On The Radar For 2016

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Last time I did this.

Note that some games might not be on the following list because I have either a) forgotten about them, or b) never heard of them, or c) dismissed them as not MMORPGs. This MassivelyOP Betawatch post helped me a lot, too.

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

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.

Sadly, nothing to report at this time. (Dark Souls III isn’t an MMORPG.)

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.

Black Desert. Definitely the best-looking MMO on this list. I once was excited about this title, but over the past year I’ve been hearing less and less good things. I’ll probably buy it anyway though.

Crowfall*. I’m getting pretty tired of hearing about the making of this game to be honest. In this December video I don’t see anything to indicate that the zerg versus zerg gameplay won’t be exactly the same as GW2’s WvW or ESO’s Cyrodiil, with the possible added benefit(?) of a more esport-focused competition.

EQNext. Like many people, I question whether this game will ever be released. If it does come out, could it be the dying breath of a once-great AAA genre? I’m not seeing any other traditional AAA MMORPGs on the horizon, at least not from the west.

Camelot Unchained*. A year later, based on this December video, the game still looks terrible. I mean, have developers even seen games made after the 1990s? Admittedly it’s a fantastic technical feat to get so many people on the screen at once, but more people just means more pointless zerging where your individual actions have no impact on the battlefield.

Blade and Soul. Along with Black Desert, this is one of the only titles on this list that actually looks good. But it’s an Asian import, and it’s PvP-centric.

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*. Still flying under the radar, haven’t heard much about it lately. It actually looks pretty good in this pre-alpha gameplay footage from December. (Notice, other developers, how the character animations are smooth and don’t look like Donkey Kong or Mario Bros.) Could it be the only traditional MMORPG we see in the next few years?

Wander*. This game got a lot of bad press for being buggy when it first came to Early Access on Steam, and I haven’t heard much about it since then. Still, it looks nice in this August video and I still want to try it, but I’m waiting for it to go on sale for less than $10.

Otherland*. Based on this amusing, profanity-laced first impressions video from November, it sounds like this game is a long way from being ready for prime time. However it’s only $4.99 in the Holiday Steam Sale so I might buy it anyway. :)

Project Gorgon*. This title got a lot of buzz during 2015. I’ve played it for a few hours, and it’s off to a good start, but it still needs a lot of work in the graphics and writing department. The ability to role-play a cow is not enough for me.

Shards Online. I’ve heard about this title now and then during 2015, but I don’t see much that interests me in this gameplay video from December.

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*. I really don’t care at this point, but if it ever releases maybe I’ll investigate it again. This December trailer looks pretty nice, actually.

Life is Feudal*. I once liked the concept for this game, but based on this December video, they still need to hire some artists and modelers. Waiting for a deep discount sale before I try this one.

Gloria Victis*. It looks a little better than Life is Feudal, but based on this October video, they still need to hire some animators. In a modern game, it’s very off-putting to see character models that so obviously don’t have more than 5 or 10 frames of animation in them. Again, waiting for a deep discount sale.

Das Tal* and Albion Online*. Overhead views plus open world PvP. No interest in looking further.

Pantheon: Something of Something*. Very little to see in 2015. Their own channel doesn’t even post videos.

Pre-Launch MMORPGs I’ve Already Bought

Landmark*. Still meh with a side order of why did I bother? Pretty sure I didn’t play it at all in 2015. I really hope this isn’t the foundation of EQNext.

The Repopulation*. Even if they straighten out the problems with HeroCloud, the graphics and interface for this MMORPG aren’t very good.

Conclusions

I think 2016 will be a year of playing old MMORPGs. :) Thankfully there’s still plenty left for me to do in FFXIV, ESO, WildStar, LOTRO, and SWTOR.

More End Of Year Charts!

Everyone is making a chart of their gaming for the year (Belghast, Liore, and Wilhelm at least), so I thought I’d see if I could get ManicTime to export something into Excel. After judicious flipping, coloring, and rearranging, this is what I got:

GameMatrix2015

My data only starts in February, so January is missing. It probably might have had some WoW in there, but definitely more SWTOR and FFXIV.

I’m a little disappointed to see that ManicTime is dead wrong about some of the times it recorded. For example, I played a lot more Witcher 3 than it thinks I did–Steam reports 134 hours. Steam also reports that I played 295 hours of Dark Souls II. Ditto Fallout 4, which should be 110 hours. I don’t know what ManicTime was thinking. Maybe I need to look for another tracking program.

