Not Cool, SOE

Yeah, so we’ve been waiting for Everquest Next Landmark, right? We all thought they would start in January, right? We all bought an alpha or beta package even though we don’t want to admit it because it’s stupid to buy beta access for a free game, right? So what do you think goes through my mind when I get an email with a subject that looks like this:

> Ultrviolet, you’re invited to play EverQuest Next Landmark!

I’ll give you a hint, it goes something like this: HOLY CRAP I’M GOING TO BE PLAYING LANDMARK TONIGHT!

So you rip open the email and look for the download link, only briefly considering the possibility that it might be a scam to infect your computer with a virus. And that’s when you see that it’s an invitation all right … but not like a beta invitation … it’s an invitation to go to an event in San Diego … at the end of January … where they are going to reveal the game to the public.

And then you write a scathing set of tweets and a blog post expressing your irritation about such a misleading email subject line.

WoW Battle Pets FTW

This is it. It’s all or nothing. My marmot is almost out of health. He won’t survive another round, and he’s the last one. I throw the box. I watch with breath caught in my throat as it teeters … totters … and falls down on the frog. I got it! I pump my fist and celebrate the capture of a new battle pet in WoW.

My gnome jumps for joy on the screen, too. For this is not just any captured battle pet. This is a blue. A blue frog, to be specific. Not blue in skin color, mind you. Blue in rarity. That means it’s a special frog with lots of health and survivability. You don’t see blue battle pets out in the wild very often, so you try to grab them when you see them.

The blue frog will immediately be drafted into the second slot of my starting lineup, bumping the green marmot down to slot three, and knocking the green cockroach out entirely. Only slot one remains the same: I’ve been cultivating a blue cockroach for a while now, and he’s made it up to level 14. One level below my new frog, but the scuttling, disgusting cockroach has tons of health, so I like it in the lead-off position to inspire an appropriate amount of fear and loathing in my opponents. Two blue pets and a green, one 14 and two 15s. A formidable stable of battle pets as we head into the Blasted Lands.

I never would have believed it, and I laughed along with everyone else when I heard about battling pets coming to WoW, but I’ll be dipped if they aren’t fun as hell. And worth a surprising amount of XP, too. I wonder if one can level a character exclusively through pet battles.

Steam’s Fall and Winter 2013 Sales

Remember the good old days when you could buy tons of awesome AAA games from Steam for ridiculously low prices? Yeah, I think those days are over.

I was pretty disappointed in the Fall and Winter Steam Sales this time around. Almost all of the AAA games I saw on deep discount sales ($10 or less) were ones that I had already bought in earlier sales. (I still haven’t played 90% of them.) Most of the "new" sales were on indie or half-finished games, and only about 1 in 100 of those looks interesting to me. (Another 8-bit platformer? Really?) Not to mention the fact that I’ve already bought most of the indie games that interest me because they’re pretty cheap even when they aren’t on sale.

It’s probably lame and shallow of me to admit this, but I’m not a big fan of how Steam’s AAA games have been buried beneath an avalanche of half-finished indie games. It’s hard to find anything good on there anymore. And it seems like more and more big releases are not even there. (Eg. Battlefield 4.)

So in total I think I bought 3 games in the Winter sale and maybe 5 in the Fall sale. None of them were "omg I’ve got to have that!" kind of games, either. They were just "oh I heard somebody talking about that once" kind of games.

The only current Steam game that I actively want is Assassin’s Creed IV, and from what I’ve heard it’s mostly a game of pirate ships, which isn’t interesting enough for me to buy it at only 25% off. (Plus I don’t like how they’ve all but abandoned the meta-story, as I talked about in another post.)

The Diefication of Star Wars Galaxies

I’ve been "into" Massively.com a lot lately, listening to their podcasts and watching their streams, and one thing I’ve noticed is that some of them have a total love affair with Star Wars: Galaxies. They talk about SWG like most other people talk about Everquest 1: They diefy it like it’s the greatest thing there ever was or ever will be.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that not only did I never play or even see it, I never even knew it was an MMORPG.

It was released in 2003, a year before World of Warcraft. That probably explains why I barely even heard of it. I was out of the MMO scene between 2000 and 2006 so I wouldn’t have heard of anything unless it made the nightly news. Also, after WoW came out, no other MMO game existed in the public consciousness until at least 2008, by my recollection. And by 2008, nobody (meaning me) was going to go back and play a game from 2003.

Reading over the Wikipedia page on SWG, it definitely doesn’t seem like the kind of game that would have ever had a mainstream following. It sounds like another in SOE’s long line of niche (dare I say cult) games, and I would imagine that their subscription numbers plummeted to rock bottom on the day that WoW came out, and never recovered. (It’s puzzling that they would close down SWG and leave the likes of Wizardry Online and Vanguard running, though. I guess it’s because of the IP license.)

