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.

Massively’s Best of 2014

I was looking over Massively’s choices of the best MMO launched in 2014.massively2014poll

That’s a terrible list.

Of those, I consider only two of them to be “legitimate” candidates: ESO and WildStar. And of those two, ESO wins because it is the more innovative of the two. (Only one of the Massively people agreed with me.) It’s sad to note, though, that I only played those two games for two months and one month respectively. Both suffered from the same flaw: You get most of your skills early in the leveling process and they never change much, which makes leveling somewhat pointless because your character doesn’t appear to get any more powerful. You’re forced to keep making alts to experience variety in gameplay.

ArcheAge was technically launched years ago in Korea. But even if you count it as launching this year for the first time, it’s not the best MMO of 2014.

Firefall, Swordsman, Destiny, and The Crew are not MMOs, imo. Of course, I’ve only played one of them–Firefall. Firefall is fun, but it’s nothing like an MMO to me. Swordsman is PvP so who cares. :) The Crew is… whatever, nobody cares. Destiny is just a console shooter.

Elite: Dangerous might be a consideration but it looks too much like EVE for me to believe it’s a real game. (Zing!) But I’ll probably get it soon.

Also, Massively forgot to mention Trove, which I think is officially launched now. It’s a legitimate sandboxy MMO in my opinion, and also pretty fun.

Dragon Age Ate My Life

In case anyone is wondering, Dragon Age has eaten my life.

Get that camera out of my face.

I’m currently playing through Dragon Age II for the first time, after which I’m going to play Inquisition. So, no time for blogging, writing, sleeping, eating, playing any MMOs, or moving away from the PC screen for even a moment.

ArcheAge – Post-Mortum

I’m determined to sit here and write a complete blog post.

Inspired somewhat by j3w3l’s recent post, I’ve been thinking about ArcheAge. Thinking, that is, but not playing, because my work schedule has been ramping back up and ArcheAge is not a game you can play when you only have a little bit of time to play it. Not to mention the possibly-related fact that I’ve lost interest in it. I still log into ArcheAge once or twice a week to make sure my taxes are paid and to stockpile more tax certificates, but that’s about it. (Why they changed it to let you pay taxes with labor points I’ll never know.) I slaughtered my geese and haven’t planted any new fruit trees after they mysteriously disappeared one day. (I’m not entirely sure that someone or something wasn’t messing with my geese, too–I logged in several times to find them in various stages of fed/unfed/starving/recovering, and I’m quite certain I didn’t do any of it.)

This is about the only thing I see in ArcheAge anymore--the mailbox, where I pay my taxes.
This is about the only thing I see in ArcheAge anymore–the mailbox, where I pay my taxes.

Did I get my money’s worth out of ArcheAge? Probably not. I impulsively plunked down $150 for the Alpha Access however long ago that was. In World of Warcraft terms, that should have been 10 months of gameplay, but I certainly haven’t played ArcheAge for 10 months and can’t imagine doing so. I’d guess I got 4 or 5 months of decent gameplay out of it, before and after launch. That’s pretty good for an MMO these days, but not quite $150 worth of good. I’m not ruling out ever going back to ArcheAge, but I certainly won’t go back after my Patron status runs out … whenever. I have no clue when that will happen. The login screen says December 20 but it’s been wrong several times before.

Do I regret spending that $150? Not exactly. I still think I made an informed decision. I knew I was going to like the game. From my experience with the Russian version, I knew exactly how ArcheAge played and what state it was in (ie. finished except for the text), so it wasn’t like Landmark where I spent money without knowing what kind of game I was going to get. But I think I underestimated how much of a time sink that ArcheAge was going to be, and I just can’t sustain that for long.

Then there are the exploits and the apparent rampant incompetence of XLGames (I see Trion as having their hands tied). ArcheAge reminds me quite a lot of the early days of Ultima Online. Early UO was riddled with bugs and exploits that went on and on and on. As soon as one exploit got fixed, five new ones popped up. And these were big time exploits, too. Duping and teleportation and such. If UO were released today in the state it was back then, it would be laughed off the market. Which is more-or-less exactly what is happening to ArcheAge right now. (Although weirdly, ArcheAge queries to my blog vastly outnumber any other game queries, so based on that highly unscientific measurement, the market still has plenty of demand for it.)

It’s a shame because there is a very good core of a game there. I think it has a good balance of PvP and PvE. But I feel like the game isn’t quite finished yet. It needs a sequel. It needs a graphics engine update and an update to whatever underlying system is so vulnerable to exploits, and it needs a slew of tweaks to the gameplay. It needs a longer leveling curve and a shorter profession leveling curve. It needs more solo gameplay options and objectives. It needs more responsiveness so you don’t feel like you get killed by latency half the time. (Guild Wars 2 is the new standard for responsiveness in MMO gameplay, in my opinion.) And it goes without saying that it needs a lot more rigorous quality control.

