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Archive for the ‘MMO’ Category

Feverish gaming updates

How is it going? Well I hope… on my end I’ve been visited by the plaguefather himself and got a super fun cold for the past week that has left in a that weird haze where you’re not sure of what’s going on exactly. Here’s what I’ve been up to during the those fantastic delirious moments.

The Secret World

I’ve moved on from Egypt first zone and I’m now starting City of the Sun God, the second zone. I still have to run the Ankh, the first zone dungeon at some point but so far no luck, I suspect normal mode dungeons past the first two are rarely run anymore. The first zone was fun enough and I’m hoping City of the Sun God will be as good. So far it’s a bit weird but I’m willing to give it a chance.

My gear is now solidly QL8 and I’m starting to edge on QL9 and 10 so I should be done with the main part of gearing soonish and thus be able to go back to the first zones to clear up missions I wasn’t able to do due to them being for QL10 gear people.

Blade and Soul

That one is a bit of a surprised and I picked it up during a fever induced blackout on Saturday morning. To my great surprise I’m enjoying it a lot even though I don’t think I’ll stick with it long term. It’s definitively a Korean game and I think I’m just enjoying the different cultural setting and the high action fights.  Like all true Korean games though, it’s highly rng based and there’s a good amount of grind to be found. Still, it’s a nice distraction.

FFXIV

I’ve been slowly getting back into the game after a friend of mine started playing recently and it’s been fun so far. My focus is mostly on the new anima weapon grind and I’m now on the “gather a ton of tokens and mats” part of the current chain which is the last one available for now. But what a grind it is, it’s right up there with the dungeon drop part of last chain which was pretty insane. This time you have to gather 80 tokens and 16 crafted items and these tokens are not easy to come by. So far I’ve picked up 5 of them by focusing on buying them with tomes which means running tons of dungeons but since I like doing that, not so bad. It’s a grand total of 27200 tomes split evenly between Tome of Poetics and Law so that means I have 23800 tomes to go… easy right?

Darkest Dungeon

I’ve also been playing quite a bit of Darkest Dungeon since its official launch and I’m not at the awkward transition period between Veteran dungeons and Champion level dungeons. I’ve tried doing Champion levels a few times already and all I managed to achieve was getting my ass kicked. I know it’s a matter of managing to get a foot in and build on that but so far I haven’t managed to make a real dent in it.

So that’s been my playing time last week. With Xcom2 coming out this weekend I’m sure that will take the vast majority of my time and I’ll likely do another guide like I did with the first one as soon as I can.

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Quick gaming update

Oh hello everyone!

Sorry for the recent quiet but work has been insane as of late and since I tend to do most of my blogging at work during quieter moments it has not been working out lately. Twitter has been a good source of quick entertainment but no real time for blogging until right now so I’m taking 15 minutes and doing a grab bag post of recent happenings.

On the FF14 front I put crafting on ice while I leveled my archer/bard to get Quelling strikes. I have three levels to go now so I’m nearly done with that and after that I’ll probably head back to crafting until Heavensward hit or I could always take Bard to 50… who knows?

I had an urge to play Swtor last weekend. That urge lasted just long enough to get me through Ajunta Pall tomb. My inner dialogue during that experience was along the lines of “I could do this in FF14 and it would be better”. Also the cash shop all over the place is still annoying as hell.

Between FF sessions I’m playing lots of Bloodborne which I’m enjoying a lot. I’m trying to do the game as spoiler-less as I can and while there was a few slipups, overall I haven’t been spoiled too much. I managed defeat Rom the vacuous spider yesterday and now the game has gone into truly weird mode. Love it.

I’ll keep this short for now because I can see the end of this rare moment of quiet. Hope you all have a great week!

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Monday gaming updates

More gaming updates today because I can! First, following my last WoW post where I was wondering if I had any future with the game, Alas and Zel (well Zel did most of the explaining) both talked to me about some of the old gang looking to do some casual raiding together. Mostly drunken LFR or maybe some normal Flex mode but nothing more complicated. I can see the glorious rebirth of our EffingDrunk channel where we could bitch and moan about the awful puggies so maybe there’s something there. I’m curious to see how this will go.

I’ve also been playing some Wolfenstein 3D (the old one!) after going through the excellent Wolfenstein: The new Order. To my surprise the game is still surprisingly fun after all these years. There’s something very cathartic about these games, just shoot Nazis and don’t bother too much with realism or fancy story. It’s simple, to the point and highly entertaining.

