Thank you all for coming today.
I know for some of you the trip was inconvenient, taking your time off from work or just coming here in your free time, so we greatly appreciate it. Well, what can I say? We are gathered today in remembrance of Rusty Hearts, a good friend to some of us, a stranger or passing acquaintance to others, but overall a game that may have passed, but certainly left a legacy that will not be forgotten.
What I know of Rusty Hearts is not extensive, by any means. I never achieved max level, nor did I play it often. However, it was a game that stayed installed on my hard drive because it was just fun. It was different. It refused to follow western tropes that felt like staples of the industry. It was a game that I played periodically, a game that, at the time, was unlike any other. In an age where ‘MMO action combat’ was a rare sight, and tab targeting and skillbars-for-miles was still the order of the day, Rusty Hearts bucked the trends.
Instead of letting the player create their own character from scratch, they had predetermined characters with different playstyles. These were Rusty Heart’s classes. Most people feel that this is a black mark, that to snub open character creation is a sin against the genre. But, to me, this was just one reason that made it stand out. We see this now in a title like Marvel Heroes, a game currently in it’s prime, hitting it’s stride, but uses pre-determined superheros. In Rusty Hearts, you wouldn’t play a melee dual-weapon class, you’d play Franz. You wouldn’t play a magic-wielding class, you’d play Angela. And you wouldn’t play a ranged dual-pistol class, you’d play Natasha. These characters weren’t just fluff, though. They were the main story. They were the characters who had a vengeance to exact against their enemy, the lord of Castle Curtis.
The story was… interesting. I wouldn’t call it a great, memorable tale, but the comic relief came fast and furious, great contrast and companion to the fast-paced battles that were found within the game’s many, many dungeons. That, and the story matched the anime-like, uber-colorful and stylized art nicely. If you think World of Warcraft is “stylized”, you ain’t seen nothin’. If anything, the style was similar to Champions Online.
The music was unlike anything I’ve heard yet in an MMO to date, too. In the game’s main city, it was a sad-but-hopeful haunting classical/jazz piano with a bit of an electric flair, to match the town’s somber mood. Inside the dungeons, and when fighting bosses, it was faster paced club music, electric guitar and violins to match the fast action combat. Really, phenomenal stuff. I highly suggest you take a listen while it still remains on Youtube.
Gameplay is where the game stood out, though, in my opinion. Sure, there wasn’t a lot of forced grouping or massive co-op gameplay that all the players today *think* they really want (but the numbers tend to prove them wrong time and again). It was a Guild Wars 1 or Star Trek Online style of lobby-based dungeon play, but it was a ton of fun. Mobs were thrown at you en masse and the short dungeons weren’t fully cleared until you beat a boss monster with harsh mechanics. The faster it was cleared, the more rewards were achieved, and rewards dropped like it was ‘National Loot Day’.
However, the grind. Oh the grind. Rusty Hearts makes most MMO’s grinds look like a walk in the park. You didn’t just run these dungeons once, you ran them about 15+ times each, quests telling you to head right back in after you just came out. That’s why I never achieved max level or made a serious play at endgame, the grind was just too much.
Rusty Hearts is succeeded, though, by a game that is still finding it’s place in the gaming world, Neverwinter. Not so much the art style or music, but in the gameplay. The characters are very stock types, the play is lobby based, albeit a little more open, but the action and bosses fought at the end of each dungeon are not exact, but reminiscent of the gameplay. An offspring, if you will. If you enjoy Neverwinter, there’s a decent chance you would’ve enjoyed Rusty Hearts.
So closing mere days before it’s third birthday, which would’ve been September 20th, with a heavy heart we say goodbye to Rusty Hearts. A game with ideas before it’s time, but holding fast to old grind tenets. A game with great style, both in art and music, and gameplay that was just plain fun.
Rusty Hearts was the game that really opened up my eyes to what could be different about MMOs, but still be fun to play. It smashed the idea that MMOs had to stay to a strict formula, that the term MMO was a lot broader than I believed it to be. It pretty much is the reason for my game-jumping. I learned from Rusty Hearts to expand my “comfort zone”, to try out and give each game it’s own fair attempt to see if I liked it or not. To not just blindly follow the crowd. You can say Rusty Hearts is then partially a reason why I started this blog, to share my thoughts that there can be good things in places you might not usually look.
