Dual Wielding: one or many?

Dual Wielding: A series featuring two bloggers writing on one topic and answering the question, “If the pen is mightier than the sword, what happens when you dual wield?”

Don’t miss out on Ironweakness’ take: Dual Wielding: Depth versus Diversity.

First things first

I’m excited to start this project in cooperation with Ironweakness over at Waiting for Rez– it was his suggestion in a tweet to prompt each other for topics to write about and an idea i instantly fell in love with. Ironweakness and i share some attributes, the biggest of which is our reason to blog/restart blogging more regularly: when Massively’s closure became known and imminent, we started to wonder where the community might go- we both felt the loss in MMORPG coverage would be big and while we certainly wouldn’t aspire to be a substitute for a site like Massively, we wanted to keep the conversation going and stay in touch with the larger MMO community- so we (re-)started our blogs. In a sense, i think this project fits so well with our motivation to blog. So thank you for suggesting this, Ironweakness, and i hope we’ll have many interesting topics to write about as well as interesting perspectives. Today’s topic is one that seems to be more prominent these days- for me personally, but it appears that in a bigger picture, this is something that touches on the greater MMO community, as well.

Should you play one or many MMORPGs?

Stickiness of MMORPGs is a big topic these days- not only am i always returning to this line of thought in search for maxlevel, guilds and communities, but there were some articles on Massively Overpowered skirting this topic, as well. Then there was the MMO Hobo and his very recent post wherein he asked if we, as players who might look for “the one” MMORPG to play, might shoot ourselves in the foot by joining multigaming guilds. I think this topic is very broad- you can view it from so many different angles, but i think you could boil it down to one big question- what do you want to get out of your MMORPG playing experience? Do you play this genre as “games” or do you play it for the virtual worlds they present, the social ties, the community? I believe most MMORPG players want to play “the one” MMORPG- i don’t have a poll up, but my guess is that in the end, we’d like to have that game back that allows us to dive in and play more or less the same MMORPG for years. Sometimes, we’ll look at a game that will be released in the close future and think that this time, it might be it. And it rarely is.

Those hopeful days
Those hopeful days

I’ve seen times when i somehow, without expecting it or giving it a deliberate effort, will stay with an MMO for 2 or three months- Final Fantasy XIV comes to mind. But there always comes a time when i want my experience to differ, i want something else out of a session. And this is a strong reason to go with multiple games.

If nothing’s perfect, why not mix it up?

The MMORPGs we have are surprisingly good. I don’t look at “success” much, because i think in this regard, the releases of the last decade failed to deliver on their expectations and World of Warcraft, while being the most successful MMO, isn’t the best in my eyes. And while we often lament every new release to be a “WoW clone”, by which i think we mean “themepark MMO”, they’re not as similar to each other as one would think.

Still one of the better themeparks out there- wish i had time for it
Still one of the better themeparks out there- wish i had time for it

And these differences make switching between different titles an attractive option- first, you get to use all of those “special weekends” and events like the release of an expansion, a meaty patch or something and see for yourself how they fare. Then, you’ll always have a choice in combat mechanics, depth, even different economies, atmosphere and general gameplay experience. In some games, questing is pretty much all you do (Lotro), in others it’s the same but delivered in a different way (TSW), you’ll have a somewhat lighter atmosphere (FF14, Wildstar) or the more grimdark experiences of Elder Scrolls Online or Age of Conan. There’s polished content without much of a story (Guild Wars 2, and yeah, i know it’s lore-heavy, but i think the story is not presented very well in-game) and story-heavy questing (SWTOR), involved crafting (FF14, EQ2), standard crafting (WoW, Rift, Lotro) and hands-off crafting (Neverwinter, SWTOR), and i don’t even touch on how the game’s paces differ from, say, EQ2/FF14 to something like Wildstar or Neverwinter. For me, playing multiple MMORPGs makes sense because i don’t want to play the same game when i want to play. Sometimes i want a very relaxing and slow atmosphere, sometimes i like to get more involved and these are the times when “action combat” is a major point of decision making on what to play. Wildstar, for instance, with its very involved combat and high mob density is a fun game, but one i can’t play for longer stretches of time. Lord of the Rings Online is quite a slow game, it’s very relaxing, at least in the early zones, but the combat isn’t very engaging. One game that, in my opinion, gets the mix very right, is Guild Wars 2- it’s a fun game, but not too stressful. GW2 has the downside that i seem unable to find “depth” there.

