Third time’s a charm

I still haven’t found my perfect MMO, so when a game comes along that at least on paper ticks more than a few boxes on my feature-wishlist I have to try it out.

Unfortunately not a single promising title released in 2017 as far as I’m aware. So when my annual winterly urge to make myself at home in an MMORPG came around two weeks ago, I had to consider older games, even ones I have already played in the past.

I don’t know what it is about winter / Christmas time, but seriously, every time December comes around and I’m not deeply immersed in an MMO already, I get a serious urge to do just that. I guess it’s not surpsising then that I started playing Everquest II in December 2004 and EVE Online in December 2005, for example.

Anyway, the only MMORPGs I have played after Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies that felt like virtual worlds to me and have numerous sandboxy features that I liked were ArcheAge and Black Desert.

I quit ArcheAge with a heavy heart mainly because its gear progression is P2W through and through, and even if I were fine with not being competitive in PvP I’d have to stomach losing my land again and again because of server merges (and because land rushes are “fun”, according to TRION…^^). So AcheAge’s a no-go.

Prior to the launch of Black Desert’s EU/NA version I got pretty hyped about what I saw and read about it. So hyped in fact that when December 2015 came around (notice the pattern?) I made an account for BDO’s Russian version, installed a translation patch and started playing ahead of time.

The character creator’s quite good, the game looks great and the starting town Olvia has a lot of charm. The presentation of story, if it’s there at all, is pretty bad though. Unlikable characters, stiff animations, cliché story. No wonder the Black Spirit, your main story giver, tries to coerce you into a killing frenzy regularly.

That guy’s completely trustworthy, I’m sure…

The tutorial just teaches you the most basic, obvious stuff (press Space to jump and Shift to run…my, who would have thought?), whereas most of the important and not really self-explanatory stuff is kept from you. I took every quest I found (which, as I know now, weren’t nearly all of them, as the game hides a lot of them from you by default), ran somewhere, did stuff and ran back. I never felt that I knew what exactly I was doing or why I was doing it. Combat was ok (I played a Musa, basically a guy with a Katana), but everything died so fast that it didn’t seem to matter which skill I used, just spamming left click did the job. Nice looking, but gameplaywise very bland.

Lakisa tried it too and wasn’t too fond of it either.

So the start wasn’t that great. Maybe too much got lost in translation, I thought. I decided to quit for the time being and start again with the launch of the EU version, which was slated for March 2016.

Alas, my enthusiasm for the game had taken a hit, and shortly prior to the EU launch I learned about another huge turn off for me: RNG based gear upgrading. ArcheAge did burn me out heavily with this kind of crap, and I didn’t want to suffer through something like that again. So I didn’t buy it.

Near the end of that year I felt I was missing something again though (I feel I’m on to something here). The game was on discount, only 10€ for the base game. I had followed coverage of the launch and beyond, and it didn’t look half bad. I also read up on gear upgrading again, and while the system it still basically the same, it doesn’t sound nearly as bad as ArcheAge’s, and most importantly: no cash shop items to improve upgrade chances as far as I’m aware.

So I finally bought it. Long story short, it grew on me a bit more this time, but something was still off. I felt aimless, directionless. I made it to Level 29 (this time on a Witch), dabbled a bit in trading, fishing and letting workers do their thing. I rented a nice residence in Heidel. I absolutely should have enjoyed it a lot more, but somehow I just didn’t. I wouldn’t say that I consciously quit this time, I just stopped logging in any more.

Which brings me back to about two weeks ago. For lack of alternatives I decided to give it another go. I patched the client and continued where I left off. I like the same things I had liked before. The story is still crap, combat is still extremely easy. Somehow though I’m having a lot of fun and don’t feel aimless at all this time around.

