Tag: wildstar

Games i’d like to see the end of

That isn’t asking for a close-down, to the contrary, actually.

Part of being a dirty time-casual is that there are way more gaming options out there than could possibly fit in the schedule. This is both in relation to games in general and in terms of MMORPGs. I’ll take a look at the latter here. Even when I was very happy to stay in Elder Scrolls Online for the first half of the year as well as with my choice for the second half, there are quite a few MMORPGs I’d like to see through to the end.

Lord of the Rings Online: If I were able to stick with it, i’d be playing it right now. Lotro is beautiful, especially the landscapes. Turbine did their very best to recreate one of the most iconic fantasy worlds out there- and succeeded, in my opinion. Unfortunately, I think its time comes to an end (not official! just gut-feeling) in the coming year, due to licensing. I’m sure they’d keep the lights on as long as possible- but when they aren’t allowed anymore? Who knows. Could WB save it or simply not care to shut it down? Possible, I don’t know. But we do know the license is up in 2017.

Still, I could play it whenever the mood strikes- and I possibly will at some point, but whenever i think about the need to see this recreation of middle-earth, I remember Moria and a sigh escapes my mouth. Honestly, not even Gandalf wanted to go there. Could Lotro still be a subscription game if they had chosen overland zones for their first expansion?

Maybe i’ll get past that, at one point. I hope so.

tsw_kirsten

The Secret World: No problems with this game whatsoever, just difficulty to put it into my rotation. Sure, it only has missions as content, but it has one of the most engaging storylines in the genre.

Blade and Soul: There aren’t many MMORPGs that have an eastern setting and flavor of story while being a triple-A product and quite fun to play. Blade and Soul is one of them.

Wildstar: Look, revenue is increasing…but it’s still at $2 million a quarter. That’s really not all that much. I still feel this is undeserved- it is a solid MMORPG maybe released at a time when many were tired of that old formula and Wildstar maybe didn’t do enough to shake it up. I have to confess that here, i wouldn’t be in it for the game, the zones, the story, the atmosphere, but the housing. In Wildstar, housing would be my endgame; unfortunately, I feel it starts too slow despite being introduced at an early level.

Summer Walkabout

So our small guild is taking a summer break from guild activities from the end of june to the end of august. May and especially june have shown already that this is a smart decision, as the last couple of events had some last-minute-cancellations already. For the most part it didn’t matter as we were still more than a full group to do our stuff. Yesterday, though, marked the first time i had to cancel on short notice. As i’ve said, i try my best to attend guild events that i set up and yesterday, we wanted to try and form a group for a dungeon. As far as i know, we would’ve been only three people attending anyway, so we probably would have opted to do something different. I knew i had something else to do, but i was confident that (a) that would be wrapped up just before 9 p.m. and (b) our son would be so tired by that time that he’d basically fall asleep as soon as he lay in bed. As it turned out, i was wrong on both accounts- i was home at 9.30 and greeted by a still very happy and awake son. It took him until 10 p.m. to sleep, by 10.15 i was sitting at the pc, too late to start anything really and read the message from another guildie that we’d just cancel the event. While i’m really unhappy that it was me who didn’t show up, the truth is that real life can interfer with my gaming plans, as well.

In the next couple of weeks/months, i’ll be even more busy, as we’re moving house in the end of june, our son has to change kindergarten and we’ll have to do some stuff in our old house. So july’s free time will be occupied by stuff like that (in addition to watching football/soccer, as there is the Euro 2016). My guess is that settling into the new house will keep us busy in august, as well.

Nonetheless, i have gaming-related plans for these two months, if i can get some gaming time in.

wildstar

Planning ahead

For me personally, the guild’s summer break means i’ll rejoice in a two-month MMO wanderlust, if i want to. Right now, my limited time to play basically leads me to playing Elder Scrolls Online exclusively, which is a great thing as i like the game a lot and always wanted to settle down. On the other hand, the list of games i’d like to play from time to time grew significantly in the last couple of weeks. I have a few goals for ESO, but i’ll be an MMO hopper for the upcoming months. A word on EVE Online: still love it, but i think i’ll take a break for the summer, at least. I’m still a bloody newbie and playing once a week for 30 minutes won’t do much to change that. I’ll need to put EVE on hold until i begin to spend more time gaming again.

