Pace of play pressures

An MMORPG expansion lays bear a particular problem of the genre, the incessant peer pressure to be pushing forwards as fast as possible. Some games may encourage or demand this more through game systems or update schedules, but I think it’s more of a shared community issue tied to certain playstyle preferences.

The evidence for this is in the rush to level cap in most MMORPGs, or the requirement to have such high item levels so soon after the launch (e.g. 340 by launch of Uldir raid). There were videos posted less than 24 hours after the launch of Battle for Azeroth showing characters hitting level 120s. Less than a day after it came out officially for an expansion that, in theory, needs to last us around two years including the two or three more meaty patches we’re likely to get. Within a matter of days some guild members were running heroics, I didn’t record how quickly the mythic runs started, but they’ve been going on a while. The constant subtle or not so subtle pressures to hurry up, go-go-go, skip the video, etc do get to me at times – even if they rarely affect me directly they create a certain atmosphere in-game.

Rares and shared tapping are fun open group content, but they add to the pressure to rush around.

I’m a fast reader, I know some people who are not, for them quest-based MMORPGs can devolve into a chore – trying to keep up with those who read faster as a constant factor of gameplay can’t be that much fun. I do miss the “quest text as cutscene” from Star Wars the Old Republic here, it helped to mitigate this issue. The quest ‘text’ is absorbed by all at the same pace – the pace of delivery of the voice actors. It’s a more evocative and immersive way of doing this. Also it can curb the tendency among us to constantly be accelerating our pace while questing. I think it’s only natural to start speeding up if you’ve been playing a while, especially if playing as a group since the content is so easy to blast through.

I start out in a session always reading the text and giving the game my whole focus. But I’ve noticed there is a temptation to start to skim-read quest texts, maybe due to tiredness or a certain boredom with ‘samey’ tasks. It’s hardly surprising in Battle for Azeroth because the quests are so very dense this expansion – one quest opening up three or four, that lead on to another three or four seems the standard. So much quest text in a relatively short space of time does get overwhelming. I imagine a lot of these quests could have been combined somewhat, with the appropriate increase in XP and other rewards to match, or perhaps string quests out into longer single or dual quest chains, perhaps?

There can be lots to read

I can’t remember feeling so rushed when playing SWTOR, ever. The cutscenes for quest delivery, completion and, sometimes, for intermediate steps always helped to measure the pace of play – in a positive way I would say. Of course there are players who just space-bar through them, I remember reading about such behaviour regarding the early flashpoints that were cutscene-rich, but then I always played the game’s group content with guildies or close friends. It’s no different from my husband and my awful experiences of later group content in Final Fantasy 14 (ARR), which in pug groups inevitably involved skipping cutscenes we’d not watched because it was holding up the group – or missing out on fights entirely if we chose not to. “Just go and watch them afterwards on Youtube” does not make up for the pressure to miss, and enjoy, them at the appropriate moment as designed by the devs.

Interactive cutscenes are a major plus in SWTOR

Personally I have no experience of “skip the cutscenes” as an issue in Secret World (either incarnation) since I’ve only played that with friends, but I imagine it could be if people speed run missions for AP/SP? It’s the other MMORPG that takes a different approach to quest delivery that I’ve experienced, so it’s the other game I’d naturally compare to the standard quest text model for this post. It takes a very measured approach to task assignment also, you can only have one main quest active at a time. Most quests have multiple steps as well to make them more involved and time-consuming tasks – that hub full of a dozen quests in World of Warcraft (some locked behind others) might be one or two NPCs in TSW with three or four missions only, but the gameplay time to complete them all could well be similar.

I would never skip a cutscene in Secret World

It’s a nebulous issue that to some is probably a non issue. Since playing the expansion in WoW I feel I’ve noticed it more than I did during Legion. Have the devs designed things differently this time in terms of quest flow? In any case, as I’ve tried to illustrate above, the issue isn’t purely caused by game design. The playerbase, and trends in gameplay style, are likely to be equally behind any perceived pressure to speed up.

