First goal reached! Nuria Solstrum, Nord Templar of the Aldmeri Dominion professing a strange combination of skills & armor, is now level 30 in Elder Scrolls Online. And it only took about two months to get from 25 to 30.
So i’m in this dreaded mid-level range now- it’s rare for me to see the end of the leveling process in MMOs, mainly because i think the mid-game is so terrible in most of them that i’d rather start a new character- and the mid-level range sucks the fun out of my experience , so i take a break, only to return and not remember anything, and take that as an excuse to create a new character.
This time, it feels different, though, as i think i’m enjoying the game more and more- sure, there’s some dedication needed on my part to keep going- i’d say this resembles the connection you have to an acquaintance- you’re not friends yet, but you might be at some point- but stop calling or meeting up and you’ll stay acquaintances.
Nuria didn’t need to do much to go from level 28 to 30 in two sessions- all she had to do was to get the birthday cake, go to Silatar, navigate a labyrinth, make Aranias the new Wilderqueen and pick two flowers on the way, track a thief in Marbruk, go to Woodhearth and catch/kill a bee. All in all, not too much- and again, very interesting. I wanted to take a determined look at that, but i think there’s actually very few “kill x of y” quests in Elder Scrolls Online. I think there are some, but mostly, killing stuff is just what you do to reach other goals.
I liked the “Artisan” quest- you have to catch a thief, after all. Unfortunately, the correct answer has a pointer over his or her head, so you could stumble upon the solution by accident (it’s not marked on the map though), but what you have to do is gather a few clues about the identity of this thief by asking citizens what they know, deduct the thief’s identity and then confront him or her. It’s a nice little riddle, although the clues paint a quite clear picture with only one hint being slightly misleading. It’s not The Secret World level of thought you’ll need here, but it’s a nice touch, nonetheless.
The labyrinth / maze was also very nice- what you get here is the story of the Wilderking by way of a stone being named Sumiril. He’s got a book there, probably telling the story of its creation, but he isn’t sure if he wants to know what’s written in the book. So you take the book, and read it passage after passage. The passages are unlocked by way of traversing the labyrinth. Again, unfortunately, there is a pointer- you “follow the words” (kind of like that creepy tune you follow in TSW’s kingsmouth) which is essentially a glow leading the way. You’ll reach platforms and a new passage in the book will become readable. Afterwards, you know how both Sumiril and the Wilderking came into being.
Aranias, meanwhile, goes for the Wilderking. Turns out she’s actually destined to become his successor and she feels that. Unfortunately, her companion wants to kill both her and the Wilderking. So Nuria killed him, of course. Aranias will then be a bit afraid to turn into the Wilderqueen, but with the support and encouragement of her friend Nuria, she’ll do it. I also liked that the story we were experiencing on Silatar seemed to be a almost forgotten but still present memory in her mind.
The travel to Woodhearth and the killing of the bee were standard affairs- although one has to crouch to follow the bee to its hiding place. But that’s just so little of a touch that, with this game, it doesn’t really deserve mention.
I am very optimistic that the next five levels won’t take her two months.
With the troubles in the past 4-6 weeks, mainly consisting of sickness in the family and our china visit, it has been quite some time since i visited Elder Scrolls Online in a normal way- that is to say logging into my main character and continue questing where i left off. Even when i logged in, i wasn’t able to do much because of short sessions, the longer ones have been reserved for guild evenings.
There’s something that became very apparent in this time: MMORPGs need some commitment to enjoy them in their full capacity. At least for me, when i lose momentum in a game, others become more alluring. Lately, i’ve found myself wanting to play The Secret World or Lord of the Rings Online- i’m not counting EVE in here, because that came as a surprise and i do think two MMORPGs work very well together. Nonetheless, yesterday i decided to spend the night in Tamriel and i’m really glad i did.
My first mission was to get the birthday cake, although i don’t need it much- i’m outleveling content anyway, so there’s actually no need to get that 100% bonus. But on the other hand- why fret about it? It’s only going for a week and a boost is fine- after all, it doesn’t say “you have to skip content if you use it” in the item description- i can still go for those zone achievements i want to clear before moving on. As a matter of fact, i’ve only now set my first steps into Greenshade, so there’s still a lot of zone to cover.
Getting the birthday cake is quite easy- you’ll get ingame mail, a voucher for one of these. You’ll need to seek out Chef Donolon at the docks of Vulkhel Guard, who will tell you to get a few bananas, honey and…rye, i think, which you can buy from an NPC nearby or loot from the usual places like baskets etc. When you return with those ingredients, he’ll make the cake for you and it goes straight into your collections tab. I’m not sure if one has to use it to get the experience bonus, but i did it, just to make sure. After that, i could go out and seek adventure again.
It took about five minutes to make me fall back in love with ESO again, as its storytelling is really good. All i really did yesterday was one quest- The Witch of Silatar. I lost track of the storyline, but i guess this is about the Wilderking wanting me to get to know the assassin sent by the Veiled Heritance, Aranias, sent to Greenshade to kill the Wilderking.
But it doesn’t do this in a direct way, no. The quest NPC, Spinner Maruin, wants to tell me a story- a story i can take a part in. I would visit Aranias on the island of Silatar (which she created, by the way) to relive some part of her past as her friend- a friend she never had in her real past. She had to go through this all by herself.
After i asked nicely, Maruin told me to sit by the fire- a few lines of dialogue later, and i’m on Silatar, which is strikingly beautiful. This is enhanced by the fact that the first thing i do with Aranias is racing to a lighthouse- this seems so innocent, so beautiful, at first, but takes a bit of a darker shade when she roots me as soon as i might come close to her.
Still, it was this moment where i thought, again, how great the experience in Elder Scrolls Online is- this is a crafted story, not a thrown-in quest. The island of Silatar, for instance, is only visited for this quest. While it’s not big, i guess it tells us something about storytelling in a game when the developers create a zone of about the size of a city just for one quest.
