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. :)

On The Radar For 2015

Last time I did this.

Note that some games aren’t on the following list because I have either a) forgotten about them, or b) never heard of them.

MMORPGs I’m Looking Forward To

These are games that I’m still anxiously awaiting the opportunity to play, because I haven’t yet seen or heard anything to wreck my enthusiasm.

Black Desert. I keep seeing good things.

Skyforge. I keep hearing good things.

Otherland. I have enjoyed some Tad Williams books in the past, so surely a game based on some of his books I haven’t read would be good.

MMORPGs I’m Ambivalent About

I’m not excited about these games per se, but I’ll probably buy or try them because of hype and/or boredom and/or peer pressure.

GW2: Heart of Thorns. I’ll play it, but because it’s GW2 aka. The One RPG Without Meaningful Rewards I’m anticipating that I’ll get bored quickly.

Crowfall. To me, this isn’t even an MMORPG, and I think a lot of people are going to be disappointed by that after the hype wears off. My latest concern is that the ambitious class customization plans will result in PvP balance issues that will ruin the game. (Everyone will keep chasing that one overlooked combination that is bugged and overpowered, resulting in an endless cycle of nerfing disappointment and forum rage.)

EQNext. I’m not burdened by EQ nostalgia, plus I have no reason to think this game will be good. (Where is ACNext Turbine??)

Pathfinder Online*. I’ve never played the tabletop version, and the gameplay appears uninteresting (and the animations are terrible), and it’s open world PvP. When will they learn?

Camelot Unchained*. I hear a lot of buzz about this game but it doesn’t look that great to me. That YouTube video honestly makes it look like the most boring thing in the entire universe. Given the way the devs talk about it, I get the impression that this game is more about being a game engine technology demo than a game.

MMORPGs I’m Undecided About

These are games that are on my radar, but I don’t know enough yet to form an opinion about how much I’d be willing to spend on them.

Shroud of the Avatar*. Seems to be flying under the radar. I hear little or nothing about it, but the gameplay looks tolerable.

Gloria Victis*. I like the look of this game but, you know, it’s open world PvP so it will mostly be a game of staying in town or hiding from people.

Wander. Saw it on Steam. It looks cool. It’s not clear to me if this is a PC game or not though.

MMORPGs I’ve Lost Interest In

These would probably have to be free or sold at a deep discount for me to even try them, unless I start to see a lot more positive buzz.

Star Citizen*. Honestly I’m not sure what this game is right now, but anything targeted at EVE players probably isn’t for me, plus we all know this is vaporware, right? (Just kidding! Don’t freak out!) But seriously, I think the smart money is on this game self-destructing from too much ambition.

Life is Feudal*. I thought there might be something to this game, but so far it looks like a plain old survival building game, and the models and animation need serious work.

Das Tal* and Albion Online*. Overhead views plus open world PvP. Why, god, why?

Pantheon: Something of Something*. Seems unlikely this will ever see the light of day, but if it does, only those handful of people who backed it will delude themselves into thinking it’s fun to replicate late-1990s mechanics. Sorry but this game looks awful right now.

H1Z1*. I don’t even consider this an MMORPG.

Pre-Launch MMORPGs I’ve Already Bought

Trove*. (I think it’s still technically beta.) I like it. Good casual game.

Landmark*. Meh. Just meh. Do we really need a game that’s a thinly-disguised 3D modelling program with a 1980s-style UI font?

The Repopulation*. I haven’t played enough to know what to think of it. But I feel like it’s probably trying to do too much and it’ll never capture that SWG feeling.

Advice To Game Developers

Please perfect your basic artwork assets, models, and animations before releasing anything to the public. It’s a huge turn-off to see placeholder models and animations that make your game look like a high school project. It’s literally the first thing I evaluate to determine if your development effort is serious business or you’re just a bunch of kids messing around in somebody’s basement. Great results can and do come from people’s basements, but honestly not very often.

* These games can be bought and played now in some early access form or another. (I think. Don’t hold me to it.)

Low-Energy Gaming

Real life’s been kicking me in the teeth lately–I’m adjusting to a new work role/schedule and of course there was the annoying end of Daylight Savings. So my MMO gaming (and writing, and overall mental attitude, and almost everything else) has suffered.

