A decade of MMO gaming – Part I

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

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

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

2010

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

Decade1

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

Decade2

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

Decade3

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

Decade4

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

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

2011

Decade5

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

Decade6

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

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

2012

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

Decade9

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

Decade8

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

2013

Decade12

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

Decade13

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

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

Decade7

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

2014

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

Decade10

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

Decade11

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

To be continued…

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

2018 in review

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

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

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

2019_BD1
To boldly go…where I hadn’t gone before. More on that soonish.

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

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

2019_EVE
But mostly we just kept shooting stuff

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

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

2019_PoE
I also killed Queen Atziri for the first time…only 4 1/2 years late

In June I celebrated my blog’s first birthday.

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

2019_EQ2
The terrific ‘Crafting Epic 2.0’ netted me this sweet mount a couple weeks ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IntPiPoMo – Bugs, glitches and other funnies

If you’ve played video games, especially MMOs, for any lenght of time you’ve probably encountered your fair share of things that didn’t work as intended. Getting stuck, falling through the world, physics going crazy, wrong or missing translation, what have you.

Sometimes it’s funny when stuff like that happens, but it can also be a bit annoying if it impedes your ability to, say, progress a quest or even continue to play at all.

Fortunately you don’t have to deal with such consequences if you just look at screenshots of those things happening to me. Yes, I went through all kinds of hardships so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

IntPiPoMo_ArcheAge1
1998 called, it wants its graphics back

This happened to me regularly when I played longer stretches of ArcheAge. I don’t know if it was due to my graphics memory overflowing or whatever, but it looked funny. It kind of felt as if the game had spontaneously transformed into a retro version of itself.

IntPiPoMo_ArcheAge2
So this is what pushing up daisies actually looks like

Another one from ArcheAge, this time the old ‘falling through the world’ classic. After I’d dropped through an invisible hole in the ground I was treated to this rather surrealist view. I had to swim quite a stretch to reach solid ground again, but at least I could do so under my own power and didn’t need to wait until a GM got me out of there.

IntPiPoMo_EQII1
Again…?

Different game, same drill. This time Everquest II didn’t want me to walk on firm ground anymore and had me literally sink into nothingness.

Over in Path of Exile I tried to complete a couple of league-specific challenges while playing its Incursion League. Whenever you manage to tick one off you get an on-screen notification informing you about it. One day though, I got this:

IntPiPoMo_PoE1
Yes. No! Maybe… I don’t know. Can you repeat the question?

In 2010 my EVE Online client occasionally produced the weirdest glitches. The first time it happened I was convinced that my graphics card had just imploded.

IntPiPoMo_EVE3
Proof that drugs and gaming don’t mix well after all

Whatever the problem was, it looked completely different every time. I can’t remember if I reinstalled the client or if a patch came out to fix it, but until then I was treated to some really strange sights.

IntPiPoMo_EVE2
Holy crap, that’s Matrix code! I knew it!!!

I don’t remember the exact circumstances leading to the next one, but after some kind of teleport or other scripted movement in one of SWTOR’s operations (raid zones) my character remained in this pose. I had to /stuck myself to get out of it. Until then my guildmates had their laughs at my expense of course.

IntPiPoMo_SWTOR2
Guys, lend me a hand, will ya? Guys???

Lastly I have two shots for you that technically don’t belong here because they don’t show a bug or something like that. I’m including them anyway because I think they’re just really funny.

Behold my Final Fantasy XIV Dire Wolf mount.

IntPiPoMo_FFXIV
If you can unhinge your jaw like that go see your orthodontist right away

I was taking screenshots of my surroundings while my guild assembled for a raid in Everquest II when our Necromancer’s pet suddenly decided to photobomb me without warning.

IntPiPoMo_EQII2
OH HI THERE!!

I don’t know about you, but unscripted, hilarious stuff like that is the main reason why I love playing video games.

IntPiPoMo picture count: 9 (this post); 36 (total)

92!

Not very long ago I talked about having reached level 91 in Path of Exile, a level I’d never thought I might achieve in that game. Well…

PoE_Lvl92

Unfortunately there was so much going on – as you can see – that I didn’t manage to press the screenshot button while the golden beam of light announcing my awesomeness was still…err…beaming.

