This is the last week the Grand Master Pack (aka lifetime subscription) will be available for The Secret World. It’s also on sale right now for 150$/€. Ironweakness, who started … Continue reading TSW’s Grand Master pack: still worth it?
Funcom – the new good guys?
I don’t know about you, but for me, i’ll always support the “good guys” in the genre. Last year, i thought SOE might shape up to be the new good guy on the block, but since SOE went Daybreak, the news we got were more in line with what happened to Trion after Scott Hartsman returned to the company as CEO. Remember Trion? They are the company behind Rift, and they were- i think- the most popular developer of MMOs up until Rift went free-to-play, although Defiance had put a stain on their white vest already. When it was announced that Trion would be publishing ArcheAge, it was met with great positivity.
Nowadays, Trion isn’t so popular anymore. And even pressed hard, i don’t think i could come up with any studio that’s regarded in a similar way. City state entertainment (Camelot Unchained) seems to be quite popular, but in reality, this is easy for people who haven’t released a game yet.
If we’re looking for a good guy in MMORPG development space, for me, there’d need to be some qualities i’d like to see:
- quite open communication
- an honest, straight-forward business model in their game(s)
- a noticeable will to do what’s best for their games and players
- not outright abandoning any games that don’t perform so well
With all that in mind, my current favourite would be Funcom. Yes, they messed up launches in the past- Age of Conan and Anarchy Online are famous for that. And maybe there were “misunderstandings” when you played through Tortage and realized that the game was quite different later on. Also, they seem to be unable to create a compelling crafting system/economy. But i have the feeling, they’re doing the best they can.
Doing what’s best for their games and players
We know their financials aren’t looking too good, and it seems The Secret World is carrying the weight of the other games in Funcoms portfolio- so it is understandable that their main focus in development would be in TSW. But they haven’t forgotten Age of Conan. New content has been released, the achievement system, while not content in a strict sense, is a system where you can play around even if you are a dedicated long-time veteran of the game.
With the focus of the guild project turning to AoC, i also found that the atmosphere in AoC is interesting, very unique (i thought about another MMORPG with that kind of mood, but i don’t know any) and very well done. Funcom were able to deliver on that even before TSW.
Also, their games feel different. The Secret World moreso than Age of Conan, but to call any of them a “WoW clone” would be quite wrong. You won’t find a game similar to TSW (yet), with the huge focus on story, a brave attempt at cutting down on quest log entries which in effect makes quests more noticeable and important as well as easier to follow and pick up again after some absence.
For instance, in TSW i relogged into my character in the Blue Mountains and it was an easy return- she only had one quest open (two if you count the main story quest) and only one hotbar with abilities- getting reacquainted was an easy task. I also found out how their EPE update made life better- the current quest took me to fight Ah’kabs…lots of them. See, i’m pretty sure they were the reason why i logged out the last time i tried to play TSW and haven’t really returned since. This time, they were still annoying, still not easy to fight mobs, especially when you pull more than one of them, but fighting them was enjoyable.
So they also do what’s in the best interest of their games and players- i’m including the current sales which seem to have brought a lot of new players to the game. In game, it almost feels like a relaunch similar to what happens after a business model change.
Business models in Funcom games
I find The Secret World and Age of Conan to be honest in their business models, as well. They are different- TSW is buy-to-play, Age of Conan basically is free-to-play for levelling and a subscription game at level cap. Both heavily rely on dedicated players to pay the bills which is a nice change to all those PLEX/REX/CREDD/WoW token games that monetize new players. With TSW’s sales, you can get all the currently available content (with the exception of the side-stories, maybe) for 50$.
In Age of Conan, i looked for a reason to subscribe, but there’s really no reason to if you aren’t at level cap. My main reason for looking is the ability to unlock a character with a level above 20, so i could create a guild for the guild project- the perks i’d have for subscribing would be menial, though. A little Alternate Advancement that only really starts at level-cap, anyway, more bag space and…that’s it, i think. Well, some Funcom points.
I can’t talk about Anarchy Online because i don’t know the game and business model, but these two, i find to be quite easy to understand, fair to the players and sensible in what they do.
Yes, it seems there is a little bit of complaining around as somehow deals for new players to join are seen as “screwing” their loyal customer base. I don’t agree- games always go into discount some time after release and, especially in MMOs, free-to-play, item shops and digital sales have stabilized prizes somewhat. I mean, Elder Scrolls Online, for instance, was sold for 20$ in january, when they announced the change to buy-to-play. Nowadays, it’s 60$ again, and still one of the best-selling games on Steam and Amazon.
I don’t really know how it is nowadays, after Joel Bylos went to his new project, but when he was around, he communicated very open and honest in the official game forums.
