The End…a new beginning

Why, hello there! Still in your feeds? That’s great, thanks for that. There’s a new year to look forward to and an old one to look back at. So let’s do this.

2016

In the latter half of the year, I’ve been in a slump with MMORPGs- far enough that I heard me say that I’m practically done with them to a friend. There were a lot of reasons and even a draft for a post on this blog here looking at them. In the end, it came down to time: MMORPGs are time-intensive things and I was having more fun playing session-oriented games like Rocket League or Overwatch- or slower paced singleplayer games like Planet Coaster, Cities:Skylines or Euro Truck Simulator. All of them share the feature of being able to begin and stop playing whenever I want, with no bad conscience for paying a sub, having to progress timely for an expansion to release and so on. It’s pressure-free gaming I enjoyed, even while I am mildly successful in keeping my MMORPG playing pressure-free.

There were real-life issues, as well. Nothing personal, mind you, until late in the year, but to be honest, I had to struggle with the results in the american election. Now, we’ll see where the US are headed and I’ll keep further discussion and my personal opinion on that aside- it has been an election, after all- but in the grander scheme of things, what happened in the US was a display of what’s going on, politically, on the whole world. More than worrying about the US (which I do), they made me worry about Europe and Germany- elections are coming up in France and Germany this year, and depending on the results, they could do a lot of harm to the european idea. So I’ve kept myself busy learning stuff- why this might be happening, what could be done about it and so on.

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I also got acquainted with the appeal of Twitch streaming- I haven’t streamed yet (planning to, though), but a friend of mine does, so I joined him when he was streaming and found it…interesting. I still don’t fully understand why streaming and watching streams is a thing, but I’m getting there.

Last month it also became apparent that we’re expecting our second child. Now that’s a way to end the year!

Strangely, the news of a second child rekindled my interest in MMORPGs to a degree, as did my personal interpretation of Twitch streaming (I’ll get to that in a minute).

The One

Elder Scrolls Online has been my MMORPG of 2016. I’ve tried many, as usual- Blade and Soul, Black Desert, tried getting back into Rift, WoW, Final Fantasy XIV, Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World, but there’s an anchor in ESO: our small guild that’s not-so-small anymore. We’re 15 people now, growing slowly, but steadily- and recently, a couple of members created a Minecraft-server for us to enjoy.

So, while I didn’t really play MMORPGs very enthusiastically in the latter half of 2016, I’ve kept regular events going in our guild, and my main character hit level 50 and, by now, 70 Champion points simply by attending those- there was a huge push with the Halloween-event, where doing anchors granted huge amounts of experience (I also threw in some experience potions), and now I’m max-level. The last time I touched questing content was when the character was level 38, so there’s a huge amount of content left for me to discover.

Last year’s resolutions

You can find the long post on my old blog. Here’s what I wanted to get out of 2016:

  • Embrace PvP. I haven’t avoided Cyrodiil, but a deep dive seemed unnecessary as neither Camelot Unchained nor Crowfall reached a state where they were playable for me.
  • Keeping a budget….hahahaha. Oh well, that escalated quickly. I guess my “budget” didn’t last more than 5 months.
  • Prioritize MMO gaming- I guess that one went well. I still spent too much money on them, but in the end, I’ve been pretty consistent in playing ESO as my main MMO.
  • More time in good games- well, outside of MMOs, that was. I guess this one was mildly successful, as I did play different games in the second half of 2016.
  • Spend more time with people and grow the guild. Full success. Last year, I stated that I’d like the community to have 10 people, we are at 15 now. I have appointed a co-leader, so I’m not alone in doing stuff anymore and we’ve played ESO together for a year now.
  • Blog more regularly than in 2015. Nope. Went AWOL for quite a while there.

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2017

So here we are, in 2017. Resolutions? The same, basically:

spend less money, waste none

I bought the newest Rift expansion and haven’t set a foot inside yet, probably never will. Fear of missing out, dear reader, is a strong marketing tool. They got me with that stuff you’d get by preordering and logging in. Rift has one feature I really like: their housing system is great and reading this great post from Nouvae about finding inspiration for dimensions makes me wish I could get into Rift.

