Games Of My Year 2015

Here’s my year end “Best Of” list, because if you’re on the Internet, you have to do a year-end list of some kind. It’s the law.

2015 Contenders

After studying my Steam purchase history and searching my memory, I’ve come up with the following list of new games that I purchased and played in 2015. These are only games that were released in 2015, not every single game that I purchased or played in 2015. In other words, this is the pool from which I’m going to pick my games of the year.

  • ARK: Survival Evolved
  • Besiege
  • Fallout 4
  • FFXIV: Heavensward
  • Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns
  • GRAV
  • The Park
  • Rocket League
  • Savage Lands
  • Shelter 2
  • Skyforge
  • TOXIKK
  • The Witcher 3

Not a huge list, very few AAA titles, and of course they are all PC games. I should also say that my controversial definition for the “release date” of a game is the time at which anyone can purchase or download a playable game. So, for example, Trove, which “launched” in 2015, does not appear on the above list because I purchased and played a substantially similar version before 2015. And Prison Architect, which I bought in 2015 and Steam lists with a launch date in 2015, does not appear because its Early Access release was before 2015. (Steam overwrites the Early Access launch date with the Release launch date, but the Internet remembers.) Similarly the Early Access titles ARK, GRAV, and Savage Lands appear on the above list because they became available to buy in Early Access in 2015.

So yes, in a way, I’m punishing developers for releasing games too early.

Game of the Year

The Witcher 3. Not much of a contest, really.

witcher3 2015-06-28 07-09-32-09

Biggest Disappointment Of The Year

ARK: Survival Evolved. Why do people buy this broken piece of unplayable crap? Why don’t the developers fix it instead of putting out new dinosaurs and holiday events? Do they not have any programmers working there? Are they all artists and modelers? I simply cannot understand why the Internet hasn’t lost their minds with rage over this game.

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

Most Emotionally Devastating Game Of The Year

Shelter 2. A unique, beautifully atmospheric game, but if you fail at this game, it feels like your heart is torn out and stomped on. You must be an unfeeling robot to actually play this game more than once.

And because this is mostly an MMORPG blog…

New MMORPG Of The Year

Skyforge … but only because there is literally no other choice.

Polo shirt dude is going to defeat the world.

MMORPG Expansion Of The Year

FFXIV: Heavensward, because even though it’s a bit of a slog, I keep going back to it, whereas I have no desire to go back to the new zones in Heart of Thorns. I didn’t include Knights of the Fallen Empire here because, while I technically “bought” it (having a subscription) and have access to it, I don’t have any characters high enough in level to actually see it yet.

Heavensward

Now for some other categories.

Best Game That I Played in 2015

Dark Souls. Along with Dark Souls II, it completely took over my summer.

The Depths

Most Consistently Played MMORPG In 2015

I’m going to have to go with Star Wars: The Old Republic. I’ve played it a decent amount in six of the twelve months in 2015, and leveled a Jedi Knight from around level 13 in January up to (as of this writing) level 56.

SWTOR Screenshot_2015-12-18_15_33_11_000300

Best Game With Art From People I Used To Play Quake With

GRAV. A nifty survival/building game, check it out. Or not, because I’m totally biased.

 

Getting Back Into MMORPGs

I’m having a hard time getting back into some MMORPGs I used to play.

FFXIV. First of course is FFXIV, the game that I have an active subscription for that’s draining my money while I avoid logging in. Every time I try to get back into it, I keep running into this roadblock–Heavensward is hard. Well, maybe hard isn’t the right word. More like tedious. I’m mired at level 53 in the Dravanian Forelands where it takes an hour to run from one side to the other for quests since I don’t have flying unlocked there yet.

Soloing in Heavensward seems to be significantly harder than I remember it being prior to 50. I never had my chocobo out before but now it’s practically mandatory, and if I take one wrong step in that southern area with all the bug people, I get killed and then it’s another hour-long trip to get back down there. It’s just not fun to play like that.

I’m over being a Miquote too. I want to use my Fantasia potion to switch to one of the big green hulks. But the idea of changing to another race and gender is a little disturbing–it feels like I would be erasing the accomplishments and even the memory of this character that’s been around for so long. I suppose that is the down side of having all classes available to one character. It would be better to start a new character but when I think of how long it would take to start from scratch it makes me cringe. There are no experience boost potions for sale or 12x experience weekends in subscription games.

Not to mention this outfit is considerably less cool than my pre-Heavensward outfit.
Not to mention that this outfit is considerably less cool than my pre-Heavensward outfit.