Most of all it needs to decide whether it’s free-to-play or not. Right now, it’s not. You have to have Patron status to play the game as it’s intended. To me, that means it’s effectively a subscription game. (I feel the same about SWTOR. You can’t play that game without a subscription to remove all the restrictions. I mean, you can’t even use a frickin’ healing potion/stim/injection/whatever? Seriously?*) And unfortunately, it’s not the best subscription game on the market right now. (I would subscribe to SWTOR before I subscribed to ArcheAge.)

  • UPDATE: Oops I recently discovered this problem was not due to a free-to-play restriction but rather due to me somehow having the ‘H’ key bound to both a hotbar action and opening a window. Sorry SWTOR. Even so, it still plays much better with a subscription. :)

Bloggy Xmas Day 7: Community and Me

Sitting down to write this, I can’t help but wonder why on Earth I signed up to write about community and gaming. I’m pretty introverted, so the idea that I might have anything to say about being a part of any community seems laughable. And to top it off, I don’t much like the Christmas season, either.

But the nature of community compels me to write anyway. Despite my own anti-social nature, I still feel like I’m a part of a gaming community–a collection of people who share a common enjoyment of gaming, particularly the online multiplayer variety.

If it weren’t for the existence of the gaming community, I would probably feel like an ostracized weirdo (more so than usual). I say that because I know almost nobody in real life who plays any kind of computer games other than puzzle or card games on Facebook. Most people I know in real life that are my age or above (cough 44 cough) find online multiplayer gaming to be an oddity that only strange people do. (Or at least that’s my perception.) Their only experience of it comes from whatever they hear on the news, which is rarely good. It’s not something they think that normal, healthy, well-adjusted adults would get involved in. As adults, if we are to play any kind of game with a group of people, it is generally expected that we are going to be in a room interacting with other people, without any need for computers.

(It’s a totally different story with the real life people I know under 40, though. For people in their twenties or thirties, playing online games seems to be a perfectly normal part of everyday life. I’m envious of younger generations for that.)

I first discovered the gaming community around 1996 or 1997, when I ventured onto the Internet to play Quake. In those days, people used dial-up modems to play games, and we envied and hated anyone who played from a college campus or work environment with a high-speed connection. I spent a ridiculous amount of money for an ISDN line to my rural house so that I could get better pings in Quake. For about a year, I had to dial into a number that wasn’t local, so my phone bills were hundreds of dollars every month.

It was worth it because I felt like a contributing member of a team where my skills were useful, and more importantly I felt like it was normal to play games with people scattered all over the country and the world. There were no judgments and everybody was an equal. I got involved in a “clan” that sprung up on a server that I played on frequently. We played in matches and tournaments, and won a fair number of them. (Back then, you didn’t get anything for winning a tournament except a pat on the back, but it was still great fun.) We also played Ultima Online and Asheron’s Call, which is where my love for MMORPGs started.

Between 2000 and 2006, real life started to intrude on my gaming and I drifted away from the online world, spending most of my time on single-player games. Then I saw that infamous Make Love, Not Warcraft episode of South Park, nostalgia overpowered me, and I dug out a demo CD of World of Warcraft that I’d had laying around for about a year. Since then I’ve played almost every major MMO that’s come out, at least for a little while.

My community involvement is different now than it was before 2000, though. I’m not involved in any guilds or clans anymore, so I don’t have much direct interaction with other gamers. (As I said, I don’t really know any other gamers in real life, except maybe my niece, but I don’t see her very often, and honestly it’s a bit weird for me when online worlds and real-life words collide.) Sometimes I think I should get more involved, and every now and then I join a guild in a game that I really like, but as an introvert, it’s a pretty major commitment for me. After spending all day at work interacting with other people, most nights I don’t want to socialize any more than I have to.

Still, I feel like I need to maintain some connection to the community, and that’s one of the reasons I write a gaming blog. For one thing, I like to write, and for another, I enjoy reading other bloggers’ adventures in the gaming world. It helps me to understand that it’s not weird to play games online, and it keeps me grounded in what can be a challenging world. And if I get that from other blogs, maybe someone, somewhere will get the same from my blog. It’s one small way that I can give back to a community that has been a big part of my adult life.

Merry Bloggy Xmas everyone! (Don’t forget to lock your doors so Santa doesn’t get you.)