MMORPG sequels: what happens to the elder game?

I recently had the chance to run part of the adventure from the Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition Starter Set. It was well put together and the rules are a mix of familiarity and some new ideas but it’s not different or striking enough for me to want to go out and buy it in a hurry, that’s a long-standing problem for RPG developers, their products do not go obsolete just because they say they are. RPG groups can happily continue to use thirty-five year old 1st Edition AD&D rulebooks if they so desire.

What about editions of MMORPGs or sequels? It’s easier for gaming companies to control the playerbase, the bluntest instrument would be to shut down the old game forcing players to move to the new although risking they’d abandon the franchise entirely. From the MMORPGs I’ve played I can see two very different approaches to this topic.

Everquest
I’ve never played the original Everquest or any other game in the franchise except Everquest 2. Having come to the world of Norrath from EQ2 I’ve not felt tempted to venture into the nostalgia-rich first game since the graphics do look dated and they have that old-school (but suddenly back in vogue) idea of a strictly limited active skillbar. If I want to play a “small set of abilities” game I can just login to Secret World.

From what I’ve read on different blog posts and forums Everquest 1 benefitted most from the need to group and the culture of grouping (monster spawn camping). That’s something that I guess was lost due to EQ2’s incremental support for solo play since the second game these days seems very poor for grouping outside of guilds.

Lonely land

Lonely land

Guild Wars
I have played both of the Guild Wars games, unlike Everquest 1 & 2 however the flexibility of building and playing a character went down from original to sequel and it seems will be simplified even further in a future patch. Guild Wars 1 had the same limited skillbar as the second game albeit one that was more freeform – the only restriction was one equipped elite skill. This allowed for a lot freer build creation and with the option of adding skills from a second class into the mix there was a massive, if somewhat bewildering, array of choices.

Freedom to roam

Freedom to roam

The graphics certainly improved in Guild Wars 2 and of course we gained the ability to jump, never let that be underestimated. The freedom of movement compared to the excessive pathing in the first game was a real boon to the sequel.

Hillsides, the greatest enemy adventurers can face...

Hillsides, the greatest enemy adventurers can face…

Jumping does bring a downside though as the devs at ArenaNet have gotten rather carried away with adding platformer jumping puzzles into the content.

Don't look down (the extended remix)

Don’t look down (the extended remix)

In the case of both pairs of games the gameplay of the first and second game is different enough for fans of one or the other to happily stay in their preferred version. But the developer may not want to commit the effort and resources to keeping both games updated and supplying new content. Here we see a big difference in approach.

In the case of the Everquests, Daybreak have recently announced no more expansions for both games in favour of downloadable content (DLC) patches. That’s a balanced approach to how the two games are treated compared to ArenaNet decision to sunset (i.e. stopping new content production) Guild Wars 1 shortly after the sequel’s launch.

Although I have no direct experience of another multi-MMORPG franchise, Lineage, I’ve read that the first game enjoys much greater popularity than the sequel (see the second chart in this post about NCSoft Earnings Call). We never see official figures from Daybreak (or SoE as was) but I would suspect that the same is true for Everquest over its sequel.

With Guild Wars 2 the current game has enjoyed a good measure of success so far (with an expansion coming to boost profits back up) whereas the first game is now mostly deserted, a playable trip down memory lane. I’ve logged in on my characters to collect their birthday presents and it’s currently the anniversary festival but I didn’t see more than a couple of player characters in any of the main zones.

Posted in EQ2, Gaming, Guild Wars | 3 Comments

FFXIV: dungeon finder’s pretty good

I’ve played now all the leveling dungeons up to Brayflox’s Longstop several times each, mostly as caster DPS (Arcanist/Summoner) but also occasionally as healer (lately Scholar). So far of the 20 or so dungeon runs I’ve been on I’ve only had one mildly negative experience, annoyingly that happened to be the first run for my husband’s new character of Satasha.

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There was some banter at the start after an overpull and wipe but after that was sorted out the rest of the run was smooth enough. Most runs are actually pretty friendly also in my limited experience – people say hello at the start and thanks at the end. There might be the odd tactics discussion also. It’s nothing like the horror of completely silent runs in World of Warcraft’s dungeon finder when it was introduced in Wrath of the Lich King.

My most recent dungeon runs have been absolute pleasures, with courteous, helpful players and people eager to learn their (new) class and the mechanics. I really enjoyed running Halatali for the first time, which also gave me the necessary kills to finish my Grand Company hunt log.

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I’ve read on forums that it’s a different ball game in raiding since that’s more high pressured with tougher mechanics and greater rewards to lose out on. Regardless the group content in the game that I’ve seen so far is good fun and there’s plenty of it. Fates are also an ever-present distraction if you choose to do them, just like the titular rifts in the Rift MMO.

