Vvardenfell and a warden

Yesterday, I stumbled upon a Twitter conversation about Elder Scrolls Online. After reading a bit, I just had to log in.

That’s not the entirety of the conversation you see when following that tweet. Dig a little deeper and you’ll see that this thread also covers topics like playing MMORPGs solo, guilds, guild leadership and so on. Quite a few people chimed in. It’s a really worth your time.

So in I went. My wanting to play Elder Scrolls Online had three main reasons: one, because of our small guild. Secondly, because of that Twitter thread and third, because I haven’t gotten around to creating and playing a warden which was released with the Morrowind chapter/expansion- to give an idea of just how long I didn’t show up.

Of course, we had our second child in the meantime and our daughter is healthy, in a good mood and…a baby. But that’s not the whole story behind my prolonged absence from this blog and Elder Scrolls Online- I’ve been looking around, testing other games, different content output channels (looked into Twitch streaming in theory, but haven’t really streamed besides some guest appearances in a friend’s stream). And then, there was that guild I co-founded…almost two years ago, I guess. The longer I was away, the worse my conscience. I readied myself for some kind of “where have you been? Guild leaders can’t leave that long!” discussions in private or guild chat, but I’m pleased to say that selective recruitment, early fostering of community as well as putting a good replacement in charge of things were a very good decision- there were no bad words, just fellow players welcoming me back. So that went well.

It was very difficult to find a suitable name for my newly created warden, though. I hit a couple of name generators, but of course all of these names were already taken. I gave it about half-a-dozen tries and settled for a combination of a lore-appropriate name and a family name derived from my online handle (Lorana Feng, iirc). I guess that’s not too bad. With all those obstacles out of the way, I could take a look at the game proper, and found it to be surprisingly fitting to my overall mood right now. I also realized I’ve been demoted to noob again by the changes in game.

For one, now you have to discover skill trees. When I went to spend skillpoints on skills for the first time, I found that I was only able to spend them into class skill trees, one world skill tree and one crafting skill tree. No weapon or armor skills to be seen. Come to think of it, I think even racial skills were missing.

Lately, I’ve been playing games more deliberately. If I choose to play a game, I play it without distractions- no Podcast listening, no stream by the side and so on. I play for one or two hours, then exit the game and do something else. I don’t sit in front of my PC pondering about which game to launch- if I don’t know what game to launch, I do something else. This leads to two outcomes. First, I don’t dabble in front of the pc until I make a choice and watch crappy Youtube videos instead. On the other hand, when I launch a game, I want to experience it- you know, including quest- and flavour text, atmosphere and things like that. There are no goals involved other than having a good time.

Elder Scrolls Online fits nicely into this mindset, and that is also why I loved that “discovery of skill lines” thing. Quests are presented via dialogues, optional conversation choices and they usually take longer than your average “kill ten rats” MMO quest. Exploration is encouraged as there are no quest hubs, per se. All in all, I had tons of fun, even while not getting much done. Between chatting with guildmates, my noobiness and taking it slowly, I finished one quest in two hours of playing. Fun times!

Also, happy new year!

Why I’m back to playing Lotro

When the news broke that Lotro and DDO wouldn’t be operated by Turbine, and in extent, Warner Bros, anymore, I felt a sudden urge to return to Lord of the Rings Online. Mind you, this isn’t really a new thing for me- in fact, from its release to around 2012, Lotro was the MMO I’d return to when another new release wasn’t holding my attention for one reason or another.

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New Game Masters

So everybody* was really excited to see what Amazon Game Studios would “unbox” at their unboxing event that happened yesterday. After recruiting several devs from MMO companies like ArenaNet, the chances of AGS creating an MMORPG were high. We couldn’t admit to that, certainly, since by now it should be clear to everyone that MMORPGs created by devs in the western hemisphere are in trouble. New Triple-A releases were not in sight, and those triple-A-games that kinda, sorta were MMOs were carefully avoiding calling their games MMOs.

So here comes Amazon and announces New World, a game set in 17th century, supernatural america. And it’s a Sandbox with emergent gameplay and stuff.

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A word on crown crates

First: my own opinion, put shortly: I don’t like lockboxes, I don’t buy them and I wish nobody would. As we know by now, Elder Scrolls Online is going to begin selling what they call “Crown Crates” in their cash shop- turning one of my most liked business models/ingame shops into one of many.

