Tag Archives: Massively multiplayer online game

Skeptical Plays: World of Warcraft [PC]

Earlier last year, I found myself returning to the World of Warcraft, a game which I had walked away from in disgust nearly five years ago.  I had not planned on staying, and in fact, nine months on, despite my currently active subscription and daily play time… I kind of still haven’t.

Despite being a socially awkward misanthrope with zero people skills, MMOs for me have always been about the people, and most of my enjoyment had come from being able to meet and interact with like-minded fans of the genre. However relating to (and fitting in with) the rest of the community has always been one of my biggest issues, and even after years of my clumsy attempts at socialising, I still have not managed to find myself a static group of friends to play with, nor a guild where I felt truly welcomed or at ease.

Part of this comes down to my hatred for the game’s focus on loot and gear levels, and this ugly, obsessive, all-consuming greed that seems to bring out the darkest side of its community.  I despise how elitist and excluding its players can be; how groups and guilds pick people for content and memberships based on their characters’ item levels, with no consideration at all for the personalities behind the gear on-screen.

This, is further enhanced by my hatred of the modern day’s approach to end game, with its singular focus on repetitive, short, fast paced raids.

Part of me miss the old Vanilla days, back when dungeons and raids were long and gruelling experiences.  Random groups were much harder to come by, and as such they were taken more seriously by the players.  Folks were more likely to play nice, since failure due to a lack of teamwork (or being kicked due to assholeary) would usually mean another three plus hours of shouting “Looking for Group!” on the chat channels.

Many older players would look back on those days with disdain, but me?  I loved them.

It is an obsolete style of game-play which is no longer plausible today, with the modern day fast paced dungeon designs and the advent of randomised queues. However back then random Pick-Up-Groups were where players liked myself went to bond with like-minded folks, sharing common goals.

We did not have the cross-realm features back then, so it meant we would repeatedly encounter and group up with the same set of players over and over. It was how people build up their reputation within the community; how folks developed mutual trust and respect; and how strangers, became brothers.

Wanting to become more connected to the game and its community, I have gotten in touch with an old contact from my list in-game, and have been for the past month grouping with her and her guild, chatting and levelling, and helping with raids.

Unfortunately I am sad to report that my time spent with them only served to further highlight my frustrations with the game.  I miss the olden days, where entire guilds would get together in-game regularly for social events (cross-guild events even), and groups would run around laughing, joking, questing, and exploring the lands together.  It is a stark contrast to the game I see today, where it is filled with people who would only log on for raids or loot.

I find myself surrounded by friends who are reluctant to help out with content just because they already have the loot or the achievements they needed, and their participation would not benefit them in some way.  This self-serving nature is a common trend I am seeing, and it is particularly heartbreaking for me.

Furthermore,  I find myself once again in the position of being excluded for content for one reason for another. Being excluded by random strangers is frustrating enough, but it is decidedly worst to find yourself on the outside looking in when supposed friends are involved.

Not sure if it is the skeptical or the misanthrope side of me speaking here, but I am starting to feel that perhaps all people are inherently greedy and self-serving, and that perhaps I have been wasting my time all these years, trying to find true camaraderie and friendships in these online games.  That perhaps I should just become a vegan, and go hug a tree (or a dolphin)… or something.

I just don’t know any more.

Anyways I am mainly writing this post as an excuse to post some old screenshots.  But who knows, I MIGHT come back at a later stage and do a proper blogging thing where I report on what I have been doing in-game.  As always, I guess, only time will tell.


Skeptical Plays: Final Fantasy XIV – A Realm Reborn [PC]

This post is really just an excuse for me to log on and post some screenshots from the stunning Final Fantasy XIV – A Realm Reborn.  These were all taken recently, from the currently running Heavensturn event.

It is a short event, with the whole quest chain clocking in at just under an hour. The story revolves around a small group of traders from the Far East, who were unimpressed by our chocobos, and have travelled to our shores with the wish to introduce, as a replacement, exotic creatures known as…  horses?  And yes, before you ask it really is as silly as it sounds.

The Heavensturn event started on Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 15:00 (GMT), and is due to end on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 14:59 (GMT)


Skeptical Plays: Final Fantasy XIV – A Realm Reborn [PC]

Square-Enix’s somewhat archaic and unconventional feature designs, in my opinion, had actually made the original 1.0 release of Final Fantasy XIV one of the most unique and interesting experiences available at the time.  Sadly, the critics disagreed.  The game did not fare well with the mainstream audience, and it was considered widely to be a failure.