So, for now, i declare Funcom my current favourite developer. I feel like they’re doing their best within their financial abilities, they treat their customers like adults and they aren’t afraid to try new things in their games or change their games in ways that ultimately benefit all their customers.
Towards a bright future
I’m excited, again. This is a result of a few events since i last wrote.
Time is running
First of all, i haven’t had much time to play all through september until the middle of this month. What i do then is what i should always do: fire up the games i like to play in this moment. See, since i know i won’t be playing for longer than, let’s say, 1 hour , there’s not much of a point to “force” myself into those MMORPGs i decided to treat as “main MMO”- if i’m in the mood for some The Secret World atmosphere, so be it.
As a result, i’ve played that one in those weeks where my weekly average playtime was about 3-4 hours. Sometimes i started something else- like Lotro, for example, and even Star Wars: the old republic (which i still find surprisingly enjoyable, but more on that later). So these 6-8 weeks freed me up, as a result, my list of MMOs i play grew back again.
The other game
Now, there has been Syl’s NBI armchair game designer – or how that other MMO keeps ruining my gameplay experience and i wholeheartedly agree, as someone who falls into the same trap more often than not. I keep thinking about how nice it would be if MMO x borrowed feature a from MMO y with a twist of MMO z’s way of handling things. Or i bemoan missing stuff, thing the game developers have done wrong and so on. As a result, every MMO experience feels incomplete.
I like them all in one way or the other- well all of those i covered here- from Fallen Earth to EVE, Vanguard, TSW, Rift, Lotro, FF14 and so on- they’re all great in some ways and lacking in some others. Being in one of them makes me miss some others. Or even think about that MMO that is sure to come out “soon” which will be a perfect fit for me. I used to think about ArcheAge in that way, and before i really liked GW2, but it turns out that none of those is perfect. And believe me, Black Desert won’t be perfect, as well.
I think this mentality has resulted in what i’d call the first deemed-failure-before-release MMORPG, ArcheAge. If Jef is thinking of jumping ship to another MMORPG that’s even further down the line (with no word on NA/EU release whatsoever), many others will be already done with ArcheAge.
So i’ve come to the conclusion (before reading Syl’s posting, but his words really fit perfectly) that one should enjoy those MMOs that are out there- there’s no point in always chasing the next release- which i think the community’s been doing since the release of Age of Conan.
The Secret World should be a hit
When playing TSW, i always think that this poor game is neglected because of…well, i don’t know. Maybe because it launched too close to GW2, maybe it is because it’s a bit rough around the edges or maybe it is because those who tried it found it to be “more of the same”, a mistake quite easily made when you give the game only an hour or so.
When you dive in, though, there are so many points where TSW innovates and tries new stuff that one would think all those players who scream for “something different” (myself included) should happily be playing The Secret World. The quest system might look like “more of the same”, but it isn’t. You’d have to give the game a little bit of your time to realize that, but the quests in TSW are very interesting story-wise and they offer a lot of variety.
Also, The Secret World is a game where it really is about the journey- i think one could run through everything in a quite short amount of time, but that wouldn’t be the point. I agree with Syp that story-wise, the Secret World is as good as it gets in MMO space.
But even if you’d play through the experience and were “finished”, with the releases of content (Issues) down the line, you could always expect to return to TSW for a short time- and i’ve heard those storylines are really great. The business model is a very good one, as well. You don’t need anything from the shop (except additional content) and you don’t suffer any restriction compared to subscribers. In a way, it’s quite like GW2’s business model- without the lockboxes and with stuff you’d like to buy in the item shop.
What i like very much about TSW, as well, is the balance in group/solo play. TSW doesn’t force you into grouping up (unfortunately it forces you to do some of the stuff solo) except for dungeons, but a group is really handy because the fights in this game take some time. If you can get a friend to join you, it’s more fun and easier.
I am glad i’ve “returned” to The Secret World, it’s a great experience that works very well with my gaming schedule and playstyle. Of course, if another game beckons me again, i’ll be there. And by now i already know when this is going to happen and with what game.
A good guild
I’ve always thought that guilds play a big part when it comes to longevity of an MMORPG- and right now, i’ve made a good choice. In the past, i’ve made no experiences with guilds despite almost always joining one in the games i play. Most of them were chat channels, the german guild i joined in Rift was a chat channel where tidbits of voice chat conversations would sometimes appear.
I think a guild should be more, though. And it’s not about going to dungeons or getting help, it’s about building community. At least if a guild is always recruiting it should always do community building. How much that can be, i learned in the TSW cabal i just joined.