There seem to be a lot more life skill related quests now (or I didn’t see them before), which is great. I’m cooking, chopping, hacking, gathering, filtering, drying, skinning and brewing my butt off, I grow wheat and carrots (for making beer and feeding my horse, respectively) in my gardens, I haul trade items around, let workers get stuff that I’m too lazy to gather myself, the list goes on. When there’s still time after all of this, I follow the main quest and kill hundreds, more like thousands of baddies in the process. Soon I’ll arrive in Calpheon which I’m very thrilled about. Heidel is a pretty big town already for an MMO, from what I’ve heard Calpheon must dwarf it. Can’t wait.

So the third time seems to indeed be the charm in this case. I know I have said this numerous times before and got disappointed in the end, but right now I can see me playing BDO for a long time.

A quick list of great (for me) features to close things out:

  • A virtual world

The world is pretty huge and seamless. No loading screens, no artificial boundaries. And as far as I’m aware, no teleporting whatsoever. You are in Olvia and want to go to Heidel? Mount your horse and hit the road. What, you left your mount in Heidel? Well, then off you go on foot. Your warehouses (think bank-space) are also local. The worker farming potatoes for me just outside of Velia stores these in my Velia warehouse. If I want to use those potatoes anywhere else, I have to ride there and get them, or alternatively pay for a transport service. Initially I wasn’t sure if that’s too much realism for me, as it obviously makes things a bit inconvenient at times. I decided to roll with it, and now the game world feels a lot more like a world that I can immerse myself in. Also helping:

  • No throwaway areas

At first I felt the compulsion to complete every quest I saw right away. Pretty much every Themepark MMO since WoW taught us this behaviour. Arrive at quest hub, take all quests, do quests, go back, get rewards, take quest leading to next quest hub, go to next hub, never look back. Rarely ever is there a reason to revisit an area once you’ve done all available quests there. BDO is much different. There’s always reason and/or need to go back, at least if you have any interest in life skills (anything other than combat, really). If you’re interested in getting good at Alchemy, for example, I hear there’s no better place to be than Olvia, which is the town where every character starts the game. Also, that you didn’t see any more quests in an area last time doesn’t necessarily mean that there are none now, because with a higher character level or higher proficiency in certain skills quite a few new quests become available all over the world.

  • Complex systems for those who want them

Trading, gathering, farming, processing, crafting, worker-crafting, hunting, fishing, whale-hunting, housing, horse-breeding, leveling, gear upgrading, node wars and undoubtedly some more I don’t even know of yet. I can do all of these on one character if I want to. Or only two or three. Or none of them. My choice. Each of the systems seems to be a science in it’s own right.

The map doesn’t look more like Civilization than an MMO-map for nothing

I have yet to find a thing in BDO that’s as shallow as ‘press button, wait, done’. I’m also told that pretty much everything can earn you a lot of silver if you commit to it, so no one system seems to be vastly superiour to all others when it comes to becoming ingame-Rockefeller.

  • So much to explore

Did I mention that the world is huge? I have played 100+ hours on this character, yet well over 80% of all landmass is still hidden in fog (meaning I haven’t been there yet). The ocean I haven’t even begun to explore. In the regions I have been to I found towns, villages, farms, tree-lined roads, forests, swamps, mountains, watchtowers, castles, battle-scarred fortifications, outposts, caves and more, as well as a diverse cast of wildlife and monsters. Climbing on top of watchtowers or into caves is, again, seamless. And the view from far up is breathtaking. Which brings me to…

  • It’s gorgeous

Holy crap, is this a great looking game. Admittedly the default settings go a bit overboard with some features. But once I turned off all color filters and distance blurring the game started to look, well, real. Astonishingly Pearl Abyss is already working on an engine overhaul to make it look even better. I’d already be happy if they managed to remove the pop ups though, which unfortunately take away much immersion while moving around. This gripe aside, it’s by far the best looking MMORPG around.

