Tag: Rift

The End…a new beginning

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

2016

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

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

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

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

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

The One

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

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

Last year’s resolutions

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

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

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2017

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

spend less money, waste none

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

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

Get a grip on MMO hopping

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

Grow our guild

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

Creating Content

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

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More German

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

Games in 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year everyone!

Being supportive 2

Interesting. On my old blog, i had this post about being supportive of the few (and getting even rarer) companies who bring MMORPGs to us- at that time, it was about Trion’s up-to-then unknown imported game. Today, i’ll return to this topic in regards to Rift’s new expansion Starfall Prophecy- this post started its life as a comment on Psychochild’s blog, but i felt like it was getting too long. TLDR would be: “don’t hold a grudge”.

Trion once was that highly respected company- everyone cheered when the news broke that they’d be publishing ArcheAge. Then something bad happened and now they’re struggling – reputation wise.

Here’s the thing, though: what big MMO devs/publishers do you know? Blizzard? Cancelled their latest MMO in favour of a lobby shooter. Daybreak? Ha, well, they seem to be downgrading lately. Turbine? Already on their way out. Funcom? Is struggling and needs to do something other than MMOs to actually earn some money.

Now, we can have all the business model talks or how exactly each and every company developing MMORPGs went wrong, but i’d like to state something else:

I feel Trion is on the right way.

(more…)

Dual Wielding: pay-to-win edition

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 on the subject.

Free-to-play as a business model comes in many forms. You’ll have the mostly free experiences of games like TERA and the free-to-play-but-we-really-want-you-to-subscribe model of games like Star Wars: the old republic. Whenever free-to-play is mentioned, there’s another term coming up: pay-to-win. Almost every developer that transitioned one game from sub to f2p will have the pay-to-win question in their FAQ. The answer is always the same: no, this game won’t be pay-to-win. The interesting part is, that when you think about it, this is both an impossible thing to state and true in every case. In the end, it depends on two things: the player perspective and the game design perspective.

What is pay-to-win?

Wikipedia has the following to say:

In some multiplayer free-to-play games, players who are willing to pay for special items or downloadable content may be able to gain a significant advantage over those playing for free. Critics of such games call them “pay-to-win” games.

I have to say that i agree with this definition but would add that gaining an advantage in most themepark MMORPGs isn’t something one should worry about. For the advantage you buy there has to be some impact on someone else who didn’t pay- this impact doesn’t really exist in most of the current MMORPGs.

What is winning?

This is another question you’d have to answer in order to really understand and define pay-to-win. In a recent “Perfect ten” column on Massively Overpowered, Eliot Lefebvre wrote:

[…]what qualifies as a “winning” advantage varies between person to person. If you really try at it, you can argue that paying for anything at all is winning because it involves getting an advantage you wouldn’t have playing completely for free.

That’s because (themepark) MMORPGs aren’t lobby shooters; in most cases, you don’t fight other players much and even if you do your pvp battlegrounds, it’s not an even playing field at all- players can join them when they are in a certain level bracket. A level 11 player will have trouble fighting- and winning- against a level 19 player. In times when World of Warcraft didn’t give out experience points for playing battlegrounds, there were “pvp twinks”, mostly level 19 and geared in a way that “normal” level 19 characters didn’t stand a chance against them. So if we’re talking normal battleground pvp and even open world pvp, it’s rare that every player is on an equal footing. And when/if they are- by game design- the devs won’t sell statistical advantage for their version of pvp.

In most other cases, it’s a matter of definition and what your own goals in a game are. If you’re an achievement hunter and a certain achievement will grant you some gear with just the look you want for your character, you could consider it pay-to-win if another player was able to just buy that stuff from the ingame store. If World of Warcraft sold flying in Draenor, plain and simple, you could consider it pay-to-win, as well.

Good MMORPGs are of the “Win. Your way.” kind- there are all kinds of goals to strive for. Since you can’t really define winning, “pay-to-win” is equally hard to define and, in most cases, both true and wrong.

Impact

On the other hand, there’s no impact. If you went out of your way to get that achievement for the cosmetic gear, that’s your experience and you’ll probably like the way to get there as well as feel rewarded when you finish it. It’s the experience, the journey, that counts here. Your journey wasn’t worse or less fun if “Killerrabbit1337” bought the same item in the store.

