On The Radar For 2017

Here’s my annual summary of MMORPGs that are on my radar for the new year 2017. Here is last year’s post. I am only considering “classic” style MMORPGs in this list, not things like MOBAs or brawlers or Diablo-clones or whatever else people call MMOs these days. If it’s not on this list I either forgot about it, don’t know about it, don’t count it as an MMORPG, or haven’t heard enough good things to bother investigating. Unless otherwise noted, I have not backed or bought any of these games yet.

Note: Syp’s MassivelyOP post on what to look forward to in 2017 was a big help in bringing upcoming titles to my attention, since I hadn’t been paying much attention in 2016.

Games I’m Looking Forward To

These are games that I’m genuinely looking forward to playing, as of now.

Shroud of the Avatar. I’ve bumped this game up into the “Looking Forward to” category because I keep hearing good things about it. I’m a little concerned about the staggering prices of things in the store, though. If there is ever a sale that brings it down to $10 or less, I’ll buy it early, otherwise I’ll wait until launch.

Project Gorgon. Elevated to the “Looking Forward To” category as well. Due to the small development team size, I expect this to be a small game with about a week’s worth of content, but the little I’ve seen has been fun. This is one of the few games on this page I’ve actually played, as you can download the client and try it out as a guest.

New World. We have yet to hear a single thing about what this game is, so we can still imagine it will be a great game and fun to play. We won’t see it in 2017 though.

Revival. I thought this one had been cancelled, but the web site is still there. No blog updates for nine months though. I’ll just leave it here in case it ahem revives itself. Even if it does, it won’t release in 2017.

Games I’ll Probably Buy

These are games that I will probably buy, but only to be part of the “in” crowd, because I doubt I will play them very long.

Crowfall. It’s not my kind of game, plus I’m frankly sick of hearing about it as if it’s a “current” game. It doesn’t feel like a game that’s coming soon anymore, it feels like a game that’s already launched and now is old. I’ve only seen about one gameplay video that actually impressed me. Others have made me cringe. Still, I will probably buy it at launch if for no other reason than to start accumulating skill points or whatever. I can’t be bothered to parse the Internet for their release schedule, but I doubt if this will be ready in 2017.

Camelot Unchained. Ditto above, to a lesser extent. With this game, I just don’t think it looks very good. They seem a lot more concerned about the tech than the artwork. As a programmer, I can respect that, but as a gamer, I want my character animations to look cool and modern. But everybody will be talking about it, so I’ll have to at least take a look at it. I doubt this will be ready in 2017.

Games I’m Undecided About

Pantheon: Something of Something. I’ve elevated this from “not interested” to “undecided.” Here’s CohhCarnage giving the developers a massive PR boost in December. I’m concerned about the group focus, but as long as there’s something rewarding for a solo player to do I can live with it.

Shards Online. I haven’t heard much of anything about this game in 2016. Is it still alive? I don’t even remember why I put it here in the first place. Here’s a “Community Roundtable” from December which shows some gameplay (and a lot of audio hiss). It looks suspiciously isometric.

Revelation Online, Bless Online, and Chronicles of Elyria. I keep hearing positive things (or at least “things”) about them, but I don’t know enough to make any decisions.

Peria Chronicles. Neat idea, but probably too anime for me. But if I can try it for free, I probably will.

Moonlight Blade. Probably too Crouching Tiger for me. But if I can try it for free, I probably will. Here’s a first impressions video from a Brit (I think the same guy that panned Otherworld in last year’s post).

Worlds Adrift, Lost Ark, Sea of Thieves, Saga of Lucimia, and Twilight Spirits. I literally just read about these games. They did not immediately alienate me but otherwise I have not developed any opinion on them.

Games I’m Not Interested In

Destiny 2. Unless there is definitely going to be a PC version. Right now it’s “maybe,” so I’m not interested.

Star Citizen. I didn’t back it and I still don’t care. If it ever comes out, maybe I’ll buy it, but I don’t expect to see it in 2017. You can safely bet that I won’t be buying this until after some reviews from non-backers start coming in, though.