Fast forwarding now to 2013, after three long years of redevelopment with a brand new team, the game has been given a new lease on life with the recent 2.0 relaunch, aka A Realm Reborn.

The game is still very much Final Fantasy XIV at its core, retaining the original graphical and audio assets, as well as elements of the gameplay mechanics. However, great efforts have been put into bringing the game in line with the other existing MMOs on the market, with everything ingame having been streamlined and “modernized” to some degree.

While I am appreciative of their efforts, I find myself feeling somewhat let down by a lot of the changes that 2.0 had brought.

Take the addition of the hundreds of new NPC quests for example.  Instead of fleshing out the world and providing players with interesting new content, what we ended up with was a series of generic and forgettable quests, which only serve to lay down linear lines of progression, discouraging exploration, and at the same time giving the game a very closed theme park feel.

Adding to that theme park feel are the new fully open map zones.  While the new open map design does give the illusion of a larger, more persistent world, in my opinion it also gave us more generic map zones that are far less interesting to explore.  Worth mentioning too is that some of the more interesting areas have now been converted into timed instanced group dungeons, and are sadly no longer accessible by smaller groups, or the odd solitary explorers like myself.

ffxiv_18092013_193820

Despite my skepticism, the game is not without its strengths and charms.  Most gamers I’m sure would find the franchise’s signature creature designs, with your chocobos, moogles, cactuars and the like, to be a welcoming change from the often overused generic high fantasy bestiary.  The iconic Final Fantasy tunes and sounds are excellent as always, and I am happy to report that the unique crafting mini-game transitioned over largely unchanged, as has the excellent multi-class jobs system, which allows players to experience all of the games classes without having to create new characters.

Also, being designed with the subscription payment model in mind, it is sure to please the more traditional gamers, folks like myself who might be looking for a strong character-based non-restrictive gameplay experience – something away from your real-money Cash Shops and Locked Boxes, where you constantly feel like you are being punished simply for not paying extra.

At the end of the day, it pains me to say that A Realm Reborn now plays a lot more like your average generic MMO, with its industry standard hotbar control scheme; the mindless kill-ten-rats NPC quests; simplified one-click gathering; the grindy daily quests; and the focus on its number of generic loot grind dungeons.  While the Final Fantasy name is sure to attract fans of the franchise, I remain unconvinced that in the long run, the game as it stands with its traditional theme park gameplay, is enough to appease your average modern gamer – but, as always, only time will tell.

ffxiv_11092013_233417

ARR +

  • Subscription based – development focus is on story and gameplay, not on expansive cashshop items.
  • Stable client software.
  • Optimized UI and more accessible controls.
  • Fantastic Final Fantasy music and art designs.
  • Engrossing main and job storylines that carries on from 1.0.
  • Non-restrictive jobs system that allows players to level up multiple classes with a single character.
  • Unique crafting mini-game.
  • Intriguing world with strong lore and an unique sense of identity.
  • Mount/Combat Companion.

ARR –

  • Generic NPC quests.
  • Improved but still clunky gear management.
  • One-click materials gathering.
  • Some of the more interesting areas have been removed and converted into generic timed group dungeons.
  • Removal of Companion NPCs
  • Mindless XP grinding FATE parties seems to be a focus of the communities.
  • Multiple class job leveling can get repetitive and grindy.
  • Questionable long term appeal for casual social players.

ffxiv_13092013_212916ffxiv_24092013_225059ffxiv_10102013_170528ffxiv_14092013_225804ffxiv_19102013_203657ffxiv_23102013_214502


Skeptical Plays – Guild Wars 2 [PC]

For the past month or so I have spent most of my free time lost within Tyria, the world of Guild Wars 2.

Having played the game non-stop, almost to the point of obsession – I can say with confidence that it is perhaps one of the most polished MMOs on the market today.  However, I am sad to report that as much as I am enjoying the game, Guild Wars 2 has somehow managed to disappoint me in oh-so-many ways.

In the original Guild Wars, developer ArenaNet had chosen to ignore all of the traditional MMO conventions, and as a result created a game that was unlike any other on the market.  It was fresh, it was bold, and it was different, utilitising a mass of concept and novel ideas that were unheard of at the time. Its multi-layered single server for example – or howabout the non-stats and non-level focus of the game?  Not to mention the respec-focused design of the skill system; the multi-class customisable skillsets; the skill hunting/capturing system; the unlocking of upgrades from PvE-to-PvP; the customisable companions and henchmen… et cetera.