In most themeparks, there is no impact. Even if i were to buy a set of raid gear in Rift, all it would do is allow me to access content faster (or at all). In most cases, i couldn’t sell the gear on the auction house because of it being bound on aquire.

But, of course, there are ways to impact other players. And this is where, in my opinion, pay-to-win is a thing- and it’s a thing to be avoided. This is the case when it undermines fundamentals of how a certain game works. Let’s say you’re designing a crafting and economy oriented MMORPG- then selling crafting materials and/or the ingame currency would be a bad, bad thing, because if a player were to buy loads of crafting mats from the ingame store, he or she could hurt the price of these items in the auction hall. So there’s impact on all the other crafters who’d like to sell their goods in the auction hall.

So, in my opinion, for a game to be considered pay-to-win, there must be impact on other players either through pvp or the ingame economy. Using this definition, i can only think of two games i’d consider pay-to-win: EVE and ArcheAge.

In EVE, progress is measured in two ways: skill points and ISK, the ingame currency. While there is no way to increase skill point gain, you can simply buy ISK by buying PLEX and selling it on the market, giving you a huge advantage for instance in choosing what you fly- after all, one of the big rules in EVE is “don’t fly something you can’t afford to lose”- so skill point being equal, i could use this way of getting ISK to fly a better ship into battle- and that includes pvp.

In ArcheAge, a game i haven’t really followed up on after being disappointed by hacks and cheats, there are the labor point potions in the store. Labor points are used to craft and even to open up certain loot. As i wrote in another post, it’s a mechanic i like to a certain extent- by using up your labor points, you are encouraged to specialize/concentrate on certain aspects of the game/crafting. Labor point potions increase your ability to craft items- and while ArcheAge has somewhat moved away from being a crafting/economy centered game, it still is one of the huge qualities this game has. So buying labor potions allows the buyer to create more items, thereby influencing the ingame economy.

The future

Right now, there are several upcoming games i take a huge interest in. Namely, the Repopulation, Shroud of the Avatar and to a lesser extent Shards Online and Albion Online. Most of these games might be quite crafting/economy centered or allow for such a playstyle, at least. There are many ways to ruin these kinds of games when they are free-to-play or microtransaction based in general. Jewel has already voiced some of her concerns regarding the influence of free-to-play on Albion, and i agree.

I have seen how stuff like that, especially coupled with hacking/exploiting/botting can ruin a game experience for some players, but all i can do is hope the devs know what they’re trying to achieve with their games and try to keep the impact on the game design as low as possible.

Conclusion

Pay-to-win can be everything or nothing. Once again, i find myself agreeing with Eliot here, who also stated this.

When you can’t define conclusively what is or isn’t enough of an advantage to qualify as “winning,” you are using a term that you have to define before you make any use of it, which makes it inherently useless.

So the whole post is useless. The term is useless- in my opinion, as well, because we should talk about the business models in a more distinctive way. We can’t absolutely state that game x is “pay-to-win”, we always have to explain why we think it is. So the better way to say the same thing would be to state that “i don’t like the business model because they sell item x,y on their ingame store and it makes me feel like striving for the same goal ingame isn’t worth it, anymore”.

Project Trinity: june finished, up to july

June went over quite ok for Project Trinity- at least i think so. Raptr is having trouble tracking FF14 when you launch it in DirectX 11 mode, but i think it has been the most played MMO for me last month. I played a bit of SWTOR, as well, and some TERA. The Secret World fell somewhat on the wayside, but really, that is to be expected in these summer months.

The last week has been crazy here- yesterday we almost broke heat records in the city where i live- we had 40 degrees celsius (104 Fahrenheit), the nights didn’t cool down under 25 degrees celsius (77F) in some cases, so all we did was finding ways to escape the heat. So there hasn’t been much writing and playing lately, and this might stay that way until the middle of this week.

Well, summer’s generally the reason for this blog being a bit quiet at the moment- i don’t play that much and what i play is not much of a new experience.

