FFXIV: “paid scenario shortcut”

I’ve not been paying much attention to the approach of the Stormblood expansion for Final Fantasy 14 since we unsubbed for nearly two years now as the weight of content that blocked progression at level 50 to Heavensward brought our progress in the game to a shuddering halt. That was after we’d (foolishly) bought the expansion in the heady excitement of the pre-expansion build-up.

A Bard and Scholar as we left them

So I read with mixed feelings over at Aywren’s blog that a catchup mechanism of some kind is going to be on offer in Stormblood, that is a means to not only jump up to level 60 (the start of the next expansion) but to also skip the main scenario quests either for A Realm Reborn (up to patch 2.55) or Heavensward (up to patch 3.56). There’s a catch though, both options are a cash shop item costing real money (£13.32 and £18.50 respectively).

If I weren’t on a stricter budget now I’d possibly be tempted to unlock Heavensward to finally get to see that expansion – though with the bitter knowledge that buying Stormblood would give us access to Heavensward anyway, so the money spent nearly two years ago on the first expansion was a waste. Paying to skip that expansion entirely doesn’t tempt me even if that means being behind the bulk of the playerbase as per usual.

Paying to skip level 50 content…

These options to skip forced content barriers are on top of the mandatory subscription for the game – our characters are already level 50 so, unlike Bhagpuss or any newer players under level 35, we can’t return to our characters without forking out £8+ a month on top of any catchup items. I suppose it’s not that much to pay, and I’m not against subscribing if I’m really enjoying a game. There are other factors to weighh such costs against though; for instance I can play WoW more or less for free via the WoW Token system, that is if the price doesn’t keep rocketing skywards. Likewise I can play LOTRO via my lifetime subscription as much as I desire, and equally Elder Scrolls Online is buy-to-play so no mandatory costs there either.

Despite all this I do like the stellar design and artwork of FFXIV, and have continued to follow the game in blogs and news sites casually. So I will be interested to see reactions to the class & combat changes that Stormblood is bringing once the expansion launches, there’s room for improvement based on when I last played. As to whether we ever return to the game, and whether we’d pay to unblock our characters progress, that I can’t say for now.

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming | 2 Comments

LOTRO: catchup on farming and cooking

Over this weekend so far I’ve spent my spare gaming time leveling farming and cooking on my Minstrel alt. I’ve not actively played this character much over the years: I have logged him on more as a crafting alt and participant in Shire-based RP events like the many concerts the server boasts.

Cooking remains one of my favourite professions in MMORPGs; so when I last played my Champion main and noticed he didn’t have any decent buff food in his bags, it reminded me that I should actually make some proper progress on my cooking. The fact that this weekend is also a bonus XP weekend for various activities is helpful since I have no immediate plans to level this character through questing.

In two evening sessions I’ve managed to tier-up both farming and cooking a considerable amount – farming from Master to Anórien (5 tiers) and cooking from Supreme to Westemnet (3 so far).

My character is high enough into this profession to need access to the superior crafting stations. There’s some riding back and forth needed between the superior oven on the hill south of Michel Delving and the superior farmlands of Hobbiton-Bywater. Given his lack of adventuring progress (now level 28), he’s limited to the only starter-zone that boasts these superior crafting stations. Such intensive crafting activity is increasingly expensive, so at some point my main will have to start sending depositing some gold funds in the shared vault to subsidise further progress.

While I’ve been pottering around, alternating between farming and then cooking, I’ve been struck multiple times by the views. I’ve not played through the Shire properly since I created my Warden back before I even started this blog (my only Hobbit character). So I’m only passing familiar with the lay of the land and haven’t ridden back and forth enough to have become blasé about the beautiful landscape.

Posted in Gaming, LotRO | Leave a comment

Spreadsheets for MMO characters

For the MMORPGs that I’ve played more seriously, I have invariably at some point created a record of my various characters progress. Since I’m a computer scientist I tend to use spreadsheets for simple lists of such info. On my computer I have such spreadsheets for LOTRO and Everquest 2 to track character levels, crafting skill or level and other notes.

I initially created a similar file for FFXIV to track class and job levels (admittedly available in-game) but also other related info like the location of class/job trainers. I have a long since abandoned sheet for my WoW characters still on the computer as well – who needs a spreadsheet when you have the Altoholic add-on to do all the work for you?