There’s a cabal meeting every month- i can’t remember when i last was member of a guild that did guild meetings, possibly the ones i co-founded / co-lead. Guild meetings allow the members to meet up, see the characters of the other people even when they are at different stages in the game. Also, you can catch up to news about the guild, talk to the other members and stuff like that. It helps. Especially in a game like The Secret World that doesn’t really allow you to chat and play along simultaneously.
There’s also a newsletter/magazine published by quite a talented member of the community- it covers everything from news to articles provided by other members.
And the third reason i joined is a sub-group within that community that wanders different MMORPGs every few months. If interest is high enough, recruitment for the guild founded in that game will commence and it will become a part of the community. So Multigaming and game-hopping are built in.
What i like is that there is a vision, and there is an idea how to follow through on this vision. It’s neither a casual nor a “hardcore” setup in this guild. I feel great with these guys, and while probation is still ongoing for me, i’m already confident that i’ll stay with them in the long term. If they don’t kick me, that is 😉
Soon we’ll embark on a new adventure in a new game, and i’m pretty excited to start with this group of people.
Sticking to one MMORPG
As mentioned on my about-page, i recently decided to stop playing multiple titles at once. The main reason for this is that i don’t play much, really. It is a beloved hobby for me, but it still is just that- according to Raptr my gaming time amounts to about 10 hours a week. That’s an amount some reach in 1 or 2 days, and in my experience even players calling themselves casual can do that in 3 or 4. Now, imagine me trying to split these 10 hours up to play Guild Wars 2, Lord of the Rings Online, The Secret World, Rift sprinkled with Defiance and/or Planetside 2. And, of course, don’t forget about singleplayer games. My backlog on those is so impressive that i wouldn’t need to worry about having something to play until the end of 2014, at least.
So i decided on two things.
First, regarding single-player games: i only buy those on sale- the Steam sales being of priority, but i wouldn’t mind spending my money elsewhere when it seems appropriate. But of course, there are temptations- right now, The Raven (i love whodunits) and Europa Universalis 4 are on that list. I won’t go into more detail here, since i called this blog Party Business and none of these titles allow for parties.
Regarding MMORPGs it’s the same thing- i decided that i’ll stop treating Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World as such. Mind you, of course they are MMORPGs- and very good ones at that. Actually, i found one of them my biggest disappointment of 2012 and the other one the biggest surprise of 2012, but i still know they’re both great games. It’s just that, i think SynCaine used that term first (can’t seem to find the actual post, unfortunately) – they are “play-to-finish MMORPGs”. They have a storyline, they are great at what they do, but they both have a point where i’d say they wouldn’t hold my interest any longer. With GW2, that would be after the 100% achievement, with TSW it would be upon finishing the story content. Both of them could still pull me in with updates and/or living story, but i could see the end of the tunnel. And this is something i don’t like in MMOs. I wouldn’t say i’m done with these two games, but i stopped trying to build a MMO rotation around them. The same goes for Defiance.
Strangely enough, not seeing the end of the tunnel is the main reason why i also decided to let go of Lord of the Rings Online. The levelling content in this game is overwhelming- my last effort here brought me into Moria, but came to a halt there. Now, i love Lotro, somehow- it’s an interesting game to play and the amount of content could be a positive, i’d love to see places like Lorien, Isengard and Rohan, but i would need to wade through Moria to reach those places. A good kinship could help, but good guilds are really hard to find and even harder to get warm with for a guy playing 10 hours a week and taking a dislike to voice chat.
Now this leaves me with Rift- some of you who read the first posting here might ask why i don’t play EVE and i would be hard pressed to answer that. Rift has some things going for it- the levelling content is there, but it’s not overwhelming, and you can level in different manners. I also much prefer the combat over the combat of Lotro. Then there are dimensions which are incredibly interesting and fit the bill of something to return to. The group options and content in general leave me with the impression of Rift being a MMORPG, i think Trion are one of the best devs/publishers out there and the free-to-play option is good. Rift doesn’t fit all of my expectations towards a MMORPG, but right now, i think it’s the best option for me. Why that is, i might explore on another post.
As long as you don’t count the temptations, again. After the reveals of EQ Next, and i have to state again that while i might sound critical of that game i really think it has the potential of being a game changer- EQ2 is singing its siren song and i can clearly hear it. So loud, in fact, that i decided to make saturday an anything-goes-day and found myself in Norrath. People say EQ2 has lots of content, interesting places to visit, good, long-lasting quests and other activities to make a longterm commitment viable, and that’s why i’ve been in Norrath three times already but made it only to level 12 by now.
Still, i’m trying to resist that call, since i’m not only looking for a good mmo home, but also for a good guild and companionship. I think, for me, the key to finding the magic of MMORPGs again lies in focus- a focus on game, guild as well as playstyle.