Final Fantasy XIV

I went in, again, with a new character and created an even newer one to join Belghast and the Greysky Armada on Cactuar. This time, to change things up a bit, i started a Pugilist. It’s a nice enough damage dealer and quite fun to play, but i’m not entirely sure i’ll stick with the class (this character will be the last one, i hope)- the Arcanist seemed to suit me better.

As said, i haven’t played as much as i’d have liked, but progress comes quick now with the main story xp buff we were getting since Heavensward’s official release- i read somewhere that you only have to do main story quests now to get your first class to 50, and so far, this seems to be the case.

Star Wars: the old republic

I’m with a new character here, as well- or not new, but i’m not playing the trooper, which would be the one that progressed furthest. I like the Jedi Sage, i think it is what i expect of an MMO class i like to play.

Games of july

This month, i’m going to change things up, again. FF14 will remain the game i call my “main game”, although i always feel this one is the least preferrable when i don’t have much time- at nights like today, when i play an hour and half, maybe, more likely just an hour, i feel FF14 to be a bit too “complicated”. So we’ll see- if Raptr tracks that game, else i’ll guess, if it will become the most played this month, as well. SWTOR still remains there, as well.

For the third game, this month i chose Rift.

There are many things i like about Rift- the soul system, for one. The combat/gameplay feels good, almost as good as WoW’s combat. There aren’t many games that can do something like that. Rifts “housing” is crazy with all kinds of possibilities. The dungeons are fun and instant adventure, pvp and so on are viable alternatives to the quest grind. Also, after playing some of it, i can’t help but think about that when it released, everyone (read: me) thought the world to be very small. But compare even launch-day Rift’s Mathosia with almost all the worlds that came after, and suddenly, it seems vast. Also, it’s an open world, not zoned stuff.

I also think Trion has done a great job with the game. Sure, you could moan about some entry-level raid gear being sold in the store (over 200€ for two weapons), but this doesn’t really bother me. If someone’s stupid/rich enough to spend that kind of money on two weapons, so be it. But Rift has grown/improved significantly since launch, Trion added one of the most amazing housing features out there, they adapted the game to newer industry standards and they continue to create content/improve the game. Before Square Enix, Trion’s handling of Rift was the role-model on how to do a sub game/how to support your game after release. I still feel Trion does a great job on Rift and there aren’t many studios that improve their games like they did with Rift.

And lastly, i went in to check it out a bit and had fun. I know it’s not going to last if i do things like i always do them in Rift- the questing always gets to me- but i’ll be there as long as it lasts.

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.

Resolutions for 2015

Well, only the MMORPG-related, of course.

Spend less

2014 was an expensive year for me in MMORPGs. Developers monetize the feeling of missing out i always get when there’s some kind of early access/beta or even expansion and new releases very well nowadays. Others may dislike the chaos that are the first days in an MMO, but i like how everybody’s interested and sets foot in a new (part of the) world of a particular MMO. That’s why i’m always inclined to join as early as possible. So in 2014, i “preordered” Landmark, ArcheAge, the Repopulation, Elder Scrolls Online, Galactic Strongholds (actually, i only subbed to get it, but still), Wildstar and Elite: Dangerous. I also stocked up store credits in Rift when the new expansion came. That’s some serious money for games i play in a (very) casual manner. In case of ArcheAge, it was a total waste. I don’t know, this one makes me sad, because i like the crafting/economy part of this game but feel it is totally borked.

So in 2015, i’d like to spend less on that stuff, although i know that Everquest Next, should they release a founder pack with alpha access will probably make it on my list, and there’s at least one expansion that’s beckoning me, Heavenswarth for Final Fantasy XIV. But even so, i hope to be more careful this year.

Be ready when they come

I’m sure this’ll be a moot point for EQ2, because that game’s too big for me to get to the “end” of the available content before the new expansion hits, but in general terms, i’d like to be where the fun starts with a new expansion. Right now i can think of SWTOR and Final Fantasy XIV where i’ll want to at least be level-capped when new content hits. EQ2 would be a bonus, but as i said, there’s not much hope.

Also, this isn’t new. Last year, i was hoping to get settled into one, and only one MMORPG. I was quite sure that by this time of the year, i’d live happily ever after with ArcheAge, but it wasn’t to be. So this year, i’d like to be at least a little more focussed and try to ignore those who most likely won’t expand this year. I could add Lotro here, but i’m so far behind the curve in that one and don’t really like Moria that i don’t think i’ll even try.

