Bonding With Characters

It’s only been two days and I already regret changing my main FFXIV character’s gender. Who is this total stranger running around in Eozera now? What happened to the free-spirited girl who rode to Gridania in search of fame and fortune, and ended up conquering titans and dragons? This new guy is an imposter. He hasn’t earned the right to be there.

Imposter!
Imposter! You don’t deserve to be in that grand company!

It’s weird, is what I’m saying. Weird and unsettling. I’m probably going to change back. (It’ll cost me $10 to do that.) Despite the fact that there’s absolutely no part of me that can identify with or relate to an adorably cute Miqo’te, who always appears to be roughly 16 years old–possibly starring in her own young adult trilogy–I’ve grown attached to that character.

She looks mad about being cast aside, actually.
Her duty is not yet complete.

This episode has shown me that FFXIV is one of the best MMORPGs at making me feel a strong connection to the character I’m playing in the game. I’m not sure why, but I think it’s because of the cut scenes. Quite often, you see your character interacting with the game’s NPCs independent of your control. It shows that they have an independent personality. It makes me think of this character as real, much like I would think of and bond with a character in a novel or movie.

When I think about other games, I don’t feel the same connection. Rift is probably the only other game that I’ve invested as much time in a main character, but I don’t think of my main dwarf over there in nearly the same way. I think it’s because you never see your character in Rift as anything other than a game avatar. It’s just a model of arms and legs that stands in front of the NPC while you read dialog. Unless you put in the work yourself to “role-play” your character as you’re talking to the NPCs, there’s not as much personality there to latch on to.

So, while the cut scenes in FFXIV may be time-consuming and hokey, they apparently do a lot to draw me into the game world. To the point where changing my character’s fundamental appearance makes me feel like I’ve chopped off a limb.

Legion Ordered

I went ahead and ordered Legion. Why not? I had fun with the last expansion. For a little while, at least. And a level 100 boost is worth a fair chunk of change to me, considering it normally takes me years to get to the level cap in WoW. (Although I confess I have yet to use the level 90 boost I got in the last expansion.)

My second-highest level character in WoW is a Gnome Mage at, now, level 77, thanks to a handful of Invasions. This was also one of my original characters from back in 2006. I hear the experience gain from Invasions has gone down so I guess I won’t quite get the free ride to 100 that I’d hoped for. Still, I picked up four levels a lot faster than I would have through questing. And as it turns out, maybe fast leveling isn’t such a blessing for this character.

While playing this Mage over the last few days, I remembered that my professions were Enchanting and Tailoring, which was cool because I could simply disenchant all the extra gear filling up my inventory from the Invasions. (Oddly, none of the Mage gear I got from the Invasions was better than what I’d previously obtained from dungeons.) Unfortunately I kept getting the dreaded message, "Your enchanting skill isn’t high enough." Then I came face to face with the reality of what a royal pain it is to level the Enchanting profession and keep it roughly at the same level as the gear you get.

Maybe you folks who’ve been playing for years and now have 50 bajillion gold stockpiled don’t remember how difficult it was. For your amusement, when I started a few days ago I had about 200 gold on this Mage. Let’s just say you can’t buy very much at the Auction House with 200 gold. Even the most meager of trade skill supplies are 1 or 2 gold each. Even if I’d had millions of gold, a lot of the materials weren’t there anyway. So I had to find most of my Enchantment materials the hard (ie. slow) way.

It’s a pain, but I have to say it was quite a bit of fun soloing my way through TBC dungeons (in the 60-70 range) farming materials for enchanting and tailoring. (I even skipped a bunch of Invasions.) Most of my experience with the Mage over the years has been that it’s slow, squishy, and underpowered, but when you’re over-leveled, invincible, and can 1-shot every mob on the run, it’s really fun. :) I pretty much just Arcane Blasted everything in sight, including bosses.

Getting to the right dungeons took a while though. I realize this is probably whining, but it sure takes a long time to get around the world in WoW. Since they are now implementing Rift Zone events so well, it would be nice if they could also install a Rift Porticulum in every zone too. Or maybe the dwarves could get off their butts and expand the subway system beyond just Stormwind and Ironforge. They’ve had plenty of time now to dig an underwater tunnel from the Eastern Kingdoms to Kalimdor too.