Goals for Elder Scrolls Online

Two months might be enough to get my main character from level 37 to 50. That should be around a level a week; there’s actually a chance i might be able to do that. It would be nice to have a character on maxlevel to get into collecting champion points and being able to do DLC content in a more meaningful manner. I feel i outlevel ESO’s zones too quickly- i don’t even have an idea where my ideal quest hub is right now, the quests i’m currently on in Malabal Tor are all green. And that’s just from dungeon delving and exploring Cyrodiil with the guild. This won’t be a problem anymore when One Tamriel gets released, but we’re not there yet.

walkabout_tsw

MMO Wanderlust

Oh boy, do i want to visit places. I’ll probably play some or all of the following games in the next couple of months.

 

Blade and Soul. I think Blade and Soul can be an excellent game to play in short sessions just for the fun of it. The combat is great, i like the setting, the graphics, the style. I’m really looking forward to playing it some more and probably trying the Soul Fighter, which seems to be quite a fun class. I’ve played some Blade and Soul in the last couple of days and i guess the main thing i need to decide is whether i’d like to move to an international server with new characers as the german one i’m on seems…kind of empty.

The Secret World. TSW is always on my to-do-list. I so hope to see the content this game offers some day. For me, Funcom are the good guys of the genre and i’m happy they seem to have put their financial trouble behind for now. There’s also the museum of the occult coming up, so i’m curious. And it’s the one MMO where our guild might actually meet for an out-of-ESO experience.

Wildstar. The housing is the biggest reason for Wildstar to be on this list. Others are the recent Steam launch and the fact that this MMO is on my personal 8-Ball-endangered-games list. The marketing “effort” Carbine and NCSoft put into their Steam launch didn’t do much in terms of confidence in this game. It’s a shame, actually, as the housing is great, the game does look good, offers a wide array of activities…for me it’s the combat and the bland questing experience that make the game unenjoyable, but i’ll go and visit it anyway.

ScreenShot00121

Lord of the Rings Online. Just like with TSW, i’d like to see the content here- or to be more precise, the landscapes.

World of Warcraft. Yes, i might. But i’ll avoid to sub until i’m level 20 with my newly created disc priest. My main motivation here is, again, landscapes, as Blizzard puts out very beautiful zone designs. I always wanted to see the WotLK zones in particular. This is probably going nowhere, but for now, it is included.

Tera. I might even install this. I have a new PC, the game looks good and the combat is good. Also because of it being featured on Rockpapershotgun yesterday.

Single Player. The backlog is long. I’d like to build a City in Cities: Skylines, a space empire in Stellaris, i’d like to roleplay in Skyrim, The Witcher 3, Mass Effect, shoot others in Overwatch and more.

I know this is way too much for two months- heck, if i focused, i’d probably be able to do most of it in two years. My main focus (besides ESO) will be on Blade&Soul, because my guess is that this will be the game that fits best into available time and playing mood- i think it can be played in shorter sessions, it seems to offer great solo content (that 100-level-thing interests me), it’s fun to play with the great combat, it offers a story i’m interested in and i guess it’s perfectly fine to be played as an alone-together-murder-simulator  MMO. Which might just be what i’ll be looking for in the next couple of months.

Quick Notes: Hew’s Bane, EQ Next & Wildstar

Hew’s Bane and Abah’s Landing

Yesterday’s guild evening began shortly after the news of Everquest Next’s cancellation broke, and i’m happy to report that we’ve been four players with two “regulars” missing- one sick, the other one surely on some other task, otherwise i know she would have been there. So my fears didn’t come true and we’re not out of our rhythm. The entry into the Thieves Guild DLC proved to be so exciting that i didn’t think of taking screenshots, so i can’t do a “Travel Log” yet. But as someone who hasn’t stolen one thing since it became illegal in Elder Scrolls Online and someone who avoids playing rogue-type characters at all costs, i can tell you it was huge fun. Sneaking into houses and stealing stuff in Elder Scrolls Online reminds me very much at The Secret World’s sabotage missions- only, it’s better, because your steps make sounds people can hear and i feel the reactions of the NPCs are more…realistic, somewhat. In the few sabotage missions i did in TSW i felt as if i was trying to avoid MMO mechanics- aggro range, for instance. In ESO, it feels much more like sneaking around. There’s also always the price at the end and, of course, whatever you care to steal on your way.

