This fall is going to be (a) killer

It’s been almost two years since I stumbled across Lost Ark and wondered when the heck I might be able to get my hands on it. Well, it looks like the wait is almost over now.

Turns out the mysterious-but-not-really publishing deal between Smilegate, the game’s Korean developer, and Amazon was indeed about Lost Ark, and now we know that it’s slated to release in the NA and EU regions “this fall”.

Which is great. Of course my personal hype for the game had waned considerably after hearing a whole lot of nothing about a western release for so long, but I’d still very much like to play it, for all the reasons I’ve talked about in the post linked above. So, yeah, bring it!

Only that…

… just yesterday we learned that Diablo II Resurrected will launch very soon too, on September 23rd to be precise.

Half a decade ago this would have been a must-buy no questions asked for Lakisa and myself. However, given how much goodwill Blizzard has managed to squander in recent years, especially when it comes to remastering their old classics, we’re taking a much more cautious stance. In other words, we’ll wait for the launch, see how it goes and what people have to say about it, and then decide.

What we’ve seen until now looks promising though, and if they indeed get it right this time we’ll sure as hell play it. Diablo II is nothing less than one of our all time favourite games after all, and even gems like Path of Exile or Grim Dawn, superior as they are content- and mechanics-wise, haven’t quite managed to recapture its magic.

Which basically leaves just one question: with not one but two great games I’ve been looking forward to for years launching almost simultaneously, how will I find the time to actually play them both as extensively as I intend to? All those monsters aren’t gonna kill themselves, you know.

On the other hand, if that’s my main worry right now things are really looking up, aren’t they?

Year four – more Other Stuff than MMOs

No blogiversary-post without a cake

We’ve circled the sun yet another time and I’m still posting (somewhat) regularly around here, so go me I guess.

Still, the blog’s fourth year has been a weird one, and for once COVID-19 wasn’t the main culprit to blame. I mean, sure, after a while masks, distancing, lockdowns and all that shit started to get to me just like everyone else, and I can’t say I’ve been my usual, upbeat self during these surreal times.

The main reason for my change in gaming habits and, as a result, my blogging is something else though: there just isn’t any MMORPG I’d really like to play right now.

It’s not that there aren’t any good ones available, quite the contrary. And, as Bhagpuss accurately notes, there are currently more new and promising releases waiting in the wings than we’ve had in years. I am definitely keeping an eye on Swords of Legends Online, and I’ll most certainly at least try it out when it launches. I also still log into EVE Online every now and again.

There’s always stuff to shoot in space

My enthusiasm for the MMORPG genre as a whole is at an all-time low however. Of course many things have changed during the 20 years since I started to play Ultima Online, and as far as I’m concerned definitely not all of them for the better. Yet after thinking quite a lot about it lately I’ve come to realize: it’s not the genre, it’s me.

I definitely still love the RPG part of the acronym, and I have no qualms regarding the O being in there either. No, it’s the MM aspect that’s become more and more of a turnoff for me.

Guild drama (and drama in general), bad pugs, trolls, people trying to tell me what I can and cannot do with my free time… I could – and probably will – write a whole post of its own about why having other players around is much more bane than boon to me these days.

Peace and calm…yeah, this is much more like it

I guess that’s why I still very much enjoy playing Genshin Impact, which has been my main game – and, at times, my only game – for eight months straight now. It pushes almost all of the buttons that made me addicted to MMORPGs in the first place – exploration, character progression, combat, getting to know a foreign world and then becoming a part of it, and now even housing – without the “baggage” of having other people around. Sorry folks, but that’s just how I feel right now.

Of course there are downsides to playing in self-imposed seclusion too. I’ve argued myself that other players are what puts the spice, the adventure into online games, and I still stand by that. As much fun as I’ve had playing Genshin, Warframe and a handful of other games this past year, I certainly don’t feel like I’ve been on any real adventures while doing so.

Surprisingly, though, I can kinda live with that. As I’ve come to realize it can actually be quite soothing to know in advance that any given play session will most likely not turn into an adrenaline-filled frenzy.

Home is where the heart is

However, I started this blog to write about my gaming adventures first and foremost. You know, about stuff that really excited me when it happened, that I feel the need to preserve and also show to other people, to maybe help them understand why I like to sit at my desk and play these games so much.

It’s probably no surpsise, then, that I’ve published less posts during the blog’s fourth year than any other. Even my first year, when I was still finding my footing and nothing I did had any regularity or plan to it, saw 34 posts published, compared to just 29 within the past twelve months.

Will that change again? Most likely. I’ve been fed up with MMORPGs in the past, and I’ve always come back. I do like having those adventures very much, after all.

Until then my posting cadence will probably remain on the lower end. But don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere.

EVE’s wretched hive of scum and villainy finally looks the part

If you’ve played EVE Online at any point during the past 15 or so years you’re well aware that the NPC station Caldari Navy Assembly Plant located at Planet IV Moon 4 of the Jita star system is the game’s major trade hub most players use to buy and sell their wares. And scam, and lie, and cheat, obviously. Hell, even if you’ve only heard or read about the game chances are “Jita 4-4” means something to you.