Personally, I feel buy-/free-to-play brought a few niceties to us. However, I’m starting to realize there’s more to it than that and I’m starting to get fed up with cash shops, because they take away from the games we play. I’ll probably go over this discussion at another time, but the reason for this post is that I’d like to share the most recent episode of “Tales of Tamriel“. I was happy to see Isaari joining for this topic, particularly because of points he made before in regards to playing WoW and his will to grind for mounts, pets and hats. I can’t find it anymore, probably because it was a tweet- but I knew him to be very opinionated on mmonetization as he’s written about it a couple of times.

Now, this is a podcast dedicated to Elder Scrolls Online, but the discussion points are valid throughout the genre- it’s very interesting to listen to and if you’d like some insight/differing opinions or agreement on stuff like “it’s just cosmetic”, “but they have to earn money” and so on, I’d suggest watching this. It’s also very from the beginning that these fans of Elder Scrolls Online- themselves content creators in regards to this game for a long while and in all kinds of manners- are really upset about the introduction of lockboxes into their game and would like to talk about that topic from the first second.

The monetization stuff begins around minute 30, have fun.

Travel Log: to the Broken Isles

I won’t spoil anything story-wise for those of you who haven’t been logging into Legion by now, just giving a few quick impressions.

First of all, of course I didn’t make it to 100 with one of my “normal” characters and had to learn how to play a Retribution Paladin- which isn’t my class at all. Shaman, Druid, Priest- I could live with those. But I boosted a Paladin (rightfully) thinking that I wouldn’t play one through the rest of the game, so here I was, playing Lizah the Paladin for the second time, a boosted character in an MMO I haven’t seriously touched in about 10 years.

Thankfully, there aren’t many abilities to learn. I don’t know if I made a mistake, but my main bar isn’t even full- I placed normal fighting abilities there, with buffs/debuffs populating different action bars. Something feels off, though, as Lizah feels a bit low on the damage dealing side for sporting a damage spec.

As I’ve been absent for quite some time, I don’t know when World of Warcraft became so good in storytelling- I didn’t remember it that way and when I returned, the old zones didn’t feel particularly different. But at least on the way up to Legion lands, it’s great, it’s varied and it’s presented in a way that actually made me want to experience the story- that of Legion as well as what came before.

I have a new sword...it's supposed to be important.
I have a new sword…it’s supposed to be important.

It took some time, though- 3 hours to reach Stormheim, the zone I decided to start out with. The scenario bugged out once, so I needed to repeat it. Other than that, I visited my class order halls and became very important for the Paladins of Azeroth (don’t they know I boosted?).

Anyhow, it’s beautiful, it’s new, it’s somewhat fun, albeit a bit confusing for someone returning after a long absence, and I’m not only talking about the story. It’s nice being able to do current content with all the others, it’s a feeling I didn’t have in ages. But somehow, I get the feeling that for all that I’m gaining- actually playing the content of the current expansion, that is- I’m also losing out on something else- namely, the experience that comes with playing characters from 1 to 100, and maybe even content droughts. It might actually be that downtime I’d need to close the gap a bit.

I’ll share a couple of screenshots, hopefully without spoilers.

We’re not in Telara anymore

Huh. I finally went to see the invasions, thinking that I could maybe use them to level another character up, as it was said that doing Rifts Invasions was a good way to do so.

I used my level 12 (Feral) Druid to visit my first one. Invasions are basically Rift’s Rifts. Open grouping, open tagging, stages of completion. I mean, it’s nice to see World of Warcraft stepping into this decade- and I don’t mean that in a bad way; it speaks for the game’s engine that it is so versatile.

I don’t know if it’s a good way to level- I gained one level from one Invasion. I guess at level 12 it doesn’t make a lot of a difference to simply questing or going into a dungeon. Maybe it’ll change later on. If I was level 25 and gained one level by one Invasion, it’d be nice.

WoWScrnShot_081616_211012

It took a bit of traveling and I hopped on the wrong boat once. The key-takeaway for me is that i don’t like the Druid right now. It feels as if its four specs are actually narrowing the options to play a Druid.

Scaling the content to your level, though? Stroke of genius, but that warrants an own post.

Games i’d like to see the end of

That isn’t asking for a close-down, to the contrary, actually.