Life is Feudal. A slimmed-down “Your Own” survival version of this released on Steam Nov 17, 2015. And there is a seperate Banished-like “Forest Village” game available, too, which looks kind of interesting. Supposedly there is still an MMORPG coming but I’m not holding my breath anymore. The Steam Early Access version seems to be gone. The way they kept shifting and changing focus in 2016 did not make me feel better about this game.

Gloria Victis. Still don’t care. It’s available on Steam Early Access, but since it has never generated any buzz and never been on sale below my take-a-chance price point of $10, I haven’t purchased it and probably never will.

The Exiled and Albion Online. Still don’t care. I’m just not interested in isometric MMORPGs. I can’t stand not being able to see what’s off the side of the screen, because my character should be able to. Then again, if these games develop a huge groundswell of buzz, maybe I’ll take a closer look. Most of what I’ve seen so far is people looking at them, then never talking about them again.

Ever, Jane. I give them points for trying something new, but I’m just not interested.

Tree of Life. I saw some buzz about this when it first came to Early Access but have not seen much of anything since, which makes me think it’s not yet ready for prime time.

Lineage Eternal. If you can play it without click-to-move I might bump this up to “Undecided,” otherwise it’ll probably be a pass from me. I think it’s more of an ARPG anyway. I have no experience with any of the Lineage games, except enough Lineage II experience to know that I couldn’t play it because it was click-to-move.

MapleStory 2. Probably too cute for me. (Although “jamming with a band” did catch my eye.)

Darkfall, any remake. The original wasn’t that great and I assume the remake(s) won’t be that great either so I don’t plan to play them. Unless I get free access because I had an account in the original. :)

Nostalrius. Ha! The very thought makes me go, Ha! Even if Blizzard opens their own Pristine server I doubt I would play it.

Games I Already Bought

The Repopulation. I splurged on it for ~$20 in 2015. Currently dead because of the folding of the HERO platform. I have no idea what it’s future is. It had potential but it had a long way to go last time I saw it.

Wander. It’s still in Early Access. I bought it when it was on sale in 2016 for about $5. It’s a neat idea, but the implementation isn’t very good, and it looks like development completely stopped in 2016.

Removed Games

These games were removed from the radar this year:

Black Desert. It launched in 2016, and I bought, played, and liked it.

Blade And Soul. It launched in 2016, and I played it.

Das Tal. It was renamed to The Exiled in 2016.

EQNext. It was cancelled in 2016.

Landmark. It launched in 2016 as a consolation prize for the cancelled EQNext.

Otherland. It launched in 2016. I didn’t buy it, and I probably never will, and this game will probably die out in a couple years.

UPDATE 1/11/2017

Ashes of Creation. I just started hearing about this game in the past few days. It sounds interesting, but it’s too early to tell. My first impression is that they are promising more than they will be able to deliver, but I’d love to be wrong.

Snap Judgment – Novus Inceptio

I should be really excited to play Rift: Starfall Prophecy but to be honest I couldn’t care less about any MMORPG right now. I’m just in one of those moods.

Instead I installed one of the many games on my Steam list that I’ve never tried so that I could bring you another (cue huge reverb and echo) … Snap Judgment! .. judgment .. ment .. nt.

vlcsnap-error851

Novus Inceptio is yet another Early Access survival sandbox game. You gather materials and craft things and explore. Currently it appears to only have a single-player mode, but multi-player is supposed to be coming.

I played it for about 30 minutes. I like the overall concept. I like the direction they are heading. I like the UI. I like the realistic art style. I like the complexity of the different crafting resources you can gather. I like the plump rabbits that look like roasted turkeys with bunny ears.

However, they have a long way to go yet before they reach the point where this game will be truly enjoyable. The key bindings are not yet configurable. The frame rates are slow, and everything has the look of the generic sets of free textures and models that come with game engines. The sound effects are somewhat jarring (I swear there is a Tivo blip-blip sound in there). It feels like there are just programmers working on this game, and no artists.

