Why Endgame Viable

Well, here’s a topic. From Rowan Blaze: Why Have I Touched The Sky? Sort of a meta-blogging topic.

So my second challenge for you, Dear Reader, in these few days of Blaugust: Why did you title your blog what you did? Do you think the name still fits?

My first name for this blog was Melanthius. I still think that’s a cool name that rolls off the tongue, but it doesn’t have any inherent meaning when you look at it.

Then I was looking around at some other MMO blogs out there like Inventory Full and Bio Break and Hardcore Casual and Kill Ten Rats, and I thought to myself, holy crap those are great names because they a) instantly explain what the blog is about and b) have great branding.

So I set about to blatantly steal that concept. What I came up with was Endgame Viable.

And I’m not gonna lie, I hope people will accidentally click on my blog when they are searching for the flavor of the month class in whatever MMO they want to play. Because I have never seen any MMO yet where people aren’t asking in general chat in the newbie zone, “Is the (insert class or build here) viable for endgame?”

Far Cry 3

Continuing my journey through cutting edge games from two years ago (also games I’ve already paid for), I’m finally playing Far Cry 3, previously purchased in a Steam sale.

I enjoyed the first Far Cry. Well, I say that now, but when I look back on what I wrote about it in 2009, apparently I only thought it was “okay.”

I picked up FarCry from Steam for $9.99 a couple weeks ago.  It’s pretty cool, but it’s not blowing me away.

I’m not sure why X-Play gave it 5 stars.  It looks like it’s mostly a demo of the rendering engine, which is admittedly pretty nice.  However the gameplay is quite ordinary, and the acting and storyline is just terrible.  You’ve got your basic running, crouching, shooting and reloading (that always seems to be necessary at just the wrong time).  And sometimes you can drive around in boats and vehicles.

The best feature of the game is the wide open, huge islands you get to run around on.  There seems to be an emphasis on sneaking around, although I don’t see the point since there aren’t any sneak attacks, silencers or knives.  I can’t say I’m fond of sneaking around in the jungle though because you literally can’t see anything – the foliage always blocks your view.  Maybe that’s supposed to be a “feature.”  On the plus side, it’s kind of fun to take out camps of bad guys by popping them off one at a time from the edges, instead of charging into the middle with guns blazing.

I’ll give it a 3… out of 5.

Ah, remember the good old days when I watched X-Play? Well, you probably don’t because you weren’t there. Moving on.

I only played Far Cry 2 on the PS3, one of only a handful of console games I’ve bought in the last ten years. I remember thinking it was “okay” but I didn’t much like the openness of it and I didn’t care for the console controls. Here’s what I wrote later in 2009:

… I’ve also started FarCry 2 for the PS3.  The story is nothing like the original FarCry, sharing only a name that honestly has nothing to do with anything.  This time around you’re running (and driving) around an enormous chunk of Africa.

It’s one of those open-world style games, so you can do the missions in any order you want.  I actually find this style of game a little annoying – I get a better sense of accomplishment from linear games.  With open games I usually feel like I’m wandering around aimlessly for no particular reason.  FarCry 2 is not so bad, though – it actually feels a little like an MMO.

I tried some multiplayer but I was not impressed.  The lag was pretty intense so it felt like playing on a dial-up connection (maybe nobody was running servers near me).  Plus most of the maps that came up were user-generated, which means they pretty much sucked.

Much later I bought Far Cry 2 in a rock-bottom Steam sale so I could compare the PC version. Naturally I’ve never even installed it on PC, let alone played it.

Which brings us to Far Cry 3, nearly five years later.

Honestly I feel like the game is virtually identical to what I remember of Far Cry 2: Running and driving around a jungle capturing control points. It’s just that now we’re in a South Pacific jungle (I think) instead of an African jungle, and now we can hunt animals and rip their guts out to make things. All the NPCs sound like they have a weird mixture of African and Australian accents. The story is still stupid and uninspired, but I do enjoy roaming around capturing the Bad Guy outposts. I associate Far Cry with stealth tactics more than running-and-gunning, but I feel like I’m doing even more stealth in this version than any previous version. I hardly ever charge into any situation with guns blazing. I mainly use a silenced sniper rifle, a bow, and “takedowns.”