The story goes on and it’s mainly about Aranias, a young Altmer with incredible powers- after all, she created the island we’re standing on during this quest in a day. The motives for her behaviour are loneliness as well as a will to “earn” her parents’ love who really don’t like seeing her daughter creating islands or lifting ships from the sea. Her parents then leave for the Summerset Isles to get help for her daughter and return with High Kinlady Estre from the Veiled Heritance who makes Aranias kill a bosmer woman. In the story Maruin tells, we are able to help, so this is not what happens in our quest, but what happened in reality. I don’t want to get too deep into the details here because spoilers, but this is an interesting quest and i’m very much looking forward to playing it again on another character and take more screenshots of Silatar.
This love for detail and good storytelling is what makes stand Elder Scrolls Online stand apart from and above many other MMORPGs- there are others, of course, who have great storytelling- Lord of the Rings, FFXIV, SWTOR and TSW to name a few, but while Elder Scrolls Online might not be able to have the storytelling greatness of The Secret World, it’s actually the phasing that makes the quests more interesting- when you complete a quest, the zone changes, so you can see an impact. The game then doesn’t turn into a singleplayer experience because of its megaserver technology- there are still many players who have their map- or the part of the map you’re in in the same state as you have. That’s just so much better than the instanced storytelling of SWTOR, for instance.
Just like Laeloria, Silatar and the story of Aranias (which will continue in the questlines of Greenshade) will stay with me and became one of the reasons for my liking of Elder Scrolls Online. I’ve reconnected with the game yesterday and it feels good.
Oh boy. Yesterday i decided to split the evening in two- first, i wanted to take a look at EVE- for more reasons than the simple fact that there’s a war brewing and i have 10 days of subscription time for free. After that, i wanted to log into Elder Scrolls Online and get the anniversary cake for my two characters. But it never came to that; i lost myself in New Eden.
As strange as it may sound, the main culprit here is Black Desert Online. While i haven’t played much of the game, there are others out there thoroughly enjoying it. For good reasons, i might add. But with the short time i had, there was one thing i couldn’t shake down: with player-to-player interaction being basically limited to pvp, BDO is a game that seems to be very much playing alone together. This isn’t a problem at all, in many aspects. Exploration, for instance, is doing just fine, as is fighting mobs, fishing and other stuff. There is, of course, also the option to band together and go fishing by boat or something like that. BDO is exceptionally beautiful and it is a fantasy world- for me, that is much more interesting to explore and see than empty space.
The thing nagging me a bit? Economy and crafting. Trading is done with NPCs mostly, and while other players influence prices, in the end, you’re doing it alone and everything you trade goes into the void where it came from (which is good, mind you). I don’t know if there’s money to be had in crafting and trading in the market place. I’m not done with BDO by far, i’m very interested in seeing how the game develops and maybe, possibly i’m wrong in my assessment. But that doesn’t change the feelings i was having when playing the game.
In EVE, almost nothing is materialized from thin air- and everything breaks or gets used up, eventually. There’s a vast galaxy with 5000 star systems, if i remember correctly, and everywhere, on each and every station, there’s player trade. With regionally differing prices. And it’s this part that always makes me look at EVE and its players with a lot of envy. It’s this feature i’d like to see in Fantasy MMORPGs.
So with World War Bee going on, CCP did the smart thing and offered 10 days of subscription to lapsed accounts. The offer lasted until 04/03, and that was the day when i “reserved” it for me. To maybe take a look, again. I’ve been there countless of times:
2011: may to november
2012: february to april
Each of these times, especially when i went for a multi-month subscription, it was a waste. But i actually don’t really think it’s the game’s fault- yes, it seems to be quite “boring”, coming from MMOs where you interact more directly with your surroundings- EVE seems a bit like an MMORTS, it’s strategic, involves planning and a learning curve that really is not a joke. If you enjoy learning and mastering games, EVE is the place to go. Really.
What’s the problem?
I need to figure out what i want to do. That’s actually the hardest part- i’ll tell you the story of yesterday a bit later as it shows how things go for me with EVE. There’s a lot i’d like to do, and that’s even with consideration of my interest in mining, crafting and trading mentioned above. Even that is a too wide scope to concentrate on when being a noob, and can be expanded with things like planetary interaction. What i usually don’t like as much is doing quests- it’s not EVE’s strongest side, at least not for me, although there’s not much difference to many themepark MMOs.
Another problem i face is that i’ve never given the game much of a chance, really. I was annoyed that it would have me do tutorials- and many of them that take quite a lot of time and at the same time, i need those tutorials- if you skip them, you’re on your own with learning things in EVE. And also, there’s lots of free stuff from doing tutorials and missions. It felt linear, even if you could just take a break, do what you want and return later. So i’ve never played the game for longer stretches of time which lead to me having to relearn everything the next time i tried the game, putting me back into square one, facing the same problems again, leave, return, rinse&repeat. I even deleted characters!
Then, there’s a hesitation to join a player corp- while i feel they could teach me a lot and would provide the game with hooks, i also feel it might be jumping into the deeper end of the sea. Also, if i were to join someone, i’d need them to be nice people to be around and not space grumpies.
So as with Elder Scrolls Online, i feel like what’s really needed here is some dedication on my part. I’m not sure if i want to take a shot at that this time, but i do feel it might be worth it.
Returning to EVE
Yesterday evening was a prime example how things can go in that game. I logged in, put something in my learning queue and saw that i had the mining skill maxed. Nice, i thought, and went out to look for an asteroid field. They’re not difficult to find, so i was there in no time, shooting mining lasers at an asteroid from my tiny ship. Meanwhile, three lumps away, i saw how it could be done. See, in EVE, even mining can be a group activity. There were three miners and an industrial ship (i think, and maybe a fighter?)- the miners collected ore and when their cargo was filled, they’d transfer it to the industrial ship. My guess is that, at some point, they would return to some station and call their reprocessing guy. That’s mining and reprocessing for 6 players, mind you.
Reprocessing ore can be more profitable than selling it raw, but of course you can’t simply do it because you’ll lose some reprocessed ore. First, depending on your skill and how much the station charges you. Furthermore it’s based on the standing you enjoy with that particular NPC corp owning the station where you’d like to reprocess. So when i returned to the station, i saw that my yield was about 50% of what’s possible – for 1 concentrated Veldspar i could get 2 whatevers (instead of 4 with loss-free processing). The price was roughly at 33% – 1 Veldspar ore went for 18 ISK, 1 Whatever for 7.
