also liked the story. But i know Blade&Soul isn’t going to keep my interest at a high level in the long term, because it’s heavily combat-focused and doesn’t seem to offer much in terms of non-combat activities. So chances are that Blade&Soul will be replaced at some point.

Candidates

There are some good candidates for that replacement- the first most likely to come up will be Black Desert. I’m still holding out on this- but i had high hopes for ArcheAge and Black Desert seems to follow some of the design elements of AA- hopefully without ruining it in the same ways as AA did.

The other ones aren’t released yet, as well: Camelot Unchained is a strong contender, Shroud of the Avatar, the Repopulation, Crowfall will come out at some point, as well. All of them are good candidates for me when they do their final wipe.

Then there’s Guild Wars 2, with its WvWvW, which is something i’d like to look into from time to time.

Those left behind

All others…i need to stop thinking about them/trying them out. Rift is great, but the world and lore don’t appeal to me for some reason. I always like the gameplay element, but at some point, it always bores me.

Lotro has a great world, is very relaxing to play, but it’s best days are behind us and i’m way too far behind the curve to make this an MMO experience for me. I might dabble in it from time to time, maybe use my bought level 95 character to see the world, but that’ll be it.

SWTOR…no, i have to cross that off the list. It’s a subscription game and subscribing to it never paid off for me.

WoW…no.

TSW is great, lore-wise, but it has the opposite effect as Rift on me- i love the world, setting, atmosphere, but somehow the gameplay turns me off.

Single- and Multiplayer titles

Too many to name. Regarding new releases, i bet i’m going to end up in the Division and Overwatch. Then there’s a whole bunch of single player RPGs i want to play: Fallout NV, Divinity: OS, Fallout 4, Sword Coast Legends, Wasteland 2, Pillars of Eternity.

Lately, i was also having an itch to play an ARPG, with Diablo 3 being the most likely choice. And i might even take a look at the beginner MOBA Heroes of the Storm, thanks to Rocket League.

Speaking of which, the “play Rocket League” button is still the biggest obstacle for me to even launch an MMO these days. 50 hours in and still having fun- even more so than in the beginning.

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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.

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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.