Oddly enough I’ve landed on Path of Exile as a mental tonic, a game which I had previously rejected as uninteresting all the way back in its nearly-perpetual beta. Now I see that it has one very compelling feature: You can play it one-handed.

That probably sounds weird, but if a game can be played with just the mouse, it’s perfect for my super low-energy playing moods. In Path of Exile, I can run around bashing things with a club and only occasionally reach for the keyboard to drink a potion. Meanwhile I can sip my coffee or munch on whatever junk food happens to be nearby, further enhancing my stupor.

PoE is a great game for what it is, although I find the loot kind of annoying. It seems that roughly 95% of it is trash and not even worth picking up, particularly since your inventory space is very limited. So far I haven’t felt any need to buy anything from the cash shop, so it’s a pretty good free-to-play model from what I can tell.

So much loot to avoid clicking on.
So much loot to avoid clicking on.

As for more traditional MMOs (sort of), the most complicated one I’ve managed lately is Trove. I figured out how to disable the recently-added “Rally” feature so that random strangers will stop appearing next to me out in the wild when I want to be left alone. (Hold down your Use button on the Rally statue at the beginning and it toggles the feature on and off. Super intuitive, right? Not.)

The Line Between Hand-Crafted And Random

Syp generated some conversation and controversy by posting a somewhat strongly-worded post against procedurally-generated worlds, but I think he’s absolutely correct: If a developer tries to cut corners by substituting a computer-generated world in place of what should have been a hand-crafted world, it probably won’t be fun. I’m not sure which game he was talking about, but it might have been Crowfall or H1Z1, both of which embrace procedurally-generated worlds and claim to be MMORPGs.

He might also have been thinking of Trove which creates random worlds when you go through those Adventure gates. Those worlds aren’t terrible, but they don’t have any depth or personality. It’s obvious that they are computer-generated. When you leave, there is no reason to remember any part of it. But I don’t think they’re intended to be remembered. They’re just 3D spaces for you to run through and gather materials and kill stuff. You then use those materials to build your club world any way you want. (Or something like that.)

It’s basically the same in Landmark, the only other procedurally-generated MMORPG-like game that I have any experience with. The worlds themselves are forgettable–what you’re supposed to remember is the player-built constructions. You can always move to another world if you don’t like it.

I suppose that’s the demarcation line: Whether the world is supposed to be temporary or not. It’s okay and probably even desirable to create temporary worlds procedurally, but if the world is supposed to be permanent and especially if it’s supposed to be part of a story (like most “traditional” MMORPGs are supposed to be), it’s going to come out better when it’s hand-crafted, and savvy consumers will be able to tell the difference.

I think that Crowfall will be able to get away with procedurally-generated worlds because of the nature of their campaign system (and the fact that it’s not really an MMORPG like we’re used to). I imagine that starting a campaign will be somewhat similar to starting a game of Civilization. As you discover the landscape around you, you’ll be able to use it strategically as you place your forts or ganking chokepoints or whatever. And to maintain freshness, each new campaign world should be different from the last.

I haven’t played it yet, but I imagine it should work for H1Z1 because those worlds are mostly intended as a stage upon which to hit other people over the head and take their stuff. People probably aren’t going to be looking to discover any ancient civilizations in cryptic ruins.

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.

Trove Is A Better Landmark Than Landmark

I’ve been dipping into Trove a bit more lately, because it’s become quite stable. I don’t know how to say this politely, but it’s a much better game than Landmark. :)

Trove plays a bit like what we’ve been told Landmark will be. That is, you can explore, fight monsters, level up, find resources, craft stuff, and build stuff. The thing about Trove is that after about three months of alpha, all of those things work. In Landmark, after a bit more than a month of alpha, most of those things don’t work, we haven’t seen many changes at all, and we only have promises of future deliveries.

Trove has a ridiculously fast development cycle. They update that game all the time and the changes are large and obvious. During the first month they must have updated it every day. (It’s actually pretty annoying because they don’t have a self-updating launcher yet.) At this point I would consider it a playable game, easily good enough to release. I enjoy my time in there and I feel like I’m making progress. (I don’t want to play too much though because I’m sure I’m going to get wiped whenever alpha ends.)