ESO. I’ve been wanting to get back into ESO and get my guy from level 40-something to 50, but after I patched it up (which took a glacially long time) and logged in, I remembered that all my skills had been reset at some point. A quick look at the skill tree thingys made me realize that I had no idea how to play the game anymore so I logged out immediately. I feel like I need to start a brand new character to re-learn how to spend my skill points.

WildStar. Then there is WildStar which I can’t even log into since it went free. I can log into the web page and manage my account fine but for some reason the same credentials don’t work in the game. It’s weird.

Progression Report – June 2015

There were only two games I played any significant amount in June: Final Fantasy XIV (28 hours) and The Witcher 3 (18 hours). The latter is not an MMORPG, but since it feels exactly like an MMORPG I’m going to count it in my progression report.

In FFXIV I started in on Heavensward, but to be honest I’m still a bit burned out from all the catching up I did in May, so I haven’t played that much into the expansion. I’ve only managed to level my Bard class from 50 to 53 52, and completed the first dungeon Dusk Vigil. It’s a great expansion…

… but it’s not as great as The Witcher 3, where I reached level 23 and played to the point in the story where the curse was lifted from Uma. I’m really glad I stuck with the hard difficulty. Once I got to level 12 or so, I no longer had any trouble with it. The main thing to keep in mind is that you have to be patient and fight defensively until you get stronger and get the hang of the controls. I don’t know how much more story is left in this game, but I’ve seen swords and armor that require at least level 37, and I still have a crap ton of question marks left to explore on the maps.

Finding Heavensward

Normally everything related to FFXIV is an absolute pleasure to deal with, but getting into the Heavensward pre-order early access has been quite an unexpected challenge.

FFXIV was down all day Thursday for the big 3.0 patch which I downloaded Thursday night. I had absolutely no idea that I would have to do anything special to see Heavensward. I just assumed the patcher would know I had ordered it, it would download it, and it would magically appear the next time I ran the game after the servers came up.

So I logged into FFXIV before I went to work on Friday just to take a very quick peek at Heavensward. Well, the game didn’t look any different. Oh, I saw a few changes to the UI so I knew something had happened, but that was about it. I was puzzled, but I had to log out and go to work.

When I got home I logged in again to look around more thoroughly. The game still didn’t look any different. I went to Camp Dragonhead to find a quest to start my adventures in Ishgard, but there was no quest. I entered the little intercessory to find a quest-giver standing there with a level 50 quest I couldn’t get.

That’s when I knew something was definitely wrong and I logged out to figure out why I wasn’t seeing Heavensward.

It turns out I had left out the crucial step of applying a “bonus code” to my account to get into the Heavensward early access. Buried at the bottom of the order confirmation email I received from Square Enix early Friday was a link to “Click here to get access to your products.” That took me to a page where I could click a button to make an “activation key” for my pre-order bonus code.

With the activation key in hand, I had to go to another page–the pre-order page–to register the activation key, which then in turn gave me the actual bonus code. The big problem with this step was that, Friday afternoon and evening, the pre-order page was buggy as crap and it took a few hours of re-entering my login information, one-time passwords, and the activation key before it finally got to the end and coughed up a suitable bonus code.

Then it was off to another page in the Mog Station to actually apply the bonus code to my account. As with everything in the Mog Station, the first challenge is finding the right place to go to do the thing you want to do. After a scavenger hunt of clicking, I found a place where I could enter a code that matched the format of my bonus code (naturally I could not just cut and paste it in), and of course it said it was invalid. Whoops, I was trying to redeem a Heavensward code, not a Heavensward early access code. Those are two totally different pages, it turns out, with two totally different-shaped buttons to click. Don’t go to the big giant button that says “Enter the Registration Code for the Expansion,” instead go to a smaller button on the side that says … something I can’t remember because it’s gone from my account page now. On the second try, I successfully applied the pre-order bonus code to my account!

I ran the patcher, eagerly anticipating that I would now be able to log in and see all the cool stuff that I had downloaded the previous day. And then I discovered that I had not yet even downloaded Heavensward. I had only downloaded the 3.0 patches that applied to the old world. I watched helplessly while the patcher cheerfully started in on another 4-5 GB download.

Now, as I type this, the patcher is “Updating” and the Time Remaining is “Unknown.” Windows tells me the patcher is “not responding” and suggests that I either close the program or continue waiting for it. I’m not yet sure what I’m going to decide. Perhaps I should plan on doing something else tonight.

P.S. I stopped the patcher and re-ran it.

Heavensward

Success at last!