Perhaps a year from now the game will be in better shape.

Overwatch Snap Judgments

I finally have a chance to talk a bit about Overwatch, which I played for roughly an hour or two during the open beta.

My first impression was horrible, because I played it on a Sunday night, which is usually my least favorite time of the week, considering that it’s the time when I’m forced to face the reality of going back to work the next day. Last week was a particularly onerous week because it was my last one on the dying project, so I was anticipating a horrendous week of panic and anxiety from me and everyone else who would be left behind after I’m gone.

The point is that there were no circumstances in which I would have enjoyed Overwatch or any other game when I played Sunday night. And indeed, I did not like it when I first played it. I found it too cute and every character annoyed me in some way. As far as gameplay, all of the worst aspects of FPS “advancements” over the years are all right there, easily accessible–snipers, grenade spam, insta-kills. Basically, in the modern shooter, all the emphasis is on killing other people without any regard to whether you live or die. In the old days, there was value in staying alive because the longer you stayed alive, the more ammo and powerups you collected and thus the more enemies you could defeat. Not anymore. Now there are no more health and armor powerups laying out in the level. Now it’s all about spawn, die, spawn, die, spawn, die, and if you’re lucky sometimes you can one-shot kill some other people in the back before you die.

Yes, I’m very cycnical about modern shooters.

So yeah, I didn’t like Overwatch at first because it’s more of the same bad things that have crept into shooters for the last twenty years.

I was completely prepared to never play Overwatch again, but then they extended the beta another day, and I thought I should probably give it another try on Monday night, when I wasn’t in such a terrible mood. Everyone on the Internet was saying it was great, after all.

Well, I’m still not going to buy it, but my second opinion was better. The game became 100% better as soon as I turned off the character voices. I tried some other classes and some of them were fun. However I noticed that most of the fun involved things like turrets and grenades and basically all of the cheesy tactics that I hate in shooters. The rocket launcher class which I should have loved turned out to have a crippling flaw of having to reload, which of course leaves you 100% vulnerable during that time.

I did not find the game modes particularly innovative. It was your basic capture-and-hold and escort maps. I didn’t see any capture-the-flag, which in my opinion is still the best esports-style game mode around. It seems criminally negligant to leave it out of a game that’s supposed to be totally focused on esports. (Why would you NOT include a game mode that is so easy to watch for viewers??)

Of course I have to insert the obligatory comments about how pretty and smooth the game runs. But that’s not a stand-out feature in a game these days, especially a shooter.

I find the reactions to Overwatch very interesting so far. I’m utterly blown away by how many traditional MMORPG players are jumping into Overwatch. I can only assume it’s because they think that because Blizzard made it, or that it started out as Titan, there must be some RPG elements. Perhaps predictably, though, most of the responses from those people, while positive overall, are focused on how much they want to know about the stories of the characters and the world in Overwatch. Those kinds of things just don’t exist in team shooters, and it boggles my mind that people thought it might be otherwise. When I played Overwatch, it never even occurred to me to wonder or care anything about my “character.” Honestly character classes in shooters just get in the way. When you’re playing Overwatch there is little or no indication that you’re even playing a character. I mean, it’s first-person. You can’t even see yourself.

I am curious about all the comments about how “approachable” Overwatch is. I can only assume it’s the artistic aesthetic that makes it approachable, because it doesn’t look like a typical military shooter. From a gameplay perspective, however, it did not appear any easier to play than any other shooter. Old folks are still going to get owned by college kids who spend all day honing their muscle memory, and probably after Overwatch has been out a few weeks, it will be utterly pointless to try to catch up to the power curve. (There was an aimbot mode on the Soldier 76 class though. :) I saw nothing in the game to deal with that particular issue, which is the number one issue that plagues all shooters in my opinion. The idea that it has support classes is not going to change that, either. From what I saw, there is no doubt that the support classes are completely superfluous. A healer or two is not going to do anything to stop a team with a lot of aggressive players on it, and the good teams are almost guaranteed to be based around offensive classes.

