Tag: p2p

Something strange in a galaxy far, far away

So the new SWTOR expansion Knights of the Fallen Empire is a thing and the SWTOR community seems to be very positive about the potential of this new focus on storytelling- there’s even the moniker “SWTOR2” out there, although i don’t really understand that yet. I’ll wait for more information to come out and clear things up a bit, because what we know right now leaves much room for different interpretations.

What we know about Knights of the Fallen Empire

As usual, Dulfy has a good overview of the new content coming to SWTOR in the end of october 2015. She (?) even updates it with new information coming out.

We know that there’ll  be a jump in time between the “old content” and the new content of the expansion and that the level cap will be raised to 65. We also know that we’ll be able to create a level 60 character if we want to do that. There’ll be new planets, new companions, and new story- this time delivered in episodes/chapters. It seems more and more MMOs learn from Guild Wars 2’s “living story” and integrate something similar to their games- STO has been doing it for quite some time, but now at least Lotro and SWTOR will follow.

I don’t want to do spoilers- so be warned- if you really don’t want to know anything- storywise- skip the next paragraph.

Storywise, we know that the empire and the republic have fallen and that there is a new empire, the Eternal Empire. Sure enough, i don’t know more and i don’t know if we’ve heard from that faction before.

You're out
You’re out

Well, and that’s about it for the facts. There are some other promises, though: Bioware returning to their strengths, providing great storylines where choices matter. A streamlined experience to immerse the players fully into a Star Wars RPG. There also are some indicators that the existing content will be streamlined to provide a faster, more hassle-free levelling experience leading up to the new stuff.

What does this mean?

Personally, i think right now, much of what has been said can be PR speak for many things- in the worst case, it’s about a faction merge and reducing the storylines to just one for all characters. We don’t know enough and i feel similar to how i felt after the EQ Next reveal– this could be huge, but it could also be more of the same.

But i don’t really think that this will be it, because selling that as a major improvement aka expansion could- and possibly would- backfire. So there has to be something. I haven’t finished any of the Bioware RPGs, but as far as i know, they’re quite linear affairs with some branches turning left or right depending on player choices. That’s fine, and i guess this is all we can hope for, despite the fact that the official page also lists “exploring new planets” as a feature- i’d love them to open the game up by using more open worlds, day/night cycles, sitting-in-chairs and so on, but i don’t think we’ll see that.

Instead, SWTOR seems to take a turn and make the game even more accessible/solo friendly. The only thing missing is the ability to form a flashpoint/operation party only using our companions. Don’t misunderstand me- i’m fine with that, because i don’t think forcing players to play group content is the way to go. Encouragement is all that’s needed.

They’re saying that this is still an MMO, that new multiplayer content will be released, that you can still do the MMO bits, as they call them, but that the whole game will be a more streamlined affair.

You're in
You’re in

Another interesting thought that crossed my mind- is Bioware/EA bringing SWTOR back to being a subscription game even more than they’re doing it right now? The new expansion is for subscribers, stat. No preorder, no prizing- you sub or you don’t play the new storylines. It’s still quite cheap, because you unlock all the content that is available at the time you subscribe. So if you wanted to save some money, you could wait for all 16 episodes of the new content to be released, subscribe to the game and you’d have everything unlocked- even when you unsubscribe.

Or is that buy-to-play? I don’t know, but it’s a strange thing and it makes the sub mandatory again (if you want to see all the content) where it wasn’t before (you could buy expansions).

Personal implications

For me, this announcement makes me think about a few things. First thing i did was renew my sub, for six months. Earlier i was hesitating, because for one, my taste varies a lot, we’re going on vacation for 2 weeks in the end of july- these were events that made me think twice about buying more than one months’ worth of game time at once. With the rewards, the timing, the fact that the vacation would fall in the “sub time” anyway, i decided to renew for 6 months. One thing that’s rarely advertised on the official homepage is the fact that you’ll receive more cartel coins per month if you subscribe for a longer period- 500 for a monthly sub, 550 for three-monthers and 600 for the 6-month-sub.