Anyway, the build is still a lot of fun, and the XP bar still keeps on moving. Not quite finished yet…

IntPiPoMo picture count: 1 (this post); 27 (total)

IntPiPoMo – Horror edition

I like it when games are a little scary. Or more than a little. Hence I’ve played quite a lot of horror games during the years, among others most Resident Evil issues, Dead Space, The Evil Within, F.E.A.R., and of course my all time favourite, Silent Hill.

Most of those games ran on various older consoles though, so I don’t have any screenshots.

Fortunately there are many PC games that also have some ‘scary’ in them, and naturally I’ve always been drawn to those too.

As a die-hard MMO player I have to start off with The Secret World of course. In terms of conspiracies, fairytales and horror it’s the mother of all MMOs.

IntPiPoMo_TSW

One of the coolest, spookiest places in the game – which is saying something – is the haunted amusement park in The Savage Coast. Here I’m taking a ride on its roller coaster. Of course I expected something to happen, but it gave me the chills nonetheless, and I jumped in my seat when that apparition lunged at me just as I was about to pass her.

The next one is from a quest in Tokyo. Imagine you’re sent into a parking garage to investigate something. It’s dark, it’s gloomy, and something’s clearly not right. You walk down the ramp to the next level when suddenly what little light’s there goes out. It’s pitch black, but not for long. Before you can decide what to do next a blood red light turns on and you’re greeted by this:

IntPiPoMo_TSW4
I didn’t watch any videos, I swear! I don’t even own a VCS player anymore…

Then there’s the James Bond-esque mini expansion A Dream to Kill, which towards the end has you investigate a nursery. Evidently something’s gone horribly wrong here.

IntPiPoMo_TSW3
Yeah, I think I’d rather leave now…

One of my favourite games of all time is Vampire Bloodlines. Despite being a buggy mess and looking anything but fresh even when it came out in 2004 it’s so great that I still play through it every couple of years. I guess I have to talk about it in more detail some time. Until then you might enjoy Rakuno’s walkthrough series of the game, if you don’t mind spoilers that is.

Anyway, Bloodlines also has some seriously eerie sequences.

IntPiPoMo_BL1
That’s gotta be a haunted house if there ever was one

Actually the quest giver flat out tells you that a ghost is making trouble in that old hotel, and your mission is to put an end to that.

What you don’t know is who the ghost is and why it can’t find rest. During your investigation you find more and more clues about what happened. Apparently a family of four stayed at the hotel for it’s grand opening, and due to jealousy – and maybe also some otherworldly reason – the father’s mental state got worse and worse. He – spoiler – eventually killed his family and set the hotel on fire. I found this image drawn by one of the kids to be the most disturbing clue:

IntPiPoMo_BL2

In the end you can put a stop to the father’s haunting, and his wife’s ghost can finally rest in peace. At least there’s that.

Next up is Batman: Arkham Asylum. We have seen so many versions of Batman’s origin story by now that it’s gotten pretty stale. In this game though it’s done quite nifty (and short). During the course of the story Batman gets drugged by Scarecrow a couple of times. Sometimes it makes his worst fears become (perceived) reality, at one time it forces him to relive his parents’ death. Visually this is done exceptionally well, and the most emotional realization of the scene I’ve seen to date.

IntPiPoMo_BAA

Path of Exile makes you fight lots of big bads during the course of its storyline. Among the most sinister is Piety of Theopolis, the right hand of the game’s former end boss Dominus.

When you first enter her lair in Act III, The Lunaris Temple, the set pieces make it abundantly clear that she’s really, really evil.

IntPiPoMo_PoE2
Yep, definitely evil.

I played a bit of Left 4 Dead 2 with a couple of friends after it came out. It wasn’t really all that scary, but it sported pretty much the highest gore factor I’d seen up to that point to compensate.

IntPiPoMo_L4D2
Rochelle and the guys having yet another bad day at the office

To end the post on a lighter note, here’s a shot of some rather unthreatening ghosts you’re probably familiar with:

IntPiPoMo_MI
Yo ho ho and a bottle of…grog?

IntPiPoMo picture count: 9 (this post); 26 (total)

Return of the Firestarter

I hadn’t played any of my non-summoner characters for quite a while in Path of Exile, the main reason being that summoners are just so much fun.

However there are some things I’d rather do with a different type of character. Also, a change of playstyle every now and then keeps things from becoming boring.

