Arbitrary Mid-January Status Update

I’m in a “bouncing around between games” mode at the moment, now that I’m done with Elite: Dangerous. I’ve been logging into two or three or four different MMOs a day, looking for one to capture my imagination.

Level 100!
Level 100!

WoW. My WoW subscription runs out on the 20th, and I won’t be renewing. WoW is a fun game, but I always tire of it pretty quickly. I did manage to reach level 100 with my Hunter and upgrade my Garrison, though. I have enjoyed my time in the game, but I simply can’t comprehend how people think the story in this expansion is the best ever. I guess I’ve never “gotten” the lore in WoW. (WoW might be the only game that I care less about the quest text than ArcheAge.) I thought there was supposed to be time travel in here somewhere but at no point do I remember anyone saying that I traveled back in time. (Except one quest to kill Banthar in Nagrand that sort-of referred to it, some five zones into the game.) There are Russian space goats and angry orcs everywhere, but then I was in a place with a bunch of bird people and giant crow gods or something. *shrug* I feel bad for people who will feel obligated to spend the next two years playing this expansion until the next one comes out. It’s okay to play other games, guys. You really don’t have to live in one game your whole life. :)

FFXIV. I still have my Final Fantasy XIV subscription, however I haven’t felt much of an urge to return to the game full time. I stop in periodically and level the Rogue class, but that’s about it. Not planning to cancel my sub though. (I noticed that FFXIV is now selling more and more optional cosmetic items in their store… I wonder if that might mean an upcoming change in their subscription model.)

ArcheAge. I still log into ArcheAge about once a week to pay my taxes. My property is still sitting there empty, probably making everyone else angry. Sometimes I think I should just push on through from level 48.5 to 50 before my Patron status runs out, but I can’t summon the energy for it. (I now have about 450 tax certificates stored up, by the way, which is enough to pay for my property for about… calculating… 22 more weeks.)

Rift. I also log into Rift every couple of days to pick up Minion rewards. I think I have about 50 million pieces of endgame crafting items now clogging up my inventory and bank, and countless numbers of Dimension Item boxes. I meant to do some of the Christmas event, but I never got around to it. It turned out I still had a sizable amount of Christmas currency from last year anyway. There’s a new recurring event now for

Guild Wars 2. I keep trying to get back into the Living Story of Guild Wars 2 but it only takes about twenty minutes of gameplay before I want to punch the monitor with my fist, so that’s been slow going. (See Aywren’s post for the exact reason why.) I’ve only just completed Dragon’s Reach Part 1, which involves trying to get Important People to come to some kind of Summit. I cannot emphasize enough how much I despise the GW2 concept of story being the reward for completing challenges. Loot should be the reward for completing challenges. Story should require no effort to consume. (In my opinion.) Not that it matters, because I play so infrequently that I have no idea what the story is anyway. There’s a new dragon somewhere I guess, and a bunch of annoying vines doing insufferable crowd-control effects, and some Asura prodigy doing something with waypoints. It’s all just random noise to me. It’s like how you do leveling quests without paying attention in WoW, except you’re not actually leveling so what is the point of even doing it other than to see what everyone is talking about. Also since the loot in GW2 is so impossible to understand, I really don’t know if I’m even being rewarded with loot either. Grrrr. It makes me literally angry with rage!

Landmark. I re-rolled a fresh character to see what a brand new player would see. It’s sort-of getting somewhere, but I still don’t get it. There still aren’t any real objectives. I couldn’t find any caves. There are newbie mobs standing right next to uber-advanced killer mobs that you can barely scratch with your sword. The combat feels weirdly like TERA, only a lot more limited. My hopes for EQ: Next plummet each time I play this game.

TERA. Speaking of which, I even tried to play TERA, but for some reason I can’t update the game any more. I suspect I need to un-install and re-install, but that’s too much of a bother.

WildStar and ESO. Waiting on subscription model changes, like everyone else. :) I think I have a 7-day “please for the love of God come back” free pass for WildStar that I might use. I’m actually looking forward to seeing what WildStar does in 2015 now that they’ve been crushed by the reality that casual players outnumber elite raiders by about a thousand to one.

