Retraction

Last night I wrote a post about the multiplayer component of Dragon Age: Inquisition which was scheduled to publish this morning.

The post was primarily aimed at pointing out how at launch I wrote off the MP as “it sucks,” only to come back to it the past couple days and decide maybe I’d been too hasty–I was suddenly having fun this time. Screenshots and everything.

In doing so I also casually highlighted that my circle of friends takes “noncommittal” to a whole new level, always hemming and hawing, and while I mentioned all four involved, I called out one in particular. Totally just in a “friends giving each other shit” kinda way, or at least that was the intent. I didn’t mean to sound like I was putting blame on him.

Fast forward to this afternoon.

I started my final probationary training today to see if I get to keep my new job, so I only had a couple moments to check social media. Turns out the friend I mentioned didn’t read it as just “talking shit” and felt I’d made him come off like he’s a huge asshole for every Blaugust participant to see. I value my friendships way more than some stupid blog post, so assuming I tapped the correct things on the WordPress mobile app, the offending post should be removed. If not, I’ll remove it in a few days when I have access to a real PC.

I offer my sincerest heartfelt apologies for upsetting the person in question. I had every intent that what I said was just joshing and for that matter applies to all of us. I was giggling the couple times I said anything about our little group of noncommittal gamer buds, certain they’d see the humor as well, but as sometimes happens with text, the actual intent and emotion doesn’t come through. So it’s gone. I hope this retraction and apology comes off correctly as I’m intending it so we can begin mending the fence I broke.

—–

As a side effect of this, it’s rather soured any remaining enthusiasm I had for the whole Blaugust thing. I’m not tagging this as counting and I think I’m just done with it. It’s been nice hitting that Publish button every day but I feel like I’ve only been doing it because of the Blaugust quota not because I actually felt I had something I wanted to say. Certainly not using a quota to hurt a friend’s feelings.

Categories MMO

Fat Chance but Defiance

#Blaugust 2015 Day 14

So, I’m of the opinion (someone on the internet has an opinion? Ya don’t say!) that Defiance would be better off if Trion would make one final business model conversion: Buy2Play (B2P). I doubt that will happen, because Trion is Trion. But the game always had potential. It was a third-person Destiny before anyone had ever heard of Destiny.

I played pretty seriously a couple summers ago then got caught up in other things, which led to other things and… well, we all know how that goes…

ATV

I even questioned if the game was still active or not. The forums are the typical cesspool of toxicity so I jumped back out of there just as quickly as I’d jumped in yesterday. But Trion is broadcasting their Defiance stream as I write this talking about the patch coming to the PC live server next week, so the team is still actively working on the game.

I could be off-base since I’m going to make this statement based on my experiences two summers ago and haven’t kept up with the goings on, but one could make the argument that despite Trion labeling Defiance as Free2Play (F2P) it’s actually Buy2Play already. Last I played there was very little you’d “need” to spend real money on in the store; lockboxes could be bought with the in-game currency.

My only real gripes with the game were with the camera — it’s slightly “off” too far to the side, and can cause the reticule to appear to be hitting your target when it’s actually hitting the object next to you — and the terrain design in the San Francisco area was incredibly annoying. That’s it really. Sure, the Co-op Missions got old, as all scripted co-op missions of that style do. But damn, Arkfalls were awesome and so much fun in their simplicity but also their attraction to bring so many players together to shoot the crap out of giant monsters. That’s the reason we all started playing MMOs and online games to begin with, right?

Looking towards Top Notch Toolworks

As I said, Defiance was Destiny before there was a Destiny. It has the whole “megaserver” tech going on where you just get the game and play. It has the whole “phase between public and story session on the fly” tech. It has better story narrative than Destiny.

What it needs is to shed the F2P stigma and compete directly with Destiny and just go Buy2Play with DLC. They can keep their optional store as-is just like Elder Scrolls Online does, and because Trion isn’t in the same league as competing with Activision and Bungie. But on that note, in order to continue competing on PC and consoles, Trion needs to get the game out on the current-gen consoles.

Fingers crossed, but fat chance. Because Trion.

 

Favorite Game I’m Not Playing

#Blaugust 2015 Day 12

I think it was another of the Blaugust Writing Prompts that asked “what’s your favorite game that you’re not playing?” For me, the answer was automatically The Lord of the Rings Online.

I was with LOTRO from beta, and did the Lifetime Subscription at that time as well.

Home

LOTRO was my first major return to MMOs after my World of Warcraft burnout on the launch day of The Burning Crusade whereupon I deleted every character on every server to ensure I’d never come back before canceling my subscription. It worked, by the way: I never went back.

LOTRO was slow-paced enough that the launch-tourists-kiddies didn’t stay, so the remaining community was pretty damn awesome! Especially compared to what I was used to from WoW. I found a great kinship that was active and talkative and soon got into running groups in those “elite world quest” areas they used to have. I think those got toned down and made soloable later on?

Soon enough, that kinship turned to dungeon-running first, then later raiding. A lot of us were former hardcore World of Warcraft raiders, and I used my experiences from having a “raid group” of talented members of multiple smaller guilds to encourage my kinship leader to do the same. We were too small a kinship to raid ourselves and we knew many other people in the same situation.