As reprocessing would leave me with losses, i decided to simply sell the noob ore i mined- so i checked market prices from around the block. Four jumps away, the price was highest- in fact almost as high as it gets in Jita, the trading hub. So i went there. On my way, i did the math- selling everything would yield 50k ISK. That’s a laughably small amount of money. Still, i sold the ore and decided that, probably, i’ll need another ship for mining.
That’s the point in time when i published that Travel log yesterday and went into the depths of the internet to research some possibilities and most of all ships i could use for mining. So i found out that, actually, my ship isn’t that bad in terms of mining (i’m flying a Bantam) and that right now, because of skill, or lack thereof, i couldn’t fly anything that was better at doing this. Also, mining guides suggested to get at it in a group/fleet. So i researched solo mining and found the suggestion of trading instead of mining yourself. Nice, i thought, trading’s good, let’s take a look if i have some skills in this direction already. And went back into the game.
I wanted to assemble and jump into my industrial ship – it’s unbelievable how many ships this game throws at you in this early stage- i have 10 million ISK now but 6 ships already- fighters, mining vessels, industrials- but, again, lacked the skill. Then i looked into buying that skill but in the end i thought that, probably, some players would take advantage of newbies and sell skills for a ridiculous amount of money that can be gained through missions.
So, off to talk to agents. Only, in my current station, i already did everything the industrial and trade agents had for me. I remembered the agent finder then and looked for other agents nearby, went to their stations and completed three missions- one industrial, two trade.
These missions are basically guided versions of what one could do in that game anyway. For the industrial mission, i had to mine some Veldspar- so off i go, finding and shooting at asteroids. Then back, to complete the mission. The trading agent wanted me to deliver an item in the first mission, thereby training me in the art of moving things from item hangar to ship cargo and flying around. The second mission took me to salvage the black box from a ship that was attacked by space pirates. For this, you’ll need another type of “laser”- then, you’ll fly out to find the ship (it took me embarrassingly long to remember that you have to use the warp gate to get to your mission instance), kill a pirate ship (yay, i had a fight!) and then salvage the ruined ship.
Taking back the black box, what did the agent provide me with? Yes, that’s right- with a better mining ship that can take 20 times the ore than my current. Only, i can’t fly it yet.
30 days incoming
Now, that was just one night- a bit more than two hours, of gameplay in fact. I started with an idea and it led me in circles. I researched and learned. I had much fun doing all that (as is evident in the word count here). CCP follows these ten days up with the offer of 30 days for 10€ – and i’m so taking that.
So, EVE. I’m totally lost and reckon that, maybe, my ship (a Bantam) isn’t really the right one for going mining. I guess i’ll need to research for a better one. You know, when returning to an MMO, normally i don’t have to find out how to move again.
Anyways, seeing the player driven economy put a smile on my face already. I don’t know, though- with EVE, half the job is figuring out what you want to do – i’d like to start with mining and maybe some production later and then find out how to do that, exactly.
Getting to an asteroid belt, then back to station to find out where noob ore is most expensive in the area, then doing 4 jumps for 50k ISK isn’t worth it- even for me. After all, i already have 8 million ISK, the equivalent of roughly 0.20$ (hahaha). To play EVE, you have to read about EVE. Still, beautiful it is.
Hangzhou is probably the biggest city you’ve never heard of. Wikipedia lists the population in the urban area at 7 million, but it’s dwarfed by the close Shanghai with its 24 million. Whenever i’m asked where my wife is from, i’ll say she’s coming from the Shanghai area. As you might imagine, the people living there don’t like that very much- Hangzhou is very different to Shanghai, much more “chinese”, i’d say. That title picture is breakfast, by the way.
When i go out with our son, there’s a difference between these two cities: in Hangzhou, many people will stop and take a look at him because he’s the child of a foreigner and a chinese woman- they want to look at him, get a sense in regards to his resembling more like his father or his mother. In Hangzhou, when i go into a supermarket and spit out some of my hard-learned-and-yet-so-basic chinese, they’ll commend me on my good chinese. With those few sentences i have, they’ll even sometimes assume i can really speak mandarin chinese and talk normally to me.
In Shanghai, no one cares.
So nobody knows about Hangzhou, despite Marco Polo calling it paradise on earth when he visited and it actually being quite big and, for its size, quite beautiful. This might change, however, come september, when the G-20 summit takes place there. The G-20 summit cast its shadow on our visit to the city, as well.
Construction sites. Or, to be more accurate, Hangzhou was simply one big construction site while we were there. Now, it’s China, there’s always some suburb as big as big german cities simply growing out of the soil, to accomodate all these people coming into town. While i have to wonder how a “normal” chinese person can afford housing prices ranging from 13000 to 33000 Yuan (2000 to 5000$) per square meter (or 186 to 465$ per square foot), there’s always some “little place” built- or tens of them, in fact.
But this year, construction topped all of that- whenever we went outside, there were buildings under construction / renovation by the street. Sometimes there would be scaffoldings as far as you could see along a road and many roads themselves were being re-constructed. From hearsay, i was told Hangzhou is spending 7 billion Yuan (~1.1billion $) to beautify the city for the G-20. I’m totally convinced that, when we go there next year, the whole city will look different than this year.
There are downsides, however. See, there’s this really nice apartement hotel very close to the homes of my wife’s grandparents. We stayed there in 2014, i think, and it was all good- to reach both of these families, we’d have to walk for either 5 or 10 minutes. Unfortunately, when we arrived there, the receptionist told us we couldn’t stay- and this after a 45-minute-drive, 12 hour flight and 5 hour transit from the plane to that apartement hotel. Why? Because foreigners weren’t allowed to stay there. We didn’t know why and we didn’t find out exactly why, but we guessed that probably, there have been some “standards” set for hotels who want to take in foreigners in the wake of the G-20 summit. It is something i can believe, as the housing standard varies a lot in that city. But the last time we were there, i couldn’t find anything wrong with the apartement. And of course, i was upset. At least we aren’t real tourists, so we could have found a place to sleep, but it was still annoying to find another apartement after 24 hours of travel with a three-year-old kid. In the end, we found something in a different area.
