On The Radar For 2015

Last time I did this.

Note that some games aren’t on the following list because I have either a) forgotten about them, or b) never heard of them.

MMORPGs I’m Looking Forward To

These are games that I’m still anxiously awaiting the opportunity to play, because I haven’t yet seen or heard anything to wreck my enthusiasm.

Black Desert. I keep seeing good things.

Skyforge. I keep hearing good things.

Otherland. I have enjoyed some Tad Williams books in the past, so surely a game based on some of his books I haven’t read would be good.

MMORPGs I’m Ambivalent About

I’m not excited about these games per se, but I’ll probably buy or try them because of hype and/or boredom and/or peer pressure.

GW2: Heart of Thorns. I’ll play it, but because it’s GW2 aka. The One RPG Without Meaningful Rewards I’m anticipating that I’ll get bored quickly.

Crowfall. To me, this isn’t even an MMORPG, and I think a lot of people are going to be disappointed by that after the hype wears off. My latest concern is that the ambitious class customization plans will result in PvP balance issues that will ruin the game. (Everyone will keep chasing that one overlooked combination that is bugged and overpowered, resulting in an endless cycle of nerfing disappointment and forum rage.)

EQNext. I’m not burdened by EQ nostalgia, plus I have no reason to think this game will be good. (Where is ACNext Turbine??)

Pathfinder Online*. I’ve never played the tabletop version, and the gameplay appears uninteresting (and the animations are terrible), and it’s open world PvP. When will they learn?

Camelot Unchained*. I hear a lot of buzz about this game but it doesn’t look that great to me. That YouTube video honestly makes it look like the most boring thing in the entire universe. Given the way the devs talk about it, I get the impression that this game is more about being a game engine technology demo than a game.

MMORPGs I’m Undecided About

These are games that are on my radar, but I don’t know enough yet to form an opinion about how much I’d be willing to spend on them.

Shroud of the Avatar*. Seems to be flying under the radar. I hear little or nothing about it, but the gameplay looks tolerable.

Gloria Victis*. I like the look of this game but, you know, it’s open world PvP so it will mostly be a game of staying in town or hiding from people.

Wander. Saw it on Steam. It looks cool. It’s not clear to me if this is a PC game or not though.

MMORPGs I’ve Lost Interest In

These would probably have to be free or sold at a deep discount for me to even try them, unless I start to see a lot more positive buzz.

Star Citizen*. Honestly I’m not sure what this game is right now, but anything targeted at EVE players probably isn’t for me, plus we all know this is vaporware, right? (Just kidding! Don’t freak out!) But seriously, I think the smart money is on this game self-destructing from too much ambition.

Life is Feudal*. I thought there might be something to this game, but so far it looks like a plain old survival building game, and the models and animation need serious work.

Das Tal* and Albion Online*. Overhead views plus open world PvP. Why, god, why?

Pantheon: Something of Something*. Seems unlikely this will ever see the light of day, but if it does, only those handful of people who backed it will delude themselves into thinking it’s fun to replicate late-1990s mechanics. Sorry but this game looks awful right now.

H1Z1*. I don’t even consider this an MMORPG.

Pre-Launch MMORPGs I’ve Already Bought

Trove*. (I think it’s still technically beta.) I like it. Good casual game.

Landmark*. Meh. Just meh. Do we really need a game that’s a thinly-disguised 3D modelling program with a 1980s-style UI font?

The Repopulation*. I haven’t played enough to know what to think of it. But I feel like it’s probably trying to do too much and it’ll never capture that SWG feeling.

Advice To Game Developers

Please perfect your basic artwork assets, models, and animations before releasing anything to the public. It’s a huge turn-off to see placeholder models and animations that make your game look like a high school project. It’s literally the first thing I evaluate to determine if your development effort is serious business or you’re just a bunch of kids messing around in somebody’s basement. Great results can and do come from people’s basements, but honestly not very often.

* These games can be bought and played now in some early access form or another. (I think. Don’t hold me to it.)

ESO Unlimited Arrives

ESO Unchained or Unlimited or whatever looks pretty good to me. I patched up and logged in for a few minutes to check it out.

ESO Crown Store
Six pets seems like a rather small selection.

The cash shop is very unobtrusive–about the same as GW2–but it’s also very empty… I didn’t see anything I might be tempted to buy, like for example, the only thing I really wanted–more inventory space. Also, the 800 crowns I was given wasn’t enough to buy much of anything but health potions or maybe a pet.

Overall the game looks nearly identical to when I left, which I consider to be a good thing. (I wasn’t enticed enough to actually play, but I probably will this weekend when I have more time.)

Low-Energy Gaming

Real life’s been kicking me in the teeth lately–I’m adjusting to a new work role/schedule and of course there was the annoying end of Daylight Savings. So my MMO gaming (and writing, and overall mental attitude, and almost everything else) has suffered.

Oddly enough I’ve landed on Path of Exile as a mental tonic, a game which I had previously rejected as uninteresting all the way back in its nearly-perpetual beta. Now I see that it has one very compelling feature: You can play it one-handed.