Anyway. It’s just weird and frustrating to hear about this game that I never saw and can’t ever see.

A Freshly-Formatted PC

I recently reformatted my PC and reinstalled Windows 7, so of course I had to re-install all my games. But instead of re-installing the seemingly hundreds of MMOs I previously had, I decided to limit the number of MMOs installed so I could try to cut down on this MMO ADD I’ve been experiencing.

So far I’ve installed WoW, FFXIV, LotRO, SWTOR, EVE, and Mortal Online. (Well, and Steam, obviously.) By sheer coincidence, I happened to have active subscriptions for those games as well (except MO). I typically buy 3-month blocks of sub time and then cancel; the order that the subscriptions will expire over the next 3 months is: FFXIV, LotRO, EVE, SWTOR, then WoW.

(I know LotRO and SWTOR are free-to-play, but I got the subs because I wanted the resting experience in LotRO, and in SWTOR I wanted to get rid of the stupid popup that blocked my screen whenever I used a health pak in the middle of combat.)

So my plan is to focus on the games in the order that they will expire. First FFXIV, and when that expires, then LotRO, then SWTOR, then EVE, and finally WoW. Shortly after that, ESO will launch, and that’ll be the new shiny for one hopes at least a month.

Returning to EVE Online?

Continuing my adventures in finding an MMO to get hooked on before the new ones come out in 2014, I turned to venerable EVE, the best–or at least the most popular–game I’ve never paid for. With reckless abandon, I bought 3 months of time and downloaded the client.

I haven’t played EVE in five years, when I played for a week or so during a free trial. Surprisingly, my character from the free trial was still there. I have no idea what "level" he is or if EVE even has a measurement for that. I didn’t get very far past mining with him.

In any case, I decide to make a new character. I find myself in an amazing character creation screen that wasn’t there five years ago. It’s one of the best custom character creation implementations I’ve ever seen, and yet I can’t help but wonder why it’s in a game of spaceships, because I have no memory of ever seeing my character’s face in the game at any point.

It turns out that you get to see your character when you’re docked. He stands in a room with a flat panel television and a couch that you can sit on. It takes me about ten seconds to realize that this is entirely pointless and adds nothing to the game. Okay, whatever. It doesn’t hurt I guess.

At this point I turn to the tutorials, because I remember from my previous experiences with EVE that this is an incredibly complicated game that is impossible to figure out without help. My memory is correct. I’m led through undocking in a coffin-sized capsule and warping to a place where I can find my newbie ship. I install some newbie guns and newbie armor and destroy a newbie target dummy. Some of these things are familiar and it’s starting to come back to me.

After the newbiest of the tutorials, I’m led to another system where I dock at another station. Here I get to choose a new path of Agent missions. (Agents are sort of like the quest-givers in EVE.) I pick the Explorer path because I haven’t done it before and searching for ancient relics sounds cool. At this point I’m introduced to sensor probes. Even after the tutorials, I have no understanding of how these things work. Sometimes they’re in my inventory. Sometimes they’re in the probe launcher. They keep going back and forth. Somehow I launch them into space. There’s a neat-looking solar system view where I can sort-of change the pattern of the probe launches. Somehow they go places and find things, and there are these percentages in a window that go up every time I launch probes. Except sometimes they go down or disappear. Anyway, when the percentages get to 100% I can click a button to warp to a place and do a hacking mini-game, or collect something. I really don’t understand any of this, but I notice that about 99% of my interaction with the game is clicking "go" buttons and watching what happens, and there are so many windows on the screen I can’t really see the super-awesome space view much of the time. Eventually the Explorer Agent tells me I’ve passed all the tests and finished all the missions and I’m ready to go. And the Agent stops talking to me.

Leaving me with no clue what to do next. This part seems very familiar, too.

Did I mention that the game looks really amazing? Warping through space looks cool as hell. (It’s unfortunate that you have to keep covering up your view with an endless number of little windows. I spend quite a lot of time moving windows around so I can see things better.)

So is the game different from five years ago? Not really. Not at first, anyway. I think the font might be slightly better. But there’s still a whole lot of down time. It’s a great game for people who don’t have much hand-eye coordination, though. Maybe that’s why people like it. In my meager experience so far, you spend most of your time watching the screen and not interacting with it very much. Most of the game is finding the right place to click on the screen.

I don’t know if EVE is going to "stick" any more than any other MMO. As I remember from before, it’s a game best played on a secondary computer that you only glance at from time to time. (EVE actually runs decently on my MacBook Air so maybe that’s what I’ll do.)

