Monday, July 15, 2019

It's Been a Month Coming....

I post about loot boxes and gamer burnout and crunch, and I get views but no commentary.

I post about LOTRO's potential successor, and the comments come out of the woodwork.*

So, what'll happen when I mention about some of the updates coming out tomorrow in SWTOR?

Such as quality of life improvements to F2P and Preferred players, such as an increased credit cap, an extra quickbar, and free Medical Probe/Quick Travel?

Oh sure, SWTOR fans have been discussing this for almost a month, but still these changes will make the F2P and Preferred lifestyle more bearable. Now about that bank space thing....

I kid, I kid. But on FB you'd think that people were jumping off of tall buildings because they couldn't remove their helmet without paying a few Cartel Coins for the privilege. But I do have to admit that it is better than the "This game sucks!" and "We want KOTOR 3!" and "What, this pile of trash is still around?" that I see in frequent comments about the game.

Trolls just gotta troll, I guess.




*Relatively speaking. It's a pretty quiet place, here.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

There's Enough Room For Only One of Us

Well, the big news of the last day or so in the MMO world was that Amazon Studios is now developing the "new" LOTR MMO. Of course, that's the same MMO that Athlon Studios was creating, and now the "based on the literary world of JRR Tolkien" MMO is being developed by the same people that are bringing you the new Middle-earth streaming series. The latter is presumably set in the Second Age, so that makes me think that the "marching orders" for the new MMO are to be set in the Second Age as well.

After all, between Sauron and his minions (and depending on when in the Second Age, Black Numenorians) and the Free Peoples of Middle-earth, there's plenty of space there for a two faction MMO set in the Second Age. Or even the First Age, for that matter.

But this news doesn't necessarily bode well for LOTRO. When Athlon was running things, I kind of shrugged and figured that LOTRO wasn't necessarily in danger. But now, with Amazon's financial might, LOTRO could be in trouble.

And this comes right when there's an optional 64-bit LOTRO client out there, which warmed my heart to no end.

Hey Bioware, how about a 64-bit client for SWTOR? If LOTRO can do it, surely you can....

Saturday, July 6, 2019

A Nice Way to Check out Azeroth

I suppose you know they're out there, but I was shopping over at Target the other day and verified that yes, Blizz still has 60 Day Wow Subscription cards for sale at Target.*

And yes, they're $30. However, if you're like me and has a spouse who works at Target, you can get a 10% discount. I believe Best Buy has a nice discount too, but I don't know what that translates into with the 60 Day WoW card.

Still, 10% off a $30 60 Day card translates into $13.50/30 days, a better deal than a 3 month subscription price ($14) but not as good as the 6 month price ($13).

Of course, that does come with the catch that you have to either work at Target yourself or have a family member who does. But hey, I know how I can keep my costs down and still peruse WoW Classic without any excessive breaking of the bank.




*Alas that Target didn't really work out in Canada, as apparently they tried to keep things similar to whatever company they bought out rather than basically transport the Target experience to Canada itself. After all, based on traffic across the US/Canada border that's what people wanted, and I'm still scratching my head why Target's management thought otherwise.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Just One More Time....

When I wrote my last post, I honestly didn't know that Jim Sterling would create his latest Jimquisition taking on gambling mechanics. And that it'd be released today.


And that I'd be so pissed at the game design that Torulf Jernstrom talked about inside the video.

Oh, I knew on an intellectual level that it existed, because a lot of it is "modern marketing" amped up to an extreme level, but the brazenness of the major dev houses is really galling. And here I am, falling for that trap, because I'm thinking "yeah, I have to login to ESO so that I can get the daily reward" in much the same manner that a long time ago I discovered I was on an addictive precipice in smoking the occasional cigar.

This is not good.

On the flip side of it, now that I recognize what is going on, I can adjust my habits as much as I can to walk myself back from the ledge.

But for those who have fallen off the precipice, there's no going back.