SWTOR. Given my lackluster showing in the games above, I’ve sort of re-discovered Star Wars: The Old Republic again. It’s actually a pretty good game. :) I’ve probably spent most of my playing time in it during January. I even managed to play it successfully for a while without paying any money. But then I caved in and got a 3-month subscription so I didn’t have to worry about the restrictions. I expect by the end of 3 months (or maybe even 1 month) I’ll be ready to cancel again. I’m playing a Jedi Guardian Knight this time, and have so far gone from level 10 to level 22. (Previously, my highest level character was a Smuggler at level 28, but every time I try to play it now, I die horribly.) The Kira Carsen companion is hilarious.  (“Eat lightsaber, jerk!”)

Standing around in Nar Shadda, unable to remember to hide the FRAPS display.
Standing around in Nar Shadda, unable to remember to hide the FRAPS fps display.

Rift Enthusiasm Waning, Bring on Draenor

November is nearly over, which means NaNoWriMo is almost over for another year. As of this posting, I have some 1,500 words left to do before validating. (The story is nowhere near done, and I expect I will need to add another 40,000-50,000 words to actually finish the novel.)

I’m growing a bit tired of Rift. I finished the main story and got my main Mage to 65, and my Rogue, Warrior, and Cleric are all sitting at 60. I still enjoy playing Rift and sending out Minions, but it’s prohibitively time-consuming to farm Void Stones from 61+ Zone Events to upgrade one’s gear, and I’m not really in the mood for dungeons right now.

The Rift dwarven family of characters.
Ezarin and the Rift dwarven family of characters in Nightmare Tide.

With Rift fading from the limelight, I’m turning to Warlords of Draenor “full time.” The leveling game is crushingly easy as always. I finished the story in the first zone Shadowmoon Valley and reached level 92 in the process. I’m enjoying the Garrisons so far. They’re sort of like a slow-motion RTS. (I don’t much like having to wait for followers to finish their missions though.)

I haven’t yet used my instant-90. At first I thought I would use it on my 68 Mage, but lately I’ve come to the conclusion that Mages are the absolute worst class in WoW, and I have no more desire to punish myself by playing one. (Except I’m still determined to get my Mage to 90.) I honestly don’t know what they are good for (other than creating portals). They are terrible for soloing, and they are terrible in groups. The only useful ability they have in groups is a Remove Curse, and I consider that to be a healing responsibility, so I have no idea why the Mage even has it.

Hurray, I saved the world again!
Shadowmoon Valley saved!

Anyway, I think I might now use my instant-90 on my Warlock. Maybe. I haven’t decided yet. Who am I kidding? I’ll probably just hold onto it indefinitely.

In other news, I volunteered to write an article for Syl’s Bloggy Xmas Calendar. My article is scheduled for December 7, a date which seems to be looming a lot closer than I would like.

Rift – Nightmare Judgments

One thing I’ve noticed in Rift’s Nightmare Tide is more pressure to spend money. I don’t mean in terms of a sales pitch; I mean in terms of making the game less tedious.

2014-11-17_074514
Losing my head over Nightmare Tide! (Not really, it’s a Halloween costume mask.)

For example, two new things in Nightmare tide are Earring Slots and the Planewalker “attunement” which allows you to wear some of the new gear. Each of these costs 100,000 Void Stones (the new zone event currency) in the Rift Store. The Planewalker attunement is account-wide, but the Earring Slots must be bought for each character. It is technically possible to grind out the Void Stones to buy those two important things without spending cash to unlock them, but keep in mind that there is a limit of 35,000 Void Stones you can collect per week, so you have to grind zone events for a minimum of six weeks to get both of those items for one character.

Me? I happily paid to get the $50 Collector’s Edition so I don’t have to do that for any character. (Even the $25 edition comes with them, so I highly recommend it.) Did I have to pay to get those things? No. Did I have to pay so that I didn’t die of boredom getting those things? Abso-freakin-lutely. (For reference, I don’t think I’ve picked up more than about 5,000 Void Stones in a week yet, and I’ve been playing a lot, so the amount of effort it would take to grind out 35,000 a week is mind-boggling.)

