Yet more travels of … me

As I played through the latest instalment of Panda-induced nostalgia tourism in Everquest 2 I realised I’d never had a character set foot in the Moors of Ykesha zone before – there’s a bit of a ‘grey zone’ of levels I’ve never actually leveled through and this zone sits within it. It looks rather cool, all gnomish ingenuity, balloons and giant cannons.

This was last night on the eve of a journey of my own as I’m off on my travels today and will be away from keyboard, at least from actual gaming for some time. Unlike most of the holidays I’ve had in recent years it’s not in a cruise ship so I’m more likely to have reliable wifi access in hotels and coffee shops.

I won’t be posting on a normal schedule as my gaming activities inform more than half of the posts I do, but I may post some more creative Starfinder pieces and some industry commentary-style pieces.

I’ll no doubt be collecting some momentos of my own while away, adding to a collection just like Yun Zi. I’ll also be travelling to a place I’ve never visited before, and another that’s moderately familiar – so a good mix of exploration and nostalgia I hope. As I prepare for the long haul flight later today, I only wish someone had invented World Bells for real to make the journey more convenient!

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Posted in EQ2, MMORPG | 1 Comment

Autumn begins… gaming update

A seasonal change is upon us once more and I’m feeling a bit itchy for change myself. I’ll be on a break from gaming soon due to travel and that had me wondering if it’ll break my habits when I return, others have been writing on whether WoW Classic will be sticky in the longer term. I expect it will be as with its slow leveling it’s hardly a one-monther game.

Consecrate finally!

I’ll have a chunk of EQ2 Days of Summer content to catch up on when I’m back too, though that won’t take very long. I could also continue questing in Chaos Descending while I await more news on the next expansion.

Otherwise, I’d be rather tempted to do some more Lord or the Rings Online. I left the game stuck at the start of Mordor and nothing has changed, but my time in Classic has maybe helped to slow down my expectations of progress a little – not in this case to go play on the LOTRO progression server. I can’t let go of my crafting alts that easily, it just means too much to me.

Time for another ride in Middle Earth?

However, I am rather tempted to give gearing and trait-leveling on my main some more, Champion has always been enjoyable to play. Also I still haven’t given Captain a proper good try so that’s an alternative reason to return as well. Reading about the excitement over the new Dwarves and progression server reports has the game on my mind once more.

Anyone have any gaming plans for Autumn (Fall)?

Posted in EQ2, LotRO, MMORPG, World of Warcraft | 1 Comment

The solo crafting trap

Playing World of Warcraft Classic last night I commented on how nice it is to have crafting feel so relevant. It’s not trivial to level and gather materials for crafting in this version of the game, plus bag space is painfully restricted early on so gathering all the materials means more time spent wandering for nodes or back in the nearest city for banking or vendoring.

Going to extreme lengths to gather some copper

In Classic we have a leveling static of four so there’s a good spread of professions and gathering skills across those characters. Add in the alts some of us have as well and any synergies or dependencies between professions are much easier to deal with. World of Warcraft tends to make the crafting professions very much a part of a balanced and coherent world. You sometimes need crafted items for a random quest; you have the option to make them, or to tap a guildmate or even buy them from the auction house. It’s a really nice reminder that professions are worthwhile and helps to link different aspects of this MMORPG together.

This positive game design choice can become negative, however, for soloists if one aims for self-sufficiency. I imagine if I were to play Classic strictly solo I’d end up with a lot more alts because of this. The post linked above immediately made me think of another game though: Lord of the Rings Online. I’ve been part of Kins (i.e. guilds) for all the time I’ve been in that game, but I’ve tended to engage with the crafting system from a self-sufficiency point of view. All my characters have a vocation (the name in LOTRO for a combination of three gathering and crafting skills) and actively work on at least two skills as I play them.

Farming is a great gathering profession

There are some in-built overlaps and dependencies in this system: although each character has some combo of three skills, several of them require by design help from another character to fully develop proficiency (e.g. the Armsman can gather and smelt the metal for weapons but cannot process any of the leather or wood that is sometimes needed). This is a nice system, it can encourage the player economy, and I would argue it makes the crafting system more interesting. There are few dependencies of this type in World of Warcraft’s crafting even in the Classic era.

Not being able to gather rare nodes makes this Dwarf cry

In practice any time I’m playing LOTRO and trying to focus on progressing my main’s gear or level, there are constant reminders and the temptation to also switch over to alts and do some crafting. If my Champion main is lacking buff items or food, it makes me immediately want to get on my cook or historian characters to churn out trail food or a mitigation buff scroll or ten.

Lower level buff scroll

It’s a self-made problem, if anything a sign the games crafting and gathering systems are a little too well integrated. The dependencies between them lead naturally to the desire to level multiple vocations and that requires multiple characters. I see it as being another example of the design balance Shintar was writing about in the linked post above – older MMORPGs did seem to have a better grasp on how to have different aspects of game systems, or even different systems entirely in balance to encourage gameplay.

