Back in Black (Desert Online)

Sometimes you think you are done playing a particular game for good, regardless of how much you liked it at some point, only to pick it up and fall in love with it again later anyhow.

Of course, with MMORPGs this isn’t actually that uncommon. After all there’s always a chance that features or design elements you really dislike get scrapped or changed for the better later on, or things you wish the game had are finally realized.

Such is the case with myself and Black Desert Online right now. When I put it down sometime in 2021, supposedly for the last time, it was for one very specific reason: I just couldn’t stand having to compete with other players over grindspots anymore.

Yeah, this is much more like it…

Long time readers know that open world PvP doesn’t bother me – in fact I’m usually a big fan. However, the way it’s implemented here is really bad in my opinion.

You see, PvE in BDO basically works like this: you choose a grindspot for a specific reason – for example, I’m currently grinding at the Blood Wolf Settlement for a rare drop needed to craft the legendary (i.e. reusable) health-potion. Once that’s decided you stock up on buffs, potions etc., then mount your horse and hoof it to the chosen spot, which, given the world’s size, can take a while. Upon arrival you get ready to grind, meaning you tether your horse, place your tent if you have one, spawn your pets and pop tons of buffs for more and better loot drops as well as stronger offenses and defenses if needed. After all that you can finally start to kill stuff, preferably as quickly as possible.

It’s a rather optimized process, is what I’m saying. Given the extremely low drop chances for everything noteworthy it’s pretty much the only feasible way to do it if you want to actually get anywhere, which also means that once you’ve got going interruptions aren’t welcome.

The problem here is that a single player can clear out a whole grindspot, at least the smaller ones, pretty much all by themselves, so sharing isn’t really an option.

One glance at this AoE’s range and you know what’s cooking

This is where the aforementioned open world PvP comes in. Since grindspots aren’t safezones every player has the ability to flag up for PvP and attack others at any time here. However, doing so lowers your Karma, so you don’t really want to be the one doing the attacking. Which is why the game’s community has kind of established an unwritten rule: if you’ve been there first it’s your spot, and if anyone else wants it they have to take it from you by force.

I can’t count how often I’ve arrived at a grindspot only to find the mobs lying dead on the ground, sending the unmistakable signal that someone’s already there. What’s worse, if that player sees you they will, more often than not, take the time to stop their killing for a couple of seconds, come to a halt near you and write a single word in local chat: “taken“. Man, I hate that word so much by now! What can I say, I just don’t fancy being told by others what I can and can’t do in a game I voluntarily spend my free time and money on.

Switching servers has a 15 minute cooldown, so if the second one you try is also occupied and you really don’t want to take the Karma hit and fight for the spot you’re basically shit out of luck.

If you actually do happen to be first on the scene once every blue moon you better hope that no one comes along who is willing to fight, because as soon as you’ve activated all those important (and in some cases pretty expensive) buffs you really don’t want to stop grinding until those have run out.

Unfortunately hermitism isn’t really a solution either

It’s just crappy design in my opinion, simple as that. This is nothing like the PvPvE options other games have (the way Hunt: Showdown does it, for example, is pure genius). In BDO, when you engage in PvE you really want to be able to focus on that, anything else just screws up your efficiency. Those who want to PvP a lot, on the other hand, pretty much have to do node wars and stuff like that because, again, Karma is a thing. There’s nothing synergetic about it, PvE and PvP just get in each other’s way.

Which is why, after I’d ridden all the way out to the Drieghan region numerous times only to find both grindspots that would’ve been worthwhile to me occupied on multiple servers, I decided that I’d had enough. I quit the game, never to return unless Pearl Abyss somehow enabled me to play the game however and whenever I wanted.

I really couldn’t see it happen though, what with this being such an integral part of the game’s design. Why and how would they change something like this almost seven years (at that point) after the game’s initial release?

Moving on to pastures new…or maybe not?

Well, what do you know! Turns out they added “private monster zones”, also known as Marni’s Realm, in May 2022. You can now go to a grindspot, press a button and immediately have a certain part of that area all to yourself. Hell yeah, instanced grindspots, I certainly didn’t see that one coming! Granted, you can enter Marni’s Realm only for up to 65 minutes per day and it’s not available at all grindspots, but still, this is a huge change and does everything it needs to as far as I’m concerned.

An hour of running around in circles and killing the same mobs again and again is usually all I can take anyway, so the limited duration doesn’t bother me much. Also, since all areas where specific rare drops for the various legendary items can be found are included I’m fine with the choice of grindspots too.