So I decided to brush the dust off my level 85 Marauder. I didn’t quite know what to do with him though. Until now I’d always just specced back into his old build that I’d used for over four years and that was quite fun. Unfortunately that build isn’t really viable in today’s endgame content. A couple months ago I tried to do the Eternal Labyrinth with him and couldn’t even beat the first Izaro fight due to lack of damage output.

I did what I always do in this situation: I went to the Classes / Builds forums and browsed various build guides looking for an inspiration. My old build had had a fire theme going and I really wanted to retain that, so I specifically looked out for builds using Molten Strike, a skill that was introduced after I had settled on Infernal Blow back in the day, which seems to be a strong choice if you want to go melee in the current meta.

After a while I stumbled upon a build that not only sounded pretty strong and fun to play, it also utilizes two copies of a unique weapon I just recently found when I killed the Elder (for the first time even): Nebuloch.

PoE_Nebuloch1
I’d rather bugger off than let that thing hit me. Yuck!

When I found it I thought “Well, the bonuses are nice and all, but no way I’m working around that drawback, how’s that even possible?”. Which again shows that I’m not very good at theory crafting, because of course it’s possible. Did I mention that the build dual-wields those bad boys?

The trick is to use items and skill tree abilities that give you a truckload of passive life regeneration in combination with a high fire resistance (which mitigates a lot of that damage, a fact I hadn’t even thought of). That way you can fully benefit from those nice bonuses and don’t even notice the drawback.

So I went to work. Building the passive tree was easy enough, but almost all of the character’s items and gems had to be replaced, and since I don’t have everything the guide suggests at my disposal (and some pieces are quite expensive to trade for too) I had to find substitutions. For starters it works pretty well though. He regenerates almost 600 life per second at the moment, while taking a maximum of about 336 damage per second from Nebuloch.

What I also had to do was complete the Labyrinth once to change his Ascendancy class. He was a Juggernaut before, but for this build the Chieftain is the class of choice.

PoE_Nebuloch4
I am the god of hellfire, and I bring you…

In hindsight it would’ve also been the class of choice for my old build, but, yeah. I’m bad.

For changing your Ascendancy it doen’t matter which difficulty you run the lab on, so I went for Cruel, which is level 55. Although the build is far from finished it went without problems.

And I have to say, Molten Strike really is a great skill. It’s strenght is that while it’s a single target skill it also has an AoE-component in the form of magma balls covering the ground near the initial impact, which can also hit your main target for extra damage. This makes it equally great for clearing packs and killing bosses, you don’t actually need two different skills. I just swap out one support gem depending on the situation.

PoE_Nebuloch2
This is the more-AoE-setup, obviously.

Now I also have a couple of specific goals to persue: get a second Nebuloch, get the rings and a couple of other items suggested in the guide, beat Eternal Lab for those last two ascendancy points.

And get a good looking skin for the maces. Nebuloch doesn’t have it’s own 3D art yet, and the default one-handed mace looks pretty unimpressive even with a fire effect applied to it:

PoE_Nebuloch3
Big man, short…stick.

I’m having much fun already and have done maps up to tier 6 without problems. I’m looking forward to playing the build in it’s full glory. Thanks to FJ for the great guide!

Reaching new heights

The other day this happened in Path of Exile:

PoE_Lvl91

This is the highest level any of my PoE characters has ever reached. I used to regard level 88 or so as ‘max level’ for my characters, with 90 as a distant, long-time (but rather unrealistic) goal.

How different things can look when you have a build that’s powerful enough to make tier 8+ maps a breeze and sturdy enough to die only very rarely. Sky’s the limit, hell yeah!

Reaching level 90 a while ago was an even bigger milestone for me though, because that was an alltime-record in more than one regard: highest level in PoE, but also highest level in any ARPG ever.

My most played and highest-level character before PoE was my Sorceress in Diablo II.

Diablo2_Sorc
Rocking Tal Rasha’s Wrappings, one of DII’s high-end sets

I played in ‘Closed Battle.Net’ which means that the characters were saved server-side instead of client-side, and if you didn’t log in they were deleted after three months. I obviously failed to do so at some point, and that was that. Made me pretty sad to be honest, but it had become quite a chore to log in all those characters regularly (I had three accounts full of mules alone), and I didn’t really play anymore at the time. Oh well.

Anyway, level 89 had already been a pretty huge achievement for me, although a big round 90 would’ve looked much better of course.

Now I got that 90, and even surpassed it by one. We’ll see how far this can go.