Now please, for all those in attendance, there will be a repast held at the community hall down the street. All are welcome to attend.
Remember Rusty Hearts the next time you see a game and think “that’s not for me”. You never know. All you have to do is try it out. Rusty, you will be missed.
Currently I’m going through my gaming transition, as I usually do around this time of year. As soon as Spring hits, I crave the outdoors. My gaming time and interest tends to take a nosedive, and then come Fall, like clockwork, my want to play games increases again. I find myself usually returning to games around the time that all MMOs are starting to celebrate their Halloween shenanigans.
I may be a bit early, but a foot injury has sidelined me a good amount this season, and so my Ultimate playing for the season is essentially over. My injury will hopefully heal over the winter and I’ll be good to come back into next season’s Ultimate ready to go. Still won’t stop playing Disc Golf, though. I’ll try to keep that up until the ground is covered in deep piles of snow, like last season. I am hoping to be a little more active this winter to stave off the holiday weight gain and I’m hoping to get into a friend’s softball league next Spring. We’ll see how that goes, “best laid plans” and whatnot. <ahem> Sorry about that tangent…
But gaming wise, my mind is filled with cravings to play all kinds of different games and it’s causing me a bit of indecision. Here’s a quick list of the ones that are currently jockeying for position:
Vines and plants. Eating salad feels like revenge against these things now.
Guild Wars 2
I recently finished the main story and have started in on Season 2. I really love how they’ve set up Season 2 so that it can be played at an easier pace, and how they’ve integrated it into the world. We have instancing in these games for a reason, and that reason is story. Keep it up, ANet! I’ve finished all the story up to Dragon’s Reach: Part 2, and am really liking the story. They’ve really kicked the story up a notch on this one, although making your character the main figurehead and putting all kinds of words into our mouths, it’s offset by the fantastic characterization of your companions and surrounding characters.
Now I just have to… figure out what else there is to do at level 80. Having done zero research about GW2’s “endgame”, the top level items/weapons and what it would take to get them, it’s a bit of a mystery… they don’t make it that obvious in-game. But these boss battles are something else. If I can get through one and not die 100 times, I’m happy. So maybe a little grinding is in order to get some better or more synced equipment… I’m not a fan of using guides, but I may have to.
Star Trek Online
The next season and the latest expansion Delta Rising are quickly on their way, and the last content I did was against the Voth inside the Solanae Dyson Sphere. Good content, I really enjoyed it, I like how the STO devs are creating content that can’t just be gobbled up and moved on from. They use Reputation grinds, but Rep grinds feel alright for end-game content. My only issue with STO, ironically, is their propensity for long grinds, but I have to come back for Star Trek. I feel compelled. Also, the mountains of zen I have from my Lifetime account don’t hurt (4 years worth of a lifetime sub mixed with a propensity to only buy storage upgrades and costumes).
Since I’ve last played, though, the amount of changes is extensive, and is a hill to come back in. Specifically, the changes in how kit powers work. Knowing STO’s history, it may not be that intuitive. Also, how it looks like they’re handling Tier 6 ships is… interesting. Making them not necessary but obviously more powerful? So… making them necessary?
Love the art style.
As of this post, Rusty Hearts is shutting down in about a week. This makes me sad as it’s the first MMO that I’ve ever played that is shutting down. It won’t be missed by many, but it will be missed by me. I want to give it one final play session before the servers shut down, and I should be able to as my account should still be active.
Old School D&D Games
And I mean OLD SCHOOL. No, really, I’m talking like 24 year old, can buy itself a drink, Champions of Krynn old school. Either that or Neverwinter Nights, or Baldur’s Gate. I remember playing the old school Krynn series a LONG time ago, and I played a bit of NWN and BG, but never completed them or made any headway. I’m in a when-we-can-get-together Pathfinder group, you see, and I completely suck at it, but the D&D bug still bites pretty hard, and I do love me some old school.