The downside: you won’t set roots

So for almost every mood you might have, there’s an MMO waiting to give you the wanted experience. Only, it’s just not one game and if you don’t have a lot of time, you’ll be having trouble being where the buzz is. It’s also kind of hard to immerse yourself when you play half a dozen MMORPGs at roughly the same time- you’ll forget skills, current goals of your character, the story and other things. It might also be tough to get in touch with a good guild- and a good guild is essential to enjoying an MMORPG.

"Play-to-finish" MMORPGs can be a great addition
“Play-to-finish” MMORPGs can be a great addition

Now, this might not be a problem for someone who’s able and willing to play 20+ hours a week- a player with that mindset could juggle more than two MMORPGs just fine, i think, although i believe even then it might be more difficult to make friends ingame. MMO devs have been criticized a lot for making MMORPGs less social- by adding dungeon finders or even PUG raids- but i don’t think we can put the blame for our less social experience solely on the devs- it’s within our responsibility as players to be more social- the option isn’t removed from the games, we just aren’t forced to connect to other players anymore. If it were a dev thing, especially games like Guild Wars 2 and Rift would be very social affairs- both provide huge opportunities to form bonds with other players- and yet we don’t.

If you want a home, choose it

There was such a great opinion piece on that on the olden pages of Massively, but i can’t find it anymore. What Eliot Lefebvre wrote in his opinion piece basically came down to this piece of truth: if you want “the game”, you shouldn’t wait for the perfect fit. You shouldn’t think that the “next game” will make everything work out perfectly for you. He made a somewhat dangerous connection to a relationship- and the mindset of going to a date with the expectation that you’ll only date the partner three times or something instead of going all-in for a longterm relationship. If you’d want a shorter, more superficial relationship, that would be fine, but if you’re looking for a longterm partner, you should meet them with that in mind. (Edit: Thanks to Eliot for providing the link to the article– it’s a great read.

I agree- but having started with great hopes in Guild Wars 2 and Archeage, i can attest that even when something looks good on paper and makes you think you found the game, it can still be screwed up in a million ways.

Everything looks good on paper
Sometimes, things look good on paper

I would argue that if and when you choose to play one MMORPG exclusively, your experience will be much better, because you can dive deeper into the game mechanics as well as interact in social groups within that game. You’ll be there for content additions, you’ll sometimes log in and “just chat with guildmates/friends” and so on- you won’t do something like that if you’re playing too many MMORPGs at a time- because before you log in just to chat you’ll be launching something else. On the other hand, if you’re a “time-hardcore” player, MMORPGs might not provide you with enough content to play in your time- so maybe you might be able to juggle more than one MMO and guild- and then there’s the topic of “play-to-finish” MMORPGs which are basically all about the journey and not-so-much about endgame (The Secret World comes to mind). If a game really doesn’t provide you with any activity you’d want to do, switching to another one might not be such a bad idea. But this is a problem for players who play a lot, really. From my point of view, TSW, for instance, would provide me with enough questing and story-related stuff for…well, maybe for its whole lifespan.

And sometimes, it doesn't look good on paper but is surprisingly good on screen.
And sometimes, things don’t look good on paper but are surprisingly good on screen.

I wrote about reasons to play only one MMORPG earlier- in fact, it was one of the first posts on this blog. I think many of these reasons come into fruition now when you read about how more and more bloggers make their way into Final Fantasy XIV- others are there, there’s even a free company of (not only) bloggers somewhere, they stick with the game and have a great experience others want to have, as well. If you think about interesting blogs to read, at least in my opinion, it’s written by people who mainly stick to one MMORPG and can provide deep info, interesting, different ways to play and experience “their” game. Their excitement and dedication is infectious, they stick with a game long enough to alter the experience in these games beyond the obvious while us game-hopping individuals only see quests, quests and quests.

So you’re saying playing only one MMORPG is better?

No, i’m not exactly saying this straight- i think our experiences would be better if we stuck to as many MMORPGs as we can realistically handle. That number would differ from player to player. I’d say that if i were to choose one MMO to play with my ~10 hours a week, my enjoyment in this MMO as a “virtual home” would grow, i’d have more interesting topics to write about here and maybe would even be able to form friendships in that game- all of this isn’t possible when you divide your 10 hours to 4 MMORPGs at a time. Someone playing a lot would possibly be able to handle that number.

But still, as noted earlier, the games are quite different to each other, so much so that only one MMO wouldn’t fit into all our moods. So i guess my suggestion would be to “choose” one main MMO that you play for depth, social ties and as a “virtual home” and spice it up with some other games that offer different experiences. Also, i’m somewhat in agreement with Isarii right now: maybe don’t join multigaming guilds if you want to find an MMO home. But i don’t want to open that can of worms right now.

