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:
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.
Yesterday, Trion Worlds teased a new game. If you go and take a look at the comments on Massively Overpowered, as well as on mmorpg.com, you’ll see a lot of negative comments for a game that’s only been teased as of right now. We don’t know anything besides some art piece that serves as a background for a homepage. Of course, these comments don’t attack the game, they attack Trion Worlds- and it makes me sad. Compare that to the positivity we saw when it was announced Trion would publish ArcheAge and you’ll see Trion has a problem on its hands there.
But it’s not only Trion. Daybreak can’t get a break, as well, especially since it was announced that the dev priority is now in EQ Next and not Landmark anymore– but it’s been negative ever since they went from being SOE to being Daybreak and a few high-profile employees left- or had to leave – the company.
Of course, Blizzard is making us pay subscriptions and for mounts in their cash shop while delivering content at a very slow pace and taking away flying for most people. We don’t like Perfect World because of their monetization schemes. We dislike NCSoft for closing City of Heroes and/or Tabula Rasa (this is the one i miss dearly). Carbine is quite bad for delivering a raid endgame, ArenaNet has lost goodwill, as well, maybe since the perceived lack of delivering something akin to their design manifesto, maybe for overprizing HoT or something else entirely. Bioware turns SWTOR into a single player game and uses a f2p model where they make the customers pay and Funcom overpromises and does launches bad.
I think, right now, the only company who’s somewhat seen in a positive light is Square for closing and reopening Final Fantasy XIV. While i think they deserve the praise, i think we shouldn’t behave like that.
In defense of ArcheAge
I don’t really see Trion at fault here- i mean, one could say that they should have looked at how exploits, hacks and so on work in that game- but in the end, they delivered a product we were wanting very badly. I think the hacking/exploiting was the main problem in AA, this is what sucked the fun out of it for me- because i felt that crafting and so on was made worthless if someone else could just cheat his or her way out of the system, especially with housing spots. But this stuff isn’t really in Trion’s hands.
As for the cash shop? I don’t know. Yes, selling Labor point potions might be a bit much, but i don’t see it as critical- first of all, the labor point system was in place since before the game went free-to-play. Personally, i like a system like that, because there’s a stop gap on what one account can do each day. It allows dirty time casuals like myself to not lose contact to others so quickly and it also makes players prioritize what they spend their LP on. You can learn and level all crafting professions in AA- labor points is used to maintain interdependancy in the game. If they didn’t have that, crafters could just craft everything by themselves instead of trading with other players. This might be what we want, but in my opinion, this takes away some of the fun that is to be found in MMORPGs.
In defense of Trion
Myself, i really like Trion. I still do, even if i was quite disappointed at how ArcheAge turned out to be, as well. But if you’d take a look at their other games- you know, those they actually developed, namely Rift, Defiance and Trove, i think they are doing a decent job, especially with Rift and Trove. If you think Trion is a company desperately trying to “steal” your money, you should take a look at Trove. Regular, meaty updates that take player feedback into account and a monetization that is quite fair. I don’t begrudge anyone trying to sell me something, i simply decide whether the game is fun to play and if what is offered/the prize it’s asking is worth it to me.
We are customers, not fans
Massively Overpowered had this article about MMO terms that should just go away- for me, there are two terms that rub me the wrong way- first, it’s when someone calls playing an MMO “work”, as in “i worked so hard to get gear x,y and now they’re nerfing it”- you’re not working, you’re playing a game. The second one is “fans”. While it might be true in some ways, i think it creates a slightly off mindset. If you think about “fans”, the first thing that comes to mind are sport teams- for us over here it’s soccer/football, for north americans it might be american football/baseball and so on.
Now, fans of teams get passionate, they do. When things aren’t looking so good for their team, they’ll look for someone to blame, will probably find someone and will want him or her gone. But these fans always want the best for their team.
In the other direction, i think it makes devs feel to safe when they think about us, the players, the customers, as fans- there might be some fans to each games- i think all those who create fan sites should be considered fans- but the main body of us? We’re customers- devs/publishers will have to offer a product that’s worth its prize.
We should be more fan-like
I’ve stated before that in my personal opinion, MMORPGs are in a decline. It’s not the license for printing money everyone thought it to be in 2006 to 2010. MOBAs used to be it, but i guess that time’s over now, as well. Maybe survival is next (i think we’ve only seen indie survival games up until now). 2015 turned out to be a better year for MMORPGs than i thought when it began, but this is for existing MMORPGs, mostly. There are quite a few indie MMORPGs in development, and some of them might even be great (Repopulation and Shroud of the Avatar, looking at you here), but if we are honest about it, few of them, if any, should be considered Triple A. Those times seem to be gone.
I think we should be more positive with the people/devs who provide us with games from our favourite genre. I think especially developers, so those guys actually creating these games for us, are very enthusiastic about what they’re doing- because frankly, i think there’s more money to be made elsewhere with the skillset they have. I have little doubt, as well, that people like Scott Hartsman, Joel Bylos, John Smedley and so on love what they’re doing. Maybe sometimes they’ll make tough decisions we don’t like, but they’re doing this with the best intentions for their company, even if it might seem that it isn’t in our- the customer’s – best interest. But i don’t think we can blame them for that- making games is also a business.
We might not be “fans” of certain games or certain companies, but we are fans of the genre and would benefit greatly if the genre was doing fine- in quality and quantity.
If all these companies we “don’t like” are gone- who will provide us with the games we love to play?
So i’m looking forward to seeing what this new Trion game is, give them credit for what they’ve done with Rift and Trove, at least, and just hope it’s something ambitious- either self-developed or published- we need that.
By the way, the best guesses i’ve seen so far seem to indicate it’s possible that Trion might be publishing Lost Ark in NA/EU.