Don’t forget this blog

Yeah, i posted very infrequently since i started this blog and i’d like to change that. I can’t write every day like others do, but still, i want to keep it active. Also, more pictures please.

Continue my guild project

Well, i copied an idea from an international guild i was part of and brought it to a german multigaming guild. Basically, we move between f2p games every 3 months. We use a poll to determine which one it’s going to be and then meet up once a week to play that game together. Right now, we’re in Everquest 2. Reception of the idea was very good, with 15 players signing up. A couple of weeks later and we’re down to 4 players. Anyway, i think such a project is good to have in a multigaming guild, because it brings the players closer to each other and lets them play together for a while.

Be more social in game

I don’t really know how to do that. If in a guild, i’ll try and group up more often, or at least chat. Also, i’d really like to make use of a friends list again- the last one i used as intended was back in WoW, since then it’s mostly just prep-work to get a guild set up.

Don’t overstretch, focus (a little)

….please? For now, i’ve said goodbye to the idea of playing just one MMORPG at a time, it seems it just isn’t my style at the moment. But with my available time for gaming, it would really befit me to not have 5 MMORPGs to choose from every time i find myself having some time. Also, when i’m not focussed, i tend to sub to multiple MMOs and sometimes even forget a subscription (a few days ago i discovered my FF14-sub still being active). So, please, dear me, try and stay a while.

Doing it wrong

Yesterday, i read the massively opinion column titled “Maybe it’s time to admit you don’t like MMOs” and it made me think- about the general perception of MMOs, their communities and my interaction with other players in the games themselves.

I came to the conclusion that i’m doing it wrong- i mean, in Final Fantasy 14 i am member in what seems to be a great linkshell/free company. My interactions with the other members have been saying “hi” and “bye” as well as one dungeon run, which was fun. In Firefall, i had fun doing stuff with one or two other players, but when our army grew to be bigger than the squad size of Firefall, i became reluctant to log in.

Finding excuses for solo-play

Now, i know what this blog’s title suggests, so i am aware of how these games are meant to be played, but there always seem to be obstacles to experience these games this way. For me, it comes down to:

  • Voice Chat. I don’t like voice chat. Yet, in many guilds using it is de facto mandatory. In my Rift guild, for example, guild chat would always just entail fragments of conversations that happened in voice chat. Yes, i might use voice chat once in a while, but don’t expect me to launch it with the game. I might want to listen to music/podcasts or whatever. Voice chat directly affects my ability to relax and enjoy an evening of leisure.
  • Log-In times. We have a toddler in the house. When he screams, i’m afk. When my wife needs assistance, i’m afk. Often, when i log in, i don’t know how long it will be- it could be 2 hours, but it could also be 15 minutes. I don’t want to ruin someone else’s evening by signing up for a dungeon run i can’t finish- or doing something in the party and let them wait for my return in a quest hub.
  • My own mood. I play these games to relax. I take my time, i play them slow- my Conjurer in FF14 is level 22 now and will remain there for a time because i want to catch up with my botanist and weaver classes. If i were to group up with my level 22 i could suddenly find myself being at level 30 without progressing in the storyline and my crafting jobs getting far behind. Playing at my own pace in groups becomes running after someone else very quick. I wouldn’t want that.
  • Other people’s progress. I’m slow, others aren’t. One reason i haven’t done very much with my linkshell is that many are in their 40s or at max level (they played 1.0) and therefore what they do isn’t available to me.
  • Other people’s playtimes. I guess this goes hand-in-hand with my last point, but there’s more than just the progression. I’m always somewhat surprised that even players who call themselves “casual” play 4 hours each day. As i mentioned, i average at about 10-15 hours a week and i consider that playing quite a lot. In Firefall, i saw how others in my army spent every free minute available to them in the game- when i see that, i think to myself how quickly they’re going to burn out and leave the game- and true enough, last week the guild leader played 2 and a half hours Firefall. As i said, right now i think Firefall is a great game, but you have to consume it bite-sized, or you’ll be burnt out when the really cool features come into play.