Part of being a dirty time-casual is that there are way more gaming options out there than could possibly fit in the schedule. This is both in relation to games in general and in terms of MMORPGs. I’ll take a look at the latter here. Even when I was very happy to stay in Elder Scrolls Online for the first half of the year as well as with my choice for the second half, there are quite a few MMORPGs I’d like to see through to the end.

Lord of the Rings Online: If I were able to stick with it, i’d be playing it right now. Lotro is beautiful, especially the landscapes. Turbine did their very best to recreate one of the most iconic fantasy worlds out there- and succeeded, in my opinion. Unfortunately, I think its time comes to an end (not official! just gut-feeling) in the coming year, due to licensing. I’m sure they’d keep the lights on as long as possible- but when they aren’t allowed anymore? Who knows. Could WB save it or simply not care to shut it down? Possible, I don’t know. But we do know the license is up in 2017.

Still, I could play it whenever the mood strikes- and I possibly will at some point, but whenever i think about the need to see this recreation of middle-earth, I remember Moria and a sigh escapes my mouth. Honestly, not even Gandalf wanted to go there. Could Lotro still be a subscription game if they had chosen overland zones for their first expansion?

Maybe i’ll get past that, at one point. I hope so.

tsw_kirsten

The Secret World: No problems with this game whatsoever, just difficulty to put it into my rotation. Sure, it only has missions as content, but it has one of the most engaging storylines in the genre.

Blade and Soul: There aren’t many MMORPGs that have an eastern setting and flavor of story while being a triple-A product and quite fun to play. Blade and Soul is one of them.

Wildstar: Look, revenue is increasing…but it’s still at $2 million a quarter. That’s really not all that much. I still feel this is undeserved- it is a solid MMORPG maybe released at a time when many were tired of that old formula and Wildstar maybe didn’t do enough to shake it up. I have to confess that here, i wouldn’t be in it for the game, the zones, the story, the atmosphere, but the housing. In Wildstar, housing would be my endgame; unfortunately, I feel it starts too slow despite being introduced at an early level.

Games and content

Here I* am, still thinking about whether or not to preorder No Man’s Sky for its PC release on friday. The game sounds interesting enough, even if I’d say it lends itself better to the couch and tv in the living room than the PC at the desk. I’m fine with everything I’ve read so far and didn’t expect anything else, maybe because I didn’t care much for the hype beforehand. It’s released now and it seems to be a single player game, but I didn’t take a longer look at the game before it was released. Insofar, I’m glad the PS4 version released a couple of days before the PC version; that way, I still have about 48 hours to make up my mind.

The thing is, to me, the game loses value as soon as it is released. Strange as it might sound, I actually do want to name species, planets and stuff. So as soon as others go about doing that, the chances of me being able to call something “Strangebird” or “Legolas” become slimmer every day. And the game would lose some of its attraction for me.

Interesting, though, is to see how much the devs seem to skirt around that multiplayer thing- my guess is that if it was clearly labelled as singleplayer game, Massively wouldn’t have covered it.

Another thing popping up in my head is the lack of content in NMS- yes, i said it! 18 bazillion planets don’t really mean a thing to me if

  • I can’t build a base (apparently an upcoming feature)
  • there is no civilization- and I’m not talking about a strange building here and there, but cities, skyscrapers, sentient species moving on planets (don’t really know if NMS has something like this)
  • I can earn spacebucks, but don’t really have a way to spend them (possibly ship and multitool upgrades)
  • what am I gathering resources for?

I mean, even if it is great for exploring, for sure, it could still feel empty. Ah well, but I’m the guy who plays Civilization games on an Earth map, if possible, because I don’t find randomly generated worlds to be plausible. Maybe I lack fantasy.

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Housing wishlist for Elder Scrolls Online

Elder Scrolls Online will get housing in its Q1 2017 update- we know this already. We probably also know that it’s semi-instanced. I’m very much looking forward to housing in ESO – but i do have a few wishes.

Accessible

I hope housing will be accessible very early in the game and not be a max-level thing. It should also be somewhat attractive by default- players who like housing are a creative and loyal bunch, if housing is done right. However, housing players will only “suffer” through so much gameplay they don’t enjoy to get something for the part of the game they do. Leveling to 50 would be a bit long. Of course housing should scale very well and accompany players throughout their characters’ lives. At any point from level 10 onwards, i’d like to be able to see and do something about my house.