They can't stop.

And the video game industry is happy to oblige, because they can make a ton of money off of these people.

If nothing else, the overall amorality of the video game industry toward this situation will be their downfall. Here, I was thinking that self righteous moralists shifting blame from everything from teen suicides to mass shootings onto the video game industry might have an impact, but the reality is dawning on me that the video game industry is setting themselves up for a fall by this behavior.

It's not too late for the major dev houses to walk all of this crap back and get rid of gambling mechanics in their games, but that window is shrinking. I'd imagine that the EU is going to crack down on them in the next year or two, and that potential player base is large enough that the dev houses can't ignore them.

Or they could try, but if there's one thing that the investors in today's market want, it's a maximum amount of money. And if the EU says jump, the investors will push the dev houses into finally saying "How high?"

Sunday, June 30, 2019

How About a Nice Game of Chess?

A lot of MMOs these days give rewards for logging in, and if you log in enough times in a month you're likely treated to a little perk. ESO does this with daily rewards that (especially at low level) come in handy for potions, and they have three special perks per month. Typically at the 21st or so day of logging in per month, you might get a pet, an outfit, or maybe even some downloadable content.

Other MMOs, such as Age of Conan, TERA, and Rift, all do this as well, and WoW and other MMOs do this with daily quests.*

However, I do wonder about the nature of "push button, get reward" rewards that encourage daily logins.

It's one thing to throw a bone to regular players, and I do get that, but when I'm in the middle of doing whatever around the house and I think "Gee, I have to go login now because I want to make sure I pick up the daily rewards" and then before I know it I've stopped folding laundry and am halfway to the PC, yeah that does become somewhat worrying.

***

In its own way, the "push button get reward" reminds me of when I played the Age of Empires mobile game, which would give you a small reward with daily logins, but would then encourage you to spend money to get those rewards faster (the classic P2W environment). While not all MMOs go the P2W route with daily logins, a lot of them do "encourage" a player to peruse the cash shop to see what you'd get if you accumulated rewards faster (i.e. "paid for them") by making the reward accumulation just slow enough to drive you batty at times. And in mobile games, making the reward accumulation key to being able to survive an enemy onslaught, well, that just sucks.

And yes, just like when playing against a guild group in Warsong Gulch, when you try to simply use the free option and not purchase extras, it can feel pretty hopeless at times.

So "free" doesn't really mean "free" if you actually want a shot at winning, so even in winning you "lose" something (money).

Or, as Joshua put it in Wargames, "A strange game. The only way to win is not to play."




*I remember logging in daily during Wrath to get that daily 5-man run complete so I could get my badges and slowly accumulate at first a T9 set and then a T10 set of gear. For a non-raider, that was the best I could get.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Perusing the Landscape

I've been poking my nose into a few of the MMOs that I've tried and not really done much of anything with, such as Rift and TERA, and found that the environments are somewhat stable.

Well, kinda.

For example, the last several times I logged into Rift I was practically the only person around. Just about any sign of life would be better than what I found at the time. After it was pointed out to me that it was likely that a particular server might be more active when I was logging in, I made an effort to try various times and days of the week. Still, I saw hardly any activity.

The past few weeks, however, I've seen an uptick in the activity in Rift on both factions to the point where I can be reasonably certain that if, say, I needed an assist on taking care of a Tear, there would be someone in the vicinity to help out. I would definitely not call Rift as having a healthy population, but it's better than the "dead" it certainly seemed to be several months ago.

***

TERA is in a better situation than Rift, but that's not exactly saying much. Unlike Rift, TERA is still being actively developed by Bluehole --they recently released a new race/class combo, for instance-- but TERA still has that "shameless"* look that a lot of Korean MMOs have. For better or worse, that look tends to attract some people and repel others.