I was actually surprised to see that I logged into Guild Wars 2 every month. I can only speculate that it’s because it’s one of the quickest MMORPGs to get into (ie. the time between clicking the desktop icon and the time you’re playing). Or possibly it was counting launcher times as well as playing time, because I run the launchers of most MMORPGs pretty often.

Games Of My Year 2015

Here’s my year end “Best Of” list, because if you’re on the Internet, you have to do a year-end list of some kind. It’s the law.

2015 Contenders

After studying my Steam purchase history and searching my memory, I’ve come up with the following list of new games that I purchased and played in 2015. These are only games that were released in 2015, not every single game that I purchased or played in 2015. In other words, this is the pool from which I’m going to pick my games of the year.

  • ARK: Survival Evolved
  • Besiege
  • Fallout 4
  • FFXIV: Heavensward
  • Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns
  • GRAV
  • The Park
  • Rocket League
  • Savage Lands
  • Shelter 2
  • Skyforge
  • TOXIKK
  • The Witcher 3

Not a huge list, very few AAA titles, and of course they are all PC games. I should also say that my controversial definition for the “release date” of a game is the time at which anyone can purchase or download a playable game. So, for example, Trove, which “launched” in 2015, does not appear on the above list because I purchased and played a substantially similar version before 2015. And Prison Architect, which I bought in 2015 and Steam lists with a launch date in 2015, does not appear because its Early Access release was before 2015. (Steam overwrites the Early Access launch date with the Release launch date, but the Internet remembers.) Similarly the Early Access titles ARK, GRAV, and Savage Lands appear on the above list because they became available to buy in Early Access in 2015.

So yes, in a way, I’m punishing developers for releasing games too early.

Game of the Year

The Witcher 3. Not much of a contest, really.

witcher3 2015-06-28 07-09-32-09

Biggest Disappointment Of The Year

ARK: Survival Evolved. Why do people buy this broken piece of unplayable crap? Why don’t the developers fix it instead of putting out new dinosaurs and holiday events? Do they not have any programmers working there? Are they all artists and modelers? I simply cannot understand why the Internet hasn’t lost their minds with rage over this game.

Standing on a turtle, the most fun thing I did in ShooterGame. I mean ARK.

Most Emotionally Devastating Game Of The Year

Shelter 2. A unique, beautifully atmospheric game, but if you fail at this game, it feels like your heart is torn out and stomped on. You must be an unfeeling robot to actually play this game more than once.

And because this is mostly an MMORPG blog…

New MMORPG Of The Year

Skyforge … but only because there is literally no other choice.

Polo shirt dude is going to defeat the world.

MMORPG Expansion Of The Year

FFXIV: Heavensward, because even though it’s a bit of a slog, I keep going back to it, whereas I have no desire to go back to the new zones in Heart of Thorns. I didn’t include Knights of the Fallen Empire here because, while I technically “bought” it (having a subscription) and have access to it, I don’t have any characters high enough in level to actually see it yet.

Heavensward

Now for some other categories.

Best Game That I Played in 2015

Dark Souls. Along with Dark Souls II, it completely took over my summer.

The Depths

Most Consistently Played MMORPG In 2015

I’m going to have to go with Star Wars: The Old Republic. I’ve played it a decent amount in six of the twelve months in 2015, and leveled a Jedi Knight from around level 13 in January up to (as of this writing) level 56.

SWTOR Screenshot_2015-12-18_15_33_11_000300

Best Game With Art From People I Used To Play Quake With

GRAV. A nifty survival/building game, check it out. Or not, because I’m totally biased.

 

Listmas 2015: Recent Audible Listens

I’m sort of trying to merge this and my horribly neglected writing blog together. Maybe. I don’t know. My “branding” is all messed up right now. Also I haven’t written much lately.

Anyway, one of the things I tried to do on the writing blog every now and then was talk about books I’d read lately and what I learned about writing from them. So that’s what this post is.

I have a subscription to Audible where I get two credits a month, and I usually forget to download anything until I get close to the maximum number of credits, at which time I have to pick a bunch of semi-random selections to download. Historically I’ve always stuck to SF&F or horror books but lately I’ve been trying to read more mainstream stuff and/or things that I wouldn’t normally look at.

By the way I don’t consider audio books a substitute for reading, but I personally am enthralled by a good narrator reading something, even if the story isn’t that great. Also audio books are a great time-saver because you can multi-task while listening.

I note the point of view and tense of the writing below just so I have a record of it somewhere. I have this theory that everybody is writing first person books now because today’s authors are yesterday’s bloggers and that’s all they know how to write. An alternate theory is that today’s authors know that today’s readers are used to reading so many bloggers who write in first person.