Great that you'll earn a costume by completing the first quest
Great that you’ll earn a costume by completing the first quest

Of course, being four people doing these missions, we were often seen and we haven’t managed to do even one mission without killing someone, but it was fun anyway and i’m happy to see this DLC being one i’ll be eager to play as soon as i’ll return from china.

I’ll probably write more about that, but i’d like to take a quick stab at why i think ESO will still be my number one MMO come april, regardless of how i feel about BDO: it’s because of me. I tried to cover that in my earlier post– if i were the same person i was four or five years ago, it would be Black Desert all the way. And i can understand the many, many positive impressions people have- i’m the same. But despite it offering almost everything, there’s something missing that i’m still finding in ESO- i guess it is about “connection”, or attachement. In ESO, i feel a connection to my character and the world and i miss that in Black Desert. Maybe that will change, maybe i should pay more attention to that black spirit thing, but right now, this is how i feel. I can still see BDO playing a huge role in my game rotation this year.

Everquest Next’s cancellation & Wildstar layoffs

I’m going to be brief here, because two months ago, when Ironweakness and i were planning our continuation of the Dual Wielding-thing, we set up two topics: negativity in the MMORPG community and the second one, to be posted on tuesday, about the future of the genre. Obviously, the cancellation of Everquest Next and the layoffs at Carbine will make an impression in that post. Suffice to say, i wasn’t really surprised, we kind of expected exactly the cancellation of the game to be the next thing we heard about it, as the silence before was deafening. So, remember my old blog, Party Business? I fired it up with the coming reveal of EQ Next, and i started it up with the intention to topically cover my search for a new MMO home i expected to find either in EQ Next, the Repopulation or ArcheAge. Great. One is now cancelled, the second one needs to move to a new engine and the third one was killed by its publisher and developer.

Gallows

For the Carbine layoffs, i feel sorry for the people affected and do hope they’ll find new jobs soon. But it’s also not really unexpected. The revenue numbers weren’t very good, even shortly after the transition to f2p and they’ll probably go down from there. I really kind of expect Wildstar to be the next big shutdown, maybe even as soon as this year. I think one reason for why it hasn’t already happened is that NC Soft knows full well that its popularity suffered under the closures of Tabula Rasa and City of Heroes. They don’t want to shut this one down, but in the end, they will. But this is just my guess.

So the genre? Commenters on Massively Overpowered seem to think it’s entering its grimdark times now. I both agree and (strongly) disagree- more on that on tuesday.

The Division

I can’t tell you much about that one yet- as said, i had a quiet week and have only reached my base of operations. I like it, but i was shocked to see that my pc doesn’t seem to fulfill the requirements. I can play, but i have to turn down the graphics by quite some degree. I’m not used to that- my pc is four years old and i started to notice that i just can’t put everything on “highest” since about a year or so, but having to put it on “low to medium” hurts. Still, it’s fun and oviously great to launch up and play a mission or two. It will also be the game i’ll be looking forward to see when i buy a new PC.

Personal notes and plans

For me, the following games are of interest right now:

  • Elder Scrolls Online
  • Black Desert Online
  • The Division
  • The Secret World
  • Blade & Soul

ESO will be the constant, Black Desert Online will be the “second choice”, everything else will be launched when the mood strikes me. Tomorrow evening, i plan to run a dungeon in ESO and i invited guild members to be there if they’d like to do one, as well.

Then there’s the now so timely post in the Dual Wielding edition on tuesday, and that will be it for march, gaming-wise, as we’ll be leaving for china on tuesday. From there, i might be able to post something (i think wordpress.com is blocked there, but not homepages run on the blogging software), but i doubt it will be gaming stuff.