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The cycle

I play MMORPGs almost exclusively- there used to be only one, World of Warcraft, although i didn’t linger there for as long as most players do- i played for about 6 months before questing in Stranglethorn Valley and the Un’Goro crater put an end to a fun progression and made it a grind. Since then, i’ve gained maxlevel only once, in Rift, and that was because i had great fun in a great group- i think i did play only dungeons from the mid-thirties to level 50. Everything else i played, i got stuck in the early mid-levels. Let’s say level 30 usually is when i hit a wall. Curiously, i’m not alone in this, as Ironweakness has a post up to announce a series on his blog about levelling from “One to X”.

That post made me think about reasons for my not being able to do something like that, as much as i’d want. There are some.

Something else beckons

I like most mainstream MMOs that are out there. Often, when i return to a game, i wonder why i left/didn’t continue/don’t put more deliberation in that particular game. It really doesn’t matter which game it is we’re talking about- i cycle through Lotro, The Secret World, Final Fantasy XIV, SWTOR, Elder Scrolls Online, Guild Wars 2, Marvel Heroes, maybe even EQ2 and World of Warcraft (not really) all the time. It’s offers and updates that are calling me.

Just to take the more recent events- i’d like to play FF14 and Guild Wars 2 for their respective expansions. I wanted to get into SWTOR for their housing system, always want to continue Lotro for its story and world, The Secret World for the New player experience and so on. But while i am on game x, there’s always something happening in game y. I really wish i’d be there, at the level cap, to witness all new content. If i were to make an effort to play “One to X” in each of these games successively, i’d be in a happy place.

It gets cumbersome

The early levels of many MMOs are quite fun. Even when you are a time-challenged casual player like myself, you’ll be able to make some progress- even if it’s just “finishing one quest” in MMOs where one quest really matters, like in ESO or TSW. In Guild Wars 2, even in the higher levels, i manage to get a level out of most play sessions while mostly just taking a look around.

But sometimes, it’s just getting very cumbersome to make any progress in the games. So much so that i’ll need a whole play session just to figure out where i left, what my goals were and how to play my class. Quests and other ingame goals take you to places all over the virtual worlds, the inventory is cluttered and i don’t even know what is useful and what isn’t. Mobs take ages to get down and so on. Life in the midlevels is busywork.

The most recent example in my personal experience would be Final Fantasy XIV, where i simply wanted to get the main story quest up to the level my character is. It took me about two months and still i didn’t reach that goal. Of course i did other stuff- i made progress in crafting, different combat classes as well as gathering. Unfortunately, this all didn’t really feel like progress because i was merely catching up on all positions- trying to get the gathering and crafting jobs as well as the main storyline up to par with my combat class level- and it took ages.

Zone design

I don’t believe in worlds- even virtual ones, that are devoid of any humanity. Often, you’ll have the starting zones and they’re happy places- there are villages, woods, beautiful sights all around. All this vanishes when you hit the early midlevels. Think about Lord of the Rings Online- you start either in the shire, bree-land or Ered Luin – all beautiful places, with villages and signs of humanity all around. Then you’ll continue to the Lonely Lands- ok, they’re named fittingly, but all you get there is an inn. The North Downs aren’t much better- from the second area up until Moria you’ll only get ruins, cabins and other small places. There’s Rivendell, of course, but not much of cities in other ways. And then…comes Moria, the epitome of boredom in zone design (in my opinion; it’s designed in a very good way, but these are still basically caves).

And later on, there will be desert/lava zones. Nobody wants to see something like that. Of course, i can see why dangers must present themselves and an all-green happy-place world might be equally boring, but i still can’t understand why people build great cities in the early game and live in tents from level 20 onwards.

Ways out

So i was thinking- how could i do something like Ironweakness and Syp, who also plays a bajillion MMORPGs but somehow manages to be at (or almost at) the top of the content curve in all of them? Of course, one way to do it would be to not play 30 MMORPGs at the same time and instead reduce to a number i could handle- namely, one at a time. This won’t work, of course, because diversity is the spice of life, after all.

“Going buy-to-play”, as i’ve mentioned in my previous post, would be another way to reduce the amount of concurrent MMOs as well as lifting some pressure off me. There would be three games available- Elder Scrolls Online, Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World. They would offer a diverse diet as well as some depth in their gameplay. All i’d really cut out would be Final Fantasy 14, SWTOR and the newly-returned-to EVE. And Lotro. But frankly, i doubt i’ll ever make it through Moria.

