Juggling MMOs – timeouts and reminders

Having multiple MMORPGs to play is great in terms of keeping myself entertained regardless of burnout, a sudden whim for variety or the odd server downtime. This September my gaming time has been more limited, not terribly constrained, but I’ve found myself mostly just playing WoW with a bit of Everquest 2 on the side. In a sense that shouldn’t matter, I’m not paying any subscriptions at all at the moment (I play EQ2 as F2P currently and WoW via Token) so there’s no nagging feeling I should be playing this MMO or that MMO because of “value for money”. But the games are designed to be sticky in other ways  and that can be a pain when you play so many, even casually.

A model for auction houses everywhere...

A model for auction houses everywhere…

The biggest issue I face is juggling auction items. Unfortunately not all MMOs have adopted EQ2’s rather civilised broker system – items put up for sale stay there until you decide otherwise. None of this constant cycle of 48-hour max postings that then bounce back and clog your mailbox. I’m sure there are some complicated virtual-economic reasons why limited-time postings are good or something but from an admin point of view it’s a nightmare. At one point earlier in the summer I was actively playing LoTRO and Wildstar and I was posting a lot on both games onto their respective auction houses and it became a regular chore, even when not playing, to cycle stuff back onto the auction house. Of course, I realise that if I want my stuff to actually sell then some regular engagement is needed, even in EQ2 that’s likely to be true. Prices fluctuate of course so if I fail to keep an irregular eye on the market then my timer-free broker posts will sit there, quite possibly with a wildly inflated and out-of-date price-tag. But still it’s always a pleasure coming back to EQ2 and finding a chunk of change sat in my broker window for collection along with a neat summary of what sold and when.

4 days left - bit too close for comfort?

4 days left – bit too close for comfort?

A secondary issue that is related is that of mailbox item retention. Most MMOs have a pretty draconian mail expiry system – if you fail to login for whatever arbitrary timeframe, say a month, then any messages (and attached items) in your mailbox may expire and vanish for good. For many, many years a standard ritual in our house just before going on holiday has been to cycle through MMOs and characters to check nothing will expire while we’re gone. It’s another minor element where Everquest 2 scores highly since mail never seems to expire – there’s a count of how old it is but my characters have some very, very old mails in their mailbox.

This can be an inconvenience from the administration perspective of course, but it can also be a real downer from a character history/lore point of view. Some games make use of the mail system to have NPCs send you ‘in-character’ messages; SWTOR uses this a lot, WoW has on occasion also. It’s a real shame that both games forcibly delete these story-snippets. I did contemplate screenshotting them on my original SWTOR character but that quickly became impractical. In WoW there is an option to create a letter item copy of any such mails in your character’s bag but that was a quick way to overload your character’s bank space – a partial solution but not as simple as allowing longer term storage of the mails in the first place.

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The third item that can be a bit of a pain for MMO juggling is housing upkeep. Games vary a lot here, some like Wildstar or SWTOR do not have any upkeep to pay (at least not on the property itself). EQ2 offers a middle ground – if you fail to keep payments up you’ll be locked out, but the house and its contents are there waiting for you when you pay again. I’m not as familiar with LOTRO’s system but it seems to be similar although you have to pay a restoration fee of the money owing to regain access. My characters with housing in both games have more than enough money to pay their housing fees for years before running out, so the existence of the fee isn’t such an issue but I do sometimes have lengthy absences and having to remember to pay ‘the rent’ feels rather too much like real life for my virtual hobby.

So overall I prefer games that do not expect me to keep reminders or schedules of when stuff will expire. Data storage is cheaper than ever, and not all MMOs have these needy time limits on features, so why keep them?

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WoW: professions progress?

As I dig deeper into the Legion expansion, I find myself unsure what professions to work on first. After the great profession-drought of Draenor, there does at least seem to be some point to leveling professions in Legion, although not necessarily all are equal in that regard.

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My new(old) main is a Herbalist/Alchemist. Levelling herbalism is a no-brainer – there are plenty of herb nodes in zones to collect. Alchemy seems to be pretty useful, though I know very few recipes still (currently 730 alchemy skill) so it’s mostly a matter of making a batch of healing or mana potions to share out at the start of dungeon runs. It is worth noting that Blizzard have added some very nice, if situational, ‘utility’ potions for this expansion. The Avalanche flask is the only one I’ve used so far but given the verticality of this expansions zones, and the chance of getting stuck high up with no easy way down, it is both useful and rather fun to turn into a living landslide for a quick way down!

Avalanche mode!

Avalanche mode!

My second most progressed character, in terms of level and class hall campaign, is my Paladin. He’s always been a Miner/Blacksmith, the former is easy enough as per herbalism, but blacksmithing seems to be rather fiddly and slow to progress for very little benefit. The armour he can make is inferior to his current quest/dungeon gear at level 106 although he can make a couple of level 108 pieces that may be better if he hasn’t found anything to beat them within two levels of adventuring. I will add here that the looks of some of the crafted armour is pretty nice – his shoulderpads are perfect for a holy paladin!