Furthermore, if the game essentially removes factions, i wouldn’t really have to decide for one and could play classes/stories on the imperial side, as well. Like the Agent’s, or the Inquisitor’s. This also influences a possible choice in guilds, if/when i make a decision. Until now, i was looking at the republic side only, but later on that doesn’t really seem to matter.

And also, now we know how long 12XP will last- until 10/19- so even when it is implied that the earlier content will be streamlined after the expansion hits, and even with the level 60 character we can create at release, i know how much time i have to make use of the xp bonus. So i decided that, for now, i’ll stick to my Jedi Sage (which seems to be my favourite class) for normal play (with 12 XP deactivated or of limited use) and the Agent for the full 12XP experience.

On the other hand i’m thinking- if they’re going to streamline all the content that’s available right now- we only have about four months left to experience SWTOR “as it was”. So i’ll be enjoying that first and come september, i might give a few classes the 12XP treatment.

Oh dear, Manderville Gold Saucer arrives today

I’m not a Final Fantasy fan in particular. I bought FF13 for the PS3 just to see what all the hype is about with this IP and couldn’t really get into it. So i don’t know about the Gold Saucer in FF7, but oh boy, why are they doing this?

Now, don’t misunderstand- i love the idea. Adding even more systems and ways to spend a session is a great thing. It’s just that i can’t seem to focus on something as it is and it looks like the Gold Saucer is going to be another time sink and another distraction for me. The last week hasn’t seen me much in game- with first our son being sick and then both parents- but i managed to get some things done.

What i’ve been up to

I levelled Ermina a little bit- up to level 6 in the Archer class. I tried adding some of the people who commented on her birth-post to my friendlist, but alas, one has to be online to be sent a request. Also, i noticed that the ingame mail works only for friends, so i couldn’t contact Belghast with a request to join the FC that has been built there. I’m not so sure they’ll have me, so i wanted to talk to him in the least intrusive way possible. Anyway, maybe i’ll be able to join that FC at a later point.

Starting out
Starting out

I’ve been playing Deidra, my main, as well. She’s quite all over the place now, but i’m catching up on the main story questline and some crafting jobs, as well. The Botanist is level 21, the Carpenter is level 10, the Weaver is still 19, but still making progress as i finish delivery orders for my Grand Company, the Arcanist is level 24 and the main story questline is now at 23. So i’m getting there, slowly.

Looking forward, i might bring a second class up in levels- it dawned on me that it might be a good way of solving the main story quest-problem where you outlevel it quickly if you do a dungeon, or side quests, or anything at all. The Conjurer is a safe bet, of course. I think Deidra is level 6 there, needs to be brought to level 15, anyway, to get the Scholar class, and if i level it a little bit more- say, to level 23, i can continue the main story quest using the Conjurer while the Arcanist can then level in a “normal” way and at a faster pace.

The hunting log is next for the Arcanist- Deidra’s standing close to Skull Valley, anyway, and it’s there i’ll be able to find 3 of the 4 mobs still missing for the current tier in the log.

These days, i'm listening to Peter F. Hamiltons Commonwealth saga. Nice coincidence to meet Sylphs in FF14, as well.
These days, i’m listening to Peter F. Hamiltons Commonwealth saga. Nice coincidence to meet Sylphs in FF14, as well.

I’ve also found another goal to achieve with both my characters- i want to grow a friendslist. I’m not so sure yet how to do that, but i’ll be on the lookout for ways and will talk about my ideas and how they work out here.

I’ve got to say one thing, though: the longer i’m playing FF14, the more it becomes the “one” MMORPG i play- i have almost no desire in launching something else, these days. I’m not forcing myself, there’s no need to, because first it doesn’t work, anyway and second there’s always something to do and/or achieve. Sometimes, though, i’m not so sure what i can do when i don’t have much time- so to say i’m looking forward to today’s patch is somewhat of an understatement. I’m glad i renewed my sub, this game is shaping up in very good ways (although i still think it’s far from perfect).