On the FF14 front I’ve worked mostly on the Atma books during the weekend. Managed to finish the second book and made some good progress in the next one so I’m hopeful to get the third one down during the week. I tried some Ramuh EX with Duty Finder to learn the fight and this is a fight I’ll have to find a group for. There’s a lot of coordination required and I’m not sure a random DF group can do it unless I get real lucky. That still won’t stop me from trying but I’m not expecting much.

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Challenging yourself in MMOs

Back in October 2014 I started playing Word of Tanks again after a rather long break.  In the past I would play it by spurs of a few weeks and then leave it alone for a while and I figured this time I’d probably play until Warlords launched and not drop it again. But this time around the game seems to be sticking with me. I did play a lot less during WoD launch and the holidays but I’m finding myself playing a fair amount these past two weeks. I believe that this is mainly because back in October I had set for myself the goal of improving my play and this has kept me interested in the game more than trying to get new tanks.

Which leads me to today’s topic, wanting to improve your gameplay in videogames, something that I find is most relevant in competitive games and MMOs. For example, I’ve been trying to improve in WoW to keep up with my raiding guild which raids at a pretty high level. I’ve had to improve my healing in FF14 to get through Extreme Ifrit and Bahamut Turn 5. And now in WoT I’m trying to get in the  “bluenicum” range which equals roughly to the top 5% of players (blue is the color given by mods to the players in that range). There are also traces on this blog of my attempts at getting better at SC2.

Now these are all pretty high goals and I know that to enjoy these games I don’t need to raid at a high level, I don’t need to do extreme modes or be in a particular league or be a top tier player. For me though, it’s a matter of challenge and let’s be honest, pride. I play a ton of games and most of time I play on the harder settings. Games like the Soul series (Dark Souls, etc…) just appeal to me and I love playing them. Beating a hard game not only gives a great sense of accomplishment but most of the time I find them more interesting too. A lot of game mechanics are often not apparent on the lower difficulty settings and playing on a harder setting often allow you to appreciate all the depth a game has to offer.  In an MMO being able to play at a higher level often gives you access to more challenging content version of raids and boss fights which I find more interesting.

And let’s not forget pride. After playing games on harder setting for long I want to be able to keep doing so and when I find a game where I struggle it becomes a matter of pride to be able to “beat it”. In my mind, there’s no way I’m going to be beaten by mere lines of codes. I’ll figure out the solution and come out on top. When translated to MMOs or competitive games I know fully well that I’m not a pro player but I’m not satisfied if I can’t play at a high enough level. It might not be the best reason for wanting to improve but here it is.

Sadly I’m not always able to reach those goals especially when it comes to MMOs and games like World of Tanks.  Time commitment, opportunities and skills don’t always line up. When I tried to get better at Starcraft 2 I did manage to get in Platinum league which was my goal but by then it had become a source of stress and I’m not sure how much better I could have gotten even if I wanted to. Likewise, I can’t put in the time required by a lot of serious raiding guilds and even then, to improve to the required skill levels I’d probably have to put in way more time than is reasonable.

In the end though, I want to keep setting myself these kinds of goals. They keep games interesting which is doubly important for games likes MMOs who have no clear ending to them.

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So I’ll be playing Wildstar soon! A few more days… can’t wait. And I have to say I’m pretty happy that one of my biggest hurdles when it comes to new MMOs won’t be that bad this time.

I’m talking about finding a new guild.

One of the downside of being a long term MMO player who has gone through a number of guilds and play styles, from hardcore to casual, from simple member to guild and raid leader is that you’ve gone through the motions… multiple times. One of the things that annoy me the most now is that initial time in any guild, where you don’t know anyone and have to “prove” yourself, that you’re not an ass or a pervert or a noob or a whatever-else it is this guild doesn’t want.

Worst, since we have experience on what works and doesn’t work in a guild we tend to try to join well-established guilds or new guilds made by groups of experienced players that we know will try to keep the drama to a minimum. The issue though is that said groups want to keep the good thing going and are generally wary of newcomers. So we’re back to the age-old issue of “proving oneself”.

In the last year alone this has caused me to jump game twice. Both times it wasn’t really anyone fault that it didn’t work out in the sense that they didn’t know me and I didn’t really know them. Between gear grinds and having to prove to everyone you actually know what you’re doing it actually killed my interest in the game. I wasn’t playing a game anymore; it felt more like a never-ending job interview. I already have a job, it’s stressful enough as is and I don’t want to have to do interviews to play games.

But on the other side of the spectrum I’ve been in the raid leader shoes and you have to evaluate new people wanting in, whether they’re from outside the guild or a social member wanting to make the switch. The damage if you don’t can be pretty nasty. It’s even worse when it’s a social member because then you expose yourself to a whole slew of new problems and drama. There’s a whole discussion about social membership to be had in there for another time.