Hence, when I pondered what to play next towards the end of December I decided to give BDO another shot, and so far I don’t regret it one bit. The things that were always great, some of which I’ve already talked about in these here parts, are still great, and additionally I can now finally go and kill mobs…err…in peace…you know what I mean.

Trophy Room – The Secret World’s scenario missions

I’m not much of an achiever when playing video games. Being the first, the best or any other superlative you might think of – I pretty much don’t care. Two different personality tests for gamers I did a while back came to the same conclusion, so I guess I can’t be too far off base in saying that.

However, it’s not like I’ve never set goals for myself during all those years playing hundreds of games. Of course I have.

Not all goals are created equal though, certainly not in regard to difficulty. When I played the Uncharted series, for example, my only objective was to play each title all the way through to the end of the story, which isn’t much of an actual challenge if you’re comfortable with that kind of game. Hardly an achiever’s wet dream.

A couple of steps up the ladder would be clearing a SWTOR raid for the first time. Much more difficult on a personal level, but even more importantly a team effort instead of an individual achievement. I feel that I’m generally more inclined to tackle harder challenges when working with others, probably because having people around who rely on me makes me push myself further when I would most likely just quit otherwise.

And then there are the very few special ones. Goals that I consider very hard to achieve – even next to impossible at first – and that I’ll have to work towards all on my own. Maybe there’s not even a tasty carrot dangling at the end of that particular stick. But for some weird reason I still want to get there, even if the only reward will be to know that I did it.

This is about one of those cases, a trophy I’d like to proudly display on my mantlepiece, if you will.

A bit over a year after The Secret World went live Funcom released the game’s eighth DLC, The Venetian Agenda. Its main gameplay-feature was the introduction of so-called scenario missions, basically a holodeck simulation of search and rescue operations in three different locations. To incentivize doing them a new form of progression was also introduced, with the required loot only dropping in scenarios.

You can tackle these missions either solo, as a duo or a full group, with rewards and difficulty scaling accordingly. The goal is always to protect a group of civilians from TSW’s usual range of monsters. If you manage to save them all you earn Platinum ranking and thus the most rewards.

Hang in there, fellas, cavalry’s here!

Unfortunately the game didn’t do a good job at easing players into the whole thing when it came out. We had to learn the hard way that tried and trusted character builds and tactics don’t work in scenarios at all, and many, myself included, became quite frustrated pretty quickly. Of course it was heaven on earth for the hardcore theory crafters, but us ordinary mortals got our asses handed to us time and again.

You see, in contrast to any other type of content in TSW your biggest enemy in scenario missions is time. The monsters spawn in waves, and the spawn timer doesn’t care whether you’ve defeated the previous batch or not, they just keep on coming. This means that your damage output has to be top notch, and you also need to have memorized all the spawn points as well as the routes from each of those to the survivor camps (of which there are at least two in each mission), so you can intercept the enemies before they even get there. Oh, you also have to stay alive of course, and some baddies hit like trucks on higher difficulties. Bottom line is, you need to tank, deal lots of damage and heal yourself, all at the same time while also being constantly on the move.

Get your filthy mitts off me, you ugly…whatever it is you are!

If this sounds stressful that’s because it is. However, TSW is a game that always managed to make me feel like anything’s doable, no matter how impossible it might seem at first, and that I just need to find a way that’s suited for the task and also works for me as a player.

So back to the drawing board I went. As usual I consulted the Builds & Decks section of the forums for some ideas first and worked from there. I tried different combinations of weapons and abilities. I learned the maps, spawn points and routes. Figured out how and where best to fight the various bosses. Got a feel for spawn timers and general flow of each map (except for The Castle…man, screw that dump!).

The pride and accomplishment (there they are again) I felt when I managed to get a Platinum rating on Normal difficulty for the first time was priceless. What’s more, once I got the hang of it and started to have success I also began to find doing these missions a whole lot of fun! So much so that I still pop in every now and then, just because I like doing them.

Did you miss me? Did you miss me? …miss me?

Anyway, next up was Elite difficulty, which wasn’t that much of a step up from Normal…and then came Nightmare. Oh boy, what a…well…nightmare.

It’s not that I couldn’t beat it at all, mind you, but a couple of survivors always managed to die – making the term “survivor” ironic, which is exactly what the scenario AI smugly tells you whenever it happens. Yeah, thanks for that, b*tch! No matter how hard I tried, I just wasn’t able to save them all, the main reason being that I was still killing things a tad too slowly.