I know, Civilization: Beyond Earth is coming out near the end of October. It looks awesome, but it gives that nostalgia hit to play me some Alpha Centauri, Sid Meier’s last attempt at a Civilization game on a world besides Earth. Dealing with other ideologies while at the same time trying not to be horrifically hurt by aliens? Good stuff.
You see, Beyond Earth is coming out a good time. The premise, if it’s anything like Alpha Centauri, is one of living with the planet, not against it. Using methods of living that don’t harm the ecosystem. In AC, if you don’t learn to live with the ecosystem, it will fight back. Hard. Parallels with current day issues? You betcha. Art imitates life, after all.
Gelatinous Cubes, what jellyfish would be if they were found on land.
I like Neverwinter. It’s a lot of fun, even if it doesn’t hit all the D&D notes that the old school D&D games I mentioned above do. And they just released their latest expansion, Tyranny of Dragons, so… Dragons! Dragons everywhere! As I said, I like Neverwinter, it just never makes the top of my MMOs to play list.
The Sims: Medieval
With the release of Sims 4, the Sims bug is also itching. But for me, I always wanted a little more out of the Sims. It seems like a great base to tell a whole bunch of stories, but stories that don’t just revolve around relationships and remodeling ones bathroom. But there is a great Sims title that does go a lot further… The Sims: Medieval. You play multiple people in the standard fantasy medieval community. Say you decide to play the king/queen and go through their story, then when you next play the blacksmith story, you get the benefits of the world changing from the royal’s story. The caveat is there isn’t much in the way of house-building, but to me the quests more than make up for it.
Did anyone else feel that wind?
Guild Wars 1
Playing through the story of Guild Wars 2 has made me want to go back in time and play through Guild Wars 1! Prophecies! Factions! Nightfall! Eye of the North! Plus, this would give me the ability to get all the fun Hall of Monuments stuff that I don’t have from not really playing GW1. And with Rusty Hearts closing, it just makes you think that an old game, like GW1, could shut down at any time. All it takes is for ANet to turn around and say “Well, it’s not making us any more money. Shut it off.” and that’s it, it’s done.
Walking Dead: Season 2
As far as my current TV watching, I’ve been into The Walking Dead. I like it, but what made me start watching it was playing through The Walking Dead: Season 1. Amazing. That game is amazing, but I’ve only done a few chapters of Season 2, and I should really finish it up, because I’m sure I’m going to love it.
Those Other Games I Have Half-Finished
Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall, Half-Life, and Gabriel Knight, specifically. I stopped playing all of them for pretty good reasons, but they’re still nagging me being unfinished. I think my want to “explore” in these games is too much and is getting in the way. I don’t like just rushing to the next plot point, but at this rate I’ll never finish anything! Argh!
So I don’t know. What do you think? Maybe I’ll just keep driving my truck. This ore isn’t going to deliver itself, you know…
On the road again. I can’t wait to get on the road again…
Well, the left side, technically, which is correct, but it took me a few minutes to get use to.
The other day I was looking through Green Man Gaming’s list of 30 Must Have Indie Games, of which I have quite a few already, but found myself inexorably drawn toward Euro Truck Simulator 2. I quickly checked Steam which, thanks to a handy browser extension called Enhanced Steam, I was given a coupon code that allowed me to pick up the game on the cheap. I couldn’t resist.
Marvels of engineering impress the heck out of me. When I was younger, I use to love going to amusement parks and then, in my head, urged to want to build scale models of them. At the time, either I didn’t know of Roller Coaster Tycoon or it hadn’t released yet. Even to this day when I’m on my way home from work and I’m stopped at some local railroad tracks waiting for the train to pass, I get the urge to play a train simulator or something. I usually don’t act on these urges, but who knows. Sometimes the kid in me has free reign.
Cities are just depots, right? I’m not sure cities have other roads…
The tutorial was an eye opener. Now, in general, I consider myself a good driver, but suddenly making a left hand turn in an enormous vehicle with 30 tons of momentum behind you on the wrong side of the road?!! Whaaaaat?!!! I haven’t even started challenging myself yet, though. Currently, I’m playing on simple video-game-style automatic transmission. You know, ‘W’ goes forward and takes care of gears, ‘S’ is both reverse and brake. But the potential options here remind me of playing those Mech games of old, where you had to memorize scads of key combinations to make stuff happen. It can be as easy as WASD, but as complex as getting your own steering wheel, gear shifts, and pedals and going nuts.