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Annihilation: Southern Reach by Jeff VanderMeer. First person. I honestly don’t remember how I heard about this book (well, more like a novella–it’s pretty short). Perhaps I picked it at random. The audio performance is horrible (I swear the narrator sounds like Majel Barrett), so it’s probably better to get a printed copy, but the concept of the book was so interesting that I listened to the whole thing anyway. I wasn’t sure whether I was listening to a science fiction story or a Lovecraftian horror story. Maybe it was a mashup of both. In any case, it was mind-bogglingly different from any other story I’ve ever seen before. I don’t think anyone had a name, and I had no idea when or where the story took place. It’s tempting to get the other two books in the trilogy but when the first book of a trilogy is so short, it just makes me think the publishers are trying to milk more money out of what should have been one book. In any case the first book seemed like a complete story to me. Lessons learned: I could never write anything like this in a million years, so don’t even try. Also, no matter how much the writing experts try to get you to follow a formula, there’s always room to do something totally different.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. Third person. I believe I chose this epic fantasy because it was an award winner or nominee or something. My goal is to read/listen to all the nominees and winners of the major awards, however I typically fall far short of that. Anyway I’m struggling to remember the particulars of this book now but I know I didn’t get much past the first chapter. There wasn’t anything wrong with it–it had a good hook actually, and it was decently read, but the topic of goblins and goblin politics just doesn’t interest me. Lessons learned: Politics isn’t for me.

The Cold Dish: A Walt Longmire Novel by Craig Johnson. First person. I got this because I recently discovered the Longmire series on Netflix, which I thought was a surprisingly good “police procedural” show set in Montana or some such middle-of-nowhere location (and it has Katie Sackhoff in it). I wanted to see if the novel on which it was based had the same effect on me. As it turned out, the the story did not hook me, and the audio performance definitely did not hook me, so I didn’t get much past the first couple of chapters. As I recall, it just felt like paragraph after paragraph of exposition with no indication of what the plot might be. Lessons learned: Sometimes the show/movie is better than the book.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. First person, present tense. I picked this one out because it was on the “best sellers” page and the blurb sounded interesting. It’s an excellent audio performance by three different readers and a decent mystery/suspense/whatever novel with interesting characters, however I felt like the “reveal” was telegraphed from a million miles away so it wasn’t much of a surprise to me. The very first sentences were riveting, though. It’s written in the same sort of breakneak-speed style as Hunger Games with very little description, which probably explains why it’s so popular. It also has three different first-person perspectives, one of which is from “before” while the other two are from “after.” I always find it interesting when different time periods are woven together. New writers are always warned to avoid multiple first-person perspectives, but it works okay here because a) each perspective was narrated by a different voice, and b) each perspective is titled with the name of the character to make it easier. Lessons learned: It’s okay to skip verbose descriptions of people, places, and things, which for me is very reassuring because I tend to skip over that stuff. Also first person, present tense is popular right now.

Memory Man by David Baldacci. Third person. Someone at work talked about how much they liked David Baldacci so I picked out this one at random, based solely on the criteria that it was the first one I found that wasn’t part of a fifteen-book series. The narrator was average at best, the writing didn’t seem like anything special, and the story was not all that interesting to me, so I only made it through four or five chapters (I stuck with it longer just to really give it a chance). The “gimmick” for the book was that the main character (a private investigator) sustained a football head injury in college and as a result began to remember everything in perfect detail. It wasn’t enough to make an otherwise ordinary former-cop-turned-private-detective-down-on-his-luck story special, plus person-with-perfect-memory seems kind of tropey these days. Lessons learned: Photographic memories and ex-cops aren’t that interesting to me.

Blood Song: Raven’s Shadow, Book 1 by Anthony Ryan. First and third person. This one had been in my library for a year and a half and I finally listened to it recently. I don’t remember why I picked it. The narrator was okay but the story didn’t grab me in the first two chapters. Whatever distinguishes this book from other epic fantasy books was not apparent to me in that time. (I’m also starting to wonder if I’m cut out for epic fantasy books any more–the beginning of most epic fantasy books is a spewage of names and places that make little or no sense until you get far into the book, and I just don’t have the patience for that anymore.) It started with a first person account of some prisoner arriving in some place. Then it went into what I presume is the main story of some Lord’s son getting sent off to some place with a bunch of other kids to learn something useful from some trainers. The Lord’s son was not a particularly interesting character, so I felt no particular desire to accompany him on his journey, and there was no indication that the Lord’s son had any particular goals that I might be curious about. And there were about fifty thousand new names, places, and things to learn. Lessons learned: Make characters interesting and/or give them goals right away.