The new apartement hotel was situated in a nice area with lots of different restaurants- from the small ones that serve great breakfast up to multiple japanese restaurants, a market right in front of the door, bus stops close by and actually not that very far at least from one couple of great-grandparents, it was suboptimal, mainly because i couldn’t figure out directions from there (i know the area of that first apartement hotel very well) and there was this huge elevated road/street between us and them. It would also take 15-20 minutes to walk to them and about 25-40 to the other great-grandparent, so we often took the bus or a cab to visit either.
I was able to find a good coffee shop, once again. Coffee, free wi-fi, loneliness (they’re usually not well-visited as they’re also expensive- a cup of coffee coming in at around 8$). Actually, this year i noticed that cheaper coffee shows itself on the street- i was able to get a normal cup of coffee for about 1.50$ – it’s getting easier to have some coffee from year to year- in my first visit, i had to drink iced coffee from bottles, this year, there was never a coffee shortage, because those shops sprout up everywhere.
This year also marked something noteworthy: it was the first time i didn’t feel like a visitor, at all- i felt as if i were “coming home”- well, a second home, but still- it felt like home. Slowly, i know the city, i know how things look in China, i know what to look for when i’m searching something (a recharge cable, for instance). While i still can’t read chinese letters and am still far away from talking, it’s getting better year-over-year, as well.
There’s a lot more , as we visited some nice places in the city, but that tale will have to wait for another time. I’m sorry to say i didn’t make it to Jingci temple this year- but i hadn’t had the drive after seeing it was under construction, as well.
Yesterday evening saw the first login to Elder Scrolls Online, or any MMO, for that matter, since we’ve returned from China.
That’s the name of our guild- yesterday, a commenter here made the connection between this blog and that guild, so i think i can tell now. I would have done it soon, anyway. Why we’d use such an unusual name? Well, it’s kind of a long story that i’ll probably tell when/if i make an official introduction post here, but to make it short- google it. We wanted a unique name that wasn’t descriptive like “Order of Light” or something- we wanted a name that wasn’t taken but still somewhat good on eyes and ears and we came up with that. It has been used a couple of times, but i think 800 results on Google is ok in terms of uniqueness.
That fear i expressed when i was sick and had to cancel guild events the last time i got sick? Well, turns out that two weeks of going to China might have made it true. We were only two players logging in, with a third one patching up on a night where i had planned to venture into a dungeon (to be fair, i scheduled that event more or less as a trial for organizing dungeon runs without consulting anybody else first).
We need bodies
The thing is: casual, social, tight-knit or not- we need to up the game a bit. We need more life in our community- or at least i do. 3 of us more or less only log in when we have a scheduled activity, i haven’t seen two recruits in quite some time, so in the end, our roster is at about 3-4 players who log in from day to day (but usually not daily). That’s not enough. We’re spreading ourselves to thin there. So i was beginning to think how we can gain a bit more traction without, you know, either disbanding, looking at another direction and/or recruit every Joe or Jane Doe that comes along.
I think the homepage might be one good way- disregarding whether we’d move to selfhosting and/or wordpress or not, it needs a bit more work to look attractive and show off who and what we are a bit better (if someone reading this wants to offer their feedback on what makes a good guild website or knows of some examples, i’d be happy for pointers). There’s one advantage in WordPress: it shows content much better than Enjin does. Let’s say other members would be interested in contributing to a “guild blog”, WordPress would be much better in handling this than Enjin is.
Of course that’s just a dream- in my experience guild members don’t like to contribute in this way. But still, it would also be a pretty good excuse for myself to sometimes post in german if i’d like (although, of course the activity would still be much lower than here). Still, it’s nice to dream- i love coop-blogging and multi-blogger sites and maybe, one day, some kind of project will come out of this.
Another thing i was thinking about was to simply cross voice chat off the list- now i know what you’re thinking, but with germans? “No Voicechat” guilds are actually quite popular- there are several communities that have this as their sole USP. We don’t use our server anyway and with Enjin only 5 slots come with the basic paid version of the website. So in the end, i guess it’s either moving to Discord or crossing it off. When i was looking for something like this in some english community, i drew a blank. Don’t know if this was about the game or maybe there’s just no market for these kinds of communities in the english speaking community.
We need continuity in our guild evenings
Another thing that propped up was that up until now, we’ve been dabbling in everything on guild night- we were in Cyrodiil, ran a dungeon, went to Wrothgar, the Thieves Guild and so on. What i’d like to do starting with the next guild evening in about two weeks is giving it a bit more structure- select something, then take it from the beginning up to the end. For instance, if we chose to start with Wrothgar, we’d stay there until we’ve finished all the content. Judging by the fact that Orsinium is supposed to have 20 hours of storyline content, that would probably take us ~15 weeks. Still, better quality, more continuity- i think that’s where we need to go.
Happy with what we have, but still have a way to go
We’ll have a chat about all this in our coming guild meeting (friday), i’m eager to see the results of this discussion and take some of that to action. See, i’m happy with what we have- we’re basically six semi-active to active players who like each other and share a very relaxed view on things like progress, wiping, online times and such. There’s no need to change that, it’s actually the opposite: we’ll try everything to keep it that way. But that doesn’t mean we have to stand still- we need to evolve, improve, gain some numbers in order to actually be more than a part of a good filled friendlist.
So that was number 1. Number 2- i actually downloaded the client because i have a 10-day-return-card in my mailbox. I haven’t pulled the trigger yet, but it’s really just a matter of time until i’ll take at least those 10 days. It’s actually the mining/industrial branch that interests me the most and wartimes are good times for that. Whenever i visited EVE, i’ve found it to be hugely relaxing (mainly because i prefer starting on the mining route). And it’s a true sandbox. And there’s something happening in the game right now.
Now onwards to number 3: Are EVE players bad people?
I haven’t met any abuse, pvp action or similar while playing EVE. Questions i had got answered quickly and politely. Now, of course there are bad news we can read about all the time- threats even to real people, scams, people treating other people badly or just griefing other players among many, many other things.
But EVE is also the place of the EVE university– a guild corp dedicated to teaching new players the ins and outs of the game and other really great stuff from a huge blogosphere to dedicated news-sites and so on.