The game starts you out as a basic driver, looking to be hired to run jobs. Cake. Just drive from point A to point B, don’t worry about gas, lodging, tolls, fun management stuff, continuity, etc. Just follow the traffic laws, and you’re golden, an easy few thousand euros. Do this… for a crazy amount of times more. I’ve only made a few deliveries total, but the next part of the game is starting your own trucking business and for that you need to buy your own truck, which runs at it’s cheapest into the 100k euros. A good simulator won’t be easy, I know, but getting the funds to buy a truck without getting ripped off by the bank on interest fees… that’s going to take a while. Maybe I’ll play once a day or something until I get there.
Clouds, sun, water, trees… is there much else on the sides of the road?
The game feels realistic, though. I’ve found myself cursing at slow drivers and cars cutting me off, missing turns offered by the GPS, and trying to stay relatively around the speed limit, as I do in real life. I’ve become quickly acquainted with the buttons used for the multiple horns. And trying to park this sucker once you reach your destination?! A Steam comment on the first Euro Truck Simulator summed it up nicely…
Saving the world? Easy.
Creating my own civilization and leading it to world domination? Easy.
Catch all Pokémon? Easy.
Make my way through hell? Easy.
Parking a truck backward? Impossible. Great game though.
Nailed it. In the rain no less.
But I wonder about the side-of-the-road visuals and how much it is really like traveling through the european countryside. Are there really that many fields of sunflowers? Are hot air balloons a regular sight? I need to find where all the good sights are, I guess. So far it’s been a lot of roads, roads, roads, circles, tight turns, and more roads. I’m not even sure what highways these are supposed to be… I think they’re marked when you first get on, but the GPS isn’t telling me, and they really all look similar.
Is Euro Truck Simulator 2 a well put together game? Yes.
… Is it fun? Well… I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. The fun is found in it’s realism. Because I’m not sure how this truly compares to trucking, I’m not sure I can truly say how “realistic” it is. However, nailing backing the truck up right? That’s a good feeling right there.
Allow me a little narcissism. It seems a gaming questionnaire has been circulating among my fellow game blogging compatriots lately, started by Jasyla at Cannot Be Tamed (Thanks, Jasyla!). So, why not? A little survey occasionally is good for the soul, and it gives you a little more insight into my particular point of view, if you’re interested. Also, it’s my site and I’ll post whatever I want, whenever I want, thank you very much.
1. When did you start playing video games?
My memory does not extend that far back, to be honest. I want to say… 8 years old? Which would give me gaming cred for about 25 years now. Looking back, my parents were amazing to me growing up. They purchased me an Atari 7800 and I played the heck out of that thing. Still have it in my basement somewhere with a full bin of games. Good ones, too. Saints. My parents are saints.
2. What is the first game you remember playing?
Donkey Kong on an old CalecoVision. Literally. I don’t know how old the CalecoVision console was at the time I was playing on it, maybe 7 years old, but it’s the oldest game that flashes back to me.
Core i7, in case you’re curious.
3. PC or Console?
These days I’m all about the PC. I’m not going to go into the whole “PC master race” nonsense as it’s just that: nonsense. However, my PC is the most versatile piece of technology I own. The choice was either have a game console that is just a game console, or a PC that is a game console plus a million other things. A PC is just more efficient to own, even if it is a little more costly.
4. XBox, PlayStation, or Wii?
To me, it doesn’t matter. I’ve owned a Playstation 2 that I took apart and put back together a hundred times (I use to buy broken ones, fix them, and sell them again at a profit), I own an XBox 360 and a Wii. Now, they all accumulate dust. If I got the latest iteration of any of them, they’d probably do the same. I’ll give the Wii credit for the most versatility with it’s free use of Netflix and capability as a DVD player, though. Wii Sports is still fun, too. :)
The OG of RPG’s, as far as I’m concerned.