On the one hand I prefer games where such systems work off one another – it makes crafting feel more rewarding. On the other hand it makes more aspects of the game into a massive potential time sync: one that I can ill afford thesedays…

 

 

Posted in LotRO, MMORPG, World of Warcraft | 2 Comments

Zones that are a pain to traverse

If you read many of the blogs covering World of Warcraft Classic you’d think that making zones a pain to traverse is a good way to motivate play. From what I’ve played so far time spent running back and forth is not to be dismissed, especially if you miscalculate on the order to do activities or when to use (or not use) your hearthstone.

Hoofing it old-school

I’d say a similar issue exists in the modern game in each expansion or major content patch – we get new zones and cannot fly there until the latest version of the Pathfinder achievement is unlocked and completed. I’m used to playing Retail with my husband who has flying unlocked already so the difficulty of traversing Nazjatar only sank home when I took a turn at leading a family member around this zone myself.

Grounded

Nazjatar is a beautiful zone replete with details and different sections to explore. It is also a royal pain to travel around on the ground. Like several recent zones there’s a lot of verticality which has two effects: firstly it makes travelling down quickly potentially hazardous (death by fall or by the mobs you land on), and it presents you with many higher-elevation areas that are not so obvious to reach.

Getting down is easier than back up

I guess Blizzard’s goal since Warlords of Draenor has been to force players to play “old school” for the first segment of an expansion or content-cycle. The grind to achieve Pathfinder once it is unlocked is content for some as well. I’ve written before about Highmountain in Legion: it’s  a visually impressive zone, and one that allowed characters to make the most of the zone-specific or new for that expansion abilities for easier movement around zones. But it was still enormous and so very vertical that it was more time-consuming to quest there.

I suppose some would say that players being able to dive-bomb content is bad for the game as it could trivialise zone traversal. As I’ve been playing Everquest 2 over the summer, I generally disagree with that design philosophy. There seems good reasons in EQ2 to be on the ground even though I can fly almost everywhere on my high level characters. I even ride around on the ground between things that are close – it just feels natural to me.

I think Legion managed the fine balance between interesting and annoying landscapes better. Well maybe the Broken Isles wasn’t so great, but I really liked the starting zones of the expansion and the host of movement abilities and items that were introduced added a lot of fun. They also compensated somewhat for the lack of flying. In Battle for Azeroth there’s been less attention to detail, if I’d not had my husband’s characters with multi-person mounts (and the rideable dragon flight-form) I’d have not played anywhere near as much of this expansion.

WoW Classic has turned the clock back to endless running and mount scarcity without offering many compelling alternatives. That’s understandable since it’s a simulation of the elder game, but for me in 2019 it’s not my preferred gameplay style, give me the skies of Norrath any day.

Posted in EQ2, MMORPG, World of Warcraft | 3 Comments

Always playing catchup

My earliest memories of MMORPG gaming involve playing catchup to friends, old and new, in World of Warcraft. The Burning Crusade expansion came out scant months before I started playing (by my recogning in March 2007). So when husband and I jumped into the game most of our friends already had level capped characters at 60.

As players of Classic are (re-)discovering, leveling was not that quick back then, nothing like the modern game over on Retail. We spent months leveling our characters in duo to catch up with where the guild and bulk of players were – in the newly launched zones of Outlands. I have vague memories of being somewhat frustrated at the time that we weren’t getting to join in on the fun everyone seemed to be having in the new lands and dungeons. We were lucky that our guildies had plenty of alts of various levels that they could join us with to run the leveling dungeons as we went up the long level-ladder to 60.

Play called off by rain

We’ve been rather too busy with other things to do much Classic of late and our characters have been idling rather in Darkshore. It’s a shame as it’d be great to get to the first dungeon run, at the pace we’re leveling that might night happen for quite a while. With this server there’s no clear plan of expansions as yet (if ever) so I suppose there’s no hurry at all with leveling in Classic.

Now that’s what I call a Flamestrike

It’s a common experience I’ve had in this genre that I love, I’m usually behind the curve in any game at any level. Playing some Everquest 2 recently I realised I’d not touched the Chaos Descending expansion content at all. My characters were effectively parked, from a gearing perspective, at the end of Planes of Prophecy. That explained why I found the new prequel quest content rather a slog – catch up time once again!

On the souvenir hunt

Of course there’s also the Days of Summer catchup event going on, a week at a time. I imagine I’ll just about have gotten through the Chaos Descending adventuring timeline at around the time Days of Summer is done (if there are as many weeks as previous years) – meaning I’ll have a load of quest reward gear and event gear of similar power levels. Two different means of catching up. But doing the Chaos Descending content will mean seeing the story, always worth it in EQ2, and it’d be nice to see what all those shouts in Global are about public quests before this becomes outdated and neglected content.

Playing catch-up can be a drag, but then it’s still gaming I have to look forward to!

Posted in EQ2, MMORPG, World of Warcraft | 3 Comments

Self-imposed difficulty in MMORPGs

I was reading a post by Naithin at Time to Loot this morning about “Playin’ by new Rules” and it got me thinking about my own rather varied MMORPG gaming history. The post details a community-invented ‘Iron Man’ ruleset that players live by voluntarily to make Asheron’s Call harder to play – I’m not that familiar with the game but I can understand the concept of self-imposed difficulty in a MMO.