This year, one trap is already looming: Final Fantasy XIV’s newest expansion, preorder opening in the end of the month. I just know I’ll be considering buying it on day one, knowing full well that I haven’t even touched Heavensward content yet. So here’s a resolution: either I’m not buying anything I can’t play (duh!) or if I do, I’ll see that I get there.

Get a grip on MMO hopping

Hopping around isn’t the issue for me anymore. I’m fine with that now. There are a couple of MMOs I like very much, and I’ll play each of them from time to time. What needs changing, though, is starting fresh every time. So no more character hopping. I’ll start fresh (or already have) once more, but continue playing this new batch of characters.

Grow our guild

The guild is in a good shape, our main game is in a great shape and getting better with each update. Let’s put a number on this – by the end of 2017, I’d like us to be a community consisting of 20-25 players, which would mean almost reaching our goal of 20-30 players.

Creating Content

In 2016, there was one thing I was somewhat unhappy to see: quite a few fellow MMO bloggers called it quits and stopped writing about and/or even playing them. Ironweakness and Murf, to name two. Liore went somewhat silent, as well. My friend, the streamer, doesn’t seem to get blogging, makes fun of our guild using forums to communicate and my guild’s poking fun at me for creating textwalls in forums and guild meetings. I don’t think blogging is dead, but maybe it needs some…freshness. So in 2017, I’d not only like to write more consistently – not necessarily more, but not in bursts of posts and stretches of silence, either, but also try that streaming thing and maybe even video stuff.

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More German

There’s a pendulum- sometimes, I think international servers are better, english clients are more enjoyable and original and the community bigger, and then, the pendulum swings back to a state where I prefer “simple” to “original”. My new batch of characters will be created on german servers, the clients set to german, at least to try them out, and I’ll create german content- if and when I stream, it will be in german. I might even get a german blog going, but we’ll see about that.

Games in 2017

I’m not going to fool myself- I will keep buying games, maybe even MMOs (Crowfall, Revelation Online?), but there are three games I plan to make a dent in this year:

  • Elder Scrolls Online, obviously. Housing is incoming and another big content update (Vvardenfell?) might be coming this year, as well. ESO’s going strong and I’ll join it on its way.
  • Final Fantasy XIV. Another very healthy MMO, and one with meaningful crafting and an auction house, as well. It’s also quite simple in its business model: sub or don’t play. There’s no annoying shop interface, no “updates” coming for the item shop only- it’s just so relaxing to play an MMO that doesn’t have a hand in your wallet at all times.
  • Lord of the Rings Online. Standing Stone Games are independent and Daybreak’s the publisher now. Licensing issues are non-existent, so in my book, this change is all-around positive. Lotro has been my “go-back-to” MMORPG for quite a while (at least from release to 2012) and I love the design of the landscapes.

In addition, a few of the released games I’d like to play in 2017 without pressing the matter:

  • The Secret World
  • Guild Wars 2
  • The Division
  • The Crew

All in all, I feel far from done with the genre and/or writing about it. There’s a bit of a course-correction this year, but I’m actually excited to go ahead with it, especially the multimedia-thing with streaming. After researching and thinking about ways to do it in the last couple of days/weeks, I feel like Twitch streaming and blogging are actually quite similar to each other. I guess that’s a different post, though.

Happy New Year everyone!

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Dual Wielding LFG edition: fostering communities

Dual Wielding: LFG Editionsometimes a topic is just too big for a couple of bloggers on their own. That’s when we send out the call, and see who steps up to help us with the challenge. This week, in a special LFG edition of Dual Wielding, we’ve put together a four person team to tackle the question, “what can developers do to foster community”?

Make sure to read the other posts, too:

Intro

Let me just state how happy i am about the LFG special edition of the coop blogging post. Thank you so much to Wolfyseyes and Syl for joining Ironweakness and me today. I’m sure it’s going to be fun!

So how did it get started? By a Twitter discussion between Ironweakness, Wolfyseyes and Syl about “confusing” design decisions in Black Desert Online or Tree of Savior, for instance. It’s actually quite difficult to get one Tweet that shows it all, but here’s where one big question showed up.

