Tag: Elder Scrolls Online

Milestones: Nuria’s 30

First goal reached! Nuria Solstrum, Nord Templar of the Aldmeri Dominion professing a strange combination of skills & armor, is now level 30 in Elder Scrolls Online. And it only took about two months to get from 25 to 30.

So i’m in this dreaded mid-level range now- it’s rare for me to see the end of the leveling process in MMOs, mainly because i think the mid-game is so terrible in most of them that i’d rather start a new character- and the mid-level range sucks the fun out of my experience , so i take a break, only to return and not remember anything, and take that as an excuse to create a new character.

This time, it feels different, though, as i think i’m enjoying the game more and more- sure, there’s some dedication needed on my part to keep going- i’d say this resembles the connection you have to an acquaintance- you’re not friends yet, but you might be at some point- but stop calling or meeting up and you’ll stay acquaintances.

The Labyrinth
The Labyrinth

Nuria didn’t need to do much to go from level 28 to 30 in two sessions- all she had to do was to get the birthday cake, go to Silatar, navigate a labyrinth, make Aranias the new Wilderqueen and pick two flowers on the way, track a thief in Marbruk, go to Woodhearth and catch/kill a bee. All in all, not too much- and again, very interesting. I wanted to take a determined look at that, but i think there’s actually very few “kill x of y” quests in Elder Scrolls Online. I think there are some, but mostly, killing stuff is just what you do to reach other goals.

I liked the “Artisan” quest- you have to catch a thief, after all. Unfortunately, the correct answer has a pointer over his or her head, so you could stumble upon the solution by accident (it’s not marked on the map though), but what you have to do is gather a few clues about the identity of this thief by asking citizens what they know, deduct the thief’s identity and then confront him or her. It’s a nice little riddle, although the clues paint a quite clear picture with only one hint being slightly misleading. It’s not The Secret World level of thought you’ll need here, but it’s a nice touch, nonetheless.

The story told in this book has similarities to Aranias' story
The story told in this book has similarities to Aranias’ story

The labyrinth / maze was also very nice- what you get here is the story of the Wilderking by way of a stone being named Sumiril. He’s got a book there, probably telling the story of its creation, but he isn’t sure if he wants to know what’s written in the book. So you take the book, and read it passage after passage. The passages are unlocked by way of traversing the labyrinth. Again, unfortunately, there is a pointer- you “follow the words” (kind of like that creepy tune you follow in TSW’s kingsmouth) which is essentially a glow leading the way. You’ll reach platforms and a new passage in the book will become readable. Afterwards, you know how both Sumiril and the Wilderking came into being.

Right before transforming to the Wilderqueen
Right before transforming to the Wilderqueen

Aranias, meanwhile, goes for the Wilderking. Turns out she’s actually destined to become his successor and she feels that. Unfortunately, her companion wants to kill both her and the Wilderking. So Nuria killed him, of course. Aranias will then be a bit afraid to turn into the Wilderqueen, but with the support and encouragement of her friend Nuria, she’ll do it. I also liked that the story we were experiencing on Silatar seemed to be a almost forgotten but still present memory in her mind.

Aranias, the Wilderqueen
Aranias, the Wilderqueen

The travel to Woodhearth and the killing of the bee were standard affairs- although one has to crouch to follow the bee to its hiding place. But that’s just so little of a touch that, with this game, it doesn’t really deserve mention.

I am very optimistic that the next five levels won’t take her two months.

 

It feels good to come home

With the troubles in the past 4-6 weeks, mainly consisting of sickness in the family and our china visit, it has been quite some time since i visited Elder Scrolls Online in a normal way- that is to say logging into my main character and continue questing where i left off. Even when i logged in, i wasn’t able to do much because of short sessions, the longer ones have been reserved for guild evenings.

There’s something that became very apparent in this time: MMORPGs need some commitment to enjoy them in their full capacity. At least for me, when i lose momentum in a game, others become more alluring. Lately, i’ve found myself wanting to play The Secret World or Lord of the Rings Online- i’m not counting EVE in here, because that came as a surprise and i do think two MMORPGs work very well together. Nonetheless, yesterday i decided to spend the night in Tamriel and i’m really glad i did.

Birthday cake

My first mission was to get the birthday cake, although i don’t need it much- i’m outleveling content anyway, so there’s actually no need to get that 100% bonus. But on the other hand- why fret about it? It’s only going for a week and a boost is fine- after all, it doesn’t say “you have to skip content if you use it” in the item description- i can still go for those zone achievements i want to clear before moving on. As a matter of fact, i’ve only now set my first steps into Greenshade, so there’s still a lot of zone to cover.

Getting the birthday cake is quite easy- you’ll get ingame mail, a voucher for one of these. You’ll need to seek out Chef Donolon at the docks of Vulkhel Guard, who will tell you to get a few bananas, honey and…rye, i think, which you can buy from an NPC nearby or loot from the usual places like baskets etc. When you return with those ingredients, he’ll make the cake for you and it goes straight into your collections tab. I’m not sure if one has to use it to get the experience bonus, but i did it, just to make sure. After that, i could go out and seek adventure again.