I started out playing with a controller just for simplicity of it, but I wasn’t happy with my inability to hit anything. (I haven’t played a shooter with a controller in ages.) So I went back to the ol’ mouse-and-keyboard setup.

Also, to prove to the world that I’m still a “real gamer” and not just some dirty casual old man, I am playing on the Hard setting. So there. Suck it, people-who-thought-I-wasn’t-a-real-gamer! Not that anyone ever did. (Actually I’m playing on Hard because the gameplay is more fun than the story.)

I doubt that I will “finish” the game. Like Far Cry 2, I’d be fine putting it away without finishing the story. One day I will simply not want to play it, and I’ll pick something else from the library.

What’s The Best Subscription-Only MMO?

What’s the best subscription-only MMO out there right now? If you could only pick one to maintain, which one would it be? (By the way, the possible answers are: WoW, EVE, WildStar, ESO, or FFXIV.)

This is pretty easy for me to answer, actually: Final Fantasy XIV. Hands down. No need to even talk about it. It’s beautiful, it’s fun, there’s a lot to do, it’s updated often, it does every MMO mechanic (that matters) exactly right, and it’s cheaper than the others at $12/month. The only down side is that replayability is low if you ever want to make a second character. (You don’t need to, though, since you can play any class.)

Somewhere in Final Fantasy XIV.
Somewhere in Final Fantasy XIV.

In second place I would probably put WoW. It’s more expensive but it’s hard to beat the sheer magnitude of content available. For me, though, the lack of modern MMO features gets on my nerves and the gameplay gets repetitive after a month or so.

WildStar and ESO are both great games, too, but only for a limited time. Each one becomes repetitive quickly, so there’s no need to keep a subscription going all the time unless you have friends that play it.

EVE? Come on. Do I even have to say? That game is just not fun. It’s barely even a “game.” It’s more of a point-and-click adventure. The only reason to subscribe now is if you somehow got invested in the game years ago and built up tons of skills to the point that now you have to subscribe because you can no longer learn any skills in under 6 months.

This is not to say that I wouldn’t subscribe to WoW, EVE, WildStar, or ESO ever. I just would only do it for an occasional month here or there. What I’m saying is that FFXIV is the best one to stay subscribed to all the time. At least for me. Opinions may vary, of course. :)

Identifying As A Gamer, Erratum

I’m not entirely sure what happened, but somehow WordPress posted two different versions of my last post. The RSS feed and the front page shows one version, but the post page itself shows a newer version. I think maybe ScribeFire did something to it. Anyway, I added a paragraph to my answer for question 20 at the last minute and this is what it was supposed to say:

20. Do you identify as a gamer?

Only while playing games and around other gamers. I generally don’t talk about games with “normals” because they think at best it’s weird and at worst it’s self-destructive.

I guess this question is aimed at uncovering my thoughts on the whole “real” gamer controversy. I can understand the need to believe that how one spends their time is important, and I can understand the competitive urge to be better than one’s peers, but I think I’ve outgrown all of that when it comes to video games. The only people that I think deserve to be put into a niche of their own are those kids who fly around the world playing in e-sports LAN tournaments and such.

To further elaborate, I didn’t mean to suggest e-sports tournament players are “real” gamers. I just meant that they are different in the same way that I would classify professional tennis players as different from people who play tennis with their friends on a weekend. The goals are entirely different. One is trying to make a living, and the other is just trying to relax and have fun. Sometimes those things overlap, but in my negligible experience with online gaming tournaments, there’s nothing relaxing about playing solely to win.

‘Cannot Be Tamed’ Gaming Answers

Okay, okay, here’s my answers to the Cannot Be Tamed Gaming Questionnaire. I found many of these questions pretty silly. I feel like writing my own questionnaire with hard-hitting, insightful questions like, “If you were a ferret, what kind of video game controller would you use?”

1. When did you start playing video games? 2. What is the first game you remember playing?

Somewhere around 1980-ish. I don’t remember if I had an Atari 2600 or a TRS-80 Color Computer first, though.