Random thoughts

Misc

So my last post was published about 2 months ago. The thing with blogging, and i guess with playing MMORPGs in general is that it’s a hobby that drives itself- at least that’s the way it goes for me. If i’m enjoying myself, find a purpose in a game or writing about playing them, my time in game as well as writing here goes up. If there’s some kind of obstacle, be it work, RL-stuff, singleplayer games, other hobbies, interest in playing and writing goes down. The last two months have been a mix of those things- while i’ve still been busy in the MMO world, the real world also needed attention. Since this place is for MMOs, let’s focus on that part.

The guild/community

The (MMO)-time around and after that last posting went into planning and setting up the guild/community i’d like to build with a few friends. We developed a ruleset, actually quite similar to what the Remnants of Hope have in place, played different games in our dedicated group (The Secret World, for instance) and waited for Wildstar’s free-to-play transition to happen- to then begin recruiting and growing the community.

Unfortunately, for now it doesn’t seem to work out so well. We’re getting along, and what we have- the dedicated group of people who know each other- is great, but there are two things that didn’t go as well as we thought they’d go.

Recruitment, for instance. We put in a process similar to what i’ve seen elsewhere- submit an application form, go into a 4-week-probation while jumping some hoops (forum posts, ingame activity, stuff like that) and close that up with an interview. This process mainly had two goals: first, to dissuade people who weren’t really interested in the kind of community we want to build (reducing applications), and second to keep member counts low and find out whether recruits were a good fit.

As it turns out, this doesn’t seem to fly with the german gaming community. Of course, there could be more reasons for having received only one application in the first month of Wildstar f2p (and that one not fitting with our goals), but combine this restrictive recruitment process with a very small (5 people) and casually playing community and it seems to go nowhere. I’ve been part of a newly founded community before, and that one also started small (3 to 5 people), but we’ve never had that kind of trouble. In fact, we started recruitment in Guild Wars 2’s beta and were already 20 people when GW2 launched.

So for now, we’ve removed that recruitment process- at least officially. We’ll watch for the same stuff behind the scenes, but we don’t discourage people to apply for membership anymore. Of course, there’s not much need to. The first month of f2p is behind us, the number of players looking for a guild is low, the german parts of the Wildstar forums not very active anyway. We don’t expect a sudden rush into our walls anymore.

All the better, though, because it seems all of us are busy elsewhere. Wildstar activity isn’t very high, there’s a lot going on in other games and real lives, as well. So right now, we’re not really looking for more people, although it wouldn’t hurt and could inject some life in terms of activity in Wildstar if some people would join in. We’re still aiming for the “small and cozy tight-knit” type of community and i’m done with looking for other guilds- i’ll continue to try and build the community we started in the way we’d like to build it. And i’m patient. It’s not really about Wildstar activity or member count. What’s important for me is the situation 5 years down the road. I want that community to still live at that point, maybe with a roster of 10-20 players who are really close andplay different games together.

Wildstar

Talking about Wildstar- it’s great. It’s fun to play, it is interesting and it can offer wildly different things to do from session to session. It’s also the first MMO where my crafting ability is further developed than my adventuring ability. A little playing of the market and i’m sitting on my first platinum at level 22. Don’t know if that is very good- probably not- but i do know i wouldn’t have that much ingame gold if i wouldn’t have traded with other players.

The most fearsome costume i could find
The most fearsome costume i could find

Sometimes, it’s too much. When Shade’s Eve and the Hoverboard event were live, there were so many things to do that it was staggering. I’ve played a “normal” session yesterday, following the world- and zone story in Galeras and it was huge fun and almost liberating to simply ignore the event stuff. I’m still surprised by the size of the zones. Galeras is huge and varied.

Wildstar is also one of the few games where i can see a real endgame for me: collecting things like mounts & pets, costumes, recipes, building up the housing plot, soon hopefully the neighborhood as well as some pvp and pve-related stuff, diving deeper into the story, explore maps and making some ingame gold all seem viable options for endgame activities in Wildstar.

So it’s been great fun and it’ll continue to be- i’ll go slow, because i’m done with planning my freetime around MMORPGs, even if i want that community of ours to grow and prosper, level to 50 in Wildstar and so on. I won’t try and force things down my throat anymore.

