/Saved: Black Desert, Cash shops, thinking in MMOs and goodbyes

There’s a lot to share this week, as we can take a closer look at Black Desert Online and The Division. There are also some opinion pieces on cash shops in general or Black Desert’s offerings in particular. There’s talk about unnecessary game systems as well as thinking in MMORPGs- and a goodbye-post, as well.

General Chat

Did MMORPGs make their players think more in their earlier incarnations? That’s a discussion i followed when it was started- at least in my Feedly, by Bhaguss, who feels that things like “local knowledge” and combat behaviour are made too easy or are missing in modern MMOs. There is a polite answer by Jeromai, who is of the opinion that games still require putting thought into it and that this is where “skill” comes from. He’s writing that it takes time and the will from the part of the players to put this thought in and that you could put thought into combat even in action combat games before/after a fight. I guess this is where Telwyn’s post comes in, stating that in faster combat, thoughts have to be made up faster, as well, and this would put a gap between players. Telwyn therefore prefers slower combat titles. My opinion in short form: i think “local knowledge” is still there, in games like Elder Scrolls and Black Desert, and while i do prefer slower combat, right now i don’t have any hotbar-combat-MMOs in my rotation- but i think ESO, for instance, has a very good combat pace to also make thought possible in fights. I do agree, however, that there are MMOs where combat feels…well, like a time-waster, actually. I could name one hotbar-combat-game and one action-combat-game where i find the combat to be utterly boring- but i won’t.

Sometimes i save up posts much later than they were written- i don’t know why, but Roger Edwards “farewell” to Lord of the Rings Online slipped into this week. I find it sad, actually, when a game you used to play and like suddenly- or slowly- changes in ways you don’t approve or maybe it’s not only the game that changed but you, as well. In the end it doesn’t matter, saying goodbye has to be tough. On the other hand it can also be liberating- this time last year, i was following news from a lot of games- from Lotro to Rift, Wildstar and WoW over to ArcheAge, FF14 and SWTOR. And everytime there was a new patch i was tempted to join back in. This year, not so much. I’ve pretty much closed the files on all of them and, while i’m still not a “one MMO” type of player and will probably never be one- i feel i can handle the current roster.

I followed Aywren’s journey to becoming a mentor in FF14. I think she was aiming to become a mentor from the moment the program was announced. It’s basically a program where experienced players help newbies out. Most people who opt into such a program do so because they love the game, they love the community and they want to “give something back”. I saw this in Fallen Earth, where a chat channel is maintained just for helping new players out. As with many things, becoming a mentor in FF14 is a huge time-sink (it’s a subscription game, after all), but luckily, for Aywren, there was a way to become mentor by way of crafting instead of doing a few hundred dungeon runs. So she went that route- only to find out that she couldn’t mentor, after all, because she needs to do ALL THE DUNGEONS. Now i don’t know the inner workings here, but to me, that’s simply not right.

Meanwhile, Syp wrote about the AEGIS system in TSW’s Tokyo– well that and similar systems, and Rowan Blaze agrees. It seems so do many others, linked in the second post. I am not far enough into TSW to offer my opinion on that, specifically, but i have to say that it is the one thing i’d be very unhappy to have to go through when reaching Tokyo. Just like ESO’s “silver/gold campaigns” where you have to play the other factions’ content as well, this is something that makes me not wanting to reach that point in the game. I also dislike systems that are used for one expansion cycle only and replaced later on.

Cash shops, generally and in BDO

Liore has to be mentioned first with her great post on how she’s fed up with cash shops. And i totally agree- they’ve reached a point where they’re simply annoying, and it’s not only because the things that are monetized. For me, i’m getting tired of trying to figure out the stuff i “need” to buy. You can play SWTOR as a preferred player, buy a few unlocks and you’ll be pretty much free to enjoy the game without a subscription. Trying to figure out what it takes, though, is boring. When cash shops offer a lot of virtual goods, i find that i’m unlikely to browse through it all and buy something- i like them clean like Elder Scrolls Online’s shop is, for instance.