The first game I remember playing (i.e. that was good enough to make a lasting impression) was either Dungeons of Daggorath or a co-op asteroids-clone called Color Meteroids where one person controlled movement and another person controlled firing. (Both CoCo games.)

3. PC or Console? 4. XBox, PlayStation, or Wii? 


I have a PS3 that is still in a moving box unpacked. Even when it was hooked up, all I did was run the Netflix app. At one time I had planned to get an Xbox One but now I think I would get a PS4. I’ve heard the PS4 controller is better.

5. What’s the best game you’ve ever played? 6. What’s the worst game you’ve ever played? 

Who remembers that? For me, it changes all the time. The best game I’ve played in the last couple of months is The Witcher 2. I remember thinking that Bioshock Infinite was the best game ever, but now I barely remember it. Half-Life was a game-changer when it came out. Quake, QuakeWorld, and Quake 2 were the best for a while because I played them “competitively.” Ultima Online was the best for a while because it was the first MMO I ever played. Then Asheron’s Call was the best because it was better than UO.

The worst game wouldn’t even register for me because I generally don’t play games I don’t like. I remember being extremely disappointed with the co-op in the original Baldur’s Gate, though.

7. Name a game that was popular/critically adored that you just didn’t like.

Call of Duty multi-player, any version. I can’t keep up with the kids anymore. Also, I found the introduction of RPG elements into shooters pretty annoying because it made people who played longer even more impossible to beat.

Oh, Lineage II is another one. I quit as soon as I saw it was a click-to-move game.

8. Name a game that was poorly received that you really like.

Recently, ESO. At least until I stopped liking it hehe.

I don’t know if it was poorly received so much as unknown but I like Mortal Online in small doses. It gives me that UO nostalgia feeling. It’s hard to play a full loot, free-for-all PvP game in limited time blocks, though. You really need big chunks of time when there’s the risk of losing everything.

9. What are your favourite game genres?

RPGs and Shooters. Although as I’ve gotten older I don’t play very many shooters, partly because of aging reflexes and partly because every shooter has been basically the exact same game for the last fifteen years.

By the way, I credit Dungeons of Daggorath (mentioned above) with starting my love for both RPGs and Shooters.

10. Who is your favourite game protagonist?

My favourite [sic, hehe] is whatever I’m playing at the time. There’s a long list of protagonists I’ve liked: Altaïr* and Ezio from Assassin’s Creed, the Mass Effect guy whose name I can’t remember off the top of my head, Booker from Bioshock Infinite, Lara Croft in the latest Tomb Raider reboot, the girl in Mirror’s Edge whose name I forgot, some of the Grand Theft Auto characters, the guy from Saint’s Row 3 and 4.

I’ve been fascinated by the people who have responded to this question with “me.” (e.g. TAGN, Belghast) At no point do I ever think that “I” am in these games I’m playing, much in the same way I don’t think “I” am in books I read. Even if I make a game character from scratch, I’m building a character who is distinctly different from me. I might wonder what I would do if I were in the protagonist’s situation, and that might influence how I direct the game character, but that’s about the extent of my connection to the protagonists. (Though I suppose you could say there is some part of me in every character I create.)

11. Describe your perfect video game.

Easy to learn, hard to master. Never repetitious.

12. What video game character do have you have a crush on?

Ha! What a silly question. Maybe the red-head in Dragon’s Age.. Leliana? Elizabeth from Bioshock Infinite? Much like novels and movies, if a part is written well, the viewer/reader/player is going to form some kind of attachment to the character. For me it ends when I finish the game, though.

13. What game has the best music? 

I don’t know about “best” but this question reminds that I thought it was super cool that Nine Inch Nails did the soundtrack for Quake.

Video game music unfortunately doesn’t make much of an impact on me, which is weird because I love movie soundtracks. Very often I turn off game music so that I can watch television at the same time.

14. Most memorable moment in a game: 15. Scariest moment in a game: 16. Most heart-wrenching moment in a game:

All of these would come from Olden Days when I played Quake matches with my clan in tournaments. The times we barely won, the times we almost won, things like that. I remember being scared to death in the very first “competitive” match I played, which was a 2 on 2 Capture The Flag match. We came from behind to win that match, so that would be a great candidate for most memorable moment in a game, too. One day I still hope to convert some of these old, old Quake match demos into YouTube videos.