Despite its huge importance to the community the station looked like just another Caldari station for the longest time, on the inside as well as the outside.

Well, not anymore.

About half a year ago CCP completely remodeled the station’s exterior, and I think they did a pretty good job. It looks sprawling and busy, with electronic billboards plastered everywhere.

The thing is though, the station isn’t actually looked at much from the outside. As a matter of fact most arriving players dock as quickly as they can, and warp the hell off right after undocking when they leave again. The reason for this, of course, is the fear of suicide gankers.

The opposite is true for the station’s interior however. Thousands of characters basically live there. I assume more ship spinning happens in Jita 4-4 than any other station, so one might argue that in order to give players something nice to look at this should have been the priority.

Anyway, the wait is over now. A couple of days ago the station’s bowels followed suit at last. As I don’t log on my Jita alt often these days I’d probably missed it if not for Wilhelm. Which would’ve been a shame because I think it looks glorious.

Now, I know that there are much more important things CCP’s devs should be working on. Nevertheless I applaud that they took the time to do this because, for me, EVE isn’t just ‘spreadsheets in space’. It’s a virtual world, and while immersion doesn’t come easy in a game where I can’t run around and identify with an avatar, stuff like this definitely helps.

I’m sure the effect will wear off soon enough, but for now I’ll spin my ship in Jita 4-4 again from time to time, which I hadn’t done in quite a while.

Accuracy is a bad stat in MMORPGs

The other day I was fiddling around with my characters’ artifacts in Genshin Impact, pondering which ones to keep or ditch, which to upgrade further or leave as is and so forth.

Getting really good artifacts like the one seen above is quite hard as there’s a lot of RNG involved.

Firstly, the main- and sub-stats they drop with are – with a few exceptions – completely random. You can (and regularly do) even get pieces of such a set, this one is obviously meant for Hydro characters for example, with a bonus to, say, Pyro damage as its main stat. While such an item isn’t necessarily useless it certainly isn’t what you’re hoping for when farming a particular set.

Secondly, each time you raise an artifact’s level by 4 it gets an additional (random) sub-stat unless it already had four. In the latter case one of the existing sub-stats is chosen, you guessed it, randomly to get a boost.

MOAR CRITS, MOAR DAMAGE, MUCH GOOD!!

It isn’t all bad though. With perseverance and a bit of luck it’s absolutely possible to get very strong artifacts, as you can see here.

The main reason for this, I believe, is that there aren’t actually that many different stats for the RNG to choose from. Therefore you’re gonna hit the desired combination eventually.

Anyway, all this made me think about the different kinds of stats I’ve encountered over the decades in various RPGs, MMO or otherwise, which finally brings us to the point I’m trying to make today: depending on class, playstyle et cetera there are always desirable stats and undesirable stats…

…and then there’s Accuracy.

Seriously though…why?

I’m really glad that Accuracy doesn’t exist in Genshin Impact because, as far as I’m concerned, it is the most annoying, unnecessary and, above all, unfun stat of them all.

The way I see it Accuracy, sometimes called Hit Rating or somesuch instead, is a remnant of Pen & Paper RPGs that should never have made its way into RPGs played on digital devices in real time.

“But Mail, when characters in Dungeons & Dragons have a THAC0 it makes sense that characters in computer- or console-RPGs have it too, right?”

Well, no. Let me explain why.

When you play Pen & Paper a dice roll is usually the only way to determine whether or not your character succeeds at whatever it is you want them to do (unless the GM hates you or something). If you didn’t need to win those rolls your alter ego would be pretty much infallible because in order to make them do something you but need to say it.

Go ahead, try to do that in a real time video game. I’ll wait.

Didn’t work out so well, did it? That’s the thing. ‘Telling’ your character what to do is so much more complex and, at times, difficult in Action RPGs, MMORPGs and other games of their ilk nowadays that this already is the challenge. Adding an arbitrary dice roll to decide whether you succeed or not is not only unnecessary, it’s downright mean.

So you’ve positioned your character correctly, selected the right target and pushed your myriad of buttons in the optimal order and all at the right time? Well done to you, mate, but unfortunately the dice roll says that you failed to interrupt the boss’s one-shot mechanic, and now you’re dead.

Sounds like fun? Yeah, didn’t think so.

In order to minimize those frustrations you can try to maximize your Accuracy-stat of course. I see two problems with that though.

One, more than a few games that have a Chance To Hit mechanic also have a hard cap for it, so you’ll still fail a roll every so often no matter how much of the stat you stack on your gear, which makes it even more unfun.

Two, and this is what bugs me the most, it’s a must-have stat that does basically nothing for you. In The Secret World and SWTOR I stacked as much Accuracy on my tank gear as theorycrafters had figured out was necessary to practically (in SWTOR’s case literally) have a 100% chance to hit in any situation, just to be sure I’d never miss an important impair or taunt, respectively.

So what I did was, in essence, to waste a whole lot of my available stat pool to make sure I’d never realize it’s even there.