Guild Wars 2

In that sense, something strange happened. One night we went into Guild Wars 2 in our dedicated group- and i loved it. In contrast to The Secret World, where the fact that we we’re running in our dedicated group is the main source for the higher enjoyment, in Guild Wars 2 it was the zones and the fact that it was fun to play and easy to remember. I’ll make it short- i caved, despite my best intentions to wait for a discount for HoT i bought it and i am glad i did.

Star Wars: the old Republic

The story of Knights of the Fallen Empire is really, really good. I’m in chapter 5 now and while i’m asking myself where the MMO went, i’ve heard that it will return once one has finished all the story bits. As a matter of fact, i’ve heard more than once that SWTOR is now more MMO than ever. I’m looking forward to seeing that and thanks to that gifted level 60 character, i can.

Hacking terminals

I’m sorry, but the 12XP game experience wasn’t for me, so i didn’t play anything to level 60. Playing without the 12XP boost felt a waste at that time, playing with the boost made me dislike all the travelling and fighting in-between the story. It’s the same for KotFE, really. Whenever the story stops to let me “play”, i’m kind of annoyed and want to get back to the story as fast as possible.

Now, i think Bioware has it right: there’s the story to follow in the 60+ level bracket, and if you play on the core worlds, you’ll be able to follow the planetary storylines as well as the class stories comfortably. While i haven’t tested it yet, i think this is the ideal pace for SWTOR to be an interesting, engaging and varied MMORPG. Of course there’s other helpers. Level-Syncing is great, as are soloable dungeons.

MMOs from asia

6 years old and still going strong and being beautiful

Now, there’s a topic for another day. I wanted to write about that, today, but this will need to wait. Some time last week, i started asking myself if there’s a reason why asian MMOs and the Korean audience are so different to us. I was looking at the korean audience, especially, because it’s quite easy to find out what the top MMORPGs in Korea are at any given time. Even if that site is in Korean you can find out the games easily when using Google Translate. So Lineage, Blade and Soul, Maple Story, Aion and Icarus are the Top 5 MMORPGs in that list. You’ll also be able to find World of Warcraft, ArcheAge and TERA quite quickly. The thing is- i looked into that Top 5 and was surprised at how different a european toplist would probably look. Surprise turned into curiosity, so right now, i’m also dabbling- and i really mean dabbling- in Aion and TERA (and maybe some closed beta).

I’m thinking that these games must have something– and don’t even try and tell me it’s all about slow PCs and internet cafés- there has to be more at work here. Systems, gamer culture, gameplay, whatever.

The curious case of Wildstar

OK, first of all- i’m not going to write anything regarding choice of guilds or games on this blog again, ever. It seems whenever i publish something along the lines of “i’ll stop looking for guilds” or “i’ll play only one game” or “i’ll play one hundred games” something happens that’ll make me reconsider. And then i’ll feel bad and think i couldn’t possibly blog about a change of affairs again. But since this is my internet-space here and it’s either being honest or shutting up, i choose the former.

For reasons i don’t want to elaborate on, it seems like one of my long-time online friends and me are going to start a guild/community of our own. It’s something i would have never thought would happen to me again, largely because of a lack of time and other commitments, but to be honest, i really looked around and couldn’t find a german community that is close to what i have in mind.

There are international communities that come very, very close, like Belghast’s FC in Final Fantasy XIV (where you’ll still find me when playing FF14) and i’d really recommend looking into The Arcane Light (for The Secret World and Skyforge, i guess) and/or the Remnants of Hope (for SWTOR, GW2 and Wildstar). Both of them are quite organised in terms of policies, though, which is my preference when it comes to guild/communities, but if you prefer a more casual approach to guilds, my advice would be to look into one of the new Massively Overpowered guilds, active in Marvel Heroes, SWTOR and Everquest 2, if i remember correctly. For my friends, though, joining an international community is not an option.

Now, we’re still in the planning phase and might still call it off, but it doesn’t seem likely. The funny thing is that we needed a game, as well, and didn’t know which one to pick- the best candidates were GW2, SWTOR and Wildstar. I’ll make it short, for our very first regular game, we chose Wildstar. This will be the game in which we’ll start looking for other players.