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Posted in FFXIV, Gaming, SWTOR, TSW, WoW | 3 Comments

All the news! #mmorpg

It’s been a rarity in recent years for there to be that much MMORPG news to comment on in the blogosphere, new MMO launches have been few and far between compared with the heady days when I started this blog. But the last 24 hours or so have been an avalanche of big-ticket news items for those following the genre.

Wildstar is to shutdown

I’ll start by repeating the now common knowledge that Carbine and Wildstar are to shut down. That was a gut punch, weirdly I’d only logged back into Wildstar last night to play around on a lowbie character just for the feels. Massively OP had run an article or two looking at the game and I was feeling in the mood for slightly zany Sci Fi – it’s the closest MMO to the Starfinder tabletop RPG I can think of, which is my current offline obsession.

My engineer

Naturally I’m very, very sad that the game is going. Of course I’m also complicit in this news since I haven’t played regularly since the summer 2016. It’s one of those things about the genre: there are way more games than any individual can reasonably play (though some do make a darned good attempt at playing all!). The content dearth, oft the prelude to a game being wound up, was the killer for me. I find it hard to keep engaged with a game in maintenance mode.

I’m all about the snarfelynx mount

CCP bought by Pearl Abyss

This is a strange one, I read about it over at The Ancient Gaming Noob, as I do anything Eve related since I’ve never actually played the game. But Eve and it’s home studio have long been held up as the example that subscriptions can work and that studio’s only need keep a stable, relatively healthy, population happy to have success. That said, the real reasons behind this will probably not surface anytime soon: is it that CCP had financial troubles and had been looking for a buyer, or that both companies saw possible ‘synergies’ in the mood?  In either case I can’t see what it’ll bring beyond financial arrangements – is a new joint game likely, or VR Black Desert?

The mention of the latter company did remind me that Black Desert has revamped its graphics and has a login promotion on at the moment, must go grab those freebies!

Daybreak Games joint venture with Nantworks for mobile

So Daybreak Games – the studio behind both Everquests, DC Universe Online, some zombie/survival game and the publisher of Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online – has also announced a deal too. This isn’t a takeover though, it’s a “joint venture”, a term which takes me back to my studies of the oil industry in developing countries. This isn’t a legal or financial blog (honest!), so I’ll ignore any implications of the implied investments or of that chosen structure – in any case the company is joining forces with a ‘diverse holding company’ to start porting a game or games to mobile.

I couldn’t care less about H1Z1 if I tried, and I’m long over mobile gaming – I mostly played some for about a year on an old iPaq, and briefly on an earlier iPhone circa 2006-8. More recent forays into Pokemón Go confirmed my views, however. Gaming quickly drains any mobile device’s battery, plus I generally need my time out of the house/not in work for more important things than yet more gaming on the side (like blogging and learning Japanese).

Mobile Everquest doesn’t sound that appealing to me. The linked press release doesn’t mention if this could eventually include either of the two published titles – LOTRO and DDO – I guess DDO might actually make quite a fun mobile game given the early action combat model?

THQ Nordic have bought up the rights to Kingdoms of Amalur

This is a little news item that I could have easily missed but that bought back some memories. I loved the Kingdoms of Amalur Playstation game, it was a single player RPG set in a fey-inspired fantasy world. The game played well – you built your character by mixing and matching three main skill lines. It had action combat with interesting and varied enemies to fight. Sadly a hard drive crash wiped out my save of many hours of gameplay robbing me of some of the enthusiasm to play. I subsequently loaned the game to someone, and still haven’t got it back: this news item reminded me of that. The bigger news from back in 2012 when this was last a big thing, was the implosion of the game studio behind this game, they were working on a MMORPG set in the same world (referred to under the codename of Project Copernicus), but financial mismanagement caused a big and very public collapse of that company. I suspect the MMO idea is long dead, and will never rise again. But a remastering of Amalur or even a sequel single player game built on the assets of the first could be a nice happy ending to the sorry tale of Project Copernicus.