Ok, maybe I just fell off the platform this time…

But isn’t raising our characters’ stats supposed to be one of the really fun things about playing RPGs? Hitting harder, running faster, jumping higher, all that jazz…that’s fun! Notice how “Missing less often” isn’t on that list, and it feels even worse when I’m basically forced to pour stats into this instead of those other things that are actually enjoyable.

And, again, having another way to fail in video games where the difference between victory and defeat hinges as much on my skill as a player as it does on my character’s stats anyway is just not necessary. I can easily manage to screw up on my own, thank you very much.

So, yeah, I know where the Accuracy stat is coming from and why it makes sense in its original context. But can we please get rid of it in MMO- and Action-RPGs? Like, for good?

Like opening Pandora’s Box

Last time around I said that Black Desert Online is a complex game. Oh boy, what a hell of an understatement.

Many MMORPGs I’ve played are designed like a pyramid in that once you’ve left the tutorial stage there’s a broad base with lots of different stuff to do at first, sometimes to the point of feeling overwhelmed by it all, but the closer you get to the top your gameplay options seem to shrink down more and more.

BDO is, to me, the exact opposite of that. When I tried the game out for the first time my initial impression was that running from one place to the next and killing anything that moves on the way is pretty much all there is to it. Unfortunately my chosen class’s combat mechanics didn’t feel too great to me either, so I concluded that the game wasn’t for me and dropped out.

When I gave it another shot a year or so later I’d done enough research to know that a bit of perserverance was called for. It just takes a while until more options start to present themselves – at the time your character had to be at a certain level to even see all quests, for example. I think they’ve scrapped that level requirement, but you still need to proactively tell the game that you want to be shown all types of quests, not only those focused around combat.

Anyhow, once all questgivers deem you worthy to talk to a gigantic rabbit hole opens up and you need to take but one step in any direction to lose yourself completely, as Aywren, Bhagpuss and Naithin all can attest to.

Can snow actually remain for long on a moving ship?

And don’t even think for a second that a somewhat seasoned veteran of the game like myself becomes immune to this. Not a chance.

I mean, sure, I did what I set out to do a couple of weeks ago and started a career in bartering with the (distant) goal of upgrading my frigate to a formidable carrack. Still, I actually ended up spending more time on various other stuff. Much more time. Here are some examples.

Believe it or not, this isn’t even the whole map

Not all of the necessary materials to upgrade my ship are acquired via bartering, I’ll also need a variety of normal land goods. Hence my choice is to either gather those myself or let my workers do it for me. I like the game’s gathering, but since I have enough other stuff to do right now I’m not terribly keen on sucking gallons of sap out of trees manually for the next few weeks. Workers it is, then.

However, as most of my contribution points are always in use I needed to redistribute a bunch of them first, so I had to decide which nodes to give up. In doing that I realised that I’d actually been collecting quite I lot of resources I’d never had any use for as of yet.

In the end I freed up and reinvested considerably more CP than I’d originally planned, the result being that my workers now gather lots of materials I didn’t have before, some of which are actually worth quite a lot on the marketplace. The whole process did take some time, but should pay off nicely.

Please just ignore the outfit…um, it was Halloween, ok?

Yeah, I’ve also picked up fishing again. Not quite voluntarily, mind you. The thing is, there’s a questline on Crow’s Nest, an island hidden out at Ross Sea, that awards a very generous amount of ship upgrade materials for only little work. Or so I’ve heard.

Well, technically it is true, only that the NPC in question now wants me to catch a tuna and bring it to her. Tuna’s a rare fish though, and what’s worse, my fishing skill isn’t high enough to see tuna hotspots yet – at a hotspot you only catch the corresponding type of fish – so whenever I’m not doing something else right now I’m trying to bring my fishing skill up to snuff.

Have you noticed this little checkbox above your horse’s health and stamina bars? It’s not really hard to see, but it still took me a while to realize it’s there, probably because it hadn’t been there yet when I’d last played the game, and I usually don’t pay much attention to those bars anymore.

Holy crap, what a game changer that is! You see, of all skills horses can learn Sprint is the most important one because it provides such a big speed boost. Still, even with that skill at my disposal I sometimes want to use the auto-ride function and do something else while traveling, which, without Sprint, can take ages given the huge distances. Hence this change is a pretty big deal.

Only when I played my main I couldn’t check the box however hard I clicked. Then I finally took the time to read the tooltip:

Well, that explained it. Of course my life skill alt already had the Training skill above Artisan 1, but my main, who only ever uses max level horses and thus doesn’t get to level up his own skill, did not. However, he travels much more and much farther than the other character, so I felt he really needed this too. Consequently I went back to taming and training horses.

Fortunately last week’s patch enabled 50% boosts to both horse XP and Training XP, just at the perfect time for me. Those buffs will stay active until February 9th, by the way.

The Striker hit Artisan 1 on Monday, so now he can ride like the wind too while I play Genshin Impact or something.