Weighing in on Black Desert’s cash shop, Ironweakness writes that instead of being angry at the prices for costumes in BDO, he’ll simply refrain from buying them. Isaari takes a look at how the playerbase plays down pay-to-win elements in BDO.

Black Desert Online

Here’s a nice guide on trading in Black Desert Online, written by Scopique on Levelcapped. It gives a basic idea on how all this stuff works.

http://www.levelcapped.com/2016/02/26/black-desert-online-interstate-commerce/

Syl takes a look at whether you should play BDO as a PvE-player. She thinks it’s worth it, mentioning that player killing gives huge karma penalties and that ganking should be a rare occurence.

Prettylittlesith puts away the Dark Side of the Force and shares her opinion on the Black Desert Online Beta.

The Division

Continuing from before, we still have a few impression pieces of The Division’s Open Beta, generally very positive in their nature, so i’ll give a simple list.

The Division Beta

Updated: The Division BETA Thoughts

Cheating on WoW: The Division Beta

What is grind?

I’ve read an opinion piece about some grind not being a bad thing on Tentonhammer and it made me think: first and foremost, the first example mentioned in the article- Wildstar’s early attunement process for raids – that’s not a grind, and if/when you became attuned, you haven’t accomplished anything- what you did was unlocking a game feature.

Locking game features behind “grind” or another lengthy process of doing stuff in game is not a good idea in a genre whose audience gets older fast. See, we might want to raid, and we want to do it as soon as possible- making us play 200 hours before allowing us to do what we deem fun is not good game design. “Being able to access raids” is not an ingame goal- “being ready to tackle raids” might be- and for the last one, it can take a couple of hours.

Black Desert Online will release in little more than a week- and i’ll be able to log in in a week’s time. “The Grind” seems to be something a portion of the playerbase is worried about- and that’s the part where i agree with the opinion piece linked above- “Grind” is not a thing that has me worried- see, if i’m having fun killing and skinning wolves, for example, i will at some point in my career kill 1000 of them to get the 100 wolf furs i need to make the beige blanket for that giant in the hill to gain reputation with him to be able to buy his recipe for a fast-growth-elixir. It can also provide a goal to aim for. Sure, sometimes the amount needed to achieve something seems to be high and can suck the fun out of a game, but in my experience, this is mostly because one of the following reasons:

  1. this is your current goal and the only one you follow. Therefore, it get’s highly repetetive and annoying
  2. all of the goals are achieved in a similar manner
  3. there are no other similar goals provided
Using ArcheAge screens here as i have none from BDO yet
These fields used to be planted by identical trees at some point- everyone who had a farming spot would grow them to achieve the same goal as their neighbour. (AA screens, as i have none from BDO yet)

I’ve found that, in general, the pacing of a game is a huge factor in determining my own enjoyment- i need to be able to take it slow and take in the world, or maybe even simply hang out; i need to be able and ramp things up and maybe run a group dungeon and so on. If a game offers one pace only- Wildstar would be one example for that, and Lotro & FF14 might be examples of the slow extreme- it gets boring quickly. Lotro is the one game i refer to as a “quest grinder”- there’s not much else to do than quest. It’s entirely possible that this is just my subjective way of looking at things in Lotro- but i’ve always felt this game is just a very long chain of quests. So if Black Desert doesn’t provide (much) quest xp, we know this is not really an issue because you can gain contribution points to spend on houses and the like. Likewise, simply grinding out mobs will give you “knowledge”. So, to me, it seems as if there’s something provided for different paces of gameplay. Without fast travel, i’m pretty sure exploration will also be a big part of the game, and then there’s crafting, trading, fishing and so on- all providing different gameplay mechanics and speeds.