Best add-on in any MMO ever!

But I have used spreadsheets for other purposes in other MMOs. In Neverwinter I created a spreadsheet to act as a checklist of the companions that I’d collected on each character. I also had such a file to track companion gear across my alts in SWTOR for a while, another sheet that’s no longer needed in the modern game.

Do you keep spreadsheets or other out-of-game files to track things for your MMO gaming?

Posted in EQ2, FFXIV, Gaming, LotRO, Neverwinter, SWTOR, WoW | 4 Comments

Race/gender locked classes

Although I’ve not been following the upcoming MMORPG Crowfall that closely, the news posted on Massively OP that the devs are removing the planned race/class locks seems a positive development. The game is shifting from the original idea of race and class being bundled in one choice to having the more standard subset of classes available based on the choice of character race.

Race locks, and to a lesser extent gender locks annoy me – I came to this hobby from pen and paper RPGs where such choices are part of the fundamental creative process when making a new character. That’s not to say that restrictions of race/class combination are totally foreign to the RPG hobby, D&D in its early incarnations had a bunch of them. In general the hobby, and its online equivalent, seem to have moved away from limiting freedom of choice at character creation – though I wonder if the trend is now reversing due to the apparent smaller budgets for new MMORPGs and less ambitious vision this implies.

Such restrictions can stem from different origins: there’s the RPG/lore oriented variety, a tradition of class = set race/gender combo and a practical restriction relating to the cost of making new classes available to a wide set of races or both genders. I’ve come across all three types of character restrictions in other MMORPGs over the years.

The lore-oriented version of limited character creation options was a big thing in World of Warcraft in its earlier years: Paladins and Shamans were very limited at first (even limited to one or other faction), Druids were quite restricted also. Over the years there have been at least two waves of the opening of race/class combinations, and the game hasn’t had any gender locks to date. The newest class, the Demonhunter, is actually strictly race locked to the game’s two elf varieties as appropriate to the lore. WoW is not the only MMO to have such restrictions: Lord of the Rings Online has kept lore-appropriate combinations, and SWTOR had some limits at launch although they are less strict now.

Lore class/race restrictions in WoW. E.g. no Gnome Druids…

Black Desert Online espouses a different MMORPG design philosophy of classes being more of a specific character concept, rather than a blank slate with all the options. Not only are the classes gender specific (some have male/female approximate mirrors but they’re hardly identical), but there are even race and age elements pre-determined in class choice. All wizards are destined to be an older male human of some description unless you work really hard at character creation to break the mold. Vindictus is another MMORPG I used to play that has this kind of “choose the character instead of creating one” approach.

Wizards are all old men, didn’t you know?

Since launch Tera seems to have followed the third (budget-driven) approach; the original roster of classes were pretty open in terms of class/race combos, but all of the post launch additions are strictly limited by race and/or gender. It’s deterred me from bothering to create any of the new classes as the available combinations just aren’t that appealing to me personally.

No new classes for my favourite Tera race 😦

What about you dear reader, do race or gender locks matter in MMORPGs?

Posted in BDO, Gaming, Tera, WoW | 10 Comments

Grinding

I’ve found myself playing more sessions that focus on ‘grinding’ recently, a common enough term and trope in MMORPGs. Mindless repetitive activities without any specific driven story or path seems to appeal more than usual at the moment. It motivated my brief return to Black Desert Online before going away on holiday, I played the game daily for just over a week before the shine wore off once more. It’s one I return to occasionally for the combat and the mob grinding: the fast, combo-based combat lends itself to chain-mob slaying very well indeed. I have problems with several aspects of the game but the ‘level by grinding mobs’ isn’t one of them.