The breakthrough came when I stumbled upon yet another guide, one that suggested using a weapon type I would never even have considered for this purpose – Elementalism. What’s special about it is that, among other things, it lets you place manifestations on the ground which then deal either single target or AoE-damage on their own for a while. I don’t think they were ever used much in other forms of content, but for scenarios they’re absolutely perfect as you can place them in the enemies’ path right where you intend to fight them just before they arrive, freeing you up to then exclusively use your main hand and effectively deal almost double the damage.

Lightning never strikes twice? You just wait!

It still took more than a few tries to get the hang of it and also a helping hand from the game’s RNG (get certain environmental hazards combined with the wrong monster types and you’re screwed no matter what), but after many almosts and if onlys I finally did it:

It’s been over five years and I’m still hella proud of this!

I didn’t “beat” the third map however, because, as I said, I decided pretty early on to ignore that one. I just really hate its whole layout, and one of the possible final bosses is already a massive pain in the ass on Elite difficulty, so much so that I’m certain getting it on Nightmare would screw up an otherwise perfect run right on the home stretch. So, no. Just no.

What? I said that I’m not an achiever right from the start, didn’t I?

Quitting EVE Online – For real this time (question mark?)

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while now. It’s been a fair few months since I canceled my main account’s subscription, although I admittedly hadn’t made any final decisions at that point yet. In a way CCP made that decision for me a bit later on, when they decided to raise their subscription price by a third back in May.

I know, I know, writing “I quit”-posts is lame and all that, but this is kind of a big deal for me. I created my main account and -character on December 22nd, 2005. Fricking two thousand and five! Yes, there were breaks in between, but I’ve played this game for a hell of a long time. I’ve seen – and been, at times, part of – empires rise and fall. I’ve been a manufacturer, trader, policeman, mercenary, pirate and lowly fleet grunt. Features came and went. Things changed, and we all adapted. This is truly a game like no other.

However, for me personally many of the changes CCP have made during the past couple of years resulted in a game that’s become less and less enjoyable to play, and along the way my willingness to adapt has all but vanished. EVE has always been a game you had to put work into in order to get to the enjoyable bits, and each and every time I took a break it was because the tedium had started to outweigh the fun. Well, by now the tedium has reached a point where I just don’t want to deal with it anymore at all, and the game’s become more expensive to boot. So, yeah.

Now, of course I could just leave it at that, but since this is my own personal platform I’m also gonna use it to tell anyone who’s willing to listen (well, read) which changes in specific made the game so much worse for me. Keep in mind though that I’m not saying reverting these changes would make the game better per se, I’m just saying it would make the game better for me.

    • The big Cyno change

Almost three years ago CCP drastically reduced the selection of ships a Cynosural Field Generator could be fitted on. Before that you could fit this device, used to provide a jumpdrive-destination for capital ships, to almost any vessel, which meant that even as a solo player you could move your capitals around with almost no financial risk (provided you didn’t make any mistakes, and making mistakes is very easy in EVE). Since the change you have to use at least a Force Recon Cruiser, which means that you’re forced to put upwards of 300 million ISK at risk – per jump.

Not even taking into account the fact that you also need to have your cyno alts trained up to the point where they can even fly these things, this change alone put a hard stop to any activity that would have required to move a capital ship on my own.

So no carrier ratting for me anymore – which I’d only just begun to do, goddammit – but even more importantly, no more moving all my shit without the safety of a whole fleet. Ever since then life in null sec has become a huge bother for Lakisa and myself, because we know that we absolutely can’t risk missing any move ops else we might get stuck. We also can’t get stuff into or out of null without using the services of a shipping company, and I’ve always liked to do these things myself (and it was cheaper that way too of course).

I know that this change has brought its upsides when looked at on a bigger scale, but for me as an individual it sucks big time.

    • The economic starvation plan

Not very long after the cyno change CCP began their assault on too much wealth and stuff and everything being too easily obtainable in the game (their opinion, not mine). In their usual way of sledgehammering every perceived problem into an unrecognizable pulp they heavily nerfed mining outputs, ratting payouts, the efficiency of the once strongest mining ship and probably some more stuff I can’t recall right now. The value of minerals soared to all-time highs, and naturally prices of ships and, well, most player-manufactured goods (which is almost everything) followed suit.

Now, it is true that out in nullsec it could feel, at times, like pretty much everybody had their army of Rorqual-alts as well as their own Supercarrier and/or Titan. However, I can assure you that such was not the case. I certainly didn’t have any of that, and a substantial percentage of any fleet’s regular grunts didn’t either.