Landmark has only done, what, two or three major updates since it came out a bit more than a month ago. Each update has not been that major, in my opinion, because other than the invert-mouse feature, I have not even noticed the changes. I still see all the same glitchy progress bars and graphics and lighting that I’ve seen since the very beginning. There is very little gameplay, very little to do except upgrade your pick, very little progress to be made, and on top of that is the near certainty that the core gameplay is going to radically change in the future.

So at the moment it’s no contest. Trove is winning the race to capture my sandbox gaming time. It’s fast to load, easy to play, and fun. Sadly Landmark got more of my money. :/

(P.S. I don’t want Landmark to fail or anything, I just want them to go faster and figure out what their game is supposed to be.)

Bye End of Nations

I’m not sad to see End of Nations go. The "MMORTS" genre did not inspire me to want to play that game, and when we later learned it was to be reshaped into a "MOBA" my interest plummeted even farther. (I simply do not "get" MOBAs – so much clicking.)

Instead, I’m ecstatic to see Trion devoting more resources to Rift, Trove, Defiance, and particularly ArcheAge, a game that I am still looking forward to seeing sometime within my lifetime.

I haven’t played Defiance much, but I enjoy it when I play. It’s a casual sort of shooter and I really like the Arkfall events (or whatever they are called) which are quite similar to Rifts.

Trove is fun in a super casual way. I like that they are working more on MMO-style gameplay than on building-style gameplay. It’s also interesting to compare Trove’s alpha development process with Landmark’s alpha development process. (I might do a post about that.)

Rift is in need of the 3.0 expansion. Get busy, Trion!

Trove Alpha Impressions

I was moderately shocked last night to receive an email from Trion with a code to get into the Trove Alpha. I was even more shocked to discover a complete lack of an NDA. Although, if you think about it, I did actually pay $20 (or whatever it was) to see this alpha, so it would be weird for them to restrict me.

There are very few options in the game right now, which I found surprising. (I just didn’t expect that game options would be added so late in the life cycle of a game.) The only in-game option is to pick full screen or not. If you’re an invert mouse person, you have to edit your Trove.cfg file and set InvertY = true. If you’re not a WASD person, you’re out of luck.

So what is this thing? It looks like it’s half RPG and half building game. You get plopped down in the middle of what I assume is a procedurally-generated voxel world that looks and sounds like you’re in a 3D version of a Mario game. You can switch between two basic playing modes: Adventure mode and Builder mode.

In Build mode you can build and destroy things just like Minecraft. That part of the game doesn’t appeal to me very much, but other people were building voxel houses and sculptures and stuff. I didn’t see anything more complicated than simple blocks, but you can see in the crafting window that there are more interesting parts you can make. Everyone was all in the same space, so I’m not precisely sure how they are going to keep people from destroying each others’ constructions. Unless maybe you can’t destroy the blocks that other people put down? I’ll have to try that out. I’ll be "that guy" who delights in destroying everyone else’s hard work*.

Adventure Mode was much more interesting to me. Throughout the landscape there are things you can collect, like plants, and metal, and so forth. There are also tons of little 8-bit monsters roaming around that you can fight with your little 8-bit sword. The monsters drop gear and potions and parts from which you can craft materials to build with. Many of those monsters can kill you, so watch your health bar. Every time you die, you spawn back at the starting point. I feel like that behavior will change, though, because it’s kind of annoying to walk fifty miles away, die, and then go way back to the beginning.

I don’t think there is any character progression in the game yet. I never leveled up or anything. I only got new items I could equip, like swords. Interestingly, there is apparently some kind of magic system but could not figure out how to access it, if you even can yet.

I really like the exploration aspect of the game. You can just pick a direction and start walking, and stumble across new and interesting things along the way. Right now, most of what you find is material to do crafting. And monsters. And occasionally a shiny chest (most of the ones I found were mimics that attacked me).

As for crafting, I made a couple of things but I didn’t fully understand how it worked. It seemed that the amount of material required to make things was excessively high. For example, I wanted to build a fence, but I only had enough material to build a single fence block.

There were some bugs, but nothing you wouldn’t expect in an alpha. I didn’t experience any lag or connection problems at all, but then there were only about 25 people connected according to the login screen.

All in all, I’d say I enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with it.

  • I’m not really going to do that.