Case in point. This is with distance blurring and color filter still active though. A matter of taste, really.
  • The cash-shop can be completely ignored

Unfortunately this isn’t a cash-shop that only sells cosmetics. It also sells inventory and warehouse expansions, pets that pick up loot for you, stuff like that. I don’t have a problem with that though. The game is giving out inventory expansions as quest rewards rather generously, warehouse expansions can be rented with contribution points, loot can be picked up by hand. So what you can buy in the shop pretty much boils down to cosmetics and convenience. It’s not the best or fairest monetization model out there, but in my opinion it’s definitely one of the better. For a game that costs just five bucks right now (ten again when the sale ends) and doesn’t restrict you in any shape or form content-wise if you don’t spend another dime beyond that, it’s a pretty great deal.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to brew beer and cook pet food and pick up my worker’s produce and catch some fish and kill some Orcs and train my horse and…


Having much fun in Destiny 2

What I knew about Destiny 1 when it launched is pretty much this: A Diablo-style ARPG that plays like a first person shooter, with MMO-like raid mechanics. Which sounded right up my alley. I don’t like to play shooters on console at all though, so I gave it a pass.

Hence when Destiny 2 was announced for PC I got pretty interested. I followed it’s development loosely, and when the console version was released I tried to use reviews and such to get a feel for the game without spoiling too much. The general consensus seemed to be that it’s more of the same, with some improvements but not much innovation. In short, if you liked part one you’ll like this one too if you don’t have too high expectations.

This, combined with the fact that some friends of ours would also be playing it on PC, was more than good enough for me.

So I bought it on release day. I loved it from the start. So much so that I decided to snag a Collector’s Edition on day two, which then was available again on Amazon. I offered it’s code for the base game to Lakisa with a heavy discount, which was enough to persuade her to give it a try and play the game with us.

Now, four weeks later, I’m still having a blast, playing at least for a bit every single day.

There’s no need for me to cover the basics of the game, those can be found everywhere. I’d rather elaborate what it is exactly that I, personally, like about the game so much.

  • It’s incredibly quick and easy to get in and out of the action.

While the menus are a bit consoley and could be more convenient, the act of going somewhere and doing a thing couldn’t be easier. It gets even better in relation to grouping. When I log in and a friend is already playing, I just join his group (called Fireteam here), and boom, one nicely animated load screen later I’m standing right next to him and join in whatever he’s doing. He doesn’t even have to invite me or anything.

  • There are no artificial barriers between my friends and me

95% of the game’s content can be played as a group, no matter at what character- and powerlevel everyone is. When a friend plays a new character I can just join like described above and play alongside him, even the low level main story missions.

  • Every little thing I do feels rewarding

For me there’s always something to do, and nothing feels like a waste of time. This is because the game always drops loot, and the loot scales with my powerlevel. Granted, at around 270 and above most loot doesn’t help to push the powerlevel much further, but I still feel rewarded when my efforts net me heaps of Glimmer, Shards etc. (think crafting materials), as well as XP for Bright Engrams (cosmetics, faster/different speeders and ships). Even when I help out said low level friend I get all of this, and there’s always a little chance to snag an Exotic that I don’t have yet too.

  • It’s collector’s heaven

When I first found out that only one exotic weapon and one exotic piece of armor can be equipped at a time I was a bit miffed. I considered these to be the ‘Unique Items’ of this game. At least for weapons that’s not quite true however. Exotics are more like ‘these unique items have extra special abilities, so you have to choose one’. Legendary weapons, which are one rarity step below, are also unique. And there’s lots and lots of them. And you can collect them all. Want the best hand cannon? Get Better Devils. Need a great Submachine gun for PvP? Try to snag Antiope-D. Looking for a solid allround scout rifle? Nameless Midnight might be for you. Getting a weapon I don’t have yet feels great every time, even if it’s one I probably won’t use much. Plus, you never know when a mechanic comes along that calls for just this weapon. Speaking of which…

  • The raid mechanics are even better and more fun than I had anticipated

I have played the raid only twice up till now, and finished it once. But boy, did I have fun. I didn’t think it possible in a shooter, but the mechanics are really interesting and engaging, and the much faster pace compared to the MMO raid-combat I’m used to makes it all the more fun. It’s also much more forgiving since dying doesn’t cost anything and a wipe doesn’t cost too much time either. If we don’t have to talk things through after a wipe we can be having a go again 10 seconds later. The mechanics also make you think about the build and weapons you use. Your normal go-to subclass or power weapon, for example, might not be the best pick for a specific encounter. Planning, preperation, execution. Fun and profit.