So i don’t know, this is still a topic. It’s a funny thing- this blog was created because i wanted to document my finding of a new MMORPG home- i guess it worked in that way. Unfortunately, when i started it i was of the opinion that i’d found it by now.

 

What to play and going buy-to-play

The recent weeks didn’t see much of MMORPG playtime. I was sick, playing singleplayer games, sick again and on vacation. I briefly considered taking an MMORPG sabbatical for some time, because right now i just feel i’m not in the mood of playing regularly. Gaming, and especially MMORPG-related gaming, tends to become so much of a focus in the private life that launching a game becomes the standard option of things to do in free time- and i don’t want that to be the case anymore. I don’t want to “automatically” sit in front of the PC as soon as i have some room to breathe, because in these last weeks, i found that to be suffocating. I don’t know if you can relate to this, but that’s where i’m coming from right now.

So now i’m going to give gaming a lesser focus in my free time. It won’t be the standard option anymore- see, raising a child for the last two years saw me getting out of touch with some other hobbies of mine- reading and watching tv-series or movies, for instance.

Anyways, this is still my gaming-related blog here, so let’s take a look at what i’m planning right now.

Final Fantasy XIV

As it happens, each and every time i play this game, somehow when i lose focus and momentum, interest goes full on zero. There are reasons for that, of course, the main one being that this game, despite its mechanics, also doesn’t appeal to me on many levels- the relatively small zones, the kind-of-grindy gathering/crafting, the cuteness and the fact that it is- well, i don’t know how to put that in words, but i find it cumbersome, sometimes- it’s almost as if everything in FF14 needs to be done in a deliberate manner.

Another reason is, of course, that i don’t have social ties in the game. Right now, i’m kind of waiting for my current guild to kick me for inactivity (they will, despite me being in the community) and i will look out for other groups when i return to the game next month.

Now, having already bought the expansion (it’s quite cheap on greenmangaming VIP, by the way), i plan a return somewhere around may to make an effort and see where i will be when the expansion hits. Having done that is one of the reasons i didn’t make the titular deliberate choice of going buy-to-play yet, but i kind of expect to do so come the end of the year. Or maybe not. Deliberate choices in MMOland don’t go particularly well for me.

EVE online

Now that’s funny, considering the above paragraphs and the contemplation to go buy-to-play (i’ll muse on that later), but as of today, i returned (if you can call it that) to EVE online. See, EVE is the only MMO out there that provides the features i’m looking for in an MMO- the local/regional markets, the player driven economy, distance being a part of gameplay. They had an offer to reactivate for some discount, and this time i took it- after being three years absent from the game.

Most everyone will tell you that EVE is not a game to play casually and/or solo, but to be honest, i don’t really believe that. EVE is a game where you set your own goals, so when i set my goals accordingly, i don’t see why one couldn’t play it casually and/or solo. Of course, i don’t know the game very good, the learning cliff is still waiting for me, and i fully expect to fall off of it again, but i’ll give it a try nonetheless.

Here are my loosely drawn-up goals:

  • get some capital by doing the tutorial(s) and maybe some mission running to get a feel of the game
  • start mining
  • at some point, i’ll do station trading- when i feel i have some money to play around with (the mining should help with that)
  • way further down the line i want to become a manufacturer- as far as i understand it right now, miner – refiner – industrialist is my preferred “progression path”, if you can call it that- the goal is to become an industrialist and trader. The path should help me getting an understanding of the process involved as well as capital. I also don’t know if being an industrialist really is soloable.
  • maybe i’ll take a look at exploration

I’m at the beginning of this process, my current capital is 8 million ISK (haha! :D) and i’ll need to learn a lot. It’s going to be slow, as well, but this time i didn’t want to miss the offer- i missed it two or three times already and every time i wanted to get back into the game it wasn’t valid anymore. We’ll see how it goes.

Elder Scrolls Online

Some project also “requires” me to play ESO, and i’m glad for it. I’ll not talk too much about it now, but i’ll start a Templar (continue my level 7 Templar) in an attempt to re-explore the game and try to be a combination of healer and dps, as i always try to be in MMOs.

Age of Conan

The guild project will move to AoC tomorrow. As it looks right now, we’ll be almost two groups of people who play and i’m really looking forward to it.

The Secret World and Guild Wars 2

TSW brought itself back into my MMORPG diet with its New Player Experience. I like what Funcom did there and plan on playing TSW on an irregular basis.