Now technically, you don’t need to wear earrings or have Planewalker attunement gear. You can still do everything in the game (I assume). I’m a relatively new level 65 and I’m only wearing two Planewalker items, and I’m not having any trouble with world quests and zone events. (Mobs are more difficult at 65 than they were at 60, though.) But obviously, you’re not going to be invited to any high-end Raids without earrings, and it’s going to be that much more difficult to meet the Expert Dungeon requirements without the stats from two extra items (and two extra rune enhancements).

The other area I’ve felt pressure to spend money in is Crafting. Crafting materials are abundant in the Plane of Water. However, it costs a lot of platinum to level up your crafting skills from 375 to 450, in the form of training recipes and store-bought materials. It costs so much money that it would be super convenient for me to drop $10 for a REX thingy, which I could sell for about 1250 platinum. The most platinum I’ve ever had on my main character is about 450, and that was when Attanium was selling like hotcakes. Alternatively, rather than taking your chances with REX prices, you can now, for the first time ever, buy the store-bought crafting materials for 3 credits each instead of spending the expensive 1 platinum each.

Savant-tier crafting materials as compared to the Grandmaster-tier crafting materials from the last expansion.
Savant-tier crafting materials as compared to the Grandmaster-tier crafting materials from the last expansion.

And lest you think you don’t need the store-bought materials, I can assure you that nearly every single crafted item going from 375 to 450 requires at least 1 store-bought item (essence, wax, string, etc.). The least expensive way to level from 375 to 450 seems to be to save up your materials and level up all at once with a +160% Transcendent Skill Sphere, which if you don’t have one costs 1000 credits. It’s credits well spent, though, in my opinion, because of the savings you’ll reap from not having to spend so much on materials. (I happen to have some from previous giveaways, and I plan on using them.)

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind spending money on Rift at all. But this is the first time I can remember feeling any kind of pressure to buy. Pressure in the sense that it’s better and/or more enjoyable to spend money than to play for free. In the past, I’ve felt that spending money is only necessary once you’ve grown bored of a particular activity that was inherently fun, whereas now the activity is so tedious and time-consuming that you don’t even want to start on it.

Despite all of that above, Rift is still a cheap game in the global scheme of things. If you’re keeping score, so far I have spent $70 on Rift Nightmare Tide. $50 for the Collector’s Edition and $20 for some Credits which I used on Minion slots and some Minion cards. I could have gotten away with spending only $25 for the cheapest Collector’s Edition and had much the same experience. Considering I just paid some $90 for Warlords of Draenor and a 3-month subscription (and I still haven’t played more than a few hours of it), what I’ve spent on Rift so far is a bargain and for me, it has a lot more bang-for-the-buck.

A November Kitchen Sink Post

Hi! You may remember that I used to write blog posts. At least occasionally. Unfortunately this month two things have happened: Rift Nightmare Tide and NaNoWriMo. Those two things, particularly the former, are way more interesting than writing blog posts. But I thought I would take a break and quickly write down some stuff about things.

Chatting with Akva near the end of Draumheim.
Chatting with Arak near the end of Draumheim.

Overwatch. Blizzard is making a role-based shooter (cough Team Fortress cough). This is probably a great idea that will make bazillions of dollars. I personally have less than zero interest in yet another shooter in a crowded, stale market. The only way I could possibly become interested is if they find a way to solve the ridiculously unbalanced gameplay that usually occurs between casual newbies and hardcore veterans. Most shooters are not fun unless you decide to dedicate your life to them and start on day one. I can’t tell if they are addressing any of that from the information I’m seeing, but I’m guessing that if it’s Blizzard, there will be progression in it, so they probably aren’t addressing it.

ArcheAge. Sorry everyone whose ArcheAge searches bring you to my blog, but I’ve totally lost interest in ArcheAge. I couldn’t care less about the new Auroria continent. I’ve seen a lot of controversy about the cash shop, but I haven’t been paying attention to it, and that’s not what will drive me away from the game anyway. (Aywren has great posts about the problems with ArcheAge.) For me, it’s basically too time-consuming to fully experience and enjoy the game. All I do in ArcheAge now is log in periodically to make sure my geese haven’t died and to pay my taxes. That is probably all I’m going to do until my Patron status runs out, which could be in a few days or a few months. I can’t tell by reading any of the information in the game or on Trion’s site. (That is another problem with ArcheAge.) After my Patron status runs out, there’s no reason to keep playing because if you can’t own land, ArcheAge has very few interesting features. (I mean, unless you want to run around with a guild doing trade runs for, I don’t know, bragging rights I guess.)

