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.)

Progression Report – March

March was definitely a low point in my 2015 MMORPG activity, but don’t panic. This is normal for me. There’s usually one or more months during the year when I end up watching television instead. Still, I accomplished a few things.

In Rift, I continued to log in every few days to collect Minion rewards and send them out again. My bank and inventory is bursting with useless junk.

In Final Fantasy XIV, I forgot to mention that I joined the cool blogger Free Company on Cactuar. Unfortunately every time I log into FFXIV I stand around feeling like I don’t have any goals to accomplish. I do have goals, but none of them are interesting to me right now, which is a shame because it’s awesome to see so many other people *cough* finally *cough* getting on the FFXIV bandwagon.

In a surprise move toward the end of March, I created a Romulan faction character in Star Trek Online and ran around for less than an hour. I could see myself playing some STO in April because it feels “new” to me right now, but historically the game has never clicked with me.

In Neverwinter, I finally put the time in to level my Great Weapon Fighter from level 59 to 60. That took about 2 hours.

In Guild Wars 2, I played about 3 hours and finished up the Echoes of the Past story. And the most amazing thing happened: I found a staff!!

GW2-Monsoon-Staff

This is literally the first staff upgrade I’ve seen since I hit level 80 like two years ago. Unfortunately it’s a stupid useless healing staff, and I normally use an axe anyway, but just knowing that it’s possible to still find gear upgrades out in the world is encouraging. But as a super casual 3-hour-a-month player, I guess I will have to wait another two years to find another one.

SWTOR held another double-XP weekend from March 27-30, which salvaged a month otherwise completely devoid of logging in. I spent 4 hours questing in Balmorra over the weekend, leveling my Jedi Guardian from 32 to 35. (Still, I cancelled my subscription which ends on April 11.)

Now for something completely different. I’ve seen a lot of people talking about how great Marvel Heroes is, so I went ahead and downloaded it. I’m not a superhero person but it’s kind of a fun game in a super-casual kind of way. I played a whopping 12 hours and after trying a bunch of heroes, went with Colossus and leveled him up to 19.

Rawr.
Colossus practicing his skiing stance.

I played nearly 13 hours of Trove in my quest to get a character up to level 20 so I can get a free Budgie mount in Rift. My Fae Trickster is now up to level 13. I typically play just long enough to fill up that bar in the top-right corner, then log out.

Topping the list for March, I spent almost 17 hours playing Path of Exile, another ARPG which arguably doesn’t even belong here. I played most of the different archetypes but I’m sticking with the Templar as my main, who has reached the god-like level of, coincidentally, 17.

I didn’t play any TSW or The Repopulation in March.

In the single-player game department, I played mainly Banished and Civ 5 with a smattering of Dragon Age II and Legend of Grimrock thrown in.

In April I’m planning to work on a story for Camp NaNoWriMo, so my gaming time might be further limited. But I hope to continue leveling my Fae Trickster in Trove, play some more STO, and hopefully get back into FFXIV. Maybe I’ll work on my Black Mage class.

P.S. I don’t know if I can keep up this pace of monthly progression reports, I might switch to quarterly. :)

Neverwinter – Scourge Warlock First Impression

By accident I noticed that Neverwinter released a new update called Tyranny of Dragons, in which they added the very cool-sounding new class Scourge Warlock.

Scourge warlock in action

In terms of gameplay, however, I found the SW a little on the “meh” side. I feel like they might have borrowed a lot from the Control Wizard because it felt very similar to me. (My first level-cap character was a CW.) The main attack is the same kind of triple-bolt spell that the CW uses.

Scourge warlock in action again

I was considerably more impressed by the gameplay of the Hunter Ranger class a while back. (I just now realized, as I went to look for a link to my previous post on the subject, that I never actually posted anything on the Hunter Ranger. Oops. Oh I remember now: I did a stream of it which I didn’t save and is now lost to time.) So if I had to pick one of the two new classes, I would go with the HR.

I will say that the SW does a crap-ton of damage in the first seven levels. It’s sort of like the Trickster Rogue in that regard. You just walk into a room, spam the mouse buttons and a couple of encounter keys, and everything dies around you. Unlike the TR, however, the SW uses a lot of colorful animations to do it.

Speaking of animations, has anyone noticed that the human running animations in Neverwinter are awful?

Overall I was a little disappointed in the Scourge Warlock, at least through level 7. It sounds like it should be a lot cooler than it actually is. Perhaps it gets better later on, but for me, the gameplay wasn’t interesting enough to go through the same repetitive Neverwinter quests again. I still stand by the Great Weapon Fighter as my favorite class in the game.