So… long detour to say that luckily with Wildstar that shouldn’t be too bad of a problem. The good folks at Chili and Cornbread will allow my rotten husk to hang around with them and I know a lot of these people from over the years all the way back to Eff the Ineffable. Plus there’s some Effers on the Dominion side so I’m covered.

By joining up at game start, I won’t have a gear difference to overcome and we’ll have time to get to know each other as we level. I really want to find that magic again we’ve had back with Eff the Ineffable and I’m hopeful I’ll find it with Chili and Cornbread. Big thanks to them during beta and we’ll be seeing each other in game.

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Before I start I want you to ponder a moment on a maxim I’ve heard a thousand times. It has been said by game designers, studio leads, guild leaders, exasperated raid leaders, common players and just about anyone who has ever played an MMO at end game.

The leveling game should teach players the skills they will need at endgame.

Now, you being smart, already know that I plan to tell you gating is the solution but please follow my reasoning. Even better, FF14 is currently giving us a masterclass on how this works.

A warning, this is a very long rant and it will probably piss off a lot of people… funny how liberating it can be when you don’t care about blog statistics.

Community, accessibility vs endgame

No-Way-Out

The big debate started in WoW, first in Vanilla and then continued in Burning Crusade. The caveat was this, players loved the game but when they reached endgame a disconnect happened. More casual player suddenly found themselves without anything to do and felt locked out of great content because of very real obligations like time-constraints.

Blizzard agreed for the most part and worked to make the game accessible for everyone. This happened in a number of ways but one of those was making the endgame content easier so people with less time could complete it. There’s logic here, someone with less playtime should normally be less skilled if you believe that more practice equals more skills. As a long time raid leader I can tell you it’s far from an absolute truth but generally speaking, the more you play and the more challenging encounters you do, the better you become.

This touched other aspects of the game too. With a more top-heavy game, it became a necessity to get players at endgame and barriers were removed or made easier to make sure the max-level population stayed at a healthy level. And you need more players for a bigger community.

Most important were the financial reasons. If more people are playing the game, you make more money and it would stand to reason that more people will play your game if they are feeling less frustrated. To resume, bigger happier community = more players = more money.

It then all becomes a number game. Every decision you make will create a number of happy players vs a number of unhappy players. Evaluate which costs you more and you end up with the decision you should make. Since Blizzard has stated a few times that the most important factor was to make new players stay from a revenue perspective, it stands to reason that most decisions are made to cater to a more casual crowd with less experience in the game.

The famed “dumbing down” of WoW is not a dumbing down, it’s simply the game slowly changing its target audience.

The state of WoW

banniere.jpg

So WoW got up to 11.5 millions people, which is insane money.  Now, let’s go back to the original statement, The leveling game should teach players the skills they will need at endgame.

Well , Wow and some other games like it don’t. In the name of being accessible and friendly to new players, it’s now possible to get to max level without ever talking to anyone or setting foot in any kind of group content. Since all frustrations and difficulties have been removed from the leveling experience in order to speed it up and make it more fun (open for debate), it’s not uncommon to find players with very basic skills at endgame. And why should it be different? At no point did the game require more from them.

What happens? These people reach endgame, start doing LFR, LFD and are generally very bad at it. Again, frustrations! So they make the content easier and figure that the more dedicated players will find guilds and set the difficulty level at what they want. That’s all fine and dandy as long as the old guard remains but over time there’s less and less of these old players remaining and not a lot of replacement coming up.

And why would there be? For the new player coming up, he doesn’t need to step up his game to see the content. He can access all of the story with minimum effort. Why join a guild with schedules and more demanding skill requirements when you can have everything you want with a lot less effort and at the time you want? So unless you find a player who really wants to challenge himself and has a lot more time available, you won’t see him make the switch and the more classic types guild are slowly all becoming ghost-towns.

But that’s not the only effect. By slowly killing off the guilds and established communities, you’re reducing the game overall community. By making your entire game accessible without the need to ever get involved in its community, you are in effect destroying said community. Remember when I said better community = more players = more money. Well, you’re working against that and I believe WoW numbers to be showing that right now.

One last thing before moving on, how long do you think it will take for a player to quit the game at endgame once he’s done the raid if he’s not part of any group?

Sacrifice players along the way, build a better communitymaya

I’ve said it often, what is the main difference between an MMOrpg and a classic single player rpg? The fact that you can play it with others.

What is the main condition for an evening dungeon or raid to be fun? agreeable people with a hint of progress.

How do you get progress and people to remain agreeable? By not having a bad player ruin it for everyone else.