The Gold Saucer

When i didn’t know about Heavensward, the Gold Saucer was a reason to get back into Final Fantasy XIV- well, that, and housing. Now housing is a more long-term-goal, which is fine, but i was also worried that the Gold Saucer might be something where you need to be level 50 or something- i’m glad it isn’t so.

Reading the Patch notes, there’s the Quest “It could happen to you” in Ul’dah, Steps of Nald (X:9 Y:9) that grants access to the Gold Saucer. You’ll need to be level 15 and have completed the “Envoy” quest of the main story questline to be able to accept this quest. This will, it seems, grant you access to the Gold Saucer. Arriving there, it seems you’ll have to take a quest for every activity that is to be found there.

I went in and it was great.
I went in and it was great.

It’s funny, FF14, while being very popular (at least that’s my impression), is a game where it’s quite hard to find information on systems, guides, or something that is a little bit deeper than just stating that something is there. These are the activities i found right now:

  • Chocobo Racing – a racing mini-game with a seperate progression path for your racing chocobo and elements of popular cart-games
  • Triple Triad – a collectible card game in FF14 (oh boy)
  • Cactpot – a daily/weekly lottery style game
  • GATES – a series of live events, ranging, i think, from jumping puzzle style events to dancing and fighting
  • Minigames – some games you might find at funfairs

By the way, this is a patch from V2.5 to V2.51 – i’m really looking forward to see what they’ll be doing with a whole expansion. Also, can’t wait to log in!

Busy in Eorzea

So Final Fantasy XIV is a subscription game. By design, the developers want us, the players, to take time achieving our goals. But also, and i like this side of the equation, they want us to have many goals to aim for. I’m really a lowlevel player, bein level 23 with my Arcanist, but i have so much stuff to do. The most annoying part, i have to confess, is travelling back and forth for the different quests. So here’s what i’m doing at the moment.

Get a chocobo

If i had one other problem with FFXIV, it would be the sometimes so very much apparent candy-cuteness, like with the “mounts” they use.

The standard "mount" in Eorzea
The standard “mount” in Eorzea

I guess it’s a matter of tastes, but i don’t really like riding around on a chicken. But there are other mounts available, as well, so i’ll see to that when i have gained access.

As with so many things in Final Fantasy XIV, you’ll have to unlock the ability to ride while doing story missions- after choosing your grand company, one of the first quests they’ll assign to you is to get a chocobo. You’ll need to get 2000 seals, though, to buy some writ from your grand company shop. 2000 seals doesn’t sound much, but it is. Or maybe it’s just because i’m so low level in everything. You can do different things to get these seals- i hear you could just do Fates, but what i’m doing is- i’ll get out to the first grand company levemete (?), get two duties, which are basically just-for-you-quests in the open world, each one good for maybe 250 seals.

Then i look at the crafting and gathering missions that grant seals. Right now, i’m able to accept one for every crafting and gathering job i began with my character, and while the crafting experience these missions grant are very good, i’ll only receive about 200 seals for doing three of these quests. So i’ve been doing that for the last 3 sessions in game.


Which leads me to this: so i can take a mission for every crafting and gathering profession i have? Why didn’t i begin all of them in the first place? What i’m doing now is to get into every crafting guild the moment i encounter it. I mean, i’m interested in crafting, anyway, so where’s the harm, right?

Also, since you unlock the crafting professions while doing story missions, you are behind in your first choices. Basically, you’ll be level 12 or 13 when you are able to pick up crafting- and then you’ll have to play catch up. My highest crafting-related profession is the Botanist, and it’s level 19. So there is a slight problem in that i can’t craft very useful stuff for myself, because i lack crafting experience.

As i’m sure i’ll try out different classes at one time (Monk, Archer, Bard, for instance), i want to give the other professions at least a little headway. So i’m going to pick up all crafting-related classes in the next few days, because i’ll be in every capital anyway.