Screenshot_20160405_230605

Silatar

It took about five minutes to make me fall back in love with ESO again, as its storytelling is really good. All i really did yesterday was one quest- The Witch of Silatar. I lost track of the storyline, but i guess this is about the Wilderking wanting me to get to know the assassin sent by the Veiled Heritance, Aranias, sent to Greenshade to kill the Wilderking.

But it doesn’t do this in a direct way, no. The quest NPC, Spinner Maruin, wants to tell me a story- a story i can take a part in. I would visit Aranias on the island of Silatar (which she created, by the way) to relive some part of her past as her friend- a friend she never had in her real past. She had to go through this all by herself.

After i asked nicely, Maruin told me to sit by the fire- a few lines of dialogue later, and i’m on Silatar, which is strikingly beautiful. This is enhanced by the fact that the first thing i do with Aranias is racing to a lighthouse- this seems so innocent, so beautiful, at first, but takes a bit of a darker shade when she roots me as soon as i might come close to her.

Still, it was this moment where i thought, again, how great the experience in Elder Scrolls Online is- this is a crafted story, not a thrown-in quest. The island of Silatar, for instance, is only visited for this quest. While it’s not big, i guess it tells us something about storytelling in a game when the developers create a zone of about the size of a city just for one quest.

Screenshot_20160405_232347

The story goes on and it’s mainly about Aranias, a young Altmer with incredible powers- after all, she created the island we’re standing on during this quest in a day. The motives for her behaviour are loneliness as well as a will to “earn” her parents’ love who really don’t like seeing her daughter creating islands or lifting ships from the sea. Her parents then leave for the Summerset Isles to get help for her daughter and return with High Kinlady Estre from the Veiled Heritance who makes Aranias kill a bosmer woman. In the story Maruin tells, we are able to help, so this is not what happens in our quest, but what happened in reality. I don’t want to get too deep into the details here because spoilers, but this is an interesting quest and i’m very much looking forward to playing it again on another character and take more screenshots of Silatar.

This love for detail and good storytelling is what makes stand Elder Scrolls Online stand apart from and above many other MMORPGs- there are others, of course, who have great storytelling- Lord of the Rings, FFXIV, SWTOR and TSW to name a few, but while Elder Scrolls Online might not be able to have the storytelling greatness of The Secret World, it’s actually the phasing that makes the quests more interesting- when you complete a quest, the zone changes, so you can see an impact. The game then doesn’t turn into a singleplayer experience because of its megaserver technology- there are still many players who have their map- or the part of the map you’re in in the same state as you have. That’s just so much better than the instanced storytelling of SWTOR, for instance.

Just like Laeloria, Silatar and the story of Aranias (which will continue in the questlines of Greenshade) will stay with me and became one of the reasons for my liking of Elder Scrolls Online. I’ve reconnected with the game yesterday and it feels good.

Guild Update: activity and recruitment need to go up, more continuity on guild nights

Yesterday evening saw the first login to Elder Scrolls Online, or any MMO, for that matter, since we’ve returned from China.

Zharyon

That’s the name of our guild- yesterday, a commenter here made the connection between this blog and that guild, so i think i can tell now. I would have done it soon, anyway. Why we’d use such an unusual name? Well, it’s kind of a long story that i’ll probably tell when/if i make an official introduction post here, but to make it short- google it. We wanted a unique name that wasn’t descriptive like “Order of Light” or something- we wanted a name that wasn’t taken but still somewhat good on eyes and ears and we came up with that. It has been used a couple of times, but i think 800 results on Google is ok in terms of uniqueness.

That fear i expressed when i was sick and had to cancel guild events the last time i got sick? Well, turns out that two weeks of going to China might have made it true. We were only two players logging in, with a third one patching up on a night where i had planned to venture into a dungeon (to be fair, i scheduled that event more or less as a trial for organizing dungeon runs without consulting anybody else first).

We need bodies

The thing is: casual, social, tight-knit or not- we need to up the game a bit. We need more life in our community- or at least i do. 3 of us more or less only log in when we have a scheduled activity, i haven’t seen two recruits in quite some time, so in the end, our roster is at about 3-4 players who log in from day to day (but usually not daily). That’s not enough. We’re spreading ourselves to thin there. So i was beginning to think how we can gain a bit more traction without, you know, either disbanding, looking at another direction and/or recruit every Joe or Jane Doe that comes along.

I think the homepage might be one good way- disregarding whether we’d move to selfhosting and/or wordpress or not, it needs a bit more work to look attractive and show off who and what we are a bit better (if someone reading this wants to offer their feedback on what makes a good guild website or knows of some examples, i’d be happy for pointers). There’s one advantage in WordPress: it shows content much better than Enjin does. Let’s say other members would be interested in contributing to a “guild blog”, WordPress would be much better in handling this than Enjin is.

Of course that’s just a dream- in my experience guild members don’t like to contribute in this way. But still, it would also be a pretty good excuse for myself to sometimes post in german if i’d like (although, of course the activity would still be much lower than here). Still, it’s nice to dream- i love coop-blogging and multi-blogger sites and maybe, one day, some kind of project will come out of this.