A final older piece of news is that a new Lord of the Rings Online MMORPG is being made by Athlon Games. Never heard of that company, the community reaction was predictable but also as has already been commented, it will not necessarily mean anything for the future of the current Lord of the Rings Online. Firstly Standing Stones Games has existing form for keeping a MMO going in the face of a newer competing title (their DDO vs Neverwinter by Cryptic). Secondly the new game apparently will be set in an earlier time period: a “prequel to the Lord of the Rings novels”. It’s planned to be free to play so I’ll take a look, a LOTR game in a modern engine could be interesting, but can any company do nearly as well as Standing Stones Game at crafting an interesting game world within such a detailed and iconic setting?

Posted in BDO, DCUO, DDO, EQ2, Gaming, LotRO, Wildstar | 3 Comments

Underrot sparks nostalgia #WorldofWarcraft

We have a Horde quartet of characters that we’re levelling through Battle for Azeroth as a side project – the group plays together so we only play them when all four of us are online. Having an almost full premade group (priest healer, paladin tank, rogue and warrior dps) means we can rip through open world content easily including the many silver-name rare monsters.

It also means we can do dungeon runs Horde-side with no fuss when the opportunity presents itself. Our Alliance characters are much more advanced, level 120 already for some time and gearing up. These characters are barely started, but several of the dungeons do scale so we popped into the Underrot last night to give it a look. I’d rather see a dungeon for the first time on normal than end up seeing it on heroic or even mythic as part of an Alliance group run.

This dungeon really sparked some nostalgia for me. The general setting, a damp, mushroom-filled cave, really evoked shades of Underbog (back in The Burning Crusade) for me. There was even a mushroom-dance boss! Most of the monsters had a very different theme mind, undead and some weird rot-themed creatures like the worms.

Another nostalgic element was the need for some careful pulls and liberal use of crowd-control. On my troll priest, I can’t remember the last time I actually needed to use the Shackle Undead CC spell, maybe it was in Cataclysm’s brutal heroic or even back in Wrath?

So the experience of playing dungeons that seem designed to be that bit tougher, was fun. I expect in another few weeks or months everyone will be facerolling their way through these as normal, but for now there’s a brief moment of respect for the many monsters that lie within – careful planning and gradual progress through the dank caverns. I like that kind of experience. It gave us opportunities for casual roleplay along the way, something we always used to do on these guild dungeon runs.

I’ll not comment yet on the story of the dungeon, because spoilers, but it was an interesting place to explore!

Posted in Gaming, WoW | 2 Comments

All the fun of Wrothgar #TESOnline

Last night I had a great session of gaming, though in fact I played both Elder Scrolls Online and World of Warcraft. It’s normal for me to play more than one game of an evening, if time permits. Multi-MMO gaming is one of the themes for this blog and has been my norm since circa 2009.

My husband is busy gearing his character for raiding so the pressure is on (him) to do mythic dungeons in WoW. That leaves me some solo gaming time to spare. Although we played some WoW together after that dungeon run, I started in Elder Scrolls Online, as I often have this summer. The ‘need’ to check blacksmithing on an alt to optimise research is an easy draw into the game for me. I’m only actively playing the one character though as my levelling progress is slow enough already, he’s now level 38.

He got sidetracked into Wrothgar last month and is still there. It’s a nice self-contained zone with repeatable content. So I can mix and match what I do based on available time and my whims. This time I decided to run the daily gather/kill quest (for me it is always the ogre  boss and book pages), that also gave me a lot of time to gather some herbs and ore.

While I was out and about slaying ogres, I detoured and picked up a side quest in a delve (Nikolvara’s Kennel). I’d had that since first entering the zone. Delves are fun, they offer a simple “clear the dungeon with end boss fight” setup, but often have quests near the entrance to complete when you run through. I’ve read there are ‘delve daily’ quests in the zone, but haven’t unlocked those yet.

