WildStar’s Doom

At the risk of sounding pessamistic, WildStar’s probably going to close soon. I’m not sure whether to jump in and play as much as I can before it closes, or just let it go quietly into the night and remember fondly that one month I played.

Okay, let’s be real, it’s going to be the latter, because I’m playing Black Desert now and Dark Souls III hits Steam on April 11, and that will be that. I suppose it’s possible WildStar could survive another year in maintenance mode, but knowing NCSoft I kind of doubt it.

The sad thing is that I generally liked WildStar. The only real problem I had with it was that it gave me all my skills right up front, then asked me to grind all the way up to level 50 using those same ones. That’s the main reason I don’t play WoW very much, honestly. I really need my character to change somewhat over the course of the leveling process to stay interested.

Granted, other MMORPGs are like that (hello, GW2) but for some reason it felt particularly onerous in WildStar.

Perhaps it was this: I remember also that the questing mobs in WildStar were fairly challenging, and any casual mistakes in dodging or interrupts typically resulted in a pretty quick death. So it was slow, painstaking, and repetitive work. Not the most fun combination.

But boy was it hardcore! I kid, because of course the biggest flaw in WildStar was that whole “it’s all about the hardcore raiding” marketing attitude, which resulted in what, 2 guilds completing that 40-man raid? Or was it even that many? :) Seriously, I’d love to see them release some statistics on exactly how many people entered that raid versus how many people finished that raid, and compare that to the total player population. After the game’s gone, what would it matter? If nothing else, perhaps WildStar could serve as a cautionary tale for future MMORPG developers.

Still, I hate to see the game close down. I’d rather see them rework it, or maybe even re-launch it under a new publisher. Fat chance of that happening, though.

Goodbye EverQuest Next

I don’t have much to add to the EverQuest Next wake that hasn’t already been said, except for this possibly controversial thought:

I’m kind of glad they cancelled it.

Wait, wait, let me explain. We’ve known all along that Landmark was the prototype for EverQuest Next. I don’t know about anyone else, but I was dreading the day that they released Landmark with Norrath assets and called it EQN, because Landmark is not a very good game. There’s no doubt in my mind that EQ1 and EQ2 fans would have hated it.

Imagine how bad it would have been for the MMORPG industry if they had pushed out the next, long-awaited, highly-anticipated EverQuest game and it had been the same dismal failure that Landmark is.

Black Desert Cash Shop

On the subject of the Black Desert cash shop, I agree that it’s a little steep. Or perhaps I should say that you don’t get enough in-game value for the money you spend. I’ll get to the specifics later.

First I want to highlight something I think is good about the BDO cash shop: They don’t shove it in your face in every window that comes up. There’s no popup window when you login that shows you all the sales and exhorts you to “Go buy stuff now!” If I didn’t know there was a cash shop, I might have totally overlooked that Pearl Store button in settings. That alone is worth the $30 admission.

I’m glad that I didn’t get the higher priced editions (I don’t think I could have even if I’d wanted to, because I was lazy and never pre-ordered). The only thing I saw in them that I might have wanted was the horse (at least, of the things that I understood at the time), and it turns out that it’s not that hard to get a horse in the game, so I don’t feel like I’m missing anything there. Now that I know pets collect loot for you, I kind of wish I’d gotten one, but it’s hard to miss a convenience I’ve never experienced. (I end up leaving half of my loot on the ground. You never get anything good anyway.)

I’ve so far been able to avoid spending any money in the cash shop, but I think it’s only because of my somewhat negative experience with buying from the Neverwinter cash shop soon after that launch. I bought too much stuff there which turned out to be fairly useless in the long term, so I’m taking a wait-and-see attitude in BDO.