Still, I’m not saying that they shouldn’t have done anything. Some kind of change probably was needed. The way I see it a better way would have been to somehow incentivize more usage of caps and supers, so more of that stuff would have gotten blown up. Their solution led to much less caps being fielded instead, because most people were too afraid to loose them all of a sudden.

Worse for me personally – and for many more I’m sure – is that the “little man”, as usual, got affected just as bad as the trillionaires, if not more. The fact that the nerfs were primarily aimed at capital ships, which are all Tech I hulls, meant that other Tech I ships got a lot more expensive too – only that those are actually supposed to be the “cheap stuff”. Suddenly flying battleships instead of Tech II cruisers wasn’t the much more affordable alternative it once was anymore. Aspiring to own one of the big toys some day, a daunting task even before all those changes, has become entirely unachievable for the average player.

As for income, since the cyno nerf effectively took carrier ratting away from me my modus operandi for ISK-making was pretty much back to “run level-4 missions in highsec”, and let me tell you, when that’s your only viable income stream you really don’t want to buy, let alone lose, anything of value. Yes, there are other things I could have done to earn some more ISK, but I didn’t want to do those things, simple as that. The game felt like a job at times even without any additional busywork.

CCP can argue that doing this was necessary all they want, it has made the game less fun, end of story. I don’t know about you, but in my opinion any change developers make to their game should make the game more fun, not less.

    • More focus on (and power to) the cash shop

You know what I dislike even more than seeing a beloved game getting worse and worse? Seeing that and also being bombarded with cash shop advertisements, every new “opportunity” being more pay to win than the last.

I don’t give a damn whether it’s Pearl Abyss pulling the strings in this regard or not (because what difference does it make?), fact is that the cash shop is being shoved right in our face at every opportunity nowadays, and you can pretty much buy everything your heart desires. Yes, even skill points. Not that it matters much ever since the introduction of skill extractors, because PLEX is a thing and you could always sell that for ISK and then buy injectors with those.

As you know I generally don’t consider cash shops to be the spawn of the devil per se. But the bottom line is this: to me EVE Online in 2022 is a game that’s as unfun to play as it ever was since I started, has a higher subscription price than any other MMORPG on the market (as far as I know) and seemingly cares more about selling me shit I don’t need than entertaining, let alone humoring me as a player…nuff said I guess.

Of course the timing couldn’t be worse, what with Goons getting a new leadership just recently and declaring the time of stalemates to be over. There might be interesting times ahead.

Oh well, I guess from now on I’ll just be one of those guys who keep saying that watching the goings-on in EVE from the sidelines is a lot more fun than actually playing the game.

I’ve said that before though, so we’ll see.

Blaugust 2022 post count: 2

Actually, I don’t like Lost Ark quite as much right now…

My interaction with Lost Ark has developed in a weird way during the past couple of weeks. Once the game had clicked with me I really wanted to play as much as possible, which unfortunately turned out to be not all that much because of the long queues. However, the shorter those waiting times – and, consequently, the longer the available time to play – became, the less I’ve actually played.

One reason for this is that I’m pretty big into Arknights and Warframe again right now. Most likely that’s a direct consequence of the second and more important reason though…my excitement for Lost Ark has waned just about as quickly as it had built up.

Here’s why.

As others have said right from the start, the questing- and leveling-process is very, very linear and really not engaging at all. The combat’s fun, yes, but everything around it gets boring quickly. In other words, the game’s a clickfest not only during combat, but also inbetween battles. The most recent CarbotAnimations video depicts this quite accurately:

Hilarious as this is, while actually playing the game it’s really not fun at all. Great set pieces still pop up regularly, but those don’t manage to make playing not feel like a chore either.

A week and a half ago I reached level 50, but my hopes that more gameplay-variety would present itself at that point were smashed as I learned that I apparently still needed to quest through two more continents first. Yawn.

Then there are the forced solo instances I already talked about last time. When I was playing on my own I took offense at those only on principle because the Striker is a very solo-friendly class and, well, I was alone either way.

Whenever Lakisa and I played together their frequent occurrence really started to bother us though. Neither the Bard nor the Artillerist are much fun to play solo (in our opinion at least), and, more importantly, why are we even playing together, in an MMO no less, when we are forced to chew through every bit of somewhat challenging content ( I say challenging in a very loose sense of the word here) on our own anyway? Seriously, this design choice sucks. Wilhelm and his group aren’t too fond of it either.

