With many of us glued to our seats (or at least our homes) due to the impending end of the world that little sucker of a virus that surely won’t manage to do what bubonic plague, cholera and Nickelback couldn’t, Tales of the Aggronaut‘s Belghast, host of the annual blogging initiative known as Blaugust, had a great idea: push this year’s event forward to April so we all have something to do and to look forward to.
Of course it wouldn’t make much sense to still call it Blaugust, so we get…
The logo says it all, really. It’s a great idea, and of course I’ve signed up to participate again. Thanks for having us, Bel!
While the event’s premise is to post every day for a full month I don’t think I’ll aim quite that high though. I managed to do it in 2018, but it was pretty stressful at times and I’d rather write when I feel like it, not because I ‘have’ to do it. On the other hand, I have been a bit lazy of late, so I guess a little extra incentive won’t hurt.
If you’d like to participate or just know more about it, you can find everything you need here.
This badass-looking gal is Mesa Prime, my very first self-farmed and -built Prime frame.
Yep, I’m indeed back to Warframe. The release of ArcheAge Unchained in October pulled me away for a while, but a couple weeks ago I started to feel the urge for more action and a faster pace in my gaming diet again, so here we are.
I’m still playing ArcheAge though, as well as EVE Online. It seems like I’ve finally given up on finding The One Game to devote every bit of my gaming time to for long stretches, and I’m slowly starting to realize that that’s actually a good thing. I don’t miss out on quite so many great games that way, it keeps things fresh and prevents burning out on any one game (which happened to me more than once in the past).
I think I actually was relatively close to burning out on Warframe before I took that break, mainly because I’d hit a brick wall of difficulty that I seemingly couldn’t get past. Yet in the relatively short time I’ve been playing again I’ve progressed so much in so many ways that it’s kind of hard to fathom what kept me from doing so before.
Maybe the hiatus has helped me get a fresh perspective on things, because I changed my approach to play the game in two ways without really thinking about it.
One, I’m way less reluctant to spend my resources. For example, there are so many different mods in Warframe that you can’t possibly rank them all up to the maximum right away, so you have to prioritize. Whenever I have difficulties to make such a decision I often choose not to decide at all because I’m afraid I might regret it later. Hence I was playing with sub-par mods while having about 25k Endo lying around unused for quite a while, which obviously held me back power-wise. I’ve now spent a good chunk of that and things look vastly different.
Two, I use co-op matchmaking more often.
The first time I played with a group last year was a quite surreal experience. Those other players seemed to be playing a wholly different game than me. They were moving so fast and all mobs dropped dead instantly, before I even knew what was going on the UI informed me that the mission was done and three other players were already waiting for me at the extraction point. What the heck?
I very much like to play at my own pace, and I certainly don’t like the feeling of being carried, so I chose to play mainly solo from then on. Save for some exceptions the game’s much easier with a group though, and now that I’ve amped up my gear and have some more experience I can group up without feeling like the proverbial fifth wheel anymore. Well, sometimes anyway.
Which brings me back to Mesa Prime. Not long ago getting my hands on any kind of Prime equipment through normal gameplay seemed very unrealistic to me. The necessary blueprints for a Prime item – usually three for its sub-components and one for the finished thing – have to be farmed via the relic system, meaning that you have to repeatedly run relatively high level missions for at least one or two of them.
Not only is this much easier with a group, you can even choose between your own relic’s reward and that of any one of your teammates at the end of the mission, which drastically increases the chances of getting something good.
So after I’d run a bunch of those with the group finder’s help I took stock of my spoils and noticed that I already had three out of four blueprints for Mesa Prime. Of course I immediately consulted the game’s excellent wiki about from which relic to get the last one and concentrated my efforts on that. I ran out of the relic in question without getting the blueprint, but fortunately a couple of runs later another random team member used that same relic and hit the jackpot.
So I built the components, then the frame itself. I even coughed up some platinum to cut down the last step’s 72 hours-long waiting period because I couldn’t wait to try her out. And try her out I did.
Her gunslinger-like looks aren’t deceiving as she’s all about shooting at stuff with pistols, and she’s faster than her own shadow indeed.
Her passive increases her fire rate while dual-wielding two pistols or her reload speed when using a single one. Her active abilities all fit the theme one way or another as well.
Ability 1 sounds good for killing especially tanky monsters or bosses. In practice I don’t feel it’s necessary though, and I’d rather spend my energy for the other three.
