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.

2013 MMOs In Review

I hate these year-in-review kinds of posts. So what do I do? Write one, of course. Because everyone’s doing it.

This is my review of 2013.

2013 began with GW2 fizzling out because of its lack of endgame progression. I still popped in now and then throughout the year to look at the Living Story but it’s just an occasional diversion.

I played in one of the last betas of Defiance before it came out in April. I wanted to like it, but I wasn’t hooked. I’m generally not a fan of shooter MMOs. (Late in the year, however, I bought the game and played a little bit more.)

The next major MMO I played was Neverwinter. I started playing in the "open beta" in May and spent more money on it than I should have because I was an idiot. I enjoyed it a lot though. Unfortunately it doesn’t have much endgame so it’s kind of a play-once-and-you’re-done kind of game. I stopped playing in June and only occasionally pop back in.

Coincidentally, Rift went free-to-play in June, which sparked me to play that again and finally get my main Mage through the Storm Legion content to 60. My interest faded again when I realized I didn’t want to get into the guild raiding routine.

For most of summer, I took a break from MMOs and played a bunch of Steam games, including Dark Souls, The Walking Dead, Tomb Raider, and a number of Assassin’s Creed games.

The only other big MMO release in 2013 was Final Fantasy XIV, which I bought and played in October. I liked it a lot, but I drifted slowly away from it after the first month. To this day, I’m not sure why. I can’t think of anything wrong with the game. I think it’s just general MMO fatigue.

I spent the rest of the year bouncing back and forth between a million different MMOs searching for one that would really “hook” me. I re-played EQ2, LotRO, TERA, Aion, and WoW. I played a number of older MMOs for the first time, including Mortal Online, Fallen Earth, and Wizardry Online.

I participated in an Elder Scrolls Online beta weekend in November, but I’m not allowed to talk about it yet. I will be rebellious, though, and say that I liked it.

Not much else to talk about. The best new MMO of the year was Final Fantasy XIV, hands down.

WildStar Gushing From MMO Reporter

I’ve been hearing more and more about people’s WildStar beta experiences lately. Apparently they lifted some of the NDAs. They pretty much gushed about it on MMO Reporter Episode 152, and what they described sounded like a solid themepark MMO with action-oriented combat, and how can anyone not like that? No word on the endgame yet, though.

I like The MMO Reporter podcast, by the way. It’s one of the best ones if you like a more “casual” style of podcast. This was the funniest part: At 19:30, when Harry was complaining about WildStar controls: "If you have your right hand on the mouse and you have your left hand on the WASD and you have to keep moving to avoid enemy telegraphs, try to hit the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 buttons at the same time."

*crickets*

OMG LOL. Sorry Harry you just totally lost every bit of MMO cred you had with that statement. (I kid, I kid, I think he’s funny.) Apparently he hasn’t ever played TERA, GW2, Neverwinter, or any PvP in any MMO ever. But then later Harry talks about wanting to get back into GW2 PvP. How exactly does he play GW2? With the arrow keys? *gasp* By clicking abilities with the mouse?

Mortal Online – Why is this Fun?

I’m at a loss to explain it, but I’m digging Mortal Online. When I’m staring at my desktop full of MMO icons trying to decide which one to play, MO is the one I usually click on.

I’d be hard pressed to tell you why this game is compelling. I log in. I run out to the Graveyard and kill some undead to make some money and practice my blocking and swordfighting. I gather some plants and chop up some trees. I tame donkeys and horses and ride around. I cook up some food to feed myself and my animals. I make myself some leather armor from pig skins. I practice swimming in the ocean. I read books to train skills.

Somehow those incredibly boring-sounding activities end up being fun and engaging.

And that’s despite all the obvious bugs. This game has a very alpha quality to it in that there are a bunch of polish bugs that shouldn’t have made it through basic quality control. You get the sense that the developers are just a couple of guys in someone’s basement, eating chips and banging away at whatever code interests them, with no regard for the big picture. (I don’t actually know how big or small Star Vault is. But I’d guess small.)

Combat is incredibly weird. It’s first person. Half the time you can’t tell if you’re going to hit your target or not. You can’t tell if blocking is going to work or not. There’s lag and rubber-banding all over the place (though that seems better in the last patch). I can’t even imagine what "real" combat is like (ie. PvP), when your actual life is on the line. If I go below half of my health I start running like a screaming little girl.

For that reason I tend to avoid combat. Honestly, there isn’t very much to fight in this game except for other players, and the only other players I could realistically defeat are newbs who are even more newbish than I am, and what am I going to get from them? So far the wilderness is about 90% empty of players or monsters, which is great for exploration. When you find mobs they are usually clustered in a small area that you can easily go around.

A Day In The Life

One day I was wandering out in the rocky desert east of Meduli. I found a herd of horses and I managed to tame one that was old enough to ride for the first time. (Previously I had been riding donkeys.) I was on my way back and decided to stop and chop some wood for some reason (I think I was testing to see if it was a different kind of wood). Then I spotted somebody approaching on a horse.

The guy was wearing real armor and carrying a shield, which was a sure sign that this was a veteran player. Oh crap, I thought. I’m probably going to get killed and lose my brand new horse. Thankfully I wasn’t carrying very much, for the exact reason that I knew I might get ganked by some random PK.

It turned out that he wasn’t there to kill me. He just stopped by to say hi. I cautiously told him I was new and just wandering around and he offered to take me to Bakti, which at the time I had never heard of, so I said sure. We rode southwest and the terrain changed from depressing desert terrain into really nice green grassland with occasional pine trees.