  • The open world feeling is really good

I didn’t have high expectations in this regard, but was in for a pleasant surprise. Not only are the zones pretty big, they are also chock full of stuff to find, of nooks and crannies to explore. I like the Lost Sectors in particular. An inconspicuous street door or a little hole in the ground can lead to a vast basement vault or underground cavern, filled with enemies and a boss guarding a treasure chest at the end. This is what I had hoped for back when Hellgate London came along in 2007. I actually think of Destiny 2 as the game Hellgate wanted to be in more than one regard.

Sometimes I just cruise the landscape looking for treasure chests and boss enemies, joining public events and exploring Lost Sectors when I stumble upon them. I just do whatever strikes my fancy. There are full fledged MMOs out there which make this kind of play less fun and much less rewarding than Destiny 2 does.

  • There’s no global or general chat, and no whispers to strangers

This might sound odd, but for me it’s a blessing. I’ve written about my negative experiences when playing with strangers lately. And I know for sure, without a doubt, that I would have had some more by now if Destiny 2 had global chat and /whisper to non-friendlist people. I really don’t need self proclaimed “pro gamers” telling me I’m doing “their” public event wrong or that I suck at PvP, thank you very much. Great stuff Bungie! I mean it, thank you!

  • The story’s pretty good, the voice acting is great

I have seen some scathing reviews about the story in Destiny 2, and while I can comprehend some of the criticism, I think it’s not that bad at all. Ok, the antagonist looks goofy as hell and is cliché to match. During my second and third playthrough I skipped every cutscene with him. The cutscenes starring the good guys I quite like though. The characters might not be very relatable, but at least they’re likable. They’re also perfectly animated and the lip-sync is the best I’ve seen yet. I’m generally not a sucker for high end graphics, but in a game that aims for photorealism I can appreciate when it’s done right for once. And boy, is this a gorgeous game.

I love the voice acting. Nathan Fillion’s Nathan Fillion, not much more to say there. I also was genuinely delighted to hear Lance Reddick’s voice right at the beginning of the story. He’s just great too. Nolan North as the character’s ghost shows his incredible versatility once again, I wouldn’t have known that it’s Nathan Drake talking to me without looking it up. Even some characters with very small roles have good voice actors, like James Remar (Dexter’s foster-father Harry) and the one and only Peter Stormare as leaders of two of Destiny 2’s factions.

There are of course many who are already complaining that they have nothing more to do. That they are finished, that the game is dead, whatever. For them, this might be the case. In my opinion they’re doing themselves a disservice by rushing through the content and ignoring everything that doesn’t reliably push their powerlevel.

If you play the game like me, you’ll have fun for quite some time and won’t grow tired of it. I’m still not quite at max powerlevel, I haven’t got every weapon and every piece of armor I’d like to have, I’ve not yet seen every Lost Sector and not found every lore object.

What I have loads of, though, is fun.

Now all Bungie has to do is give me an ingame means to take screenshots, and I’ll be happy all around. Seriously guys, PC games have to have this feature, especially when you decide to block the usage of FRAPS, Bandicam and the like. I’m giving you free advertising here…wouldn’t it be great if I had nice screenies to go along with the text? 😉

Malcolm Reyn…err…Cayde-6 seems to agree.

This is why we can’t have great things…or can we?

Right now everybody is talking about the Star Wars Battlefront II situation concerning it’s progression and monetisation system. Saying that people are not happy would be a huge understatement.