If you’re wondering, I did not spend the megabucks to try out the Dragonborn race.

P.S. If you are like me and can’t remember how to take screenshots in Neverwinter, you have to /bind it to to the printscreen key manually: /bind sysrq screenshot_jpg. (Of course, you can bind it to whatever key you want.)

Landmark et al – Take My Money!

Here’s my feedback to SOE regarding Landmark’s proposed monetization plans: Hey can I just pay you and not get spammed with advertising for potions and costumes? That would be super. Oh, and by the way I already paid you. Maybe factor that into your plans, too.

Also, are you ever planning to increase the percentage of your game that is finished? It’s been at 60% now for a month. (Okay, that probably wasn’t fair. But I still think it’s ridiculous to claim that Landmark is anywhere near 60% finished.)

Previously I was pretty ambivalent about free-to-play, but now I’m really starting to dislike it as a business model. I like Rift, but I really don’t care to hear about the new mounts in the cash shop every week. I like GW2, but I really don’t care about what’s new in the gem store (I know GW2 technically isn’t f2p but it might as well be). I like Neverwinter, but I don’t like having to close a spammity spam-spam window every time I log in (I don’t even know what’s in it).

It’s so refreshing to play FFXIV and just be able to play. Same with WoW. I can’t wait for ESO’s and WildStar’s subscription models. Pleeeeease. Take my money!

Fresh 60 In Rift

Well the "big patch" for Neverwinter came a week earlier than I expected. Guess what? No changes in queueing – it still takes forever. So I’ve basically given up on Neverwinter, so it’s all Rift all the time for me!

My mage reached level 60, so now I’m a "fresh 60." I’m not sure how long the total journey from 50 to 60 took, but it took a little over a week to get from 55 to 60. I’m now remembering just how much stuff there is to do in Rift, with dailies and crafting and fishing and so forth, and how much fun it is. Zone Events are tons and tons of addictive fun. There’s a World Event going on now that I haven’t even seen yet. There are not one, not two, but *three* level 60 zones to run around in!

Harbinger is a great leveling and soloing soul, by the way. So great in fact that almost every Mage you encounter in Storm Legion zones is running it. At first I did Harbinger/Chloro which works a lot like the Justicar soul and basically makes it impossible to die. When I hit 60 I switched to a more pure Harbinger soul with Elementalist thrown in for the big Lightning Strike ability, so my DPS improved considerably at the cost of self-healing.

Still, Harbinger is not a group soul. I’m going with your basic Pyromancer build for dungeons and such. Before SL, I think Pyro/Warlock or Pyro/Stormcaller and a tricky rotation was the FotM top DPS build, now I’m not sure what it is. I’m using a modification of my previous macro and a fairly plain Pyro rotation, but it’s hard to tell how I’m doing. I get about 7,500 dps in zone events while others are doing like 20,000+ dps, but they could be showing off in uber raid gear and using planar charges to double their damage. In the two expert dungeons I’ve done, I came in a solid third place, but the other two guys looked overgeared. (I’m just glad the tank and healer didn’t do more damage than I did.)

Speaking of dungeons, I’ve done four SL dungeons so far. Well, three and a half. I tried two Normals while leveling up. First I did the Unhallowed Boneforge, in which we normals wiped a few times, but we eventually got through it. Then I did Archive of Flesh, in which I died a lot because it turned out that the healer wasn’t really healing. (Perhaps he was expecting us to drink potions, a la Neverwinter.) That group fell apart before the last boss. Then after sitting in Normal queues for hours it became abundantly clear that nobody ever queues for Normal dungeons, so I stopped trying after that.

When I hit 60 I found out you need 1200 Intelligence and 300 Hit to get into expert SL dungeons. I was only up to 200 Hit, so I used Infinity Stones to buy half of the world event gear, then F2P Credits to buy the other half (so yeah, I "paid to win," big deal, wanna fight about it?). I made a couple of +18 Hit runes and ended up at about 325 Hit. Then I jumped into the Expert queue. And waited. And waited. Apparently, all queues are really slow when you’re DPS only, which isn’t that surprising. I only managed to get into two dungeons: Empyrean Core and Storm Breaker Protocol, and did not get a single item drop. (Later, when I have more gear and confidence, I’ll start queuing as DPS and Support, and maybe even Healing. I’m not doing Support right now because the person who queues as Support typically does the best DPS in the group.)