As a side effect I also have almost a dozen new tier 5 horses in my stables, which is the highest tier that can be caught in the wild. I’d thought I was finished with breeding for good once I had two good tier 8s, but why let this opportunity go to waste? So now I’m leveling all those horses up – four at a time, in front of a merchant wagon – to breed them, then the foals will be leveled up too, and so on, until I have some more tier 8s. Maybe I’ll even go for a ‘Dream Horse’, who knows?

Yeah…a fast horse really is a godsend

As if all of this still wasn’t enough I also stumbled upon the fact that a couple of legendary items have been added to the game – and for once these really deserve that lofty adjective.

How about HP- and Mana-potions, a compass and a teleport-item that aren’t consumed upon use and never expire?

Believe me, in BDO these amenities really are legendary. Depending on the class you play you’ll consume potions by the hundreds if not thousands rather quickly. A compass lets you use the map on the high sea and in the desert – a big quality of life boost if you traverse these regions regularly. An item that teleports you to the nearest town can also be a huge boon in a game that has you run everywhere on your own otherwise.

Of course getting even one of these is a monumental undertaking. I decided to go for the HP-potion first. When I checked out one of the grindspots I’ll have to kill mobs at for a rare drop I noticed that there weren’t any daily kill quests available nearby, which is highly unusual.

It turned out that I hadn’t advanced the region’s main story questline far enough to see them. As a matter of fact I hadn’t even finished that of the previous region either. So I postponed the grind and started questing. I also did a few side quests on the way, but only those that didn’t force me to make any detours. “Only” ~150 quests later I arrived at the grindspot and, lo and behold, now there are daily quests on offer.

Needless to say, I haven’t gotten that rare drop yet, nor any other component for the potion.

On the plus side, I got about quite a lot once more

And there you have it. As you can see playing this game can really be like opening Pandora’s Box, only that in this case it isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually quite a lot of fun.

Four? For this gourd?? It’s worth ten if it’s worth a shekel!

I hadn’t engaged in Black Desert Online’s sea content – or the game period, really – in quite some time until about a month ago, which means that I completely missed, among other things, a pretty big overhaul of said content.  The Great Ocean update, released in October 2019, added new islands, quests and ships, a crew system for the bigger vessels, and a completely new way for mariners to make money: a sea-based bartering system.

BDO is a complex game though, and it took me a while to reacquaint myself with all the different systems and layers. However, once I felt comfortable with the day by day gameplay again I couldn’t wait to board my trusty Epheria frigate and try the new stuff out.

Going ashore on a yet unexplored island

As it turns out there’s a lot of additional stuff to do. My ship, the cream of the crop back when I finished building it, basically ranks just one step above ‘cockleshell’ nowadays, for example. Especially for bartering it’s barely adequate as its cargo hold can’t carry all that much weight. It’s a start though, and as most of the materials needed to upgrade the ship further are earned via bartering and defeating sea creatures anyway this seems to be working as intended. I’ve got to work my way up, as it were.

And that really doesn’t bother me at all, because frankly, once I’d finished building the frigate and crafted the corresponding gear almost two years ago I lost interest in the whole sailing thing rather quickly. My big goal was achieved, and at the time there actually wasn’t all that much to do out at sea beyond that, at least not for solo players.

Now I have another long term goal to pursue, and I also know that there’s an actual use for it once I’ve reached it.

This is a carrack. Look at that beauty…and all those cannons!!

As for the bartering system itself, I think it’s pretty neat. In a nutshell, you trade certain ‘normal’ goods like raw or processed materials for Level 1 trade goods at one place, then take those someplace else to trade them for Level 2 goods, and on it goes up to Level 5. With some exceptions low level goods serve no other purpose than to exchange them for higher tiers, while tiers 4 and 5 can be sold to NPC merchants for hefty sums of silver or a special currency used to buy various goodies.

Trade goods are very heavy and need to be in the ship’s cargo hold in order to barter with them anyway, so getting a bigger boat soonish is definitely advisable.

Seems like a good deal…I guess? (click to enlarge)

What the system doesn’t entail, despite this post’s header, is any kind of haggling. What can I say, I just can’t resist an opportunity to use a Python quote. Anyway, I’m actually pretty glad that there’s no negotiating involved, as the game’s onshore trading already has something like that, and I really don’t like it.

Which doesn’t mean that there’s no RNG involved however, because of course there is. This is BDO after all. You can reroll the trade routes a couple of times per day, and from what I can tell everything about it is completely random: which land goods are required, which Level 1’s you get for them and what you can trade those for in turn, where everything is etc. Not rerolling at all isn’t an option either as every trade route runs dry after a certain amount of barters.

Grilled bird meat? Hell yeah, I can do that!

Consequently, to make efficient use of your time and resources you need to carefully plan which routes to take, how to optimize your available cargo hold, when to reroll and even what to trade and what to keep – that Level 2 piece you’re about to give away might well be needed at a later point to exchange for ship upgrade parts, for example.

I will say that it all seemed a bit tedious at the beginning, but the more barters you’ve completed the more routes open up, which reduces the need to regularly make overly long trips for just a single exchange by a lot. It’s actually starting to be quite fun now.