Speaking of teams, let me talk about another trend I saw continuing in Overwatch. I’ve seen this in many other shooters, too. When I’m playing, I don’t care one whit about whether my team wins or loses. There is no incentive whatsoever to think strategically or help my team win when I’m playing with a bunch of strangers. The only thing that matters is my own individual performance, and I saw nothing in Overwatch to change that basic tennant of team shooters, which has been a problem (for me, at least) since the late 1990s.

I suppose it’s possible that if you’re on the winning team, you get more experience points or something, but I just can’t bring myself to care about experience points in a shooter. That’s not what shooters are supposed to be about. Shooters are about shooting, and working together with your teammates to score more points (or whatever) than the other team. At least, until COD came along and corrupted everything with their progression systems and unlocks.

That’s probably a different tangent though. But hey I’m sitting here at work with nothing to do, and now I have a Bluetooth keyboard hooked up to my phone, so I can just type and type and type all the live-long day. Editing is still a bit of a problem though.

To wrap up my thoughts on Overwatch, I would say that if you’re new to team shooters you could do a lot worse. It’s colorful and fast and exciting. However if you’re a team shooter veteran, you’re going to run into the same problems you’ve seen a million times before. I myself will not be buying it unless it goes on sale. There are plenty of cheaper or free-to-play options out there for getting a quick shooter fix.

Snap Judgment – The Division Open Beta

The Division isn’t for me.

It’s a very beautiful-looking game. The graphics are fantastic, and the urban environments are very realistic and detailed.

Unfortunately I didn’t see anything new or innovative in the gameplay. The whole time I was playing, I kept thinking, “This plays just like Defiance, and Defiance is free.” The only thing The Division has is the cover mechanic. And the fantastic graphics, of course.

I also couldn’t help but notice that there were very few other people around in this alleged MMO game. Perhaps that’s why they keep talking up the Dark Zone–because that’s the only place that has any people in it?

Anyway, I recorded my impressions in a video.

ARK – Um It’s Got Issues

Here’s my advice: Do not buy ARK right now. At least, don’t buy it with any expectation of actually playing it. Because on my 12GB system it runs out of memory and crashes. If you run the “low memory” 4GB version it doesn’t crash, but it runs horribly slow. There is a good two minutes of loading screen to wait through before geting into the game (literally–I timed it). Then in order to get it to run at an acceptable frame rate (which to me is a rock-solid 60 fps, but I suppose in a pinch 30-40 fps will do) you have to disable almost every graphical setting, and then the game is painful to look at.

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

If you have a gaming rig powered by nuclear fission and cooled by the vacuum of space, maybe you can play it the way the game is intended. I only have a GTX 770, which is fine to play every other game I’ve bought in the past year at the highest settings, but apparently is woefully inadequate for ARK.

As for the gameplay itself, I was so repulsed by the technical problems that I had zero desire to explore the game. Also, there is very little happening on the screen to make you want to explore the game. I only played in single player, and most times I spawned in and was killed instantly by some carnivore wandering the beach. It’s a great way to make a first impression in an exploration game, let me tell you. Oh hey what’s this on the ground? ROAR! CHOMP! Oops, I’m dinosaur dinner. Then one time I spawned in a grass field by a big turtle and could at least walk around picking up roots and berries. The interface is not very intuitive so I had no idea how to eat or drink or craft or anything. All I accomplished was jumping on top of the turtle while she walked around. And I learned that a big turtle is called a “Carbonemys.”

Also I noticed a big technical red flag: They didn’t bother changing the name of the executable from what I assume is the Unreal engine’s default name of “ShooterGame.exe.” To me that just screams out, “This development team does not have any experienced developers on it.” I mean, seriously, how is that not the very first thing you do when they make a new game project? They need to spend a lot more time working on their code than working on Halloween promotional events*, that’s all I’m saying.