Resolutions

Good excuses, right? Well, no, maybe not. Maybe, if i don’t want to play with others i should just start up one of my many single player games i didn’t finish (or pretty much didn’t even start them). Sure, MMORPGs nowadays are soloable and especially the gathering and crafting bits of FF14 lend themselves very good to solo-play.

Maybe i should just scrap crafting first and just level my most advanced class to 50 as quick as possible. But then i wouldn’t be able to craft equipment for myself during the levelling process. Also, endgame is usually not what i’m playing these games for. When i reached endgame in Rift in June 2011 i just quit- doing daily quests or repeating the same dungeons over and over again doesn’t appeal to me. Levelling as quick as possible is also not what i’m there for. So that’s not going to work.

I made a resolution, nonetheless. I want to party more, and usually, when i do, i get something out of it. The other day i helped another player in a really dense spawn point- he was going to fill his hunting log, but no matter how he’d do it, he would pull 3-4 enemies to get to his targets. So, as a healer, i asked him what he wanted to do, grouped up and helped him achieve his goal. One more member on my friendslist.

So i want to do that some more- go around with open eyes and help players i see having trouble. I did that before, as well, but it was a case of throwing out one or two heals and going my way. Also, i should ask in linkshell chat if somebody wants to group up- either for my most advanced class or for some of the classes i want to play down the line. I mean, there’s many of them. Just for adventuring classes, i aim to play:

  • Conjurer
  • Arcanist
  • Thaumaturge
  • Archer
  • Pugilist
  • Lancer
  • Gladiator

All this to get the jobs of White Mage, Black Mage, Bard, Monk and Scholar- more or less in that order.

Making (and keeping) friends

One problem, of course, is that none of my friends play MMORPGs. Many players just enjoy group content with either real life friends or acquaintances from the game(s) they’re playing- none of the two are available to me, for different reasons, many of them my own fault. If you jump around in games and guilds very much, you’ll have a hard time making “online friends”. And when you do make them and let the connections somehow fall apart (as i did with the guild i co-founded in GW2), that’s your own fault, as well. Maybe i’ll talk more about that last mistake some time.

This blog

Now, there’s a topic for a series of blog posts that fits right into this blog’s title. Party business- how to put the multiplayer part back into MMORPGs from the perspective of a casual player.

I haven’t written for some time, because when commenting around at the last post i realized that the reason i started this blog- or the topics i wanted to cover- aren’t really hot anymore. EQ Next is a thing of the past- i’ll look into it again either when SOE scraps P7S1 or when i cave in and decide that making an account there isn’t the end of the world. With EQN, there’s another thing: i can’t shake the feeling that this will play very GW2-like. ArcheAge seems to become a lot more themeparky than expected and The Repopulation seems still to be far off.

Final Fantasy 14 caught me by surprise- i didn’t expect to enjoy it so much, but as you can see above, i have goals that last for quite some time- for me, at least- and i didn’t even mention crafting. But i’ll have to put some thought into how i’m going to develop this blog further, since it really doesn’t bother anyone what i’m doing in my MMO and so the journal-type i was using isn’t of much interest. That’s not to say i won’t continue like that, but there will be another theme to my blogging, and right now i think it’s going to be somewhat community-focused, which might be an odd thing to do for someone who’s doing it wrong.

Final Fantasy XIV ARR

It’s time to confess. While i’d made a point for playing and sticking with one MMORPG, it doesn’t come easy for me, as well. Sticking to Rift is as good a plan as any, but when you don’t have any urge to login, something isn’t right with your choice.

On friday, i remembered there was going to be a Final Fantasy XIV ARR open beta this weekend. With time to play and the urge to find out why some players seem to be very happy with how the game turned out i decided to give it a go.

First off, i own a copy of Final Fantasy 14 1.0 – i didn’t like it, but one thing stuck out positively: in general, i liked the approach to crafting. I didn’t quite understand it at the time, but i saw similarities to Vanguard’s crafting system. After spending every available minute of the weekend playing FF14ARR, i’m happy to say that i still like the approach to crafting- and better yet, i also like the game.