Another thing i was thinking about was to simply cross voice chat off the list- now i know what you’re thinking, but with germans? “No Voicechat” guilds are actually quite popular- there are several communities that have this as their sole USP. We don’t use our server anyway and with Enjin only 5 slots come with the basic paid version of the website. So in the end, i guess it’s either moving to Discord or crossing it off. When i was looking for something like this in some english community, i drew a blank. Don’t know if this was about the game or maybe there’s just no market for these kinds of communities in the english speaking community.

We need continuity in our guild evenings

Another thing that propped up was that up until now, we’ve been dabbling in everything on guild night- we were in Cyrodiil, ran a dungeon, went to Wrothgar, the Thieves Guild and so on. What i’d like to do starting with the next guild evening in about two weeks is giving it a bit more structure- select something, then take it from the beginning up to the end. For instance, if we chose to start with Wrothgar, we’d stay there until we’ve finished all the content. Judging by the fact that Orsinium is supposed to have 20 hours of storyline content, that would probably take us ~15 weeks. Still, better quality, more continuity- i think that’s where we need to go.

Happy with what we have, but still have a way to go

We’ll have a chat about all this in our coming guild meeting (friday), i’m eager to see the results of this discussion and take some of that to action. See, i’m happy with what we have- we’re basically six semi-active to active players who like each other and share a very relaxed view on things like progress, wiping, online times and such. There’s no need to change that, it’s actually the opposite: we’ll try everything to keep it that way. But that doesn’t mean we have to stand still- we need to evolve, improve, gain some numbers in order to actually be more than a part of a good filled friendlist.

Goals for April in Gaming and Meta

Hey, if it works for others, it might be helpful to me, as well. Unfortunately, i’m still recovering a bit from jetlag, so i haven’t played anything since our return from China. I can’t remember jetlag being so bad in the past, but this time, it really got me. Our son, as well. Anyways, i’d like to put some gaming goals for april in writing- i’m very eager to jump back into Elder Scrolls Online, sort out the website a bit and have a few thoughts about our guild i’d like to put in motion this month.

 

ESO_logo-black

Elder Scrolls Online

First of all, i’m very glad that i chose to go the subscription route with this game. Because those cosmetic items, mounts and pets coming this month? I like them very much. Going with a subscription means i don’t have to keep a keen eye on my crowns and am free to spend them for fluff. And that’s without going for the assistants.

A few words on their pricing. Yes, they’re quite expensive, coming in at 5000 crowns each. But i actually like that for a few reasons. First of all, inventory management is part of the game, albeit an annoying one, the game was designed with us having to sort out mats we don’t need, connect to other players to sell them etc. The assistants are actually something that, while it doesn’t come close to being “pay-to-win”, they’re giving buyers a lot of convenience. I can’t imagine many players will spend that much real money on the assistants- so i view them more as being some kind of subscriber reward. And if a few players decide to spend those 30$ each, all the better for the game from a financial point of view.

Here’s what i’d like to achieve in april:

Nuria Solstrum, Templar

  • reach level 30 (28 at the moment, so yes, i’m aiming low)
  • craft some kind of set for her

Naria Leotra, Dragon Knight

Last time on guild evening, we decided to tackle a dungeon, the Banished Cells. We were four, but we lacked a real tank, so i decided i’d try and tank with my magicka templar. As you might imagine, this didn’t work out so well. We finished the dungeon, but it took quite a few wipes, most of them on bosses, and i wasn’t really able to hold the mobs attention- at all. So i decided i’d roll a tank, which is a sign on how much i like the guild- usually, i avoid being the tank at all costs- tanks have to lead and they have a huge responsibility for their group. Doing that with strangers, i would be screamed at very quickly. With our guild, i have no troubles- they don’t care if they die 10 or 100 times in a dungeon.

  • figure out a way to skill her as tank/dps, stamina-based, of course
  • reach level 15 to be able to go into dungeons and use two weapons

Others

There are still three characters i’d like to build: a “cleric” type Templar that resembles a Paladin in terms of being able to take a hit as well as provide some healing, a leech healer Nightblade and perhaps even a dedicated healer. Don’t know if they’ll take of this month, but it might happen.

Other games

I’d also like to visit other games at least one or two times this month. Black Desert Online is all the rage these months, and i do want to go out and explore more of its world and features. The Secret World remains my favourite game i never seem to play- i’d love to see all it has to offer, but somehow, i never really play it.

Our guild

We’re still doing fine, thank you. Our growth came a bit to a stop, mainly because we didn’t advertise much and the new recruits seem to have lost interest either in the game or the community. At least they’re not vocal in our forums. So we might have to say goodbye to some of them. But that’s really just par for the course- when creating a guild, you’ll always have people losing interest in the game or the guild; it’s very important to keep sorting them out if your goal is to build a small, tight-knit community.