5. What’s the best game you’ve ever played?
Ultima 7. Totally rose-colored-glasses here, but at the time, Ultima 7 was a mind-blower. I played it on my parents IBM, and the game took up a whopping 20 MB of space. Comparative to today, that’s like a game taking up about 700 GB. But the experience was amazing. Ultima 7 was one of the first “open world” games I remember. There was a storyline in there somewhere, but every NPC in the entire game had a daily schedule that included their home, their work, lunch breaks, after-work activities, dinner, socializing, etc. You could attend concerts! Mine for ore! Craft swords! Bake bread! Compare this to other games at the time and there was no comparison. Ultima 7 would be similar to Skyrim today, but if Skyrim let you play in more open world.
6. What’s the worst game you’ve ever played?
Crusaders of Might and Magic. I was a big fan of the Might and Magic series, and had just finished one of my favorites of the series, World of Xeen, before playing Crusaders. Boy was I let down. Crusaders was more of a first-person-shooter style, but not, and a very linear gameplay. Totally different than any other Might and Magic title. It was my first real game that I finished and thought “Well, that… was not good.” It may not actually be the worst, I’m sure I’ve played worse, but since it was the first it sticks out the most.
7. Name a game that was popular/critically adored that you just didn’t like.
Any game that has the words “Call of Duty” or “Battlefield” in their title. I gave them a good shake a few times, and though I’m a fan of shooters, I just couldn’t get into the whole realistic military setting. Felt too glorified. War, realistic war, is not a game and what soldiers do is necessary in defense of one’s country. Glorifying realistic modern military in the gaming space is irresponsible, in my opinion.
I am heartbroken that Rusty Hearts is shutting down, I really am.
8. Name a game that was poorly received that you really like.
The one that jumps to mind is the soon to be shut down Rusty Hearts. As a MMO player, it was a refreshing game to play. One of the first MMO action titles, too, it had a silly/serious manga style story with an artistic gothic painting-like atmosphere, a soundtrack mixing light jazz and hard rock, easy to jump into and interesting dungeons, and abilities that made you feel like a badass from the very beginning. It will be shutting down on September 15th, 2014, though, and it never reached any real following. It’s a shame, really. It was a lot of fun.
9. What are your favourite game genres?
MMOs, First Person Shooters, Point-and-click Adventures, Indie Games, Most things Elder Scrolls and Might and Magic, and really anything. I’ll try anything at least once.
10. Who is your favourite game protagonist?
Ooooooo…. it’s a tossup between Guybrush Threepwood or Faith. Mirror’s Edge is one of my favorite games, mostly because Faith is such a badass and for the game’s originality. As for Guybrush, I haven’t seen a character learn to swordfight in a more entertaining way.
One of the first FPS’s I’ve played that didn’t need any S.
11. Describe your perfect video game.
One which will deliver me a beer and pizza while I’m playing it. Make it happen, people.
Really, I have no perfect game. I see video games these days as works of art, meant to be appreciated for what they are, not how they live up to some definition of perfection. I am no artist, so who am I to tell the artists how to make their masterpieces? Imparting expectations on artwork is futile and only leads to disappointment.
12. What video game character do have you have a crush on?
Who is that woman behind the protagonist on the Mass Effect 2 box cover? Yeah. Her. No idea why. Don’t even know her character, haven’t even played Mass Effect 2. Maybe it’s her hair?
13. What game has the best music?
Guild Wars 2. Tough question, though. There is a LOT of really good game music out there. Thankfully, at least MMO music is covered by the Battle Bards Podcast. I still think the best video game music piece going is the Civilization IV intro, though. I even wrote up a post about this once…
14. Most memorable moment in a game:
That I can remember: BioShock, the twist near the end. More recent: pretty much the entirety of To the Moon.
Gah. Goosebumps got me again…
15. Scariest moment in a game:
I have a hard time not saying The Secret World for this one. Too many good ones, but the part that sticks out the most is Issue 7: A Dream to Kill, inside the Nursery. Opening the room with all the dolls for the first time gave me goosebumps on top of goosebumps. Creepy dolls always get me.