The good

I won’t go into changes from 1.0 very much, because i didn’t come to know the first iteration of the game, but one thing needs to be pointed out: the user interface is hugely improved, not only in design but also gameplay-wise. I remember it being quite a pain to group up in 1.0- while i didn’t group up at the weekend, i can’t imagine that it will be troublesome in ARR.

There’s an old school feel about Final Fantasy 14 that i liked very much. I liked the idea of (level-)gated  content options. I wanted to craft as early as possible, but had to find out that you can only get your second class after finishing up the level 10 quest of your first class. I wanted to go to Limsa Lominsa to become a weaver, but had to find out that i’ll have to finish the level 15 storyline quest to unlock airship travel and so on. So there was always something i look forward to reaching- at first it was level 10, then level 5 of my first gathering profession (botany), then level 15 for going to Limsa Lominsa.

Final Fantasy 14: a realm reborn also has a remarkable love for details. I don’t know if this will continue through the zones, but the early ones around Gridania all struck me as being believable. I prefer to see some civilization when i’m out adventuring, and fact is that most MMORPGs lack that kind of design- you’ll start in a pretty wood, maybe with houses or small villages strewn about, but the second, or third zone at the very least is wholly devoid of many signs of humanity. The early adventuring zones around Gridania still have villages, houses and other buildings in them, which makes for a pleasant stay in those areas. Also, the scenery is very beautiful and changes a lot from day to night.

The combat also gets a positive mention here- it is on the slow side of things, but i like that. Action combat doesn’t leave much time for chats and so the whole experience in those games can feel somewhat lonely, despite there being 10 other guys doing the same quest as i do.

The highlight is still the gathering/crafting. It’s some kind of minigame- when you chop at a tree it’s not only lumber you can get- you’ll have a selection of items you could get out of that tree, each one coming with a chance to get it. You have abilities in your hotbar according to your gathering/crafting job. For botany, there were abilities to show the next tree in my levelrange, raise the chances for successfully farming the materials of a tree and so on. For crafting, i only came up to level 3, but it looks beautiful and most importantly: no crafting job is self-sufficient. You can, of course, level all gathering and crafting jobs, but my guess is that this will be a long term project- if you’d want to be self-sufficient all by yourself, you’d have to level all crafting and gathering jobs parallel to each other. I didn’t count, but i think that would be about 9 jobs to level- in addition to your adventuring job.

So my guess is that at first you’ll be better off just buying things from retainers when you need materials from other jobs. When you start crafting as early as possible i think you don’t really have a choice, since you can not travel to the other capitals to learn the other gathering/crafting jobs.

One thing i wish i knew before changing over to gathering: you should keep some level 1 clothes- otherwise you are going to begin your gathering life in your undies. Fortunately there’s new clothes when you get to level 5 in your job. I guess one could buy something from vendors or other players, but i just “walked it off”.

The hunting log also gets a positive mention – i understand this as some relative of the deed system from Lotro: you get a list of enemies to hunt down and get extra rewards for doing so. Tier 1 of those was quite easily completed just by following quests and backtracking a bit for enemies i fought before attaining the hunting log. There’s something similar for gathering- you can see where to get resources and what resources you already gathered. I don’t know if this one comes with experience bonus, as well.

And finally, i really liked that i could retire to an inn room before logging out to get resting experience, which amounts to experience bonus for defeating enemies as in most other games. As said, this game seems to have a love for details- resting in a guest room is one of these things.

The downsides

Every MMORPG has them, right? So far, i’ve only encountered one- and a highly subjective thing at that- there’s cutesy stuff all over. But really, i’m happy with those as well if i’ll continue to have as much fun with this game as i had this weekend.

Other than that- well, some might call the game “business as usual”- when you look at mechanics, combat mechanics especially, there isn’t much new about this game- and also when you look past combat, almost everything has been there in other games.

Conclusion

FF14 won’t get your attention by proclaiming innovation and/or new features, but somehow it manages to bring older, missed ones back into a new game. I had a lot of fun with it, it even made me read quest and help texts…and enjoy it. It’s a long time ago that i chose to fight some more enemies or gather some more resources than needed just because i had fun doing it, but it happened to me in this game.

Once again, i was in for a big surprise- it’s funny that this seems to happen always with games where i don’t expect much. I’m really looking forward to next saturday when early access starts.