Some savvy players have mathed up that it’d take more than 4500 hours of play or, alternatively, roughly 2100$ to unlock everything there is to unlock. We’re talking about unlocks that give players an advantage over others in a multiplayer shooter. If that’s not P2W (pay to win), I don’t know what is.

This time though we (gamers) aren’t on our own with our concerns. We have seen time and time again that we can rage all we want, as long as we’re still buying their crap the big publishers couldn’t care less. No, this time mainstream media has noticed, and rumours are Disney has noticed too. They sure as hell didn’t wish for a shitstorm like this related to their sacred and expensive Star Wars IP, mere weeks before the release of their next blockbuster movie no less.

Also, a couple countries, such as Belgium and the Netherlands, have begun investigating the issue of lockboxes in games. The question is if they are to be considered online gambling and therefore to be regulated or even banned.

So here’s hoping that we have reached a turning point, and monetisation of our beloved pastime is going to change direction. I’m still not convinced that EA really intends to completely eschew lockboxes in SWBF2 though.

Now, I do fully realize that a box price of 60$ can’t possibly cover production and marketing costs of an AAA game in 2017 anymore. I also realise that there are many who won’t even consider trying out a game if it has any box price to begin with.

Money has to be made, no argument there. But business practices like EA’s aren’t trying to cover costs and earn a little bit of profit. Don’t even try to tell me that. Monetisation schemes like these have the goal of milking as much money from as many people as possible. More more more. This has to stop. Now.

It’s all the more tragic because the games themselves are often pretty cool. I probably would have bought SWBF2 at some point, and chances are that I would have enjoyed it. But we have reached a point where we can’t be okay with this anymore. We just can’t. If we fall for it again and again, we will soon be playing (crappy) arcades again instead of great games. “Insert coin” as the major gameplay mechanic. No thanks.

My multiplayer malaise

Since I started playing and got addicted to Ultima Online in 2001 I have almost exclusively played multiplayer games.

The reasons are manifold. It’s not that I always play in a group, far from it. But even when playing alone, being in a world inhabited by other players gives everything I do a far greater sense of realism. When I craft, not only can I use the item myself, I can also sell it to someone else. When I am too lazy to go out and gather crafting mats myself, I can buy them instead. And yes, I too am not immune to feeling a sense of pride when I achieve something not everybody achieves, and being able to show it off by riding a special mount or wearing a special title or somesuch.

I also like that there’s no ending in multiplayer games. To be honest, I’ve become reluctant to invest dozens or even hundreds of hours into a game that I know will go “that’s it, you’re finished, now go and play something else” at some point. I feel that everything I achieve while playing the game will just go poof when I reach that point.

As of late, though, I withdraw from all kinds of multiplayer activity more and more. I hardly ever play Overwatch anymore, I have cancelled my FFXIV subscription. At the moment I mainly play Uncharted: The Lost Legacy on PS4, GTA V (just the story mode) and Path of Exile (always alone except for the occasional trade) on PC.

Why the change of mind?

It’s actually rather simple. During the last year or so, the vast majority of encounters with other players I had (EVE Online being the exception, believe it or not) were…bad. Just bad.

There’s been much talk about toxicity in all of online gaming lately. MOBAs and Shooters like Overwatch seem to be the worst offenders, but they’re not the only ones, as I had to find out.

When Lakisa and I were playing the Main Story in FFXIV sometime in August we reached a point, as you regularly do in this game, where we had to do a dungeon to progress further. And I absolutely did not want to. The last dungeons we had done had been utterly stressful and unfun experiences, and I just didn’t want any more of that. The group finder does a solid job in getting you together with folks playing the right roles relatively quickly. What it can’t do, though, is get you together with people who are relaxed and fun to play with. And this kind of human being seems to pretty much not exist anymore in that game. Everyone is go go go, pull now, pull everything, faster, faster, all while standing kneedeep in bad stuff all the time. I’m telling you, I refuse tanking or healing for anyone I don’t know from now on.

Unfortunately this pretty much killed my enthusiasm for that game altogether, so we are taking a break.