Going on a naga hunt…

I’ve been tempted to return to Lord of the Rings Online as well, strangely less by the main story, than by the feeling I should finally catch up the deeds on my main character. I focused for years on leveling and the epic story books, so his traits are woefully behind. ‘Deeding’ is a mixture of exploration and grinding mobs in this MMO: the slayer deeds involve quite serious kill totals as well (later ones require multiple hundreds of monsters in two tiers). That’s not to paint it as a negative aspect of the game, when I’m in the mood for grinding it’s great combined with some gathering, even if the monsters are ‘greys’ and die in a hit or two. When Syp posted recently on level-scaling in MMOs, I immediately thought of the impact this would have on deed grinding in LOTRO – if you couldn’t out-level the zone and come back to speed-farm helpless monsters it would be a very different level of grind…

I’ve even been doing grinding a bit in World of Warcraft recently, albeit for weekly quest purposes. The latest weekly quest is to slay 100 demons in the Broken Shore zones. That’s pretty easy to combine with other tasks such as the World Quest near Felsoul Hold that gives you an unlimited ammo cannon for shooting rapid-spawn felbats out of the sky.

I can balance this easily across my available gaming time; over the weekend I played a couple of short but immersive story-focused sessions in ESO, the kind where I take time to read everything I come across and immerse myself as deeply as possible in the rich lore. Combat remains a very big part of MMORPG gameplay however, and sometimes stripping away the quests that bookend or justify it, and simply settling into the ability rotation for a session of wandering and fighting, can be fun.

Posted in BDO, Gaming, LotRO, WoW | 3 Comments

ESO: racial choice: race change or reroll?

While playing Elder Scrolls Online recently I had a bit of a dilemma over my solo character’s race. He’s my Argonian Dragonknight character, an unwitting clone perhaps of my EQ2 Sarnak Shadowknight.

Playing through a major Deshaan quest chain set within the Ebonheart Pact capital city of Mournhold, I was struck by the fact that I probably would prefer to be playing a Dunmer character as my (solo) main, especially because the upcoming expansion for the game is set in Morrowind. I should mention that I do really like Argonians as a race, but still he’s not a Dunmer. I created the character without much thought when I returned to the game, and obviously before I knew there would be a Dunmer-themed expansion coming.

Bit pricey for me atm…

Race change options in MMOs are one of the ‘premium’ services that MMO studios like to charge extra for – quite a chunk of money at £14.99 for the necessary 3000 crowns (Currently it costs £19 in WoW). I’m not a fan of these extras that are charged in real money; whether server transfers, race changes, character make-overs or whatever. It always struck me as somewhat exploitative, especially in games with a sub that the studio would charge players for something that should be included. I’ve only ever server swapped in Rift as Trion made a point of not charging extra for such services. I did once pay for a race change in World of Warcraft, back in the Wrath era, because we needed a healer for our nascent Horde mirror-guild.

This Troll Priest started life as a Draenei

I could create a new Dunmer character and get that caught up with my Dragonknight, either as a direct replacement or a chance to try one of the two classes I’ve not yet played (Sorceror or Nightblade). But do I really want to re-roll when that means winding back on progress and repeating what I’ve already done, I’m not normally one for repeating content so soon…

 

Posted in ESO, Gaming, Rift, WoW | 4 Comments

Twitch streams as background

I’ve had a couple of thoughts linked to Twitch streams recently in the back of my mind. I’ve started watching them occasionally on my second screen while playing solo gaming session. That’s not to say I’ve always something on in the background, I think it depends on the type of content I’m doing. If I’m gathering and doing crafting writs (repeatable quests) in Everquest 2 then it’s easy to have something on to watch at the same time. It’s less doable if I’m running dungeons in World of Warcraft.

Pulling up roots doesn’t require 100% concentration…

I suspect I started with Massively OP‘s various Twitch streams, I hadn’t touched the platform before the early part of this year. But as I’ve cycled through a few games this year I’ve explored whether there are any regular streams that I can watch as background. Some games make this easier than others; both of Standing Stone Games MMORPGs (LOTRO and DDO) have official Twitch channels that host a scheduled rotation of streamers.

Non-story content mixes well with a background Twitch stream

Time zone differences are sometimes a problem as the majority of streamers seem to be in North America so I catch their streams at (for me) times when I can’t necessarily sit through the whole thing. But it’s nice to engage with them where possible and I’ve actually found myself learning little tips on gameplay or game systems even in games that I’ve played for many years. I had no idea that there’s a method to save and load UI layouts between characters in Lord of the Rings Online, for example – thanks to a comments discussion on a recent stream I now have these commands written down for future use.

Do you watch Twitch streams of your MMOs?

 

Posted in EQ2, Gaming, LotRO | 3 Comments