Also, the scene in Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers when Gabriel attends the lecture and falls asleep. The dream he had made me instantly stop playing the game when I was younger.
16. Most heart-wrenching moment in a game:
The self-sacrifice by Dupre in Ultima 7: Part 2. The first time I played it, I was dumbstruck. I didn’t even know games even had emotional depth until that moment.
17. What are your favourite websites/blogs about games?
Who wants a shoutout?! I can’t list all of them, I’d be here all day. If you’re reading this right now and have a site of your own… it’s you. No, really, it’s you. I’m fascinated about your opinion.
I follow Massively sort of religiously, but I don’t usually agree with most of the GOML commenters who just want the “old days” to come back (“Get Off My Lawn”… I feel #GOML needs to be a thing), but I love reading all the experiences that my fellow bloggers have in every game they play. I’m truly fascinated in how we can each be playing the same thing, and have a multitude of different reactions to it. In my mind, that is what makes video games art.
Uplifting, but overall a very sad tale.
18. What’s the last game you finished?
Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood or To The Moon, I can’t remember which I finished last. Both excellent games in their own right, though.
19. What future releases are you most excited about?
Shroud of the Avatar, but that could be because I’ve already invested so much into it.
20. Do you identify as a gamer?
I do, yes. Not 100%, though. I also identify as husband, friend, coworker, disc golf player, techie, and a multitude of other identities. Gaming is just one part of my identity, but I won’t deny it’s existence. I think Mr. Kuchera really hit the nail on the head, and I can’t say it better than he can.
Not really a “game”, but I don’t care. So good. There’s a reason Walking Dead is at the top of most gamer’s lists.
21. Why do you play video games?
I like to be told a good story, be it by book or movie, or any other medium. Books allow a story to be more descriptive where all the action goes on in your head and allows your imagination to run wild. Movies are more about the visual and audio components of a story and hit hard viscerally, but are a lot shorter.
Video games, though, allow you to interact with the story itself. A great mix of other styles, games allow you to be immersed in a world, not just be swept along with the plot. To be able to explore a world’s nooks and crannies as well as the plot. To walk alongside the hero/heroine and feel their accomplishments as your own.
This is why I play games. Simply, I feel they are one of the best ways to interact with a good story.
Thank you for reading, folks. If you want, take the survey yourself! As I said, I’m always curious to hear your thoughts, too.
If you haven’t noticed, I like like to draw a lot of parallels between gaming and real life. This is because the two are intrinsically linked, in my opinion, life being full of challenges, games being all about challenges, and we tend to recognize these patterns when we see them. The thought crossed my mind today about ‘instancing’ in MMOs and how I’m about to enter a real life “instance”.
Now an ‘instance’ in an MMO, to the uninitiated, is a part of the game world that is created only for you or your group. They are separated from the main game world by a portal of some kind, and have challenges placed within them in a confined area. These challenges cause the reward to be better than the outside world. Dungeons with a cap on participants and bosses that require multiple players, controlled story content designed to push the narrative further, a field meant for player vs player battles that can’t be affected or affect the larger game, instances come in many shapes and sizes and I can’t think of a single game that doesn’t have instancing to some effect.
So soon my friends and I are heading out on a vacation together to see two of our good friends get married, and my gaming mind can’t help but draw a parallel to an instance. The flight leaves around the time this is set to post and we will spend the next few glorious days in the sun-and-sin-soaked city of Las Vegas getting into as many shenanigans and malarkey as the city and our bank accounts will allow. Expectations are for copious amounts of potent potables to flow, culinary masterpieces to be ingested, and many a high and low strike at the chances of fate. It. Will. Be. Amazing.
This is not something we do all the time. For any of us, this is the first real major trip we’ve gone on as a group of friends, so it’s definitely outside of the main “world” that we know, namely New Jersey. We leave by airplane into the world we’re not use to, and we come back by plane to the world we normally frequent. Lots of space has been made in our bags for the loot that we will inevitably pick up while we are there, and we know the experience will cause our two good friends to “level up” in their relationship, and will increase our own life experiences as well. We will all come back better than we left.
I’d definitely take this ride over US Airways, though.