So, if a game is more complicated- does it foster its ingame community to become closer? And what are other ways of encouraging social behaviour in MMORPGs? Forced grouping and the trinity would be more intentional ways to get players to interact with each others. In the course of this discussion, it became clear that this is quite a complex topic- so we chose it for this month’s Dual Wielding and asked Wolfy and Syl to join us.

Intentional vs. coincidental

In that discussion, there’s an interesting point in differentiating ways to foster community in intentional and coincidental design choices- is a good community in games like Black Desert Online and Tree of Savior a byproduct of the complexity of the game? Is offering or forcing your players to do group content and role management working as a pillar for community building? Is there anything game developers can do to improve their ingame communities? Let’s take a look at examples first.

No negative interaction

Guild Wars 2 employs a “no griefing” approach- in GW2, there’s almost nothing another player can do to lower your enjoyment of the game. When you meet others, you won’t sigh or hope you’ll make it first to the resource node, because everything regarding ingame progress is there just for you. You get as much experience, loot, resources when being in a group as if you were alone. Of course, that makes grouping beneficial, as you can kill mobs faster, tackle more difficult encounters and so on.

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Does it work, though? I’d say no. To be sure, GW2’s community is more on the friendly side of things, but the interaction outside of WvW, sPvP and maybe world bosses is very limited. Yes, you play with others, but they might just as well be displaced with NPCs. Sure, you could say hello and get to talk to others, but the on-the-fly grouping makes pick up groups come and go so quickly that there’s actually no need. The Guild Wars 2 game design is one of the best examples of “alone together” design- i mean, that’s better than being solo all the time, but it’s not meaningful interaction.

Another example of this way of game design would be Rift, where PUGs happen organically all the time- when closing Rifts, preventing Invasions, doing Instant Adventures and so on.

With both examples, i think a good way to improve on that design might be to make the content more difficult or meaningful.

Forced Grouping

As seen in Final Fantasy XIV, for example. In FFXIV, you’ll come to a point where the main story questline asks you to do group content- and that’s putting it nicely. As progress in terms of game features is tied to your progress in the main story, you have no choice. You’ll have to do group content to be able to trade your goods, get a mount and open many more options in the game. And the first time it asks you to dungeon delve? It’s not one, but three dungeons.

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Again, Final Fantasy XIV is an example of a very nice and friendly community, but i don’t think the forced grouping really helps in fostering it outside of guilds, possibly. For those, the forced grouping coupled with level scaling is a boon, as there’s always someone you can help, content you can do together and get to know each others. For players outside of guilds, this presents a challenge- on one hand, you have to go find a group in that dreaded LFG tool. On the other hand, but this is of more importance to casual players like me, you are stopped in your progress with a wall of “dedicated game time” in front of you. These three dungeons have been the reason for cancelling my sub/not playing the game two of three times- because i’d need to set the time aside and make sure that i wouldn’t be interrupted while in the dungeon. In the one case where it didn’t lead to me unsubbing, it took me two weeks to get through these three dungeons.

Socialising, though? Didn’t happen- it was a PUG, after all, and the pick-up groups for forced grouped content are basically the same as the pugs for optional dungeons in WoW, for example. There was a higher percentage of players saying “hello”, but that was it.

Another example could be Elder Scrolls Online. Now, there you aren’t forced into doing group PvE content, but for trade, you have to join trading guilds. I’m member of one with over 300 members- the chat is more silent than the guild chat of our small guild where 3-5 people are online in the evenings.

So no, in my opinion forced grouping doesn’t work.

Complex gaming mechanics

I’ll use Black Desert Online, EVE online and Fallen Earth as examples here. Black Desert Online has the reputation of not introducing players very well into the features of the game. Exploration is a big part of BDO, as well, and other players telling you where to find a horse to tame or certain plants and whatever are a thing there. EVE Online has the infamous learning curve. And Fallen Earth, while unfortunately being almost forgotten, was a Sandpark before Sandparks became a thing. These three games have one thing in common, albeit to varying degrees: you are actually dependant on out-of-game resources and help from others inside the game.

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It’s been a few days since i last played BDO, so i won’t comment on its community. EVE and Fallen Earth, though? In my opinion, those are the games with the best communities out there. Sure, especially EVE has lots of shadow in its light, too, but it’s here where things like EVE University exists. EVE and Fallen Earth offer a newbie help channel that’s actually helpful and maintained by friendly players.