As yet I’ve not read of any similar experiments in Classic, of players chosing deliberately underpowered class/spec choices, or limiting themselves to “no twinking” (e.g. no buying items of other players or the auction house) – I expect it will happen if it hasn’t already though.

Holy paladin is about as solo-viable as it was in Vanilla, i.e. it is not.

As someone who has always played World of Warcraft as a ‘small group’ game it is not something I would associate with this style of gameplay. We did, however, right almost from the start in 2007, when we started playing, make things harder for ourselves on many an occasion. Since we didn’t pug (play with random players outside of the guild), we quite often ran dungeons with only four players – back when the game’s relative difficulty meant that it would be a slow and potentially unsuccessful run. Given the levels of alt-mania in our guild and the regularlity with which we changed our “static”, this was like some unwritten form of this playstyle. It was always the players that remained more or less the same, the characters not so much. So, rather than allowing chance to determine how to develop a sub-optimal character, we tended to take a slightly random group of characters and make it work. There were runs with a Shaman tank, a Hunter tanking with their pet – that sort of thing.

4-person all Druid dungeon run

WoW isn’t the only MMO that I’ve experienced this in either. In my early years in Dungeons & Dragons Online I was lucky enough to be in an active guild. We ran lots of general dungeons together, but also had leveling static groups of various sorts going. One particularly fun but ‘Iron Man’ style group was an “all Ranger” group. Class was set, certain races were banned (for being overpowered) and there were strict rules on no twinking or auction house purchases. The group worked pretty well because Rangers in that game can use healing wands and similar items, so we would take turns being the healer stand-in using limited-use healing items to keep the group alive. It was a very strange experience, but rather fun for the couple of months it lasted!

Unlike World of Warcraft, several of the other MMORPGs I have played have been mostly solo-leveling experiences for me. I’ve been in guilds in most but the scope for grouping outside of end-game in older MMOs was often limited unless you leveled with “the curve”. In the more old-school of them soloing was a self-imposed ‘Iron Man’ experience of sorts. Leveling from scratch in pre free-to-play Lord of the Rings Online was not the easiest of experiences for example.

I’ve hit many progression roadblocks in Everquest 2 as well because I’ve lacked a decent, and patient, guild group to play with. Pugging isn’t really my thing, it never was, but in games that I understand less well it is rather initimidating to get into zerg-like groups only to get left behind because you haven’t already run that particular dungeon hundreds of times, or to not know all the boss fights. So I’m left with the mostly solo (or molo) gameplay style that is both perfectly doable, but equally not the easiest way to be playing the modern era of this game.

Posted in DDO, EQ2, LotRO, MMORPG, World of Warcraft | 2 Comments

My experience of playing Classic so far

There’s a lot of discussion around the appeal of World of Warcraft Classic at the moment, take a recent Aggrochat podcast for a wide range of chat about what sorts of players they see playing in their guild.

My own experience so far has been a bit unusual I imagine: I’m only finding time for the one character and he only plays in a static. As a holy Paladin that’s a very good thing as I remember from 2007, and can confirm in Classic in 2019 that holy Paladin hits like a wet lettuce in combat and would be *so* bad as a solo class/spec. Turning back the clock means accepting that changes or design lessons will be reversed. The group questing experience is better in some respects than in Retail for sure: for instance it feels like healer/support is actually useful to play (Buffadin!). Other aspects of the group questing experience are not that ideal.

A similar group ahead

Belghast’s blog post expands on the discussion in the podcast to outline types of players they are seeing in guild. I would fit into the ‘honeymooner’ category he outlines I imagine as I tend to bounce between games as content is released. WoW Classic is an unusual prospect for me as there’s no clarity if any content will ever be released (i.e. progression server style unlocks of Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King etc). It would be highly unlikely that I’ll stick to the game again for years without taking breaks.

That’s a concern for me because of how we play and how group-unfriendly Classic is compared to many more modern MMOs. Keeping characters in sync level-wise is important as XP penalties and trivialisation of content would largely spoil the group leveling experience for us (we all hate powerleveling). That means playing alts outside of when we can play, not that I have the time but others do have several on Classic already.

The lack of gathering XP is one less issue to worry about

The old school class/spec system has appeal and more distinctiveness for sure, but it makes for a rather rigid experience also. In Retail we often have swapped classes or specs to fit the group dynamic for dungeon runs. In Classic we have to alt if we want to change our pre-made group’s make-up within the holy trinity scheme. Were our tank to tire of playing prot warrior (or warrior more broadly) then someone else needs to level a new tank character. Catching up while our characters are in the teens isn’t so hard, but what about when the group levels to the 20s, 40s or 50s? It’s quite the dilemma on where you draw the balance between making leveling feel like more of a journey than a sprint, versus allowing people to play what they want in a group without massive hurdles to overcome.

Posted in MMORPG, World of Warcraft | 2 Comments