Comparing Played Times

I found an old, old screenshot of my main Asheron’s Call character from near the end of my playing time:

What MMORPGs used to look like before they were fun.
What MMORPGs looked like when they were more work than fun.

There’s some interesting things to note there. First of all, my /played time was 17d 11h 26m 22s. I spent a ridiculous amount of time playing that game… it seemed like my entire life was spent in that game for about a year. (I was playing AC when everyone else was playing EverQuest.) Yet I only reached level 35. In AC, your character “level” wasn’t much except a measurement of how much you had played–your power level came from your skills. Level 35 seemed like an impossibly high number to me back then. I knew people in their 40s and I couldn’t imagine how anyone could get there without giving up sleep entirely.

I never thought I would ever wrack up 17 days of playing time on one character in any other MMO in my life, but then after my main WoW Hunter reached level 98, I noticed this:

WoWScrnShot_011015_135816_cropped

The total time played for my main WoW character is now over 19 days! Two more days than when I had an arguably unhealthy addiction to Asheron’s Call! Fortunately that 19 days spans over about eight years, so that’s not too bad. (Altoholic reports that the total playing time over all of my WoW characters is about 35 days.)

Then I started to think about games I’ve played more than WoW and I started to wonder.

I played a lot of Guild Wars 2 after it came out.

gw049_cropped

GW2 doesn’t make this easy, but that comes out to almost 12 days of playing time for my main Necromancer character, and almost 31 days for all of my characters together. Not as much as WoW, but most of my GW2 time was crammed into that first year.

But that pales in comparison to the game I’ve probably played more than any other MMO in my MMO-playing life: Rift.

2015-01-10_140609_cropped

Yes, that’s 35 days on one character in Rift since, what, 2011? The next three highest /played times on other characters are 13 days, 11 days, and 10 days on my other level 60s, and I have numerous characters 40 and under on various servers. So yeah, I’ve played a lot of Rift if you add it all up.

Shut up. It’s a good game.

ArcheAge – Patron Status Waning

Ruh roh.

No more soup for you.
No more soup for you. Or land.

I logged in quickly to see what, if anything, changed. The only immediate change I noticed was that my Labor Points plummeted from 5000 to 1000. My house and land are still mine, but they are only “protected” until the 28th, after which I believe they will decay in a week.

I went to the web site to see how much it would cost to resume my Patron benefits, and realized I had never redeemed my Patron Compensation thingy, so I went ahead and did that to extend my time another 5 days. For no particular reason.

Then I saw that you can buy 30 days of Patron status for 2,400 credits. (Everybody else probably knew that already, but it was news to me.) That’s pretty cool, because I still have 5,705 credits. So theoretically I could extend my Patron time for another 60 days for free.

Buying 2,400 worth of credits will cost you $20, and you’ll actually get 3,250 credits.

I would have sworn there was also a subscription plan to simply buy Patron status for $15 a month, but I can’t seem to find it now. Maybe it isn’t showing me that option because I’m back to being a Patron for 5 more days.

Most likely I will simply allow them to take back my land, since I don’t think I’ll be playing very much in the future. By saving my credits, if I do decide to play again, I can use them to buy stuff in future holiday events. (Just kidding, holiday events in ArcheAge are pretty lame.)

Arbitrary Mid-January Status Update

I’m in a “bouncing around between games” mode at the moment, now that I’m done with Elite: Dangerous. I’ve been logging into two or three or four different MMOs a day, looking for one to capture my imagination.

Level 100!
Level 100!

WoW. My WoW subscription runs out on the 20th, and I won’t be renewing. WoW is a fun game, but I always tire of it pretty quickly. I did manage to reach level 100 with my Hunter and upgrade my Garrison, though. I have enjoyed my time in the game, but I simply can’t comprehend how people think the story in this expansion is the best ever. I guess I’ve never “gotten” the lore in WoW. (WoW might be the only game that I care less about the quest text than ArcheAge.) I thought there was supposed to be time travel in here somewhere but at no point do I remember anyone saying that I traveled back in time. (Except one quest to kill Banthar in Nagrand that sort-of referred to it, some five zones into the game.) There are Russian space goats and angry orcs everywhere, but then I was in a place with a bunch of bird people and giant crow gods or something. *shrug* I feel bad for people who will feel obligated to spend the next two years playing this expansion until the next one comes out. It’s okay to play other games, guys. You really don’t have to live in one game your whole life. :)

FFXIV. I still have my Final Fantasy XIV subscription, however I haven’t felt much of an urge to return to the game full time. I stop in periodically and level the Rogue class, but that’s about it. Not planning to cancel my sub though. (I noticed that FFXIV is now selling more and more optional cosmetic items in their store… I wonder if that might mean an upcoming change in their subscription model.)