2 and 3 are both really great, and I try to have them running at all times. A permanent damage boost and near-invincibility against ranged attacks? I’ll take it! To accommodate for that I have modded her for as much additional ability duration as I can. (Shooting Gallery’s description doesn’t actually say that the damage boost also applies to myself, but the wiki and several guides insist that it does)
As with most frames ability number 4 is basically her ‘ultimate’, and boy does it feel like one. When you activate Peacemaker she holsters all other weapons, pulls out her Regulator Prime pistols and basically becomes a stationary gun turret. It looks a bit like McCree’s Deadeye (an Overwatch hero’s ultimate), but instead of firing only one bullet at each target you can hold down the left mouse button and spew an endless stream of lead.
No need to reload, no need to cool off, she just keeps on shooting as long as there’s stuff to hit and her energy doesn’t run out. She mows down everything in sight in no time though, so I never ran into that problem until now.
Although she uses her Regulator pistols only in conjunction with Peacemaker they are a distinct weapon that can (and should) be modded independently, which is where some of my excess Endo went.
She’s really fun to play and also quite strong. When I feel dishing out lots of damage at range would be beneficial for a specific mission I know which frame I’ll choose from now on.
So that’s where I’m at right now. There’s so much to do in Warframe and so many different ways to play, it’s astounding. I’ll take my time and just enjoy the ride though.
That being said, we’ll have a week and a half off starting next Monday and would have made a trip to Iceland, had COVID-19 not drastically changed our (and everyone else’s) plans. So I see a lot of additional time for playing games on the horizon.
Last week I made the case that it’s absolutely possible to include open PvP in an MMORPG without it necessarily becoming a paradise for the wolves and a nightmare for the sheep.
Today I’d like to follow up with the reason to include it in the first place. Why should a game allow players to attack one another without both parties’ consent when it just could, you know, not allow it instead?
When I look back upon 35 years of playing video games my personal answer to that is quite clear: the most elaborate quest, the trickiest of puzzles, the most complicated boss-mechanic – none of this could ever be as unpredictable, exciting and memorable as interactions between human beings in an open, unscripted environment.
Note that I said interactions, not combat. In fact some of the memories I’ll share with you today don’t involve players killing each other at all, or at the very least not out of malice. Let’s face it though, at their heart most MMORPGs are mainly about combat. Even with those that have great housing, gathering, crafting, all that kind of stuff, I’d wager that the majority of players spend at least 80% of their time fighting something or someone (travel time excluded). It’s no surprise, then, that in order to let players interact in non-cooperative ways combat comes to mind rather naturally.
Anyway, here they come, my fond memories of MMORP-gaming moments made possible by open PvP rulesets.
Not only was Ultima Online my first MMORPG, it was also the first (and last) time I joined a roleplay-focused guild. We were the Guard of Yew, tasked with protecting the eponymous little town. The first RP-event I was part of was centered around a guy who’d done something bad and thus had to be hunted. Somehow I was the one who found and caught up to him. So what did I do to make sure he didn’t escape? Well, I gave him a good walloping with my mace of course. He didn’t wear any armor though and dropped dead from the second hit.
It was then explained to me that I wasn’t supposed to do that. Instead I should have acted out the process of catching him with emotes. Oopsie…
Fortunately nobody was mad at me, actually we all had quite a laugh about it. Someone even made a comment along the lines of that they now knew whom to call whenever real bad guys show up.
Another time I was standing around in one of the game’s cities when I got an on-screen message that someone had just stolen an item from me. When I looked back to my avatar I noticed a player running away from my position whom I hadn’t noticed before, so I figured it must be the dirty thief. I gave chase, intent to teach the guy some manners. Only that when I tried to hit him I found my character angrily shaking his fists instead – for it was my axe that he’d stolen!
Dumbfounded, I stopped running after him and just stood there for a moment, watching him sprint out of sight, probably off into the sunset with his shiny new axe. Then I started laughing and couldn’t stop for quite some time. The axe wasn’t overly valuable anyway, and I found imagining someone steal such a huge hunk of metal from me, right out of my hands no less, just hilarious.
Many years later I was playing ArcheAge Unchained, minding my business in Two Crowns, our family’s eternally peaceful home region, when a Haranyan player crossed my path. He wasn’t running or trying to hide, he seemed to be strolling about without a care in the world. This was strange because only residents of the respective continent are safe in these regions. Enemies of the state, in our case Haranyans and pirates, can be attacked at any time (and only then fight back). Either he didn’t know that or he didn’t care. Anyway, I don’t have the habit of killing players of much lower level than myself, but I knew that if he kept prancing around in the open like that someone else would do so sooner rather than later.