Naturally, as with all modern games, inventory and storage space is a big problem so far in BDO. It will undoubtedly be my first purchase. But I’m waiting to see if it’s going to be a persistent problem or another case where I need to shift my thinking away from “the way MMORPGs have always been” to some other BDO style of thinking. Every major town has its own storage area, and they are independent of each other. So if you fill up your storage in one town, you can just go to a different town which has empty storage. So I’m trying a strategy of putting X type of items in town A, and Y type of items in town B, so I’ll know to go to town A to do X activity, and go to town B to do Y activity. (You can ship items from one storage to another using the Transport system at a price.)

Something else that helps is that I’ve adopted the attitude (which was inspired by Matt’s first MassivelyOP column on Black Desert) that if I don’t think I’m going to use an item in the next hour or need it for a specific quest, I’m going to sell it or drop it. Especially if it’s a gathering resource. I’ve modified my typical behavior of “gather every single thing I see” as well. For one thing, you can’t do that because you’ll deplete your Energy fairly quick. (The BDO energy system is more forgiving than ArcheAge, but it’s aggravating at times.) For another thing, you can only have one gathering tool equipped at a time. For yet another thing, in the new BDO world order, you might be able to get your workers to do that gathering work for you.

Still, I’m pretty sure I’m going to want to buy some inventory space. I cannot even count how many times I’ve seen the “you must have 2 free spaces in your inventory” message so far or how many quests have failed to complete for lack of space.

When I was looking around the cash shop, I sat down and tried to figure out an answer to this question: What is a normal amount of money to spend on a buy-to-play MMORPG? It’s an entirely subjective question of course. To me, $30 is a bargain price for entering an MMORPG, while $50 or $60 is the more standard price. (I don’t believe that, even in this day and age, “free” should be the standard price to play a game–“free” is only the standard price for having advertisements shoved in your face, or for giving away your personal data.) So right off the bat I feel like I could easily justify spending $20 or $30 in the cash shop.

To answer my own question I looked for historical data, back at the only other game with a similar business model: Guild Wars 2. I went back through my emails and counted up every dollar I’ve spent on the GW2 gem store, after the initial $50 game purchase (or was it $60? I don’t remember).

It turns out I spent $60 on gems within roughly the first month after GW2 launched. I can’t be sure but I feel like every bit of that went directly into inventory and bank space. I spent $35 more on gems about six months later, but I’m going to say that the $60 I spent immediately after launch was what I needed to spend to avoid being annoyed by limited inventory.

So how much storage will $60 get me in Black Desert’s cash shop? $60 = 6,600 pearls (with bonus pearls going on now), which, at 800 pearls per 8 expansion slots, will buy 64 extra inventory slots, if I’m reading things right. That feels like it would be plenty, but it would only be for one character, and I imagine I would run into weight limitations that would require more cash shop purchases to resolve. So at first look it seems okay, but digging deeper I’m not sure that’s a very good value for the money. Not as good as Guild Wars 2, at least, where I setup multiple characters and banks.

Still, I don’t think the cash shop is exploitive in the way that so many mobile free-to-play games are. It’s similar to what ArenaNet has offered in Guild Wars 2 for years. It’s just more expensive. But they aren’t likely to drop their prices just to be nice. They’re going to charge as much as they can get away with, as all businesses should be expected to do. They’re only going to drop the prices if players don’t buy, and based solely on the number of non-default outfits I’m seeing in the game, I don’t think that will be any time soon. The prices will probably come down eventually, though. Early adopters always have to pay the most.

(Yes, I finished a post about the cash shop before I finished a post about the game itself.)

Punishing PvP Activity In PvP Games

I was reading the Albion Online State of the Game and came across this part:

Red zones will be full loot PvP zones that do not contain any claimable territories. Red zones will be subject to a crime and reputation system that makes sure that killing peaceful players – in particular, if they are zerged down – has more consequences for the attackers.

No part of that makes me more interested in Albion Online.

This chain of logic seems to happen often in MMO games:

  1. Make hardcore PvP game because it’ll (I guess?) attract a lot of players.
  2. Notice players complaining about getting killed unfairly in hardcore PvP game.
  3. Add systems to constrain people from killing each other in hardcore PvP game.
  4. Wonder why everyone leaves the game.

