Archive for March, 2010

Enjoying oneself

Mojeaux over at Another Aion blog will play a game until the end of times. He’s a real hardcore and will stick with his game through the good and bad times until the server shut downs or they release the fabled Hello Kitty expansion pack.

Myself I change games once or twice during the course of a year. I’ve mostly played WoW the past few years with a few breaks here and there where I try new games or go back to some old ones. I will ride out the bad parts for a while until I get really tired of not having fun and move on to another game.

Then we also have numerous others who will switch MMOs whenever they want or they feel like it. They can have 10 subscriptions running at once with multiple characters and never level any of them to max level but it doesn’t matter. They play what they feel like when they feel like it.

Who’s right?

I’m going to go ahead and say that I think the smartest group is probably the last one. Why? Because they realise that playing an MMO is a game and as such they should enjoy themselves every second they play one. Why bother with a boring grind when they could have as much fun rolling another alt or switching game altogether. If the point is having fun why not always do what you actually find fun?

The prize

This is the big argument of players who will stick with the same game no matter what. They argue that while the current part of the game might not be the most fun if you stick with it your going to be rewarded with something really incredible. For example sure the level 30-40 grind is a pain but when you get to 40 the game is really awesome!

And they might be right too. For example in Lotro, the North Downs are a really bad zone you have to go through but when you finally get out of it you are rewarded with some incredibly cool areas like Rivendell. It’s the same for hardcore raiding where you will put up with a lot of bad raids and frustrating raids before getting that awesome kill.

In the end it’s all pixels

Fun is a really subjective topic. What’s fun to someone will not be the same for someone else and the point of the post is not to debate what’s the best kind of fun or how you should have fun.

Playing a game ultimately comes down to having fun in your spare time. Unlike a job that you have to put up with even during the bad times because you need money, an MMO should always be about fun. Some can make an argument about instant gratification and how sometimes holding out for a great moment might be worth it and they would probably be right. My point is that since they only thing that an MMO can really give you is fun what’s the point of playing if you’re not having any? What do you really gain by sticking with something that doesn’t bring you fun? Is the fun you get at the end of the hard road worth more than the fun you could have gotten right away?


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Decision time

I feel I’m at a crossroad right now. On one side there’s a well-travelled path I know. It has its painful and incredible moments but so far it always lead to more bad than good in the end. On the other side there’s a road I never really tried if only for short moments. I know it doesn’t have the same pains of the first path but I don’t know if I will have the same enjoyment if I stick to it or if I’ll find new problems. Still I feel like this time I have to make a definitive decision and stop switching around.

I’m talking about raiding. For the longest time in MMOs I’ve considered myself a raider. I’ve been anything from an ultra hardcore raider to a very casual one but always my goal was raiding. It’s how I defined myself and how I approached any MMO. Any game I play I tend to set the difficulty to the highest and shoot for the harder stuff to accomplish. I love challenges and I love completing them. For me the fights in raids were the hardest challenges and that’s what I enjoyed about raiding.

Yet, as much as I enjoy the actual raid I hate what surrounds raiding. The normal complaints about raiding such as gear race, nerfing of content, meters and epeens are not the problem here. After all I couldn’t care less if Bob gets a hard on when he gets a new piece of gear. What bothers me is the time that raiding requires and the drama that inevitably creeps in. Raiding, casual or hardcore, is often at minimum a 3 to 4 nights investment a week, way too much of a time commitment for me. Then there’s the drama that sooner or later will hit your guild and destroy a good part of the effort you’ve put in, making you start over again until drama hits again.

Raiding is like that and I’m wondering right now if the enjoyment I get out of it is worth the trouble that go with it. In the past I’ve tried different ways of raiding to see one of them would suit me better but in the end it always come to the same. Too much drama and time for too little enjoyment.

So the other choice would be to go casual for real, done with raiding for good. I’m wondering because I’m enjoying my “casual” life a lot in Lotro right now and I’m enjoying the fact that most of my evenings and nights are not spent working on raids. I have time to get back to my other hobbies and activities that I had neglected too much during my last raider period.

The thing is I have trouble imagining what I would do at endgame if I wasn’t raiding. No matter how much I take my time at some point I’ll reach endgame. Maybe I can enjoy endgame as a truly casual player but I never really tried it before so I don’t know.

Right now raiding is on hold until further notice. I’m not saying I’ll never participate again in a random raid for the heck of it but I’m not seeing myself getting back into the raiding game for now. For the first time since I’ve been playing MMOs I really don’t know how this will turn out and I’m freaked and excited in equal measures I think.