There’s a whole bunch of multiplayer-centric games launching before the end of the year that I’d normally be very interested in. I’ll pass on most of them.

There’s Star Wars Battlefront II. Lootcrate shenanigans aside (they’re bad though, reason enough to not buy it to be honest) this looks pretty awesome. The ‘I’m right in the middle of the battle of Endor’-feeling of the first game was tremendous. It wasn’t perfect, but they seem to have taken a lot of fan feedback to heart and improved part two a great deal. The story campaign isn’t enough reason for me to buy it though, and I just don’t want to play the multiplayer right now.

Call of Duty is returning to World War II. I haven’t played a CoD since Black Ops 1, but this one looks pretty interesting. Still, not buying it.

Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds is all the rage and makes all the money right now. It sure looks fun and interesting. Won’t be playing it.

The one I’m really looking forward to and that I’m actually gonna buy is Destiny 2 for PC. I haven’t played the first one because I don’t like to play shooter mechanics on console. But I’m pretty sure I would have liked it, and the sequel seems to be, while not very innovative, a straight upgrade on all fronts. The most important thing: I can and will only play it either alone, or together with a couple RL friends that are also buying it. The enemies’ AI might not be great, but at least it won’t make me ragequit the game with it’s antisocial behaviour.

No play with and/or against strangers for me anymore, no Sir. For now anyway.

A new home

Last Sunday our alliance held it’s first big Teamspeak-meeting. Other alliances as well as guilds in other games we’ve been in do these much more often, but since we have a pretty relaxed approach to everything there mostly isn’t much to talk about (at least it’s been like that since we joined in May).

This time though there was something to talk about indeed, as our leadership made an unexpected and, for some folks, pretty big announcement: we are going to leave Okkamon behind and move to a new home.

Okkamon was Holy Cookie’s base of operations for a very long time, and for some members it really has become their home in EVE. But since we’re not moving to an entirely different region of New Eden the farewell shouldn’t be all too sad I guess. I assume that when we do our roams we’ll even visit Okkamon fairly regularly.

Still, moving in EVE is always a hassle. The more stuff you have, the more difficult it becomes. Some of us have dozens and dozens of ships in Okka, and probably tons of ammo, cap booster charges and the like. Fortunately, there isn’t only one way to relocate your assets.

Obviously the most straightforward way is to sit in a ship and fly it to your destination. When done in numbers, it’s relatively safe and can even be fun and net some kills. If you own lots and lots of ships though, doing this for all of them would take ages. Hence most of us only do this with the biggest ships, which would take up the most volume in freighters or carriers.

The second way is to use jump freighters. We have some at our disposal (and their owners are nice enough to help their buddies out), and they can move boatloads of stuff with almost 100% safety. The downside is that everything has to be repackaged to be hauled this way, which means that ships lose their rigs and their insurance. This can add up quickly and might be enough reason to not move many ships this way.

The last method is to use combat carriers, which sport a sizable ship maintenance bay to move fully assembled ships. Depending on ship sizes a carrier can transport between two and about twenty combat ships without them losing rigs and insurance.

All in all, for Lakisa and me this move ain’t a big deal. We haven’t been long enough in Okkamon to really feel that much at home already, and as I said, we’re not moving far anyway. As for moving our stuff…admittedly the high frequency of moving around was one of the reasons we quit Mercenary Coalition. The upside is that we’ve become somewhat accustomed to it and know how to do it efficiently. And it’s not like we’re becoming nomads now, this is planned to be a one-time move.

We’ve already flewn our bigger ships in convoys. Some not-yet-assembled ships we’ll contract to our jump freighter pilots. What’s left I’ll stuff into my carrier and jump over when we’ll return from our vacation.

Concerning the feeling-at-home thing: actually our new home is already more of a home to me than Okkamon in one regard: while we had “only” a couple Astrahus class citadels in Okka, we deployed a Fortizar in our new home system, and yesterday we had to fight for it’s successful anchoring.