Now I’m going to talk about gear score for a bit. This will undoubtedly make a certain kind of player, of which there seem to be quite a few in Lost Ark, call me entitled, a crybaby or something along those lines. Or it would, if any of those people would actually ever read this. I don’t care either way.

I knew going in that Lost Ark is designed with a heavy emphasis on gear score, and I fully expected that fact to become a source of irritation or even annoyance for me sooner or later.

What I didn’t expect was that something as innocuous as a Mario Kart style racing event would push my blood pressure to dangerous levels long before I’d even reached a point in the game where my gear score actually mattered a damn.

You see, by participating in this little event once a day you can earn a heap of event currency with which to buy lots of goodies, blue and purple engraving books among them. This is really big as the latter specimens of the more sought after engravings are very rare and thus very expensive on the auction house. Players who now buy these off the event shop to actually use them will be very happy, and those who don’t need them anymore will earn thousands and thousands of gold by selling them to others.

But here’s the thing: when the event went live those rewards came with certain gear score restrictions, pretty high ones too from where I’m standing. At first I thought those values were needed to use these – but no, you couldn’t even buy them if your GS was lower than required.

Who the hell thought that was a good idea? Dividing the playerbase into haves and have-nots by gear score might be acceptable when it comes to normal gameplay (personally I don’t like it under any circumstances, but that’s a topic of its own), but c’mon you guys, GS-locked event rewards? Really?

You’ve probably noticed that I’m using the past tense here. That’s because Amazon and/or Smilegate reacted to the massive community backlash by removing these GS restrictions from all types of engraving books in a hotfix last week. For honing materials and such those requirements are still in place though.

Now, to give credit where it’s due, at least they have listened and made a (partial) change. Still, in my eyes the event shop’s first iteration has clearly shown what kind of design philosophy the people at Smilegate have for their game, and what they expect from its players: grind up that GS or fuck off.

Does this mean that I’m quitting? No, at least not yet. For now I’ll continue to push through the story until I can finally start to participate in proper group content. I sincerely hope that the oft-repeated claim “it gets much better at endgame” really applies in this case.

One thing is certain though: there has to be a serious amount of fun gameplay on offer to make me engage in any kind of gear score grind. I guess I’ll know soon enough whether that’s the case or not.

Lost Ark is finally here, and it’s much to my liking!

Although Lost Ark launched as far back as February 8th (for those who bought a Founder’s Pack, which I did) I haven’t been able to play nearly as much as I’d hoped yet. For one, I’ve still got a lot of stuff to do in the aftermath of my house moving, but more importantly, this:

Not my shot as I forgot to take one, but my record was just over 20k

As you’ve probably heard the server situation in the EU region is still quite problematic. When I come home from a normal day’s work, which is around 6 PM, and the first thing I do is log in and queue up, I’ve usually got about a three hour wait ahead of me until I can play. I could switch to a server on the newly opened EU West region, where queue times are reportedly non-existent, but Lakisa and I are on the same server as a whole bunch of our friends, with some of them already being at the soft cap, so a switch isn’t really in the cards.

Of course this situation isn’t ideal, but since I can actually make good use of the waiting time to tend to the aforementioned home-stuff it hasn’t bothered me all that much.

That being said, I definitely would like to play more, because I’m having a tremendously good time when I do.

At the time of this writing I have a Striker at level 37, an Artillerist at 27 and a Deadeye at 20.

During the first few levels of playing each class I found the basic gameplay loop, i.e. mostly combat, to be just…well…adequate. However, around level 20 or so the fun factor started to ramp up considerably, one reason being that I’d finally gotten used to some of the more unusual design elements – for example, I wasn’t accustomed to having to hold down skill buttons for longer periods of time or having to press a button multiple times for full effect.

Another reason is the skill tree system. Once I’d grasped that I can use the skill points I get with each level to strenghthen the abilities I like most, or even modify how they work, to mold my whole build specifically around my personal taste, I was totally sold. The fact that respecs are unlimited and free is the icing on the cake.

I can’t tell you how happy I am to finally find a lot of complexity and freedom of choice regarding building my characters in an MMORPG again.

At least that’s how I feel. Of course I know that New World, for example, also lets you create your own build out of two weapons and their corresponding skill trees, and basically every MMO out there has some form of that.

I also know that Lost Ark, too, has cookie cutter builds for every class that are considered to be “the best” for endgame activities, thus rendering said freedom of choice somewhat moot if you care about such things.