ArcheAge. I still log into ArcheAge about once a week to pay my taxes. My property is still sitting there empty, probably making everyone else angry. Sometimes I think I should just push on through from level 48.5 to 50 before my Patron status runs out, but I can’t summon the energy for it. (I now have about 450 tax certificates stored up, by the way, which is enough to pay for my property for about… calculating… 22 more weeks.)

Rift. I also log into Rift every couple of days to pick up Minion rewards. I think I have about 50 million pieces of endgame crafting items now clogging up my inventory and bank, and countless numbers of Dimension Item boxes. I meant to do some of the Christmas event, but I never got around to it. It turned out I still had a sizable amount of Christmas currency from last year anyway. There’s a new recurring event now for

Guild Wars 2. I keep trying to get back into the Living Story of Guild Wars 2 but it only takes about twenty minutes of gameplay before I want to punch the monitor with my fist, so that’s been slow going. (See Aywren’s post for the exact reason why.) I’ve only just completed Dragon’s Reach Part 1, which involves trying to get Important People to come to some kind of Summit. I cannot emphasize enough how much I despise the GW2 concept of story being the reward for completing challenges. Loot should be the reward for completing challenges. Story should require no effort to consume. (In my opinion.) Not that it matters, because I play so infrequently that I have no idea what the story is anyway. There’s a new dragon somewhere I guess, and a bunch of annoying vines doing insufferable crowd-control effects, and some Asura prodigy doing something with waypoints. It’s all just random noise to me. It’s like how you do leveling quests without paying attention in WoW, except you’re not actually leveling so what is the point of even doing it other than to see what everyone is talking about. Also since the loot in GW2 is so impossible to understand, I really don’t know if I’m even being rewarded with loot either. Grrrr. It makes me literally angry with rage!

Landmark. I re-rolled a fresh character to see what a brand new player would see. It’s sort-of getting somewhere, but I still don’t get it. There still aren’t any real objectives. I couldn’t find any caves. There are newbie mobs standing right next to uber-advanced killer mobs that you can barely scratch with your sword. The combat feels weirdly like TERA, only a lot more limited. My hopes for EQ: Next plummet each time I play this game.

TERA. Speaking of which, I even tried to play TERA, but for some reason I can’t update the game any more. I suspect I need to un-install and re-install, but that’s too much of a bother.

WildStar and ESO. Waiting on subscription model changes, like everyone else. :) I think I have a 7-day “please for the love of God come back” free pass for WildStar that I might use. I’m actually looking forward to seeing what WildStar does in 2015 now that they’ve been crushed by the reality that casual players outnumber elite raiders by about a thousand to one.

SWTOR. Given my lackluster showing in the games above, I’ve sort of re-discovered Star Wars: The Old Republic again. It’s actually a pretty good game. :) I’ve probably spent most of my playing time in it during January. I even managed to play it successfully for a while without paying any money. But then I caved in and got a 3-month subscription so I didn’t have to worry about the restrictions. I expect by the end of 3 months (or maybe even 1 month) I’ll be ready to cancel again. I’m playing a Jedi Guardian Knight this time, and have so far gone from level 10 to level 22. (Previously, my highest level character was a Smuggler at level 28, but every time I try to play it now, I die horribly.) The Kira Carsen companion is hilarious.  (“Eat lightsaber, jerk!”)

Standing around in Nar Shadda, unable to remember to hide the FRAPS display.
Standing around in Nar Shadda, unable to remember to hide the FRAPS fps display.

H1Z1 – Dumb Question

This is probably a dumb question, but if these Airdrops are such a fun element of the game that everyone enjoys, why aren’t they building it into the game as random spawns like Trion’s Rifts and Arcfalls? Why would they make someone pay to spawn a fun event for everyone? That makes no sense. It’s like making people buy world boss spawns. (Don’t get any ideas, game developers. That would be terrible.)

I mean, besides the obvious answer that it’s a great way to make money from players. But then, why would anyone pay for an Airdrop if there’s little or no chance of getting anything out of it (and now apparently it will be even less chance)? That makes even less sense. I can’t even imagine spending real money for that. Maybe I’m the wrong target audience. (I’ve never bought a lockbox in my entire life.)

Sometimes I think SOE goes too far with their efforts at transparency. I mean, I appreciate the honesty, but when they “think out loud” online it sounds like they just don’t know what they’re doing, which squanders the goodwill they’re trying to get by being transparent.

H1Z1 – Early Access Already?