Not a byproduct

I hinted at that wish above, but i think this bears repeating: don’t make me run 10 dungeons to – maybe- get some housing item i’d like. Don’t simply attach housing stuff to achievements. Sure, do housing drops, they’re nice loot. Ideally, housing would be a different path to take in the game, maybe even accompanied by a new crafting profession or new recipes for existing crafting professions.

Shareable

I hope we’ll be able to share our spaces, let visitors come in. A player owned house would be great for guild meetings. It would be even better if we were able to visit houses of strangers (if they set the appropriate permissions).

Semi-Instanced

There are great housing systems out there- Wildstar’s and Rift’s housing systems are both very accessible and very complete- however, in both cases i had trouble to connect them to the virtual world they should be in. It’s not a lore- or immersion problem, per se, as the teleporting and locations fit into both games, but in both cases, i couldn’t shake the feeling of disconnect. In ESO, we already seem to know that the houses are part of the zones, so this wish seems to be granted.

Gold sink

It is very important for an MMORPG to have means of spending earned gold. The last couple of years brought us more and more alternative currencies in other games, often different ones for different activities (questing, dungeons, pvp etc.). You’d get some kind of token that you can then spend at some NPC for items. It’s an…ok system to have, but as with bound-on-acquire gear, i think of it as a band-aid that’s hurting the economy. You really only need one currency- gold. Elder Scrolls Online thankfully features gold as a currency mostly, to my knowledge. While i am always broke in this game (and think this is a good thing), i’ve heard others state that they didn’t know what to do with their gold- housing is a good way to get them to spend it.

Light on cash shop

Of course we know housing is going to be monetized in the cash shop- there’ll be exclusive items, possibly even houses, and i have no problem with that. As with everything, though, it’s important to keep a balance. I think it would be a shame, for instance, if crafters couldn’t create anything for the houses, in-game means would be quite limited and everything else would go into the cash shop. Housing items should be attainable through as many means as possible, including but not focussing on the cash shop.

Flexible

Some time, i guess this month when i’ll be looking for inspiration, i’ll tell you the tale on how i got interested in MMORPGs. The short version is: i wanted to become a baker. Nowadays, i’d like to become a tavern owner. Sure, setting up one’s home is nice and all, but in the end, that’s kind of limited in scope- let us build taverns, bakeries, shops, barracks, hiding spots, casinos and more underground stuff. This ties into the wish of housing being shareable, as well- as a tavern owner, for instance, some visitors would be nice.

So that’s basically it- i guess i’d like it to be as close as possible to EQ2’s housing with a hint of Wildstar’s to add flavor.

A feature Online games need to have

So MMOGames.com is looking for writers and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. If you’re willing, see if you’re able, too. I love how mmogames tends to recruit bloggers, many of which i’m reading on a regular basis. Bloggers make for a very different tone in their articles, and it shows. I’ve said it before, and i’ll do it again: mmogames is a rising star in the mmo site business- i don’t know about money, but quality-wise and as a “collection of blog posts”, it’s great. Now, i’m not looking for a job, but i found their writing prompt interesting:

500 words on 1 feature all multiplayer games need

Here’s mine.

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Being supportive 2

Interesting. On my old blog, i had this post about being supportive of the few (and getting even rarer) companies who bring MMORPGs to us- at that time, it was about Trion’s up-to-then unknown imported game. Today, i’ll return to this topic in regards to Rift’s new expansion Starfall Prophecy- this post started its life as a comment on Psychochild’s blog, but i felt like it was getting too long. TLDR would be: “don’t hold a grudge”.

Trion once was that highly respected company- everyone cheered when the news broke that they’d be publishing ArcheAge. Then something bad happened and now they’re struggling – reputation wise.

Here’s the thing, though: what big MMO devs/publishers do you know? Blizzard? Cancelled their latest MMO in favour of a lobby shooter. Daybreak? Ha, well, they seem to be downgrading lately. Turbine? Already on their way out. Funcom? Is struggling and needs to do something other than MMOs to actually earn some money.

Now, we can have all the business model talks or how exactly each and every company developing MMORPGs went wrong, but i’d like to state something else:

I feel Trion is on the right way.

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