ARK might have a great hook (frickin’ dinosaurs!) but it’s sooooo not ready for prime time yet. I don’t see myself coming back anytime soon unless I see some patch notes that include “massive overhaul of graphics engine.” Otherwise I’m just going to chalk it up to another case of the marketing far exceeding the quality of the product. If you want to see a first-person survival game with fantastic graphics that actually runs well try The Forest.

* Halloween events for Early Access games? Are you kidding me?

Project Gorgon – The New Black?

About a year ago I installed Project Gorgon and played around in the starter cave. It was mildly interesting but of course it wasn’t finished, the graphics were terrible, and there are so many other things to play. So I put it away again, filing it in the back of my mind.

Now suddenly everyone is talking about Project Gorgon. And by everyone I mean MassivelyOP which apparently has turned into the all-Gorgon-all-the-time site. :) Not that there’s anything wrong with that I guess–it’s not like Project Gorgon is a multi-billion-dollar corporation. It’s just a guy and his wife. At this stage in their development it doesn’t bother me to see them getting a media spotlight. And besides, it’s such a niche game that a thousand suns of media spotlight couldn’t possibly make it a mainstream hit.

Anyway I installed it again recently and played around in the starter cave, which is much better than it was last year. It’s still mildly interesting–maybe even somewhat interesting–but it’s still not finished and the graphics are still terrible. If we were living in 1999, the graphics would be awesome, but alas we aren’t.

Hey, it's a shrine just sitting out here in the middle of nowhere. Cool!
Hey, it’s a shrine just sitting out here in the middle of nowhere. Cool!

Still, there’s something very appealing about the game. Maybe not the game itself but the idea of the game. The idea of throwing out any pretense of trying to make a polished audio-visual experience and focusing in on interesting RPG elements is a revolutionary idea. The idea of making a game for role-players is revolutionary, and I think that’s the main reason MassivelyOP is so enamored with it. (I get the impression that 90% of their staff are role-players.)

For myself, I thought it was awesome that I could charm a rat.

The game definitely has a lot of old-school nostalgia appeal to it. It feels a lot like playing Asheron’s Call back in the day. (AC is my nostalgic MMORPG, not EverQuest.) It doesn’t play anything like AC, but the sense of “I wonder what’s over there and I wonder what that is?” is definitely there. The world feels really vast, too, which is something that’s lacking in a lot of modern MMORPGs.

 

Besides, how can you not love these kinds of patch notes? “Bugs! There are some.” LOL.

Gorgon Launcher Notes
“Weird stuff happens routinely!” That’s awesome.

Anyway I’m still keeping an eye on it and I hope it goes the distance.

Posted on Blaugust Day 15. Read all of my Blaugust posts here.

Reactions To WoW Legion

World of Warcraft Legion

World of Warcraft is so far off my radar right now that the announcement of the new Legion expansion* is about as interesting to me as a deer tick. Even that horrible analogy was more interesting to me. It’s not that I don’t like WoW when I play it. It just doesn’t hold my attention for very long.

There are two things I just don’t understand about WoW fandom: The first is how people can look around at all of the MMORPGs out there and decide that WoW is the only one they want to play, and the second is how anyone can follow any of the lore that happens in WoW.

The “Burning Legion” mentioned in the sort-of-kind-of trailer means absolutely nothing to me. I guess we’ve seen them before? It says they’re “back” so I assume we drove them off in a previous expansion or something. Wait are those all the demon dudes wandering around in Hellfire Penninsula? Hey, maybe I know more than I thought I did.

Before Draenor came out, I remember a lot of discussion about how we were going to be time traveling into the past, or something like that. I bought and played Draenor. I don’t remember one single quest dialog telling me that I was traveling into the past. I didn’t know why there were Orcs and Draenei fighting it out in that expansion. I didn’t know why the Orcs wanted to time travel. Or maybe it was the Draenei doing the time traveling. Maybe it was a cosmic worm hole. I have no idea. Maybe I should have known why Orcs and Draenei were fighting ever since Burning Crusade, when the Draenei first fell out of the sky or whatever. I leveled a Draenei priest through those starter zones, you’d think I would know their backstory.