I think Wildstar is an excellent choice, because there are many elements you could tackle in a group- regarding PvE, but also social activities, especially with the coming neighbourhoods. Housing, Crafting, PvE and setting deviate from the norm- i don’t have the insight yet if these systems are implemented in a good way or not, but at least they’re there. And lastly, Wildstar is going free-to-play soon(tm) and there will be an influx of players returning or beginning with the game, providing us with a pool of potential guildmates.

And then, i started playing.

Nooria Mersault is born

Changes

My biggest concern with the game last year wasn’t the subscription- it was that i found the game to be utterly stressful- mob spawn rates were almost as fast as in Vanguard-on-life-support, the action combat made combat an active thing, which is great, gameplay-wise, but in addition the game kept shouting at me. Challenge here, challenge there. LEVEL UP. And so on. Also, Elder Scrolls Online also launched in that same timeframe, so Wildstar had to compete with that. At that time, i preferred Elder Scrolls Online.

There are a few subtle changes in Wildstar that improved the game experience much in my opinion. Namely: using a mount at level 3 and the redesign of the “Challenge” UI. It doesn’t scream as much, anymore. And maybe i’m wrong, but i’ve got the feeling the time you have to finish a Challenge has been increased- these Challenges stressed me out, big time, last year- this time, i can do most of them easily.

Similarities

Wildstar is often compared to World of Warcraft- with the art style and the raiding, “hardcore” mentality and their obvious attempt to give “The Burning Crusade”-players a new home, i can see how this came to be. In my opinion, right now, and i’ve read something like that implied by Bhagpuss, as well, the comparison i’d make is Everquest 2, though.

There are many systems i really like in EQ2, and while Wildstar doesn’t do things exactly like EQ2, there’s a counterpart for almost everything.

Things i love about EQ2 are: open world bosses, an alternative and viable way to level from one to max in a group, open world dungeons, the crafting, housing and some “fluff” features like the shinies.

It's also quite beautiful
It’s also quite beautiful

While you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more modern MMORPG with the same type and scope in these systems, i think two games come relatively close: Rift and Wildstar. Sure, if you go through that list, almost every item will get a “yes, but” for Wildstar, but still, they’re there. There are open-world bosses and achievements tied to killing them, there are ways to level as a group- at least starting with the first shiphand at level 6 and the 5-level-distance of dungeons coming with free-to-play. They’re instanced, though. The crafting system is different, but i think it provides value (i’m an architect, by the way). There’s the path system and the wardrobe for fluff and then there’s a great housing system. There’s mount- and pet collecting and who knows what i still don’t know about.

Fun

The most important part is that i’m having quite a bit of fun in the game. It still is quite stressful; i’m level 12 now and have almost 20 active quests in my questlog- in my opinion, that’s too much, it’s distracting because you’ll log in and have to find out what you wanted to do next. Wildstar, more than other games in this genre, requires me to actively “take it slow”- if you let the pace of the game carry you along it will be exhausting.

That’s why i actively set time aside for exploration, gathering, crafting and soon housing and the auction house / commodity exchange, as well. As long as i’m able to pace the game down, i’ll be quite happy- and i’m really looking forward to free-to-play.

What i won’t do, though, is calling Wildstar my one-and-only MMORPG. I’ve got some goals to achieve in many, many other MMOs, as well. As i said in my last post: i’m done restricting myself and will simply do what feels right…and fun.

Interesting guild: Remnants of hope

I wonder why guild topics seem to be so underrepresented in the blogging community- is it because it’s a taboo topic, is everyone content in their guild, has everything been said on the topic or is it something you just don’t talk/write about?

My situation

See, the thing with me and guilds is this: i find them to be an interesting and very important part of MMORPG gameplay. It’s metagaming, alright, but it is important. As games and player mentality move away from a design where you would meet other interesting players in the respective game worlds, interact, socialize, add to friendlists, chat and so on, the importance of guilds as a social background to the games we play only rose in importance. Sure, guilds are there to achieve ingame goals, as well, but that’s secondary to me.