17. What are your favourite websites/blogs about games?

See blogroll. And there are probably tons that I’ve missed because I’m terrible at blogrolls, sorry.

18. What’s the last game you finished? 

The Witcher 2.

19. What future releases are you most excited about? 

Currently, The Witcher 3.

20. Do you identify as a gamer?

Only while playing games and around other gamers. I generally don’t talk about it with “normals” because they think at best it’s weird and at worst it’s self-destructive.

21. Why do you play video games? 

Because it’s cheap and fun. Duh. :)

* Yeah that’s an umlaut, baby! Also a test of utf-8 compatibility.

Neverwinter – Scourge Warlock First Impression

By accident I noticed that Neverwinter released a new update called Tyranny of Dragons, in which they added the very cool-sounding new class Scourge Warlock.

Scourge warlock in action

In terms of gameplay, however, I found the SW a little on the “meh” side. I feel like they might have borrowed a lot from the Control Wizard because it felt very similar to me. (My first level-cap character was a CW.) The main attack is the same kind of triple-bolt spell that the CW uses.

Scourge warlock in action again

I was considerably more impressed by the gameplay of the Hunter Ranger class a while back. (I just now realized, as I went to look for a link to my previous post on the subject, that I never actually posted anything on the Hunter Ranger. Oops. Oh I remember now: I did a stream of it which I didn’t save and is now lost to time.) So if I had to pick one of the two new classes, I would go with the HR.

I will say that the SW does a crap-ton of damage in the first seven levels. It’s sort of like the Trickster Rogue in that regard. You just walk into a room, spam the mouse buttons and a couple of encounter keys, and everything dies around you. Unlike the TR, however, the SW uses a lot of colorful animations to do it.

Speaking of animations, has anyone noticed that the human running animations in Neverwinter are awful?

Overall I was a little disappointed in the Scourge Warlock, at least through level 7. It sounds like it should be a lot cooler than it actually is. Perhaps it gets better later on, but for me, the gameplay wasn’t interesting enough to go through the same repetitive Neverwinter quests again. I still stand by the Great Weapon Fighter as my favorite class in the game.

If you’re wondering, I did not spend the megabucks to try out the Dragonborn race.

P.S. If you are like me and can’t remember how to take screenshots in Neverwinter, you have to /bind it to to the printscreen key manually: /bind sysrq screenshot_jpg. (Of course, you can bind it to whatever key you want.)

ArcheAge – It’s Not A PvP Gank-Fest

UPDATE 10/24 – Before you run to the comments to disprove me because of that one time you were ganked in a situation where you probably should have expected it, let me explain the purpose of this post. I’m not saying that ganking is impossible in ArcheAge, especially after level 30 (though I would argue that “ganking” is the wrong term to use after you’ve reached level 30). What I’m saying is that it’s extremely rare if you stay in safe zones, and you’re not going to lose anything if it happens, so there’s no reason not to try the game. You can level all the way to 50 in ArcheAge without ever leaving a safe zone, and maybe without ever engaging in combat. (One could argue that it’s actually faster to get to level 50 by farming and trading than by questing.) Also, your mileage may vary depending on which server you play on. The “original” servers like Kyrios and Naima and Kyprosa are probably more populated with people who came to ArcheAge just to gank people. Now back to your regularly scheduled post.

This has been bothering me for a while. In the western alpha and beta, ArcheAge has been building a rep as a “ganker” game with a terrible PvP community. I don’t mean to pick on Syp specifically, but I think I snapped and decided to respond to the criticism around the time he posted We Don’t Serve Your Kind Here. If nothing else, that article serves as an excellent representative sample of the reputation ArcheAge is building.

Looking down on the desert

I feel like people are getting the wrong impression of the PvP in ArcheAge. ArcheAge is NOT a free-for-all PvP gank-fest. At least it wasn’t when I played. It’s not like the old Ultima Online, where the moment you stepped out of the city, somebody ganked you to take your newbie clothes just for the fun of it. That kind of ganking does not happen in ArcheAge.