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I think Square Enix has a nice balance in the game at present of group content of different difficulties. There really is something for everyone: formal dungeons and raids for the traditionalist and public quests (Fates) and Hunts  for those who embrace modern casual grouping.

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming | 1 Comment

Liebster 2: Electric Bougaloo

Warning: this blog post title has nested in-jokes that will only make sense to a few people. ;-)

I was recently nominated again by a fellow blogger via the Liebster chain-topic that has been doing the rounds the last month or so. Although I already did a post to answer questions I’d not followed the Liebster formula at all omitting to post eleven facts about myself. Since I liked the questions Bhagpuss was posing me I’ve decided to have a second go, so this is Liebster 2: The Revenge! Eleven facts about myself

  1. I just turned 40, so I’m not as ancient as some gamers but I can just about remember a time before personal computers and I grew up in the glory days of 8-bit games like Knighttime, Fairlight, Head over Heels and Ring of Darkness.
  2. I’m a computer systems guy by day, networks and operating systems, so perhaps MMORPG gaming at night is a bit close to my work…
  3. But I’m also a bit addicted to studying, since my original Batchelor’s degree I’ve gone back to do a second BA, an MSc and now I’m working on the PhD.
  4. Connected to 3, I love languages and have learned six (beyond English) at least to a conversational level. I learn languages because I want to use them, not out of pure academic/linguistic curiosity. Someday I hope I’ll be fluent enough in at least one to play gaming (tabletop RPGs) in that language…
  5. My favourite food is Italian – the vast majority of their cuisine; seriously how can one nation get so much of it right?
  6. I love espresso-based coffee (cappuccino, macchiato etc) due to a temporary caffeine addiction induced by work trips to Rome back in 2007.
  7. Rome is also one of my favourite cities to visit although I haven’t been for years. I love cities with proper history – not stuck in museums but actual ancient buildings or ruins that you can visit and just be around. Rome does this so well. Just sitting in the Fori Imperiali in the sunshine was a magical experience.
  8. Despite the last three answers I’d rather live in the Caribbean somewhere than the Med, though probably the South American mainland rather than an island. The climate, food, music and culture blended together is my idea of heaven.
  9. My favourite colour is red but I wear blue more.
  10. If I won the lottery I’d like to chuck it all in and be a travel writer.
  11. I’m a recent Kindle convert. I used to read paper books only but Kindle’s are *so* convenient for holidays and they’re readable in bright sunshine (see 8 above).

On to the questions Bhagpuss asked me:

1. Are MMORPGs getting better all the time or going downhill fast?
I can’t say I’d subscribe to either extreme though I do think a lot of the free to play convert games are heading down a dark path of fewer and poorer quality updates and more monetisation.

2.Which cancelled MMO do wish you’d tried when you still had the chance?
Star Wars Galaxies, I had the month free time from buying the box in its early days but the game was so bewildering to someone new to the genre and so far removed from anything I’d played before that I just didn’t find it at all attractive.

3. And which cancelled MMO (including ones that never made launch) do you wish was still up and running?
I wish I’d given Vanguard more of a go and much, much earlier as by the time I tried it (just before the F2P conversion) it was so sparsely populated it didn’t feel like I was playing an MMO at all.

4. Flying mounts or underwater zones?
I prefer flying mounts as combat in 3D is actually too hard on my brain cells. That said it’s only the preference between the two, I actually am happy to have neither…

5. What I.P. from books, movies, comics or T.V. would you most like to see turned into an MMORPG?
Shadowrun but as a proper MMORPG not a squad combat game (as both new Shadowrun games are). I want a single character per player, immersive, fully realised world to play in with the option to play a decker (how meta – a virtual world in a virtual world), a shaman, a samurai or whatever else I want. The possibilities for political and faction based player-initiated gameplay (players hiring other players as runners) are mind-blowing.

6.MMO cash shops: a welcome opportunity to give yourself a treat or a pathetic attempt to wheedle money out of the weak-willed? Or does that depend entirely on whether they sell anything you actually want?
They never sell anything I actually want. I’ve bought a few things from the Neverwinter store but the attraction soon wore off. Even convenience items like potions annoy me actually as I’d rather craft them myself.  I’ve really changed my mind on this more recently I think now that I compare FFXIV with some of the F2P games I’ve played.

7. Geez! Haven’t we seen enough dragons already?
Nope, dragons are awesome. Especially dragons that run for president of the United States ;-)

8. Has playing MMOs had any noticeable effect on your physical or mental health, positive or negative?
Not long-term that I’m aware of. Playing Tera’s or GW2’s action combat systems are too stressful and hard-wearing on the fingers for them to be good ‘main games’ but otherwise MMOs like all gaming are a stress-relief if anything so I’d say a positive thing for sure.