With the guild, i’d like to:

  • have a guild meeting
  • tackle another dungeon or two
  • have a social event (i’d like to do a crafter’s market but i’m still figuring out the best way to do it)
  • see if we can decide for a short-term and middle-term course in terms of growth and our homepage

Wait, what? Yes, while being in China my thoughts ventured out into thinking about whether Enjin does meet our needs. It’s a similar thought process i had with my old blog- the longer we stay with Enjin, the harder it will be to move. And it’s not like it looks very good- the design seems a bit outdated and it’s not responsive- you’ll get the “normal” website when visiting from smartphone/tablet. Also, it comes in at 8$ per month. Compare that to the 0.50€ per month to get a domain.

discord

And then there’s Discord, where i finally understood what it is thanks to a post from Belghast on gamer social media. It’s a free voice chat app with added text chat and mobile as well as desktop apps. I can totally see a homepage working on the basis of wordpress, a forum plugin and Discord working much better for us- especially in terms of recruiting players. It could look better and provide more opportunities to socialize and put us on display on our homepage.

The blog and Meta

Blog

There’s a few things i still need to work out here- i think, this time i’ve settled for a theme- but i’d like to make use of its “magazine home page” as well as add a menu to seperate MMO and real life/other media stuff a bit more. I’d also like to give out the opportunity for feed-subscribers as well as normal readers here to make a choice of what they’re interested in. I really don’t think everyone who’s reading my MMO ramblings is really interested in what i watch or the latest China pictures. Speaking of which, i need to draft these posts i planned to write about it quickly, before i forget half the things that happened there and impressions blur a bit.

 

anook

Meta

Again, thanks to Belghast, i’d like to make some effort into going to Anook. I like the idea of a social network for gamers, especially as i’m making more and more connections with other bloggers and players. Discord is another thing. Well, i’ve added both contact information to the group up page, so feel free to add me to your friendslist or some such (really need to take a better look at Anook).

And i’d like to up my commenting on other blogs.

Final words: i was really surprised by the positive reaction on yesterday’s post. Thanks to all of you for your encouragement, kind words and well…being generally simply nice people!

 

Quick Notes: Hew’s Bane, EQ Next & Wildstar

Hew’s Bane and Abah’s Landing

Yesterday’s guild evening began shortly after the news of Everquest Next’s cancellation broke, and i’m happy to report that we’ve been four players with two “regulars” missing- one sick, the other one surely on some other task, otherwise i know she would have been there. So my fears didn’t come true and we’re not out of our rhythm. The entry into the Thieves Guild DLC proved to be so exciting that i didn’t think of taking screenshots, so i can’t do a “Travel Log” yet. But as someone who hasn’t stolen one thing since it became illegal in Elder Scrolls Online and someone who avoids playing rogue-type characters at all costs, i can tell you it was huge fun. Sneaking into houses and stealing stuff in Elder Scrolls Online reminds me very much at The Secret World’s sabotage missions- only, it’s better, because your steps make sounds people can hear and i feel the reactions of the NPCs are more…realistic, somewhat. In the few sabotage missions i did in TSW i felt as if i was trying to avoid MMO mechanics- aggro range, for instance. In ESO, it feels much more like sneaking around. There’s also always the price at the end and, of course, whatever you care to steal on your way.

Great that you'll earn a costume by completing the first quest
Great that you’ll earn a costume by completing the first quest

Of course, being four people doing these missions, we were often seen and we haven’t managed to do even one mission without killing someone, but it was fun anyway and i’m happy to see this DLC being one i’ll be eager to play as soon as i’ll return from china.

I’ll probably write more about that, but i’d like to take a quick stab at why i think ESO will still be my number one MMO come april, regardless of how i feel about BDO: it’s because of me. I tried to cover that in my earlier post– if i were the same person i was four or five years ago, it would be Black Desert all the way. And i can understand the many, many positive impressions people have- i’m the same. But despite it offering almost everything, there’s something missing that i’m still finding in ESO- i guess it is about “connection”, or attachement. In ESO, i feel a connection to my character and the world and i miss that in Black Desert. Maybe that will change, maybe i should pay more attention to that black spirit thing, but right now, this is how i feel. I can still see BDO playing a huge role in my game rotation this year.

Everquest Next’s cancellation & Wildstar layoffs

I’m going to be brief here, because two months ago, when Ironweakness and i were planning our continuation of the Dual Wielding-thing, we set up two topics: negativity in the MMORPG community and the second one, to be posted on tuesday, about the future of the genre. Obviously, the cancellation of Everquest Next and the layoffs at Carbine will make an impression in that post. Suffice to say, i wasn’t really surprised, we kind of expected exactly the cancellation of the game to be the next thing we heard about it, as the silence before was deafening. So, remember my old blog, Party Business? I fired it up with the coming reveal of EQ Next, and i started it up with the intention to topically cover my search for a new MMO home i expected to find either in EQ Next, the Repopulation or ArcheAge. Great. One is now cancelled, the second one needs to move to a new engine and the third one was killed by its publisher and developer.