Guild Wars 2 fits into my “going buy to play” plan and would be a good addition to the other two b2p games out there- Elder Scrolls Online, Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World would be a great combination of games to play- if one was in the mood to play, i think these three games combined provide almost everything an MMO player needs, if paying a subscription fee is not what this player is looking for.

Going buy-to-play

Yeah, the title is misleading in this way. I’m not. But remember when i wrote about priorities in the first paragraphs? Subscriptions really don’t fit into this- for me, at least. When i’m paying a sub, it’s not that i want “as many hours as possible” out of the games, but there’s still the nagging feeling of “i’m paying a sub. I should play that game (if i’m playing at all)”. It seems a waste to pay a sub for FF14 but launch Guild Wars 2, for example.

Most free-to-play games are hybrids with an optional subscription. When i play, say, SWTOR, i will sub up because i find the experience to play it without subbing severely lacking. The same would go for ArcheAge, if i were to play that game.

So that’s when i thought about going buy-to-play, and if my EVExperiment doesn’t work out, i might still do just that. The b2p games out there are of a high quality, they don’t have intrusive cash shops, they don’t try too hard to make you subscribe. Buy-to-play is the business model that fits best with my priorization of gaming in my free time.

If i were to make the deliberate choice of only playing b2p games and it would make my (gaming) life so much easier- first, i might not always be tempted to take offers the f2p/p2p games put out, there would also be a very much smaller selection of titles that i’d consider to play on a given night when i want to play and there would be no pressure at all- imagined, self-imposed or otherwise- to play more often than i’d really like to. It would be a good choice for me.

For now, though, there’s still the EVExperiment and Heavensward in my plans.

I need a plan

Yesterday i chatted with a guildmate in Elder Scrolls Online. Since i know her to like Final Fantasy XIV a lot, we talked about that game in passing. She mentioned some uncertainty on her part in regards to buying Heavensward- because she hasn’t got time. Pew, who knew that time could be a problem, right? That was when i told her about stuff i’d like to get done at some point this year- i mentioned that yesterday when i tried to estimate at what time stuff releases this year. My guess is that when we’re talking about expansions, Final Fantasy XIV will be next.

Please don't remind me of all the ways you're awesome!
Please don’t remind me of all the ways you’re awesome!

So, to recount the games and my plans, as well as provide an overview for myself, let’s see what’s on my table and what goals i want to achieve as well as how much time i’ve got.

  • Final Fantasy XIV – get at least one adventuring class to 50 before the release of Heavensward – this will be a tough one.
  • The Repopulation – it turns out my old gaming community plans to start a chapter there, and rather sooner than later at that. Not much to do, here, just finish up the tutorial this or next week, after that it’ll be dabbling.
  • Guild Wars 2 – get my Ranger and my Elementalist to 80 before the expansion- shouldn’t be too tough.
  • Everquest 2 – my goal in Norrath is quite simple: just some steady progress and maybe be at the level cap in time for the expected expansion.
  • Lord of the Rings Online – smell the roses, see the world. My guess is i’m somewhat time-pressed here because i really don’t think the game will be around longer than 2017.
  • Elder Scrolls Online – smell the roses, see the world, craft. No pressure here.

So counting that and adding the project i have in my guild, which takes away one night every week, we have 6 games i need to juggle somehow. The easy way, of course, would be to just play what i like when i like to play it. But i’m pretty sure i won’t meet my “hard goals” this way, so i’m going to set up a schedule, you know, like Syp. I’ll mix it up a bit but will keep his “anything goes” – evening just to have it there. Also, since weeks just don’t have enough days, Lotro and Repopulation will have to wait for their turn on Anything-goes-evenings.

Yes, i like that one, too
Yes, i like that one, too

Final Fantasy XIV will have to get two evenings, and even then i’m not entirely sure if it will work out in the end. But for now, let’s stick with that. EQ2 gets one evening for now, since it’s also the current game in the guild project. The guild project gets another one. I think one evening for GW2 will be enough right now to get to level 80, at least with my Elementalist who already is around level 60. Elder Scrolls Online gets one evening, too, because, right now, i pay a sub for that.

So let’s see…

Monday: Final Fantasy XIV

Tuesday: Guild project / Everquest 2

Wednesday: Guild Wars 2

Thursday: Elder Scrolls Online

Friday: Guild project / Everquest 2

Saturday: Anything goes

Sunday: Final Fantasy XIV

Although i have to say that i don’t know yet what i’ll do if i don’t play some night, which will happen, of course, since gaming is not my only hobby and i’m not in the mood for it every day. Either i’ll just stick with the days or i’ll move them around (while keeping saturday for anything)- right now, i prefer the latter.