Thaurlach, Glathirel's Bane

Aw man, the memories that screenshot brings back! That’s us fighting the balrog Thaulach in the Rift of Nurz Ghashu raid. It took us so long to figure out the mechanics and get this guy down, and it was such an incredible feeling of accomplishment and community when we finally did it!

Then of course was the first expansion: The Mines of Moria. In the summer of 2008, leading up to the release of Moria there was a game-wide event to unlock Eregion as part of the Book 14 epic quest line. Each server had to collect 70,000 Ring-lores. A single player could only collect 5 every 12 hours, if memory serves? It took a month for all the servers to finish up, Brandywine finishing first of course because it’s always been the biggest server. I’m thinking my home server of Arkenstone took maybe 3 weeks?

As the countdown to unlock was happening, it seemed like practically the entire population of the server was partying at The Last Homely House in Rivendell. Of course, a bunch of players ganged up and used the music system to play a LOTRO rendition of 80s anthem The Final Countdown by Europe while we Lore-masters kept throwing out colorful wards all over the ground.

Ring Lore Party

Ugh, my frame rate was painful during all this!

My good times continued through the Mines of Moria era. I was doing dungeons practically every day on my Lore-master, often leading public groups just as I’d co-lead the raids. Side note: I’ve mentioned this before, but I still don’t “get” why these days groups rely on the tank to lead them. Dude’s busy and boss is in his face! It was always so much easier for me to lead while playing a support character so I could see the whole battlefield than with my tank who’s face-first in the boss. I’m also not a fan of having to scroll my camera out into orbit. Anyway, there’s my Get Off My Lawn sentiment for today.

Eventually, though, people’s enthusiasm began to wane as other MMOs started appearing and MMO Tourism started to become a thing. Initially, many of us started simply touring but would always return home to LOTRO. Slowly, those breaks were longer and longer as new titles had any number of random attractions plus their newness and finally things just weren’t the same anymore.

I’d still love to go back, but it’s been so long that I’d have to put in a lot of effort relearning the game plus finding a group of people to fit in with, which can often be a more stressful and time-consuming undertaking than anything else in MMOs. Especially with Turbine’s recent woes the past few years and now news that there’s about to be a major consolidation of servers, the desire to return is not only fueled by nostalgia but also by fear that it won’t be there to return to much longer. Yes, I did a little Happy Dance when I saw Arkenstone was not on the hit list! :)

 

My “Evergreen” Game

#Blaugust 2015 Day 10

One of the Blaugust 2015 “Writing Prompts” was to describe your “evergreen” game; a game you continually come back to.

I’ll admit, the term threw me at first. An evergreen never loses its leaves, whereas a deciduous totally loses its foliage then regrows it. So would an evergreen game be a game that I always play, even a little, even if I’m “mainly” playing another game? Or oh! Oh! Would an evergreen game simply always “be there” while I’m a deciduous player, only playing that one game awhile then leaving it barren until my next return? Deep, eh?

No? Not really? STOP MAKING ME BRAIN BEFORE COFFEE!!!

I had to give this totally, like… SECONDS of thought before I decided on the answer! Um. What was I talking about? Oh, coffee. Morning. Coffee good. Morning bad.

Evergreen Game! I’m gonna have to go with Star Trek Online. I’ve been a lifetime member since shortly after launch and while this summer I’ve been on deciduous leave (see what I did there? Ha! Double Ha! Yeah, need more coffee still…) I am looking forward to returning this autumn and catching up on the whole Iconian War story line. Star Trek Online has been dropping bits and pieces of Iconian involvement in the goings-on in the universe since launch. Season 10 finally brought them into the game for real, but I’ve been holding off. I really want to do a PC upgrade, which I’ve been talking about for well over a year. I get a raise in September, so I think I’ll use that as my timeline to start thinking about parts to build an upgrade. In the meantime, I’ve been reading the Lootcritter and apparently condensing all those sector instances into three large space sectors in Season 10 has brought a ton of lag and other infrastructure problems so while I miss the game, I don’t mind missing out on the negative server effects.

Season 11: New Dawn was just announced, and sounds very cool, and promises the end of the five year in the making Iconian story line.

Why is Star Trek Online my “evergreen?” Because it’s different. It’s not same ol’ same ol’ MMO, nor is it the new “action combat” MMO. I have not only my Captain to play and roleplay, but also her crew. I can play solo, I can just fly around and sight-see and check out other players in both space and ground. I can queue up for group ground or space instances of varying difficulty levels. I can try different ships, different playstyles, different loadouts all without changing character or needing to respec. There’s only one “server” to join so there’s always people online worldwide 24/7 to chat or play with. I can play to relax and escape and enjoy the Star Trek-iness. I can play to progress my character. I can play to progress my fleet (guild) and its holdings. A common sentiment back in the day among we fans of Lord of the Rings Online was that it was perfectly acceptable to simply play the game to “be” in the game. The same can be said of Star Trek Online. I enjoy simply logging in and checking out my captain and her crew, her ships. I can mentally roleplay little stories for them. I built this captain and crew from scratch so I have that extra bit of investment that I wouldn’t feel for, say, a companion in Star Wars: The Old Republic because that companion character was created by BioWare. It may well be an excellent character, but in the end it’s still someone else’s character rather than one of my own creation.