GW2 – They Had Personalities?

After reading over this article on Massively by Anatoli Ingram, I am stunned that the author can even remember the names of those four GW2 Living Story characters, let alone come up with a thousand words of an article analyzing their personalities and backstories. My experience of the last year of Living Story was something like this:

Oh there’s this cool new Living Story! Oh there’s nothing to actually do, but I got some achievements. Oh now there’s another patch, and now there’s this guy, and he helps with this instance, and he’s Eir’s son, and I got an achievement. Oh there’s this Charr, and she’s an outcast, and she helps with the other instance, and I got another achievement. Oh there’s some time where I didn’t play and missed some stuff. Oh now there’s a ditzy blonde porn star and another woman standing on a hill investigating a Tower in Kessex Hills for some reason, and I’m tired of doing this stuff just for achievements. Oh I missed most of the Tower story, but now I need to help the porn star and the other woman inject a thing into another thing so the thing blows up and I can get back to Kessex Hills. Oh now the Tower’s gone and it’s Wintersday so I’m going to Lion’s Arch to get some more achievements.

At no point did I even remotely care about any of those people’s stories. In fact only after reading that article did I even realize that the Charr on the hill in Kessex Hills was the same one from the Molten Core story. I am thoroughly impressed that Anatoli somehow managed to come up with so much insight about the personalities of the people who, to me, were nothing but interactive buttons to click on before getting achievements. Not only did Anatoli know every bit of story with all these people, but he (he’s a he, right?) knew enough to wonder about the future stories of these people, as if GW2 was a series of novels and not an MMO. Was there a summary of their stories somewhere else? Was there a press release or something? Because I sure don’t remember seeing anything remotely detailed about them in the game itself.

I guess that makes me "that guy" who doesn’t care about lore, but I swear I’m not usually so transparently shallow about game lore. I think it’s GW2’s delivery, not me. :) While leveling up my characters during the Personal Story, I was somewhat interested in what happened to Destiny’s Edge, although to me it was a distant side plot compared to the central plot of what’s-his-name uniting the factions and leading the good guys to victory over Ziatan.

2014 MMOs Coming Soon

I hate year-end posts, so here I am writing another one to talk about MMOs I’m looking forward to in 2014.

Rift 3.0. I haven’t seen a release date, but they’re talking about releasing it in stages anyway, so I expect we’ll see the bulk of it in 2014. I hope to get a month of entertainment from the new stuff, maybe not contiguously though.

WildStar. I’m planning to pre-order and play at launch, because I suspect everyone and their mother will be playing it and I don’t want to miss out. :) I anticipate at least a month of entertainment from it, and hopefully more.

Elder Scrolls Online. I’m planning to pre-order and play at launch. Unlike seemingly the entire rest of the world, I’m actually looking forward to it, but I’m a bit concerned about how much they’re talking about PvP right now. I anticipate at least a month of entertainment from it.

EQ Landmark. Pre-ordered. I expect this to be amusing for maybe a week, then I’ll start kicking myself in the head for pre-ordering it. I hope I’m wrong, though.

EQ Next. I’m curious of course, but we don’t really know anything about this game yet, do we? I’m skeptical about seeing it in 2014 simply because it seems like we’d know more by now if it was within a year of release. Given SOE’s history, I would expect this to be yet another niche game. I don’t like the talk that it will be “horizontal progression” game.

Black Desert. Too soon to tell if I will buy, but I’m looking forward to seeing more about it. This game looks amazing, but I’m fearful it will have a fatal flaw.

ArcheAge. Very similar thoughts to Black Desert. I’m glad to see Trion is the North American publisher.

Destiny from Bungie, makers of Halo. I’m skeptical. Shooter MMOs aren’t really my thing.

The Division from Ubisoft. I’m skeptical. Shooter MMOs aren’t really my thing.

Gloria Victis. Looks cool and I like the screenshots a lot. I might drop a few bucks to get into the Alpha.

Life is Feudal. I’ve seen it mentioned as a potential rival to Mortal Online. Looks extremely early in development but I would expect to see an early Alpha in 2014.

Shroud of the Avatar by Lord British. I’m skeptical, but it seems to be picking up momentum. No release date, but you can buy your way into the Alpha for $45. Not sure if it’s worth it. It looks like Bard’s Tale from the 1980s.

Star Citizen. An EVE clone. Not really my thing. Will probably pass on the Alphas unless I see people who don’t like EVE start playing it.

I’ve probably missed some, but that’s all I can think of.

I also hope to advance my characters more in at least LotRO, SWTOR, WoW, and EQ2, if not many other games.