Maybe It’s Time For A Break

Herding Cats has an interesting post up about how we, the gaming community, may have shot ourselves in the foot by telling MMO developers to limit cash shop purchases to cosmetic items so that the game won’t turn pay-to-win. But she argues that when you play an MMO only for cosmetic items, a cosmetic cash shop is pay-to-win.

I’m one of those people who unofficially agreed that cosmetic items are fine in cash shops, because I personally don’t care that much about cosmetic items. I mean, if I run across a neat-looking item, I’ll be all like, "Yay, that looks cool, I’m glad I found it!" But I don’t often set out on any adventures with an objective of getting a cosmetic item. I just pick them up if I "happen" to come across them in the normal course of playing.

I think the indignation over pay-to-win might be a symptom of a different problem. If a game loses its appeal when you find out you can just buy what you want in the cash shop, it could be a sign that you’re just plain burned out. It could mean that the only reason you’re playing is to reach some reward, with the hope that getting it will bring back the fun. In other words, playing the game isn’t fun anymore. In that case you should probably just put the game away for a while and play something else.

I say that from the perspective of someone who likes leveling characters, and doesn’t just want to skip right to the end to get a world first raid completion or whatever.

I recall way back in Vanilla WoW when I was struggling to buy my first mount. Back in those days you had to be level 40, and it cost a lot of money that was not easy to get soloing. I spent quite a while saving up for it, and right after I got my night saber, I almost immediately stopped playing. I thought having the cat would make the game enjoyable again, that I would finally be able to zoom around and skip past all the boring bits and get right to the fun bits, but nothing like that happened. The cat wasn’t all that much faster, and it didn’t change much of anything about the gameplay. It was just the carrot that kept me playing long past when I should have stopped. If I had been able to pay $5 and get that cat earlier, I probably would have stopped playing earlier, too.

I suppose someone might alternatively be indignant about pay-to-win simply because someone else can get an item quickly when it took you months to farm for it. I have very little sympathy for that kind of MMO player, though.

Tower of Nightmares

I stopped by GW2 and discovered a big ol’ patch had happened, and when I logged in to see if there was any chance of defeating Tequatl, I had mail telling me to go to Kessex Hills to save the world again. I could describe it, but Inventory Full did a nice summary already: http://bhagpuss.blogspot.com/2013/10/next-stop-kessex-hills-all-change-here.html

I haven’t played GW2 seriously in a long time but I was able to get through the initial Tower of Nightmares instance. (That’s one thing I like about GW2–it’s really easy to pick it up again after you’ve been gone, because there aren’t any complex "rotations" you need to know. Just target something, hit your main attack, and off you go.) I almost got facerolled halfway through the last boss fight when those four adds appeared right when my health was almost gone. I thought I was a goner but it turned out if you just run far enough away from them, they stop chasing you. It gave me time to recharge before coming back to take them out one at a time instead of all four at once.

Bhagpuss wondered if Kessex Hills had undergone any significant changes. After I left the instance I had no clue where I was. Everything looked totally different to me. If I remember right, that was the general area where people would stand on that broken bridge and farm a centaur event. Now there’s a big freakin’ tower there and bunch of green gassy crap and a bunch of bark-people who don’t die unless you FINISH THEM.

Anyway, it was a nifty little introductory event and blessedly short. I don’t feel any burning urge to stick around Kessex Hills to see what else is going on, though. I would imagine there’s some achievments to collect, some story quests, and some event-specific drops to pick up. None of that changes the basic gameplay of GW2, which is what I’m burned out on for the time being. I have vague plans to jump back in and check out the LFG tool, since I’ve never experienced any of the dungeons, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Halloween in the MMO

Autumn (aka. Halloween) celebrations are a staple of modern MMORPGs.

A low polygon count Halloween with Gnuhcgnaw
A low polygon count Halloween
Has anyone seen my decaying Undead flesh? I seem to have lost it.
Has anyone seen my decaying Undead flesh? I seem to have lost it.
Winner for tallest pumpkin in an MMO
Winner for tallest pumpkin in an MMO.
Is this scythe big enough to pick pumpkins?
Is this scythe big enough to pick pumpkins?
Quite possibly the strangest ghost costume ever created
Boo!
Ye gods what is that?
Ye gods what is that?

(I was going to put another picture captioned “It’s always Halloween in Kingsmouth!” but I couldn’t find my screenshot.)

FFXIV First Month Ending

My first month of FFXIV ends on Nov. 1 so I need to decide whether to subscribe or not. I think I will, because it is definitely the "freshest" MMO I’m playing right now, although perhaps not right away. (I’ve also been on a weird WoW kick lately, but that’s another story.) There is an endless number of things to do in the game if you bounce between adventuring, gathering, and crafting, particularly since you can change classes at will. Bored with archer? Switch to pugilist for a totally different gameplay experience! It’s a lot like Rift in that way.

As of this writing, my character is a level 33 Archer, 12 Pugilist, working toward the Bard job. (I’m still not clear why it makes sense that an Archer turns into a Bard, by the way.) In the last story dungeon I did (Brayflox’s something-or-another), someone asked why I wasn’t running Bard, and at the time I hadn’t even considered it since Archer was working fine, but after some investigation it seems like the Bard is a more group-friendly class, so I decided to work toward it so I wouldn’t be seen as a terrible group player in the next instance I did. I’m not sure where to go after I get to the required 15 Pugilist though. Back to the Archer’s Guild? Or is there a Bard’s Guild somewhere? Guess I’ll have to Google it.