FFXIV. I’ve played a little bit of the new Rogue class in FFXIV. To me, it feels a lot like the Pugilist class, which is not really a selling point for me. I doubt I’ll play very much of it, although I will level it to at least 15 like every other class. But first I need to stop playing …

Rift Nightmare Tide. Pretty much playing this every possible moment, doing all the things, including the Harvest Whatever event. My mage is almost to level 65, but I’ve also spent a lot of other time leveling my rogue from 51 to 55, and building up his survival and fishing proficiency. I imagine this is what you WoW enthusiasts will feel like when Warlords of Draenor comes out. (Actually many of you WoW enthusiasts apparently already feel like this.) The only real problems I have with Rift are that performance is considerably slower than I remember, and there is a weird camera problem when you walk beside things.

My mage in his Ravens football uniform, standing before the junk pile of dimension items I've been collecting.
My mage in his Ravens football uniform*, standing before the junk pile of dimension items I’ve been getting from minions.

NaNoWriMo. I’m seeing a lot of people in my Twitter feed participating this year, which is cool. I’m on pace, which is better than I expected to do considering I didn’t have anything like a plot or characters when I started. My novel is a post-apocalypse story (but not a young adult dystopian or a zombie apocalypse). I’ve wanted to write a post-apocalypse story since I was a teenager (although this one doesn’t look anything like the Mad Max world I had envisioned back then).

Now to find some pictures! And then get back to Rift!

* Note that I am not a fan of the Baltimore Ravens (though I don’t particularly dislike them either). Also note that I do not have permission from the NFL to use the term “Ravens,” “Baltimore,” “football,” the color purple, or a picture of shoulder pads.

Rift – Nightmare Tide

I’ve been playing nothing but Rift since the expansion came out.* If you even remotely like the game, you should definitely check out Nightmare Tide. I’m a little biased though, since I think Rift is the best themepark MMO out there, far surpassing WoW in every possible way. (Except in the amount of available content and player population.)

Just thought this was a nice vista in Goboro Reef.
A nice vista in Goboro Reef.

Good things about Nightmare Tide:

Ridiculously Plentiful Gathering Nodes. In Storm Legion, mining and foraging nodes are pretty few and far between. In Nightmare Tide, you trip over them every two steps. My mage started with Foraging at 375 but Mining at only around 50. (I had decided much earlier that I was going to add all of the gathering skills to my main, but hadn’t gotten around to leveling them.) So I went back and leveled up Mining before I spent too much time in the Plane of Water. It only took a couple of hours to get from 50 to 300 in the “old” zones. But then I hit the Storm Legion zones and progress ground to halt. It took most of the day wandering around to get from 300 to 350, because suddenly you couldn’t find any mining nodes, and on those occasions when you did, you only got like 1/3 of a point! Once I got to 350 it was easy to get to 375 by grinding on some mobs up in Dendrome. I also leveled up Butchering and ran into the same problem. Huge dead zone between 300 and 350. Then you go into Nightmare Tide and you can’t move an inch without hitting a plant or a mining node or something to butcher. This is what I call a good adjustment by Trion. (It would be nice if they could go back to Storm Legion and double or triple the number of nodes.)

Carnage Quests A-OK Now. In Storm Legion, I became pretty irritated by all the Carnage quests. It got so that I actively tried to avoid killing things so another stupid quest wouldn’t attach itself to my already-huge list. I guess it’s not that I didn’t like the quest objectives, it’s that you could never finish one before two new ones popped up. In Nightmare Tide, I’m not seeing that anymore. The Carnage quests seem to be just right. (Or maybe I’ve just gotten used to them.)

Zones Appropriately Sized. In Storm Legion, the zones are enormous and they seem mostly empty. Except for the accursed Carnage Quests. In Nightmare Tide, the zones seem to be just the right size. Or rather, they are still enormous, but there is stuff in them all over the place.

Gyel Fortress, the location of a new dungeon in Nightmare Tide.
Gyel Fortress, the location of a new dungeon in Nightmare Tide.

