Tag Archives: MMO

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)


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.


The Return To Eorzea (Part 2)

Having resubbed to ‘Final Fantasy XIV‘ recently, I am somewhat amused to report that in the past few weeks, hours of my life have somehow slipped by, and seemingly vanished into thin air.  It has been a long time since I have been so engrossed in a MMO, and a longer time still since I had this feeling of being lost in a fantastical online world.

A large part of my current engrossment, I think, is due to the core designs of the game.  Having been away so long, I had almost forgotten how uniquely different this game could be.  Despite what anyone else might say, I personally really appreciate some of the core designs and gameplay elements that went into the game – things like the classless jobs system; the crafting/gathering minigames; and even things like the random XP system that was based on skill usage and not on kills…  Most would disagree with me, but I believe the devs had gotten a lot of things right, where the rest of the genre have been failing in in the recent years.

As I had mentioned previously, I had left the lands of Eorzea over a year ago, just before Christmas 2010.  Needless to say, there had been a lot of changes made to the game, as well as a ton of content added in the time since.

The game did not do well when it was first launched, bombing critically with generally negative reviews all around.  And thus, I can understand and appreciate the fact that in order for this to become commercially viable, major changes were needed.  But while it saddens me to see the game failing as it did, and while I do want the game to turn around and secure a place for itself in the market, a large part of me is disappointed in seeing the more unique elements of the game being patched and phased out, and seeing the game becoming more and more generic and mainstream-friendly with each patch.

Having said that, it all just serves to highlight just how dynamic and mercurious MMOs can be.  In fact, it is exactly that precarious nature of these worlds which makes me love the genre so much.  I love the fact that MMOs are constantly evolving – shifting and changing, adopting new features, graphics, storylines, characters and more on a sometimes day to day basis.  There are always exciting new things to see and experience, and you never know what each new patch might bring. Each MMO is literally a never-ending adventure; a constant companion that thrives and grows alongside you in realtime.

Anyways it was my plan originally to talk more about my thoughts on some of the changes in the game, using screenshots to highlight some of my experiences – but, I’m sure you would agree this post has gone on long enough already.  I am still in the process of revamping and improving the blog by the way, and at the moment one of my main focuses is on shorter (and perhaps more regular) posts, and I am also thinking of perhaps adding a separate screenshots page.  But… it all depends on how lazy, and how bothered I could be on any given day – so, as usual, only time will tell.


The MMO Lament

It is probably not the first time I have expressed this, but I am both concerned and disappointed with the current trends that are popping up in our MMOs, and the general direction that they are headed.

Nearly three years ago, at the height of my game I walked away from ‘World of Warcraft’, my virtual home of many years.  I did not like the way the game had become, nor the direction it was headed, with its focus on the endless ‘endgame’ and its endless daily grinds.  Gone was the adventuring aspects that I had grown to love, and with it the exploration and socialisation that had made the genre famous.

Earlier on tonight I made the following comment on a website, saying “I really hate most MMO’s focus on “endgame” nowadays.  Earlier on in my MMO career I could choose not to raid and still find plenty of things to do ingame, or if I choose to raid it was a always a challenge, and never a grind.  Nowadays most of the games out there places too much focus on endgame raids and daily and weekly grinds.  It kinda saddens me that MMOs are no longer massive playgrounds where one could explore and play where he wants , when he wants – but rather they have become small theme parks where one have to pay to queue up for the same rides over and over again, day after day.”

That comment was left partly as a response to another comment, which says “the only problem is what happens when you finish the single player storyline in SW:TOR and discover that you’re left with generic MMO endgame…What I wouldn’t give for a randomly generated quest after doing the same 13 dailies every day.”

Both of the comment above just serve to highlight some of my concerns with the genre.  I have always loved the dynamic nature of these MMOs, with their expansive ever evolving worlds, and the myriad of people and communities contained within.  For the better part of the last decade, these online games have been a huge part of my life, and it was my belief that they would continue to be for decades to come.  Lately however, it breaks my heart to say that I am beginning to have my doubts.


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