So apparently John Smedley of SOE called PvE players “disgusting carebears” on Twitter. (Covered by TAGN, BioBreak, and Clean Casuals.) It’s yet another example of how executives should never attempt to be funny in public.

More interesting to me was the sudden news (to me, at least) that H1Z1 is launching on Steam today (January 15). (Well, I say “launching” but I really mean “crowdfunding” because it’s an Early Access game.) This surprises me because I thought it would be a long, long time before we saw this game.

But then SOE seems be building their business around releasing games roughly two years before they are ready. I was burned once by SOE’s “early access” with Landmark, so there’s simply no way I’m buying Hizzy until launch day (and/or a deep, deep discount sale that puts it around $5), because if it’s anything like Landmark, they are releasing it way too early and what we’ll actually get is a game engine demo with maybe two hours of actual gameplay.

Not to mention that it’s a zombie survival game with, so far as I can recall, no distinguishing features. (Zing! Actually I don’t know if it has any features or not. I watched the very first live stream of H1Z1 and saw nothing but a running and driving simulator where you could hit zombies with a baseball bat.)

MMORPGs Aren’t Dinner Parties

I recently read this Soapbox article on Massively: Of course I care what you’re doing in MMOs.

(Contains Moderate Peril also read it.)

It’s a soapbox article, so I’ll grant that it’s supposed to be controversial. Jef sets out to refute what he calls this misconception he read on a forum: “Why do you care what other players do in an MMORPG? It doesn’t affect you.” I didn’t write that, but it’s something I might have written. So I was genuinely interested in hearing the reasoning behind Jef’s belief that it’s a “misconception.”

Unfortunately, Jef never directly addresses the question. His article goes on to say (in summary), “It does affect me and everyone should care.” But he never says how or why, except with the vague idea that the genre is diminished without more socialization. If Jef was trying to convince a soloist that his gameplay would be fundamentally enhanced by interacting more with the players in the game around him, he never gave any concrete examples from any real games.

So I remain unconvinced. You might already know that I play solo most of the time. I usually don’t give a whit what people are doing around me, unless they are somehow impeding me from completing my PvE goals. I’m not oblivious to the other people, though. I try not to interfere with them while I’m going about my business in the collectively-shared virtual world. This is more-or-less how I behave in real life, too. I don’t bother other people and I expect them not to bother me. This doesn’t seem very controversial to me.

My guess is that Jef was just trying to say that the social aspects of MMORPGs are more important to the genre than the RPG parts. He doesn’t want all MMORPGs to devolve into single-player games while leveling (I imagine he is thinking of games like ESO and SWTOR).

I can understand that, and even I am glad that there are group activities available in these games, but I never, ever want to log into an MMORPG and have to find other people before I can do anything rewarding. I don’t want my MMORPG to be some kind of dinner party, where introducing myself to people and mingling and striking up conversations to be polite is the social norm. I want to choose whether to be social or not. Just like real life.

I will always come down on the side of introverts’ rights–whether in game or in real life. :)

Elite: Dangerous Opinions and Advice

Elite: Dangerous is a neat game, however right now I see it mostly as a single-player game. I play it entirely in the “Solo” mode, and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything without other people around. Thus I wouldn’t consider it a contender for 2014’s MMO of the year, despite how bad the other choices were.

From what I can surmise, there are only two possible outcomes that can happen if you encounter another person: Either they can a) ignore you or b) try to shoot you down. (I suppose some weirdos might try c) start a conversation.) As far as I know, there are no group objectives to go after yet (such as world bosses), so there is nothing to “team up” with other spaceships for. So if you’re not a fan of Open World PvP I would suggest just sticking with Solo play. For me, Star Wars-style space battles aren’t what I want from a space game, so I just play Solo. (I’m not sure what I do want from a space game, but I know it’s not space battles. At least not with other people. It takes long enough to kill the AI pilots–it would probably take a good half hour to kill another person in an evenly-matched battle.)

The fact that you have to manually pilot your ship everywhere in Elite: Dangerous is both a blessing and a curse. I’ve always liked the idea of EVE but in practice I always felt like there was little or no interactivity in the gameplay–that is, you just click a couple of buttons and your ship automatically flies to a new spot. It’s neat, but during that time, you yourself just sit there staring at the screen doing nothing. That makes it very hard for me to justify paying a subscription for it.