As EVE is one of my two current games, i can tell you that when you begin to dive a bit deeper into the EVE community, it’s almost like a parallel universe. I could easily double my MMO related feed reading if i were to follow all those EVE blogs out there. Of those 98 game-specific podcasts listed by Justin on Massively Overpowered, 13 are EVE podcasts, World of Warcraft has 15.

EVE has one thing up on the other two, though: interdependancy and different means to interact with other players.

The odd ones

There are two games with great communities i haven’t mentioned above, because it’s more difficult to pin down the reasons for why these games have such great communities- Lord of the Rings Online and The Secret World. But thinking about it now, there is a connection: out-of-game engagement and assets. As with BDO and EVE, these games are not self-contained. Lotro makes use of one of the biggest IPs we have in the gaming world and The Secret World…well, it makes use of conspiracy theories as well as lots and lots of modern tale storytelling like Zombies, Vampires and other themes that have a connection to the real world.

The other thing here is- and maybe that is tied to the out-of-game resources, that they’re both very roleplaying friendly.

What fosters a good community?

I think fostering and maintaining a good community is not about removing or creating obstacles within the game- it is about providing more than “just” a game, invoke emotions in the player base and feel them connected to the game, its world and its players. It is about creating the opportunity to have meaningful interaction with these elements both within and outside of the game.

Make it more than a game

The games don’t carry themselves- they need to be accompanied by out-of-game resources and interactions. For interactions, as i haven’t touched on them above, a developer needs to employ a very open conversation channel with all of their players- offer popular builds on your website, introduce guilds and talk about planned features and what you’re working on as well as your intentions in changes to the game. Hold community meet-ups. Know your bloggers. Stay- or get- in touch.

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If the game in question is set in a widely known IP, they are halfway there, but even then, developers need to offer resources outside of the game or encourage players to create them- for instance with a design philosophy of “systems over features” (that can make a post on its own). In my experience, if a game offers a connection to the “real world”, either by links to IPs of books, movies, real world legends or even other games (as is the case with WoW and FFXIV), when it is able to make use of connections between the game and real-world experiences of players, it has a leg up in terms of building community.

Create and maintain interdependancy of players

Self-sufficiency is nice and all, but if it is offered, even as a hard-to-reach goal (like leveling all crafting professions in FFXIV), nowadays players will try to achieve it. It’s easier than to try and make connections to other players. Picture interdependancy as the “system” version of the “feature” forced grouping. It’s easy to do in crafting- just don’t let anyone craft everything by themselves (ideally not even by making use of alternative characters) to “enforce” player trading- but don’t make it more difficult than it needs to be. Also, let things break to maintain this interdependancy. Or allow certain crafters to repair stuff / create repair tools.

It can be done in PvE, too, if we think about Entertainers in Star Wars Galaxies who were able to remove debuffs from players in cantinas. The trinity is not enough, combat-wise, there have to be more roles on offer- like debuffing enemies, buffing players, support roles and so on. Another thing to note: being grouped up with other players should always be beneficial.

There should be an inherent need for having other players around and it should span more than the odd dungeon or world boss.

Allow interaction on different levels

Most of us have noticed that MMORPG players have changed. There isn’t a big influx of young gamers into the genre- they play specialized games, and the genre fans have been getting older. That means having less time to play and less will to dedicate huge chunks of time to gaming. I think many of us are still in this genre for the other players we can meet and interact with, but at the same time, we are less willing and able to put lots of time into this.

One of my favourite articles (really, go read it) introduced the idea of asynchronuous interaction- it is what makes Twitter, Facebook and E-Mail work so great- all of them enable their users to communicate even when the other one isn’t there. MMORPGs haven’t toyed much with that idea, though. For most of the things we can do together, we’d both need to be online (auction houses being the excemption).

Trading is the obvious one here- i can offer something for sale while you’re offline and you can buy it when you log in. But this is faceless interaction; it is needed for the general community of a game, but it doesn’t offer the individual the satisfaction of doing something with others. There is one feature, however, that makes this possible: housing. If i can own a housing plot and allow others to help me build it, we can create something together even if we’re not online at the same time. I think this could be expanded- for example by allowing us to create contracts or quests in game for PvE or crafting content. Now, these systems often end up being exploited, but that’s not my problem today 😉

And then….let it scale up. Offer something for two players to do together while they’re both online, or not. Offer the same for groups of 5, 10, 20, 50 or 100 players and you have a solid base for building communities of all sizes.