While i hold the impression that different games attract different folks- that much being obvious when looking even at themeparks like Lord of the Rings Online, The Secret World or Final Fantasy XIV having polite and friendly communities in my experience compared to World of Warcraft, Blade&Soul or Archeage (yes, i’m putting that one in the themepark category now), i think that in most cases, there’s a huge range of players- from the friendly to the griefers, from polite to barbarians.
Even in Rocket League’s normal friendly games there were many people cursing and insulting others before the game added a way to report players. I could tell you about my first dungeon finder experience in Wildstar, for instance- that was only the training dungeon but when my friend, being the tank, struggled with the game mechanics, the other people were all over her. In the end, after trying to kick her out of the group (and failing, of course, because i didn’t agree), everybody left.
Coming back to EVE, i think here the impolite, griefing players get put more in the spotlight because the game allows them to do more than just insulting other players. The game makes it possible to gank, rob, extort and even hijack property of a whole account. If it were for game mechanics only, i think EVE would have a very normal playerbase. But unfortunately, CCP goes even further with its hands-off policy. They regard everything fair game that is possible to do via game mechanics. They don’t stop players to do actually, really bad stuff even to real players – i count hijacking all properties on an account as an attack on the human.
In my opinion, that last part is the mistake. I know it’s difficult to draw a line sometimes- is something ok because game mechanics allow this type of action or is it an ad-hominem already? But by refusing all responsibility in regards to these player actions, CCP allows rotten apples of the EVE community to go even further- and there will always be people who test the boundaries. If there are none set, well…let’s just say i think if CCP were to take a different stance on this, i guess EVE would have much more subscribers.
So no, i don’t believe EVE players are inherently better or worse people than the average MMO player- but i think both the game and CCP allow the “evil players” to be at their worst- and that is what’s getting noticed from the outside.
Hey, if it works for others, it might be helpful to me, as well. Unfortunately, i’m still recovering a bit from jetlag, so i haven’t played anything since our return from China. I can’t remember jetlag being so bad in the past, but this time, it really got me. Our son, as well. Anyways, i’d like to put some gaming goals for april in writing- i’m very eager to jump back into Elder Scrolls Online, sort out the website a bit and have a few thoughts about our guild i’d like to put in motion this month.
Elder Scrolls Online
First of all, i’m very glad that i chose to go the subscription route with this game. Because those cosmetic items, mounts and pets coming this month? I like them very much. Going with a subscription means i don’t have to keep a keen eye on my crowns and am free to spend them for fluff. And that’s without going for the assistants.
A few words on their pricing. Yes, they’re quite expensive, coming in at 5000 crowns each. But i actually like that for a few reasons. First of all, inventory management is part of the game, albeit an annoying one, the game was designed with us having to sort out mats we don’t need, connect to other players to sell them etc. The assistants are actually something that, while it doesn’t come close to being “pay-to-win”, they’re giving buyers a lot of convenience. I can’t imagine many players will spend that much real money on the assistants- so i view them more as being some kind of subscriber reward. And if a few players decide to spend those 30$ each, all the better for the game from a financial point of view.
Here’s what i’d like to achieve in april:
Nuria Solstrum, Templar
reach level 30 (28 at the moment, so yes, i’m aiming low)
craft some kind of set for her
Naria Leotra, Dragon Knight
Last time on guild evening, we decided to tackle a dungeon, the Banished Cells. We were four, but we lacked a real tank, so i decided i’d try and tank with my magicka templar. As you might imagine, this didn’t work out so well. We finished the dungeon, but it took quite a few wipes, most of them on bosses, and i wasn’t really able to hold the mobs attention- at all. So i decided i’d roll a tank, which is a sign on how much i like the guild- usually, i avoid being the tank at all costs- tanks have to lead and they have a huge responsibility for their group. Doing that with strangers, i would be screamed at very quickly. With our guild, i have no troubles- they don’t care if they die 10 or 100 times in a dungeon.
figure out a way to skill her as tank/dps, stamina-based, of course
reach level 15 to be able to go into dungeons and use two weapons
There are still three characters i’d like to build: a “cleric” type Templar that resembles a Paladin in terms of being able to take a hit as well as provide some healing, a leech healer Nightblade and perhaps even a dedicated healer. Don’t know if they’ll take of this month, but it might happen.
I’d also like to visit other games at least one or two times this month. Black Desert Online is all the rage these months, and i do want to go out and explore more of its world and features. The Secret World remains my favourite game i never seem to play- i’d love to see all it has to offer, but somehow, i never really play it.
We’re still doing fine, thank you. Our growth came a bit to a stop, mainly because we didn’t advertise much and the new recruits seem to have lost interest either in the game or the community. At least they’re not vocal in our forums. So we might have to say goodbye to some of them. But that’s really just par for the course- when creating a guild, you’ll always have people losing interest in the game or the guild; it’s very important to keep sorting them out if your goal is to build a small, tight-knit community.
With the guild, i’d like to:
have a guild meeting
tackle another dungeon or two
have a social event (i’d like to do a crafter’s market but i’m still figuring out the best way to do it)
see if we can decide for a short-term and middle-term course in terms of growth and our homepage
Wait, what? Yes, while being in China my thoughts ventured out into thinking about whether Enjin does meet our needs. It’s a similar thought process i had with my old blog- the longer we stay with Enjin, the harder it will be to move. And it’s not like it looks very good- the design seems a bit outdated and it’s not responsive- you’ll get the “normal” website when visiting from smartphone/tablet. Also, it comes in at 8$ per month. Compare that to the 0.50€ per month to get a domain.
And then there’s Discord, where i finally understood what it is thanks to a post from Belghast on gamer social media. It’s a free voice chat app with added text chat and mobile as well as desktop apps. I can totally see a homepage working on the basis of wordpress, a forum plugin and Discord working much better for us- especially in terms of recruiting players. It could look better and provide more opportunities to socialize and put us on display on our homepage.