Gallows

For the Carbine layoffs, i feel sorry for the people affected and do hope they’ll find new jobs soon. But it’s also not really unexpected. The revenue numbers weren’t very good, even shortly after the transition to f2p and they’ll probably go down from there. I really kind of expect Wildstar to be the next big shutdown, maybe even as soon as this year. I think one reason for why it hasn’t already happened is that NC Soft knows full well that its popularity suffered under the closures of Tabula Rasa and City of Heroes. They don’t want to shut this one down, but in the end, they will. But this is just my guess.

So the genre? Commenters on Massively Overpowered seem to think it’s entering its grimdark times now. I both agree and (strongly) disagree- more on that on tuesday.

The Division

I can’t tell you much about that one yet- as said, i had a quiet week and have only reached my base of operations. I like it, but i was shocked to see that my pc doesn’t seem to fulfill the requirements. I can play, but i have to turn down the graphics by quite some degree. I’m not used to that- my pc is four years old and i started to notice that i just can’t put everything on “highest” since about a year or so, but having to put it on “low to medium” hurts. Still, it’s fun and oviously great to launch up and play a mission or two. It will also be the game i’ll be looking forward to see when i buy a new PC.

Personal notes and plans

For me, the following games are of interest right now:

  • Elder Scrolls Online
  • Black Desert Online
  • The Division
  • The Secret World
  • Blade & Soul

ESO will be the constant, Black Desert Online will be the “second choice”, everything else will be launched when the mood strikes me. Tomorrow evening, i plan to run a dungeon in ESO and i invited guild members to be there if they’d like to do one, as well.

Then there’s the now so timely post in the Dual Wielding edition on tuesday, and that will be it for march, gaming-wise, as we’ll be leaving for china on tuesday. From there, i might be able to post something (i think wordpress.com is blocked there, but not homepages run on the blogging software), but i doubt it will be gaming stuff.

A quiet week

This week should have been big- really big. The Elder Scrolls’ Thieves Guild DLC launched, The Division launched and it is only week 2 of Black Desert Online. So there were three games i really like that needed my attention. And then…i decided to let it all pass me by.

It was a voluntary decision only in parts. I had planned a nice and fun guild activity for sunday evening and was looking forward to playing ESO with our small-but-still-growing community, when i woke up on sunday morning only to vomit six times in a row. I don’t know why i did, maybe i ate something icky, but i know it knocked me out. The rest of the day went by in a blur, i basically slept the whole day, got sick a few more times, tried to read some stories to our son and subsequently fell asleep doing that. At one point i managed to get up and post a message on the guild’s forum that i couldn’t make it- a message of two sentences, which is very unusual for me, and went back to bed. While i did get better on monday, i still didn’t feel too well and chose to go to bed early. This continued throughout the week- i did take a look at The Division but i’ve only managed to get to the base of operations by now. In this hugely exciting week i chose to take a break from gaming, and get good night’s sleep and rest. Today, on friday, i feel good. Just in time- tonight we’ll be taking a look at Hew’s Bane in Elder Scrolls Online. If someone turns up, that is.

The Guilt

One thing that has been a constant throughout the several attempts at creating and starting a guild up is that i love scheduled activities. When i log into a game, i’m usually not a very group-friendly player, because i need a few days to be in the right state of mind and in the right environment to set aside a fixed amount of time for being in a game. I love socializing in MMOs, but i do it in an “organized” manner by submitting an idea to the guild, setting a date and time, plan a bit and then make it happen. Usually, these events are received very positively by other guild members and frankly, i think they are what holds such a community together. The problem is this: in almost all cases, i’m the only one organizing these events and this fact leads to me feeling a lot of pressure. I’ll try and set these things up weekly/biweekly, but when something happens and i can’t make it, there’s a lot of silence. And when i need to cancel something, i feel like it sends a message to the other guildmembers, namely that “this isn’t important”. While it is true that i don’t really care if three, four or eight people turn up for a night of gaming, when people receive that message, it will at some point happen that no one turns up- or only one other person. Often, i haven’t been able to “bounce back” after such an event.

thieves_guild

So that’s what worries me right now- that, after i got sick just before the last two events – on the first occasion, i did turn up but had to shorten it quite a bit, tonight only few people will turn up. With our family going to China for two weeks on tuesday, this low attendance event might be followed by two weeks of silence. I’ll have to see how to pick things up again when i’m back. Or maybe i’m wrong, as i can also totally see 4-6 people logging on tonight. We’ll have to wait and see tonight.

After returning from China, i set up a dungeon running night- and that’s a strange one for me, because usually i plan these nights for all levels and all numbers of participants- and i can’t do that with dungeons, because the group size is four. But with the new grouping tools Elder Scrolls Online now supports, i think it is time to start the dungeon-delving.

Other than that, things are going great in the community- we took two recruits in as members and recruited two more players into our ranks- we are now just one player short of the guild bank. In terms of speed and amount of growth, it is turning out just as we hoped it would, which is nice.