Again, I’ve been raid leading for years and the quickest way to destroy a raid and the guild along with it is to have a few bad players prevent all kind of progressions. It might be fun for a week or two but sooner or later the constant failures will sour everyone attitude, especially when the main point of failure is so obvious to everyone. The solution?

The leveling game should teach players the skills they will need at endgame.

It’s not a perfect solution mind you but it would go a very long way. If the leveling game teaches you how to play your class, how to play with other people and how it’s necessary to participate in its community to succeed, then you dramatically reduces the number of bad players at the end. Why?

Because those players will have either quit or they will have stepped their game up.

It sounds callous in 2013 to say such a thing but here we are. I believe WoW to be proof of what happens if you don’t. Endgame is a mess right now, guilds are dying left and right and it won’t be long before WoW becomes simply an RPG that happens to be playable with others when you feel like it.

And if you think that it would be a bad move then take a moment to think back to how WoW became the giant it is now. There was a time when WoW servers were full every night, when I would wait over an hour in the queue to play and when it threatened to turn into a full-blown addiction. That time also happens to be when WoW was at its less friendly, when there was no LFD, LFR and when certain quests and milestones required you to actually talk to other people.  WoW did not begin its ascent to 11.5 millions people during Pandaria, it did so in Vanilla.

Proof that losing some players due to difficulty might be wort it.

Gating and FF14:ARR example

spider-eyes

The recent FF14 is doing really well at the moment and is close to breaking 1 million players if it’s not already done. There’s queues most nights and people are having a blast. I find myself playing for long hours when I didn’t mean to and that’s something that has not happened since Vanilla WoW. I’m not alone in this and I think its proof that FF14 is onto something here.

And that one thing that jumps to my mind is that it uses gating. FF14 has a main storyline that you need to progress through to reach endgame. It’s not an absolute necessity and someone dedicated enough can grind to max level but he will be missing a lot of features. He won’t have access to the dungeons and raids that make up endgame. He can’t cheat either by overleving the dungeon content since dungeons will scale down your level to the appropriate one.

There’s the first gate. In order to reach endgame you have to do the main storyline and surprise, the main storyline features mandatory dungeons, a few of them in fact. Please bear in mind that you can’t overlevel this content, so what level of skill is needed is decided by the game.

And there comes the second gate, the skill one. FF14 can roughly be split into tiers with corresponding required skills.

  • 1-15: being able to play your own class. WoW skill level
  • 15-20: being able to play your class in a group setting. Dungeons with minimal mechanics. About one per boss. About WoW standard level
  • 20: Ifrit trial. Single boss, involves more complex mechanics (staying out of bad, target priority). In WoW this would be in line with heroics bosses and some raid bosses.
  • 20-35: Advanced class mechanics. Resource management, changing battle conditions, being able to know when to take a hit and when to avoid. Being aware of surronding. Dungeons difficulty is around WoW heroics
  • 35: Titan trial. Raid difficulty encounter. Multiple phases, abilities, tests all roles.
  • 35 and onward: Increasing difficulty and we’re not even to max level!

If this sounds good for you right there, then you might want to look into getting FF14. But let’s continue first. What do you think happens when a bad player stumble upon something he can’t overcome? In this example, Titan is a particular roadblock for many players right now. Well, the bad players has two choices. Either he quits, or he find a way to step up his game.

How does he step up his game? Maybe he’ll go read about the game, improving his game and mechanics knowledge. Maybe he’ll join a guild to find “better” players to play with. Maybe those same players will teach the bad player to be better… it could happen no? And finally, maybe teaching a new player who’s leveling is not the same experience as teaching someone who’s making an entire raid wipe. In either case, the player will get involved some in the community which is ultimately better for the game because it’s that same community that will keep him playing at endgame.

He could even tell other people about the game and how great it is and maybe these people will join… sheer insanity… oh wait it’s not. It’s exactly how WoW got to 11.5 millions people.

I’m not saying that improvements like LFD, pet battles or a slew of others things Blizzard did are bad. I’m saying that not forcing player to play together and work together is the wrong way to go in an MMO.

Let not confuse topics here

layton

Before anyone start saying that gating creates entitlement, that it excludes players, that your 15$ is worth as much as mine and that you’re life doesn’t allow you to commit to long sessions, etc… etc… well you’re right. I often defended that time should not be the deciding factor in your access to a game. That you should not have to be a super skilled player to see the content  a game has to offer. I still stand by that.