I didn’t assume that he’d bothered to learn the Nuian language before coming here, so I couldn’t warn him verbally. Instead I fired one shot at him, which took about a third of his health, and then ran a bit back and forth to indicate that he should get a move on. He just stood there, obviously not quite knowing what to do. Then…he actually fired a couple of shots back at me!
Due to level- and gear-disparity I took next to no damage, but I somehow felt that he hadn’t gotten the message. I fired another two quick shots, taking his health down to almost nothing, and resumed to just stare at him. Then he spawned his mount and ran away full speed ahead.
I don’t know what became of him, but I hope he learned the lessons that a) when you visit the enemy continent you’ll want to be a bit more stealthy about it, and b) not every player will outright kill you when given the chance.
One time our daily Hiram-raid’s leader sneakily opened a portal to Hellswamp instead of our next quest-destination. Before anyone had even noticed I, along with half the raid, had already jumped through and was quite puzzled by our new surroundings. As it turned out some of our leader’s guildies had been transporting trade packs during war and were now under attack by a small group of Haranyans.
He asked us to follow him and help his mates, which we did. Some players were a bit miffed by being utilized like that (because clearly no one’s got time for their dailies taking five minutes longer than usual, amirite?), but it seemed to me that the majority was quite happy about the diversion.
I wish I could have seen the Haranyan player’s faces. There were about half a dozen of them, and only two or three defenders, when all of a sudden our raid of at least fourty came crashing over the wannabe tradepack-thieves like a tidal wave.
Once the last farm wagon was safe we finished our dailies, but I for one would gladly interrupt or outright cancel such mundane tasks for rescue missions like this one at any time.
Today’s final example is about having ‘bad guys’ get a taste of their own medicine.
Merl and I were farming mobs for their coinpurses in Western Hiram Mountains. We deliberately did so while the region was at war to get the bonus to loot drop chances. Fortunately I’m always trying to be aware of my surroundings in situations like these because I noticed two red players advance on us just in time to brace for the attack. Their intentions were very clear, so I just called “Reds, reds!!” on Teamspeak and immediately opened fire on the one who was already in range.
Everything happened so fast, I have no idea which classes they were playing and how high their gearscores were, but since they’d decided to attack us they’d obviously liked their chances. They were mistaken. We killed them both, with the two of us still standing. I feel no shame in admitting that it felt very good. They didn’t come back and try again either, so I guess we made our point.
To be fair though, I put the term ‘bad guys’ in quotations for a reason, because I don’t really feel that way. As far as I’m concerned players of the opposing factions are fair game when a region is at war. You even get honor for those kills, so it’s not only tolerated, but actually intended gameplay. Hence I don’t blame those two players for attacking us. That doesn’t mean that it wasn’t extremely satisfying to kill them though.
I could tell you about plenty more cool experiences I’ve had in games with open-PvP rulesets – some I’ve already talked about in the past, like this one in EVE for example – but I think these are enough to showcase the kind of exciting events I’m talking about when I say that allowing aggressive interactions between players adds value to the overall MMORPG-gameplay. For me at least.
There’s been a lot of fuss about Amazon’s New World lately, specifically regarding the quite radical changes to its PvP-design. Originally planned as a free-for-all open PvP title, players will now be able to fight each other in “opt-in faction conflict and territory wars” only…or will they?
What bugs me personally about the ensuing discussions – if we can actually call them that, quite often it’s more like shouting and screaming at one another – is that the vast majority of players seems to be rooted firmly in one of two extremist camps, with absolutely no room for some middle ground.
Camp number one is mostly comprised of the hardcore PvP folks who wanted their big budget FFA-slugfest so bad. The gankers and griefers, as it were. Look, I am a fan of PvP and really hate it when all PvPers are painted with the same brush, but I’m not blind or stupid and know full well that this kind of player exists. Their dream-MMORPG would be all but unplayable for everybody else. History has proven as much.
The other camp is home to people who are like “If a game has any kind of non-consensual PvP I’m not touching it, period. Don’t wanna know anything about it, don’t care, lalala, I’m not listening!”.
Both camps seem to be totally convinced that finding a middle ground can’t, or worse, shouldn’t be done. Well, I beg to differ.
In my opinion there are some MMORPGs out there that manage to not only provide open PvP for those who like it, but also give incentives for and meaning to said PvP without actually forcing anyone to participate in it. Is any of those games perfect? No, because nothing ever is, but they prove that designing good and meaningful PvP can be done without the game in question automatically becoming a “gankbox”. I hate that term, by the way, ever since camp number two has decided to throw it around like candy whenever an upcoming game plans to have any kind of open PvP.