To weave such a social network, i think that guilds, or better yet- multigaming communities, need to put a framework out- some kind of structure within the community- to make it work. Yes, that means rules. And players willing to take a leadership role and responsibility. I have been in three multigaming guilds, all german, all “laissez-faire”, and found the experience to be lacking everytime. Sure, the people are nice, but in my opinion most people are and to me it just isn’t enough that players “are willing to help you if you ask for company in a dungeon”. With LFG-tools, i don’t need help with that.

So i’ve made a decision regarding my current multigaming guild (namely, for now i’ll just stick to my little project within that community and see how it goes, but will look out for a better fit, as well). Also, i kind of want to make “great guilds / communities” a topic here.

Remnants of Hope

So when researching communities – and i think it might be a good idea to turn this “bad” topic in a positive one- i came across the multigaming community Remnants of Hope. They’re active in Star Wars: the old republic, Guild Wars 2 and Wildstar. So they’re all games i don’t play, which is unfortunate, because i think, structurally, they’re great. I don’t know if they would be a good fit on a personal level, but there are lots of things i like about this community- on paper.

Recruitment

They do forum applications. And while i don’t like this way of doing things very much, i understand it is one of the better ways to go if you aren’t a small guild of friends who recruit personally but a community that also recruits “strangers”. But they take it one step further- if you’re accepted, you’ll have to pass some Trial membership goals- namely, there’s a number of forum posts expected, joining the guild in ingame activities (and they do those) and other stuff. If you fail to deliver, your application is going to be declined, but you may apply again after a short period.

Structure

The remnants of hope make use of ranks- there are officers for diverse playstyles within the respective games- it seems the minimum for officers is: PvE, PvP, social and recruitment. I like how they divided recruitment and social- then there’s the PvE officer for progression and the pvp officer for, well, pvp. In some games, they additionally appoint RP and crafting officers. This is the setup a guild should go for- and if every officer does his or her job, there will be many offerings of in-guild activities, ranging from PvE stuff to RP/social events- while not putting a large burden on a single officer. See, if every department puts out one event a month, there’s something for every week. Officers can also appoint Assistants (members willing to contribute would have to apply for that role), so that they can get help from other players.

A plan for opening and closing chapters

With all the guilds i joined so far, there’s been the “let them do what they want” attitude. So when a new game released and it was clear that a handful of members would want to play it, a chapter was opened up- if someone was willing to take the role of guild leader. The guild leader was appointed by doing a forum thread: “Hey, we want to play this game, but we need a guild leader. Who wants to do it?” and…. a lot of silence.

The Remnants of Hope have a process to open new chapters- members interested in forming one need to write a proposal to the community elders, who’ll then make a decision whether this new chapter has a chance to succeed. I imagine you’ll also have to name your guild leadership with the minimum of officers. This makes sure that there’s not only enough interest in a new game, but also enough interest and investment in a guild within this game.

They also have what they call “casual games”- now, i have limited forum access (of course, i’m not registered and don’t do interviews yet), so i don’t know for sure, but what i’d do with these “casual games” is found a guild without need for leadership (because it only consists of members of the community) and without recruitment. If someone wants to elevate the guild in that game to elevate to a real division, again, there needs to be a plan.

For closing chapters, it seems easy: the community elders question chapters when more than 50% of the officer roles are vacant for more than two weeks. If they think the chapter has run its course, they’ll ask the leadership of the chapter for their opinion. If this leadership thinks it is able to turn things around, there’s going to be a probation.

Conclusion

Easy enough, right? I think this is a good way of doing a great multigaming community- providing a framework for members to participate in forming the community, a process of recruitment that isn’t so easy and makes use of one simple thing: if a player invested time and energy to succeed in his or her “trial membership goals”, he or she also invested in the guild and community. You’ll want those players, because “let’s just recruit nice people and let them do whatever they like” ends in….inactivity.

Be ready when they come – Guild Wars 2

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

The landscape is beautifully done
The landscape is beautifully done

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

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

Guild Wars 2’s Heart of thorns

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

Some things changed, though
Some things changed, though

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

So you are saying i can become a Druid?