We had formed an armor gang of close range fit HACs, Battleships and Guardians in advance and were ready to defend. I brought an Astarte with three armor fleet boosts to the mix. The timer was set for about 10 minutes before downtime.

A couple minutes early about a dozen pilots from The Bloc, Templis CALSF and others showed up in a Gila gang with Basilisks and a Vulture for support. They sat at a ping high above the Fortizar at first, but as the vulnerability window opened they warped down to a much nearer spot and opened fire on the structure.

After a bit of positioning we managed to warp to a spot about 60km away from them and started burning towards them. It took a while, but being a good bit faster than them we made up ground. Our Interceptor went in for the tackle from another direction, but unfortunately got chewed up by drones before our Guardians could rep him. Before the fight started for real though, downtime dropped on us and we were all disconnected.

When the server came back up we waited a few seconds more and then logged in simultaneously. Our opponents apparently did the same, so the fight continued right where we left off.

Now we finally closed in on them. I’m not sure why they didn’t warp off before we got into tackling range, they must have known that they couldn’t beat us up close. But they didn’t, so we spread points and started focusing the nearest Basilisk. It fell rather quickly, as did the second. We then switched to the Gilas, and managed to kill three before they finally decided to run. The battle report shows us clearly ahead ISK-wise, and more importantly, our Fortizar went online.

Secure Fortizar. The name’s a placeholder…I hope

If someone wants to kill it now, they need to show up three times total and beat us everytime, and this time the Fortizar itself will be armed, too.

Good luck with that. Our new home is our castle.


The return of Deathmatch

In his latest developer update Jeff Kaplan, Overwatch’s Game Director and pretty much Blizzard’s ‘Face of Overwatch’, announced that Deathmatch is coming to Overwatch.

The announcement was a pretty big surprise for most, since Jeff had stated previously that they don’t want a Deathmatch mode in Overwatch. Even more unexpected though was my reaction to it: I’m totally hyped!

I haven’t played a round of Team Deathmatch since Modern Warfare 2, so about 2010. I can’t even remember which game I played my last round of Free-For-All Deathmatch in. Probably Unreal Tournament (the first one, aka UT99 or Classic UT), so somewhere around 2002. I can’t say that I missed it much. Or rather, I wasn’t aware that I missed it.

I’ve written about how much Overwatch’s gameplay tends to frustrate me, how furious I become when things don’t go my way. My joy over the announcement made me think about what’s important to me when playing games today compared to what was important to me in the past.

When I say I didn’t miss FFA Deathmatch, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. Now that I think about it, I actually had the most multiplayer-shooter-fun in Duke Nukem 3D, Blood, Quake, UT and the like, playing FFA Deathmatch. It wasn’t really about winning or losing. Sure, there was a scoreboard and at the end of a round someone was declared winner, but we didn’t care too much about that. We cared about that one time when Player A walked right into the proximity detonators set by Player B and got exploded 50 yards into the air, or the spectacular fadeaway jump-headshot Player C killed Player D with, only to get shotgun-blasted unceremoniously in the back by Player E right afterward.

In more modern shooters the rather simple fun of frantically running around and fragging each other has been largely replaced by more or less complex team objectives, and, above all, diverse means of progression. Just having fun doesn’t seem to be enough anymore. There are duties to fulfill, achievements to accomplish, ladders to climb, levels to gain and knickknacks to unlock.

All these things work. They motivate people, make them spend more time with (and money for) the game. If they didn’t, the focus of game development wouldn’t have shifted so dramatically to stuff like this in the past 10 years or so.

Call of Duty 4 (aka Modern Warfare) blew everyone’s minds in 2007 not only because of it’s single player campaign basically being a playable Michael Bay movie. It’s multiplayer progression system worked so well and was so addictive that it set a new genre standard pretty much overnight. Since then, almost every game in almost every genre has to have progression systems, ladders for players to climb, hoops for players to jump through.