What is the point of putting full-loot, open-world PvP in a game if you’re going to punish players for killing and looting people?

I was listening to the GWJ Conference Call talking about The Division and there seems to be a similar system in there. It’s super dangerous in the Dark Zone because anyone can kill you but oh, by the way, if they do they’ll get a bounty on their head and everyone in the game will get bonus points for hunting them down and taking their stuff*. Say what? Who’s going to sign up for that?

I can only assume this is yet another misguided attempt to get PvP players and PvE players to buy the same game.

* I don’t know if that’s exactly right, but it was something along those lines.

Don’t Feel Bad About Getting Bored

I recently saw a farewell post on My Life in Azeroth. I’m sorry to see anyone stop blogging, and I hope they resume someday, but the tone of the post got me thinking.

It seems like a lot of WoW players sound apologetic or guilty when they discuss leaving that game, like they are somehow letting Blizzard or the community down. I’ve seen it in blog posts, and I’ve seen it on Twitter. Like they are admitting some deep, dark secret that they didn’t want to tell anyone. Like they are revealing some deep personal flaw in themselves.

I don’t mean to single out WoW here, but it seems like that’s where I see it the most.

I realize I’m probably reading more into this than what is actually there, but on the off chance anyone actually does feel that way, allow me to dispense some unrequested advice from someone who’s been there many times: It’s completely fine and normal and I daresay even expected that you as a player will grow tired of even the greatest, most fantastic MMORPG in the history of the world. (This applies to any game, really, not just WoW or MMORPGs.) There’s just no way that any developer can create content faster than a player can consume it. I actually find it more strange to hear about people who keep playing a single MMORPG day after day for years on end without any break.

The MMORPG genre is basically defined by repetitive gameplay, especially at the endgame (PvE at least). Sometimes repetition is soothing, and sometimes it’s annoying and soul-crushing. If it becomes more of the latter, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking a break from an MMORPG. If you come back to it later, then great, but if not, that’s okay too.

So to summarize: Don’t feel bad about it!

The Great Blaugust Flame-Out

I flamed out of Blaugust, so I guess I can now break my own self-imposed Blaugust rule, which was not to write about Blaugust.

There was this one day that I hadn’t scheduled a post, and it was a long, terrible day at work, and when I got home I had to decide whether to try to find enough energy to write a post real quick or play a game instead, and of course that was a no-brainer so I didn’t get a post out that day. I suppose I could have written a make-up post but then there was another day where I had to make the same decision and then another and another and now it’s a different month and oh well.

(Okay, it wasn't nearly as bad as the Hindenburg disaster.)
Okay, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the Hindenburg disaster.

I got what I needed out of the event so I’m pretty happy about it anyway. I determined that writing is still hard, and posting daily is still hard, and, while I’m still capable of doing it, at this time in my life, the cost of posting every day outweighs the benefit. It’s not a relaxing diversion after a long draining day at work. I’d rather just play games and maybe post two or three times a week if I’m lucky. :)

Congratulations to everyone who stuck with it through to the end! And to those who didn’t, that’s okay too. Thanks for the event Belghast!

Game Developers Aren’t Slaves

A while back I saw this pro-GamerGate post and had a flashback to my days in the political blogosphere. I’ll save you the time of reading it: It’s a long, very well-worded piece of propaganda disguised as anti-propaganda. (You know you’re reading propaganda when you come across the word “indoctrination.”)

Destroy this mad brute

The part that really made my jaw drop was this:

Never forget that you [developers] are here to please the gamers, they are not here to please you, validate your beliefs or prop up your ego.

That statement could not possibly be more wrong. Game developers are not prostitutes, servants, or slaves, as not just suggested there but stated outright. Game developers are artists, craftsmen, and businessmen. They create a product or service, and it is up to you the consumer to decide whether to purchase it or not, the same way you decide to buy a couch or a television. Or more accurately, the same way you decide to watch a movie or buy a book.