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

Guild Wars 2

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

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

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

Not impressed, but excited nonetheless

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

Friday’s findings

This week

I only played Everquest 2 this week, and i have to say it feels good to do so. I changed my plan, though, and continued questing through the Butcherblock Mountains. My Inquisitor now is level 30 and has a full inventory, so there’ll be some downtime before i get going again. Right now my plan is to finish the quests in my journal and then take a look at a dungeon in the mountains called Kaladim, a dwarven city where something went wrong during the cataclysm. It’s meant for levels 30 to 39, so it might be tough for me and the Merc, but i’ll see about that. It’s also “guarded” by level 35 elite mobs, so getting in will be the first test.

The entrance to Kaladim
The entrance to Kaladim

Before going there, i’ll finish up the quests i have accepted and begin the quest for my Leaper, so it’ll be a few levels by the time i venture to Kaladim to see if i can do something in there. With Level 40, Everfrost is calling me- it seems that it’s a beautiful zone, i like snow zones, so i’m eager to take a look- but there’s also some crafting to do to maybe catch up a little. Oh, and housing.

Well, you know, me and other people who complain a lot about MMORPGs getting more and more shallow, small and narrow minded, would do really well giving EQ2 a look- it’s a great game with a very impressive scope of areas to explore and stuff to do, even stuff that’s not about fighting. There are meaningful, epic, quest chains in the game and great experiences all around.

Who played here?
Who played here?

I’m already planning for Alts and tried a level 90 character, but that’s really not for someone who’s quite new to the game.

Wildstar’s plans

Also, Carbine came out with their plans for Wildstar– these do look pretty good. Broadening the experience for all kinds of players (even non-hardcore soloers!) seems like a good idea. Their plans are in line with the necessary changes they’ll have to put in place to make the game more successful and interesting for players like me- although i’d have to say it was the combat, mostly, that turned me away. I just couldn’t relax while playing Wildstar. Not that they’ll change that, since the combat is one of the better points of the game and it is fun, but in my case, i’m rarely in the mood for that style of combat. Combine “rarely in the mood” and a subscription, and you’ll know i’m out.

See, and that’s what i missed here- there was no talk about the business model change which should happen, as well. I guess they don’t want to talk about that yet, since they know this is going to be their second- and last- chance to (re-)launch the game and impress their players, so other systems have to be put in place beforehand.

This week in /saved

Normally, i save longer, interesting blog posts for reading later and i wanted to publish a list of the posts i liked the most with some commentary here. I’ll begin today, but i do want to expand on this idea further down the line- and give it more room, probably, because my time for writing here is almost up.

Why Massively’s MJ is a Secret World Fan for life. Somehow i get the impression that it’s somewhat cool in some parts of the blog community to frown upon Massively, its writers and most of all, its commenters, but i like the site. I like their writers and i like reading the comments. When you do that for some time, you’ll know which commenters you like, and of course which authors, columns and opinions are for you. I like MJ a lot, because she streams regularly and is very enthusiastic for the games she plays- she’s a positive character, and that’s quite rare in the community these days. In yesterday’s article she wrote about reasons for loving TSW and the developers of the game, and i have to agree to all of them.

I mentioned Jeromai’s question about what to do before the end in another blog post, but i want to leave it here, again. His musings about what might happen come Guild Wars 2’s expansion are an interesting read, but i really liked his approach to screenshotting the world before the change. I’ll give a short quote with the basics:

  • Take the -one- defining picture of the area or zone. Or take a picture of the first thing you think of when you hear the zone’s name. (Those may not be the same thing.)
  • Take 3-5 representative pictures of the zone, covering the major landmarks and scenery.
  • Do it encyclopedia or wiki-style, a picture for each point of interest or vista or named landmark.
  • Do a walking tour of the zone to capture pretty much whatever catches your eye.

If you take it step-by-step, from the first bullet point to the last, for every zone, you mapped out a virtual world in a very good way.

I had a few others, but unfortunately, my time’s up- next time, i’ll try and post more links.

It’s not about grouping

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

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

 

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

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

Guild Wars 2 event

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

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

The Secret World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being a subscription game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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