Have a vision and make it last

This one is hard to grasp, but i think if we’re looking into the examples i mentioned above, they all have in common that the games in question have a vision. They want to offer something special and they stick to their guns. Be it TSW’s creepyness, Lotro’s world-creation, FFXIV’s compelling themeparking, EVE’s cutthroat philosophy and so on. Even World of Warcraft with all its changes has stuck to one vision: creating and maintaining an accessible MMORPG.

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Others have changed focus, hunting for new/more players instead of keeping their current customers happy or miscommunicated their vision before launch. Some of them do well, money-wise, some don’t. Some still have good communities, but really, would you say that the Star Wars community isn’t capable of doing much more than what happens around SWTOR? Yeah, me neither.

Whodoesit?

What game does it best? In my opinion, even before returning to it, i’d say and would have said EVE Online. They have the fanfest, blogging events, the whole ingame economy is player-based, even the lore and history is. EVE started in the game and was only that. But players were enabled to take ingame events and such to the outside. We’re talking about a game with concurrency numbers in the 30-40k area, but the community has created so many assets, from tools, to websites, blogs, videos, even books and history, that EVE is much more than just the game now.Ingame, there are huge advantages to flying in a fleet without debuffs, xp bonus or some other “artificial” benefit, but because of the game’s inherent systems.

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.

Random thoughts

Misc

So my last post was published about 2 months ago. The thing with blogging, and i guess with playing MMORPGs in general is that it’s a hobby that drives itself- at least that’s the way it goes for me. If i’m enjoying myself, find a purpose in a game or writing about playing them, my time in game as well as writing here goes up. If there’s some kind of obstacle, be it work, RL-stuff, singleplayer games, other hobbies, interest in playing and writing goes down. The last two months have been a mix of those things- while i’ve still been busy in the MMO world, the real world also needed attention. Since this place is for MMOs, let’s focus on that part.

The guild/community

The (MMO)-time around and after that last posting went into planning and setting up the guild/community i’d like to build with a few friends. We developed a ruleset, actually quite similar to what the Remnants of Hope have in place, played different games in our dedicated group (The Secret World, for instance) and waited for Wildstar’s free-to-play transition to happen- to then begin recruiting and growing the community.

Unfortunately, for now it doesn’t seem to work out so well. We’re getting along, and what we have- the dedicated group of people who know each other- is great, but there are two things that didn’t go as well as we thought they’d go.

Recruitment, for instance. We put in a process similar to what i’ve seen elsewhere- submit an application form, go into a 4-week-probation while jumping some hoops (forum posts, ingame activity, stuff like that) and close that up with an interview. This process mainly had two goals: first, to dissuade people who weren’t really interested in the kind of community we want to build (reducing applications), and second to keep member counts low and find out whether recruits were a good fit.

As it turns out, this doesn’t seem to fly with the german gaming community. Of course, there could be more reasons for having received only one application in the first month of Wildstar f2p (and that one not fitting with our goals), but combine this restrictive recruitment process with a very small (5 people) and casually playing community and it seems to go nowhere. I’ve been part of a newly founded community before, and that one also started small (3 to 5 people), but we’ve never had that kind of trouble. In fact, we started recruitment in Guild Wars 2’s beta and were already 20 people when GW2 launched.

So for now, we’ve removed that recruitment process- at least officially. We’ll watch for the same stuff behind the scenes, but we don’t discourage people to apply for membership anymore. Of course, there’s not much need to. The first month of f2p is behind us, the number of players looking for a guild is low, the german parts of the Wildstar forums not very active anyway. We don’t expect a sudden rush into our walls anymore.

All the better, though, because it seems all of us are busy elsewhere. Wildstar activity isn’t very high, there’s a lot going on in other games and real lives, as well. So right now, we’re not really looking for more people, although it wouldn’t hurt and could inject some life in terms of activity in Wildstar if some people would join in. We’re still aiming for the “small and cozy tight-knit” type of community and i’m done with looking for other guilds- i’ll continue to try and build the community we started in the way we’d like to build it. And i’m patient. It’s not really about Wildstar activity or member count. What’s important for me is the situation 5 years down the road. I want that community to still live at that point, maybe with a roster of 10-20 players who are really close andplay different games together.