Black Desert Online and the missing need for a saviour

For years- it must be six now- i’ve been looking for that “one” MMORPG experience. Some times, i thought i had found it- in Guild Wars 2 and ArcheAge, for example. That was pre-release, of course, as games are often perfect on paper and rarely on screen. What i was looking for is simple- an MMORPG that gives reason to living in the world, offers the opportunity to simply being a crafter or trader, removes instanced content completely and has regionally different pricing of goods as well as item decay. Were i still in that exact spot in my life both real and virtual, i would rejoice right now and welcome Black Desert Online as my new MMO home. I don’t, though, and it’s not the fault of the game. I’m still early in this (~7 hours /played) and my current situation is still the same Syl describes, but i have to say if that itch was still itching, BDO might just have made it stop.

Of course i’m wary- i was before release and still am. What if all these systems are actually quite shallow, as i’ve read somewhere (of course)? What if the cash shop gets worse? Actually, that’s not a question of possibility but time, in my opinion. As far as i know, all cash shops get “worse” over time. I can’t think of any example where a cash shop that started decent held this position forever. Elder Scrolls Online comes close, but in the end of march, it will introduce assistants- a banker and a merchant you can buy in the cash shop that will come out in the wild for you. In a game where inventory management still is a huge part of the gameplay experience, this is, of course, convenient and not pay-to-win, but it still signals a parting from only selling cosmetic stuff. But i’m not worried about all that- i don’t play any game competitively, so i don’t care if you need to buy stuff from the cash shop to be in the top 1%. But still, it might happen.

Before release, i didn’t really look into Black Desert Online. First it was because it was only announced in Korea and i didn’t want to put my hopes up like i did with ArcheAge and wait 3 years for the game to be released. Then, when it was clear it would come in the forseeable future, it was because i didn’t want another ArcheAge. It seems BDO avoids the mistakes that made ArcheAge sour for me: hacking, landgrabbing, cheating. I didn’t care for the business model, not even for the pay-to-win stuff that was available shortly after launch- what killed any desire in me to play it was the fact that, in the end, i was paying a sub to being able to craft and own land without the possibility to do so, because other players were cheating.

In BDO, housing is instanced and hacks don’t seem to play such a huge role. I also don’t need to subscribe to be able to craft or own houses. So by my accounts, it’s fine.

Not looking for the saviour anymore

What it comes down to is this: my expectations are different now. I don’t expect MMORPGs to provide that whole virtual world experience anymore. Sure, i prefer it, but it can come in so many varieties nowadays that i can’t point a finger on something and say: THAT’S IT! Take Elder Scrolls Online, for example- it’s not a sandbox by any means, but compare it to my feature-wishlist, it’s only really lacking in the non-combat-department. Instead, it offers interesting stories while questing, the ability to build the character in almost any way i want, not an open world, but very open zones and an interesting crafting system. It also encourages social activity by removing global auction houses.

And i'd love to play The Secret World, as well.
And i’d love to play The Secret World, as well.

It was surprising to me, but i’m happy in Elder Scrolls Online and like the experience it provides very much- this is a game that i like better on screen than on paper. I think this is key in the whole “manage your expectations”-theme: if you read something, you’ll inject your own ideas into vague marketing/hype statements. In your mind, you’ll make it seem even better than what the devs actually tell you (this goes the other way, too- if you dislike something about an announcement, you’ll make it seem worse than it is). ESO fits into everything- my available time to play, my playstyle, my favourite pacing.

This week, when i was able to play, i had to make the difficult decision on whether to play Elder Scrolls or Black Desert Online. I’ve played multiple MMORPGs at the same time pretty much since free-to-play became a thing, but sometimes it was feeling more like the choice of a lesser evil- i’m exaggerating, of course, after all nobody forces me to play MMORPGs, or games. This time, it feels different, because i want to play both (and more, but to a lesser degree- looking at TSW and Blade&Soul here) at the same time. It’s different than last year- last year, i switched games because i was unhappy/not having fun with one for a longer period. This year, it seems there are too many choices where i do have fun.

My view on MMORPGs has pretty much shifted to me perceiving them as normal games instead of the special entity they used to be for me in the years past. And i think this is a compliment for the devs- at least a partial one. I’ve never found an MMORPGs gameplay very enticing- it sold its whole package to me. But with games like ESO and BDO- and soon even The Division- i think fun made an appearance in the genre (Guild Wars 2 and Blade&Soul also do fine in this regard).

All i’m saying is: i’m not looking for that saviour anymore- the game i’ll play exclusively in the coming 5 years, because i value diversity in the genre now. If i was, though, i think Black Desert Online would come close- on paper as well as what i see on screen right now.

Black Desert Online – earliest impressions

I can’t even do an “early impressions” post yet. Others are better in doing that, anyway. A few things i noted in my time with BDO so far:

  • the game doesn’t do a very good job in introducing you to its systems- for instance, i do know i can talk (it’s a conversation minigame, by the way) to NPCs, but i don’t really know why i should bother
  • this encourages exploration and wonder, so actually, i love that it doesn’t make everything so clear
  • the quests you do at around level 12-15 will offer a slow introduction to crafting
  • you can’t dry stuff when it’s night or cloudy – this game is highly immersive
  • there’s no fast travel- but there’s autorun; it’s the combination of these two elements that make this work
  • The night is dark and full of terrors (mobs are stronger and more aggressive in the night)
  • combat is fun- even with the Witch. Can’t wait to create my Valkyrie
  • you need to switch on all quest types in your Questlog (standard key: o ), elsewise the game will only mark NPCs with kill quests
  • inventory management. I carry all available tools with me- not a good strategy because i only have like 5 free inventory spaces when i venture out
  • it’s a beautiful game and a beautiful world that’s fully worth exploring

Conclusion? Right now, i love Black Desert Online and hate it for this love at the same time. As soon as possible, i’ll hook up with Massively Overpowered’s guild- my guess is that will improve the experience even further.