That sentence up there, in my opinion, is the very crux of the problem with a lot of crowd-funded game supporters (otherwise known as angry mobs). Most of them seem to feel that donating some money to support a game buys them ownership of the developers themselves, as if they have literally purchased slaves in some Mereen marketplace.

Full disclosure: I’m a software developer, so I have a very strong pro-developer bias. It absolutely infuriates me whenever a user feels that they own the developer as much as they do the software. “I bought your software so you have to do what I tell you or else!”

The other part of that post that I found pretty insulting was the implication that gamers are idiots who will instantly fall under the spell of whatever hidden message a game developer puts into their game. If that were true, then politicians would be right to ban violent video games because impressionable gamers will become violent after playing one, right? If you say gamers are so impressionable that they’ll turn into liberals after playing a game with a socially-conscious message, then there’s nothing stopping them from turning into serial murderers after playing Doom. Next up on the Gamergate agenda: Book-banning and record-burning!

I agree that it’s not a game developer’s job to teach morals, whatever they might be. Same for authors and movie-makers. But I strongly disagree that a game or a book or a movie can teach any morals. That teaching is much more effectively done by parents, social circles, and individual soul-searching, and those things will always trump whatever a game is trying to say.

Gah! This is why I stopped writing about politics. It’s too stressful.

Posted on Blaugust Day 11. Read all of my Blaugust posts here.

The Elite: Dangerous Expansion And Value

Elite: Dangerous has an expansion coming out and you’ll never guess what happened after the announcement: People on Reddit got mad.

In a related story, the sun rose and set today.

I admit I’m just an average guy who doesn’t grasp all this new-fangled math the kids use, but I have never understood the “it’s not fair that if someone buys it today they’ll get a better price than someone who bought it before” logic when it comes to games. Of course now that I’m writing it out, I can’t think of the right words to explain why that doesn’t make sense to me. But here goes.

Time is money

I’m a firm believer in the concept that time has a monetary value. That if you spend X amount of time doing something, it’s equivalent to spending Y amount of dollars on that something. Or vice versa.

Let’s say you pay $50 for a game. You’re now out $50. But then let’s say you play that game for 100 hours. Now you’ve received 100 hours of entertainment in return for that $50 you spent. You’ve received “time” in exchange for your money. Time that, presumably, is valuable to you. How much is that time worth to you? I like to use movies as a basis to determine how much entertainment time is worth, so if a 1.5 hour movie costs $5 to rent on Amazon, that means you’ve received … oh god … I can’t do math in my head, so hold on …  $333 of entertainment value for 100 hours of game play. So you paid $50 of money and received $333 worth of entertainment time. I’d call that a solid investment.

Now let’s say an expansion comes along with a price of $50, and that expansion also includes the original content. Reddit blows up because they think the original buyers are getting screwed over while the new buyers are getting a crazy good deal. But are they really?

The original buyers are already ahead by … ugh not again … $283 in value. While the new buyer will be out $50. The original buyers already know that they are going to get a game they’ll want to play, and they only have to play it for … click click click … around 15 hours to break even again. Since they’ve already played for 100 hours it seems like a pretty safe bet that no value will be lost. (Especially since they’re still ahead by $233 if they don’t play a single moment of the expansion.)

The new buyer on the other hand has no idea if they’ll play more than 20 minutes of this game. They’re taking a huge risk spending their $50. (The same risk that the original buyer took, yes, but that risk already paid off for the original buyer.)

Besides, it’s not like you lose anything if someone else pays less for something. It’s not like some invisible hand is going to reach into your bank account and scoop out your money to give to that other person.

I’m not sure if any of that made sense. In any other month, I might stuff this into my Drafts until I was completely sure of my logic–or forever, in other words. But the show must go on.

Posted on Blaugust Day 9. Read all of my Blaugust posts here.