Speaking of Rift, next I’ll be spending more money on pre-ordering Rift’s Starfall Prophecy so I can get all the sneaky pre-order benefits that require you to order early. It’s an expensive time to be an MMORPG player.

Legion Pre-Expansion Invasions Are Fun

I had fun with the WoW Zone Events aka. Invasions over the weekend.

But first, the biggest news from my weekend was that I finally moved all my furniture from the old rental house into my new house. I achieved my goal of picking the hottest day of the entire year to move. I believe it was upwards of 95 degrees Farenheit with a heat index of 105. (Google tells me that’s 35 and 40.5 Celsius, but that doesn’t sound nearly hot enough to me.) The temperature reading inside the old house was 92 by the time we left. Since I am not currently dead, I must have stayed sufficiently hydrated.

But enough about that. I re-subbed to WoW on Friday night because I kept reading about these pre-expansion Invasions. They sounded a lot like Rift Zone Events, which are pretty fun, so I thought it was worth $15 to check them out. I logged in to find that my talents were reset and I had no idea how to play my 100 Hunter anymore. This is not surprising, because it happens basically every time I log in after being away for a while.

I’m no expert but this time it seems like they’ve really pared down the number of rotation keys, because now I think I’m down to three abilities with Beast Mastery. I’m probably doing it wrong though. (I routinely forgot to summon my pet, so that’s how good I am at playing the Hunter right now. Not that it matters, because you can almost auto-attack everything and still succeed in WoW.)

Friday night I went through the Broken Shores quest thingy, which was kind of cool I guess. I literally had no idea who any of the characters were in that story so I had zero personal investment in it. I must be the worst WoW lore consumer in the world because I kept seeing all these people doing these heroic things and I kept asking myself, "Am I supposed to know or care who this is?" The answer must obviously be yes, but I sure didn’t. The only name I actually recognized was Sylvannas, but it took me quite a while to remember where I knew that name from. (From the early levels of playing my Undead Warlock ages ago.) Perhaps they should have put a refresher course in one of those cut scenes at the beginning for people like me who only pop into WoW for a month or two every couple of years.

Side gripe: I found it kind of annoying that the cut scenes were in a lower resolution than the actual game video.

Later I learned that most of those names in that Broken Shore event were found in my Garrison, which explains why I didn’t recognize them, since I stopped playing WoW about the time I finished my Garrison. I hadn’t even built a Shipyard. Strangely, when I looked around my Garrison, it seemed like there were quite a few more people there than when I last left it. It looked like a thriving metropolis. I guess it expanded while I was gone.

It wasn’t until Sunday that I got to experience my first Zone Event aka. Invasion. In short, they are fun. (I hate to be a smug sarcastic bastard about it, but seriously, if you like the gameplay in these WoW Invasions, you might want to check out Rift.) I picked up a bunch of item level 700 welfare epics for my Hunter (previously I think I was somewhere around item level 580-something). In typical WoW fashion, the events are really easy, except for when you get killed for no apparent reason. But since the Invasions typically take place right on top of a graveyard, it’s no big deal.

Then I discovered the true purpose of the Invasions: Leveling alts. I spent a little time playing my Mage (73) and Warlock (43), participating in one or two events each, trying to figure out how the new specializations and rotations work. Again, I feel like everything was simplified. It’s like they really, really want you to play one specific way with these updated specializations. Any skills that deviate from the baseline are gone entirely. Also am I crazy or can I switch between the 3 specializations at will now? I think you used to have to pick only 2 of the 3. Maybe I should, like, you know, read the patch notes.

At any rate I give the Pre-Expansion Invasions a thumbs-up. For me, they’re going to be a nice way to grab some levels for my alts without having to resort to dungeons or questing. I like doing group events without having to know or care who I’m playing with. Actually I wish they would make these Invasions a permanent addition to WoW because they were my favorite things to do in Rift. Unfortunately Rift’s population is too low to sustain the zone events everywhere now, but even in these dark days WoW still has a comparatively huge population to support something like that.

The Light, It Burns

Now that I’ve finished Dark Souls 1 & 2 I’m slowly emerging from the rabbit hole back into the sunlight. Mostly to read about Dark Souls 3, but still, it’s something.

I managed to gain a handful of levels in SWTOR, but not nearly as many as I wanted. At the risk of sounding like a fanboy, every RPG now seems like a kid’s game compared to the Dark Souls experience. It’s like I’ve been through a religious rite and seen the Face of God. I’ve climbed to the mountaintop and seen the vast expanse of the universe laid before me. How could anything ever be as good?