I also really like that I finally have a meaningful use for all those land goods. Ever since I play the game I’ve had workers accumulating all kinds of resources for me, and while I’ve obviously used up some here and there the majority has just been collecting dust in my warehouses. Of course I could’ve sold any surplus to other players at any time, but I didn’t want to – I might still need that stuff at some point, you see. Yeah, I’m a hoarder when I play RPGs, sue me. And, what do you know, at some point is actually now. Ha!

Yep, bird meat up the wazoo. Care for some eggs or mushrooms too?

The new questline also introduces players to sea monster hunting. I’ve done quite a lot of that back in the day to collect materials for my frigate’s cannons, sails etc., but I’m still glad about the refresher because the damage- and hitpoint-numbers have apparently been tweaked since then, and it’s actually feasible to shoot them with my cannons now instead of trying to ram them to death (!).

This is definitely much more fun, and it also makes me look forward to getting the upgrades for my frigate even more – not only will those have more cannons to shoot with, I’ll even be able to fire broadsides right from the steering wheel instead of climbing down, manning a cannon and firing it manually, then climbing back up to change the ship’s potition, and so on. Can’t wait!

For the moment this works well enough though…BOOM

So, yeah, if seafaring is your thing and you’d like it to be just one aspect of a proper MMORPG – instead of playing something like, say, Sea of Thieves – I can wholeheartedly recommend giving Black Desert a shot. Just be aware that pretty much everything in this game is a marathon rather than a sprint. Don’t expect to be cruising around in your carrack within a week or two.

Personally, I like it that way. Finishing the frigate felt like a real achievement at the time, and I feel those are rather hard to come by in most modern MMORPGs.

Sidenote: if you’ve played BDO in the past but don’t right now you might have missed the memo about Kakao Games handing over publishing duties for the game’s western version back to Pearl Abyss pretty soon. You need to transfer your data over to a Pearl Abyss account before the end of May, else you’ll lose everything. Naithin and Bhagpuss have all the details, should you need them.

Just let us play our characters please!

The other day I finished the Glassmaker storyline in Warframe. I’d been looking forward to the big finale quite a lot, as this was the first Nightwave episode that I really liked in terms of lore as well as gameplay.

The investigation part played out as usual, and while the last item gave me a bit of grief because it was really hard to spot I still enjoyed it overall.

Then came the inevitable boss fight.

Dude, where’s MY big-ass sword??

I’m not a big fan of boss fights in general – multiplayer games usually being the exception – though this one, while a forced 1 vs 1, wouldn’t have been too bad were it not for one huge design “twist” that all too many game devs seem to be so very fond of using – taking away our weapons and/or abilities and replacing them with something else.

So here I am facing off a 50-foot monster, having equipped my most efficient, highly powered tools of destruction, the acquisition of which has taken much effort over the course of months – and I can’t fricking use any of it.

Instead, I have to dodge lumps of glass the baddie is throwing at me (when he’s not busy swinging his one-hit-kill sword), then pick them up and throw them back at him. I’m not even kidding!

Did I still whup his ass on the third try and got my rewards? Sure. Was it fun though? Hell no.

Game devs use this weird design crutch again and again – and that’s what it really is, isn’t it? A crutch. Beating this particular boss would’ve been a cakewalk had I been able to use my regular weapons and frame abilities, so they just didn’t let me.

*sigh* Alright…let’s do this!

Ok, sometimes it might not be that. When The Secret World takes away our powers so we have to punch our way out of the baddies’ underground lair with bare fists it’s for lore reasons and also for, well, fun, I guess. That whole mission chain is one big homage to the Indiana Jones movies after all.

And it is fun…for about two minutes. Unfortunately it gets old really fast, but the cultists keep on coming. By the time we got out of there on our very first playthrough I was determined to never do that mission again.

If this is what the afterlife’s like I want no part of it!

Over in Transylvania another quest tranforms us into some sort of wraith – and again all of our familiar abilities vanish from the hotbar, to be replaced with two simple, rather underwhelming attacks and one self-heal once more. The following fight was…not pleasant.

I sure hope you will, because I fucking can’t

Of course Everquest II did it too. I guess over the span of 16 years it was bound to happen at some point. Being a rat was good for some laughs at least, I’ll give them that.

Look, I get it. Stuff like this probably seems like a good idea on paper.

It gives players a diversion from their usual gameplay – which can get somewhat stale when you play an MMO for long enough, no argument there – and might also serve as an unexpected twist or even comic relief when done right.

I do not think that the benefits ever outweigh the drawbacks however.

You see, dear devs, by the time you throw this stuff at me I’ve most likely long made my choices. The class I play or frame I use, the abilities or skillsets I’ve picked and the weapons I wield – all of this makes up the character I want to play. You know, because it’s the combination I have the most fun playing.

Letting us pick – or, more often than not, work hard for – our favourite toys and then, out of the blue, being all like “Nah, you can’t use those now; here, have a dull teaspoon and some cotton balls instead” is, honestly, kind of a dick move.