P.S. I can now make a much better comparison of Rift boss mechanics to Neverwinter boss mechanics. Neverwinter definitely does it better, no doubt about it. In Rift, if you don’t read about the mechanics beforehand, or have someone explain it to you, you’re probably going to wipe until you do it enough times to figure out where to stand, when to run, when to hide, when to push buttons, when to burn adds, etc. It’s a memorization game in Rift, whereas in Neverwinter all you need to know is how to play your class.

Spellplague Caverns Death March

So I hit level 52 on my GWF and decided to try Spellplague Caverns again for a Dungeon Delve event. That turned out to be a huge mistake. Do not ever go into this dungeon. Ever. It is just not worth it. There’s no way the loot justifies the time spent.

We had a GWF (me), cleric, wizard, and two rogues. At first. Somewhere before the first boss, one of the rogues disconnected and someone had the brilliant idea to kick him and get another from the queue. Except that once you go beyond a certain point in a dungeon, it bugs out and doesn’t pull in new people from the queue anymore. It would have been much better to wait for the disconnected person to come back, because they usually do. So we only had four for about 98% of the dungeon. And no tank.

This dungeon is really long. I mean holy crap long. It must have taken us two hours to get through it all. Even if we’d had five, I still think it would have taken an hour and a half. Just when you think you can’t take the constantly spawning plague monsters anymore, you get to the first boss, and you think to yourself, “omg there are *two more* bosses after this??”

I think we probably would have given up on it except for the fact that we were in a DD event, which means you get some gauranteed loot if you make it to the end. And we were making steady progress – slow, tedious progress, but steady.

At least the spawn pits went away after the first boss. That’s something. But good lord those plague thingys that knock you back are super annoying. Especially because you only get about 50ms to react because of lag. So many times I ran out of the effect only to get knocked back anyway because the server didn’t register my movements in time. And they kind of hurt, too.

So we finally slogged through to the final boss, which was actually the most interesting boss I’ve seen to date. Unfortunately by then you’re so tired of the dungeon that you just don’t care anymore. Not only do you have to dodge all the AoEs but four times during that fight the floor disappears from under you. If you’re standing on it at the time, you die. We wiped the first time because it was a surprise to all of us. The second time, the mouthy “top DPS” rogue didn’t move in time and we lost him (typical deeps!). So we had to finish off that final boss with three people.

Basically I pounded on the boss while the CW and DC dealt with the adds on the platform behind. They had the harder job by far. I really just had to stand there and swing, occasionally dodging an AoE, and moving when the floor was about to disappear. I hardly ever took any damage, so I could have done that all day. And it felt like it took the better part of a day to wear down that boss. But we finally did, and in a touching moment of gamer solidarity, we all rolled Greed on the last boss loot. Then we got our DD loot. I didn’t even look at what it was. There was just no way it could be worth the effort.

I don’t think I’ll be returning to Spellplague Caverns anytime soon.

Grey Wolf, Pirate King, Frozen Heart, Spellplague

I have to say that the dungeons are my favorite part of Neverwinter. Everyone on the forums whines constantly about how poorly designed the bosses are but I find them rather fun. You don’t have to memorize any strategies beforehand – you just jump in and play your class and your role well, and chances are you’ll do fine. If you don’t play your class well, chances are you’ll get schooled and then have to go to the forums and whine about it.

Grey Wolf Den. Don’t bother until after the June 20 patch. It’s all good until the final boss which is OP just like Lair of the Mad Dragon. They must have accidentally put the epic encounter in the normal dungeon again. I tried it once and got absolutely hammered at the end – like, died within seconds, multiple times. You absolutely cannot stand in any AoE or you’re dead, no second chances – and there are a LOT of AoEs to avoid. It’s way worse than Chortlefax.

Lair of the Pirate King. This one is fun and PUGable. I did it two or three times before outleveling it, unfortunately I don’t remember much about it except the last boss is on a big pirate ship and there are a lot of chests that you have to jump to get to, and if you miss the jump, you fall to your death and it’s super embarassing. Oh, and there’s a surgeon boss that runs around surrounded by an AoE that’s kind of irritating if you’re a melee person like me. Otherwise it was pretty straightforward.

The Frozen Heart. Another one that is fun and PUGable. The first boss is kind of tedious though because you have to beat him down three different times to get his loot. The last boss can be hard too because it’s difficult to see the red AoE circles in the ice you stand on, but I think that’s being addressed in the patch.