But I don’t even know how to spell “Draenei” without looking it up, that’s how disconnected I am from WoW lore.

Anyway WoW fans’s heads are probably exploding with disbelief right now, but for a casual player who doesn’t follow WoW, it was not obvious what was happening there at the beginning of that last expansion or why it was happening. And I didn’t just click through the dialogs either. But even if I had, it should still have been obvious what was going on if time-traveling was taking place. You’d think maybe somebody could have said out loud in one of those cut scenes, “Where are we? More like when are we!” Maybe when I re-subscribe for Legion I’ll double-check to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I still haven’t used my free level 90 boost.

Speaking of boosts, I hope they give out another free level boost in this new expansion. They probably won’t, but it would be cool if they did. I think I said it for Draenor too: That level boost alone is easily worth the cost of the expansion, when you consider how much time it takes to get to 90.

The only thing I’ve seen about the expansion so far that might be entertaining for a player like me is the new class. But I’m very wary about WoW classes. One day I should write a post about how nonsensical and weird I find all of the classes. They throw the strangest abilities in there. And you only end up needing to use like four abilities out of the one hundred they give you. (No I haven’t done any raiding–I’m sure it’s more complicated at the high end.)

But despite all my personal feelings about WoW–or lack thereof–I’m happy to see Legion is coming. It’s good for the genre.

* It occurred to me that when I link to MassiveOP I should probably disclose that I did throw a few bucks at their Kickstarter. So yeah I have a tiny, microscopic self-interest in sending traffic their way. Though I seriously doubt that my traffic is making any difference to their business.

Posted on Blaugust Day 10. Read all of my Blaugust posts here.

YouTube Gaming Or Something Like It

I don’t stream a lot but I like YouTube Gaming so far. Twitch is okay, and Hitbox is okay, but I almost always see a lot of stuttering, lag, and painful dropouts, both when I stream and when I watch other streams. With YouTube Gaming I’m just going to go out on a limb here and guess that they’re going to have the best possible video streaming technology working behind the scenes. I had no difficulty uploading at 60fps, 1080p, 9000kbps. I could never get Twitch to work higher than 720p and around 3500kbps.

YouTube Gaming

(I don’t exactly know how I got YouTube Gaming… as of this writing, it still says “coming soon” on the landing page. I guess it’s one of those open beta kind of things that anyone can get into. I can assure you I did nothing special to activate it. I think I might have clicked on the “get notified” button at some point, but I don’t remember. I don’t see any evidence that I received any emails. I think I just stumbled upon it on my regular YouTube video page.)

(Come to think of it, I may not even being using YouTube Gaming at all. But somehow I’m able to stream directly to YouTube which I don’t remember ever being able to do before.)

I’m probably alone in this opinion, but I love that you can turn off chat. I’m not a “hey let’s hang out together and chit-chat” kind of a streamer. I’m more of a “hey I’m playing a game, and I tend to talk to myself when I’m playing anyway, so you can watch if you want, but I’m trying to concentrate on what I’m doing, so I can’t monitor a chat and try to think of witty responses and also get off my damn lawn you hippies” kind of a streamer. On Twitch and Hitbox I believe you’re stuck with chat whether you want it or not.

One thing I don’t like, though, is the length of time it takes for archived streams to publish to your channel. On Twitch, it’s very fast, but with YouTube Gaming it takes basically the same amount of time that it would take to upload a recording from your desktop. That is, a long time. I don’t care so much about my viewers (ha!) but sometimes I want to replay something I did during a stream and I have to wait like a half hour.

If nothing else, it’s a handy way to store my videos on the YouTube servers instead of my hard drive. Videos take up a lot of space, yo.

This post was for Blaugust Day 4.