A decade of MMO gaming – Part II

Happy new year, folks!

Last time I talked about the various MMOs I’ve played between 2010 and 2014. Now let’s have a look at the past decade’s latter half.

2015

Decade14

ArcheAge won my heart instantly, but alas, only to go ahead and break it soon after. I’ve talked at lenght about all that here.

The realization that the game was basically rotten to the core hit us pretty early on, nevertheless we continued playing for quite a while. We just couldn’t let go. Its great aspects, those we had so much fun with and that made us feel like we’d found our new virtual home, meant too much to us.

Having started in September ’14 we held on until about July ’15. What finally tipped the scales was the announcement of server merges later that year, meaning that everybody on affected servers – including ours – was going to lose their land. That made us drop the game like a hot potato.

Decade15

I’d read about Marvel Heroes from time to time, but wasn’t all that interested for some reason. Mainly because I thought (and still think) that I don’t really need another ARPG when I can play Path of Exile any time I want, I guess.

Quitting ArcheAge left a huge void though, and we’d just rewatched a couple of great Marvel movies – my favourites are still the first Iron Man, the first Avengers and the second Cap – so it seemed like the perfect time to try it. It didn’t even come close to knock PoE off it’s throne, but it was cool and I miss it.

Decade16

We went on vacation in September, and while we were away we pondered which proper MMORPG we might play next. WoW aside one of the the last AAA titles we hadn’t tried yet was Final Fantasy XIV. Lakisa was up for it from the start, I wasn’t so sure. Reading about its gathering and crafting systems won me over pretty much instantly though, and we ordered the boxes so that they were already waiting for us when we returned home.

The game took a bit getting used to, but we had fun and played it straight all the way until the end of the year. However by that time I was absolutely sick of the game’s stubborn gating of content behind the main story quests, the mandatory group content bits to advance said main story, and also burnt out by the crafting grind, so I decided to quit before we’d even seen the first expansion’s content.

2016

Decade17

Some time during spring I felt drawn to EVE again after a nearly five-year hiatus.* As usual I did some mission running to get into the groove again and pad my wallet. When Lakisa watched me doing that she got interested, played a bit on my account and eventually created her own.

We gave her character a little jump start by injecting skill points I’d extracted from an alt of mine who didn’t use them anymore and tried a bit of everything. Missions, exploration, mining, production. The ultimate goal was to get into PvP of course. By that time I’d read that the Mercenary Coalition, one of the game’s first large merc groups many years before, had reformed and Noir., my former corp, had joined them. They even had a training corp for newbies, Noir. Academy.

Long story short, we joined them in March. Perfect timing that was, because World War Bee was just getting intense and we got to see some really big fights. As academy pilots we weren’t allowed to fly “real” ships though, and having to move your base of operations every two weeks or so gets very tiring, so once WWB fizzled out in late June we decided we needed a break.

* I’d last played in 2011, which I totally forgot to mention in the preceding post. Oops. I was in Noir. Mercenary Group from March until about July, a relatively small merc corporation mainly operating behind enemy lines for their contractors. It was the first time I actually received a wage for PvP – we got a cut of the contract payment depending on activity instead of the usual ship replacement – which was pretty great. I didn’t stay longer for various reasons however.

Decade18

In October we returned to FFXIV. The next expansion, Stormblood, had been announced, and being a huge fan of all things Asian I thought, well, if we start now we should easily be able to get through the story until it arrives.

Yeah…no. I’m sorry, but playing this game is work. I mean, we played on and off (more on than off) until August ’17…

2017

…and we did have some fun, don’t get me wrong. But everything takes so much time here, and, more importantly, you have to do things just the way Yoshy P and co. have envisioned it. I’ve never felt so much like being held on a short leash by an MMO. Of course we did not actually make it through Heavensward and subsequent patches until Stormblood arrived, which meant that despite having bought the expansion we couldn’t even fricking go there and have a look at the new zones and housing districts.

It’s sad because there’s also much to love here, but…I’m sorry…screw that game!

Decade19

In June I started this blog, so from here on out it will be much easier to get the timeline right, and I’ll also have posts to link to in case you would like to know more.

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I don’t remember if it was Lakisa or myself who first expressed the desire to return to EVE in earnest, but by April we were back in New Eden. To make things easier for us this time around we wanted to join an all-German corp, preferably one operating in low sec. It didn’t take long to find Holy Cookie, and we joined them in May. Through the rest of the year we fought in Alliance Tournament XV, moved to a new home and scored lots of kills in low sec.

I also played Destiny 2 when it came out and had some fun for a while, but its problems soon became too blatant to ignore, and I haven’t touched it since.

Decade21

In December I made my third attempt to get into Black Desert Online. This time it really clicked, and hard. I still don’t know why I couldn’t get into it before only to absolutely fall in love with it then, but I guess that’s just how it goes sometimes.

2018

Consequently I played a lot of BDO whenever there was no action going on in EVE. This two-headed dragon absolutely dominated my gaming time until we went on a long vacation towards the end of March.

Decade22

When we came home I seemingly needed something different, so I picked up Path of Exile once more. Discovering how fun and strong a summoner build can be in this game made me stick to it much longer this time around. I even played a challenge league somewhat seriously for the first time and reached hights I’d never reached before in an ARPG.

Just like in 2017 the summer months were also heavily shaped by preparations for EVE’s Alliance Tournament and the tournament itself. We fared relatively well once more, but were again put in our place by more experienced teams in the end.

Decade23

In August I returned to Everquest II after a very long break, wondering why the heck I hadn’t played it for this long. Revisiting Nights of the Dead and Frostfell was a real blast from the past, with additional content I didn’t know yet to boot.

Decade24

Come December it drew me back to BDO though, which carried me well into the next year.

2019

Black Desert is a really exceptional MMORPG, and during the year’s first half I played it almost exclusively.

Our corp joining NC Dot in May gave us another big push to play some EVE again though, and it was a pretty fun ride. Lakisa and I didn’t want it to end either, but many corp members didn’t like living in null sec as much as they’d imagined and left, so leadership decided to leave the alliance again. Unfortunately that whole thing was handled very badly by our CEO in our opinion, which made us pretty unhappy. Thus we ultimately left the Cookies after over two years. Lakisa joined one of NC Dot’s corps, Blank Space, and is still having fun in null sec. I haven’t played EVE since.

Decade25

In August a seemingly minor article over at Massively OP made me finally try out Warframe, and I liked it from the start. I see many parallels to Path of Exile here, which is always a good thing, just in the form of a 3rd person shooter. It’s great!

Decade26

That same August also gave us the announcement of ArcheAge Unchained. I dismissed it as just another cheap attempt to rob us blind at first, but as time went on and its release drew nearer I couldn’t resist and tried to inform myself about it.

Well, I’ll be damned! It’s the real deal, and it’s awesome.

If it works, that is.

By now it mostly does though, and we’re having a lot of fun. I played it every day and didn’t touch anything else for the rest of the year.

Honorable non-MMO mentions

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Despite my huge fondness of the genre I didn’t only play MMORPGs and MMOs during these ten years of course. I won’t (and probably can’t) name all other games I’ve played, but the ones I liked the most, in no particular order, are:

The Uncharted series (2 and 3 are the best), Resident Evil 2 Remake, Limbo, Inside, GTA V, Heavy Rain, Vampire: Bloodlines (playthroughs four to six or something), Batman: Arkham Asylum & City, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Overwatch, StarCraft 2.

Here’s to the next ten years of gaming!

A decade of MMO gaming – Part I

Initially 2019 coming to an end didn’t feel any different to me than any other year. I don’t really tend to think in terms of decades or centuries. A year is a year is a year, as the Ferengi say. At least I think they say that.

Anyway, posts and articles looking back on the last ten years have been popping up left and right, and reading those actually made me wonder what I’ve been up to myself during all that time.

I don’t keep track about when and for how many hours I play any given game though, so I’ll have to piece things together from memory, creation dates of screenshots I took and games’ release dates. Might be fun, so let’s go.

2010

In terms of proper MMORPGs this was a pretty light year for me, probably more so than any other year since I fell in love with the genre in 2001 thanks to Ultima Online. I only dabbled a bit in EVE Online during March and April.

Decade1

I ran a couple of missions in my shiny new Marauder class battleship, which finally made that process at least somewhat efficient and even a bit fun. I wasn’t in the mood to join a corporation at the time though, so there was no PvP action to be had and I faded away again after a while.

Decade2

My main game during the early months was CoD Modern Warfare 2, which I’d bought when it came out in late 2009. Its multiplayer mode had just the right feel and pace for me, and I was pretty good at it, too. It was the last time I could say that about a shooter though.

Decade3

2010 was also the year I played Diablo II for the last time. Since its release in ’98 it had always been my in-between game, filling the gap between other games for a couple of weeks or months at a stretch. It’s definitely one of my all time favourites.

Decade4

I don’t remember where I’d first read about All Points Bulletin, APB for short, but I was pretty hyped for the game’s July 1st release, had it preordered on Amazon and played from day one. Unfortunately it had many flaws and problems, bad weapon-balancing and an abundance of hackers only being the most serious ones. The fact that it launched full-price with a 10$ subscription on top (seriously) didn’t help one bit, so there weren’t many players to begin with, and after a very short time only the most faithful (and the hackers) were left. I believe it was less than two months later that the game’s shutdown was announced for September 16th, earning it the Guinness world record of the “Shortest-lived major MMORPG”, which has to be the saddest gaming-award I’ve ever heard of.

It’s especially tragic because in my opinion the game had some outstanding, very unique features and a crapton of potential, and I was pretty crushed by the shutdown. It was later resurrected by GamersFirst as APB Reloaded however and is still going today, which is great. I play it from time to time, but while most serious issues have been adressed said potential was never fulfilled. 2018 saw another change of hands and the new owners, Little Orbit, seem determined to lift the game from maintenance mode. As of yet not much has happened though, so we’ll see.

2011

Decade5

This was the year I returned to Everquest II once more. Lakisa was along for the ride, making her first foray into the MMORPG genre. We played mostly as a duo, but also joined a friendly guild and did some group content with them. It was a very enjoyable ride and we probably would have stayed longer had another, new MMORPG not loomed large on the horizon…

Decade6

Being a huge fan of both Star Wars and old Bioware RPGs it’s no surprise that I was pretty excited for SWTOR. I applied for a spot in the beta and got in for a very fun weekend with Lakisa looking over my shoulder. After that there was no stopping us. We preordered immediately to secure early access codes and started playing on December 15th, five days ahead of the official release.

We started on Tython as a Jedi Knight / Jedi Consular duo and had a great time.

2012

The year’s first half was completely dominated by SWTOR. We played through the story together, did all side quests, traveled from planet to planet and just enjoyed the ride. We also joined a great German guild, Die Pangalaktischen Donnergurgler. We hadn’t reached level 50 yet when they started to run the first operations (raids), but we were determined to catch up.

Decade9

Meanwhile another new MMORPG had launched though, and I read so much good things about it at Massively-of-old that I just couldn’t resist. I bought The Secret World and fell in love with it so hard that I splurged on the lifetime subscription almost right away, before the first monthly fee was due. The world (man, that atmosphere!), the quests, the skill system, the wardrobe…there was much greatness to be found. I still mostly played SWTOR when Lakisa was at home, but my solo gaming time was solely dedicated to TSW.

Decade8

I had totally forgotten this one, but my screenshots prove that we also tried out newly launched Guild Wars 2 during that same year’s September. Don’t ask me how we had time for all that. It didn’t click with us at all though, so we dabbled for just over a month and never touched it again.

2013

Decade12

At the beginning of the year we briefly tried TERA, but that one didn’t stick either. It had a rather different approach to combat that I quite liked though, I’ll give it that.

Decade13

Once we’d reached max level in SWTOR we joined our guild’s raid group and got our feet wet in Eternity Vault and Karagga’s Palace. After that we wiped a lot in Explosive Conflict, hunted for datacrons, ran battlegrounds to bash imperial heads in and did lots of other stuff. My favourite MMO raid of all time, Terror From Beyond, was also visited regularly. After a while I started to lead raid groups myself, which was fun too.

Meanwhile our guild leader was burnt out and Lakisa, myself and a good friend of ours volunteered to form a three-headed guild council and share the mantle. It went pretty well, however the responsibilities that come with such an assignment take a toll on anyone, as time would tell.

Decade7

In August I finally managed to convince Lakisa that The Secret World is a game one just has to have played, so I created a fresh character (I really wanted to play as an Illuminati by then) and we gave it a go.

2014

Come spring I started to feel I’d had quite enough of SWTOR. The guild leadership played a part in that – turns out it is in fact impossible to cater to both casual players and progress oriented players and still make everyone happy – but the game itself had also worn thin on me. I resigned from guild and raid leadership and took a break.

Decade10

I’d loosely followed Path of Exile’s development and was intrigued, but I didn’t really think about playing it until I watched the trailer for its first expansion, Sacrifice of the Vaal. In April I finally tried it and the rest is history. It’s a great game with a terrific business model, and it has taken Diablo II’s place as my in-between game I play for a couple of months pretty much every year.

Decade11

ArcheAge is another game I initially didn’t intend to play, but once again the writers at Massively did a great job at conveying the strenghts and uniqueness of this title. By then Lakisa had been the sole remaining SWTOR guild leader for a while and was burnt out quite heavily too, so she was more than happy to try out ArcheAge with me. We played it for the rest of the year and well into the next.

To be continued…

In part two I’ll look back upon my MMO gaming during the last five years. Until then I wish you all a happy and healthy start into the new year (and decade)!

IntPiPoMo – The Funnies

During last year’s event I posted a screenshot-collection of stuff that went wrong and/or made me laugh while playing various MMOs. I still believe our favourite genre is the most predestined for stuff like that, which is one big reason why I never tire of playing these games. Here’s another assortment for your viewing pleasure.

As always, click the pics to enlarge.

IntPiPoMo_Funny1
You…really should go see a doctor right away, mate

So ArcheAge Unchained unlocks its character creation, I choose a Nuian male archer and on the other side of a quick loading screen this nightmare-inducing abomination is what stares at me. I shudder at the thought of what a Warborn would have looked like.

IntPiPoMo_Funny2

I’d been aware that players are able to do some unusual stuff with ship-mounted harpoons, but this was new. This is in the middle of Marianople, mind you, half a mile away from the next body of water. Ships can’t be spawned on land, so they had to drag themselves over here bit by bit to do this stunt.

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I’d just fallen asleep to regenerate some labor points when Lakisa waltzed in and started to cook a couple hundred vegetable soups, entirely unaware of my presence. From now on I’ll lock the door!

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Everquest II definitely has no shortage of fun stuff, yet it still caught me by surprise when this quest turned me into a rat and even had other rats talk to me.

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Looks like someone has found a new calling…

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If you don’t recognize this code…you’re definitely a lot younger than me. I wonder if they left out B and A for copyright reasons.

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Many folks regard the Hildibrand quests in Final Fantasy XIV as the most funny thing ever. Whether you like that kind of over-the-top humor or not, the game has plenty more of that. This pic is the culmination of lots and lots of bickering and arguing between these two NPCs during your first epic weapon quest line, aka the Zodiac Weapon. I’d kind of hoped it would come to this a lot sooner to be honest.

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What? If you had just finished building your own hot tub and hopped right in not realizing you’re still fully clothed you’d look this embarrassed too!

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Depending on the class you’re playing SWTOR isn’t exactly the most lighthearted MMO out there, yet it still can be pretty hilarious at times. This Hutt in particular had some lines up his sleeve that really cracked me up.

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Speaking of the Hutt, I’d heard a lot about a certain piece of headgear the final and eponymous boss of the Karagga’s Palace operation could drop. I didn’t know what was so special about it until it dropped for us for the first time and I of all people was the one who won the roll…my guildmates were adamant that I wear it of course. Yeah, thanks again!

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This is the obligatory group shot after clearing 16-man (and woman) Eternity Vault. We wanted to do something different this time, so we all set our characters’ moods to astounded.

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Not an MMO, but I just had to include this shot from GTA V. The game has countless hilarious moments of course, but this scene after a heist gone bad literally had me in tears.

IntPiPoMo picture count: 12 (this post); 46 (total)

IntPiPoMo – My MMO characters

We’re almost halfway through November and I haven’t posted a whole lot of pictures yet, so today I’ll knock myself out. This might take a while to load, sorry about that.

Allow me to introduce the main and main-alt characters I’ve played in various MMOs over the years, roughly from oldest to newest.

Characters1
If this looks very blurry click the pic to open it in its actual resolution

Right in the middle there wearing a golden helmet you see my axe-wielding PvP character in Ultima Online, whom I specifically created to join one of the warring factions, the True Britannians. I chose to use an axe because in addition to the ‘normal’ melee skills its damage was boosted even further by having a high lumberjacking skill, which I still find hilarious. Here we are preparing to defend Britain’s castle from an attack by the other factions. All those candelabras were placed by us one by one and served the purpose to block the enemy players from spreading out (I kid you not). Unfortunately we lost that day, despite the wall of candles.

Characters2

The Zabrak on the right is my rockstar…er…I mean, my Master Entertainer / Master Musician in Star Wars Galaxies. I’ve rocked stages all across that galaxy far, far away with him, as I’ve talked about before.

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He was also a Master Teras Kasi Artist, so any zealous fan coming too close was in for a nasty surprise – as was this scaly soon-to-be-handbag.

Characters4

My second SWG character was a smuggler by trade and by heart, and I think I managed to make him look the part too (with the help of a fellow tailor).

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If I had to choose an all-time main character across all games I’ve played I guess this one would have to be it. This Everquest II Dark Elf Warlock is the fella I’ve spent the most time with (almost two thousand hours according to EQ2U). He’s also reached the highest level of them all (93 Warlock, 100 Carpenter), and although several characters that came after him turned out to be more fun to play he’s still the one I feel the most attached to.

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That being said, I really love my Ratonga Bruiser, here standing next to Lakisa’s Fae Inquisitor inside Nektropos Castle. In my opinion he’s the coolest and quirkiest race combined with the most versatile and fun to play tank class ever. Seriously, Ratonga Bruiser for life!

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This Jedi Guardian tank was my SWTOR-main for my whole time with that game. It took me a long time to assemble a look for him that I was pleased with, but once I got that chest piece (which includes hood and robe) and bought a white dye off the auction house (for over a million credits!) everything fell into place nicely. The mask is the icing on the cake.

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My Commando’s look on the other hand was a no-brainer. Once I’d done the Gree event for the first time and seen the weapons and armor sets it rewarded I knew that he’d get this assault cannon and armor as soon as I was able to buy them. The Commando is still one of my favourite healer classes, not least due to the fact that he heals people by shooting at them with that big-ass cannon of his.

Characters9

I still think that whoever at Funcom had the idea during The Secret World’s development to completely detach a character’s stats from their apparel deserves a medal. Unfortunately the stream of new clothing items and costumes dried up pretty quickly after the game’s release, which is a shame because I really wanted to give them more financial support – and I know I’m not alone in this. By then I’d had my character’s looks down though, and I was very happy with it.

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This is my original ArcheAge character in 2015 when he was still a Shadowblade. I later switched to Stone Arrow because I rather wanted to fight at range instead of melee, but I have to admit that he looked much cooler with that huge axe.

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Destiny 2 is one of those games that in my opinion, at least back when I played it, made it too cumbersome and grindy to give your character a look that you liked without gimping your stats in the process. I eventually got to a point when my Warlock looked like this though, which I was pretty happy with. Unfortunately, no good tools in the game for taking screenshots either.

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I didn’t get the helmet I really wanted for my Titan – the first Faction Rally event was not only grindy but also awfully RNG-heavy – but fortunately I got my hands on a similarly looking one that completed the outfit quite adequately.

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Black Desert Online is often criticized for the fact that many of its classes look like they’re wearing rags unless you buy a costume in the cash shop, and deservedly so. To give credit where it’s due though, the costumes look superb across the board, and I just had to get this one for my Striker. The level of detail on it is astounding. Unfortunately this isn’t a class-specific costume, in fact it’s available for most if not all classes. As a consequence it’s not a very unique look to have, but it fits my character very well, so I’m rolling with it.

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I’ve talked about Lakisa and myself trying to recreate our original ArcheAge characters in Unchained, and I think we did a pretty good job. This time around I went for a ranged build right away though, so no huge axe for me anymore.

IntPiPoMo picture count: 14 (this post); 23 (total)

I love scavenger hunts in MMOs

For the better part of two weeks I’ve sunk quite a lot of time into the Traces of the Black Spirit event in Black Desert Online. It asked players to visit five of the game’s cities and find and examine 20 traces the Black Spirit had left in each of them.

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What do you mean, you didn’t see anyone? Fell asleep while on duty, did you?

At first I didn’t think much of it gameplay-wise. I intended to do it mainly for the rewards, specifically the Advice of Valks (+80) you could earn by finding at least 80 traces total, an item greatly helping with enhancing stuff to high levels.

My plan was to look around and find as many as I can for a while and, once I’d grown tired of that, use a video guide someone would surely have created by then to collect the rest.

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The Heidel Herald reports: Multiple Acts Of Vandalism Around Town

However, as it turned out the folks at Pearl Abyss knew full well that most players would opt to go the lazy route, so they’d decided to make things a littler harder: The traces changed locations every day!

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Apparently the cleaning personnel has been working double shifts

I guess there were about 40 possible locations in each town, so if you didn’t manage to find all 20 on the same day – and I sure didn’t – there was quite a bit of searching to do. It did get tedious at times, especially once you’d found 15 or more in one place, making it ever harder to remember where exactly you’d found them and where you might not need to look anymore.

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It’s Getting Worse – Now The Culprit Is Using Waterproof Markers

While that probably doesn’t sound like a lot of fun it actually was, at least to me. It shouldn’t have surprised me either because I’ve always liked scavenger hunt type quests in the games I’ve played.

The main reason for this is that they make me look at those worlds with different eyes. When I have to search for something I see so much stuff I’d never noticed before.

It’s a testament to the enthusiasm and love for detail game designers incorporate into their work. For example, have a closer look at the topmost screenshot’s uncropped version (click to enlarge):

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Hello?!? Jeez, I think his lance is the only thing that keeps him upright

I definitely hadn’t noticed those barrels full of swords, the sword rack or the toolbox before, nor the stabilizing crossbars running beneath the walking planks.

Now, I get that those details aren’t there to be actively noticed and admired – though the person who made them would certainly appreciate it. They mainly serve as props to give the scenery more believability and realism, and as far as I’m concerned they do a hell of a job.

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Why is all that stuff lying around here? Someone call the safety officer!

Over the years I’ve participated in quite a lot of scavenger hunt types of content, and they’ve always had this effect of fleshing out the world and making it feel more real to me.

I cannot even count the quests that made me trek all over Norrath to look for hidden doodads in Everquest II. The most notorious ones are probably the dragon language quest I already talked about and Knights in the Round, which had you collect 50 (!) statues scattered across the game’s already pretty huge world at that point in time.

The hunt for Datacrons in SWTOR kind of falls into the same category, although finding those often wasn’t the challenging part, but actually getting to them. I’ve heard a lot about jumping puzzles in GW2 and how much some people loathe them. Well, at least the jumping mechanics in GW2 are, you know, good. I’ve always wondered how Jedi, bounty hunters and the like even survive, let alone do their jobs properly while being as stiff and nonathletic as an arthritic 80 year old. Snark aside though, it was still fun, and the stubborn controls added to the challenge.

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WoW called – it wants its trademarked giant shoulderpads back

A Halloween event in APB Reloaded made players look for (and shoot) pumpkins for various rewards. Not only did I see some funny graffitis and other details I’d missed before, I even found some really good hiding spots I hadn’t been aware of. So in a way the event had a lasting impact on my normal gameplay.

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Obviously not this one, hiding behind pillars always ends badly

While we’re in non-MMO territory, the GTA series always had boatloads of collectibles to find, and San Andreas was the title where I spent the most time looking for them. I sprayed over rival gang graffitis in Los Santos, made photos of specific places in San Fierro, collected horseshoes in Las Venturas and went pearl diving in the ocean. The worlds of Rockstar Games games (heh) are always brimming with detail and atmosphere, so it’s no surprise that I stumbled upon more funny stuff while doing this than I can recount.

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GTA V, meanwhile, has the most stunning views on offer

This particular BDO event lasted for three weeks, but I had found all 100 traces towards the end of week two. It was a lot of fun, but I’m also glad that I now don’t have to be quite as focused while playing anymore.

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Time to stretch my legs. Why isn’t there a sun lounger up here? Clearly a design oversight!

Sometimes I’m close to giving up when doing these scavenger hunts, especially when there’s a huge number of things to find. Like I said, it can get tedious. But I usually pull through, not only because I want the rewards, but also because I like the feeling of satisfaction when I’m done.

Besides, who knows what other secrets I might uncover if I just keep looking?

What makes MMO combat enjoyable?

When asked about their preference regarding combat in MMORPGs many players reply by naming one of the generally agreed upon main categories: A) Hotbar/Tab Targeting, B) Action Combat or C) a mix of both.

I can’t really do that because I’ve played games of all categories where I liked the combat very much, and also some where I didn’t.

My current main game is Black Desert Online. I enjoy its combat a lot, but it’s hard to compare it to most others I’ve played because it’s not really designed to be challenging at all other than excecuting your skills and combos properly. It plays more like a beat ’em up, really. Also, there are no roles to speak of, basically everyone’s a damage dealer. Hence I’ll leave it out of this discussion.

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Playing the Striker is a bit like being the Hulk, always SMASHING stuff

One combat system I had a lot of fun with is The Secret World’s. Interestingly (and unfortunately) though that system was almost universally reviled by the broader MMO playerbase and the most stated reason by folks for why they couldn’t bring themselves to give the game another shot at any point. On the other side of the spectrum many players seem to be pretty happy with Final Fantasy XIV’s combat, which I don’t like at all.

This made me try to understand what exactly I need from an MMO’s combat for it to be enjoyable. If it’s not the fundamental design, and not if it’s smooth and well animated either (which FFXIV is and TSW, admittedly, is not), then what is it?

I narrowed it down by thinking about which role I like to play the most, which is tanking. During the last 10+ years I’ve tanked in every MMO I played (if it had such roles), and usually it’s been my main character. As a tank nothing is more important to me than being able to react swiftly and effectively to anything the game might throw at me and my group. I want to be in control. And I like to have at least some measure of freedom in how I go at it.

These, I realized, are the two key aspects for me: control and freedom.

I’ll stay with TSW and FFXIV to elaborate on this.

In FFXIV I mostly played the Warrior. It’s a hard hitting tank class wielding a huge axe.

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I work out a lot, yes. Why?

Looks and sounds right up my alley, but while leveling him up to 63 and doing every kind of content it never was as fun or felt as good as I’d have liked.

My biggest gripe is the awfully long global cooldown (GCD). It makes the fights feel so. slow. you. guys. Or rather, I feel slow. What’s worse, I feel neither free nor in control because I have to wait too goddamn long after I’ve used an ability before I can do anything else.

This is exacerbated by the fact that the Warrior relies heavily on ability chains, like a lot of classes in the game do. So I’ve just used a combo of three’s second attack when a group member pulls some adds? Too bad, because now I need to decide between finishing my chain (which, again, feels like an eternity due to the long GCD) and interrupting it to react to the new threat, losing a lot of extra damage and refreshing of buffs.

This kind of design is just not fun to me. I think of myself as a pretty good tank player, but the game actively prevents me from utilizing my strengths by forcing its – in my opinion – too tight design corset on me.

In contrast, The Secret World’s much maligned combat system enabled me to be exactly the tank I wanted to be, reliable and very fast reacting if things went south.

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And stylish to boot, with an elegant weapon for a more civilized age complementing the look

I took pride in the fact that I tanked most of the game’s harder dungeon bosses like Machine Tyrant or both encounters with Doctor Klein pretty well on nightmare difficulty. When tanking those a single error would cause you to die most of the time, which almost always resulted in a wipe. That this rarely happened to me made me feel good about myself, and also made those fights all the more fun for me.

So what exactly did TSW’s combat system give me that FFXIV’s didn’t (enough)?

One: freedom of movement while fighting. When tanking in TSW I often felt more like performing a choreographed dance than battling an enemy, and with all the stuff modern MMO’s bosses throw at you to dodge, evade or interrupt I really want to be able to do it like that. To me the most helpful tools in that regard were 360 degree AoE attacks so I could run sideways or even away from a boss and still hit it (not very realistic, but I don’t care), and generally being always able to move. No requirement to stand still while casting or channeling stuff, no animation locks.

Two: rotations with some leeway. As in every MMO ever TSW players of course developed perfect rotations to squeeze every possible bit of damage out of their characters. Because of how the system was designed though, revolving around resource building abilities, consumers to spend those resources and resource-independent special abilities, there was always room for improvisation without fucking up the rotation completely.

Three: a huge toolkit to choose from. A boss has lots of nasty attacks that should be interrupted? No problem, I’ll slot three stuns and rotate through them. Need to constantly dodge huge AoEs? I’ll bring a couple more movement abilities like dashes then. Our healer can’t heal at times due to boss mechanics? Let me prepare some defensive cooldowns or self-heals to stay alive.

I do realize that I’m comparing a class-based game with a pretty flexible skill-based one here, but I don’t think that the former has to be inherently inferior to the latter in this regard. I feel more flexible in how I play my characters in Everquest II than I felt in ArcheAge, for example. While at first glance you seem to have enormously more freedom in AA you actually don’t because 90% of those 120 possible sub-class combinations are crap, and you pretty much have to skill and play the viable 10% just the right way to have any chance at success.

All of the above doesn’t only apply to playing the tank role of course. Especially the ability to move while casting or channeling is a godsend for healers and DPS players. Having to stand still all the time admittedly doesn’t bother me that much when playing my Warlock in Everquest II – despite cast times of up to five seconds – since that game doesn’t harass players as much with bad stuff to move out of as more recent titles.

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Any moment now…no, NO, don’t move!!

As a healer in FFXIV though you’re forced to choose between two ills all the fricking time: either finish casting your healing spell and get hit by an AoE because of it or move out of the ground target in time and maybe let someone die. To me that isn’t fun, it’s just stressful.

To summarize, combat is a main feature of most MMOs, and I’m fine with that because it can be tremendously fun. Action combat or tab targeting, I don’t care. What the game shouldn’t do is force me into a too tight design corset dictating the exact ‘right’ way to play. Give me some freedom in how I play my chosen class or build and enable me to feel that I’m in control of the situation rather than the game controlling me. Then I’m a happy camper.

2018 in review

My only gaming-related resolution for this year was to stop playing stuff when it isn’t fun anymore, and I adhered to that. Looking back I can say that, yes, I indeed had more fun and less headaches with gaming overall due to that, so mission accomplished.

One consequence was that I alternated between games even more than I did in the past. While that’s not an inherently bad thing it means that I still haven’t found a proper home game.

That being said, for the last two and a half weeks I’ve played the heck out of Black Desert Online again after shelving it in April, and I’m having tremendous fun right now.

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To boldly go…where I hadn’t gone before. More on that soonish.

But let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

From January to April I played mostly Black Desert and EVE Online. In BDO I was very excited about the adventures that I had, and also about gathering, cooking and crafting. In EVE we had some great fights and participated in moon mining for the first time.

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But mostly we just kept shooting stuff

I also mused about randomness, player made music  and non-consensual PvP in MMOs.

In April I started to play Path of Exile again, which absolutely dominated my playtime until mid-August. I talked about how much fun I have playing summoner characters, playing the Incursion challenge league and things that I love about the game in general.

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I also killed Queen Atziri for the first time…only 4 1/2 years late

In June I celebrated my blog’s first birthday.

In August two things happened. One: the venerable Belghast revived Blaugust, and I signed up intending to reach the goal of posting every day during that month, which I managed to do. Two: I returned to Everquest II after a break of almost seven years. I fell in love with it again and wrote quite a bunch of posts about it since then.

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The terrific ‘Crafting Epic 2.0’ netted me this sweet mount a couple weeks ago

During Blaugust I also talked about playing American Football, our participation in EVE’s Alliance Tournament and some more MMO-related stuff like level scaling, soloing and faction grinds.

In November International Picture Posting Month came along, and I posted a couple of themed screenshot collections.

During the year I also expanded my fledgeling columns Memorable Moments, where I share gaming related adventures I had that are special to me, and Stay awhile and listen, thoughts about music that I like.

As I said in the beginning I recently picked up Black Desert again, but I also still play EQII and EVE regularly.

The gaming industry in general and MMO industry in particular gave us a crapton of headscratchers and serious fuckups this year, I think more so than in any other year before. I don’t want to talk about that though, this is supposed to be a positive post after all.

Ok, well, I’ll just say this: yes, Blizzard, I indeed do have a phone, but that’s none of your goddamn business because in my opinion quality games and fucking phones don’t have anything to do with each other!

Anyway. I don’t really have any resolutions for 2019 except continuing to have fun doing what I love, and I feel exceptionally blessed that, barring any disasters happening to me, I’ll be able to do just that.

I wish you all a happy and above all healthy year 2019!

Let it snow, MMO!

Sorry about the title, I just couldn’t resist. I’m not even sure if that’s a proper rhyme. Ahem, moving on.

It hardly ever snows where I live, so when I crave some proper winter weather I need to either travel a good bit in real life, or get my fix in one of the virtual worlds I also inhabit.

While the latter obviously isn’t as good as the real deal it has the benefit of not actually being, you know, cold. MMO developers are well aware of that appeal, and most titles have at least one zone where there’s always winter. Those that have weather systems also tend to let it snow regularly during winter months.

Here are some places to savour virtual winter should you ever feel like it.

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Black Desert Online is one of the best looking MMOs out there, and it’s especially spectacular during winter. A screenshot doesn’t do it justice really, in motion it’s downright stunning. When it starts to snow the world doesn’t just turn white from one moment to the next, instead the snow blanket gets more dense over time. Later it starts to melt and turns to mud or water, depending on the surface, before it finally dissipates.

It’s not just a feast for the eyes either. Walking over snow sounds very realistic, and I could swear all ambient sounds are a bit muffled. I might be imagining that last bit, but it shows that the whole experience just feels right and is probably as close to the real thing as it can be.

Winter2

ArcheAge has a similar approach, but falls short in comparison. Still, it too looks pretty great. During sunshine you can see Marianople, the city in the background, clearly and with many details from this distance, so the snow’s effect on long range visibility seems to be even a bit more realistic here.

Now we move on to ‘eternal winter’ territory.

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The Coerthas Highland zones are among my favourites in Final Fantasy XIV. The architecture and mood fit perfectly to a region where it’s always cold. I wouldn’t have been surprised at all to discover Winterfell just around the corner. Winter isn’t coming, it’s already here!

Winter6

This Everquest II zone is fittingly called Everfrost. It dates all the way back to the game’s release, and it shows. From a distance it still looks quite good though, and I can’t help but feel a little bit chilly when I see it.

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Another one from EQII. These are the docks and the entrance to Thurgadin, city of the Coldain dwarves. It’s an impressive and majestic place, and it’s huge. A player character would fit a couple of times into the head of one of those statues. The winter theme fits very well here I think.

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If you want to freeze your butt off in The Secret World the Carpathians have got you covered. I hope you don’t mind that vampires are all over the place though. Definitely bring your collection of stakes along. Or Buffy Summers.

Winter8

I can’t remember the name of this zone in TERA, nor why my horse is hovering a foot above the ground. Maybe it didn’t want its hooves to get cold…

Winter4

I didn’t mind the stylized look of Star Wars: The Old Republic in general. Some places, like Tatooine for example, actually looked really great. Somehow the ice planet Hoth didn’t feel right though. The above mentioned effect of feeling cold just by looking at it just wasn’t there for me. Still, this list wouldn’t be complete without Hoth, would it?

I wish you all a merry and hopefully white Christmas.

Happy Frostfell to all!

I have to correct myself. Back in October I said that Nights of the Dead is my favourite Everquest II holiday. Now I was reminded that I actually love Frostfell even more. I guess if you manage to get me in a nice and cozy Christmas-mood you’ve already hit the jackpot.

Since I had last visited Frostfell Wonderland Village there’s been a quite drastic graphical overhaul of the zone, so I was in for a big surprise.

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It’s almost unrecognizable, and looks especially great at night

Fortunately ice skating and hurling snowballs at one another are still in, and just as fun as ever. Most quests I already knew are also still there, and they added a bunch of new ones in my absence. Of course I played through them all.

Some of the newer quests revolve around a ‘secret’ workshop where the Gigglegibber Goblins actually manufacture all those presents Santa Glug distributes.

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If this was available as prestige housing I’d buy it! *wink wink, nudge nudge*

Them being Goblins lots of things go awry of course, as usual, but thanks to my help all the good kids will be getting presents this year after all.

Of the old quests I always liked EQII’s version of the Christmas Carol the most. You’re tasked to take the place of one Mr. McScroogle who’s an irredeemable asshat (surprise) and sick of being reminded of that fact over and over again come Frostfell. So this time it’s you who is visited by three well known ghosts and are shown his/your wrongdoings.

Although I’ve done this quest a couple of years in a row back when it was introduced some of the dialogues still make me crack up really hard.

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I’ve faced pre-nerf Venril Sathir, mate. THAT guy was scary!

I’ve always loved EQII’s humor and there’s much more of that spread all over Frostfell content.

As is tradition new crafting recipes have also been added every year, so I had lots of new goodies to look forward to. In contrast to Halloween-craftables the Frostfell stuff can only be made using the workbenches in the Wonderland Village, which means that you have to craft everything you like while the event lasts or wait until next year.

So I quickly let my pack ponies gather some Frostfell ingredients and started hammering, sewing and, of course, cooking.

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Who says Christmas is only about sweets? It’s also about a nice roast!

This gave me the perfect opportunity to tend to an unfinished project in my Bruiser’s home. I had started to furnish a dining room when he moved into his Qeynos manor many years ago, but until now I’d never put food on the table, literally.

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Now I can feed an army and then some

The room isn’t finished yet, but I’m quite pleased with the centerpiece now.

There’s also new armorsets and weapons. These aren’t really suited to be worn all year like the Halloween stuff is – they’re a bit too colorful for that I feel – but until January Lakisa and I will both be sporting the cheerful plate armor.

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Only complete with the matching cheerful scarf…and I normally hate scarves

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you like nothing more than holiday events you just have to play EQII. There are so many that you can play them pretty much all year round, and they’re all great.

Frostfell will be around until January 3rd, so there’s still time to take a look. I know I can’t get enough of it and will enjoy it while it lasts.

IntPiPoMo – Marvelous mounts

Mounts are a staple feature of the MMO genre, almost on par with levels or quests. Most of the time their main purpose is to carry you around, letting you reach your destination faster. Some have additional abilities like gliding, flying, having their own inventory or being able to carry two players at once. Then there are those really hard to get ones, which above all else serve as a status symbol once you have them.

Whatever the case, they are our pride and joy, are they not?

Many have accompanied me over the years, and here are some of my favourites.

IntPiPoMo_Mounts3
Sunset over Antonica

This is my first Everquest II mount. You didn’t get one for free or as a quest reward back then (as far as I know), and it had taken me quite a while to accumulate the status points needed. As a result I was very happy with it and rode it for a pretty long time, all the way until leapers and flyers were introduced.

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Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Speaking of leapers, I’ve never had so much fun with another mount in any game than I had and still have with these. At the time they let me see all those old zones with new eyes because they jump really fricking high (and I couldn’t use flyers yet), but it’s also pure joy mechanically. Barely making the jump over a wide ravine or landing at the exact spot I aim at feels great and obviously isn’t half as fun with a flying mount.

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Doesn’t look like it, but I swear I’m moving fast

Star Wars Galaxies had no mounts at release, but pretty large planets. My characters must’ve worn out quite a lot of boots during the first months. I didn’t mind too much because the large distances added to the game’s adventurous, sandboxy feel, but it’s safe to say that pretty much everybody cheered a lot when mounts were finally added. Or…not. The first mounts were rideable beasts and just barely faster than running, so most of us were quite underwhelmed. A while later the mounts everyone was waiting for finally came: gliders and speeder bikes. The perceived size of the game world shrank a good bit due to that, but I don’t think anyone would’ve seriously wanted to go back.

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These are the suns you’re looking for

While we’re in the Star Wars universe, here I’m zipping around Tatooine on my collector’s edition mount in SWTOR. I liked this game’s version of the planet very much, I think it has just the right feel to it. Plus, the side quests for the Jawas are hilarious. But I digress. The mount wasn’t anything special, but at least I had one to use right away.

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Light cycle ready, where’s the arena?

This is my all time favourite SWTOR mount. I didn’t like doing dailies in that game much, but I ground the Gree event diligently until I had reached the needed reputation rank for this because it just looks awesome and fits my Jedi Guardian’s look perfectly.

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Why yes, it’s very comfy

Final Fantasy XIV has a great many cool mounts, this being one of my most used flyers. It always reminds me of the Goblin beast tribe quests that reward this, which I liked doing because they are just hilarious.

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I can’t think of anything to say that would make this any more ridiculous

Lakisa and I had just finished the Moogle beast tribe quests, so naturally we took off on our brand new dandelion mounts and spread the love…err…pollen.

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Trick or treat

This last one from FFXIV could be earned while doing the Halloween quests a couple years back. I didn’t use it very long though; an over seven feet tall Au Ra looks a bit weird on it after all…

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I don’t need no helmet, officer, I’m immortal. No, really!

The Secret World didn’t have mounts for a long time, and technically it didn’t need any because you could unlock several substantial boosts to your running speed. With those you made Usain Bolt look very old.

But, again, players like mounts, so they were finally added. This motorbike was the first, unlockable by doing a quest. It wasn’t any faster than the normal speed boosts and had pretty clunky animations for turning and such, but it was a nice touch nonetheless.

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Yet another TRON reference. I’m not complaining though.

Zipping around Tokyo on my…shoes?

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Yes, there actually is more than one horse in this post

This is my trusty steed in Black Desert Online. It’s fast and reliable, but man, it eats me out of house and home. So. Many. Carrots.

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Is there a horse under all this…stuff?

No. No there’s not. It’s dead, Jim. Well, at least it doesn’t need any carrots. Which is a good thing because I haven’t seen a single carrot anywhere in TERA.

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Death from above

Not only are the gliders in ArcheAge very fun to ride, they’re also instruments to be used to your tactical advantage in PvP. Here we’re coming down hard on the enemy faction’s Grimghast raid.

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Who says this isn’t a mount? I’m riding on it, am I not?

Another one from ArcheAge. Our guild did a huge cooperative trade run across the sea for a hefty profit. Until we reached the shore we used farm carts to speed up the journey. Now, I could’ve stored my tradepack into the cart and rode on my horse, but why? Sitting in the front seat (actually that’s the hose for watering your fields, but bear with me here) was much more relaxing and less bumpy than riding on horseback.

What’s your favourite mount?

IntPiPoMo picture count: 14 (this post); 50 (total)