Good times ahead
Good times ahead

The Barber

And that’s because there’s a quest to unlock a barber shop in the game, where you can change pretty much everything appearance-wise, except race/gender, of course. This quest begins in Limsa Lominsa and sends me to all three capitals, and i’m not really sure it’s finished after that.


Also, of course, i want to follow the story line to make these quests as high in level as i am- right now, my story quest is still for level 20 characters. I haven’t done any quests besides these, what’s mentioned above and some crafting since “returning” (realizing i still have a sub) to Final Fantasy XIV, but the missions have only gained one level.

There’s just so much

When Final Fantasy XIV re-released, many people were complaining that there are few ways to level your character. Quests can only be taken once, after all, so what i read was that you’d get one profession to maxlevel and the second one would have to do Fates, all the time. Maybe that was true then, but it’s very different now.

I do like when there’s stuff behind quests, when you unlock something, explore something and all that. But it doesn’t really mix with the way i level right now- for instance, i avoid doing quests, because i want to keep them for later classes. But that could mean i miss out on some hidden feature until i discover the related quest.

All in all, it’s a great game and i’m looking forward to the next dungeon, the day my crafting professions catch up and the day i will accept normal quests again.

Why i like Final Fantasy XIV

So, my plan’s not going so well- i didn’t have time to play on any day this week. Well, i managed to get a story mission in Guild Wars 2 in, but that’s all i got. I really need to get going in Final Fantasy XIV, though. In light of my obsession to play every MMO out there, i mapped out a series, of sorts- telling some reasons why i like the games i do or don’t play at any given moment. I’ll try and make it a list of 5, every time. So let’s begin with Final Fantasy XIV

Why Final Fantasy XIV is a great MMO

1. The crafting

In many games, crafting is little more than a useless hobby someone might enjoy who likes the idea of “downtime”. In Final Fantasy XIV, crafting is quite involved- it’s not just a queue where you put items in that you want to craft- you have to participate in the progress, raising your chances to get a high quality item (and experience), research where to gather stuff you need, playing the market and there’s even quests to do for crafting. Also, you can follow any crafting job you want with one character, while the process still is quite social in the sense that you’ll have to buy materials off the market- at least when you don’t have much free time, because raising every gathering/crafting profession is quite time-consuming. There’s a lot of interdependancy involved- you’ll need your leatherworkers for tailoring, for example. The crafting in Final Fantasy XIV is a levelling and gameplay experience all by itself.

Hanging out
Hanging out

2. The community

Final Fantasy XIV’s community is one of the nicest places i’ve seen in MMOs. Chat is generally quite polite and helpful and at least i haven’t run into many unfriendly PUGs (there was just one guy), although i’ve heard the dungeon finder groups can be quite elitist, as well. Still, what i found, was very friendly indeed.

3. No Alts necessary

If you provide me with options, i’m going to make use of them. If there are 8 classes in an MMO, chances are that i have one character in all of them while the highest character still is under level 30. In Final Fantasy XIV, changing classes is as easy as changing equipment, and you can do everything with just one character. So while the outcome might be the same in short term, no progress will ever be “wasted” because i’ll somehow never get back to a class. It will be there, waiting for the next time i want Deidra to be something else or want to change up my game experience.

Fighting Ifrit

4. A lot of options in levelling content

I know many will see this as the opposite, because you are only able to do each quest once, but as of now, i feel there are a lot of options to level your character in Final Fantasy XIV. There’s the normal questing, of course, and then there are repeatable tasks that are called leves- you’ll get an allowance of doing 8 per day which stacks up to 100, and this is sometimes too low if you play a lot, but for me- i’m almost always at 100 when logging in. Then you have FATEs, which are basically Rifts of Rift or Anchors of TESO, the Dungeons, of course, and Scenarios, which are quite short, instanced, group fights. And that’s just for the adventuring classes. The gathering and crafting jobs have their own quests and leves. There really is a lot of variety.