P.S. It only occurred to me at the very end of writing this that I had created a “list” that could be used for Listmas 2015, so hey, here’s a list!

WildStar PSA – Password Length

I finally figured out why I couldn’t log into WildStar. This little saga has been taking place over the weeks and months since the game went free.

Originally there was the fact that I’d completely forgotten that I’d setup the Google authenticator, so it kept rejecting me for leaving out that code. That took a while to figure out. (Admittedly I wasn’t looking very hard for the solution.)

Next I had to reset my password, because I’d forgotten it. Possibly I’d reset it somewhere during the time I was figuring out the authenticator problem. Of course it wouldn’t let me set it to the password I wanted to use because it doesn’t let you use any of your previous passwords, so I had to make up a new one. This time I made a pretty long one and typed it into the web page and everything was fine.

WildStarPasswordPage

Except when I went to WildStar to log in. I typed in my name and password and it said sorry, that’s the wrong password. I went back to the web page and logged in with the exact same password and it worked fine.

I went through several rounds of this. Surely I was doing something wrong. Then one day I happened to notice that while I was typing in a new password on the web page, it didn’t accept the final character. The password box had a maximum length on it. So I was actually entering one less character than what I thought I was.

The game itself doesn’t have any such length restriction on the password box, so I was typing in the full password there, and of course it didn’t match the truncated one, and of course it rejected it.

So let this be a lesson to any WildStar players out there: Apparently the Carbine web pages have password length restrictions, but the game doesn’t.

P.S. Once I got into the game I had no idea what to do, so I logged out again. :)

Getting Back Into MMORPGs

I’m having a hard time getting back into some MMORPGs I used to play.

FFXIV. First of course is FFXIV, the game that I have an active subscription for that’s draining my money while I avoid logging in. Every time I try to get back into it, I keep running into this roadblock–Heavensward is hard. Well, maybe hard isn’t the right word. More like tedious. I’m mired at level 53 in the Dravanian Forelands where it takes an hour to run from one side to the other for quests since I don’t have flying unlocked there yet.

Soloing in Heavensward seems to be significantly harder than I remember it being prior to 50. I never had my chocobo out before but now it’s practically mandatory, and if I take one wrong step in that southern area with all the bug people, I get killed and then it’s another hour-long trip to get back down there. It’s just not fun to play like that.

I’m over being a Miquote too. I want to use my Fantasia potion to switch to one of the big green hulks. But the idea of changing to another race and gender is a little disturbing–it feels like I would be erasing the accomplishments and even the memory of this character that’s been around for so long. I suppose that is the down side of having all classes available to one character. It would be better to start a new character but when I think of how long it would take to start from scratch it makes me cringe. There are no experience boost potions for sale or 12x experience weekends in subscription games.

Not to mention this outfit is considerably less cool than my pre-Heavensward outfit.
Not to mention that this outfit is considerably less cool than my pre-Heavensward outfit.

ESO. I’ve been wanting to get back into ESO and get my guy from level 40-something to 50, but after I patched it up (which took a glacially long time) and logged in, I remembered that all my skills had been reset at some point. A quick look at the skill tree thingys made me realize that I had no idea how to play the game anymore so I logged out immediately. I feel like I need to start a brand new character to re-learn how to spend my skill points.

WildStar. Then there is WildStar which I can’t even log into since it went free. I can log into the web page and manage my account fine but for some reason the same credentials don’t work in the game. It’s weird.

SWTOR – Bring on the Hutt

Roughly four years after I started playing Star Wars: The Old Republic right at launch, I finally hit level 50, what once was the level cap.

I hit 50 somewhere in Corellia I think.
I hit 50 somewhere in Corellia.

Just two and a half years after the release of Rise of the Hutt Cartel, I rolled into Makeb to face the Regulators. Or Hutts. Or whatever. I’m not following the story super closely.

SWTOR is the MMORPG that I find most comfortable right now. I really don’t have to think very much when I’m playing it. Especially since they made the change to allow any companion to play any role–I set Kira to heal and blow through everybody without stopping to rest, watching the pretty lights and sound effects as my guy whips his lightsaber around. That’s about the complexity of gameplay that I want in my MMORPG right now.

So only ten more levels until I get to Fallen Empire, the place I meant to get to several months ago.