Is this good?

No, it isn’t. If you call me names, i’m perfectly fine with it. I really tried to be Mmonogamist, but it doesn’t work out for me right now. Every time i decide to play just one or two games, it just makes me miss the other ones more. It’s hard to describe, the best example i have is when i tried to quit smoking- i could go whole workdays of 8 to 10 hours without a cigarette easily, but my penultimate try to get rid of it lasted only about 4 hours- time i mainly spent thinking “i will never smoke again” and panicking at the thought. Meanwhile, i succeeded, but it’s quite similar here- when i try to play only FF14, for instance, suddenly i remember how game x is better in this-or-that feature.

Lord of the Rings - Archet

If i had to come up with reasons, i’d say there are mainly three to name: no game is a perfect fit for me yet, as are the guilds i joined in these games- although i do like them. The third reason is that while no game is a perfect fit, i do like most of the mentioned MMOs for something. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, but i like them. And, to be honest, i’d rather like too many MMOs than being grumpy about all of them while still thinking i’m the “real” type of MMO player who strangely doesn’t like any MMO on the market.

Be ready when they come – Guild Wars 2

Whoever said january would be quiet in terms of MMO news was wrong on this one- this month has seen the Early Access Launch of H1Z1, which, thankfully, is the one MMO-type game i’m not (yet?) interested in, the announcement of The Elder Scrolls Online going buy-to-play and the announcement of the Guild Wars 2 expansion Heart of thorns.

The landscape is beautifully done
The landscape is beautifully done

It was one of my MMO related resolutions this year to “be ready when they come”, knowing how especially business model changes and expansions never fail to interest me despite the fact that i’m usually far away from that content level-wise. So i can’t complain in that regard, there’s a lot of stuff to catch up with this year. I’m going to take a guess at what needs when to be ready this year.

  • Elder Scrolls going buy-to-play is probably first on the list and the first to “release”. I’m not planning on reaching maxlevel there, though. I just want to enjoy the game a bit prior to the business model change and see how the switch works out in the game myself.
  • Final Fantasy XIV’s Heavensward should be next, releasing probably in april or may. My goal here is to reach 50 at least in one adventuring class. I’ll have to pick up pace to reach that, though.
  • I expect Guild Wars 2 Heart of thorns to release in june, maybe with the third anniversary of the game. I’d like to get one or two characters to 80 by then. The levelling experience in GW2 doesn’t take too long, so it might be that i’ll try and reach this goal first, especially since it’s entirely possible that it releases earlier than i expect it to.
  • Everquest 2, i guess, will release something in november. I’m pretty sure i won’t be anywhere near the level cap by that time, though, but i might try anyway.
  • Wildstar. Yeah, i still expect it to go b2p/f2p this year and as with Elder Scrolls Online, i’d like to be there with the change or shortly before it happens. No plans to reach cap, though. Also, since ESO was first in announcing the change, it seems unlikely that i will pay a sub before the change. More likely, i’ll join the unwashed masses when they come.

Guild Wars 2’s Heart of thorns

GW2 hyped me up before launch. The manifesto appealed to me, very much. Shortly after launch, i was disappointed quite a bit- the events and the world weren’t so dynamic by themselves, after all. The devs tried to bring change via the living story, but that just wasn’t for me in terms of release schedule and content delivery type. I wanted more events to be more dynamic, i’d like to see change in the world made by ingame events.

Some things changed, though
Some things changed, though

Now they announced the first expansion- Heart of thorns and while many of the things they announced don’t get me too excited- jungle, an alternate advancement method, one new class, verticality, there are other elements i like quite a bit.

So you are saying i can become a Druid?

The WoW Druid in his early levels was my favourite class in any MMO, ever. The reason for that is that in the early dungeons, when you didn’t need to specialize, i could be all over the place- as a cat, dealing damage, assisting the healer when he got into trouble or the tank when he lost aggro of a mob. It was great, i switched forms often and felt as if i was supporting my group in a significant manner. Of course, in later levels this playstyle wasn’t viable and with the changes in the class system they’ve treated this game with, nowadays it’s pretty much nonexistant.

Guild Wars 2

But even today, i always prefer going for dps/heal hybrid classes, if they exist, and the class name “Druid” always makes me wish those early days back. While Druids in other games usually aren’t very similar to what i experienced then, they do come as hybrid classes pretty often. So when i learned that Rangers could become Druids, my first thought was that i needed a Ranger at level 80.