I’m hoping that when the weather starts to cool off and I build a new PC that some of my fleet-mates will return at the same time. Seems we’ve all been on Trek Break this summer, so it’ll be nice to return together for more Fleet Nights and just general chatting, grouping up, and having fun.

 

Conan Had an Anniversary and No One Noticed

Yesterday marked the 7th anniversary for Funcom’s Age of Conan. They’re celebrating it with the release of the Hyborian Tales: Shadow of Vanaheim content pack. Far as I could tell from my Twitter feed and my Google+ circles, no one noticed whatsoever. Even I didn’t find out until later in the evening. Kinda sad, really, especially when many of appear to get a kick out of being semi-on-top of MMO “news” or developer releases.

But even here on my own blog, the last time I wrote about Age of Conan was in 2010 when they announced the offline leveling mechanic. I like the game. Always did. It just never got any traction with me because not a single one of my online friends played the game and I never bothered finding an AoC-native guild.

Sometimes I wonder if AoC would be more successful if they did yet another revamp — this time to Buy-to-Play (B2P) like The Secret World? Maybe not, since Funcom can’t seem to catch a break (see their 2015 Q1 Financial Report) and even their latest LEGO Minifigures Online is proving challenging to monetize. The report states they will be converting LEGOMO (ha! — I could easily make a parody of a Styx song… but I won’t) to a B2P model as it’s F2P model isn’t working out and TSW and AoC are still the company’s biggest moneymakers.

I have an idea. Well, a concept. The nucleus of an idea.

I’ve already committed my summer — MMO-wise — to Elder Scrolls Online and The Old Republic. Perhaps in the fall or winter, I’m thinking I’d like to try to connect with at least 6 other like-minded individuals within my little social network spheres and setup a “static” group. Meaning we only adventure together. Which therefore means everyone will be at the mercy of my schedule, something I’ve been very much against doing to anyone else, but for this idea I don’t see any way around that, unfortunately. What I’d like to do is ideally take our low- to mid-level characters (no sense starting new ones and prolonging things unless everyone else insists?) and try to get through all the Age of Conan content, including the dungeons, though not the raids.

I know some people still have fond memories of Age of Conan, I wonder if over the coming months I could convince enough people to make a temporary stop to fully enjoy the content the game offers?

Reloaded: Double-Barreled

I don’t get me, sometimes. Really, I just don’t. I’ve been in an MMO Malaise yet again for quite some time now. I did re-subscribe to Elder Scrolls Online a few months ago when they announced the whole Buy2Play and Console Character Transfer stuff. I logged in once when I first re-subbed, ran around town, logged out. Think I logged in again maybe a month later, and did the same thing.

I just haven’t been in the mood whatsoever for the “traditional” MMO, or MMO questing, or much of anything else.

Then last week one of the big discussions on Google+ was that Star Wars: The Old Republic brought back their 12x XP for Story Quests. The MMO Hopping Bandwagon jumped right on that, and for reasons I’ve yet to explain to myself, somehow I wound up over on my BioWare account page resubscribing to TOR despite less than zero interest in actually playing an MMO.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Mind you, I never disliked TOR like some people have. I had a few gripes with the game — and still do — but overall I thought it was a perfectly fine take on the traditional MMO, and for my two cents all the cinematics and voiceovers make me want to do the side quests whether or not I or my character care about the side quest narrative. I think the main reasons I’ve stopped playing so quickly in the past are two-fold: The previous times I was headed into an MMO Malaise phase and TOR just happened to be the last straw that broke my camel’s back, and that the guild I joined imploded, which is typical for MMO Blogger Guilds in my experience.

This time, maybe the MMO Malaise is wearing off and I’m coming into a more positive mindset where MMOs are concerned because TOR is really clicking with me this time. I’ve been doing every side quest I can find interspersed with my Sith Warrior’s story quests, learning more about how some of my class mechanics work and how gear modding works so my Juggernaut is now quite the badass! He finished up Balmorra yesterday morning and is continuing his story on Nar Shadaa, currently at level 29 and very happily using Malavai Quinn as his new questing companion. I’ve only had Vette up til now and while she’s fun, I spend time after every fight using the Channel Rage ability to heal my Juggernaut for the next fight. Quinn is a healer companion and a darn good one so far; I haven’t stopped to heal myself a single time since Quinn joined the crew.