And frankly, ganking like that only happens in a free-for-all game if you are unwise, unwary, and unlucky. If you adopt a little more defensive attitude, it’s fairly easy to avoid ganking in free-for-all games. It’s a bit like how we all have adopted basic defensive postures in our real lives: We don’t walk around city streets naked, waving wads of cash around in our hands; similarly, you don’t go exploring out of the front gate of newbie town in torn cloth and a wooden sword without saving your stuff in the bank first.

But that’s beside the point, because you won’t be ganked outside of newbie town in ArcheAge. You can’t be attacked by the opposite faction while you’re on your own faction’s continent, unless a) you attack first, or b) you’re in a war zone. War zones are clearly marked, so you can’t wander into one accidentally. I believe it’s possible to be attacked by someone of your own faction if that person switches into rage mode (or whatever it’s called), but I personally never witnessed such a crime taking place. If it did happen, that person would immediately be a) killed by others and/or b) reported and jailed.

In any case you wouldn’t lose anything. ArcheAge is also not a full-loot game. With one very important exception: You will drop your trade pack if you happen to be carrying one. (But in the course of normal PvE exploration, you don’t carry trade packs.) One time I was in a (clearly marked) war zone and happened to go AFK. That was a mistake, and I don’t recommend it. When I came back, of course I was dead. It was totally my own fault. I should have logged out. But did I lose anything? Nope. Nothing at all. I just respawned and continued my day as if nothing had happened. It was exactly the same result that would have happened if a PvE mob had come across me AFK.

I played the ArcheAge alpha up to around level 30, so I can only speak to that experience. But in that time, I played almost entirely solo, without the benefit of a gang of guild-mates for protection. I was never ganked or griefed unexpectedly (other than the one case above). I was never attacked by someone of my own faction. Once I saw a high-level person of the other faction wandering around a low-level town. It caused some murmuring in zone chat but he caused no harm at all.

Now I did encounter a few opportunistic PvPers on the ocean, but that’s to be expected because all of the ocean is usually a war zone. (Not always, though.) And I did have some of my plants stolen from me on my home continent. I was experimenting with planting some trees on some “public” land that I thought nobody would find while I was at work. Turns out, somebody found it. Lesson learned: Don’t plant on public land unless you’re going to stand there and defend it.

Syp suggested that ArcheAge open a PvE-only server. It’s worth considering, but I think that would be a poor business decision by Trion for one very big reason: The PvE aspects of ArcheAge aren’t that good. I’m sorry to say it, but the leveling and questing is average at best, and the class system isn’t nearly as flexible as something like Rift. Sure, in the first 10 levels, it seems like a whole new world with the cute growing animals and the rowboats and all. But that feeling of freshness doesn’t last very long. A PvE-only server would probably die out very quickly.

What makes ArcheAge stand out in the long term (in my opinion) is its concept of trading, which (I think) makes it similar to EVE. And without the possibility of pirates stealing your booty, there is nothing at all interesting about running trade goods from one place to another place. It’s just a time sink.

Still, you can carry trade goods around in completely safe areas, in completely safe ways. I did it quite a number of times. You won’t earn tons of money, but you’ll earn enough to pay for a farm at least. It’s kind of relaxing in a way, riding a donkey up and down the roads.

So I guess my point is that even if you hate PvP and gankers, you should still give ArcheAge a try. It’s not nearly as bad as forums and comments and Reddit might lead you to believe. ArcheAge may not be designed for PvE players, but there is plenty of room for PvE. I can vouch for perfect PvE bliss up to level 30. Let’s face it, since we’re all so burned out on MMOs, you’ll probably get bored of it by then and want to leave anyway, so what do you have to lose?

WoW: 10 Years, 10 Questions, 10 Answers

Alternative Chat is asking everyone 10 questions about WoW for a documentary. Most answers that I’ve seen have been coming from semi-hardcore WoW players, but I thought it would be fun to give answers from a non-hardcore WoW player. Plus, it’s good material for a blog post!