In Elite: Dangerous, the process is entirely interactive, which makes it feel more like a game. Unfortunately, over time, the curse of it is that piloting your ship between systems gets a little old. Flying from system to system feels like “grinding”–just repeating the same actions over and over again. You start to wish for an auto-pilot so you could press a button, get up, do something else, and come back to find your ship docked at the next system. (In real life, I would think real space ships would have exactly that.) There’s an auto-docking computer you can buy which is sort of the right idea, but it doesn’t work very well (it keeps dinging my ship because it lands too hard) and it doesn’t pilot between systems. Maybe they’ll add a full auto-pilot in the future. I’d probably even pay real money for that.

Advice

Beware that it takes some time and practice to learn to fly your ship. It took me a couple of days before I could do anything but rotate around like an idiot in one place.

The default mouse-and-keyboard setup gives you your basic flight-simulator controls: Left and right to roll, up and down for pitch. You can get around like that, but to fly more efficiently (especially while docking) you’re also going to want to learn to use the up, down, left, and right thrusters, and the left and right yaw.

Expect it to take a dozen or so docking attempts before you start to get the hang of it. In those first ones, you’ll feel like a senior citizen trying to drive with macular degeneration. Do not turn off the rotational correction unless you are a serious masochist. Your ship will survive banging into walls and stuff so don’t worry too much about that.

Don’t worry if you run out of oxygen and die in deep space like I did. You’ll get a new Sidewinder ship for free. (Also, don’t forget to refuel every time you dock somewhere.)

Get to know your Frame Shift Drive (the ‘J’ key by default). It took me a while to realize this, but there are actually two different “modes” of the Frame Shift Drive. One is for flying between systems, and one is for flying within systems. If you notice that you can’t stop, it’s because your Frame Shift Drive is still on because you’re flying inside a solar system.

The basic idea with trading is to buy goods that have a High Supply and sell them to systems where they are in High Demand. The Galactic Map is not terribly helpful in giving you that information either. If you follow the trade routes on the map, you might end up getting boned. I don’t know if it’s a bug or if I’m using it wrong, but I’ve had to make lists of the items in high demand at various systems in a separate document.

The fastest way to make money by far is trading, by the way. Exploration, mining, and collecting bounties is really, really slow. It can take you hours and hours to make the same amount of money you’d get in one trip between adjacent systems. I’d really like to see those activities get improved rewards. I would do more of them but it’s just not worth it right now.

Conclusions

Since trading is pretty much the only effective way to “level up” in the game (ie. make more money), it gets pretty routine after a while. For that reason, my attention has drifted away from Elite: Dangerous to other things. Still, it’s a cool game, and I think I got my money’s worth. I’ll pop back in from time to time to see what they’re doing with it.

Year End 2014

In most Steam sales, I have a fairly strict cut-off point of avoiding anything unless it is under $10. Over the past year or so, I’ve rarely found anything meeting that criteria that I don’t already have, so I was a bit surprised to find myself buying nine games in this Winter Steam Sale, including Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, The Walking Dead Season 2, Murdered: Soul Suspect, Democracy 3, Contagion, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, Dominions 4, Thief, and Transistor. All less than $10.

Not to mention the fact that Origin had its own Winter Sale so I picked up Mass Effect 3 for a single-digit price, too.

Of course it will probably be years before I ever play any of those games, if ever. (I looked at Dominions 4 briefly but it was a bit confusing so I put it away again after about 15 minutes.)

I intended to finish Dragon Age II and then head into Dragon Age: Inquisition, but I stalled out after the second act. I was getting antsy for an ending so I could move on to something else, and then I went and bought Elite: Dangerous.

Elite: Dangerous came along at a great time because I was getting tired of story-driven gaming in general, and there were a bunch of Netflix shows I was falling behind on. For me, it’s rather difficult to watch television and cut scenes at the same time. But Netflix and Elite: Dangerous make the perfect combination.

Someday I’ll write more about Elite: Dangerous but in a nutshell I enjoy it. I have a hard time seeing it as an MMO though, because I’m playing it entirely in the “Solo” mode, and it doesn’t feel like I’m missing anything without other people. Space flight is an inherently lonely sort of activity, so it seems natural to me that there aren’t other people around. In real life I would only expect to see other people in the same ship that I was in, or after I landed on planets.

I don’t have much to say about the year 2014 in MMO gaming. I’m not much into trends. ESO and WildStar weren’t bad games in my opinion, but I didn’t get enough out of them to pay for a continuous subscription. I’d happily jump back into them again though. ArcheAge was a bit of a disappointment, although I could still see myself going back to it from time to time if–and only if–my progress were not destroyed by losing my property, which will eventually happen when my Patron status runs out.

As for 2015, one day I want to write a blog post about this, but I am going to call it now and say that EQ:Next is going to be a terrible game that will shatter the hopes of many people. There is an abundance of evidence for this conclusion in what we can already see in Landmark.