The other interesting thing is that Elementalists will be able to use Hammers, which reminds me of something i usually like to play, as well- some melee combat mage/healer. The Sigmar Priest of Warhammer was something like that. So that mechanic also piques my interest.

Other than that, Guild Halls and Guild-vs-Guild sounds very exciting. Unfortunately, i’ll have to look for a guild for that one.

Not impressed, but excited nonetheless

So the takeaway is: while i’m not really impressed with what ArenaNet announced for the expansion i’m still somewhat excited and want to see how it works out. Also, my excitement could rise when more information is released.

Crushbone Keep

Whenever i get into EQ2 after a short or long break, the game grows on me. It’s quite the same with Final Fantasy XIV, for that matter, but it’s somewhat stranger and stronger with Everquest 2. I didn’t play it over the holidays, because my guild project was on a break and i ventured a bit in other worlds and games (7 Days to die, to name one) as well as spending some time in the family. I returned on sunday for the experience bonus, but played monday and yesterday, as well.

Eshaunia and Jennis
Eshaunia and Jennis

The Main

My main character, Triupia of Antonia Bayle, is an Inquisitor of level 28 right now, doing busywork for many dwarves in the Butcherblock Mountains. Also, she’s in a guild, as mentioned, and to my pleasure, the guild has been in its usual good mood that evening. While questing i decided to go on an adventure in the close future: get a merc and see the dungeons- or one dungeon at a time, to be precise. I guess it wouldn’t be entirely practical to try and see all dungeons with one character when it’s seemingly impossible to visit all the zones (effectively) with one. I also don’t want to ruin overland zones for me by delving through dungeons all the time, but still- the dungeons in Everquest 2 do have a strong appeal. For one, not all of them are instanced. It doesn’t make a difference, of course, because the beginner dungeons don’t get visited anyway, but still. Also, they span huge level brackets. Crushbone Keep, for instance, spans the levels 20 to 30- and that is only the beginning, because Crushbone Keep is also the entrance to another dungeon, which spans levels 30 to 35.

These boar-mobs were really unsettling.
These boar-mobs were really unsettling.

This is design that appeals to me and my curiosity, i want to explore places- the overland zones, the dungeons, the cities- it’s really great. So that’s probably what i’m going to do in the next few sessions with my main character: seeing some dungeons- or maybe only Crushbone Keep, before going back to overlands.

The other one

The other character, Eshaunia of Valor, a Fury, right now level 28, as well, and spent yesterdays evening slaying a dragon in Antonica and exploring Crushbone Keep with some members of the multigaming-guild i’m part of. So this character spent all her levelling up to this point in a group, and i can already see how Everquest 2 is way more effective when played in a group, as i’ve played her for just about 8 hours after getting the Frostfang mount with level 19. My main has more time /played, but solo, so even though i’ve been using experience bonus weekends with playing her, i still spent way more time with Triupia than with Eshaunia.

I finally got back on Anguis. I used to be his barbecue!
I finally got back on Anguis. I used to be his barbecue!

We didn’t “clear” Crushbone Keep, whatever that means, so in a week, we’ll be returning there to maybe finish it and at least get a glimpse of the entrance to The D’Vinnian Throne. I saw enough of this dungeon, though, to see that it will not be easy to finish alone with a Merc, although these Mercenaries are really powerful.

Good question

Meanwhile, Jeromai of Whyigame posed an interesting question- “What would you do, before the last day“- and answers it by taking a lot of screenshots in some kind of photography project- he even has a plan that looks promising and engaging. While i haven’t gone down the same road, yet, i really liked the idea and vowed to take more screenshots of the games i play and/or maybe even copy his plan and work something out for me, as well.

This seems to be the only screenshot i have of Lotro.
This seems to be the only screenshot i have of Lotro. And it was taken by my son.

After all, while his post is in relation to Guild Wars 2 and a possible expansion/another “pre-searing”-event, our worlds- as in MMORPG worlds, are all bound to change or shut down forever. So really, this is a good idea that’s worth pursuing. The downside is, i kind of want to do that with Lotro’s middle earth.

It’s not about grouping

Massively’s Jef Reahard posted another noteworthy soapbox column over on their site, stating that of course he cares what “you” are doing in an MMO. I found it difficult to understand what he was expressing, exactly. The only thing he mentioned directly was “solo questing” and the common saying that “you shouldn’t care what others are doing in an MMO”. Funny enough, i agree to the second part and am what you’d call a solo quester. I wrote about the reasons for that, so i’ll concentrate on the second part of his criticism, the don’t-care-part.