WoW Doesn't Take Itself Seriously

Playing WoW again recently, it dawned on me why it’s been so popular. It’s a good game and all, and it’s more addictive than blue meth, but I think that one of the main things that pushes it over the top from niche game to mainstream hit is: It doesn’t take itself seriously.

Most people would probably be embarassed to admit that they play a game involving elves and dwarves and knights and dragons. Society tells us that those things are for kids, or hardcore D&D nerds, and those guys are weird. (At least they were when I was growing up.) WoW said to the world, hey all that stuff is stupid, right? We’re going to make fun of that in our game. We’re going to put in quests with ridiculous characters who say silly things and make meta jokes about pop culture and anything we can think of to keep this from being a serious fantasy world. Our trolls are going to be Jamaican stoners. Our Undead are going to be necrophiliacs. Our dwarves are going to be Scottish highlanders. It’s all just going to be a big silly cartoon. So nobody will have to pretend that they’re really playing in a fantasy world, and it’ll be okay for normal people to enjoy it. (Normal as in not a D&D nerd.)

Well, it’s a theory. Most MMOs try to build an immersive fantasy world and an immersive story where you are the hero that saves the world. But when you run around reading the quests in WoW, they are so silly that it’s impossible to take them seriously. I’m thinking of the Gnomeregan dungeon where all the inhabitants are thinly-disguised references to the 80s show The A-Team.

I think my theory will be put to the test when WildStar comes out. My inital reaction so far has been, "Ewww, that looks just like WoW." And all the promotional material thusfar has had the same cartoony, doesn’t-take-itself-seriously attitude as WoW. So based on my theory, WildStar should be a runaway hit and ESO, which is a more traditional, immersive fantasy world for D&D nerds, will become an afterthought.

WvW Season In GW2

I saw an announcement recently about the start of the Guild Wars 2 World versus World "season." I personally have never gotten into the WvW thing in GW2, so I’m not sure why I’m supposed to care about a new season. Conceptually I like the idea of jumping in there, zerging around for a while, and leaving, but it never seems to work out that way.

First of all, I’ve never been a fan of PvP in any MMO, because it’s inherently random. Two opponents of equal skill level should theoretically play to a 50/50 win/loss ratio over time. However, thanks to the random factor, you might go higher or lower than that ratio due to forces beyond your control. I just find it irritating to get killed by a random crit. Therefore I never go anywhere alone in PvP settings.

That leaves running with the zerg, which is fun for a short time, but once you realize that the zerg is not executing some devious master plan, and is in fact just running around randomly, you start to wonder why you’re wasting your time. Especially when you see that if everyone would just go over there and take that objective, your team could make a lot of points, but the zerg is more concerned with facerolling one lone guy running away over a hill.

Beyond that, the biggest problem I have with WvW is finding the zerg. Those battleground maps in GW2 are frickin’ enormous. I used to find myself zoning in and running and running and running and never finding anyone or anything. Everyone is always bunched up in one tiny little area, while the rest of the map is a wasteland.

Also, I don’t feel any compelling urgency to win WvW games. I mean, you don’t get anything, do you? You certainly don’t lose anything if you lose. And people get so worked up about it. Someone is always yelling at you in chat for not putting your entire soul into winning battles. Who cares? You get the same loot and XP whether you win objectives or not.

At least it was like that last time I played WvW, which admittedly was many, many months ago.

Book 3, Chapter 5, Part II of III

When I logged back into LotRO for the first time in a long time, I remembered one of the main reasons I stopped playing:

On the outside looking in...
On the outside looking in…

It was Book 3, Chapter 5, Part II of III. I’ve probably been stuck on that quest for well over a year. It says you can do it solo, but I was facerolled every time.

Lies! The Elf-stone's inspiration is no help at all.
Lies! The Elf-stone’s inspiration is no help at all.

I finally went out to YouTube and found a video of someone soloing it. In the video, the guy hit the Elf-stone like I always do, then he moved forward a little bit, and then suddenly his health and mana quadrupled! What de hell! Mine never did that!

Next time I logged in, I did exactly what I saw in the video. Stand where it says “this is a good place to use the stone.” Hit the Elf-stone. Your guy kneels for a second but nothing seems to happen. Then I moved forward a little bit until it says “this is NOT a good place to use the stone.” Then, magically for no apparent reason, my health zoomed way up like I saw in the video. Then I had no trouble with any of the elite mobs.

Take that you vile vicious Tarkrip.
Take that you vile vicious Tarkrip.

Of course, I went the wrong way and my health dropped back down and I got killed. I revived myself and ran back outside so I could do the Elf-stone again, except that when I tried it, following the exact same steps, it didn’t work. Ugh. What a super annoying quest.

The next time I logged in, I finally did it!

Standing victorious over my nemesis's corpse.
Standing victorious over my nemesis’s corpse.

Celebration!

Woohoo! Success at last!
Woohoo! Success at last!