I’ve learned quite a bit the past week, and now that I’m leveling up and getting more abilities I’m starting to sorta-kinda get what I hope is a decent tanking rotation down. One major derp I had yesterday was very impulsively deciding to get into crafting. D’ravendaar previously had Bioanalysis (gathering) and Biochem (crafting) but without looking anything up whatsoever I decided no, Synthweaving sounded cool because D’rav uses the Force after all so why not craft his armor? So I switched. Then I heard about Artificing, which is crafting stuff for lightsabers. Ok, he definitely needs that, so I switched again. Then two things happened back-to-back. First, I used my head after the fact and remembered TOR is a traditional MMO, which means “themepark” which therefore means the best gear is from dungeons or raids, not crafted. Then I was taught about moddable gear because I just happened to hit the right level to start using some then learning that gear can stay with you because the mods you install determine the gear’s level. Then I asked Google what crafting profession is best for Juggernauts. You guessed it: Biochem for potions to help keep me alive, and of course by switching professions, I just lost all my progress! So a trip back to the first two low-level planets was in order to gather materials to re-level the crafting and gathering skills. In the meantime, I used commendations on the Imperial Fleet to get mostly orange moddable gear, only missing a couple pieces now, but could not for the life of me find a main-hand lightsaber. A player offered to give me one so we grouped up, he visited his bank and brought me a brand-new “level 1” orange quality lightsaber and I promptly went to the mod vendor and cranked the lightsaber up to my level with tanking stats! He hung out for awhile giving me more tips and answering my questions. Friendly players for the win!

Only thing I haven’t done yet is group activity: Heroic quests and Flashpoints. I think I’m comfortable enough with the skills to be able to pull it off now so those are on the agenda for next week when I get back from work. That’s really the only downside I see to choosing this class: tanking is stressful for me, especially for public groups where players brutally and viciously blame the tank for every little thing. Healing is way less stressful. I never really understood why groups evolved to have the tank lead the group, either. Back in my “vanilla” World of Warcraft raiding days, I could lead just fine on my healing-spec druid because she was standing out of the way. Tanks are friggin’ busy, who has time to handle the aggro, the positioning and lead the entire group or raid while being face-first into a huge boss’ torso? I was the same in my Lord of the Rings Online hardcore days, I could lead wonderfully with my Lore-master because, again, she’s out of the way with a way better picture of the overall fight than being down in the middle of it. I would even make some of the pulls because I had long-range but very low-damage abilities and could position myself to have the mobs pulled directly to where the tank wanted to pick them up. Those were the days… But whatever, now everyone relies on the tank to do everything for them. I’d love to have a friendly guild, and maybe that will have to be on my agenda too. The 12xp is rumored to last until Autumn so the current plan is to maintain the subscription til it’s over, then decide where my headspace is and whether I want to continue or move along to something else.

Elder Scrolls Online

Talk about unexpected! As I’d mentioned above, I’ve been subbed to ESO for two or three months now but the most I’ve maybe done is complete one quest? TOR was down for a patch and maintenance this morning and for whatever reason my mouse wandered over the ESO icon. I stuck with it for awhile and did a few quests on my Templar. I never really had a plan set in stone for that class other than I wanted to be able to do my quests and switch to heal in groups. The Templar seems like a very amorphous class which can handle pretty much every Trinity role, and consequently I’ve had a mismatch of light, medium and heavy armor pieces and primarily using a bow to hopefully kill things from range. I have a little time using one-handed plus shield but I stuck mostly with the bow just like in Skyrim.

I was getting by with the bow and all my whatever-the-hell-drops gear but that’s about it. A lot of fights were very close, with me barely getting off a heal plus using my healing potion quickslot. But at some point the bug hit me again and now I have an interest in actually playing ESO! I suspect this is also two-fold: first, because my Templar is DPS and Healing so the stress level is so much lower for groups, and also because the console launch of ESO is coming next month. Either Bethesda or Zenimax Online Studios had a promotion going on last month where PC players who had pre-ordered the Imperial Edition (that’d be me) could get a console edition for a mere $20 so I jumped on that for PlayStation 4. On PC I’m still in Belghast’s Stalwart guild but that guild has also imploded except for me and one other guy. On PS4 I’ll have all the AGE guys to guild with. Either way, I now own both and the game is B2P so far as I’m concerned I can switch back and forth, just my PS4 character won’t have the same progress if I continue playing on PC as well.

Anyway, once the bug hit me to actually try playing the game, that entails actually learning a bit about the class too and being more effective that merely “getting by” with the bow. I went with the Omega Templar leveling build by Deltia, one of ESOs most prominent livestreamers on Twitch.tv. I asked how to respec and got several offers to teleport me to a nearby city with the appropriate shrine to respec my skills. I picked a player, and that ended up being a great decision because not only did he give me the teleport and show me exactly where the shrine was, he also gave me tips on playing the class and the game overall, then looked up that Omega build and crafted all the gear on the list at no charge! All that took an hour or so between the initial answering my question about respec, handling the teleport, fielding my questions than switching to his main to craft all the gear, switching to his other alt to craft me two stacks of food for magicka buffs then traveling back to me for the trades. I mean seriously, in two days back-to-back I hit the jackpot for finding awesome, friendly and helpful players. Gives me a little bit of hope for the genre’s playerbase yet after twelve years of cynicism crusting over my soul.

So, completely out of the blue, I just got a double-barreled whammy of MMO goodness! Guess I know where I’ll be spending my MMO time this summer now! Oh, I still have plenty of other non-MMO games I will keep in my rotation on both PC and PS4 but I’m oddly happy at being taken by surprise at playing MMOs again the past week! Two of them now! Told ya, I just don’t get me sometimes…

 

Expansion Time! Heart of Thorns

guild-wars-2-heart-of-thorns1-650x366

So, today was the big announcement at PAX South, broadcast live on the Guild Wars 2 Twitch channel. The “mystery” of Heart of Thorns has been solved: it is indeed the first expansion pack for Guild Wars 2.