Wildstar

Talking about Wildstar- it’s great. It’s fun to play, it is interesting and it can offer wildly different things to do from session to session. It’s also the first MMO where my crafting ability is further developed than my adventuring ability. A little playing of the market and i’m sitting on my first platinum at level 22. Don’t know if that is very good- probably not- but i do know i wouldn’t have that much ingame gold if i wouldn’t have traded with other players.

The most fearsome costume i could find
The most fearsome costume i could find

Sometimes, it’s too much. When Shade’s Eve and the Hoverboard event were live, there were so many things to do that it was staggering. I’ve played a “normal” session yesterday, following the world- and zone story in Galeras and it was huge fun and almost liberating to simply ignore the event stuff. I’m still surprised by the size of the zones. Galeras is huge and varied.

Wildstar is also one of the few games where i can see a real endgame for me: collecting things like mounts & pets, costumes, recipes, building up the housing plot, soon hopefully the neighborhood as well as some pvp and pve-related stuff, diving deeper into the story, explore maps and making some ingame gold all seem viable options for endgame activities in Wildstar.

So it’s been great fun and it’ll continue to be- i’ll go slow, because i’m done with planning my freetime around MMORPGs, even if i want that community of ours to grow and prosper, level to 50 in Wildstar and so on. I won’t try and force things down my throat anymore.

Guild Wars 2

In that sense, something strange happened. One night we went into Guild Wars 2 in our dedicated group- and i loved it. In contrast to The Secret World, where the fact that we we’re running in our dedicated group is the main source for the higher enjoyment, in Guild Wars 2 it was the zones and the fact that it was fun to play and easy to remember. I’ll make it short- i caved, despite my best intentions to wait for a discount for HoT i bought it and i am glad i did.

Star Wars: the old Republic

The story of Knights of the Fallen Empire is really, really good. I’m in chapter 5 now and while i’m asking myself where the MMO went, i’ve heard that it will return once one has finished all the story bits. As a matter of fact, i’ve heard more than once that SWTOR is now more MMO than ever. I’m looking forward to seeing that and thanks to that gifted level 60 character, i can.

Hacking terminals

I’m sorry, but the 12XP game experience wasn’t for me, so i didn’t play anything to level 60. Playing without the 12XP boost felt a waste at that time, playing with the boost made me dislike all the travelling and fighting in-between the story. It’s the same for KotFE, really. Whenever the story stops to let me “play”, i’m kind of annoyed and want to get back to the story as fast as possible.

Now, i think Bioware has it right: there’s the story to follow in the 60+ level bracket, and if you play on the core worlds, you’ll be able to follow the planetary storylines as well as the class stories comfortably. While i haven’t tested it yet, i think this is the ideal pace for SWTOR to be an interesting, engaging and varied MMORPG. Of course there’s other helpers. Level-Syncing is great, as are soloable dungeons.

MMOs from asia

6 years old and still going strong and being beautiful

Now, there’s a topic for another day. I wanted to write about that, today, but this will need to wait. Some time last week, i started asking myself if there’s a reason why asian MMOs and the Korean audience are so different to us. I was looking at the korean audience, especially, because it’s quite easy to find out what the top MMORPGs in Korea are at any given time. Even if that site is in Korean you can find out the games easily when using Google Translate. So Lineage, Blade and Soul, Maple Story, Aion and Icarus are the Top 5 MMORPGs in that list. You’ll also be able to find World of Warcraft, ArcheAge and TERA quite quickly. The thing is- i looked into that Top 5 and was surprised at how different a european toplist would probably look. Surprise turned into curiosity, so right now, i’m also dabbling- and i really mean dabbling- in Aion and TERA (and maybe some closed beta).

I’m thinking that these games must have something– and don’t even try and tell me it’s all about slow PCs and internet cafés- there has to be more at work here. Systems, gamer culture, gameplay, whatever.

