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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Looks like someone has found a new calling…
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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):
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.