9. Do you PvP? Did you always? Or ever? If you changed your mind, why?
Never, unless forced by content blocks (WoW’s heroic quest chain in Pandaria). Such attempts at forcing PvP down my throat have led me to quit more than one MMO (WoW, Allods, Tera to a lesser extent).

10. Would you put “playing MMORPGs” on your resumé/C.V.?
Nope but then it’s not relevant to my work.

11. Do you play “in character”? Sometimes? Always? Never?
Sometimes. I used to a lot in WoW with friends. I’ve rp’ed a bit in LOTRO as well and now in FFXIV I’ve just started thinking about it as well. As a hangover from WoW days in any game all of my ‘/say’ talk is in character and all of my ‘/party or /guild’ chat would be mostly out of character.

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TSW: scratching the surface of character progression

We’ve been playing the Secret World for some months now, and we’re a good way through the storyline of the game’s original zones. But like any MMORPG there’s been a lot of content since launch so I don’t feel like we’re so far into the game compared to the many higher progression characters we see in the world.

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I’ve unlocked sections here and there on the main ability wheel (pictured) based on what I enjoy playing. Recently we unlocked our first auxiliary weapon, the Rocket Launcher. That provoked a bit of wiki searching  and soon our healer wanted the chaos Quantum Brace. I was a bit undecided what to take although the Flamethrower is the current favourite. As a coincidence we are currently playing through the Transylvanian zones so we already had the right quest to get started on this. It’s a work in progress, I’ll not be rushing this just to get the weapon as following the main story missions is more important to me.

I have spent the skill points and ability points to unlock Flamethrower in advance, better to be ready for when I get the weapon than stuck not able to use it. Otherwise I’ve been working on filling out the wheel, following decks (Paladin and now Soldier) to guide points spending with the bonus of new costumes. The ultimate aim of course is to unlock everything anyway so the exact order of unlocking doesn’t matter that much to me.

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Some time ago we accidentally unlocked the augment system by popping our heads into a scenario (a repeatable dungeon). I’ve not looked at this panel again since unlocking it, honestly there’s enough to do just unlocked the inner and outer skill wheels!

Not long ago TSW rebalanced the leveling content as part of a Enhanced Player Experience revamp. Though I haven’t started a new character to see just how much better the various weapon are explained, I’d say the game could also use a lot clearer info on the order of character progression systems and what should be a focus when. Why do I even have the augment system available yet, shouldn’t it be better locked behind main story progression rather than my having stumbled into the Venetian content via random Agartha exploration? Also the auxiliary weapons are very expensive to develop relative to the normal skill wheel so perhaps some proper info when we get the first would avoid people investing a ton of precious skill/ability points in a weapon they may want to swap out as soon as possible?

Posted in Gaming, TSW | 7 Comments

FFXIV: Summoner progress

I’ve been playing my main class of Summoner in FFXIV again in between duo sessions. After a really lengthy seeming build-up quest chain I’ve done my second titan fight.

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The quality of the storytelling of the main scenario is coming through as there was an unexpected development just afterwards and it made me feel something (I’m deliberately writing obscurely to avoid spoilers – careful in any comments please as I’m bringing a new player through the same story!). Only SWTOR’s class stories have actually managed that in the past, I can’t say I’ve ever been made to feel a strong emotion by many MMORPGs in the past.

As I mentioned in the last post, linked above, I ran the Brayflox’s Longstop for the first time recently also. I simply love the characterisation of goblins in Final Fantasy 14. They’re cute and funny at the same time and I can’t help laughing when I see one.

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The current plot developments has me excited about continuing the main scenario storyline but I’m finally caught up so I actually have to level as I go. It’ll be a bit slower than the last three sessions chain running 15 levels worth!

I also completed my level 35 class quest for Summoner after the titan fight, which gives me the upgraded ‘tank’ pet to use both while questing. I look forward to testing his capabilities compared with the old yellow carbuncle.

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All in all a very satisfying session of Final Fantasy gaming!

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming | 3 Comments

FFXIV: update and the new player perspective

My odyssey in Final Fantasy 14 continues albeit with a shake-up in the nature of my  play sessions due to my husband recently starting the game. On my main job, currently summoner, I’ve just dinged level 34 and am still working on the main scenario quests. The latest barrier to progress, purely because I lacked the time for a longer gaming session, was the Brayflox Longstop dungeon. I’ve now finally given that a go and happily can carry on with the story.