Spellplague Caverns. Man. I tried this with a PUG of level 50-51 people (without a cleric) and wow was it hard to fight through those spawn points – I died several times and must have used 50 potions. Then the boss at the bottom of the jump bugged out and disappeared so we had to quit. I won’t try this one again until I gain several more levels, if ever. Which is a shame because I want that new kind of seal. But since I’m almost 51 now maybe I should just power through to 60 so I can hit the epic dungeons.

Neverwinter's First Major Update aka. Launch Day Coming

Word has come down that Neverwinter’s "launch day" (June 20) will bring major balance and gameplay changes. This coincides with the 1-month-after-launch massive patch that every MMO always does to address issues that arise after launch. To me, this also seems to be the time when the developer actually implements a lot of the feedback they got from their beta period. They hardly ever change anything but major breaking bugs between beta and launch.

A lot of people are giving them grief for holding back these changes instead of rolling them out in hot fixes as soon as they are addressed. Chill out, guys. They are doing this thing that grownups do called a "controlled software development process." The hot fixes we see throughout the month are only going to be super critical issues, and/or very limited in scope. Possibly even server-only changes, with no effect on the client. They aren’t going to release major gameplay changes in a hot fix, and nobody should expect them to.

In reviewing the patch notes (http://nw.perfectworld.com/news/?p=907501), I don’t see anything but improvements. The community, however, went crazy about every little detail of it. "Why this? Why not that? What are you thinking? Nerf! Flames! Hate! Rabble!"

If you take anything from the forums as real, all healers are basically quitting the game, because they expected the DC to turn into something it was never intended to be: A dedicated healer. The DC is not a dedicated healer. At best, the DC "assists" a party with indirect heals and buffs, and there is nothing in these notes to change that. People who want direct heals are still going to have to drink potions. Personally, I never, ever rely on the cleric in the party to keep me alive if I’m in trouble. If you die, it’s always your fault. Even the DC.

My take on class changes is as follows. CW: Tweaked. DC: Tweaked. GWF: Buffed. GF: Buffed. TR: Tweaked, with the possibility of Nerfed. All sensible changes. Threat issues seem to have been addressed, though I don’t think the changes will be as dramatic as everyone wants.

"Companions now deal much greater damage to enemies with significantly higher level than their Rank, but a close level to their owner." Rank 15 companions will actually be useful after level 30, if I’m reading that right. Not for tanking, though. Just damage.

"Neverwinter Fields: Private Wilfred’s voice has changed." I like how that’s marked as a major change. I guess the community was in an uproar about it. Now I’m going to have to redo the tutorial to hear the new voice of poor Private Wilfred. He did sound a little … um … cartooney before.

"Storming the Keep: Malus Blackdagger now has the appropriate amount of health." Oh thank god. That guy took *forever* to kill. I just hated that skirmish.

"Lair of the Mad Dragon: The boss now spawns fewer adds in Normal Mode. Lair of the Mad Dragon: The boss no longer spawns a Shocktroop Devil. It now summons an Erinyes." Thank ya jesus. I think there’s also another note somewhere about dragons having fewer hit points, too. I suspected they had accidentally put the epic stuff into the normal dungeon. :)

"The caldera of Mount Hotenow is no longer blocked by a giant rock. Questing in this area is now much, much more possible." Glad to hear that. I sure hope that will improve the sparkly trails.

"The best asset for a given task is now automatically slotted into the Required Asset slot. It can still be switched out manually." They read my mind! Still doesn’t make professions terribly worthwhile, though.

"When some party members accept and some party members decline a queue offer, the whole party is properly removed from the queue." I have a feeling that this, along with being able to fill empty slots again, will improve the queue times for everyone. At least I hope so. (So far, the best way I’ve found to get into a queue quickly is to play a guardian – it pops instantly every time.)

"If a player has seven Celestial Coins, a confirmation dialog pops up when the player tries to Invoke." This will definitely help me. I’ve wasted tons of celestial coins by invoking when I already had seven of them. Not a big deal though, since those rewards are mainly directed toward hardcore players.

"The ESC menu now has a Change Character button." Yes! That should be bolded and underlined as one of the most important new features.

"The Character and Professions buttons now glow more strongly when players have Power Points / Feats / Attribute Points to spend or completed Professions tasks." That’s handy. I often had no clue when profession tasks ended (back when I thought professions did something useful). I assumed they did that on purpose to steer you toward spending AD to finish tasks quickly.

"The "Need" button is now disabled for items your class cannot use." A lot of people are going to rejoice about that, but personally I only rarely found it to be a problem before.

"The "Notes" column has been removed from the "Ignored" tab." That was my bug report! I kind of wish they would make the Notes work, though, instead of getting rid of it. I would have liked to put in why I ignored someone.