MMOs nowadays also have to provide goals to set out for in different dimensions: i need to get something noteworthy done in 30 minutes, 2 hours, a day, a week, a month and if the designers are ambitious, even in a year. So maybe that giant could also take handkerchiefs made out of 2 wolf furs you could reasonably get by killing 20 wolves to raise reputation accordingly. Maybe a boat doesn’t have to be built at once, but by combining 4-5 parts that you can – or have to- create before assembling them to one. Here’s also where the usual mention of sandboxes not being for casuals comes from- what serves some players as a goal for a week, it serves others as a goal for a session. For instance, this week i’d like to finally finish off Grahtwood in Elder Scrolls Online- there are a few Skyshards and Delves left and i want to explore a place that was pointed out on a map i’ve found on a mob. This might take, all in all, one session of maybe 3-4 hours, and i’m sure someone would be able to do it in an hour. When each session gets shorter- maybe i’ll do only one skyshard and one delve in each, this could take even longer. But i can still achieve something in 30 minutes (one delve or one skyshard) and will feel as if i had accomplished something in that session. I really don’t care if it’ll take me a year to construct a boat- if i can work towards it in short sessions, as well.

If we're all doing the same anyway, there's no need for a game to be an MMO.
If we’re all doing the same anyway, there’s no need for a game to be an MMO.

I don’t really know how good or bad Black Desert does in this regard, but i do hope they had something like this in mind when creating the game, but since i’ve read somewhere that setting things up this way is basically MMORPG creation 101, i’m sure they did. Then again- why do so many games still get it wrong?

As a sidenote: i think both of these points are what makes me so happy with ESO right now- disregarding the inventory management minigame that takes away at least 15 minutes of each of my sessions, i can set a pace and goals for each session, hour and week (i don’t have the insight into the game for even longer term goals yet) that fits in my playstyle and current mood.

Dual Wielding: On Negativity

Dual Wielding: A series featuring two bloggers writing on one topic and answering the question, “If the pen is mightier than the sword, what happens when you dual wield?”

Make sure to check out Ironweakness’ take on the subject.

Personal note

Continuing with the Dual Wielding post series was one of my resolutions for 2016. So far, probably with the exception being the “budget” thing, i’ve been doing well. The budget, i will break, i know this already. But that’s not today’s topic- i’m really happy to do this thing again as it is a lot of fun to do.

Ironweakness and i decided to make this a monthly thing now, allowing for a more relaxed pace and maybe providing us with topics along the way. This time, we wanted to tackle Negativity in the MMORPG community.

Negativity is a thing

To be honest, we’re a bit late on the subject- i think it started with a post by Tobold called Hate Blogs. Tobold stated that he didn’t write much about MMORPGs anymore and also refrains from reading MMORPG blogs mostly because they’re very negative. Now, i don’t want to weigh in on every post on this subject, but since this one is the post that made me notice the subject, i’d like to point out two things about it.

First, i agree with Tobold insofar as that certain blogs surely are the way he describes: grumbling about new MMORPGs because we’re not in Britannia anymore- or complaining about other players, although i don’t read much of that. But i also have to disagree with the post because Tobold leaves the impression that most MMORPG blogs nowadays are like that. That is not the experience i’m having when browsing through my Feedly- i see lots and lots of people writing about the games they love.

There have been other entries around this topic, such as Bhagpuss’ description on why he’s more positive nowadays and doesn’t dwell on thinking about that “perfect MMO” that might or might not come in the future.

There have been more, of course, but those two are the ones that caught my attention- well, it’s been three, actually, as i also follow Syncaine.

The MMORPG subculture

A lot of what is happening with the community in regards to negativity reminds me of the developments in other subcultures where something is cool and edgy as long as it isn’t popular. When it becomes popular, you’ll have the veterans telling everyone who wants to hear it how they liked this thing before it was. And all the new stuff will only really copy the old in a bad way or be created without the “spirit and soul” of the original thing.