10 Years :: 10 Questions

1. Why did you start playing Warcraft?

I started playing in 2006 after I saw the infamous Make Love, Not Warcraft episode of Southpark. I had had a WoW trial CD (yes, a CD!) sitting around for a long time prior to that from (I think) a video card purchase. I was scared to try it, though, because I had previously played Asheron’s Call way too much and I was a little worried I would get sucked into WoW in the same way. (Turns out I didn’t.)

2. What was the first ever character you rolled?

A human warrior named Armsbig, so cleverly-named because human warriors have big arms. As of today, he is level 28. I don’t like warriors much but I keep him around just because he was my first character. He also serves as an interesting reminder of how much faster it is to level now versus 2006.

Later I switched to a night elf hunter for my main, because I was getting very frustrated with Armsbig dying repeatedly in Westfall. Back then if you wanted to solo, a hunter was definitely the easiest way to go.

3. Which factors determined your faction choice in game?

I don’t really remember. I think I picked Alliance initially because I thought it would be hard to explain to my then-wife why I would be playing a weird monster thingy. Also, the Horde races were pretty ugly. I do remember expecting to be in the minority by picking the “good guy” Alliance faction, though.

4. What has been your most memorable moment in Warcraft and why?

Hrm. This is a hard one because I don’t really play that much. I guess it would have to be the first time I saw a raid of Horde players attacking Sentinel Hill in pre-Cataclysm Westfall. I remember being impressed at how many people were involved, and how many corpses lay on the ground afterward. (At the time, I don’t think I had ever seen that many players onscreen at the same time in any game before without severe lagging.) I don’t think I got involved, though; I just stood around watching. (I have always played on a PvE server.)

Ah, ha. I found what I posted about it on November 13, 2006. Sadly, the screenshots have been lost. They were tiny and low-res anyway.

I saw the funniest thing on Undermine last night: A full-blown Horde raid on the Sentinel Tower in Westfall.

This was no small raid, either. This was a coordinated effort by dozens of high-level Horde players. It was quite spectacular to watch — it was like a virtual version of a battle scene from Braveheart.. Fire rained from the sky, arrows flew, swords clashed. There must have been fifty or more people in a mass chaotic melee between the Horde players, Alliance players, and Sentinel guards. It was hilarious.

I can’t imagine why a Horde raiding group would be interested in capturing Sentinel Hill, but it certainly provided me with a great deal of entertainment. I didn’t get involved, though, despite numerous taunts from the Horde raiders. I didn’t see much point in jumping into the middle of a sea of Level ?? Horde players with my puny little Level 17 alt warrior (for non-gamers, that would be like sending a 6-year-old with a pointy stick into a fight against veteran knights wearing plate mail armor). One Level 19 guy standing next to me was dumb enough to join the melee and died about 2 seconds later.

I think the Horde raiders were eventually defeated. I got tired of watching after the first wave of attacks was beaten back, so I wandered off back to my quests.

5. What is your favourite aspect of the game and has this always been the case?

For me, being a more casual WoW player, the best part of WoW is that there is always something new to see. The amount of content in WoW is staggering. Even ten years later, I can still log in and do something I’ve never done before. I can try a race I haven’t played before, or a class I haven’t played before, or go to a zone I’ve never seen before. (Or perhaps forgotten about.) I still haven’t reached level 90 on any character yet so I technically haven’t yet experienced “the endgame.” That’s the main thing that keeps me coming back to WoW.

6. Do you have an area in game that you always return to?

Just the Stormwind bank. :) Other than that, I’m usually in a different place every time I play.

7. How long have you /played and has that been continuous?

I don’t have a subscription right now so I can’t check. :( It has definitely not been continuous though. I don’t think I have ever played WoW continuously for more than three months at a time, and probably not even a year total.

8. Admit it: do you read quest text or not?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I often do grindy stuff in MMOs while watching television or listening to audiobooks, and during those times, I don’t read quest text. If I’m focusing just on the game, I usually read or at least skim the text.

9. Are there any regrets from your time in game?

Nope. Well, I guess I regret never having seen raids from “back in the day.” But I don’t regret keeping all the time and energy that would have gone into that.

10. What effect has Warcraft had on your life outside gaming?

None that I can think of. I’m of an age where talking about video games in real life is frowned upon anyway, so I would never admit to playing Warcraft. :)