Helix Nebula

I checked out the Primalist in Rift, but due to my complete lack of perspective, I can’t even begin to rate it. I’ve been staring into the sun for too long, and now my eyes are burned out, and everything looks pretty gray and lifeless. On a purely capitalist level I found it a bit pricey though. I had to buy $49 worth of credits to get it. And I can’t say I’m thrilled about being greeted with a Neverwinter-style “buy more stuff” screen when I log into Rift now.

I have a few other Dark Souls posts to get out of my system, and then maybe I can get back to normal.

Progression Report – September 2015

September’s report is again pretty easy: No MMORPG progression, however quite a lot of Dark Souls progression. I started Dark Souls II on roughly the 5th and as of this writing, I’ve completed the main storyline and have moved on to the post-launch DLC content on my first character. I’ve been posting a video series of my play-through on YouTube for those who might be inclined to watch.

Dark Souls II Ancient Dragon

I’m starting to get a little tired of the Dark Souls rabbit hole (the Dark Souls II DLC content is getting pretty frustrating), so I might finally get back to some MMORPGs soon. SWTOR is still beckoning with that 12x experience thing that is probably going to end when the expansion launches on October 27th, so I don’t have much time left. Of course I still have much to accomplish in FFXIV, but there’s no time limit there. Rift and Star Trek Online both have new stuff coming soon.

Rift – The Primalist Announcement

Of course the big news Thursday from Gamescom was Trion’s announcement of a new Calling–the Primalist.

I can’t say the name jumps out at me as being the coolest name for a calling ever, but then it’s hard to follow up the likes of Mage, Cleric, Warrior, and Rogue. I mean there’s not much left after those four. Bureaucrat? Astronomer? Primalist is as good as anything. Although it doesn’t quite sound like something that channels animal spirits.

Rift's Primalist shown here using the Tiger avatar.
Rift’s Primalist shown here using the Tiger Avatar.

I haven’t had much incentive to log into Rift for a while, so it’s nice to see something that sounds intriguing. The new Focus mechanic looks cool. I liked playing a RuneKeeper in LotRO and I imagine this is very similar. I can easily see myself leveling a brand new character from 1 to 65 using this new calling. Maybe this will finally be the Defiant that I get to max level. (I have four Guardians at 60+ but I don’t think I’ve yet passed 40 on a Defiant character.)

From the video it looks like the primary weapons are going to be dual maces and a giant hammer. I like using a giant hammer on a Cleric for melee, but I don’t much like casting spells while holding a giant hammer. Most likely I’d pick dual maces.

Now we just have to wait for it to be released.

I think Blizzard announced something about their Rift-clone on Thursday too, but that news was buried under the hype over the Primalist.

Posted on Blaugust Day 7. Read all of my Blaugust posts here.

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. :)

Progression Report – February

I think I’ll make this a “thing” and do a monthly progress report of all the MMOs I’m playing. I started running a time tracking program* called ManicTime so I can actually record precisely how much I’ve played every game now.

Games on my desktop

FFXIV (22** hrs). I unlocked most of the new 2.5 dungeons and World of Darkness, however I haven’t actually gone into any of them yet. (To this day I’ve only done one level 50 dungeon–Amdapor Keep for the Relic quest.) In other news I leveled my Rogue class from–you might want to sit down for this epic achievement–10 to 15.

Crazy Pirate Outfit
Got this crazy-looking pirate outfit from Syrcus Tower.

Now that Syrcus Tower no longer has the weekly restrictions, I’ve run it with my Bard to pick up more of the level 100 Amon’s patchwork pirate outfit. I only need the boots to complete the set, which of course never drops no matter how many times I go through there. I’ve also picked up over half of the Atmas I need from FATEs for the next part of the Relic weapon quest, and I’m inching closer to maxing out the Sylph Beast tribe reputation. (The only reason I’m doing that is to get that freaky goobbue mount, which is the only mount I’ve ever wanted in FFXIV.)

Just recently the Manderville Gold Saucer was added. I’ve only played a little bit of cards so far.