Still, the trend among mainstream MMORPG developers during the past 10 to 15 years seemed to be “Our players are too dumb/lazy to fiddle around with complex skill trees, and everyone uses the optimal build anyway, so let’s just dumb down that stuff or get rid of it altogether” – of the games I’ve played SWTOR and The Secret World come to mind – and for me that really severed the bonds that I had (or tried to have) with my characters. I just need the ability to shape and customize those digital people at least somewhat to fit the vision I have for them; that’s one of the things that make MMORPGs so special and dear to me.

Again, you may well disagree with the notion that Lost Ark lets you do that while other current representatives of the genre don’t, but that’s how I feel.

Of course it helps that by now I’ve found the perfect class for me: the Striker.

Look, sound, feel – everything about this guy is just perfect. Beating up whole screens full of baddies is extremely satisfying, and since I’ve invested lots of skill points into my favourite abilities it’s gotten even better. It’s fluid, has heft and force to it, and, well, it makes me feel like Bruce Lee on steroids (from space!). Says it all, really.

The game isn’t just about combat though…

Lifeskills are pretty fun too. Resource nodes are shared – meaning that you have to compete with other players for them – but respawn quickly, gathering times are relatively long at first (not nearly as long as when starting out in BDO though), but better tools can cut down on those and also give you more and rarer yield, and there’s gameplay variety as some forms of gathering have their own associated minigame.

When Lakisa and I are playing together I especially like logging, because it highlights one of Lost Ark’s little design elements that make playing as a group more fun and rewarding. You see, when you cut down a tree on your own your character uses an axe. However, when there’s two of you and you approach the tree from opposite sides the axes are replaced by a big two-man saw, which is much quicker and gives both of you a full yield. This even works when two players aren’t in the same group, encouraging working together with strangers. Genius!

I’ve also unlocked my Stronghold, the game’s version of housing. To be honest, while I can craft and freely place stuff like wells, hedges etc. it feels more akin to WoW’s garrisons than actual housing as of yet, but maybe that’ll change the farther I progress.

Next up, no impression piece about Lost Ark would be complete without mentioning the awesome and epic set pieces and in-engine cutscenes.

I’ve talked about this before (jeez, was that really almost three years ago?), and my own experience with the game hasn’t disappointed in this regard.

As great as the much talked-about siege sequence is, I’m actually the most impressed by the dungeons. To be quite honest, I don’t think I’ve had this much fun running dungeons since I did in Everquest II so very long ago.

Starting with the first “real” dungeon, Morai Ruins, they are sprawling, well designed and full of little (or not so little) touches like the zip line ride above. Or how about this neat homage to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom?

That even these main dungeons are, in essence, completely linear doesn’t bother me at all because they don’t feel that way. Not least because at this point in time I’m still searching every nook and cranny, of which there are many, for Mokoko seeds, one of the game’s many collectibles. I’m sure once I have found them all and seen the “rides” a couple of times the effect will wear off, but I’m pretty certain that I’ll still enjoy dungeon romps in this game more than I have in any other MMORPG for quite some time.

The last thing I’d like to mention today is that, for my taste, the game handles the balance between solo and multiplayer activities extremely well, in that you can do almost everything solo no problem (including dungeons!), but having someone along for the ride is pretty much always a boon and thus desired. I firmly believe MMORPGs should be exactly like this in 2022.

The one gripe I have is that you are forced to do Scenarios, mini instances that depict key moments in the main story, solo. Unlike in, say, The Secret World, where many players struggled with that same design because of the game’s much higher overall difficulty, it’s absolutely no problem here to beat them on your own. Still, I think this shouldn’t be a thing in MMOs, the story making sense be damned.

For a first impression piece this is already quite long, so I’ll save some bits and pieces for another time. Suffice it to say that I’m having a blast, and I feel it will continue to get even better for a good while, what with me not even having left the first continent behind and set sail into the great unknown yet. Can’t wait!

Games I’ve played for 500+ hours

The other day Wilhelm had a post up about games he has played for at least as long as the developers of Dying Light II claim it takes to play their game to 100% completion. It’s a good read, and thinking about it I realized that it might be interesting to have a look at my own gaming history from this angle too.

The difficulty here is that I’ve never actively tracked how much time I’ve spent with any particular game, so if I haven’t launched it through Steam and the game itself doesn’t have a /played function either I can basically only guess. Hence I will sort them into categories of differing certainty, like Wilhelm did.