So we're in a group- did it help?

 

Normally, i’m with Jef on many occasions- i think he’s what you’d call a “core player”, which in this case would mean that he likes his MMORPGs to be “virtual worlds” more than games. But in this case i think that if games would follow that philosophy, you wouldn’t and needn’t to care about other players’ activities in your MMO. The reason this comes up is because themeparks are designed in a way that makes combat just about the only activity “worth” pursuing, and solo questing / solo progression is just the most accessible part of that activity.

I do, however, agree with two sentiments he only scratches at the surface in his opinion piece- one being that we all influence each other, even more so when we are thinking about a free-to-play game with an ingame shop, the other one being that MMORPG design took a wrong turn at some point in their history. But this is not about grouping up, storylines or quests. This, in my opinion, is more about trying to get attention of a wider market (remember: World of Warcraft is so successful because it gained a lot of players who didn’t play MMORPGs before WoW. Also, as a disclaimer: WoW was my first MMO, as well) and a strong focus on combat and loot. MMORPGs can be social without grouping up and doing dungeons.

Guild Wars 2 event

I could just log in and chat with my guildmates while playing solo. I could gather resources and sell them on the market, someone else could use them to craft something- all the while not being in a group but playing by him- or herself. Maybe i stand at a crafting station and get to chat with another player whom i meet at these stations regularly. Also, i would argue that grouping up to do a five-player-dungeon is not really social in a “massive” sense, because, after all, you are only interacting with three, four or five other players. If you are interacting, that is. With dungeon finder tools, “Hello” and “Thanks!” are often the only sentences someone writes to the group mates.

If we wanted MMORPGs to become more social (again?), there’s really no way around the fact that games need to be designed in a way that favors social interaction, friendlist-building and stuff like that. There are a few good ideas out there, like Guild Wars 2’s loot and gathering system (which has its own problems regarding the ingame economy), The Secret World’s time-to-kill and, for instance, Aions open world group zones, where Elite mobs roam the area, so that you are kind of forced to group up to travel these zones comfortably. Nothing really worked in getting us, the players, to play or interact more often. But i think this is the way to go. Add a good gathering/crafting/economy-component to that and forget the notion of instanced content altogether, and you might be on to something.

The Secret World

Of course, there still is the other side of the medal- the players. After adding incentives to group up, play and interact with each others as an option, which is important- it shouldn’t be mandatory, we would still have to do our part.

What i noticed- and i’m surely not alone in this- is that the perception of other players has changed since we took our first steps in whatever our first MMO was. Mine was WoW, and i was amazed- all these other people played the same game. We helped each others out, gave instructions and advice on how to get better in playing the game, we faffed around, doing things that made no sense in regards to progressing our characters. My wife and an ingame friend of her made a tour to see the world bosses in early WoW when they were level 30 or something. It was dangerous, it made no sense and they had lots and lots of fun.

Today, other players- in a more general sense- are players we meet via dungeon finder tools, who generally criticize what we are doing, have no respect for beginners (or, from the other point of view: steal our time by being beginners), hurry through the dungeon and/or become obstacles in progression (“forced grouping”, “gathering node thieves”) or kill our fun by perhaps killing us in world PvP, or hacking, cheating and exploiting their characters to success in a Sandpark of our choice, thereby destroying an economy and a whole feature for those looking for that kind of experience.

The model home was all i got
The model home was all i got

I’m not saying this isn’t true- i made some, if not all those experiences, as well, and i don’t like them, either. But i think we should look at other players in a better way. Because no matter who you are going to ask, everyone, even the hackers/cheaters and gankers, will say that other people ruin their fun in an MMO. Of course they don’t mean everybody, but each group has another group they don’t like: hardcore/casual, crafter/raider, roleplayers/gankers, pve/pvp and so on. So the real problem might not be “not caring” what others do in your MMO, but “caring too much”. They made Wildstar for hardcore raiders and it didn’t work out so well for Carbine. Now they make the game more accessible and the “hardcore” players don’t like the “dumbing down”.

I think, in the end, what i’d want to say is: we should give every player we meet the chance to get in your friends list. I think most players aren’t the monsters we make them out to be.

Also, if your MMORPG is a “real” MMORPG, there’s enough room and stuff to do for all kinds of players.

Another thing would be cash shop purchases, of course, which directly influence what the developers do in the future- you don’t like lock boxes, labor point potions or raid gear? Don’t buy them- not even when/if the publisher “forces” you.