There were so many unique things in Guild Wars, and so much of that game were done just right – but, unfortunately there lies the source of my problem with Guild Wars 2.

The original game showed that it was possible to create a non-traditional MMO in this day and age and do well with it. Many players appreciated the non-cookie-cutter design of the game, and the unique experience that it offered.  With Guild Wars 2 however, I find it both strange and frustrating, that ArenaNet had abandoned most of which that had made them unique in the first place.

This time round they have instead opted to offer us a title that is strictly cookie-cutter in many ways.  Employing a more streamlined traditional MMO engine, while adopting features and design methodologies that were lifted straight from other games in the genre.  Features like for example skills that change based on the type of weapon equipped; dynamic public quests that pops up in selected points of the maps; the inclusion of daily quests; a more rigid class system with more limited skillsets; as well as the traditional levels-based skill points unlock system.

Overall in my opinion the game is a perhaps a step back for the franchise   It is by no means a bad game – quite the contrary in fact.  Like I mentioned the game is very polished, and there are some nice touches like the autobalancing of levels and stats when you go into a lower level area, and an achievement system that combines and records your activities across all of your characters.  But whereas the first title had, in some ways, help revolutionise the genre, every aspect of this follow up is strictly evolutionary, and does not bring anything new to the table.  I have to say also that I find the lore and the characters to be much stronger in the original game, and I was much more immersed in the original world.

Lastly, to end this post on a sad note, I would like to say also that having encountered way too many immature idiots on one server, and now finding my new server dominated by multi-boxing bots and farmers, my experience is entirely ruined, and I am at a stage where I am just about ready to abandon the game.


Recently Played: TERA (The Exiled Realm of Arborea) [PC]

Having spent 80+ hours on the recently Westenised TERA Online (aka The Exiled Realm of Arborea) from Bluehole Studio, I am kind of surprised to say that I have yet to form some sort of definitive opinions on the game.  My feelings are kind of conflicted, since my experience with the game has been very mixed thus far.

There is of course the smooth gorgeous artstyle boosted by by its Unreal powered graphics. However, perhaps the most noteable part of TERA would be its active combat mechanics, which utilises a 3rd person targeting system reminescent of Richard Garriott’s Tabular Rasa.  While the game still retains the traditional cliché skills and abilities found in other MMOs, it lacks an auto targeting lock on system, and instead relies on manual aiming on the players end.

In addition, the game also take adventage of a combo-chaining system, similar to the one found in games such as Funcom’s Age of Conan, which allows for a simple to control yet potentially complex combat system, using just a small number of ingame skill sets.

While the combat mechanics aren’t exactly new or revolutionary, the game’s more active manual nature does lend itself to more frentic, engaging combat engagements, with the ingame monsters dodging, jumping, and rolling around, and you having to do the same to keep up.  What is interesting to note too is that the monsters’ attacks can also damage other mobs, meaning that it very possible to play multiple mobs off against each other, and using their own attacks against them, adding further (perhaps unintentional) depth to the combat.

On the downside however, the rest of the game is as cliché and generic as they come, with the same old kill-ten-rats and go-from-A-to-B quests, same cliché races of elves and humans, and the same old cliché trinity system of tank, healer and DPS.  To be frank the lore and the world and the map designs in general just aren’t very fresh or interesting, and playing through the game I never got the sense that I was playing something new.  One could even perhaps go as far as to say the game bores me, to a degree.

Community-wise TERA has the average fare also – for an idea on what the general playerbase is like, all I can say is that I have already left two seperate servers after having spent 15+ hours on each, and on the 3rd server I still find myself being plagued by idiots, with the same old immature WoW crowd running amock with their anal/murloc/Chuck Norris jokes; the same old antisocial asses making fun of and insulting everybody else; and the same old elitist groups looking down on the rest of the players.

While I cannot see myself playing this game long term at this stage, I also cannot deny the fact that I keep finding myself logging on into the game day after day.  So how does TERA compare to all the other MMOs out there?  Is the game worth the price of entry? And perhaps more importantly, am I having fun with the game?  To be totally honest… I just don’t know.


Final Fantasy XIV: Legacy Campaign

Earlier this year I found myself wondering back into Eorzea, the world of Final Fantasy XIV, after having been away from the game for over a year.  Of course, a multitude of fixes and extra content have been added since I left, and as a result the game had seemed unfamiliar and fresh.  And for a while, I found myself lost in the honeymoon bliss that one usually experience with a new MMO.