New zones! The expansion’s story is set in the Maguuma Jungle, which had some great areas in the first Guild Wars and which was added to in the Eye of the North campaign. Guild Wars 2 has a few areas of the Maguuma Jungle, and the Heart of Thorns expansions looks to add an additional three areas.

New professions! Well, officially one new full profession: the Revenant, a heavy armor-wearer to even things out. Each armor type will have three associated professions now. It remains to be seen how the Revenant will actually play, but lore-wise, he channels the powers of long-dead important Guild Wars 1 figures from The Mists and uses that power for his skills. Two figures mentioned were King Jalis Ironhammer, the last king of the now-extinct dwarves who performed the Rite of the Great Dwarf before leading the final attack on the Destroyers at the finale of the Eye of the North campaign, and Mallyx the Unyielding, one of the demonic Margonite overlords who ruled the Domain of Anguish in the Nightfall campaign. The focus on spirits as well as Rytlock’s blindfold in the trailer makes me think the Revenant will be a sort of amalgam of the Nightfall’s Dervish and Factions’ Ritualist classes molded into a sword-wielding soldier.

Additionally, each class will have specialization paths which will open up new weapons and skills. Hopefully HoT will ship with multiple specializations, but the ones announced today are that Rangers can specialize and become Druids (whose ancient home was the Maguuma Jungle for some Guild Wars 1 Lore Points) and wield a staff, while Necromancer’s will have a specialization that lets them wield a Greatsword.

New focus on World vs World and a new WvW map. I’m not usually a PvP guy in MMOs but WvW was one of the few types that ever looked fun. I never really tried it yet since I don’t have a level-capped character in GW2 nor do I have a group of regulars to run with but hopefully if I manage to “get” GW2 and make it a usual game in my rotation I’ll get to WvW as well.

Guild vs Guild! GvG was the only type of PvP I ever played in GW1 because it was waaaaaay less elitist and hardcore, and because I played a Monk who in Arena PvP would be the first one the enemy team would kill but in GvG Monks weren’t focused on nearly as much for whatever reason. And as any GvGer knows, you can’t have Guild vs Guild without a Guild Hall so those will also make an appearance in the expansion!

No level cap increase! No gear reset! I’m glad to see ArenaNet sticking to their original GW1 guns and their current “no grind” philosophy. What they are adding is additional means of specializing your class and crafting so you can still have meaningful progression without the usual bandaid method all the vertical progression MMOs continue to use.

All in all, this sounds like great news for the game! I have been playing a little here and there the past week or two. But I’m also still struggling to discover… actually what I’m struggling with is identifying what I don’t “get” about the game. I’m having a hard time figuring out what I want to do as my end-goal. Some games I just level and leave, other games I invest myself enough in the character and game mechanics that I want to do end-game dungeons, etc. But given that I’m not really sure GW2 has an “end-game” per se I don’t really have a specific goal in mind. I haven’t had the opportunity to do a single GW2 dungeon, however, so I don’t know if they are still the “chaotic clusterfucks” I believe were the words used to describe them? I guess I just don’t know what there is to do at level cap besides repeating all the Hearts I’ve already done? I haven’t fully decided on a class I enjoy either. I originally made a Guardian because I was told that was the closest thing to a Monk class which is maybe true in spirit but not in gameplay. I have a Ranger alt which is certainly easy to play and keeps me out of the big melee “circle of sparks” that is beyond me why ArenaNet hasn’t done something to fix by now.

Finally, just one passing comment. I don’t understand why in some crowds there’s this massive disappointment that Heart of Thorns isn’t a free expansion. I may not know much about GW2 but I’m a GW1 player from the get-go. ArenaNet invented the Buy2Play model you all rave about. That means you buy the expansions. Duh!

The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited

So today the big bombshell everyone is talking about was Zenimax Online Studio’s (ZOS) announcement that The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO, because the letter T doesn’t exist in Tamri… err…) switching it’s model from Subscription-Only to Buy to Play (B2P) with Optional Subscription, known as ESO Plus, alongside the long-awaited release date for the console editions of the game.

esotu-boxes

Buy to Play (B2P) isn’t nearly as ubiquitous a business model as Free to Play (F2P) but I welcome this particular shift. Guild Wars 2 launched with the B2P model; indeed Arena.net practically invented B2P with the first Guild Wars. The Secret World also switched from subscription to B2P. There isn’t a specific console MMO with this model so for now Destiny (not truly an MMO) will have to be the closest analogy.

How does Buy to Play work? Pretty much like any standard non-MMO game, actually. You buy the initial game, so there is that initial barrier to entry unlike F2P titles, and you play it as much as you want whenever you want. You’re not paying for access to the game like a subscription does. There is usually a shop to buy cosmetic and convenience items (does not apply to Destiny) for a virtual currency bought with real-world currency. Updates and patches occur normally like any other MMO, but Expansions are now considered DLC. Zenimax has not yet detailed how the game will be handled for players who do not own DLC, but it should be fairly innocuous as it’s a live game in a shared virtual world and not everyone will the the DLC at the same time, if at all. I’m expecting it to be handled similar to Lord of the Rings Online where the Expansion have separate patch notes for all players then notes specifically for those who own the expansion.