Limsa Lominsa by night
Limsa Lominsa by night

5. Updates

I feel Final Fantasy XIV deserves the subscription money they get- they’ll release new content in a three-month-cadence and there’ll be an expansion, soon. While most of the updates are not meant for me, since i’m still quite early in the game, i watch from afar, but still, there aren’t a lot of MMOs who put out that much content in the same timeframe.

Being a subscription game

Whenever a game announces a switch to a free-to-play or buy-to-play model, there’s talk about how the game design goals change from delivering a fun experience and good gameplay to adding grinds and developing stuff for the ingame cash shop. Often, the line of thinking is that a subscription game offers the best possible experience for the players to keep them playing, while a game with a cash shop only serves as a medium to get players to buy something from the shop.

I’ll have to disagree there. Subscription games have their own ways of making you pay- namely, timesinks. I write this after trying to get the story quests of Final Fantasy XIV up to par- so the proposed level of the story quest is the same as my adventuring level. I did this, neglecting all other quests with the exception of those which i know to offer gameplay mechanics (yesterday i learned how to dye my gear). I have to say, it is a tiresome affair- you travel a lot- going from the grand company you chose to the Scions’ headquarters there’s a lot of ping-ponging around. This is done to a degree that the last two playsessions i had were devoted to doing just that- and the proposed level of the story quest went from level 19 to 20 in this time.

Now, if i could ignore that quest line, everything would be fine. But i can’t- Final Fantasy XIV gates game mechanics with the help of the main story questline. For instance, your character doesn’t have a bank or access to the market until you clear the three introductory dungeons for the main story questline. Which is also forced grouping. As a father- i mentioned this in other posts- it is sometimes quite difficult to know when i’m able to dedicate a chunk of time – the dungeons don’t take long, but if you have to use the duty finder and play a damage dealing class you could wait some time to get a party going- so that these three dungeons pose an obstacle big enough so that i won’t consider rolling an alt anytime soon. Not that you have to, though, because one character can do it all.

Final Fantasy XIV isn’t the only offender, of course. World of Warcraft is also a very time-intensive game, in EVE skill gain is time gated and the coming Pathfinder Online also has this mechanic. In Elder Scrolls Online the inventory- on character and the available bank slots- is so limited that you spend a considerable amount of time managing your inventory, especially if you are like me and want to keep all the crafting stuff to level crafting disciplines later.

Maybe this is one reason sub games don’t work out that way anymore- if you have limited time- and we all know the MMORPG population to be aging (i think the average age is 37)- these timesinks and content gates, including forced grouping, are really some kind of quit wall. If i couldn’t manage to do these three introductory dungeons in FF14, limiting my access to bank and retainer/markets stops me from, for instance, crafting- because a bank inventory and access to the market help a lot with that, that would be a huge disadvantage for the game and i’d maybe consider whether keeping the sub up was worth it. Luckily, i’m with a free company who finished those dungeons with me.

On the other hand i know that Final Fantasy XIV has content to keep me happy and occupied for a long time- if the fun lasts as long. There are a few adventuring classes i’d like to play and come the expansion, the astrologist and the machinist also look very interesting and sooner or later i’ll want to level every crafting job. Add this to the fact that i’ll probably never really reach “endgame”, and i could play Final Fantasy XIV for quite a few years. But that’s another topic.

Subscription games time-gate content to get you to pay for another month, and another month. Free-to-play games try to get you to buy stuff from their cash shop. I’m not entirely convinced that f2p works in the long term- i don’t think there’s still more players playing Lotro or DDO, for instance, now than there were when they were subscription based, and both models surely have their downsides. But both- or all three, if you count buy-to-play- have to balance the opening-your-wallet-part with the game-being-fun-part. So while there might be a change in design philosophy, i think it’s a minor one.