Guild Wars 2 (4 hrs). I finished up Dragon’s Reach Part 2, and started Echoes of the Past, so I only have to finish four more Living Story Season 2 episodes to get caught up. At every turn, there’s an annoying boss battle to get through so it’s slow going. I’m starting to see the origins of the Revenant profession now though. I try to log in every day for the login rewards but I only remember to do so every other day or so.

Landmark (2 hrs). I dropped into Landmark once or twice since I re-rolled and at least it seems like they’ve removed the impossible-to-beat monsters from around the starting area. (In fact all monsters now seem to be gone.) I like the big checklist of things-to-do that shows up on the right. I still have no clue how to reach the “underground” layers though. It’s now been, what, a little over a year since it was released to the public and it’s now looking to be about where I thought it would be back then. Onward and upward… hopefully.

The starting point of the new island in Rift 3.1

Rift (2 hrs). I started looking into the new island released in 3.1, but it hasn’t really grabbed me yet. Since my Mage is already 65 it seems a bit pointless to go through another quest chain. If you’re into lore, it seems like this new area is trying to tie the stories of the Storm Legion and Nightmare Tide expansions together somehow. I sort of feel like I can’t progress much further in Rift without joining a guild.

The Repopulation (2 hrs). A $20 edition became available on Steam so I went ahead and took a chance on it. I haven’t played much yet because the game is still pretty rough–I haven’t even left the tutorial area. (Yes, it’s so old school that it actually has a tutorial area!) The animation is a bit janky and the graphics are a bit slow. If you get it, be prepared to jump right on into the deep end with overwhelming amounts of information right at the start. If this is what Star Wars Galaxies was like, it’s no wonder people went for the much simpler WoW instead. :) (Though I don’t know what any of it means, I’m impressed by the amount of stuff in the 15.1.1 patch.)

My dude in The Shadowy Forest

The Secret World (19 hrs). My most exciting MMO development of the month was finally getting past a TSW mission that had me stuck in the Besieged Farmlands for, oh, I don’t know, the past year or so? It was the main story Mortal Sins, Tier 4–the one where you had to find a woman spying from a hilltop or something, but there was no mark for it on the map. After getting past that, I pushed on through to the end of the Mortal Sins quest line which presumably was the end of the main story at the original launch. It’s hard to quantify my progress since there aren’t any levels in TSW, but everything in Transylvania now ranges from “Normal” to “Hard.” I tried some Scenarios but I have yet to come anywhere close to succeeding at one, even on Novice level.

On a technical note, I had a major problem with frame rate hiccups in TSW, especially during combat. I thought it might have been Verizon screwing around with traffic shaping again but using Battleping didn’t help. However, when I switched from DirectX 11 to DirectX 9 the problem entirely vanished. (This was on a GeForce GTX 770.)

SWTOR (12 hrs). Last time, I reported that I had gotten back into SWTOR and re-subscribed. Well, that didn’t last long. My interest faded toward the end of January and I only logged in a couple of times a week. Not that there’s anything wrong with SWTOR. I enjoy it when I play it. But, you know, the quests are all pretty much the same, and the leveling progress is a bit slow. Kira Carsen’s witty banter can only entertain a person for so long.

Then, luckily for me, there was a double-XP weekend from Feb 13-17 so I played a lot more during that time. I usually miss promotional events so it was pretty exciting that one of my game-du-jours actually aligned with a “bonus stuff” weekend. Since my last update I leveled my Jedi Guardian from 22 to 32 and finished Tatooine, Alderaan and all of Chapter One, surpassing the progress I made with my original 28 Scoundrel who hit a brick wall in Alderaan.

Trove (1 hr). I popped into Trove now and then but I can never figure out where to find all the cool stuff they keep advertising. Still, I get a bunch of… I dunno, some kind of yellow coin thingy… every time I log in, so it’s fine.

ArcheAge was not on the above list because my patron status has run out and I don’t particularly want to log in anymore to see what abominable thing has happened to my house and farm.

And that’s pretty much all of the MMORPGs I’ve been playing. With my recent forays into survival games I’ve been thinking of re-installing Fallen Earth. And next month I predict I’ll be playing some ESO again.

P.S. My biggest time-sink was Google Chrome at 32 hours, 12 of which were spent writing and editing blog posts. :)

* I only started ManicTime on February 13. Next month I’ll get a much better sample.

** I don’t believe ManicTime on this. There’s no way I played more FFXIV than TSW since February 13.