That probably sounds weird, but if a game can be played with just the mouse, it’s perfect for my super low-energy playing moods. In Path of Exile, I can run around bashing things with a club and only occasionally reach for the keyboard to drink a potion. Meanwhile I can sip my coffee or munch on whatever junk food happens to be nearby, further enhancing my stupor.

PoE is a great game for what it is, although I find the loot kind of annoying. It seems that roughly 95% of it is trash and not even worth picking up, particularly since your inventory space is very limited. So far I haven’t felt any need to buy anything from the cash shop, so it’s a pretty good free-to-play model from what I can tell.

So much loot to avoid clicking on.
So much loot to avoid clicking on.

As for more traditional MMOs (sort of), the most complicated one I’ve managed lately is Trove. I figured out how to disable the recently-added “Rally” feature so that random strangers will stop appearing next to me out in the wild when I want to be left alone. (Hold down your Use button on the Rally statue at the beginning and it toggles the feature on and off. Super intuitive, right? Not.)

The Line Between Hand-Crafted And Random

Syp generated some conversation and controversy by posting a somewhat strongly-worded post against procedurally-generated worlds, but I think he’s absolutely correct: If a developer tries to cut corners by substituting a computer-generated world in place of what should have been a hand-crafted world, it probably won’t be fun. I’m not sure which game he was talking about, but it might have been Crowfall or H1Z1, both of which embrace procedurally-generated worlds and claim to be MMORPGs.

He might also have been thinking of Trove which creates random worlds when you go through those Adventure gates. Those worlds aren’t terrible, but they don’t have any depth or personality. It’s obvious that they are computer-generated. When you leave, there is no reason to remember any part of it. But I don’t think they’re intended to be remembered. They’re just 3D spaces for you to run through and gather materials and kill stuff. You then use those materials to build your club world any way you want. (Or something like that.)

It’s basically the same in Landmark, the only other procedurally-generated MMORPG-like game that I have any experience with. The worlds themselves are forgettable–what you’re supposed to remember is the player-built constructions. You can always move to another world if you don’t like it.

I suppose that’s the demarcation line: Whether the world is supposed to be temporary or not. It’s okay and probably even desirable to create temporary worlds procedurally, but if the world is supposed to be permanent and especially if it’s supposed to be part of a story (like most “traditional” MMORPGs are supposed to be), it’s going to come out better when it’s hand-crafted, and savvy consumers will be able to tell the difference.

I think that Crowfall will be able to get away with procedurally-generated worlds because of the nature of their campaign system (and the fact that it’s not really an MMORPG like we’re used to). I imagine that starting a campaign will be somewhat similar to starting a game of Civilization. As you discover the landscape around you, you’ll be able to use it strategically as you place your forts or ganking chokepoints or whatever. And to maintain freshness, each new campaign world should be different from the last.

I haven’t played it yet, but I imagine it should work for H1Z1 because those worlds are mostly intended as a stage upon which to hit other people over the head and take their stuff. People probably aren’t going to be looking to discover any ancient civilizations in cryptic ruins.

Liebster Award Saga Continues

Thanks for the nomination j3w3l! I find these things kind of silly, but I guess it would be rude not to participate in the phenomenon that has taken over the MMO blogosphere lately. I’m such a perfectionist though it’s taken forever to put this together. :)

Eleven quick facts about me:

  1. I’ve self-published a book on Amazon and sold over three copies.
  2. I used to write music and record songs in a home studio.
  3. I’ve had tons of dental work done.
  4. I secretly wish I could do slight-of-hand magic.
  5. My perfectly sane retirement plan is to become a best-selling author.
  6. This year I’m hoping to buy a house; I’ve been renting for three years.
  7. I hate talking about myself which makes job interviews painful.
  8. I used to have really long hair but I cut it short on my 40th birthday.
  9. My favorite pickle is the Mt. Olive Kosher Dill pickle.
  10. I don’t talk much but sometimes I can be annoyingly verbose.
  11. I can juggle up to four balls.

Answers to j3w3l’s questions:

If you were to be an expert in a singular subject (anything not just regular school stuffz) what would that be.

I wish I was better at simple mechanical things like home repairs, but I’m just too lazy. In a less practical area I’d love to be an expert swordfighter–I just recently discovered that German longsword fighting is a real thing. If I were 20 years younger I’d be all over that. I still might try it just for the exercise, but I’ll probably embarrass myself.

Your favourite tv show or cartoon when growing up.

This led me to a giant rabbit hole of looking through old Saturday morning cartoon lineups and prime time schedules from the 1980s to find the exact shows that I watched. But then I started to wonder, “What exactly is the age range where one grows up?” Then my precise scientific research went off the rails into some weird philosophical area.

So here are some shows I remember watching religiously from the late 70s through the mid 80s: Quark (briefly), Buck Rogers, Battlestar Galactica, The Dukes of Hazzard (obviously!), Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner, Superfriends, The A-Team, MacGyver, Remington Steele (I had a huge crush on Laura Holt), and pretty much every sitcom that ever came on NBC Thursday nights (Cosby, Cheers, Night Court, etc.)