As for my preferences, i don’t really care if a game is b2p, f2p or p2p. I like how i’m able to hop into a game for an evening to see if i like to play it some more / return to playing it for free in b2p/f2p models, but i’ll also pay 12€ to do that in sub games i know i’ll like to play for at least a few days. Wildstar and TESO, though, they won’t get a sub from me while they are still in p2p-mode. For p2p/subscription, i’d really like one studio to try and do this with ingame-time- i’d really love to buy, for instance, 100 hours in game for 15€ or something- they can still include the monthly subscription as a flat-fee-option (and maybe even raise the price point), but for me, paying by the hour would work out better.

Oh, and btw., i think studios profit from players subbing up for 6 months and maybe forgetting to cancel it in time or maybe not playing a lot, so i continue to think removing such an option is likely done to avoid doing refunds after a business model change.

Progress report – week 1

Final Fantasy XIV

Last week i only played Final Fantasy XIV after discovering that i have an open subscription to this game. Right now, you could find me on Shiva- the name’s Deidra Winter- and my current plan is:

  • get Botanic up to the level of the Arcanist; right now Level 22
  • get Weaver up there, as well
  • continue in the storyline to the point that the Story-Quest Level equals that of my Arcanist
  • rejoin my Free Company

I made progress, somewhat. I’m a level 18 Botanist right now and a level 13 Weaver. Since FF XIV always gets me sidetracked, i also got my Leatherworking skill up to Level 6. I do like how crafting disciplines are co-dependant in this game, but i think the auction house mechanic is somewhat clunky and isn’t good at giving an overview of the market. So i just thought i’ll help myself out with leather. Sooner or later i think i’ll get to all crafting classes anyway.

This game offers breathtaking views

Levelling is kind of slow at the moment, though. Gathering and crafting are somewhat grindy, even at those levels, and adventuring is slow because i’m all over the place for the story quests. Nevertheless, i like my experience so far and will continue to sub. Also, i’m really looking forward to a snow zone.

FF XIV ARR early access anticipation rambling

Clash of business models

This week was all about payment models- again. There have been numerous blog postings regarding that topic as well as discussions in the corresponding news articles of Wildstar’s and The Elder Scrolls‘ announcements of going with a sub at launch.

To highlight a few:

These three entries actually represent very well what i’m thinking about this topic- i mean, first of all- i’m wondering why we are still discussing this topic with such a temper. It should have been proven by now that it’s not one of these models that is “right” or “wrong”, this comes down to one simple thing- is a game worth the monetary investment it asks for or not? And how much time do i want to invest in the title?

If there is one title that i’d play exclusively, without feeling like missing out on the fun of all the other MMORPGs- and each one of them has its strengths and weaknesses, i’d have no problem paying for a subscription. Now, when i play 5 different MMORPGs, i won’t pay a sub in each of them. I don’t think we- as customers- should take a stand for one business model over the other, we should make a point by paying for games we like. Take the Repopulation, for example. It’s a title i could see me paying a sub for judging by all that i know about it- but it’s a f2p game. Should i not play it now, although it seems to be an incredibly deep experience, because i don’t believe f2p and Sandboxes mix too well? Should i just assume it’s going to inhabit some bad business like lockboxes or “pay-to-win” items? I don’t think so.

On the other hand- should i not buy TESO or Wildstar just because they’re pay-to-play? If i thought they’d be longterm candidates, i should buy them- but there’s something else to take into account with these two: how confident am i that they’ll stick to subscriptions? For me, i’d say: not confident at all- we already know TESO will have an ingame-shop on top of the subscription- which rises another question: one strong advantage of subscription games, usually mentioned by proponents of this model is that you don’t have a cash shop intruding into your game experience. When they have one, this advantage is gone. Of course, the pay-to-play faction now says something the free-to-play-faction used to say when they were in the minority: the badness of the ingame shop depends on the items sold. No it doesn’t. Sure, when there are only account services in there, that would be fine. But these things get handled by customer support traditionally. Setting up an entire system (ingame shop) for these doesn’t make sense- so there’ll either be some different items in there, as well, or this is Step 1 of going something-to-play later on.