So, i’ve been quiet for a few days due to real life stuff, not much game time and no “hot topic” to discuss. I’ve played some Final Fantasy and will come around to that. For now, i’d like to focus on two impressions i had after reading articles and comments of the two games mentioned in the title.
It seems XLGAMES go through a restructuring period after Archeage didn’t become the huge success they expected it to be in Korea. This is a rumour, mind you, and it is clearly stated as such in the article’s title. The news itself doesn’t need to surprise anyone- it’s a familiar path newly released games go through: from being a new hope to good sales, dropping subscriber numbers, transitioning to free-to-play and laying off staff- that’s the way things seem to go in the MMORPG business right now. It is unfortunate, but when you take a look at the last MMORPGs that released as pay-to-play products- namely The Secret World and Star Wars: the old Republic; both didn’t make it to one year as a purely pay-to-play game. So it’s not a surprise that ArcheAge shares their fate, right?
In that line of thought, i wasn’t surprised when the game went f2p in Korea, although i still have some worries with a Sandpark/Sandbox being free-to-play. Fallen Earth does a great job with that and i don’t know what Archeage does in Korea. Also, despite AA being one of the formerly 3, now 2 future releases of sandboxes i’m watching out and waiting for, i didn’t follow the developement of the game in Korea – i read two reviews of the game with one’s conclusion being “meh” and the other seemingly having a good time and hopes for the game, but i don’t know how they’re making money now or what changes from the earlier advertised vision were made.
I don’t think steam-driven hot rods are a huge shift in design philosophy, but what i read in the comments of the linked article worries me; for instance, the removing of a durability system for gear. Now, i’ve mentioned it before and i’m going to reiterate that: to have a player driven economy, items need to vanish into nothing just like they came into being out of nothing. If the game’s not doing that, the economy won’t work. In a themepark, it doesn’t matter much- you can do something with interdependency of crafters instead of the markets. But we all know how that turns out: it will be “time” that sells in the auction house- resources, for example, are going to be more expensive than finished products…and why is that? Because they vanish and it takes time to get them back.
Also, nevermind that goats used to be the moneymaker in the game- that happens, design mistakes are going to be made and corrected, but the general impression in the comments seems to be that Archeage got “dumbed down” to themepark levels with sandpark possibilities. I don’t know what these changes would be, but from reading Massively a lot, i know the commentors who stated that and know that they aren’t talking out of their backends.
Archeage went from being the new hope of MMORPGs to DOA in the comments of Massively without even being released in NA/EU. That has to be a new record. Also, this makes me wonder about us, the players and customers in this genre- now we are dismissing games before they even release, and that doesn’t bode well, in my opinion. I’m going to continue to wait for ArcheAge, although i have to say: tough luck, Final Fantasy XIV ARR is great and i like it a lot, so any new game would have to compete with that.
Final Fantasy XIV
Talking about that one, the free trial seems to be extended for 7 days. And also, today marks the day they want to get over their launch issues which are: too many players want to play the game. As with Archeage, it’s the comments that really make this article interesting, since the extension of the free game time is not surprising after many players, including me, had difficulties with playing the game.
To call this launch “failed” and attacking Square Enix for not implementing a “proper queue” or afk timers is a bit harsh, in my opinion. MMORPG launches usually come with their share of problems- in Guild Wars 2, my guild had to invite everybody everyday for almost a week and there was trouble with the guild chat and other stuff. The auction house and the forums were deactivated; you could play the game, but with a guild starting its life the problems with the guild interface were extremely bad, but it had to be expected to some extent. Also, huge spikes of players after release are nothing new and i actually think developers are in the right when not opening up servers like crazy in these days only to find them depopulated after a few months.
So i couldn’t play it in the evenings, which is my time to play during the week, and my last time playing it was sunday morning despite wanting to play sunday afternoon and on the evenings since then. I tried, got 1017’d and left. Guess what? I watched a movie and read a book instead and it was fun. I’m looking forward to playing FF14 for quite some time, and the staggering launch won’t change that. And in a year or two, when/if i’m still in Eorzea, the launch won’t matter in the slightest.
What matters is the game- and this one is great- it is interesting to explore and play. I can’t really understand why people are so disenfranchised by a few evenings of not being able to play as to pass on this game just because of that. If you want to enter a new MMO smoothly, just wait 2 weeks before buying it.
Game time: Final Fantasy XIV
I was ingame, though, and i experienced the first bits of group content, which i liked very much. There are two downsides: one is the small group size- i like 5 people being a party- and the other one is me being a healer. Both are minor, the latter my own “mistake” for playing Conjurer first. Right now, i know the Arcanist is more up my alley, but i don’t want to play that up to 15 before going on in my story, although it wouldn’t take that long, i guess.
But my first goal is being able to sell and store stuff, so i am “rushing” to get retainers. With my gaming schedule being a bit weird, in the way that i don’t usually know if i’m going to play for 30 minutes or 3 hours, it’s not easy to plan for the mandatory Dungeons you have to enter in the storyline of the game. I went into Sastasha and am now approaching Tam-Tara. When i know my gaming session will be short, i just gather up some herbs and lumber as a Botanic. The next time, though, i’ll want to fight stuff. I know i’m not going into a dungeon before the weekend, so i might be switching over to Arcanist again and see where it leads me.
So, again, here is my revised list of goals in Final Fantasy XIV ARR:
get retainer access by advancing in the storyline
bringing the Arcanist up to par (probably Level 20 by then)
bringing the Botanic and Weaver up to par (probably Level 20 by then)
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
Dimensions (the housing system)
the Storm Legion Content
The two new continents have a very unique look and feel, and exploring them has been fun.
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.
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.