But I’m going to change my stance a bit here. There’s a limit to how low the skill level needs to go. There’s also a limit to how short meaningful sessions can be. If I only have 15 minutes to give to a game, I shouldn’t expect to make much progress in dungeons. Also, not every game is for everyone and that’s okay. Dark Souls is a very difficult game that’s not for everyone. Most people accept this and the game is stronger for it. Why couldn’t it be the same for MMOs? Why are we having so much trouble accepting that maybe an MMO could cater to a more hardcore audience?

Again, MMOs and group content are, or should be, inseparable. Not all of it all the time but they should be aimed at providing engaging for groups firsts. Or at the very least involve you in a living world and community. If not you’re better off with single players RPGs.

How do you provide great group content, which should be the main aim of an MMO?

Confused with all the hype?

Again, my raid leading experience is speaking here but the times I had the most fun in groups were when I was playing with groups of the appropriate skill level for the content we were attempting.

Again, to obtain that you need to train your players.

This means that if someone refuses to improve, then he should not have access to whatever I am attempting to do. Either he will improve and participate in the game, or he won’t and leave.

But if the game doesn’t do anything for that player, not only will he end up at the same spot later, faced with leaving or engaging the community but he might ruin my experience too and end up making two players leave.

So I hope you enjoyed this and thank you for your attention.

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I was doing well lately, all warm and cozy sleeping under a rock, not caring much about the world of blogging at large and discovering the simple joys of playing FF14, A realm reborn whenever I managed to beat the dreaded login issues. For those not in the know, the servers have been screaming uncle since day 1.

So me being me, I did the rounds of blogs and forums to see if anyone had a magical solution or simply share in other people experiences and what I found was… disturbing. Lots of angry screaming kids calling themselves critics or pro players shouting at the top of their lungs to decry the evil of A realm reborn.

But don’t worry friends, I grabbed my trusty chainsaw (saw Evil Dead yesterday), slew a few of the offenders and now it’s my turn on the soap box.

Something old and something new

I’m not going to launch in a long rant of A realm reborn itself because I believe that if you’re reading this you’re a smart person and you can deduce information. Realm Reborn is an old school MMO wrapped in shiny new clothes, incredibly pretty new clothes in fact. Think Burning crusade WoW but with new graphics and a dungeon finder.

For those who were not around during Burning crusade let me try to put things into perspective. Burning crusade was the meeting point between old school Everquest like MMO and the new breed of MMOs we have now. It was slower paced, grindy, put more emphasis on the RPG elements and was less accomodating to the players. Living in the world was often more important than giving players quality of life improvements. In short, if it made more sense in the world to make you run 15 minutes in mob infested forests then that’s what would happen and that was it.

On the other hand, there were some new elements present to make players lives a bit easier that reflected common sense. Players needed something else to do at endgame other than raiding, they needed ways to advance their characters, dungeons duration were more manageable (no more 4 hours BRD) and endgame didn’t need to be a full-time job.

A Realm Reborn is exactly that. It’s an old school MMO that put emphasis on world building and storyline with a few  modern sensibilities and personally I love it.

Whiners…

These past few months I’ve had a lot of time to meditate on my disinterest from MMOs and what I wanted out of an MMO. What I came back to most of the time is that I felt we had lost somewhere that feeling of being part of a living world. If I want to run dungeons endlessly, do pvp or play an RPG I have other games out there which will give me those experiences faster and without subscriptions models.  The one thing an MMO has going for it that can’t be replicated elsewhere is that feeling of being part of a community, living in whatever fantasy world is offered.

And I believe that in order to achieve that blissful state of community and belonging, some suffering must be endured. The path to the golden land of a living MMO is not made of game mechanics, it’s made of people sharing experiences, wether together or separately in the same world.  That run from Darnassus to Ironforge did more for WoW popularity than the dungeon finder ever did.

So to all the critics out there who are having the time of their lives blasting A Realm reborn a new one while simultaneously praising the games of old I have this message for you: please shut up. Shut up, shut up, shut up!!!!

Either you like old school MMOs, with all good and the bad that comes with or you don’t. You can not like Realm Reborn because you don’t like the story, the world, the combat or any number of reasons but not because it’s dated…

Newsflash people, it’s not dated, it’s world-centric. What you call dated mechanics are a way of doing things that focus on the story and the world first. It’s ok to not like that particular way of doing things but if that’s the case please have the honesty of saying it’s not your cup of tea. Also, say what you will, but WoW reached its peak on those mechanics… maybe there’s something to them that’s worth going back to.

I’ll finish by saying that A Realm Reborn is the first MMO in a very long time to shake me out of my MMO disinterest and I’m not the only one. In fact there’s so many of us that the servers are full to capacity every night since launch. So much so that Square Enix will have to add servers. Maybe the game will turn out to be a disappointment later on but right now, I feel like we have something special going on.

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