The look aside, TERA had finished server merges and gotten down to two servers: one PvE and one PvP. From my end, I think the server merges where absolutely the best thing to do for TERA, because there's a viable population in both. What I can say is that there seem to be more people active in TERA at any given time than Rift, but I'm not sure if the population is at the level that is good for the long term health of the game. Let's put it this way: if TERA were owned by NCSoft, I'd be a bit nervous about NCSoft shuttering the game.

***

Which brings me to ArcheAge.

I've been seeing YouTube videos for a couple of years about how "ArcheAge is dead" and "when will they kill ArcheAge?", but ArcheAge is still here.

I do have to wonder how much longer, however.

I have two toons in ArcheAge --one of the quirks of the game is that you get EXACTLY two toons total across all servers, unless you subscribe-- and with one parked in a mid level/upper level capital and another in the intro/low level zones, I simply don't see the population there. In Rift, at least, you do see people creating new toons in the intro and low level zones, but ArcheAge feels dead. Perhaps the decision to allow only two toons total has something to do with that, because if you want to experiment on different servers with race/faction/class combos before subscribing you have to be in a constant state of deleting toons. And lets face it; not everybody is so keen about constantly zapping toons because of that artificial limitation.

But the thing is, ArcheAge seemed a bit healthier in the intro and low level zones before the server merges** than after.

Even though the population is likely higher than Rift, at least Rift is in maintenance mode while the devs for ArcheAge are still trying to put new content together. And there are other, glaring problems that are more obvious to an English speaker than to a Korean speaker, because the English port is, well, a bit inconsistent. You have NPCs speaking to you when you walk around, and at first I thought the reason why I couldn't understand them was because I was an Elf and they were Human. It turns out that they were speaking in Korean, and the devs for ArcheAge never bothered to provide English voice acting for these NPCs. I wouldn't necessarily mind, but having to constantly check out the text box to make sure I'm not missing anything does get really annoying after a while.***

Okay, I doubt the English port is a deal breaker for most people, but the overall lack of toons to work with in the free portion of the game is. And I'll be honest, outside of the lack of toons and the English port, there's not that much that sets ArcheAge apart from its other Korean MMO competitors (Black Desert Online, TERA, etc.)**** And when you've got such a low population as ArcheAge seems to have, that's a problem.

***

Anyway, this wasn't by any means an in depth analysis of the state of those games. These are just overall impressions of hopping back in after having been away for a while, and just seeing what's around.

One MMO that I really ought to get back into playing is Neverwinter, because despite the overall generic nature of the Forgotten Realms I do look on that D&D setting a bit like comfort food. Now, if someone had created an MMO based on the D&D world of Krynn, I'd be up for that. I still have my copies of the original Dragonlance Chronicles around, and if you gave me a chance to hang around with Tanis and company....



*As Rohan put it, which is likely the best way to put the toon and clothing choices.

**They took place a year or two ago, right when I was testing the game out.

***I'm used to "make sure you pay attention to everything because you might need it later" mode you get when playing RPGs for as long as I have. Besides, if you're an Elf and you're in Elven territory, you ought to be able to understand everything said (presumably in Elven). Wandering into Human territory is a different thing, and I'd not expect to understand the language. But having a foreign language everywhere just breaks immersion for me.

****All the P2W debacle aside, you could argue that was a problem with Rift. While I found the story intriguing and the fact that Rift deliberately kept the talent trees around, if you're looking for a new game to play Rift would have a hard time standing out from the crowd. Other fantasy MMOs had better known properties (Warcraft, Lord of the Rings, D&D, Conan, Elder Scrolls) which give it an initial leg up on Rift, and that becomes hard to overcome.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Some Friday Humor

I came across this on Facebook today, and laughed:



So in honor of some of the Vanilla WoW memes (and experiences), I came up with the following:

It was hard to limit my options to these.
As you might have imagined, distilling all of people trying out Vanilla WoW having only experienced BC and later down to 25 Bingo options was hard. I suppose I could make more sheets, but this one will do for starters.