If you were to be turned into a monster, from any medium or even your imagination what would that be.

Probably a plain old vampire. Eternal life and all that. I’ve never thought about it much though.

Favourite mode of transportation in games.

I’m not much of a mount collector but the horses in Age of Conan are the best ones I can remember. I also like the animation of dwarves bobbing back and forth on yarnosaurs in Rift. I remember loving the flying griffons in WoW way back when I first started playing.

Your favourite piece of merchandise, gaming or non-gaming.

If this means action figures or posters or figurines or the like, I honestly don’t think I own any. I have a problem spending money on things that have no practical use. My house has virtually no decorations in it. Weird but true.

The music that gets you moving, genre and artist.

I don’t dance but anything with a good drum beat will get me playing air drums, usually in the Rock genre. Here is a tiny random selection of songs on my Android car playlist: Bon Jovi Livin’ on a Prayer, Breaking Benjamin Breath, Chevelle I Get It, Extreme Slide, Huey Lewis Couple Days Off, Linkin Park Given Up, Motley Crue Kickstart My Heart, Rush Tom Sawyer, Seether Gasoline, Stone Temple Pilots Unglued, Van Halen Man on a Mission, ZZ Top Sleeping Bag.

If you were to punch a historical figure who would that be.

Whoever invented the 40-hour work week.

If there was one law you were able to break with impunity which would it be.

Ha! Tax evasion? Then I might feel better about splurging more on merchandise. :)

If you could bring one mechanic from games into the real world what would it be.

At first I thought this meant a literal mechanic, as in a person who fixes things. I was imagining some gnomes from World of Warcraft running around fixing my water heater, which might be kind of cool actually, unless I had to listen to their terrible jokes all day long.

As for game mechanics I think it would be cool if people had health bars on them. :) And I wish you could rate people in real life based on your interactions with them, and have that number floating over their heads when you see them. Sort of like the recommendations in FFXIV but mostly I remember it from the book Daemon by Daniel Suarez. It would probably end up destroying society though.

Draw me personal portrait, and yes paint is acceptable.

This was the hardest one of all! Draw something? Are you kidding?? :) Anyway it’s pretty awful but here it is.

20150307_205041_small

Now for the even-more-hardest part: Thinking up new questions that aren’t too dumb but also don’t sound like essay questions.*

  1. What was the last animated series you watched?
  2. How many mobile devices do you own (choose your own definition)?
  3. Are your right- or left-handed? Do you wish you were the other?
  4. At what point in your life did you give up on the political system (an intentionally loaded question)?
  5. Is it weird to peel a banana from the bottom?
  6. What is your favorite season (ie. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter) and why?
  7. What kind of coffee or tea or orange juice do you drink?
  8. How many games are on your desktop right now?
  9. How many musical instruments do you play? Are you out of practice?
  10. What kind of car do you drive? What would you rather drive?
  11. Are you more of a Mulder/believer or a Scully/skeptic (of whatever subject you care to fill in)?

It’s also been hard finding blogs that a) haven’t already responded, b) haven’t already been nominated, and c) have a known Twitter handle so you can actually notify them of their nomination, but here are a few. I think some of these have already been tagged but they haven’t posted yet so get writing! Or feel free to totally ignore me if you want, and if anyone else wants to chime in, go for it.

* In case anyone cares, my answers would be: American Dad, 5+, right/no, around age 35, only if it’s too ripe, Spring, Folgers, like a hundred, 4/holy god yes, Honda Accord/Porsche, mostly skeptic.

Banished From MMOs For A Bit

Most of my time lately has been spent playing Banished, which is a city builder game that I picked up on a Steam sale for $6. This might be the best $6 I’ve ever spent on a game.

I love this game. Historically, I am terrible at city builder games and usually give up on them quickly because it’s no fun to watch people starve to death. (That’s how my cities usually end up.) Even going back to the earliest city builder game I can remember, a type-in BASIC program called Hamurabi that I played on a TRS-80 Color Computer, I almost always starved my people.

But for some reason, Banished is simple enough for me to grasp the mechanics of it and actually enjoy playing it. Maybe it’s all of the cool built-in graphs that you can see, which gives you a pretty good idea of where your settlement needs work without having to wait for people to start dying.

This is not good. Time to make some more food.
Not the direction you want your food graph to be trending.

It’s fascinating to watch all the little people milling around like ants as they do their jobs. It’s a little weird that people age at a faster rate than the seasons go by though. It’s sort of like a Game of Thrones world where the winters last 10 years.

Banished also has a time-traveling feature: Somehow time disappears when I’m playing it so I can only assume it’s transporting me into the future somehow.

Here’s one very important tip if you decide to try Banished: Do not build two storage barns next to each other. You do not want to see what happens to your fledgling town if a tornado touches down right on top of them and destroys everything you’ve produced.