Somehow, along the way, the gameplay itself seems to have become almost an afterthought. I’m not saying that most modern games have bad gameplay. But it sure seems to be very important now that I become hooked and busy for as long as possible. Having fun while being busy is kind of a bonus, but not necessarily required.

That’s why I’m really excited about Deathmatch coming to Overwatch. I hope it will bring back some of the good old, relaxed and carefree fun that I remember from so long ago.

All good things…

All good things come to an end. So did our participation in EVE Alliance Tournament XV, unfortunately.

On Sunday, August 6th we had our third match of the tournament. Our opponents were Pen Is Out, who had beaten IT’S ONLY PIXELS and Ghost Legion. in the first two rounds. Looking at the setups they had used there, based around a Golem and a Navy Scorpion, we thought we might have a shot at beating them. 53% of EVE NT’s viewers agreed with this assessment.

They didn’t bring a Golem this time, but the setup was still pretty similar. Great, we thought, we’ll easily kill the bombers first, then go from there. As per usual. In training, bombers had always been nothing more than cannon fodder for us.

Somehow, though, it didn’t quite work out this time. The first bomber fell relatively quickly, but after that we couldn’t break anything anymore. Meanwhile my Fleet Hurricane was their first primary, and while it took them quite some time to get me down, what with overheated Invulns and combined reps from drones and our Basilisk, I still died before we had killed anything else. From there it kinda snowballed. Personal piloting errors were made, too. I’m not sure that avoiding those would have really made a difference though.

In the end we lost 3:100, having killed nothing but the Nemesis stealth bomber. Thus our high ride through the winner’s bracket was over. While it’s still possible to win the tournament after falling to loser’s bracket, the hopes our first two wins (three if counting feeder’s round) might have built got somewhat dampened by this decisive loss.

Our next opponents were going to be HYDRA RELOADED, winners of AT IX and a force to be reckoned with. Although they were knocked down to loser’s bracket by TEMPLIS CALSF on the first weekend, they won their three matches after that. We weren’t very optimistic, but were going to give it our best and not make any mistakes this time.

When we saw their setup, though, we knew we were in trouble. Not only did they bring an all-Caldari setup, which made many of the ECM modules our two Rooks and most of our Battlecruisers had fitted rather ineffective. They also had a boatload of ECM themselves with their two Widows (probably rainbow too, so perfect against our all-race setup) and, the cherry on the pie, an Etana logistics cruiser. The Etana is basically a Basilisk that can cloak (which is irrelevant in the tournament), it’s really not that much better at repairing stuff. But, given the pricetag of such a rare ship, we knew it would be heavily tanked and take us far too long to take out, even if we were able to apply our full DPS (not likely because of ECM).

Stuck between a rock and a hard place we decided to again go for bombers first, as they are pretty squishy and deal a lot of DPS. Unfortunately, just as we had feared, at least two of us were jammed at any given time, sometimes even more. They jammed our logis too, and before we managed to kill anything our first Rook had already fallen.

Then we finally got a jam cycle on the Etana. Whoever wasn’t jammed immediately focused the bombers again, and we killed them both before the Etana could lock them. Meanwhile our second Rook had also fallen though, and now they started to focus our DPS ships. The Harbingers fell, then the Brutixes, and on it went. We got one more jam cycle on the Etana, but by then we hadn’t much DPS left even on paper, much less in reality, since now we were pretty much all jammed all the time. The two Manticores would remain our only kills, and with a score of 6:100 not only the match ended, but also our chances at advancing further in the tournament.

Oh well. We had much fun and actually advanced further than we had anticipated at the beginning, so there’s no reason to be too disappointed. Making it to the top 16 would have been great of course, as that would have secured us a guaranteed spot for ATXVI. As it is, we’ll have to wait and see if we can participate again next year. I sure hope so. As does Lakisa, who also had much fun during training, and would probably be advanced far enough skillwise to be part of the fighting squad until then.

For now, we return to our normal life in New Eden. Which ain’t that bad either.