I can’t be the only one feeling that way either. Actually, I know that I’m not. Bhagpuss talked about really disliking it when several of Guild Wars 2’s Living World issues pulled that kind of stunt more than once, for example.

I feel aversion is quite a natural reaction to this, because, again, we don’t play the characters we play by accident. We do because we like them just the way they are.

What my Bruiser’s hotbars normally look like…

Of course the fact that whatever it is that our familiar gameplay loop gets replaced with in such cases is, more often than not, objectively worse and less fun doesn’t help one bit. But that’s not really a surprise, is it? The core gameplay of every MMO, even a freshly released one, has usually been years in the making. How could some ‘gimmick mechanic’, only meant for one event, one quest or one boss fight ever match that?

So, dear game devs, please stop doing that kind of stuff.

My favourite restaurant doesn’t serve an old loaf of bread instead of the meal I ordered for the sake of ‘variety’ or ‘surprise’ – or just because it’s easier and cheaper to do – either, does it?

I’m doing it again! I need help…or do I?

First of all, our vacation was very nice and relaxing, so sorry but not really for the long pause since my last post.

Anyway, on to today’s topic. What is it, exactly, that I’m doing again? Having brand new content for my current main games at my disposal and not actually playing any of it, that’s what.

Warframe’s latest expansion, Heart of Deimos, launched just over a month ago. It includes a new open world zone (albeit a smaller one compared to the first two), so in theory it’s right up my alley and I’ve been looking forward to it quite a lot, and yet I haven’t returned there since I finished the few story quests that came with it. Then there’s ArcheAge’s Garden of the Gods update, which was released in fricking June, and I haven’t so much as gone near that new region either.

Looking back upon my history with MMOs I’ve realized that I’ve almost always done this.

For example, when Everquest II’s Rise of Kunark expansion launched in November 2007 I continued to do whatever I was doing at the time for another month or so, despite my main already being at the previous level cap and ready for the new content. This ultimately led to a mad scramble on my part trying to catch up with my guildmates later on, which turned out to be quite stressful.

It’s definitely not a conscious decision I make every time, it just kinda happens. But why? How come I always put off playing new content for a while before finally plunging in?

For one, I’m an extreme creature of habit. Being in familiar surroundings and doing familiar things just makes me feel comfortable. On the other hand however, given how much I like to explore and go on adventures, this surely can’t be the main, let alone only reason.

Another, more important one is that I always dread the redundancy of old content, old gear etc. that often comes alongside the release of new MMO expansions. You made me work for that stuff and learn the zones inside and out, and now you expect me to throw it all away and move on like it all never happened? I really don’t like it, and I think by not leaping at new content right away I’m kind of trying to delay the inevitable in such cases.

Then there’s the question of whether the new content is actually any good. I mean, it might be crap, right? If I just don’t go and see I’ll never know and consequently not be disappointed. It’s silly, I know, because even if it turns out to be crap I can still just go back to the old stuff. Regardless, I think this is also something that plays into this on an unconscious level.

Of course there are other, more rational and tangible reasons for not playing new content right away too.

Bugs and design flaws, for one. Using Warframe as an example, every largish update is followed by at least half a dozen hotfixes over the course of two weeks or so. It’s usually not exactly unplayable without those, but I’ve found the overall experience to improve by waiting for a bit.

Apparently a great many players aren’t fazed by any of the above at all, and as soon as new content for their favourite game is released it’s swarmed by the hungry masses. Some might like that buzz, but personally I’ve never been terribly fond of having to stand in line for quest mobs to spawn and stuff like that, so keeping some distance by waiting until the bulk of the playerbase has moved on suits me just fine.

Last but not least, having new content still ahead of me means always having something to look forward to. Once I get bored of the things I’m doing now I can still go ahead and check the new stuff out, whereas, had I rushed to the new hotness right away, I would only have “old stuff” to return to whenever that gets dull.

And there you have it. By itself each of the reasons I stated might hardly be worth mentioning or even somewhat silly, but when I add it all up I don’t actually see any reason to forcibly alter my habits when it comes to newly released content for the games I play.

So I guess I don’t need help after all, but thanks for asking anyway.

I like having stuff to do, but I hate dailies

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For the last couple of weeks I’ve been very busy in Warframe – in a good way. Almost a year ago I praised the fact that the game gives me specific tasks to achieve specific things, which I much prefer over just doing whatever and hoping for the RNG gods’ blessing.

Despite having played for quite some time already there was still a whole lot of stuff I hadn’t done yet, so I set myself an array of goals and got to it.

For example, there’s a plethora of advanced modifications for frames and weapons players can and definitely should get their hands on. Especially those frame-mods enable highly specialized builds that are very powerful and couldn’t be achieved any other way.

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Who would have known that less strenght can be a good thing?

So I ran Spy missions with the specific intent to crack all three data vaults (because the mods in question can only drop from the third), did Nightmare missions, hunted for Orokin vaults, purged the Plains of Eidolon of a ghoul plague and beat some puzzle rooms on Lua.

In order to get rid of my annoying Kuva Lich sooner rather than later I also ran mission nodes occupied by his thralls to gather intel, and Kuva Siphon missions to get my hands on more requiem relics.