So let’s see…

Definitely have played for 500+ hours

    • Everquest II

This one is a no-brainer. EQII is easily my most played game of all time. I was the most active between 2006 and 2008, when it was pretty much the only game I touched, and I tended to play very, very long hours more often than not. Additionally, even before and after that particular time period I’ve spent a lot of time with this game over the years, and I can prove it: EQ2U says I have clocked 1,959 hours on my Warlock alone, so…yeah.

    • EVE Online

I created my first account and main character in December 2005, and while I’ve taken numerous breaks over the years only one of those was actually long enough to say “I’m not playing that game anymore” – and even then I eventually returned to have my longest and most active streak yet. Consequently, even without having any hard evidence, I’m absolutely certain that I’ve played a lot more than 500 hours of EVE.

Most likely have played for 500+ hours

    • Diablo II

As I’ve said numerous times Diablo II is one of my all time favourite games period. I actually wasn’t quite as hooked and therefore didn’t play as extensively as I’d expected right at launch, but by the time I’d burned out on Ultima Online towards the end of 2001 the Lord of Destruction expansion had come out and improved the game in every respect. This time there was no stopping me. It then became and remained one of my most-played games up until about 2010 – in fact it’s one of the very few non-MMORPGs I’ve played at all during that time period. The recent release of Diablo II Resurrected added at least another 30-40 hours to the tally, so yeah, it’s highly likely that I’ve crossed the threshold here.

    • Ultima Online

Speaking of UO, hoo boy, was that game a revelation. My gateway drug into MMORPGs, if you will. Starting in June 2001 I was late to the party, but I more than made up for that by playing every waking moment (literally, except when I was at work) for the next six months or so. Unfortunately I was so into it that I couldn’t stop myself from trying to level up dozens of skills on multiple characters each and every day, so I burned out and bounced off of it pretty hard. I returned after a thorough break and played on and off until a little game called Star Wars Galaxies came out, and that was that. Regardless, in total I should be over 500 hours of playing time, though maybe not by much.

    • Star Wars: The Old Republic

Weirldy enough I almost forgot to include this, although I’ve assuredly played it for more than 500 hours. The thing about this game is, my itinial enthusiasm waned pretty quickly, and I most likely would have quit much sooner had it not been for the great guild we were in. Except for some really well designed and fun raids all good memories I have about the game have almost nothing to do with the game itself and everything with this group of people. Anyway, it makes the list easily.

Probably have played for 500+ hours

    • Star Wars Galaxies

Like UO this is another game I really loved but still didn’t play for as long as I initially thought I would. As much as I like sandbox MMOs, turns out activities like gathering, crafting, housing or (light) roleplaying alone can only entertain me for so long, and unfortunately SWG didn’t have much else to offer at the time (at least to me). Again, just like with UO I played very extensively during the first few months though, so I assume it just about makes the cut.

    • ArcheAge & ArcheAge Unchained

I’m lumping these together because, well, they’re basically the same game with different business models. I’ve played each iteration quite a lot for the better part of a year, so I’m actually pretty certain that it’s been well over 500 hours in total. However, in this case I have next to no “feel” for how long I’ve really played for some reason, and no way to verify it either, hence its appearance in this category.

    • The Secret World

One of the truly great and unique MMORPGs, unfortunately underappreciated by many players and mishandled by Funcom, it never had a chance to reach its full potential. I loved it exactly like it was however, and consequently played it an awful lot.

    • Genshin Impact

My most played game from fall 2020 to summer 2021 by a wide margin, so yeah, pretty sure it’s been over 500 hours.

And there you have it. Which games did you ever play for 500+ hours?

Still dreaming of a white Christmas

We’re coming up on the eleventh Christmas in a row without even the slightest trace of snow where I live, so I’m once again going to accomodate myself – and you, if you like – by posting a bunch of winter-scenery screenshots as a consolation.

So put on your virtual mittens, it’s going to get cold.

I’ll start off with Black Desert Online once more, because damn, does snow look good in this game. I love how it even covers the appropriate parts of my character.

In the real world there is no ice or snow on Venus, but in Warframe there most certainly is. It’s not my favourite planet in the game by a longshot, but that’s mainly because of the enemy faction that’s residing there. The planet itself, especially the open world zone Orb Vallis, is gorgeous.

Space is always cold and dark? Cold yes, but definitely not dark, at least in EVE Online it ain’t.

I’m not certain whether this has something to do with the currently ongoing holiday event, or if metaliminal storms can look like this all year round, but seeing it basically snow in space was a sight I sure wasn’t expecting.