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So other than getting on with alchemy on my main I’m a bit stumped as what professions, if any, to work on. I could get cooking going on my Shaman, although so many of my friends normally progress cooking on their characters that it can be a bit redundant. After the great Inscription massacre of 2016, I can’t see my Shaman working on his primary profession anytime soon, however. I do also have an insta-dinged Mage with jewelcrafting that I may have to get started on as I used to love the jewelcrafting profession (I last worked on it back in Cataclysm…). What professions are you finding fun/useful in Legion, so far?

 

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Last game of your life

Syl at MMO Gypsy raised the topic yesterday of what game would you choose as the game to play for the rest of your life, if you had to choose just the one. That’s quite a conundrum!

Unlike many bloggers it seems I haven’t got that much of a nostalgia for pre-online gaming. I played plenty of video games before going online for sure, but I just am not that interested in replaying old single player RPGs or platformers.

So I guess I’d go with one of the many MMORPGs I’d played as my top pick. I’m thinking breadth of gameplay would be the most important content, and actually solo-ability – if I were stuck in a single game, and presumably other gamers were not then inevitably I’d be left behind as the latest expansions or releases distracted the more mobile of gamers.

Although the obvious choice in terms of population and likelihood to last the longest time active would go to World of Warcraft, it’s not actually the game I’m most likely to pick for this thought experiment. World of Warcraft is infinitely polished and good fun to play with friends but, despite the relative ease of soloing most content, I’d not choose to play the game without friends being active to play with.

I guess the game I’d choose to play would be the MMORPG with the broadest PVE content so that I could while away the years on a good mixture of leveling different classes, crafting, housing and other little side-activities. Of the MMORPGs that I’ve tried the two most likely would be Everquest 2 or Lord of the Rings Online simply because they have so much content available.

LOTRO does have some amazing storytelling, and there are several classes I’d love to play more since I’ve only really played Champion to any decent level. The crafting in that MMO is also simple but with enough depth to feel compelling, and the amount of synergy between vocations (crafting professions) is quite a draw for making crafting alts.

But I think I’d plump for Everquest 2 if forced to really choose one, and only one, MMO. It has so much depth of content and systems that I’m likely to never see all of the game that I want to even if I devote all my available game time to it. Unlike WoW, Daybreak seem to have done very little streamlining of content and even less simplification of the game’s systems over the 12 odd years it has been running. I suppose I could hope that the game would continue to be expanded while I play it with singular resolve?

Posted in EQ2, Gaming, LotRO, WoW | 3 Comments

WoW: world quests ahoy!

It was remarkably easy to complete the necessary steps to unlock World Quests on my first level 110 character. Just levelling in various zones had my Druid at the friendly tier of reputation with three of the five required factions (he needed the Valajar and the Nightfallen in Suramar).

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I was surprised at how quickly we managed it; admittedly following our more experienced guide helped in terms of what to do and in what order. Suramar looks rather gorgeous as a new zone to explore. We delved into the beginning of that zone’s story to unlock the necessary rep, but didn’t get very far before we were ready to hand in the quest with Khadgar to unlock world quests.

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After that we took a quick tour around Highmountain to complete our first set of four world quests. The UI changes to the map that unlock for world quests seem straightforward and informative – it’s particularly nice that you can now ‘zoom in’ on the flight master map to see what world quests are near each flight point. World quests seem to be a good evolution on standard daily quests, in that you can skip a day or even two and still ‘catch-up’ on previous days if you want to.

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We also popped into Stormheim to kill a world boss – the dragon Nithogg. The fight wasn’t that difficult for a ranged DPS character – I was easily able to keep out of the lightning and not get hit by his tail-swipe attack.  This type of boss fight has the bonus roll system introduced back in Mists of Pandaria, this time using tokens bought from the NPC near the entrance to Violet Hold in Dalaran. Despite getting only gold for the normal roll, I did get a level 860 helmet on the bonus roll, so I was rather glad I decided to shell out the 1000 resources to buy one!

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For now at least, I’m more interested in seeing more of Suramar’s story than in settling into to much of a routine of world quests. I expect we’ll be doing them as part of a varied approach to playing the expansion, but questing and seeing more of the dungeons seems more important to me at the moment.

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Pugging in Legion

Azuriel at In An Age has a post on Social Dungeoneering, stating how Blizzard’s experimentations with different loot systems have addressed one problem for random groups but caused another in its place. It’s an interesting read although I’m sort of on the outside of the example experiences that are given. I do not pug dungeons unless it is really unavoidable and MMORPGs that have forced me to pug a lot I haven’t stuck to.

I have played enough pug dungeons over the years to recognise the issues and to understand how Blizzard’s solution may have solved the one issue (people who rolled need for all loot regardless) and yet caused another (the option of trading items creates potential strife over who it should go to). Since pug dungeon runs are not likely to go away as a requirement of modern MMO design – players want to do group content for whatever reason and do not want to spend many minutes or even hours waiting for a group to form – continuing to evolve how they function in their more social aspects is a worthy development goal.