Sometimes the stars align and I can even combine two or more of these tasks into one, for example when a Spy mission I want to do anyway is temporarily flagged as a Kuva Siphon mission, giving me the chance to nab a desired mod and a requiem relic in one go.

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What I like the most about all of this, as I’ve come to realize, is the fact that with very few exceptions I can do everything entirely at my own pace.

You see, almost no mission in Warframe has a cooldown or other form of time-gated restriction to entry. Ran a mission and didn’t get what you want? Just run it again if you like. And again. And again.

Of course that can get boring, and maybe also frustrating if you still don’t get your desired price after your umpteenth run. To circumvent that I try to mix it up. My play sessions in recent weeks mostly looked like this: run two or three spy missions, then a couple derelicts, followed by a bit of stuff in the open world zones or maybe a Kuva mission or two. If I still have time and desire to play after that, rinse and repeat.

As I use different frames, and thus different playstyles, for most of these activities it doesn’t get boring at all, and it’s oh so satisfying to tick one goal after the other off the list, even more so when the rewards enable me to make my favourite frames and weapons considerably stronger.

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Or just my hoverboard…err, K-Drive faster

What’s all of this got to do with the fact that he hates dailies? I hear you ask.

Well, that I don’t like ’em much isn’t exactly news, but having so much fun while ‘working’ towards my goals in Warframe – and the process not actually feeling like work at all – made me compare this experience with the other game that had me busy trying to progress in recent months: ArcheAge Unchained.

There’s still much that I love about AAU, don’t get me wrong, but the fact that upgrading your gear is pretty much hard-gated by daily and, to a lesser extent, weekly activities really sucks the fun out of it after a while. And that’s coming from someone who has not religiously done them each and every day, not even close.

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I’ve done my fair share though, because there’s just no other way to achieve this

In my opinion the problem with dailies in general is twofold.

One, the amount of progress you can make on any given day is capped, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Have a day off work and want to knock yourself out? Well, sucks to be you I guess.

Two, and this is the biggie, miss a day and you’ll never get it back. It’s no wonder that FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), a term I’d never heard until maybe two years ago, is used in context with online games quite often nowadays, because daily tasks or quests are the very embodiment of it.

Ask yourself this: how often have you logged into a game while not really feeling a desire to do so, but because you felt you kind of had to? If your answer is “never” you have much more self-restraint than I do, and kudos!

Now, what do I propose? After all, criticizing without having suggestions for improvement doesn’t help matters, does it?

Ok then, how about removing the timer from repeatable content? Let me do it as often as I like. And while you’re at it, make all content repeatable, not only a select few quests, and spread rewards out more.

Not only does this work well in Warframe, The Secret World has shown that even a proper MMORPG can benefit greatly from this kind of design. Ok, quests in TSW do have a cooldown, but it’s short enough to do the same quests at least twice a day, and – and this is the kicker – there are so many quests on offer that it’s just not necessary to do the same ones over and over.

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However, some quests I just wouldn’t want to do again. Ever! Again!

Of course I do realize that this might cause balancing-problems as there will always be activities that are ‘worth’ more measured against the time they take than others, and it also greatly benefits folks with a lot of free time on their hands.

Well…so? It doesn’t happen often, but for once I agree with MOP’s Eliot when he posits that balance in MMOs is overrated.

Especially in PvE-centric games, who the hell cares if other players progress more quickly than I do? Frankly, I couldn’t care less. PvP-heavy titles are obviously a different beast, but those should be much more skill-dependent than gear-dependent anyway – which is a discussion for another day though.

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MMOs need repeatable content, that much is obvious. Even I, as far from being a ‘hardcore gamer’ as I am, have proven time and again that I can consume content much faster than developers can provide it – much like reading this has taken you but a fracture of the time it took me to write it.

But dailies, login-campaigns, rewards on a time-logged-in basis…all this stuff that has nothing to do with us having fun playing your games and everything with MAUs and other such crappy statistics you can proudly present to your shareholders…that kind of shit can’t go extinct soon enough as far as I’m concerned.

Another Keepstar bites the dust

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Screenshot completely unrelated to the events depicted in this post

If you have so much as a passing interest in EVE Online you’re probably well aware that there’s a big war going on right now. While Wilhelm has posted quite a lot about his own involvement, all of it well worth a read, this is the first time I’m going to even mention it.

It’s not that I haven’t been on any ops since the war started. I just hadn’t deemed anything I’ve been part of so far interesting enough to write about.

The northern front, which is where we (PanFam) are fighting, has not seen much resistance during the first weeks. I’ve been part of several fleets to reinforce or destroy enemy structures and added two more Keepstar-killmails to my personal tally in the process. Some of these ops were long, tedious undertakings, yet during almost none of them we encountered any opposition whatsoever. I might have just been unlucky however.

In any case, during the past two weeks or so the excitement has ramped up considerably. The more we advance towards the border between Fountain and Delve, the more serious the enemy gets about defending their stuff.