One less expansion to worry about

The pre-purchase for Guild Wars 2’s expansion Heart of Thorns is available now. There’s three editions to buy: Standard Edition for 50$/45€, coming with the base game and the base expansion, the Deluxe Edition for 75$/75€, coming with a few extras, including one character slot and the Ultimate Edition, coming with everything the Deluxe Edition has and 4000 Gems.

I’ll buy in when they have a 50% discount on that prizing. See, Aywren has all the arguments (great post by the way, you should read it), so i will simply state that i feel like i’m not getting my money’s worth when the base game is included. Because i don’t need the base game anymore- interestingly, if they’d put the same price out, excluding the base game, i might have bought it, so i don’t really think it’s too expensive. But done this way, i feel like i’m paying for something i don’t need. I mean, as far as i know, and please correct me if i’m wrong, i can’t even give the base game to someone who hasn’t bought the game yet. I’d have a friend to whom i might give it if it were possible.

gw008

Other than that, i’m of the opinion that the code or whatever we get when buying the expansion should add a few character slots for those who already own the game, and i think three would be a good number. Or maybe gems…or something. As it stands right now, that part of the investment will simply go the way of the dodo and i’m not fine with that.

I am not unhappy about that, though- with SWTOR’s expansion coming, my commitment to that game by subscribing for 6 months, Final Fantasy’s expansion coming this week, which i also bought and Trove seemingly sucking me in some more as well as the Repopulations pending release and at least some peeks at Skyforge, Blade & Soul and Wildstar f2p, i already have more on my plate than i could possibly digest this year.

So with Heart of Thorns, i’m waiting for the christmas sale and/or some course correction by ArenaNet.

Project Trinity: ESO out, something in

So may is gone and with it goes the first month of my “Project Trinity”, where i choose three MMOs to play in a given month. For may, there have been varying results. Let’s take a look at the MMOs i played:

  • Star Wars: the old republic – 14 hours
  • Age of Conan – 2 hours
  • Final Fantasy XIV – 2 hours
  • Trove – 2 hours

All in all, i played about 24 hours in the whole month, which is a very low number, even for me. Reasons are the mentioned strike in the nursery/kindergarten, but also that when i limit myself to three MMOs and find me not wanting to play any of the three, i simply don’t play.

Trove is in there because of Ironweakness– he made me curious and so, one evening when i was looking for something casual (and also something to replace ESO in my trinity), i launched Trove.

As you can see, there’s not much to feed this blog on in this month. There are topics, of course- Wildstar’s free-to-play move, for instance. Lately, i’ve also (re-)found the urge to play many, many different MMOs. There’s Lotro, The Secret World, Guild Wars 1 & 2, Rift and now even Wildstar- all of them are possible successors for Elder Scrolls Online, which i’m also hesitant to drop.

There’s a reason for this, as well- for one, it’s nothing unusual that in times when you can’t play as much as you’d like to, the games you miss become much more desirable. I’ve also stumbled in continuing to play FF14 as well as SWTOR in a significant amount- with FF14, i usually need to put a little effort in first (as in: play x hours), before it becomes sticky. With SWTOR, following the 12XP put a dent in enjoyment.

For june, the third spot will go to The Secret World. I was tempted to leave SWTOR out this month, because i feel current play times don’t really justify two subscriptions. But SWTOR just felt so fitting to me in these last weeks that i don’t want to let it lapse. I might opt out of the 12XP, though.

Another nice addition to TSW
Another nice addition to TSW

Good news on the strike, as well: nurseries/kindergartens will open again on monday, after four weeks. I can’t imagine how parents with less flexibility coped with that, it was difficult even for us; and i’m quite flexible.

All that gives me hope to be able to put out some of the more “column-like” posts this month; i really want to do some of those. All three games on my list are capable of filling those in, and i’m excited to get some more time in MMORPGs this month. Let’s hope it works out.

I have a break-out-condition, though. If there’s news about either Lotro’s “episodic content” or on the release date of Guild Wars 2’s expansion, i might switch things around before the month is up. But my guess is that won’t be necessary.

Back into FFXIV, backwards

This weekend i decided to get back to Final Fantasy XIV “early”- i planned to re-enter the game in may, so that would have been next week. Although the plan is to have it as “side MMO” this week, i have some things to do already.