The blog and Meta
There’s a few things i still need to work out here- i think, this time i’ve settled for a theme- but i’d like to make use of its “magazine home page” as well as add a menu to seperate MMO and real life/other media stuff a bit more. I’d also like to give out the opportunity for feed-subscribers as well as normal readers here to make a choice of what they’re interested in. I really don’t think everyone who’s reading my MMO ramblings is really interested in what i watch or the latest China pictures. Speaking of which, i need to draft these posts i planned to write about it quickly, before i forget half the things that happened there and impressions blur a bit.
Again, thanks to Belghast, i’d like to make some effort into going to Anook. I like the idea of a social network for gamers, especially as i’m making more and more connections with other bloggers and players. Discord is another thing. Well, i’ve added both contact information to the group up page, so feel free to add me to your friendslist or some such (really need to take a better look at Anook).
And i’d like to up my commenting on other blogs.
Final words: i was really surprised by the positive reaction on yesterday’s post. Thanks to all of you for your encouragement, kind words and well…being generally simply nice people!
Have i mentioned how much i like the Global Chat column on Massively Overpowered? I think it was the first one that started featuring blog posts of “regular people bloggers” on the more respected sites relating to our genre. Liore did something like that on mmorpg.com a while back, but i think that this column was discontinued- it’s hard to tell with mmorpg.com’s way of organizing their content. Then there were Murph and Belghast, doing their thing on MMOGames.com, but i think that one was discontinued, as well.
Massively Overpowered, MMOGames.com and MMORPG.com- what do they have in common? They’re more or less branding themselves as “professional bloggers”, if you will. Their staff gets paid (i think) for their posts and they have a big audience. The strengths and weaknesses of each one of these sites can very well be a post on its own (one i started to draft several times already).
In short i would say MMOGames.com has the most potential of the three and has taken several great bloggers in, but its informational structure simply isn’t quite there yet. Still, the site reminds me of reasons i used to really love Massively in 2010/2011: its’ authors are bloggers who love their games and are quite stable in their selection of MMORPG they play. With a little more continuity and a better structure/home page and less crappy games on their sidebar, this site could be great.
MMORPG.com is a mess- the site looks outdated, i can see no structure in their content and navigation whatsoever. It’s even hard to discern which games they cover, as they have adopted RPGs along with multiplayer games. While i do like some of their authors and commentors, this site needs a do-over badly. They promised being close to launching a new layout when Massively closed last year- possibly as a way of trying to catch some of that audience, but it still hasn’t happened.
As for Massively Overpowered, it’s the most professional of the three. The layout (despite being at least based on a free WordPress template) is clear and functional, as is the navigational and informational structure. The authors know how to write and, at least in my opinion, have a very professional stance. However, i feel it has developed to a news site more than a “blogger site”. Even their game-specific columns are oftentimes more about news relating to the games than, well, describing gameplay experience, the lore or whathaveyou (exceptions being Anatoli’s old Guild Wars 2 column and the new Black Desert column by Matt Daniel).
Are bloggers full of themselves?
All the more happy i am when Massively Overpowered does something “bloggy”, like featuring content of “regular people bloggers”, highlighting podcasts or something similar. I am, of course, happy if/when i or someone else i’m close with gets a mention there, but i’ve read some interesting comments in the last two i was mentioned in, as well.
It must have been the topics at hand (future of MMORPGs and Black Desert impressions earlier), with the latter seemingly counter to popular opinion- the quotes, despite being well-chosen, made the impressions seem worse than they were- so we got a lot of “how dare these bloggers have a different opinion than i?” comments and the former with being positive outlooks on the MMORPG genre as a whole or Daybreaks…stuff…in particular, where we got the “why are bloggers perceived as special?” and “why do they think they’re special?”-treatment.
Well, i’m kind of new in this whole thing, not very deeply connected to others from the blogosphere and not a popular blog by far, especially here on the new site, so these comments still kind of get to me- no, i don’t think i’m special or my opinion matters more than that of, say, a commentor on Massively Overpowered or on a forum or reddit. I’m simply adding one layer of personal enjoyment and community building on something i enjoy without that part. And i’m pretty sure that’s more or less what every one of them does- adding something, in this case writing, to their hobby.
Why i love reading your MMORPG blog
MMORPGs can be played in many different ways- maybe you enjoy dungeon runs, or roleplaying, or questing. Maybe you care about the lore, the quest-givers, your guild, pvp, gear or costumes. Maybe your thing is the economy, crafting or even horse-breeding. Whatever it is that gives you the most enjoyment in these games, chances are that it’s not exactly the same thing that i enjoy most. But maybe i’ll like to read about it or try dabbling in it myself to see if i might enjoy it. Or you’ll give some inspiration regarding ideas i could use in our small guild.
Is the MMO genre dead? Could Daybreaks hickups result in something good for Everquest 2? Is that game/ingame shop/game “pay to win”? Is pay-to-win even possible? I don’t know, but i sure have an opinion on most of these topics. Some Oftentimes it’s not a well-founded or 100% thought through opinion, so i love reading what other people think, especially when it’s about games of minor interest to me.
Speaking of games, some of you are seducers, writing great posts about games i might have crossed off my list or didn’t have on my radar, and your excitement is contagious. Maybe i’ll send you a bill for the next purchase 😉 But you could be playing a game i love to read about or i didn’t keep in touch with and i’m wondering what impact some new feature/expansion/content has on players who stuck with that game and you’ll offer some insight. It’s really not about the game someone’s playing, as they’re in the same genre anyway and some stuff that works in, say, World of Warcraft, might be transferrable to a similar experience in Black Desert, for instance.
As i’ve said, i’m not deeply connected. Sometimes i think that’s my fault, for not being able to put personality/character in writing, sometimes i think it could be a location/time-zone/server location-issue. But i can see connections all over- people commenting on each others’ blogs, ping-ponging blogging topics, creating guilds, organizing blogging events and so on. And i’ve also made a few connections via blogging that i do value very much.
So that’s why i love reading your MMORPG blog and hope you enjoy writing it as much as i do reading it.
And i’d like to point you to my Blogroll– i’m not sure if i’ll stay with this one, but it is the one i like the most right now because i can include as much as i want. It might still need some configuration, but this is just too good a moment to let it pass.