I’ll use ArcheAge as an example here because – again, in my opinion – its PvP aspects and how those are integrated into the game’s design as a whole are pretty well thought out. As a consequence there’s something here for everyone, and no one has to do stuff they don’t like, despite the different game systems’ various interdependencies.
First of all, the game’s population is divided into two warring factions, with the option to switch to a third – the dastardly pirates – later on if you so desire. The two main factions each have their own home continent, separated by the sea. As I’ve talked about before a couple of regions constantly cycle through states of peace, conflict and war; everywhere else on your native land you’re absolutely safe all the time.
Our little family empire is located in Two Crowns, for example, which means that when we’re tending our crops, sleeping in our beds or doing whatever we can be totally relaxed, knowing that no harm can come to us.
When you do venture into a contested region – which you technically need to do only once for the quests there – you can always wait until it’s at peace. Granted, doing all the quests that way might take a while, but it’s possible if you want to avoid PvP at all cost.
Why go there at any other time at all then, or even place your house and farms there?
For one, since living in constant danger obviously isn’t for everyone those regions aren’t as crowded, and farmland is much less sought after. If you wanted a big chunk of land for yourself or your whole family early on your chances would have been much better there than anywhere else.
Said land can also be quite lucrative. If your cheese has aged on a farm in Hellswamp or Sanddeep, for example, it sells for a considerably higher price than cheese from Two Crowns or Dewstone. Since gold is extremely important and always scarce in ArcheAge (much more so than in most other MMORPGs I’ve played) that’s nothing to sneeze at.
Another incentive might be gaining honor. Honor is a very important currency, mostly for gear upgrading, and you gain it in big chunks for recurring events that are either centered around PvP or at least take place in contested regions, making PvP a possibility. Honor is also gained by killing players of the other factions during the highest level of conflict or war.
At the heart of all this is one design principle that’s often talked about, but rarely executed this well: risk versus reward.
Pretty much everything that offers big (or bigger) rewards in ArcheAge involves taking a higher risk. You don’t have to take any of those risks if you don’t want to, but if you do and it works out as planned you’re rewarded accordingly.
Another good example of that is the acquisition of Onyx Archeum Essences. That’s a crafting material needed for almost all kinds of advanced products. No matter what your personal playstyle and goals are, you’ll most assuredly need a couple of these at some point.
The only way to “make” them is to buy a special kind of trade pack on one of the main continents and sell it on another. So you shell out 26 gold, strap the heavy pack on your back, and then what?
Well, you can board your clipper (or vessel of choice) and set sail. The catch is that the sea is always at war, so should you encounter other players chances are they’ll try to…umm…relieve you of your burden. Nevertheless this is my method of choice, and I have yet to lose a pack in Unchained. I lost one once or twice in the original game though.
Alternatively you can wait for the NPC-ferry to arrive, pay another five gold for a ticket, take a seat and just enjoy the ride. That ticket makes you immune to being attacked as long as you stay on the ship, so this is a risk-free variant that’s more expensive and takes longer in return.
Option number three is to just buy the essences from other players on the market. Fast and risk-free, but obviously the most expensive way to get them.
There are many more examples for risk vs reward-based choices players can make. Fish caught in the open sea is more valuable and it’s also way more labor-efficient than fishing in a lake; delivering trade packs to a contested region during war yields a bonus; mobs in all contested regions drop more loot during war; honor-bought lunagems (gear upgrades) have lower stats than the crafted versions, but are waaay less expensive.
Remember, you don’t have to ever choose the riskier option. You might progress more slowly towards whatever goal you’re pursuing, yes, but you’ll get there eventually without ever giving other players the chance to attack you without your consent.
Me? Above all I love to have that choice, and which path I take may well vary from one day to the next, depending on my mood. More often than not I’ll choose the high-risk, high-reward option though, not because I love to gank or get ganked but because it keeps the gameplay exciting and fun for me. I’d like to give you some examples of such exciting situations I’ve found myself in, but this is already getting long, so I’ll save those for another time.
Of course, as with any game out there, different people say different things about ArcheAge. Some call it a gankbox (bleh) while others claim its PvP is meaningless, nonexistent or both. As far as I’m concerned those people seem to be playing a different game because for me it’s a (mostly) well designed sandbox that incentivises PvP in all of its forms without actually forcing you to engage in it.
So…if XL Games can do it, why should Amazon Game Studios not be able to? The question is, can they manage to radically redesign New World in the time they have left? Probably not. At least they’re going for a three-faction system now, which is likely better than what they had before. Well, I guess we’ll know soon enough.