FFXIV – UI Wish List for Heavensward

With the Final Fantasy XIV expansion Heavensward coming soon (June 23), I thought I would put together a list of all the nagging UI issues that I hope are addressed in 3.0. It’s a testament to how good the game already is that I have trouble coming up with any significant gameplay issues to complain about–only these nitpicky UI faults.

(Knowing how good Square Enix is at patch notes, I could probably go somewhere and find a detailed list of exactly what’s going to be in Heavensward, but let’s just assume there’s still some doubt about the feature set. And also that I haven’t seen much of anything about Heavensward except what I’ve seen in FC chat and that benchmark.)

Naturally I have the same wish that everyone who plays FFXIV has: I wish I didn’t have to put away my Chocobo to queue in the Duty Finder. But I’m guessing that if they haven’t fixed this by now, they never will.

I so desperately want to be able to turn off the Okay/Cancel dialogs that pop up all the time. Only the ones that prevent you from destroying important gear should remain. I’m thinking in particular of the ones that come up when you teleport.

I wish there was a key I could press to begin Synthesis. Right now I always have to grab the mouse to click the button.

Of course I want more inventory space, or at least more armoury space. I have purchased (ie. rented) 2 extra retainers and I still find myself juggling all of the stuff I keep, and I only have 9 of the 20 classes at 50. Barring that, I would love to be able to mail gear to an alt. (I realize that would undermine Square’s retainer revenue stream, but I can dream.)

On a related note, which would help alleviate the above issue, I would love to be able to access retainer inventories with fewer mouse clicks. It’s bad enough opening one, but switching between one and another is a chore, and there is a lot of waiting. Showing all of the retainer inventories at once would be a Godsend.

Being able to craft with materials stored with your retainers would be a really, really nice improvement for crafters. That way you wouldn’t have to keep moving things from your retainer to your inventory and vice versa all the time. It would also solve the issue of having to switch between retainers a lot.

Showing the number of items in your retainers’ inventory in crafting dialogs would be very helpful, too.

I also wish the game didn’t close the crafting window when you start talking to a retainer.

Speaking of retainers, it would be really nice if they could come to you instead of me always having to go to them. I mean, one of mine is a 50 Archer so there’s no reason she can’t meet me out in the field or in a dungeon somewhere. :)

Somewhat related to retainers and inventories, I wish there were better searching tools to find gear. Or maybe a way to save different sorting presets.

I would love to have a key to toggle nameplates on and off. Sometimes I want to temporarily disable player nameplates in raids (when stacking) or in Mor Dhona (for obvious reasons). As far as I can tell, there is no way to macro this yet.

And speaking of nameplates, it always surprises me that there is no way to change the nameplate color of members of your Free Company.

I would also love to have a key to toggle between mouse/keyboard controls and the controller. I always have to open the UI panel and click the toggle. (I often use the controller for gathering or fishing.)

I wish there was a way to set the opacity of UI panels, such as the party list or the threat list.

In need/greed dialogs, it would be nice if it took into account your retainer inventories, too. Usually it won’t let you roll on a unique item if you already have it, but if you’ve moved that item to your retainer, it doesn’t know you already have it. I can’t remember all the gear I’ve gotten so I rely on the game to tell me whether I should roll on something or not. (I don’t want to hinder anyone else’s chances of getting something I already have.) (And I sure can’t keep everything I get in my inventory.)

Especially during cut scenes with voiceovers, I wish I didn’t have to keep clicking to continue after every paragraph of dialog. Sometimes I just want to sit back and watch. (A great example would be the finale cut scenes at the end of the 2.5 Main Scenario.) If there’s an option for this, I haven’t seen it.

Camera controls, camera controls, and more camera controls. I know some people don’t like it, but I love moving the camera to the left or right, a la ESO, so that your avatar’s head isn’t in the exact center of the screen. Moving up and down would also be nice so that you could have your avatar fill the screen from top to bottom. Mainly this would be for screenshots but I would probably use it in combat, too.

An example of the camera off to the side, as seen in ESO.
An example of the camera off to the side, as seen in ESO.

And finally, this is a wish I have for every MMO: I’d love to be able to chart the history of how all of my stats have changed over time. I’ve taken to documenting my class levels in a spreadsheet so I can look back and see how long it’s taken me to reach milestones and so forth. It would be nice if the game did that for me, or at least allowed me to export data that I could then import into my own spreadsheet. It would be cool to look at how my Accuracy stat has grown over time (by class), for example. It’s totally worthless to the game, but statistics are cool.

FFXIV_Spreadsheet
Serious nerdity.