Why i chose Rift…for now

Since i started this blog, i tried to pin down my expectations of a good MMORPG, why i chose to stick to only one of them right now and what/why i’d like to see in a Sandbox MMORPG. Now, i repeat myself (a lot), i guess that’s part of being new at this writing thing, as well as having difficulties in expressing thoughts in a short and concise way.

Today i’d like to elaborate why i chose Rift as my MMORPG of choice right now- see, i tried returning to it in the beginning of the year when it was still a subscription game, bought Storm Legion, got to play three times in the month i subbed and left again- only to return when they announced Rift going free-to-play. Why?

Rift has a classic feel

Nowadays Rift feels like one of the last members of the “WoW-Clone”-Club. When you think about it, it released in March 2011, only 9 months prior to Star Wars: the old republic. Now, SWTOR already chose to shake mechanics a little up, put more emphasis on the storyline of their classes, shrank the group size to 4 and tried to do something different. Rift didn’t. Rift was released very much as something you might call a newer World of Warcraft with one new mechanic, the Rifts.

At release time, that was a negative for me- sure, i had fun for three months, reached the level cap and asked myself if i really want to do the same dailies every time i log in- Raiding is not really my thing and i had levelled by way of dungeons i think starting with level 30, so i really didn’t want to continue doing only dungeons, so i quit.

It was only after certain modern games released- these improving gameplay, especially combat, very much in comparison to the WoW-era-MMORPGs that i suddenly started missing the “modern classic” feel of games like Rift (WoW, AoC, Lotro, Aion etc.). Combat being a little on the strategic side, Dungeons with the familiar holy trinity, Quest texts (i never thought i’d miss those) and so on.

Rift has changed

Trion did a very good job in transforming their game from being almost exactly like World of Warcraft to being more alike to Everquest 2. Now, fans of EQ2 might not agree with this; their favourite game surely is its own thing- i never saw the housing of EQ2 and i don’t think the crafting is similar. But Rift grew, not only vertically, but also to be a broader experience. Trion added so many things to the gameplay experience that Rift 2013 doesn’t look very much like Rift 2011. Off the top of my head, they added:

  • Fishing and Survival as two hobby experiences
  • Instant Adventures
  • Onslaughts
  • Chronicles
  • Dimensions (the housing system)
  • Hunt Rifts
  • Ember Isle
  • the Storm Legion Content

The two new continents have a very unique look and feel, and exploring them has been fun.

Free-to-play

Now, when you get to play the game you subscribe to three times a month, you could argue it’s not really worth a sub. But that’s not why free-to-play is a reason to choose Rift- the players are. At least when f2p was new, Telara was bursting with new and returning players in a good mood and a willingness to play that game- as opposed to a launch where the mood is usually a bit more sceptical. It seems to be a good time to pick that title up again.

The model Trion uses is very fair in my opinion, especially when you bought stuff prior to the transition- i can access all of the content without restrictions.

Something to return to and variety

You can do PvE in a lot of different ways, PvP is still there, of course, as is crafting, the shinies (collectibles), Achievements, hobbies and finally, with the introduction of dimensions, Rift has something a player would want to return to. I still haven’t started with that, but it’s something i very much look forward to do.

Outlook

Rift doesn’t bring all i’d expect to the table, but it’s as close as it gets when you put fun in the equation. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s not tempting to visit other worlds, as well- i might even look at Wildstar or TESO if their release dates are much closer than the release of ArcheAge in the west.

I don’t expect EQ Next to release before the end of 2014, EQ Next Landmark will get released this year and i’ll surely have a look at that (if i can do that with my SOE account). I’m not sure about the Repopulation. Wildstar and TESO seem to be headed towards an early 2014 release, but i expect ArcheAge in that timeframe, as well. And, judging from all i know so far, ArcheAge is the game i expect the most right now.

Rift, on the other hand, will continue to change. What’s revealed about 3.0 so far sounds intriguing- we’ll see how that goes. Until i leave for greener pastures, i’d like to bring my mage to level and crafting cap, build a dimension or two and start playing the “side-games” of shiny-collection, fishing/survival and Achievement hunting.