Virtual currency? Perfect World Entertainment games all have “Zen.” Guild Wars 2 has “Gems.” The Secret World has “Funcom Points.” Star Wars The Old Republic has “Cartel Coins.” TERA has “En Masse Points (EMP).” Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online have “Turbine Points.” Sony Online Entertainment has “Station Cash.” Zenimax is calling their virtual currency “Crowns” and will put the shop on ESO’s Public Test Server (PTS) next week for current subscribers to check out what’s on offer, get a handle on what Crowns are worth, and provide feedback to ZOS.

ESO Plus? That is their optional subscription package detailing the incentives for members. In addition to the Guide to ESO Plus I linked above (and here again) there is a FAQ with specific information on membership perks.

  • Access to all DLC for the duration of membership
  • Exclusive character progression bonuses for the duration of membership
    • 10% bonus to experience point gain
    • 10% bonus to crafting research
    • 10% bonus to crafting inspiration gain
    • 10% bonus to gold acquisition

There are 30-day, 60-day and 90-day membership subscriptions, allotting 1500, 4500 or 9000 Crowns respectively at the beginning of each membership period. Until the test shop gets pushed to the PTS next week, no one knows what 1500 Crowns is actually worth however. Given that Lord of the Rings Online gives 500 Turbine Points per month and Star Wars the Old Republic gives between 500 and 600 Cartel Coins per month (depending on membership period) I’m going to hazard a guess that the prices will be a higher number than we’re used to seeing, but the actual Point-to-Dollar ratio should be equivalent to other titles.

Before I sat down to write this post, I watched Zenimax Online Studio’s livestream on Twitch (archived here) where they gave their spiel on the business model switch, talked about what they mean by B2P (exactly what I said above), talked about how so-called “Pay2Win” won’t be an issue, showed some of the cosmetic costumes that will be in the shop, and also demoed some PS4 gameplay footage. Costume-wise, this reminds me of what Guild Wars 2 is doing with their shop, although I’m extremely new to coming back to GW2 so don’t quote me there. They also said convenience items such as Health potions (I forget the ESO names but there were three types of potions) will be in the shop but they are equivalent to medium potions in-game; player-crafted potions will always be better.

They also specifically said there will be no Crowns to Gold trading, nor will shop items be tradable. I noticed Guild Wars 2 lets players trade Gems for Gold. Cryptic’s games use an intermediary currency earned in-game (Astral Diamonds for Neverwinter, Dilithium for Star Trek) which players can trade for Zen, or vice-versa. For now, ESO will lock all Crowns and items purchased with Crowns specifically to your character or account.

There will be a Character Copy available for current PC players to copy their character over to the console version, but console cross-play will not be available. Each platform will remain in its own walled garden.

Personally, I am looking forward to the PS4 edition. I enjoyed ESO quite a bit but I did not (and still do not) have the free time to justify a monthly subscription, and to beat this dead horse again, ESO requires me to use the mouse constantly so it aggravated my old Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) in my right wrist more than a normal MMO would (so do Neverwinter and TERA but not as much). I liked the tweaks to the UI that the console editions have. The livestream did not show any chat, but I did see a little tab where you’d normally expect a chat box to be, so I’m guessing the chat box is minimizable (Star Trek Online does this too and I love that feature!) since font size must be increased to account for the distance between couch and TV. Consoles will have voice chat for your group, but also public “Say” range chat. I’ve played a few console games that have similar features and, in concept it’s a great idea and will probably work fantastic for ZOS and their in-house testing. Live, however, we’ll have kids singing, playing music, swearing, belching, screaming trade offers and just generally being the exact reason people don’t like public voice chat. So I’m already tempering my excitement for the PS4 edition with the knowledge I will likely spend most of my time in private Party chat to avoid the Douche Mouth Factor.

See you in Tamriel (Unlimited!) in June!

One Month In

I completed my Initial Operating Experience (IOE) at the new job a month ago. Since then, I’ve flown one day. Two legs. That will probably change this week, as I’m on for 6 days. 5 remaining, since I didn’t get used today. I’m at the bottom of the totem pole on what’s called Short Call Reserve, which means I have to be in base (Philadelphia) so I’m ready to go at a moment’s notice if they call. But Short Call guys are the last choice; Long Call Reserve guys get the open trips that are known in advance. I only get a call if someone calls in sick, or stuff like that. Why am I bothering to say this on a gaming blog? Because I’m sitting around a “crash pad” a damn lot bored out of my skull. I have my PlayStation Vita and my new laptop: Acer V7-482PG which plays games pretty decently – when it plays them. I’m possibly exaggerating, but it feels like I’m running 50/50 on whether or not it will play any given game.

I have plenty of little-played or unplayed games on Steam and Uplay. Games I enjoy, but I typically get distracted with an MMO of one sort or another when I’m on my desktop PC at home. I have difficulty focusing on non-MMOs on PC for some reason, which is where the PlayStation 4 or Xbox 360 come in. Here, though? Yeah, let’s load some stuff up on the laptop!