Their most important system in Fountain is Y-2ANO. They need that foothold in the region because the distance between it and the neighboring system in Delve is so huge that ships can’t use their jump drives or be bridged by a titan to get to the other side. We already tried to destroy their Keepstar there and had it reinforced once, but unfortunately we screwed up the armor timer and have to start over. We’re not going to make that mistake twice! I hope.

The Keepstar in O-PNSN didn’t fare that well. Both shield and armor had already been stripped away, so yesterday we set out to make it explode. It isn’t nearly as close to Delve as Y-2ANO, but word had it that they were going to defend it anyway. I sure hoped so.

I had my main ready to go in a Ferox, our subcap of choice for most structure fights, and my alt in a dreadnought, hoping for a chance to finally use it. The three-month-insurance’s expiry date is August 23rd, and I’ve yet to fire a single shot with that damned thing.

The subcaps were bridged into O-P, and as soon as the system loaded my overview went completely red. They were going to defend all right.

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Gathering at our Fortizar, looking at our target and its defenders

Our tactics didn’t differ much from that in Y-2ANO, only that this time we didn’t have a regional gate to lock down at the same time, hence our carrier pilots sent their fighters towards the Keepstar right away. Those and a fleet of Ravens would shoot the citadel while all other fleets, mostly Feroxes and Jackdaws, provided cover.

Goons and friends had a lot of stuff on the field. Rokhs, Feroxes, Praxises, bombers and ECM-bursting interceptors as well as the Keepstar itself tried to make life as hard as possible for us. Oh yeah, and heavy TiDi too, which goes without saying for this kind of battle.

Killah Bee was FCing our subcap fleet, and at first it looked like we’d be sitting tethered on our Fortizar all evening. But eventually he warped us onto some targets sitting right at the Keepstar.

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Aligning back out to our Fort in potato mode

We picked off some ships who weren’t tethered while not losing much ourselves – although our logi wing was pretty busy keeping our Jackdaws alive if I interpreted the cursing from the other side of the room correctly – then we warped back out.

We gathered at the Fort and chilled for a while, but before long we went in again. By now they had undocked a couple of dreadnoughts and FAXes, and of course we wanted those juicy kills.

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Dreads and lots of tiny subcaps inside a warp disruption bubble

We’d just started to shoot some targets of opportunity – the dreads were in siege mode and not going anywhere any time soon – when a wing of Praxises landed right on top of us and started cycling their smartbombs.

I was well in range of at least some of them and started taking damage. This is where TiDi becomes a really painful experience because that damage came in very slowly, but my efforts to turn away from them, fire up my microwarpdrive and overheat my hardeners came to fruition just as slowly, and I wasn’t sure whether I’d manage to get out of range in time or if I was just watching my demise in ultra-slow-motion. The fact that Ferox pilots were told not to broadcast for reps as our logi had their hands full with the Jackdaws again didn’t help either.

Just when my shields dipped below one third damage stopped coming in though. I’d finally made it out, phew. Once you’re out of its range there’s not much a smartbombing battleship can do to harm you, so we stayed on field for a while longer and destroyed three dreads, a FAX and lots of subcaps before returning to our Fortizar once more to regroup. Killah’s Monitor as well as one or two dozen other ships had been lost and their pilots had to be bridged into system again after reshipping.

All the while the fighters and Ravens kept shooting at the Keepstar, and it was slowly but surely going down. It was below 10% when our fleet went in a third time.

Not to be surprised by the Praxises again we started to spread out at full speed just after exiting warp, and sure enough they came in, right on top of Killah Bee. Due to our preemptive maneuvering almost no one took serious damage though, and we pretty much ignored them and shot at squishier targets instead.

Whenever we were actually able to target anything, that is. I mentioned ECM-bursting interceptors above, and those took run after run at us now, firing their AoE ECM right after landing and instantly warping away again. And guess who was piloting one of them…

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I can now say I’ve been burst-jammed by a fellow blogger, isn’t that nice

Man, that shit is so annoying in TiDi! Please don’t do that again! 😉

We still managed to kill some more targets, among them another FAX piloted by Grath Telkin, who is kind of a Goon celebrity as far as I know. Not quite as flashy as that one time when I got the final blow on Asher Elias – ratting in a Myrmidon no less, shame, shame – but you take what you can get, right?

Of course we also made sure to shoot the Keepstar to get on the killmail, and soon™, as in just over four hours after forming the fleet, it went boom.

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No explosion in potato mode, just a low-textured wreck

We stayed on the field a bit longer and killed off the last remaining stragglers, then took a bridge home.

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Going by the battle report losses were pretty even if you don’t count the Keepstar itself. Given the defending team’s rather big advantage that’s still a win for us, however we outnumbered them heavily, so there’s that.

Still, we won the objective and didn’t lose two hundred Ravens this time, so op success x2. More importantly though, despite having to chew through a metric ton of hitpoints during heavy TiDi it was quite a lot of fun – although, to be fair, our fleet wasn’t the one doing the chewing – so thanks to Goons for showing up, and please more of the same!

How about today? Still a bit of time left to blow up my dread before its insurance becomes void…