Leveling Pace Exactly Right. Unlike Storm Legion, where leveling from 50 to 60 was a rather daunting grind-fest, leveling through these three new zones seems just right. I have not yet gotten Patron status, and I don’t feel any need to do so. Without any bonuses (other than the 25% bonus they gave because of the outage) I’m still plugging along at a decent clip, even out-pacing the zone quests a little bit. So if you end up using a lot of bonuses, you’ll probably zoom to 65 in no time. So 5 levels in 3 zones seems like the right call. Good expansion size. Now if we could get one of these every six months instead of every year, it would be even more awesome.

Minions. At first I was befuddled by the minion system. I didn’t really know what it was good for. But then a weird thing happened. I kept sending out minions on adventures even though I didn’t fully understand the appeal, and then I still kept doing it, and then later, I still kept going back and sending out more minions on adventures. I don’t exactly love it, but there is something really compelling and interesting about it that keeps me coming back. I even bought two more slots. It seems to be the only way to get Artifacts in Nightmare Tide zones, because I haven’t run across a single Artifact out in the wild yet. Also you get just crap tons of Dimension Items, if you’re into that. I’m not particularly into that, so I just keep dumping them into my trash heap of a dimension to get them out of my inventory.

76 stages in a Silverwood Nightmare Rift is the best I've done so far.
76 stages in a Silverwood Nightmare Rift is the best I’ve seen so far.

Nightmare Rifts. These things are awesome. The only problem is that some jerk wad will inevitably try to sabotage the group’s progress by pulling mobs away from the center. (Public Service Announcment: Make sure everyone is on board with pulling the mobs to the center so everyone can AoE them down faster. If you’re a DPS and you get aggro, run to the center and stand there, don’t run away like a dufus.) If you’re in a big guild or whatever, I think you can open private Nightmare Rifts so you can avoid that.

By the way, if you’re afraid that the expansion is all about swimming, don’t worry. You only have to swim for about the first 15 minutes. Then it’s mostly land again. (Which also means you mostly wasted your money if you bought that shark mount.) There was much, much more swimming in the Song of Dreams mini-expansion last year. (Last year?!? Good lord I didn’t realize it was that long ago.)

* I almost killed off my geese in ArcheAge.. I logged in to find them starving and half of my fruit trees had already died off. By the way, I have heard people say they think ArcheAge is somehow similar to the look and feel of Rift. I just can’t see it. They are totally different to me.

Ping-Ponging My Way To Nightmare Tide

I took a little break from ArcheAge and it turned into an unintentional gaming ping-ping-a-thon. Don’t worry, I still log into ArcheAge to gather the fruit from my trees a couple times a day. Also, I finally destroyed my Scarecrow Garden to make a Farmer’s Workbench. I hated to do it, though. I wish I could rotate my house to face a different direction.

FFXIV

First I dropped back into Final Fantasy XIV again because I had an active subscription. I didn’t really have a goal but it turned out that there was a Halloween event going on so I went through that quest line. Seasonal events in FFXIV are very quick and easy, so it didn’t take more than an hour and I ended up with some neat-looking scary barding for my Chocobo. (I think it’s the only barding I’ve gotten so far.) The rewards this year were far better than the silly ghost costume we got last year.

Speaking of FFXIV, an upcoming expansion and nailing consistently high-quality content every quarter reaffirms my belief that FFXIV is the best subscription game to have right now, if you have to pick just one.

WoW

Then I went and got 3 months of subscription for WoW so I could take a look at 6.0.2 and be ready for Draenor. My night elf looked only slightly different, but when he runs around now he sort of hops spryly instead of what he used to do, which looked a bit like someone running with scuba flippers on their feet (or maybe clown shoes). If I hadn’t known that they changed the models, I might not have even noticed it was different. It’s too bad they couldn’t up-res the textures on the armor, though.

My main hunter was 88 when I left him, so I quested around in Krasarang Wilds until I reached 89. (Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long.) Right away I noticed that my Serpent Sting DoT was gone, which caused some confusion for a while. I didn’t realize they were making class changes in this patch. Not that it was a big deal or anything since I can still mow through anything while questing. (Usually I don’t even have to do anything; my pet can handle everything by himself.) But I’m not sure what I’m supposed to use for a DoT now. I’ve never taken the time to “learn my rotations” with my hunter since it doesn’t matter a whit while questing.