In MMORPGs, we have World of Warcraft that turned things around and made a subcultural genre popular. Of course the “cool kids” will tell everyone that before WoW, MMORPGs were actually good and different. The funny thing is: these games aren’t gone. If Ultima Online, Everquest and/or Dark Age of Camelot are better for your taste, they’re still there to be enjoyed, and they wouldn’t mind getting more players. Two of those are even subscription-only MMOs. Just like you can still listen to pre-Teen Spirit-Nirvana albums, you can also go and play DaoC.

The player base

 

Sometimes, i feel as if we, the players of MMORPGs, are the toughest gaming customers out there. We are very, very demanding and complain just about everything that doesn’t meet our increasingly high standards. We might also take offense on something and seem to be rejoicing in a game’s, a company’s or- even worse, a human’s failure (remember SWTOR in the early time, Trion/NCSoft, Smed, McQuaid).

We’re hard to please and very critical of just about everything. Of course the newer breed of MMORPGs, those who truly are an evolution of the genre (ESO, The Division), do everything in their power to avoid being categorized as an MMO. If they’d do, they’ll possibly have us as their customers- and while they want us to spend money on their product, they don’t want us going into their game with the expectations we have regarding MMORPGs.

Regarding the “normal player” in-game, i’ve found negative behaviour most often excused with the opinion that other players behave badly, as well. Things like “i have to run for this resource node or the other player will get to it first” or tagging mobs first. That one really bothers me, because frankly, you have a choice here. For that other guy you are the one rushing to get the resource node, you are the thief. Everytime one is doing something like that, another player with the same mindset is born.

The choice is yours to make

All of this doesn’t mean there’d be no room for criticism- there is. There is no need to put a positive spin on everything- that’s the marketing departement’s job. But there’s a difference in being disappointed by how ArcheAge turned out and wishing Trion bankrupcy- or Funcom, for some failed launch 15 years ago.

In-Game, it’s possible for every one of us to behave differently. Going for the same quest? Build a group. Going for the same resource? Take a step back. Share advice if “dumb” questions are asked in general chat.

And it’s the same thing with blogs, opinion, or comments- instead of focussing on all the shortcomings of the games in this genre and reading about them, thereby leading you to believe that your current game of choice is on a downward spiral, a buggy mess and generally a lackluster attempt at creating an MMO, we could go out and read forum posts, blogs or listen to podcasts created by people who love their respective game, the genre, the community. Because there’s many of them and they’re much more sustainable. MMORPGs aren’t easy games- sure, some of them might lose you as a player, but when they keep you, you’ll continue to find things you like while playing. You’ll also find a few things you dislike, but that’s nothing bad in itself.

The turning point

But here’s what i truly believe: we are the best community in the gaming world. We are the ones who made Massively Overpowered and Blizzardwatch possible and still fund both via Patreon, we are the ones chipping in for the wife and a child of an EVE player who died in San Bernadino as well as medical care for Matthew Rossi, one of Blizzardwatch’s authors.

We write a ton of blogs (take a look at Syp’s Blogroll while i set mine up) and are connected via Twitter, Anook and other means- we support and engage each others with projects such as the Newbie Blogger Initiative, Blaughust and so on.

It’s us who are also actively driving in-game communities like guilds, we provide events like Weatherstock in Lord of the Rings Online, we host radio stations like Radio Free Gaia. We create useful websites providing guides and character builds for our favourite games or fashion blogs for players who really dig cosmetic outfits in MMORPGs.

It’s in this genre that you’ll find tens of podcasts to listen to, both game-specific and general.

There’s one thing that hasn’t changed in those 20 years the genre as we know it exists- those who love it, or remember earlier times/games fondly, they almost always remember experiences with the community in a wider sense- a great guild, chatting with other players while waiting for a boat, the pre-Warhammer-blogging wave.

The MMORPG community is a very passionate one- sometimes, that passion turns a bit negative, but on the whole i’m of the opinion that the MMORPG community is a great one that makes me actually proud to be a part of it more often than not.