The backward project

When i re-entered, i had four options on how to do it:

  • the reasonable way: continue my character, stay in the FC and the server i was in
  • the american way pt.1: continue the level 6 archer on cactuar, try and join Belghast’s FC
  • the american way pt.2: create a new character on Faerie, join quite a well known social FC over there
  • the backward way: find an FC first, join their server with a new character

As you can guess by the title, i went in backwards. The thing is, a good player community is essential to my enjoyment of an MMO. The old server was Shiva, which is what the german community chose to be the “unofficial german server”, which isn’t so much of a problem if there was an FC that really stuck out. There wasn’t. On Faerie, there is the FC “Orange Pekoe” i was interested in joining, but in the end i was simply afraid to join an FC and a server that operates outside of my timezone.

In the end, i found a nice-sounding FC on Phoenix, coincidentally the biggest EU server population-wise, created a character, applied to the FC, was accepted, joined up and received a very warm welcome. One of the reasons i joined that FC was the tone of conversation which seemed nice, open but also pretty direct and the fact that they don’t use voice chat. It turned out that they recently have set up a voice chat server, but i think it won’t be much of a problem because the FC’s culture is already established without one. I liked what i saw so far.

New plans

Of course, that means starting at level 1 and pretty much give up on being ready for the expansion content-wise when it hits. There were a few mistakes i made on my last character that i’d like to avoid this time. Concentrating on one class/job to get it as far as possible isn’t my play style, so gathering and crafting will be included in this round as it has always been.

Elezen in Gridania

For now, i’m picking the main story quest line first in everything i do- i’m level 9 now and have done maybe 3 or 4 quests that weren’t storyline quests. There are two reasons for me to go at it this way: first, i don’t want to outlevel the storyline quests as much as i did last time- it was a pain to get the story from level 20 to level 24. The second reason, of course, is that FF14 gates content behind the story; the faster i progress there, the earlier i can pick up a gathering and crafting class, get a retainer, a chocobo and so on.

While it is somewhat…hm, stupid to do all that again i feel that if the new FC turns out as good as i hope it to be it’s worth it. Also, it’s still almost two months until the expansion hits, so there is hope i’ll be able to level to 30, at least.

Another painful experience was to get the gathering/crafting jobs up to par with my adventuring level- i think part of the reasons why my excitement for the game went down was that i basically played catch-up from all directions. So this time, i want that gap to be smaller. So i’ll pick up the botanist class as soon as possible and directly join the level of the adventuring class. I’ll do the same for weaver as soon as i have access to the airships. So my goal this time around is to have class quest, story quest, adventuring level, gathering class and crafting class at about the same level all the time. If it turns out to be hard to do, i’ll immediately get a second adventuring class up to the level of the storyline.

Overall, i have to say i had a great time- again- in Final Fantasy 14. It’s fun, the community is nice, Phoenix is packed with players and feels very much alive, the FC is fun and even though i do the same stuff i already did at least twice it feels good.

MMO setup for this week and may

So, in line with my plans to have one main MMO and two side MMOs, this week will still see SWTOR in the top spot, with FF14 and ESO as additions to play when i’m not in the mood for SWTOR. In may, the focus will shift to FF14, SWTOR will become a side MMO and will be accompanied by Elder Scrolls Online, again. The last one is tough, since GW2 was also close to getting a “side MMO” spot, but right now i’m betting that the expansion won’t hit in may and that i’ll have ample opportunity to put it in the rotation before it is released.

Right now i’m very confident in this way of doing things- choosing one main MMO and two side MMOs for distraction and different moods will work out just fine for me. Of course, there is a ruleset: i’ll allow myself to change side MMOs on a monthly basis. The main MMO is allowed to switch, as well, but it would move from main to side MMO before dropping out of the rotation. And it should also be fixed in its position for a longer time (3 months?). This way, i can experience one MMO in as deep a way as possible for me while still having a way of picking other MMOs to play and having somewhat of a focus there, as well.

It also occured to me that in search of an MMO home, there aren’t many possibilities really. An MMO home has to offer so much, but in the end, even for me, it’s the “endgame” that counts- but not in the usual sense of dungeons and raiding. On the contrary, if it’s just that, it’s not enough.