Anyway the point is that I only have one more level to go before I get my hunter to level 90. I still haven’t bought the expansion yet, though. But I probably will. Probably.

Rift

Lastly, it came as a total surprise to me that Rift’s Nightmare Tide dropped! It shouldn’t have been a surprise, because I knew it was coming. It’s just that I didn’t realize that The Day was actually upon us. October has been flying by apparently.

I panicked at first because I thought that I wouldn’t be able to buy any of the Collector’s Editions any more, but thankfully they were still available. I logged in first to verify that buying one would be a good decision (the items cost a ton of some currency I didn’t have), then I went ahead and bought the $49 starter pack. I debated getting the $25 one, because I don’t actually need an insta-60 boost (I already have two level 60s), but it might be handy to boost my alt rogue or cleric from 50 to 60, and anyway I wanted to reward Trion for making new content.

Nice landscapes to look at.
Nice aquarium, but where are the fish?

So far I’m enjoying it. It’s nothing radically different, so if you didn’t like Rift before, you probably still won’t like it. I’m starting out with my Mage, who has always been my main, and I think I might create a new build with a mixture of Harbinger and Arbiter to see if I can make an even more indestructible soloing build. The mobs in the first new zone actually hit kind of hard compared to the level 60s in, say, Hailol, so it’s a good thing they gave us more health.

The Minions are nothing like what I was expecting. Somehow I had it in my head they would be similar to Battle Pets, but it’s not even close. It reminds me more of gathering resources in Star Wars The Old Republic. It’s also like the adventures you can send your retainers on in FFXIV. That is, you task your minion to do stuff and then wait for him to complete it. When he gets back, he’ll gain some experience and presumably he’ll bring you cool stuff. (I haven’t seen any yet, though.)

Now that Nightmare Tide is out, Rift is probably what I’ll be playing for a couple weeks. It’s too bad more people don’t play it. A game like ArcheAge, to me, can be played with a basically empty server, but Rift is much better when there are a lot of people on the servers to gather together for Rifts and Instant Adventures and Zone Events. So all you people complaining about the ganking in ArcheAge, go play Rift!

Ditching WildStar for WoW

I cancelled my WildStar subscription*. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that I don’t feel like playing it any more. My Esper has remained largely static between levels 20 and 30, with no noticeable improvements in abilities, so I fully anticipate it will just be a repetitive chore to get from 30 to 50, at which time I would enter the cesspool of toxic behavior that I keep hearing about. Don’t fret, though, I’m sure I’ll be back someday.

Meanwhile, I added a month of WoW subscription time, because it’s the perfect MMO for my current gaming mood. WoW is fantastic when you don’t want to do any thinking or work. You just log in, grab quests, kill stuff with ridiculously overpowered abilities, and watch your experience bar go up. All while catching up on your Netflix shows. Or after your brain is mushed up from Camp NaNoWriMo.

The heights of the Storm Peaks on my noob-tastic White Gryphon.
The heights of the Storm Peaks on my noob-tastic White Gryphon.

My Hunter has reached level 82 now, which means I finished up with the WotLK zones. Half of them, at least. And by “finished” of course I mean I only completed enough quests to get from level 70 to level 80. I have to say that I was very impressed by the Storm Peaks zone. If you’ve never seen it, it’s a snowy, mountainous zone that is extremely “vertical” in nature, so you spend just as much time flying up and down as you do laterally, and the scenary is very interesting with all the ancient ruins and clouds and lightning and whatnot.

But I alas I had to leave it. After an amusing boat ride (“oooh, shiny!”), I started out Cataclysm underwater in Vashj’ir, which was surprisingly not-awful. (I have a strong suspicion that I got a taste of what the Rift 3.0 underwater expansion will look like there.) But it wasn’t quite not-awful enough to keep me from taking a tip I got on Twitter and heading over to Mount Hyjal. If I remember correctly Cataclysm was only 5 levels of content, so unless writing slows me down more than I think, I should be hitting Pandaria zones next week.

* Barring something amazing in the WildStar Strain “please don’t leave!” patch.**

** Nothing amazing has yet been observed.