Company of Heroes, a 2006 RTS technically plays, but the models won’t animate, and the soldiers have no textures and remain in their T-pose. Which means I won’t play it like that. Company of Heroes 2, however, which is known to be graphics-intensive plays perfectly fine. Oh well.

I don’t “get” the 4X genre at all, but for whatever reason I want to. I’ve owned Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion for several years and have never managed to even complete the tutorial. Mostly because I spend too much time fighting the camera control to actually play the game. The laptop won’t even run the game. On a side note, I did attempt twice this past week at home to play the very first tutorial, probably the seventh time since I’ve owned the game. I can sorta-kinda see where there would be some appeal but once again I spent way too much time fighting the camera and getting angry. The combat seems kinda boring too so, I dunno, I think I may just call that one $30 down the tubes and move on.

So I bought Age of Wonders 3 which I keep hearing is a cool 4X game. It plays pretty well, although it reminded me very much of Might & Magic Heroes VI which I also own and enjoyed a bit last year. However, that won’t play on the laptop. Not even sure MMH6 is even considered 4X? Regardless, I guess I can switch between that at home and on the laptop I can do AoW3.

I also bought Endless Space. I know, I know, everyone and their monkey’s uncle raves about Endless Legend but that’s yet another fantasy 4X and since I already own two, why not try a sci-fi one? Runs great on the laptop so far, but turn-based games just get to me. That applies to MMH6 and AoW3 also. In combat, fine. But if not a damn thing is going on, why do I have to click the End Turn button? Just friggin’ do it already! I watched a few YouTube vids on Endless Space and the combat looks to be quite cinematic, hopefully more what I’m looking for versus Sins of a Solar Empire. But I haven’t had a combat of my own yet. In fact, I’ve had what seems to be an inordinate amount of turns where I had nothing to do except click the End Turn button. Yeah, I’m more of an action or real-time gamer, so that just seems “off” somehow and leaves me feeling that multiple turns went wasted even though I clicked all my systems and planets and didn’t see anything I could do. Like I said, I don’t “get” 4X yet. The one disappointment with Endless Space is that there is no campaign or story, it just throws you into generating a galaxy seed then go forth and… 4X yourself.

Oh, speaking of Might & Magic Heroes VI, I also bought Might & Magic X Legacy last year on Uplay. I never thought for a second I would like one of those first-person dungeon crawl games. I didn’t like them back when they were the hotness in the early 90’s. But somehow this one had a certain je ne sais quois and it plays wonderfully on the laptop so who knows, maybe I’ll actually get to finish it sitting around here.

Divinity: Original Sin seems to play fine on the laptop. That’s one I would really like to start, but I would very much like to try cooperative with a friend or two. Not sure if that will ever happen, though.

Finally, my two favorite isometric Action RPGs both play perfectly fine on the laptop as well. Marvel Heroes 2015 and Path of Exile. I’m trying to talk one of my co-workers into installing both of these so we can duo.

Then some MMOs. Of course, I have the Arc client so I can play Star Trek Online which runs really damn well so far on the laptop, though I’ll add the caveat that I haven’t played any of the more intensive group content with it yet. Also Neverwinter appears to run at a great framerate, but I had to take a more noticeable hit there on graphic fidelity than I did with Star Trek. Finally, I had mentioned in my 2015 Gaming Goals post that I wanted to return to Guild Wars 2 and see if I could “find the fun” in that game. Holy crap does it run awesome on the laptop! I still don’t “get” GW2 but my aforementioned co-worker will be getting it soon so maybe we can duo some stuff and I can learn what the dealio is with this game finally.

Also, a bonus for laptop gaming at a Philly crashpad: it’s friggin’ freezing up here, even indoors, so the CPU/GPU heat while gaming is awesome!

2014

I am always the first to admit that my blogging has slacked off in recent years. Especially in light of social media such as Twitter a few years ago, and more recently Google+ where full blown conversations occur on a daily basis. It became far more interesting to participate there than to spend hours writing a blog post that a fraction of those same people would read and most likely not comment. The “rent” was due on this server last week, in fact, and I thought long and hard about not renewing it. But what the heck, the past few months have been all about starting over, so who knows, maybe I will again find that spark that originally got me blogging about games and a few of my other interests so long ago.

WordPress Stats:

To rub salt in the wound, WordPress tells me I only made 16 posts in 2014. It’s not midnight yet, so this will technically be the 17th. Not much readership over those 16 posts. My second Destiny Alpha post was the most-viewed at 61. 6 comments was the most any single post received. I can spit out a 30-second post on Google+ any given day and get more than 6 comments. So it’s not hard to question the whole blogging thing. But let’s not get too down and depressing into “blogging is dead” territory. My Feedly is still filled daily with my usual circle of bloggers I’ve followed for years.

Aside from finding that “spark” to blog again, I’ve noticed I don’t have or take the time to write those in-depth nitty-gritty break-it-down-to-the-numbers posts that I used to. Honestly, my gaming these days tends to be for pure enjoyment, not analysis with a small dose of enjoyment on the side. I run around with a couple guns in Destiny and shoot anything that moves. Not a whole lot of thought going on, and no need (for me, anyway) to try to analyze the stats and min-max whatever could be min-maxed. I haven’t had time to “really” play MMOs either, which are the genre it can be most tempting to bury oneself in stats. But now that my training is completed, I can get back into gaming in my spare time.