Very smooth Brayflox pug group

Very smooth Brayflox pug group

The second aspect to my FFXIV gaming is introducing a totally new player to the game, which by chance has absorbed more of my gaming time than normal this last week. Although I remain a ‘newbie’ myself compared to my guild mates who spend most of their time in hard mode dungeons, raids or on hunts (all level 50 activities), it’s nothing compared to the experience of someone who’s really new to the game.

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Why (almost) no voice?

So my husband has asked me why there’s no voice in any cut scenes. It’d not really occured to me and it should have given that I’ve played so much The Secret World recently but most of the copious cut scenes used in the Main Scenario quest series lack voice-over. In fact one of the few instances recently where a quest was voiced I found jarring due to the sudden appearance of unfamiliar voice acting. I guess it’s a cost/translation issue more than a technical one but I do appreciate the fact that our character will seem to answer NPCs back on occasion. We don’t see or hear what our character says and it’s usually done in a context of not needing to know (we’re usually telling an NPC what we’ve been up to). I prefer that to the “mute brooding stranger” role that The Secret World has our character play in every cut scene.

Slightly ‘old school’ quest design

Yes, FFXIV does occasionally send you back and forth between quest-giver and quest location, sometimes it’ll do that more than twice. I’ve written about this in Rift and other games – it’s never a good idea to design quests with so much repetitive travel. At least in FFXIV with the ever-available return or teleport actions you can avoid the ultimate quest design faux-pas of making you fight all the way past a horde of rapidly respawning monsters to a quest objective and then all the way back out again!

Back to Drest ... again ...

Back to Drest … again …

Why can’t you repeat quests?

I don’t really have a good answer for this other than it would make the game too solo-oriented? I’ve chosen to level archer alongside his arcanist but I’ve done most of the quests so far so I have to use hunt logs and FATEs to keep up with his character. Weirdly I seem to gain more experience from some activities than his character does, is it because I’m grouped with a ‘new adventurer’?

His character is marked with the green shoots icon for a new character (see dictionary of FFXIV icons under Player Icons section). I guess it makes sense to not be able to repeat the Main Scenario quests, and we do have guildleves and FATEs as repeatable content so it’s not that big a deal. So far it’s worked ok without repeating quests but keeping a pair of classes (/jobs) in step is important for me so I’m hoping I can keep up with his character until he’s high enough for me to swap back to my main job!

Random pretty screenshot to finish!

Random pretty screenshot to finish!

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming | 10 Comments

Neverwinter: invocation changes

An unexpected part of Module 6 was a significant revamp of the invocation system in Neverwinter. Daily invokes and crafting task allocation have been my only acivity in the game for some months now, so was surprised to see a new user interface for invocation when I logged in post patch last week. The details quoted from the patch notes:

Invocation rewards have been updated to better reward players who log in every day, while removing the sting for those who accidentally miss a day or two.
Here is a quick highlight of the changes to Invocation:

  • Celestial Coins no longer disappear if their bearer does not Invoke!
  • The first few Invocations per day can be performed more frequently, and Invocations grow more powerful the more times they’re performed in a given day.
    • After the first Invoke, the player may invoke again after 15 minutes, then 30, and so on.
    • Experience and Astral Diamond rewards increase with each Invocation in the same day.
    • After the final blessing, players are no longer prompted to Invoke until the next day.
  • A new Invocation window shows the player’s current progress in the day’s Invocation path, as well as a preview of the rewards eachtier will provide.
    • The Invocation day resets when daily quests reset, allowing players to begin Invoking anew.
  • The final tier of Invocation allows players to gain a second Celestial Coin in a single day!

As stated in the quote they want players to play for longer in a given session. This makes invocation more of a background activity to longer play sessions than a “once a day” routine for free stuff. The user interface is more complex and the action requires two key presses or a key press and mouse click; even that slight change could get annoying if you’re logging multiple alts in to invoke every day.

What the quote does not explicitly state is that the XP and material rewards are now spread over multiple invokes in order to receive the same net benefits as what used to be the first invoke of the day.

nw_invokenewThe fact that the Celestial coin count doesn’t reset if you miss an invoke is a real plus. Also if you play for hours a day it seems likely you’ll get more rewards overall (four hours I think to get everything in the list above including a second Celestial coin). It might well be good changes overall for active players but for someone like me, who keeps an eye on the game but doesn’t play at the moment, it has lessened the benefits from logging in for that first invoke of the day.

I’ll continue to invoke on my Control Wizard when time permits until he has his purple angel but beyond that I think the game is properly on the shelf until I’ve finished bingeing on Final Fantasy 14.

Posted in Gaming, Neverwinter | 3 Comments