Dashing through the snow in ArcheAge. No sleigh though, just one horse.

Star Wars Battlefront wasn’t a very good game, but the graphics (and sound too) were pretty amazing. It really felt like being in the middle of a huge battle on Endor or, in this case, Hoth.

This is what a winter’s night in 14th century France looked like, at least according to A Plague Tale: Innocence. Really makes one crave for a hot mug of mead at the bonfire, doesn’t it?

Arknights has its share of winter stages too. I especially like how even the enemies’ clothing fits the theme.

My operators always look the same however – luckily for them this game isn’t one of those bent on skimpy outfits, as you can see. SilverAsh (the guy with grey hair and cane) even wears a coat with fur collar, so all is well.

One of the great things about Genshin Impact is that pretty much nothing you see is just a backdrop – if it’s there, chances are you can actually get to and set foot on it.

The same is true for the mountain you see in the background up there. You can even climb all the way up to the top. It’s not just a mountain either, it’s actually a whole region with its own quests, puzzles, treasures and enemies.

It’s also the only place on this list where the cold has an actual effect on the player: staying there and not being near a heat source fills up your cold meter. Once that’s full you continuously take damage and will die if you don’t act on it. I admittedly don’t like mechanics like that very much, but hey, at least the snow isn’t mere eye candy this once. Also, you can cook and eat goulash, which halves the rate at which your cold bar fills up for a while. I like goulash!

And there you have it. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Oh boy, here we go again…

Yes, this is indeed going to be yet another “I really think dailies are the worst feature ever added to video games”-post. It’s not like I’ve talked about it enough already, is it?

The thing is, I feel it just bears repeating. Incentives to do the same stuff over and over – combined with a heavy dose of Fear Of Missing Out – day after day, week after week, manage to sour me on even the greatest of games.

Case in point: Genshin Impact.

Yes, keep me busy please, and thank you

I have played Genshin Impact every day for just over ten months now. Mainly because it is an awesome and fun game, make no mistake. However, for the last couple of weeks I wasn’t feeling it and would most likely have taken a break, were it not for all the stuff that I need to do every day.

Of course I don’t actually need to do any of these things, not really, but the game has conditioned me to feel like I do. Hence, despite not being in the mood, I had quite the routine going. Every fricking day.

In the morning, before work:

    1. Log in and claim the daily Primogem stipend (works like a monthly subscription for five bucks)
    2. Go to the alchemy table and craft Resin into Condensed Resin
    3. Visit the adventurer’s guild, collect expedition rewards and send characters off to do new expeditions
    4. Visit the blacksmith and craft some crystals into weapon XP mats

And in the afternoon or evening:

    1. Log in and claim finished XP mats from the blacksmith
    2. Craft some more Condensed Resin
    3. Decide what to do with said Resin, then run some domains, ley lines or bosses to spend it
    4. Visit the teapot and claim realm curreny and friendship XP
    5. Claim battle pass rewards

In addition there are some weekly tasks that I usually took care of right at the start of the week or, if not, on the weekend:

    1. Kill the four weekly bosses
    2. Do three bounties and three requests for one of the cities
    3. Tick off some more battle pass weeklies like “Spend 500k Mora”
Yeah, no, I really haven’t got anything better to do

Now, I’m not saying doing any of this is unpleasant per se. It’s not. It’s just always the same, and I don’t feel like doing it right now but do it anyway so as to not miss out on the rewards. Also, all of this takes time. Time I’d currently rather spend doing something else.

There have been days lately when I came home from work eager to play Warframe, only that I “had to do” the Genshin stuff first, and once I was done with that I wasn’t in the mood to play anything anymore.

This stops now.

As of today I’m taking a cold turkey kind of break from Genshin Impact, because I just have to. I don’t want the game to sour on me for good. I’d much rather wait for my desire to play and enjoy the game to return, and then have fun with it again.

I feel much better already

Obviously all of this means that without those incentives to log in I would have stopped doing so a couple of weeks earlier than I actually did, which is exactly why they exist in the first place of course.

However, I still doubt that enticing players to keep logging in regularly in this manner is actually beneficial for a game and its makers long-term. If I stop playing a game that I really like for a while because I just need a little change of scenery, chances are I’ll be back sooner rather than later, probably with much renewed vigor to boot.

If I stop playing because I’m fed up with it though…who knows whether I’ll be back at all.

Blaugust 2021 post count: 6

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.