My most numerous recent experiences of pugging of a sort was my Raid Finder  experiences in Warlords of Draenor in order to satisfy steps of the Legendary Ring quests (which I eventually tired of and never completed…). I generally find such pug raids to be tolerable for the most part – the loot is strictly bind on pickup so there’s no arguments over trades at least. Blizzard continues to lock away good story content in its raids so ignoring raids altogether isn’t an option. At least for 5-player dungeons, I can rely on friends and guildmates – that layer of content is accessible without the potential pain of dungeon run loot-squabbles as described by Azuriel. I’m lucky to be able to count on a circle of dependable players who won’t flip out over some virtual armour. But I can already see how the zone and overarching story in Legion is leading towards the first raid so I know I’ll be needing to venture back into pugs via the Raid Finder just to see how we (the heroes) tackle the crises thus far encountered.

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I do wonder if it is high time Blizzard took a more directive approach to encouraging good behaviour from its playerbase – they show no signs of dialing back on the amount of random group content required both seeing the full story and access to gear upgrades. It’s a shame that Blizzard hasn’t, as yet, tried any systems akin to the commendation system in Final Fantasy 14, a system that encourages players to award social currency to one of the other players at the end of a dungeon run. Should the company be tackling the ever-present possibility for anti-social behaviour in groups through systems of positive re-enforcement?

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Neverwinter Gateway and Companion App

I read with some sadness, via Shintar’s blog, that the Neverwinter Gateway has closed down. This website was a fantastic resource for the Neverwinter MMORPG back when I was playing the game regularly. The Sword Coast Adventures virtual dice game in and of itself was a really slick piece of programming for a web-based system. Having access to not only your character details but also the full crafting system (more similar to SWTOR’s crafting than most MMOs) made it a stand-out ‘app’ for its time.

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The official notice confirms the website’s, rather sudden demise. Reading the details there’s apparently plans to give a companion to anyone who has used the website ‘recently’ in the next update. I’ll have to login to check whether our forays into the game as a leveling-trio early in the summer count as ‘recent’, since I did make use of the Gateway again at the time.

The loss of the Gateway contrasts with Blizzard having finally answered the call of so many players and bloggers for there to be a more interactive App for World of Warcraft players. Although we never had an App to manage those needy garrisons during Warlords of Draenor; we do now have one to keep tabs on our Class Halls for the Legion expansion.

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The App is nicely designed and has just the right amount of functionality: I can send off champions on missions and collect the rewards from any that have completed. Furthermore I can start recruitment missions to acquire more of the limited-use troop units and collect any that have arrived. My highest level character is still just shy of the level 110 cap so the World Quest map feature isn’t available for me to test yet, although from what I’ve read I can’t see the real value in being able to see that.

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One apparent limitation of the App’s real utility is linked to how the Class Hall mission system has been designed and balanced around the resource currency. Unlike in Draenor, there doesn’t seem to be many (if any) missions that reward resources – so sending missions always has a net negative effect on your character’s current Class Hall resources total. It seems to be pretty easy to spend all your resources in a relatively short space of time if you’re not active on that character enough to earn more. So having access to send all your characters’ champions off on missions regularly is all very nice, but unless you plan on spending time regularly in the game, you’ll find this function losses its utility quickly as all your characters’ will be “resource broke” before long. I could contrast this to the Neverwinter Gateway, which allowed you to log on as often as you wanted without the concern that you’d overspend on some form of currency in the process.

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WoW: healer empowerment and off specs

One small aspect of the Legion revamp to World of Warcraft’s classes that I’m enjoying is the adjustments to make healers more viable for levelling content and open world questing. This has been achieved by some sort of boost to their damage output while outside of grouped, instanced content. In the game’s past, and in the present of some other MMORPGs, healers do pretty abysmal damage, making solo questing difficult if not impossible.

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So far on my Paladin, I’ve been perfectly happy staying as Holy the whole time and concentrating on progressing just that artifact weapon. Given the number of characters I had at 100 going into this expansion (five), it’s enough for me to juggle alt characters, let alone alt specs. That’s the thing about this change to healer solo viability. In WoW, at least since dual specialisation was introduced back in the Wrath of the Lich King era,  levelling as a healer wasn’t exactly optimal since you could easily have a DPS-oriented off spec to switch to. That never really appealed to me since it often meant having two sets of gear. Now I can shelve off-specs indefinitely for most of my characters.

Holy all the way

Holy all the way

My new (old) main, a Balance druid, never has had an off-spec in all the years I’ve played him. I guess he’s the character I role played more than any other and having different specs for the gameplay reason of trinity role flexibility just never felt right for him. Other characters have vacillated or stayed flexible between specs. My Paladin was until recently more a Protection tank than a healer, and my Shaman has been all three specs over the years since I made him.

Time to put Elemental on ice for a while?

Time to put Elemental on ice for a while?

This healer damage-boost offers me the opportunity of potentially ditching my Shaman’s Elemental DPS/levelling spec altogether to go all-out healer. I’ve always liked the class ‘fantasy’ (as Blizzard calls it) of the Shaman, especially the water-themed Restoration healer. Given my desire to see different class halls and their attached storylines, I won’t have much time for progressing multiple artifact weapons on this or any other character. So it might be a good time for me to rationalise alt-specs in favour of alt-characters.

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