From a business standpoint, i can understand the decision of Carbine and Zenimax, but from a player’s perspective starting p2p and going f2p/b2p after a year is not fair play. It would be different if they just lowered the box price and give the client out for free after a year while still charging the sub.

I’m still waiting for a business model that lets players pay less when they play less.

Regarding quality being the “cure”, i’ll say this: if you are the kind of player missing the deeper and more longterm-oriented games from the early generation- like UO or EQ, for example, i’d agree- if/when a game wants to be “deep” and cater to a loyal customer base, pay-to-play would be the way to go. If you want to dabble in many MMORPGs at the same time, there’s no “cure” for b2p/f2p, as these models themselves are the “cure” for subscriptions. This is not a question of quality, but about design philosophy and targetted audience. No one could sensibly argue that GW2 is not a quality game- it is, it’s just not what i’d consider a MMORPG- and even if pressed, i couldn’t answer why that is. It is a quality game by all standards. 

 Anyhow, enough of that.

Preparing for FF14 ARR

Regarding Final Fantasy XIV ARR i get more excited with each passing day. Although i learned that somehow i wouldn’t have had to purchase the new version, because i bought FF14 1.0 – it’s really no big deal, i paid about 8€ for that one, but still. I’m hoping to be able to gain more included game time- as i learned from neoGAF (via asianinaction, thanks very much), somehow i could be eligible for quite some sub-free time. 30 Days included in the client, free play until September 9th for owning 1.0 (if they know i own it- somehow Square Enix’s account management system doesn’t make much sense to me), 30 days for registering ARR…maybe. Well, if it comes with only 30 days, i might try to get some more, but i wouldn’t be terribly mad, since i guess it’s my own fault.

So, i’m making plans. It seems to me, after reading some guides for the Paladin, White Mage and Scholar on ffxivguild.com that i’ll be going for Scholar first- which means i’ll set my first ingame goals as follows:

  • continue to play my Conjurer until i finished the level 15 Story Quest and gain access to airships
  • Level up my Botanic skill to 15, as well
  • travel to Ul’dah to start with Weaver crafting
  • travel to Limsa Lominsa to begin levelling Arcanist

As for my choice of starting with Scholar as second-tier job; i don’t like to be the main-something in groups. Tanking is not for me in every case, healing is fine and i tend to not totally suck at it, but it still comes with responsibility that i don’t really want. When something doesn’t work out good i’ll have feelings of guilt that don’t really mix well with enjoyment of MMORPGs in general and group content in particular.

But i think others feel quite the same way, and that’s the reason why i enjoy being the back-up plan very much. From what i read, the Paladin is going to be some kind of Tank, while the White Mage is a good Tank Healer. So, with the Scholar being good in group heals, i’m going to start with that.

Of course, my level of anxiety lowers significantly when i’m in a Dungeon with guildmates, but i’ll be entering FF14 solo. I hope to find a good guild (linkshell and/or free company) with time, though.

Regarding servers, i chose Balmung. It’s a northamerican legacy server which has been selected as unofficial RP server earlier. I read a lot of good stuff about the community and somehow i expect to find the FF14 equivalent to Lotro’s Landroval. I just hope there are other europeans over there, as well.

So, tomorrow is the big day. The early access begins at 2 a.m. PDT (which is 11 am Berlin time) and i’ll be ingame as soon as i can. To all those who are waiting for early access / release as well: have fun in the game!

Game time: Waiting for Final Fantasy XIV ARR

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

Star Wars: the old republic

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

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

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

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

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

Guild Wars 2

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

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

Final Fantasy XIV

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, i am really looking forward to that one.

And The Elder Scrolls Online, too

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

Matt Frior says:

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

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

Is the subscription coming back?

The sub is dead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Long live the sub

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

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

The rise and fall of free-to-play

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

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

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

Time to play

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

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

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

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


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

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

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