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Yeah if you hadn’t noticed before I’m a huge warhammer fan. I have close to 10k dollars invested in both fantasy and 40k. I have about 6 and a half armies combined not counting the ones I sold. But anyway that’s not the point of this post.

I don’t know if it’s spring and the hormones are flowing or what else but since last weekend I need blood! I mean I feel an urge to go PvP in every game I play and smash stuff. I don’t know where that bloodthirst is coming from but I need to get to killing stuff in virtual settings before I start pummeling a random stranger on the street.

So I enjoy a lot my time in Lotro but something is missing. I hate WoW pvp so I’m stuck having to look somewhere else. I’m tempted by WaR but I left back in 2008 because crowd control got out of hand once you got into the mid-late game(T3-T4).  Back then I was playing a witch hunter with a friend and our fun was to jump on stragglers or isolated people. I had an ability that would damage someone when he moved so it was a lot of fun to pop out of stealth, put that debuff on a goblin shaman and watch them kill themselves by running away.

Nostalgia speaking here probably. Anyway I need my fix of violence and noob pwning so I need to figure something out.

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Farmer of the North Downs

The North Downs are one of those zones you either love or hate. It’s a frontier type of place where settlements are few and far between and every single animal is out to eat you. There’s a small town at the entrance of the zone that’s barely holding out against repeated orcs attacks. The story of the zone revolves around how the rangers and the free people are making a stand to protect Bree and the Shire against the ravening hordes of orcs from Angmar who are trying to come south.

I say love or hate because its one of the older zones and one that hasn’t really been reworked unlike some of the other old zones of the game. It’s huge, there’s a lot of running around and most of the quest are of the kill ten rats variety.

Yet, for all of the “end of the world/last stand against the darkness” vibe of the place there’s a farmer right smack in the middle of the zone. See, farmer Gatson is probably the most hardcore farmer you will ever encounter in any game. There’s orcs in his fields, his cattle his made of captured elite prehistoric aurochs and still he carries on and farm to provide for the entire zone, I mean that nearly everyone you meet sends you to him because they need food. By the way when I say orcs in his fields I mean there’s a war camp right on the edge of his field and the orcs are building camps in them, not talking just a single orc here. The best part is he does it all with style, like if he was Wesley from the Princess Bride, he even has the mustache!

So I was running errands for our insane farmer and was having fun over vent telling everyone how crazy that guy is and how we should instead make him leave instead of helping him. And then for some reason I tought about actually reading the quest text and found out that’s precisely what I was trying to do. The rangers are desperately trying to get him to leave. Of course Gatson is playing you for a fool, making you do chores while saying “after this I leave, promess” and of course he never leaves.

So Gatson, most hardcore of the hardcore, I bow down to you.

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Apathy crits WoW for ???

Yesterday I logged quickly in WoW to make some titansteel for a friend who’s still playing. While making the goods I noticed that there was a lot of recruiting going on in the general chat, lots of it for new guilds, some by older guilds and a lot of the time by familiar faces in unfamiliar guilds.

So I started doing a few /who on people and guilds I knew and I saw that quite a few people had either changed guilds or were in new guilds and that quite a few older guilds had disappeared.  So I asked my friend and a few others people online what was going on and they all told me the same thing. That right now there’s a lot of people either stopping playing or switching servers and that as a results guilds were really struggling to keep it together.

It’s not really suprising considering that everyone is waiting for Cataclysm. After all the same thing happened back in BC. What I find interesting is that it seems to be happening a lot faster than last time. I mean I noticed a big difference in a single week so I’m wondering what it will look like in a few months.

So I got a question for those still playing. Is it the same on every server or I just happen to be on one being hit harder than the others?

Edit: Had confirmation about Mug’thol. Right now the Alliance side is in full meltdown and guilds are disapearing at record speed.

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FF XIII impressions

If you’re anything like me, your childhood was spent in basements and living rooms playing video games, beating any games you could get your hands on and boasting about how you could kill a boss or finish a game others  couldn’t. And one serie that hooked me on roleplaying games and by extension MMOs has been  the Final Fantasy series. I have played every single numbered game in the franchise(even the japanese ones on badly translated emulators)  and have beaten most of them. I say most of them because obviously you can’t beat an MMO(FF 11) and some of them are not that great(12, x-2).

So of course I’ve picked the latest one and played it for most of the past few days sprinkled with some Lotro and some heavy-duty cleaning of the apartment. I’m now 17 hours in and feel like I can give an honest opinion of the game, at least the first part of it.