Yesterday we’ve returned from our annual trip to China. This year was good for a lot of reasons: everybody was doing quite ok, nobody was in hospital and we have actually done some interesting things like seeing a “Venice-like” village, visiting a bamboo forest, taking a boat trip on the West Lake, Hangzhou and went to Shanghai for a night. The downsides were the air quality- Hangzhou is preparing for the G20 summit that happens in september and i think they’re quite literally rebuilding the whole city for that event, so there were a lot- and i do mean a lot- construction sites that, aided the usual traffic chaos in terms of dusty air. But that was all, really- everything else was great.
In fact, it was so interesting that i decided to do more than one post on the subject- but i wanted to get something quick out while recovering from the jetlag. As an appetizer, here are a few pictures i took while being in China. I’ll get to everything in more detail soon ™.
When Ironweakness and i decided to pick our Dual Wielding series back up, we also decided for two topics, to be published on a monthly basis. The last one has been about Negativity in the MMORPG community and this one was to be an outlook on the genre. We figured it might be a good time for that post, so shortly after the release of Black Desert Online and The Division (as well as the Thieves Guild DLC). Little did we know what was bound to happen last friday- namely the cancellation of Everquest Next and layoffs at Carbine. Since these news broke, the question whether the MMORPG genre is dead has been tackled countless times, by bloggers as well as MMORPG-related Outlets and even general gaming sites.
I’d like to be brief here, because this post is about looking ahead, not at the past. I’d like to say, however, that both news didn’t come as much of a surprise, i guess, to people who were watching these games closely. We haven’t heard anything from EQ Next since what seems like forever, Landmark hasn’t seen significant developement during that time, either, and Wildstar clearly failed to get much attention, players and most of all money following the shift to free-to-play. Here’s what i think both of these news have in common and give a little hint at what’s coming next: the WoW days are finally behind us, and i do think this is a great thing.
Not in Azeroth anymore
Wildstar is basically “WoW in space”, and that’s not just relating to the art style. Sure, it has more features, but the whole thing is still very close to the WoW generation of MMORPGs. Everquest Next, as it was envisioned, was to be an evolution of the same thing- it still took the WoW-style MMORPG as a blueprint for what they thought should be improved in the genre- and furthermore, they took a Triple-A approach to that whole thing.
The MMORPG genre chased WoW numbers for 12 years now and threw evergrowing budget at their games. The idea was, of course, to build something “mainstream” enough to make the success of World of Warcraft repeat itself. While it was clear quite early on that simply copying World of Warcraft wasn’t enough, the thought that it might only take a few iterations on the concept lingered in the newer games of the genre.
All the while one thing has been mentioned but didn’t find consideration in game design: WoW was also that big of a success because the basic feature of MMORPGs- laying with hundreds/thousands of other players- was quite new at that time. That feature alone was enough to inspire awe in players. But with years gone by, contacting other people through the web has become normal- and we, the players, found ourselves isolated more and more, choosing to play with friends or people we already knew instead of with strangers from the web.
We all know now that throwing money after that problem doesn’t work, either. And we’ll be better off for it going forward.
Playing alone together still is interesting and unique enough, but one has to see there still are technical limitations to what developers can do if they design a game around thousands of players playing at the same time- gameplay-wise, few if any MMORPGs are very compelling and i know for a fact that on the one general gaming site i read (Rock Paper Shotgun, you should, too!), players and authors alike pity MMORPG players because of the games’ repetetive, grindy and boring gameplay. So it seems unlikely that the normal, persistent, shared world MMORPG would be able to gather the masses for quite some time. Investing here really was and is throwing good money after bad. But designers came up with a solution.
There’s my MMO in your shooter
The Crew, Destiny and The Division are three games where you’ll find MMO elements as well as a semi-persistent world combined with a single player or simple multiplayer game. These games incorporate most of the “mainstream” elements of MMORPGs while offering a different kind of gameplay. Think about it: there are hubs where you see other players (the “alone together” part of open world MMORPG play), you can also join a few friends and tackle content together (similar to going into MMOs with your friends or doing some guild activities) and even grouping up with random players (just as you’d do with Dungeon Finders and the like). These games are basically an essence of what MMORPGs have become, but they shed a few shackles that put them in gameplay or feature-constraints.
When you think about it- maybe ArenaNet did it the wrong way around- releasing the hub-centric semi-MMO Guild Wars in a time when persistent, shared worlds were popular and then releasing Guild Wars 2 in a time where, maybe, stronger gameplay and storytelling would have won them the day.
There’s also Elite Dangerous and the upcoming Shroud of the Avatar, Shards Online and all these survival games where you can rent/create your own server where it’s possible to play the same game either totally alone, with friends or in a shared environment. While these are a different sort of game than the titles i mentioned earlier, they all give the option to scale the “Massively” part to comfort.
We have only seen early entries here and i think this is where you’d need to look in the future if Triple-A MMO-ish design is what you’re looking for. We should all be happy, because the “mainstream” will go in that direction and there will be huge hits releasing in that “semi MMO” genre.
Welcome back into my MMO, RPG!
On the other site of the fence we have “classic” MMORPGs- but fans of persistent, virtual, shared worlds can be happy about the demise of the triple-A MMORPG, as well, because now, the masses are chased elsewhere. We’ll be getting more niche products more fitting to our respective playstyles- think about Shroud of the Avatar, Shards Online, Camelot Unchained, the Repopulation, Crowfall and others. They mark the return of the classical western MMORPG. I have to cite something here, because i think this is spot-on.
The very problem was using AAAs as a measure of stability, success, and fun. AAAs broke us. Why be sad when they pack up their tents and move on? Clearly the core MMO playerbase will still be catered to; it’ll just look more like the early 2000s than like 2012.
– Bree Royce, Massively Overpowered
We’ll continue to get new MMORPGs, and if the current crop doesn’t meet your preferences, chances are the next wave will, because for once, after 10 years, we’ll be getting games that do something new or concentrate on a particular part that made MMORPGs great in the first place. Then again, if you want Triple-A MMORPGs, they are still going to come, but from the east instead of the west. And, to be frank, they always have. I think Lineage might just be the MMORPG that’s “really” the most successful- released in 1997, i think, it’s still the best earner for NC Soft in Korea. Black Desert Online shows how the next iteration of a shared, persistent, “alone together” world looks like, there’ll probably be others.