And next week, there’ll be The Division. Oh my…

Monday quick notes: what does a Black Desert look like, anyway?

Black Desert Online

Anticipation for BDO rose to an all-time high for me this week. Granted, almost everything i read that also contained an opinion was mixed, to say the least, and i didn’t participate long enough in the beta to form an opinion on my own. What got me was the impression that here’s a game you can actually play in many different ways. Beginning with the different “currencies” and skills up to the fact that the only thing granting leveling xp will be the mobs- suddenly i saw myself riding off into a world to explore on my own. And i think this will have to be it, as the developer-created content seems quite thin. But i have another game for that and i was actually really looking forward to beginning my journey in BDO.

So i did- i wish i could tell you more, but at this point, i’m trying to make sense of all the game’s offerings myself. I followed the questline as long as it took to leave Olvia behind, but still feel i missed something back there because i haven’t gained even one contribution point while the quests there seem to have dried up. This leaves three possibilities: either i haven’t found all the quests, the quests in the next town count toward Olvia, as well or it is highly recommended to run multiple characters through Olvia. Right now, i need contribution points for two things: connecting nodes and buying a house, although i’ll put that last part off a bit until i know what i need the house for.

Introducing Nuria Mersault, Witch. I chose something different than this smile- unfortunately, now she's running around with her eyes closed.
Introducing Nuria Mersault, Witch. I chose something different than this smile- unfortunately, now she’s running around with her eyes closed.

So far, there’s one thing that game managed very well: giving the impression of being in a vast world. I began gathering resources and soon found myself with a full inventory- thankfully, there’s a warehouse in Olvia- here’s the thing with that, though: as far as i know, those warehouses store items locally, so i can’t actually access them in the next town. If you take this into account as well as the fact that there’s no fast travel in this game, it’s obvious that at some point down the line, you’ll set up a “home” or base of operations. For me and right now, this is Olvia and i need to figure out how to get more contribution to unlock two nodes- thereby allowing me to sell a “trade material” (that’s basically expensive “junk” you can sell to certain npcs for bigger amounts of silver) at 100% of its value- that would be around 10000 Silver (current balance: 3500 Silver)- without those two nodes, the npc will only pay 30%.

The giant in the background keeps your stuff safe in the warehouse.
The giant in the background keeps your stuff safe in the warehouse.

I haven’t touched crafting yet, because i don’t have any idea how to do it- but gathering is interesting: if you kill a fox, for instance, you have three options: to get fluids from its corpse, to skin it or to get the meat- that’s one mob giving you three options to utilize it for crafting material depending on the tool you equip.

The game itself doesn’t tell you much- or maybe it is slower in telling than i’d like it to be- because i saw there are video tutorials for gathering and crafting, but i haven’t reached the point where the game lets me watch these yet. Grinding mobs is hugely satisfying- although i have to say the respawn rate is quite high right now. Wolves, for instance (they attack) spawn so quick that i can’t even harvest the resources from those i killed before. I’m level 10 now and this game is still a big question mark in my book- but that’s really nice, because now, i’m eager to go back in and explore further. My feeling is that in this game, the player will have to utilize intricate knowledge of the game system to his or her advantage.

As a last note- i haven’t had any troubles playing on a NA-server from europe. Seems to be working fine.

ESO_logo-black

Elder Scrolls Online

I began questing in Greenshade with Nuria Solstrum and tackled the two guild-quests that sent me there. I got to see the Earth Forge.

I don't like lava zones but i can take one instanced cave. It's very atmospheric.
I don’t like lava zones but i can take one instanced cave. It’s very atmospheric.

I also played a part in a “theater piece” written by Sheogorath, the Daedric prince of Madness. Somehow i think that the content of the play will become true down the line- it was about the three alliances turning against the mages guild because they refuse to pick a side.

All in all, i have to say: with Elder Scrolls Online, Black Desert Online and The Division upcoming, MMO-wise i’m in a very happy place right now. And there’s also The Secret World in my rotation. Since the beginning of the year, it was so easy to simply ignore news coming from all the other titles, i’m not tempted in the slightest. It’s a great place to be in and i expect this to continue throughout this year.

Others

Rocket League’s newest DLC release will be the Batmobile. For 2€, i think i’m in.

Rocket League still takes up about half of my available gaming time, i’m so happy i bought it. Sometimes i play with two friends and that’s when the fun really starts. I’ve paid 13€ and played 100 hours- i think i can put another 2€ in for a cool looking car.