Riding to Bakti
Riding to Bakti

I probably slowed him down a lot because I had to keep resting my horse because my stamina ran out pretty quick. (Fortunately I was good enough at riding by then to avoid being embarrassed by getting thrown from the horse every two steps.) Soon after taking that screenshot I actually lost him among the trees (because it’s pretty easy to get lost in this game) and I figured he would just leave me and keep going, because I apparently have a poor opinion of humanity, but eventually he came back and found me. He showed me a spot where I could get a steppe horse, which I made a mental note of for later. While we were there, a rather intimidating-looking "red" walked by so I have a feeling it’s a protected resource. My guide said we only survived because the red’s guild knew my guide’s guild. We went by a town called Vadda which had a lot of reds around so he advised me not to go there. Eventually we made it to Bakti and I thanked him for the escort. (As it turned out, Bakti wasn’t all that safe either because right outside of town there was a big PvP fight going on, which I watched from afar.) I stabled my horse and logged out for the night.

Later I had to consult an external map to find out where I was, because in-game I had no idea which direction I had gone or how I could ever retrace my steps back to Meduli, where my base of operations is. (By "base" I mean the place where the bank with all my meager possessions resides.) There is no in-game map in Mortal Online, if I haven’t mentioned that. After orienting myself, I set off northwest on my horse and eventually made it back home.

That kind of sums up the PvE experience of the game. Wandering around, chopping wood, taming horses, meeting strangers and wondering if they are going to be nice or if they are going to kill you on the spot for no reason. It sounds horrifying but the non-combat systems in the game are so deep that you can find a lot to do without ever learning to swing a sword.

GW2 Winter Wonderland of Doom

I ducked into GW2 to check out the Christmas event. As usual, there is nothing to gain from doing the events except some cosmetic fluff, because god forbid you actually get to advance your GW2 character in any way. But I set aside my anti-horizontal-progression Scrooge-like sentiment for a bit and did the events anyway, and they’re kind of fun.

Most of them, anyway. There’s a dungeon which I skipped because I didn’t want to deal with a group. (Naturally most of the achievements revolve around the dungeon.) I did the snowball fight which is just a PvP Capture-the-Flag kind of game that doesn’t let you use any of the class abilities you’re used to. The bell-ringing event was interesting although I had to re-bind my keys to have even a remote chance of getting anywhere with it. (I use TRGVBH instead of the normal 123456.)

Then there is the jumping puzzle which is pure evil. I don’t do many jumping puzzles because, well, why bother? It’s just a stupid achievement. Maybe you find a chest at the end which gives you … nothing worth anything because your character is already 80. But I thought, okay, well, this is a special jumping thing, and it’s for the kids, right? They need their presents delivered. So I got into the Christmas spirit, thinking it wouldn’t take very long anyway. Well three days and fifty thousand deaths later, I finally did manage to get through it and jump into the big Christmas box at the end.

Made it!
Made it!

You’d think that getting through that jumping puzzle of doom once would be enough to get a big fat achievement, but nope. That’s only Stage I of the achievement. Next you have to get through it twenty times to complete Stage II. I shudder to think what’s after that.

And by the way you don’t get anything but Wintersday gifts when you get to the end. So far I haven’t gotten anything useful from opening Wintersday gifts (except the achievement), and I haven’t found anything worth trading for the old socks or whatever.

So here’s my problem with the jumping puzzle. There are three paths up there right? But you don’t get anything special for making it up each path. Why isn’t that an achievement? The other problem I have with the jumping puzzle is the teeth-gritting determination I now have to get that Winter Wonderland Mastery achievement if it’s the last thing I do. I can get past the snowflakes with about 50-75% reliability now depending on how "fresh" I am, and I’d say it’s about a 50/50 chance I’ll get over the disappearing gift boxes, and after that I’ve got about a 75% chance of getting past the rolling snowballs, because that part’s pretty easy. So I figure if I keep at it I should have that Mastery within a week.

So here’s my unwanted advice. The trick to getting over the snowflakes is to not think about it too much. The more I try to concentrate on the jumping, the worse I do. The hardest parts for me are when you have to go over the two little candy-can logs because it’s not a straight-forward jump and it totally wrecks whatever rhythm you’ve built-up from the snowflakes. You have to let up on your forward key after you jump or else you’ll sail past where you can land.

I recommend taking the “2 chances” option from the Asura dude. The presents are completely worthless because you can get tons of them from other events. Going over the boxes, I find it easiest to go straight up and forward, which seems to work most of the time if you get the jumping rhythm working right. (You can still make it, by the way, if one of the last two boxes disappears under you – just keep jumping and you can sort of scale that wall.) If I have to go left or right my chances of making it drop dramatically.

I usually stop after I get over the gift boxes otherwise the snowman’s breath of wind usually knocks me off. I see a lot of people that keep charging forward and get knocked off.

The rolling snowball boulders is the easiest part, as long as you remember that it’s easy to slip off to your death. Don’t try to go diagonally over any corners – I fell a lot like that. If you go through it "normally" you won’t have to worry about getting caught in a red circle.

I do the final jumping part pretty conservatively, and I always stop after each jump so I don’t have much forward momentum. The jump distances are pretty short and I’m afraid I’d overshoot my targets. I’ve always had plenty of time before freezing to death.

So that’s how you do it. Piece of cake. And I don’t know why I wrote that much about it, except that I’ve been doing it over and over and over and over again.

P.S. I got the Winter Wonderland Mastery achievement! It then reset so I could do it over again, so now it looks like I didn’t get it at all. Lame.