As you can see, i’m really looking forward to future developements in the genre- all in all, it seems to me that it has matured and evolved into more specialized subgenres- we have MOBAs, the semi-MMOs like Destiny, we have Survival games and we have the classic MMORPG, and i probably missed something along the way. All these subgenres will provide players with different parts of what makes MMOs great, with different amounts of “massively” in their multiplayer options. The classic MMORPG will return to its genre-bending roots while also being specialized.
In the coming years, we’ll be better off and happier with what’s out there. If we like the current crop (as i do- i love Elder Scrolls Online), we’ll be happy to, again, stay with the titles we love for the longer term instead of always wanting to check out the new shiny. If we were unhappy, the next generation will provide more specialized experiences. And if we liked parts of what MMORPGs offered as a whole but disliked other parts, there will be games offering that, as well.
I wanted to touch on more than that- the shift in business model (buy-to-play is becoming the norm) and design (MMORPGs can’t afford putting the fun behind a grindwall anymore), but i’ve gone on rambling long enough (and really need to pack). I might get on these other topics another time, but in essence, i view both of these as getting better now, as well.
We’re not in our last moments here, we’re entering a new era in our genre and should be excited for it!
On tuesday, we’ll go to Hangzhou, China. It’s the home town of my wife, so it’s a family visit more than a travel occasion. While i am not a big-city-type and it’s quite hard for me to be there in summer because of the temperature and humidity, i’m really looking forward to go.
In germany, we have no family. When my mom died in 2011, that was my family. In China, we have lots and lots of family. My father-in-law has three brothers and his father is 90 and it’s a joy to be around him (he laughs a lot) while my mother-in-law has two sisters and both her parents are also still alive. Then there are my wife’s cousins and their children, friends of the family and so on. If we were to put them all in the same room, it would easily amount to 30 people. We can’t, because her parents also divorced, so it’s basically divided in two parts.
Our chinese family is really easy to be with. Family can be very needy and quite complicated, but i’ve never felt that way in china. I have felt some pressure last year, when we were with a cousin’s family for three weeks and they were trying to be nice and didn’t want me to go out by myself. That lead to three weeks of company for a person like me who needs to be alone to recharge batteries. It was stressful. And also, quite far away. We had to ride the bus for an hour to reach the rest of the family. So this time, we’re back into an appartement hotel, we’ll have privacy and we’ll be very close to large parts of the family.
It’s also great for our son, of course, because he gets to see how family life should be. His grandmother is also doing ok now and isn’t in hospital anymore (she was the last time we were there), so he and she will get to spend some quality time together, which is great.
And our son can hear more chinese and will hopefully begin speaking it, as well. He understands everything, but to him, chinese is “english” and german is “correct”. And maybe, i can improve my chinese at least a little bit.
Now there’s a reason to love China. The food is so diverse and so good that it alone would be reason enough for me to go. I really can’t tell you how good it is. I guess in the US, you are probably lucky enough to have more authentic chinese restaurants, but here in germany, there aren’t many. Authentic, that is. Chinese restaurants, there are a lot. But they serve germanized chinese food.
I like almost everything, although sometimes, a little bit of caution is advised to at least ask what kind of meat something is. I’m not very eager to eat cow stomach, chicken feet or something like that, but i’ll try it nonetheless. Still, it’s difficult to share favourites, but one thing you can make almost everywhere are Jiao-Zi.
Food experience is made even greater with the fact that we are able to eat in almost every conceivable way- at home (all parts of the family have a different way of cooking and eating), in small, “normal” restaurants that resemble cantinas more than what we’re used to see as restaurants (they’re great and i often like the food here more than in the more expensive restaurants), even chains or more expensive restaurants up to foreign food (japanese, korean etc.)
I’m not a religious person. However, i feel close to buddhism, albeit in a quite shallow way, as i haven’t made the effort yet to really dive deeper here. Belief is all about world-view, in my opinion. Everyone should follow the faith he or she deems right and, well…believes in. While i know the basic “philosophy” of buddhism and find it strangely close to my own world-view, i haven’t really made a connection to the religious part. In Hangzhou, there are a few buddhist temples, of course, but in the end, Jingci is the one i prefer to visit- and i’m making a point in visiting it each year.
Jingci is more than that, though. It’s positioned right besides the West Lake, a tourist attraction in a city counting 6 million people. The city is loud and alive, in summer it’s hot and humid. There are many, many people in chinese cities and the West Lake area in particular, because the tourists go there. And then, enter Jingci. This temple is not a tourist attraction- there are a few dozen people, but you’ll have plenty of room. It’s peaceful and quiet- to be honest, it’s the most calm place i’ve found in the city yet, with the exception of a particular coffee shop.
Despite me really not being a city person, i do like what they have to offer- all the more in China, because, while the cities in China are not particularly diverse in their architecture, they aren’t the homogenic cities we know; in germany, there are all these chains in the city- you mostly know what kinds of shops there are in a city. While China has, of course, its own chains, i don’t know them very well yet. There’s a supermarket chain i deem “trustworthy” and that’s it. There are more, of course- restaurant chains i don’t recognize and there is McDonald’s and KFC, sometimes Starbucks. They are vastly outnumbered by all the small shops, restaurants, supermarkets. Mom-and-pop shops are still a thing in Hangzhou.
Another reason the city feels so alive is that the people are actually quite positive- you can see they’re expecting their financial and personal situation to improve in the coming years, something that is not as apparent in germany.
Taking a break
No PC, no active work, no MMO gaming for two weeks. Well, “no PC” isn’t entirely correct, of course we’ll take a notebook. But it’s different. In these last years, it have always been trips to China where i am able to take a step back and think about the life i’m living vs. the life i’d like to live. What kind of person am i? How can i change a few things up professionally? For once, there’s not always something to do- and it’s helped by the fact that we’re not alone in looking after our son. Now, we stay with him all the time, but it’s still a great relief knowing that other people have an eye on him while we’re visiting relatives.
So, if you don’t hear anything from me after tomorrow in the coming two weeks, it’s because i’m enjoying my time taking a breather.