In case you have been living under a rock you need to know first that a Final Fantasy game(talking the main line here) is a huge event in itself, especially if you happen to love jrpgs(japanese rpgs). Those games are supposed to be the pinnacle of the genre and every detail is worked to perfection. The graphics are amazing and the orchestral score could rival one made by John Williams.  On the story side it keeps to an incredibly convoluted and complicated one like previous FF games. You also get your stereotypical jrpg characters,  meaning you get the reluctant hero, the spunky girl, the token black brother, the grizzled vet, etc…If you’ve played one Final Fantasy game before this one will feel like stepping in old shoes.

So is it good? Yes, I’d even go beyond that and call it awesome and worthy of the Final Fantasy title, unlike the last few games. Is it perfect? Not at all. So let’s get the bad out-of-the-way first. First of all the game is linear, extremely so even. Maybe it will open up later but so far it’s go from point A to point B with a few branches to get an extra treasure or two. And that’s pretty much it, it’s the only true low point I can find with the game.

Now the combat system is something you will or will not like. The system revolves around the use of roles (melee,caster,tank,buffer/debuffer and healer) that your¸ characters can learn. You create paradigms for your team wich are sets of role that your party can use. For example I can have a paradigm set up for maximum damage (melee, caster, caster), one for damage and some healin (melee,caster,healer) and another for quick buffs/debuff setup (tank,buffer, debuffer).

During combat you control the party leader and the other characters will act according to the roles they currently have. Most of the time you will also assign your leader to automatic so he follows his role too wich means that the minutiae¸of the exact abilities used will be left to the computer. What makes the system dynamic is that you can switch paradigm on the fly during battle. I can start the battle with damage setup, switch to healing mid way to top myself up, then move to a tanking paradigm to survive a particular devastating ability, back to  healing after and so on.

This means that combat is more strategic than technical. It’s not about casting a big spell from time to time it’s about planning and anticipation. This means that the game is in the end a bit harder than previous FF games. I’ve died quite a few times to bosses or tough battle where I tried to force my way through without  paying attention to the particular enemies ability. Buffing, debuffing, going to a protection mode often pay off bigger than just pure offensive all the time. Still if you pin for the old days of inputting attack for every character then you might not like this system.

Then we come to the good part, the story. I said earlier that the game featured somewhat stock characters that we expect from jrpgs but the real beauty of FF13is to make them believable. They start out as simple stereotypes but as  the story progresses and you discover more about them you start to understand them and they move beyond being simple stock characters without resorting to cheesy  and easy story twists. It is a real feat from the storytellers to make me go from not liking any of the characters to make me want to play more to learn how their story will go.

Talking about the story its a very original one and not anywhere close to anything we’ve seen yet wich tends to be one of the strength of the FF series. Where Dragon Age is very predictable, Final Fantasy isn’t. They’ve built a very complex universe with his own rules and background and somehow, they make it believable. The actual storyline is very complicated but again the game manages to explain it all in a way you can understand it.

So, do I recommend FF13? Yes, if you approach it without any special expectations.  This game is a lot like a movie, meaning that you will enjoy it if you allow yourself to simply enjoy the ride.

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Nearly every single video game I’ve played has unequal quality when it comes to its actual content. A zone, a level or certain concepts just don’t grab your attention the way the rest of the game does. MMOs being quite massive games, are particularly subject to this. Think for a moment about your favorite MMO and you’ll find out a few zones or places you could do without. For example I hate AshenVale in WoW and I make a point never to quest there on any of my characters, same as I can’t be bothered to run Blackfathom deeps… ever. A friend of mine love Lotro but hates Lone lands, another hates playing a shaman so much he nearly gave up on the game when he made one as his first character.

I know I have a relatively low tolerance for content or gameplay I don’t really enjoy. I’ll bear with it for a while, especially if I know its only temporary but it if drags on it can motivate really quickly to go look somewhere else. Clever designers will have provided me with alternatives to said “bad” content so I’m not forced into it more than I have to. Taking back my Ashenvale example, I have numerous options at that level to gain xp and I can completely skip the zone if I want to.

If I’m forced through content like when ToC was the only raid worth doing for a while I can burn pretty quickly. I hate ToC and when it became the only raid to do I started playing other games. Some people on the other hand have put up with it in the hope the next raid would be better.

So… how long does it take you to move on when your faced with content you don’t enjoy? Or will you grit your teeth and hope it becomes better someday?

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