Goals for this week

  • further exploring in Black Desert Online
  • creating that guild with Ironweakness and Aywren in BDO (maybe we’ll start as a clan? A clan is free, a guild costs 100000 Silver) and hope we’ll be joined by more folks
  • continuing my Templar in Elder Scrolls Online, maybe even reaching level 30 (don’t think i will)

Travel Log: wrapping up Grahtwood

Yesterday i finally had/took the time to wrap up Grahtwood, the level 16-24 area for Aldmeri Dominion in Elder Scrolls Online. Nuria has been in Grahtwood, well, for almost 2 years, i suppose, as it was one of the characters i created back when the game launched. I can’t tell you how many hours of /played it took to finish it, but what i am able to tell you is that it was a memorable experience.

I do remember when i first got there. Not in too much detail, but i remember how difficult i found it to be. It’s not often that you’ll find standard open-world content difficult in MMORPGs- here, coming to Grahtwood with a fresh level 16 character, it was as much an unwelcoming place as the quest lore made it out to be. It was grim, and i’ve found some quest very confusing- i can’t remember which one, anymore, but somehow, something put me to a stop in the game. I know i loathed the inventory minigame even more back then, because ESO was still asking for a subscription at that time and i felt it was one of those time-wasters designed to make you sub longer. Around that time, i decided to discontinue playing the game.

When i returned a couple of times to check the game out again, i did what i always do: create a new character to play because i had forgotten about the old one. So i didn’t see the Grahtwood anymore, until our guild decided to side with the Aldmeri Dominion and i was looking at either continuing Nuria or create another new character. As i have been playing the game in our premade group up to level 8, i felt i could tackle a level 19 character of the same class- after all, there had been a skill reset in the meantime and i had a general idea on what to do with the character.

Laeloria

It wasn’t easy, though. I still had to struggle through getting to know the character and the situation she found herself in. And, after all that time and despite really liking the Daggerfall Covenant zones and quest-related stories, it’s Grahtwood where i fell in love with the game again. And it was a quest.

The watcher in the Treehouse, again.
The watcher in the Treehouse, again.

Laeloria. I don’t know what it was about this quest- i guess it was all a happy coincidence. First, i saw the building you can see in the background of the screenshot above. I made a mental note to take a look later. While travelling around, at some point i saw a Treehouse and decided to climb it, as i knew it would offer some kind of view. Arriving there, i received the quest- freeing some captured soul from Coldharbour- and the Watcher told me more. How someone already ventured in to free that soul, how she told him to watch the beacon and pay attention if/when it turned to a red light. I was enthralled, because i wondered if it would, indeed, turn red and thereby ending the century-long wait for that Watcher. So now Laeloria was more than a building i wanted to explore at some point- it was encased in the lore of the Watcher and the liberation of not one, but two individuals and finally even in the mystery of the beacon. That’s a normal side-quest, mind you. It’s not even a very uncommon theme here- freeing people from a dangerous place often is the motivation for the player character to venture in, after all. But for some reason, all these elements clicked for me. Better yet, that wasn’t even all there is to Laeloria.

Statue of Azura in Laeloria.
Statue of Azura in Laeloria.

Azura, a Daedra that’s not even viewed as being as evil as the others, is in this whole scheme, as well. As is a demon, but i didn’t like that one very much. It’s this quest that will me- or my character, at least- have a “special” connection to Azura from then on. Now, i don’t know anything much about the lore of Elder Scrolls games and Elder Scrolls Online in particular- it’s a gap i plan to fill at some point, also because of this quest and Azura.

Exploring Laeloria was very satisfying and i wasn’t disappointed, of course. After all that tension building up around this place it did deliver on it, after all. Did the beacon turn red? Well, you’ll have to take a look yourself.

Grahtwood

The zone has to offer much more and it’s actually quite diverse, even though the theme never changes from being a wood. There are Bosmer villages made of trees and acorns, i guess. There are Altmer villages, ruins and embassies, there are open spaces as well as dark woods/rough terrain. It’s not easy to navigate while still being open enough to not make it an annoyance.

There’s a dungeon, of course- Elder Hollows, and it is nice to look at, indeed. The main storyline in Grahtwood revolves around preventing a revolution in Bosmer ranks and getting Ayrenn to do some kind of ceremony to prove she truly is a fitting leader for the Dominion. There’s a bit of betrayal, drama and magic mystery involved, as well as a funny twist on vegetarism- Bosmer don’t eat plants and you’ll be reminded of that several times – i really liked getting through the questing in Grahtwood.

I’ve seen strange places like that “Garden of Flesh” in the Reliquary of Stars and followed gruesome tales of unreturned love. Memorable, i guess, is the right word. In the end, after getting that quest achievement, there were 2 delves, 3 Skyshards and one “eye” left to explore- that’s what i did last night.

In retrospective, with a zone as large as the Grahtwood is, the slow leveling in Elder Scrolls Online and all the real-time involved here- even if i were only counting the time since i returned to that character- it truly feels like an epic experience, a journey. So now, i’m off to Greenshade- looking forward to explore that place. I’ll leave you with some shots i took during my travels.