However, as beautiful as the game was, and as much as I love its world, with the small number of both players and NPCs around, it all felt pretty barren.  Plus, the game’s socialization options were still horrendous.  There was still next to no interaction between players outside of their linkshells (ie. FFXIV’s version of clans), and with the clunky chat UI and a lack of regional and zone chats, finding new people to chat and socialize with was pretty much impossible.  It might have been down to being on the wrong server at the wrong time, or just plain bad luck, but I was disappointed to find that even after weeks of yelling in the cities, I was still unable to find people to party with for group contents.

There were numerous other little issues as well, both from a gameplay and technical perspective – some of which, I might add, were the very same issues that had caused me to quit the game in the first place.  And that was why I had stopped logging on a few weeks ago, and why a couple of weeks ago I had actually cancelled my subscription.

However, having said all that, I must also say that somehow, this week Square-Enix has suckered me once again into re-subscribing with the announcement of their Legacy Campaign.

http://lodestone.finalfantasyxiv.com/pl/campaign/campaign.html

The Legacy Campaign introduces several benefits for those who have subscribed for at least 90 cumulative days since January 6th, 2012.

1. Legacy members will be able to play at a specially discounted subscription price post-launch of version 2.0.

2. Legacy members will receive an exclusive in-game Chocobo mount at the launch of version 2.0.

3. Legacy members can request that their name be displayed in the credits for version 2.0. One name per service account can be listed in the credits.

Version 2.0, by the way is stated to be due sometime between October and December of 2012 to early 2013.

For former players of Final Fantasy XIV I would also like to point out that there is an upcoming Welcome Back Campaign happening from May 9th to May 20th, where former players with inactive service accounts will be able to play for free during this ten-day period.

I must admit I have been rather down on MMOs lately, and I have become a rather jaded skeptical bastard in the past couple of years.  However, Final Fantasy is a strong brand with a large dedicated fanbase, and judging from Final Fantasy XI I would say Square-Enix have the expertise and the stamina to create a decent MMO with a strong stable playerbase and communities, so I do have rather high hopes for this franchise, and I am definitely looking forward to seeing what Final Fantasy XIV 2.0 will bring to the genre.


Incoming: The Secret World [PC]

As I might have previously pointed out in this blog, I am NOT a journalist, and I don’t report the news.  I am also NOT a games writer, and I don’t do reviews (or previews).  What I am however, is a gamer who enjoys waving his finger in the air, and pointing out interesting things for the world to see.

And today, my finger is pointing at the direction of http://www.thesecretworld.com/, where the option to pre-purchase The Secret World is now available.

The Secret World, an upcoming MMO by the veteran developers over at Funcom is a massively multiplayer online world with a unique modern-day setting and unparalleled freedom of character progression.

“Imagine if every myth, conspiracy theory and urban legend was true. Imagine a world where you can become anything you want to be, without restrictions such as classes or levels. This is the premise for The Secret World, Funcom’s upcoming massively multiplayer online game set in the modern-day real world.”

With the promise  of a story unlike any before seen in an MMO, handcrafted by Ragnar Tørnquist (creator of the award-winning The Longest Journey).  As well as a class and level-less system that will give you complete freedom to be whoever you want to be, and play however you want to play, utilising thousands of weapons and powers, from pistols and assault rifles to black magic and fireballs – needless to say this game has been on my radar for a while, despite my weening interest in MMOs in recent times.

It is interesting to note that pre-purchase is available for US$49.99, but you also have the option to add different upgrade packs to your purchase.

There is The Initate Pack for US$14.99, which will give you the ingame Blood Raven (minipet), high-end beginner level weapon sets and a faction jacket costume.

Next we have The Master Pack for US$59.99, which will give you 30 days of additional game time, an extra character slot, additional name reservation, ingame set of talismans and experience potions, as well as a 10% life-time discount on all full priced social clothing items in the ingame item store.

Finally, we have perhaps the most interesting pack of all, The Grand Master Pack, for a whopping US$199.99.  This will give you all the contents of The Master Pack, as well as an exclusive ingame snake skin jacket, and <drum rolls>, a life-time premium subscription to The Secret World!

To be honest, perhaps the game just sound a little bit TOO ambitious and interesting for its own good.  Looking at similar pre-release marketing campaigns and hypes surrounding the many recent underwhelming MMO entries to the market, the skeptic in me is prepared for the worse, and is already quietly mourning the death of The Secret World.  However, having said that, I am also a real sucker for life-time subs, so, heh, I guess I will be seeing some of yous ingame come launch time.

Pre-purchase, by the way, is also available through EA’s Origin.


%d bloggers like this: