IntPiPoMo – Housing edition

I love housing in all kinds of games, especially MMOs. To me it’s much more than just a ‘decorating-minigame’. I like to have a place to come back to after an exciting adventure, kick back and, if the game (hopefully) allows it, show off the spoils one way or another. If it also has functionality like crafting workbenches or items that provide buffs or teleports it’s even better.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the MMO housing I’ve had (or still have). As always, click to enlarge.

IntPiPoMo_Housing1

Ultima Online was my first MMO, and this small tower near Yew my first virtual home. Even with its three stories it was tiny on the inside, but I was very happy to have it. It served as my safe haven and storehouse, but also as a place to chill, craft, dye my clothes and stuff like that. To me it wasn’t just one optional feature of many, but an integral part of my gameplay and a proper home.

intPiPoMo_Housing2

This is the little concert hall I arranged inside my medium Naboo house in Star Wars Galaxies. Except for the speakers and the armor I crafted everything you see here by hand, including the house itself.

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This Everquest II rooftop garden in my Bruiser’s Qeynos manor is one of the coziest places I’ve yet managed to furnish. Unfortunately it doesn’t have any kind of functionality, so I rarely go up there. Still, I like it a lot.

IntPiPoMo_Housing5

This was our first home in ArcheAge, a small house by the lake in Two Crowns, just after finishing it’s construction. As with my tower in UO it’s living space was tiny, but we were still very happy with it. The little field with the aspen was also ours, and we later managed to convince the grapevine field’s owner to surrender it to us. With those combined we had a sizeable crop area right next to our house, which was very handy.

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A couple months later I managed to fulfill my dream of having a large house right by the sea, which you can see here. The view and sounds from the patio were just amazing.

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I never managed to have a proper house in Final Fantasy XIV (and I still think it’s too damn hard to get one), but my little apartement turned out quite nice and cozy, especially around christmas time.

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I’m a bit torn on Black Desert Online’s housing. The blend of instanced and open world housing is pretty clever and works well, and the abodes themselves range from ok to spectacular. The fact that almost all good looking furniture comes exclusively from the cash shop bugs me greatly though. Still, it’s quite good overall and I’d rather take this than no housing whatsoever.

IntPiPoMo picture count: 7

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Double, double toil and trouble

Everquest II has no shortage of holiday events. I haven’t done the math, but saying there’s more days a year with an event active than days without one can’t be far from the truth.

Most of them are great, too. Some of my favourites are Tinkerfest (not based on a real holiday) and of course Frostfell, which is themed around Christmas and the winter solstice.

The one I’ve always been looking forward to the most is Nights of the Dead, the Halloween event. This year it went live on October 5th and will stay active until November 1st.

Since new content is added almost every year there’s an amazing wealth of stuff to do by now. When I left the game in 2011 there already were two haunted houses, one giant hedge maze and lots of smaller content. Since then a race, a whack-a-mole type minigame, new collections and another haunted house have been added, so I had some new stuff to look forward to in addition to replaying the bits I already knew.

I vaguely remembered that some or most Halloween stuff started in West Freeport back in the day, so that’s where I went first. On my way there I stumbled across some tombstones that aren’t normally there. As I looked closer I discovered a shovel lying in the grass. Equipping it turned some of the tombstones clicky, so click them I did.

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It’s technically not really whack-a-mole, but it sure looks like it

One of various things then spawns from the grave. A gift package that can contain either candy, a collectible or a housing item, a mob to fight or a ghost who gives you a quest. I took the quest of course, desecrated some more graves, then followed the lead the ghost had given me.

The quest ultimately leads into the (for me) new haunted house. Like the one in Loping Plains it’s mostly built out of assets from The Estate of Unrest, but with a different color scheme and of course new riddles and enemies. It’s not very long or elaborate, and the boss fight is pretty click-heavy. Overall I like the two other houses more, but new content and new rewards are still nice.

After that I finally made my way to West Freeport. Indeed the quest giver for the trek to Loping Plains as well as the entrance to the first ever haunted house are still there, so I did those two next.

I had completely forgotten the dancing challenge (seriously) in the Freeport/Qeynos house. I succeeded without a single fail, which I think was a first.

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Quick, call Norrath’s Got Talent!

I had read somewhere that there’s also a new (again, to me) race in the Commonlands and Antonica just out of town, so I went and had a look. It’s pretty straightforward, you have to collect as many ghosts as possible while riding a sickly green cloud mount during a limited time, and get rewards accordingly. I made it into the leaderboard in Antonica on my second try (I assume not many had done it yet this year though), and I got myself two copies of one of the appearance weapons because it supplements my Ratonga’s outfit and the Bruiser’s fighting style well.

EQ2_Halloween3
Are you talking to me!?

Saving the best for last I finally ventured to Nektulos Forest and entered Hedge Hollow, a giant hedge maze with a couple of quests and really cool rewards inside. I got the outfit seen above there long ago, and you can still get it.

Speaking of rewards, there are lots and lots. Every quest has it’s own selection, but most come from the event vendor in every major city and are paid for with candy corn. Every ‘spooky’ kind of monster (skeletons, bats, werewolves, spiders etc.) has a chance to drop some kind of candy, and all of those can be exchanged for candy corn. Some of the items, especially the mounts, are pretty expensive though, and the cost for my list of want-to-have items quickly amounted to well over 1,000 candy corn.

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Flying mounts for everyone (at level 85 crafter or adventurer)!

To be honest, the thought of having to farm that much candy the old fashioned way wasn’t something I was particularly thrilled about. Hence I was really happy to find out that my pack pony has the ability to fetch candy for me. Instead of asking it to gather a specific tier of resources I can tell it to bring me holiday harvests (so I assume this also works during Frostfell etc.), and after two hours it returns with about 90 assorted candies. I’m using two ponies non-stop for this now, so buying everything Lakisa and I want and then some before the event ends shouldn’t be a problem at all.

I kind of miss the old trick-or-treat minigame (which apparently was removed and replaced by the races when Freeport and Qeynos were revamped), but other than that the event is bigger and better than ever. It’s still plenty of time to do everything before November 1st, and I highly recommend giving it a go.

Dungeon Spotlight: The Estate of Unrest

Dungeons play a major role in most MMO’s group content offerings. There’s the open, contested variety, mostly found in older titles, and the instanced versions meant for one group only to which we’re all so very accustomed to today.

Wether contested or instanced, you always gather a bunch of friends around you and raid some baddie’s lair/mansion/cave/whatever in hopes of fat loot.

While this basic premise is pretty much always the same the disparity in terms of complexity, difficulty and design sophistication between different game’s dungeons – and even individual dungeons within a single game – can be huge.

Many instanced dungeons these days are as linear as humanly possible. Just follow the path from one boss to the next, kill trash mobs in between. If you need to use your brain at all it’s only to overcome the boss mechanics. To me that’s boring as hell, and it’s no wonder that the majority of players wants to get through as fast as possible. FFXIV’s dungeons are a prime example of this.

It doesn’t have to be this way though. The other day Lakisa and I made a trip through Everquest II’s (in my opinion) second-best instanced dungeon, which is also the second-best I’ve ever played in any game: The Estate of Unrest. Boy, I had almost forgotten how engaging and immensely fun an MMO dungeon can be. We were a good bit overleveled and overgeared, but because it was just the two of us the difficulty was just right. Since I still remembered some details despite the many years it’s been I let Lakisa have the first shot at figuring things out of course.

Spoilers ahead, I guess.

EQ2_Unrest_Entrance

Saying that Unrest isn’t linear would be the understatement of the year. This isn’t just a dungeon, it’s also a point-and-click adventure as well as a survival horror game.

You have to find keys (in a hedge maze, no less) and the corresponding doors, chess pieces (Resident Evil 2 says hi), music sheets and cooking ingredients. One group member then has to actually play that music and cook a meal while the other(s) have to fend off continuously spawning mobs.

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Come on now, she isn’t playing THAT badly!

You have to repair switches in different rooms and figure out that they have to be pulled simultaneously, forcing the group to split up.

Then you have to fight evil versions of yourself. I’m not making this up.

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I…don’t think so!

One boss occasionally teleports a group member into a cell that can only be opened from the outside, forcing the others to bail her out before everyone’s locked away. We didn’t make it in time, what with being only two instead of six people, so while the boss died we both ended up in jail. I had to leave the instance, go back in and run back to the cell block.

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Rat to the rescue

The next boss goes by the name The Hemogoblin and stands in a pool of blood, which amused Lakisa to no end.

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No good dungeon without a proper medical joke, I guess

After that we were closing in on the Big Bad himself. He tried to scare us away one last time.

EQ2_Unrest_TV

Of course we didn’t falter, and soon he had to pay for his bad deeds.

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You’re one ugly…

I didn’t keep an eye on the clock, but I guess the run took us almost three hours. It was time well spent. We didn’t get anything tangible out of it other than AA XP and some collectibles, but the adventure alone is so much worth it. Needless to say the dungeon tells a compelling story on top of all that interesting gameplay, and we enjoyed every second of it.

10/10

EQII quest types if wish every MMO had

Ever since WoW set lots of genre standards quests have become the de facto means for progressing your character in most themepark-MMOs and even some sandboxes. You don’t just go forth and kill Orcs, gather shrubs or whatever because you want to, but because some NPC tells you to.

Players are supposed to be busy for as long as possible, so lots and lots of quests are needed. Quantity often trumps quality in terms of quest design due to this. It’s become so bad over time that there’s a well known trope for boring busywork-quests: ‘Kill 10 rats’.

10Rats
In case you don’t know The Noob yet, it’s hilarious!

Fortunately not all quests are like this. Everquest II has a lot of variety, and also some types of quests I haven’t seen in any other MMO yet. Which is a shame because I think these are pretty great, although they, too, are mainly meant to keep you busy.

Here are some examples.

Lore and Legend quests

For nearly every creature type in EQII there’s a corresponding L&L quest. They require to collect body parts of said creatures to learn more about them.

What’s great about them?

You have to kill all those mobs for other quests anyway (see above), and it’s nice to get not one but at least two pings every now and then as well as extra XP at the end. Some of those pings come in the form of tradable items that need to be consumed for the quest, so even if you have already finished yours you can still benefit from looting duplicates by passing them to your alts or selling them.

The rewards other than XP are what make these quests stand out though. Every class has some kind of spell or ability that you can only use against creatures whose L&L quest you have completed. It’s not insanely powerful, but it’s still nice to have another damaging ability at your disposal.

You also get a wall mounted trophy and an actually readable book containing a short story about that creature type for your house.

EQ2_LL
Yes, I’ve studied that brain very thoroughly, thanks for asking.

When a quest manages to make mindlessly killing mobs much more rewarding and fun it’s doing something right in my book.

Language quests

The EQII Wiki lists 43 languages, only two or three of which player characters can speak from the start. Some can be bought, but most have to be learned by doing a quest.

What’s great about them?

The basic ones again require simple drops coming from the corresponding mob types, so they give you yet another reason to go on a killing spree.

More elaborate languages, like the Dragon language, have equally sophisticated quests. The main step of this one asks you to “find 26 translated runes of Elder Dragon”. Doesn’t sound too hard until you realize that those runes are spread out all over the game world and you have no exact idea where they might be hidden. If anyone has found all these without using coordinates from a walkthrough: hats off to you! Even with outside help it’s really cool though because it makes you revisit all these zones and kind of see them with different eyes while you examine every nook and cranny.

Learning the languages serves the purpose to actually be able to understand and talk to those people and creatures. If you don’t know the language yet you will see only gibberish in chat, and consequentially can’t properly interact with them to get or progress quests. This makes the world feel more real to me and gives a sense of achievement the more my characters learn.

EQ2_Language
Ha, you say that now!

Heritage quests

These aren’t exactly applicable for every MMO because they send you on a quest to rediscover ‘relics of old’, namely famous items from the game’s predecessor Everquest. Still, even without the nostalgia factor (which I don’t have either because I’ve never played EQ) these are very cool quests.

What’s great about them?

In a word, they’re epic. When done at the appropriate level they’re much longer and harder than your average quest and always tell an interesting story. Some are sad, some are hilarious, some are plain silly. Whatever they are, I never skip the quest text because I’d do myself a disservice.

Granted, the items they reward aren’t always worth the effort, at least not for their stats. Often you’ll find that you can’t even use it because it’s not for your class. After all the legendary Shiny Brass Halberd, for example, won’t magically turn into a wand just because you’re a spellcaster. This doesn’t bother me though because these too can be used as a housing decoration, and I often sit in my library, drink mead from the Stein of Moggok and read a book about lore and legends while admiring the sight of my Glowing Black Stone and Greater Lightstone upon my shelf.

EQ2_Heritage
Well, not really, but you get the idea.

Farewell to Wildstar and other MMO news

So I come home from a 12-day vacation and the MMO-gaming world has pretty much turned on it’s head. Huh.

Pearl Abyss is buying CCP Games. Since I play EVE Online and intend to continue to do so I hope this will be good for the game. There’s much doom and gloom going round of course. I prefer to share Wilhelm’s more upbeat view. Also, in my opinion Black Desert’s cash shop isn’t as P2W-heavy as many people claim it to be. I didn’t aim for being competitive in PvP though, so what do I know. We’ll see.

A billionaire doctor has invested in Daybreak. Any news concerning Everquest II that’s not decidedly good news makes me very nervous right now. I just fell in love with the game again and would very much like to make up for lost time as long as I can. A shutdown announcement would be heartbreaking. Bhagpuss is cautiously optimistic, and I hope he’s right.

Speaking of shutdowns, the time has come for Wildstar. Unlike others who said their farewells I’ve never played it, but it makes me sad nonetheless.

The game was on my radar since I first saw it’s brilliant gamescom ’11 trailer. It’s funny, it’s action-packed, it has Sci-Fi and Western style…it’s basically Firefly. What’s not to like?

Wildstar
Well, ok, Firefly with WoW-sized shoulderpads

Obviously a render trailer like that doesn’t tell you anything about how a game actually plays. Once details about the general gameplay direction became known I started to doubt if this was going to be a game for me: a themepark with action combat and ‘hardcore endgame’. This is what the devs themselves said about their raids:

How hardcore are our raids? So hardcore that they floss with BARBED WIRE!!!

Okaaaay.

Despite my fondness of playing solo I do like raids. The more people the better. I went from 24-man raids in EQII to 8-man raids in SWTOR and was like ‘this is no raid, this is a group with two extra people’.

My EQII raiding days have taught me one thing though: it’s hard to find enough players of compatible playstyles, skill levels, goals and schedules for raid groups that big. Even if you do find those people, keeping them all engaged and happy for a period of time isn’t just hard…it’s fricking impossible.

So how does the prospect of 40-man raids with super high difficulty sound? Awesome in theory if you do like that sort of thing, but very much at odds with reality.

Once I had read about ‘attunement‘ I definitely knew Wildstar was not for me.

It’s a shame, because I would have very much liked to at least check out it’s player housing. More than a few call it the best they’ve experienced.

Which makes me wonder, again, who exactly the game was meant for.

I have never, ever, met a player whom I’d call at least semi-hardcore who was into housing and other kinds of ‘fluff’. Those people want their game’s devs to do one thing only: design more dungeons and raids. Everything else is deemed a waste of time and resources. From their point of view it’s understandable.

Statistics show that they are a minority though. A vocal minority for sure, but still a minority. Enough to pay the bills for a AAA MMO? Apparently not.

And so it goes. It’s sad because the game has a lot going for it. I think I’d have liked the setting, style, music and non-hardcore features very much.

Farewell Wildstar.

The beauty of gaming

While good gameplay is always much more important to me than fancy graphics I too like eye candy. Who doesn’t?

I also like to have mementos of my adventures so I can revel in nostalgia later.

Combine the two and it’s no wonder that I take lots and lots of screenshots. Today I’d like to share some highlights. As always, click to enlarge.

Screens_BD

This is the city of Calpheon in Black Desert Online. It’s the most realistic depiction of a medieval town (as I imagine it) I’ve seen in a video game to date, and it’s especially beautiful at dawn.

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Destiny 2 is a good looking game for sure. This was my favourite vista.

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Another shot of Everquest II’s Obol Plains. Not bad for a 6-year-old zone in an almost 14-year-old game.

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Multiple fleets are fighting here in EVE Online, with Lakisa and myself right in the middle. Doesn’t look like death and destruction from afar, does it?

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The Scarecrow levels in Batman: Arkham Asylum were really special, gameplay- as well as graphics-wise. Damn, now I’d really like to play it again.

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And what could be a more fitting shot to end this post than Trevor’s supercool Unflinching Walk from GTA V?

Why I love to solo in MMOs

The other day Wilhelm said something in one of his posts that immediately spoke to me:

“Why [being able to] solo was, and remains, important is a whole different topic that I might have to revisit.”

I’m gonna shamelessly nick that topic now. 🙂

I can’t overstate how important the ability to play solo is and always was to me personally. It’s been exacerbated by bad experiences with other players I had during the last few years, yes, but I’ve always liked doing stuff on my own. Also, working in shifts often means that you can’t play with others even if you want to.

If you speak about this openly you are often told “well, don’t play MMOs then”. This obviously misses the point though.

I’ve already stated some of the reasons why I like playing in a multiplayer environment in the article linked above. Of course there’s another big reason: I can play together with others if I feel like it.

The thing is, I don’t always feel like it. When I come home from work I often crave some peace and quiet. Interactions with people on the internet are seldom quiet and not always peaceful either. Bad PuGs, guild drama, you name it.

When I started to play Everquest II shortly after release I fell in love with it right away, I felt it was something special. Yet once you left the Isle of Refuge (newbie island) pretty much everything needed a group back then, you could do hardly anything on your own.

I already worked in shifts then, so being part of a regular group wasn’t possible. I quickly fell behind the friend I started to play with and had to make do with PuGs. For every one good PuG I found I wound up in at least two really bad ones. Having to wait for up to an hour until everyone in the group was at the chosen starting point, just to realize after a couple successive wipes that it wasn’t gonna work out wasn’t uncommon.

I had only made it to level 24 (of 50 at the time) when I decided that the game wasn’t for me, despite really liking it on many levels.

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Sad Warlock logging out for the (presumably) last time in Nektulos Forest

I returned for the first time half a year later after hearing many awesome stories about dungeons, raiding and the great guild said friend was in. There were some opportunities to level up solo by then, but still not nearly enough for me. Although the guild indeed was a great bunch and tried to help, I burned out while trying to reach max level as fast as possible and quit again.

It wasn’t before 2007 that the game had transformed into a much more solo-friendly experience, and this time I really got going. I played for about 1 1/2 years straight, pretty much every day.

I absolutely did play together with others during that time. I ran countless dungeons and raids with that guild, Vivere militare est, for two and a half expansions in a row. And it was great!

That was only possible, though, because the game allowed me to do many activities on my own, in my own time.

This is why whenever a new developer team comes along and advertises they’ll “make grouping great and important again”, I’m out. Been there, done that, no thanks.