My MMO Gaming in 2014

As usual for the past few years, Star Trek Online was my single most-played title, followed by Neverwinter.

I did start off the year with a lot of Firefall, though. I really enjoyed the game, it’s mechanics, and the larger events and invasions were truly a blast. Even though I spent most of the time ungrouped or “playing alone together” it’s those times when open world events occur and players flock from all over to that one area to fight cooperatively that still brings that fresh “this is why I play MMOs!” smile to my face. The various Battleframes each have their own unique playstyles and I enjoyed switching between them, though my favorite ‘frame remains the Bastion. Dropping all those turrets and blasting stuff… ah yeah! I supported Red 5, supported Firefall, spent probably $200 on a Founder’s pack once they started talking about releasing the full game… Then they did. In the process they turned the big level-less sandbox-ish shooter into something else. Now the world is split up into level-bracketed areas. Now there are freaking levels! LEVELS! What the hell? I haven’t managed to muster the interest in logging in at all. Maybe that will change in 2015. I certainly hope so – I’d like to get some enjoyment out of my money.

I did briefly subscribe to a couple MMOs in 2014. The Old Republic first, just to pick up on my Sith Warrior a bit. I do technically enjoy SWTOR, but I found myself extremely disliking any “traditional” questing model MMO this year. I did gain a few levels on that character and tried a few Flashpoints which I enjoyed quite a bit, but became aggravated that the more useful tanking skills are still several levels away. Single-target tanking becomes difficult and not very enjoyable when nearly every pull is a group and there’s little I can do to hold aggro on more than one mob. But still, once I feel I might be “ok” with traditional questing I would like to return to SWTOR.

The Elder Scrolls Online was the other subscription. I didn’t get very far in the game due to my job and everyone else in the guild was flying through the content. Again, here’s a game with “levels” which are a horrible, horrible mechanism when it comes to playing with friends or guild-mates. I did enjoy the Elder Scrolls-style questing, and mostly appreciated the minimalist Skyrim ripoff UI except for everyone’s primary complaint: it’s impossible to tell friends and guild-mates from anyone else. I did not get to participate in the PvP but from watching livestreams it seemed like it was fun and I was interested in picking it up if I ever got to level cap. Who knows, maybe I will give it another go. I’m particularly interested in the PlayStation 4 version if they ever ship the console edition of the game.

Speaking of traditional questing MMOs, I finally picked up Lord of the Rings Online briefly, after being on hiatus for what? 3 years? 4? I got my Loremaster into Rohan with the specific goal of getting the war steed. That just seemed so cool in my head. Went through I don’t know how many zones, completing all the quests, gaining several levels. Then I achieved my goal – I got my war steed! In true “the grass is always greener” form, turns out it was way cooler in my head than it is in the actual game. It sorta-kinda works from a game mechanics perspective and the “mounted combat” is functional. The “driving” is absolutely atrocious, however and that well and truly ruined the experience for me. There are some bits of what appears to be “group war steed” content in the form of open world events (I think?) but here I am coming back into the game a couple years after the Rohan expansion so again: levels ruin everything. All the players are in the new level-cap zones. No one was in Rohan doing much of anything and certainly not the “group mounted combat” stuff. So I gave up all over again, and my Loremaster is parked in lonely Rohan until next time.

Hopes for 2015

I won’t do a “resolution” because those are the first thing to get thrown out with the trash on New Year’s Day, right? So I’ll just rattle off a few off-the-cuff hopes that I have for myself and my 2015 MMO gaming.

Return to Neverwinter. I returned a bit for the Tyranny of Dragons bit, which is a lot of fun plus I’m still catching up on the previous expansions that I missed out on at the time. I’m in a new guild that is very large and always active, chatty and friendly. But I was also starting my training so I wasn’t able to put my full effort into really learning the nuts and bolts of what had changed, and especially into doing the more difficult dungeons to get better gear. When I get more gaming time, I’d like to fully invest in guild dungeon runs and maybe finally learn some PvP!

Find the Fun in Guild Wars 2. It’s gotta be there somewhere? I was such a Guild Wars fan, and I had such high hopes for GW2 and then… this pointless mess appeared with the “Guild Wars” name attached to it. Pointless. That’s the most common thought I have when playing the game. I just don’t see a point to any of it. An awful lot of people play and love the game, so there is obviously something I’m missing? I never feel that I am “required” to enjoy a game that others do or vice-versa so I am unable to put into words why I feel this way about GW2.

Regain Online Social Confidence. So many factors have all contributed to me losing that social enjoyment of playing online. My job keeping me away from home most of the time. Me jumping from game to game, making it difficult to make in-game friends. Plenty more I won’t get into here. But I’d like to regain that enjoyment and the self-confidence to be more social while gaming online with friends. That’s the whole essence of gaming right there, and I’ve managed to let go of it to more of a degree than I am comfortable with. As we get older, life becomes so much “meaningful seriousness,” so why not balance that with “meaningful fun” in our downtime? Work hard to play hard, right? Smile This applies to non-MMO multiplayer gaming too. For that matter, even tabletopping!

Categories MMO