Always with the spiders…

So I actually ended up playing a lot longer than I’d expected to, dinging my character and then getting a couple of ranks in his alchemy as well. All in all a productive and fun session!

Posted in ESO, Gaming | 2 Comments

On top of the world (Battle for Azeroth edition)

The new zones in Battle for Azeroth have some pretty astounding heights to ascend to, this coupled with much better draw-distance than when I first started playing World of Warcraft, I’ve seen some great vistas from high up.

I do like mountainous zones in MMORPGs, and I’m was pleasantly surprised to see just how mountainous parts of Kul Tiras and Zandalar are – the maps do not necessarily indicate just how high the heights reach.

Being high up gives great views of the surrounding countryside of course, plus it allows you an unobstructed glimpse of the skybox. However, the chance to descend at speed can also be a gameplay benefit – why have ways to get down quickly but safely if there’s no high up places to use them from?

Despite the lack of flying at the moment, the established norm in WoW expansions these days, exploration and travelling around zones can be good fun. It certainly can reward the explorer with some beautiful vistas.

 

 

Posted in Gaming, WoW

Decorative vs functional housing #EverquestII #Wildstar

A recent post about SWTOR housing over at Going Commando, and subsequent comments, started me thinking about what I look for from player housing in MMORPGs. Most of the blog posts I’ve seen about housing relate to decoration – the default style of the housing itself, ways to decorate it, sought after items or decoration projects underway.

Reading the above linked post, I was reminded that player housing doesn’t have to only be about decoration though. I do really appreciate housing in the MMORPGs that have it, but to me it tends to be a more functional relationship than decorative. To many MMO housing enthusiasts the collection of housing items, and the decoration of one or more housing plots with those items is a major source of gameplay – a very different style of endgame indeed.

I, sadly, lack the artistic mindset and the patience to enjoy that aspect of housing. For me in most games housing has certain practical benefits that I want to use, although I rarely spend much time and effort on how things look and where things are placed.

The “place it where it’ll fit” school of decoration

Storage is a major plus where available. I’m thinking Everquest 2 here, a game that takes inventory and storage to such giddy excess. Characters have voluminous potential bag capacity, plus a very generous banking system and house inventory – the latter being something I often forget to make full use of.

Access to services is another plus of housing. Housing often can be upgraded to give you certain crafting facilities, so you can craft away in peace and quiet. Access to the auction house / broker system is also a potential service accessible from a character’s home.

A veritable palace of portals

In some games, more active extras can be added. Wildstar is possibly the most varied here, with set pieces that offer repeatable challenges, or private gathering nodes. Wildstar and Everquest 2 both offer some fast travel options, portals or similar, that can be installed in housing to facilitate travel to frequented zones in the open world.

A wild variety of housing options

Although I have no real patience for housing decoration, I can greatly appreciate the artistry of others. Having access to really useful services and utility functions wins out – I want substance more than style.

Posted in EQ2, Gaming, SWTOR, Wildstar | Tagged | 4 Comments

Final stretch… #BlaugustReborn

So we’re in the final part-week of the Blaugust Reborn blog writing event. It’s been great fun to take part in this resurrected community blogging month, a lot of writing and a lot of reading. Seriously, the positive effect it’s had on my blog feed cannot be overstated.

Now that it’s almost over I’ll be returning next week to my normal ‘post every other day’ schedule. Keeping a daily posting routine is too much effort in the long-term. Plus I’d like to spend more time on other writing (mostly ttrpg prep or other related activities) as we transition into Autumn.

The event has had a new dimension this year, again at least for me, with the attendant Discord server. That provided a central place for some interesting discussions and great blogging tips – I only wish I’d had the time to keep up with all the content there.

The event has refreshed my enthusiasm for blogging and given me plenty of new blogs (to me) to read. My thanks to Belghast for taking the initiative to bring the event back this year, and for the excellent weekly structure given as a framework!

Posted in Gaming | Tagged