- The instance “portal” –> The plane ride.
- The space confines –> Las Vegas, primarily the Las Vegas strip.
- The “challenge” –> To see our good friends married and to send them into their married life together in as epic a way as possible.
- The “reward” –> The stories that will come from the epicness, among other souvenirs.
So this may be a roundabout way of saying this, but get out there and travel! See the world, see the sites! Get into trouble! Get a ton of great stories in the process and take those doors when they open.
You never know when these experiences are going to add up enough to take your life to the next level.
A big warning to all of you out there: MMO Free-To-Play monetary tactics have left the gaming space.
“Well, duh,” I hear a few of you saying (those of you who still say ‘duh‘… people still say ‘duh‘, right?). New psychological tactics to separate people from their money are being developed all the time. When one part of the business world happens upon a strategy that works it’s only natural that it will be picked up and modified for others. Very true, but rarely do you see it done in so spectacular a fashion as happened recently on the Atlantic City beach.
On July 31st, 2014, Blake Shelton, one of the reality-show judges on “The Voice” and a decorated country music singer, performed a concert in Atlantic City, New Jersey free to any passer-by and those lucky enough to grab complimentary passes. The concert was held on the beach near the The Piers at Caesars, a large shopping complex on a pier extending out into the Atlantic Ocean, and presented by the Atlantic City Alliance and it’s “Do AC” promotional campaign. In other words, free concerts with big names to draw people to come down to Atlantic City. Jimmy Buffet had a concert last year and Lady Antebellum just performed this past Sunday. Good music, ocean backdrop, a cool drink. Good stuff.
For the 60,000 attending, though, good luck on the “free” part. This show was far from “free”. In fact, it very heavily resembles the “free” we see in Free-To-Play games. Sure, listening to the music is free, but if you want anything else, and we mean anything, you will pay for it and at levels taking your “free” music price tag into account.
The news reports for this show are extensive, but lets be real. Blake wasn’t doing this out of the kindness of his heart, he was being paid. Well. Without ticket sales to back up the initial cost, how did they make the money? Why, on literally everything else they could.
A coworker of mine whose relative attended the concert came back and told her all about it. When she relayed the story onto us, I asked her to clarify some specific details on what some of these other prices were.
- Parking: Anywhere from $50 per car to as high as $75 were seen.
- A 10 oz bottle of water: $8.
- 10 hot chicken wings: $22.
Parking usually: $5-$10 at most during peak season, off times you can find it free. I was also told that the vendors that were selling these high-price wares were vendors specifically brought in by Atlantic City and they positioned themselves between the huge crowd and the struggling Atlantic City Boardwalk vendors. This is just an example of some of the prices, but I heard they all were around the same level of up-charge.
Lockboxes. One of the biggest money makers for Free-To-Play MMOs… similar to gambling.
Now before you get all huffy and throw around the word “entitlement”, yes, we all get it. Nothing in this world is free. Everything comes at a cost. And there’s nothing wrong with that, that’s the backbone of a mixed market capitalist economy. Believe me, Blake Shelton got paid, Atlantic City got paid, Live Nation got paid, and at the expense of the audience, as it’s supposed to be. Sidenote: If anything, Atlantic City is the real jerk here in bringing in their own vendors instead of helping the struggling boardwalk vendors…. but that’s beside the point.
MMO Gamers, though, we’ve seen this for years. The Free-To-Play vs. Subscription vs. Buy-To-Play fight is everlasting. Is it better to be let into a game for free only to then be subjected to a possibly exploitative cash shop, or to pay a blind up-front cost and recurring fee to enjoy a “buffet” style of game, or a combination of both? They all make money and have their good and bad points, certainly.
Just like in gaming, though, the only person seeing this concert for “free” is the person who really went out of their way and inconvenienced themselves to do so. They parked really far away, probably in one of the not-so-safe areas of AC and they didn’t partake of any refreshments while they viewed the concert. In other words, they paid for their convenience in other ways. The same exact way FTP games will often trade convenience for real money, after letting you in for free.
On the other side, here’s a concert *inside* an MMO.
In my opinion, the best Free-To-Play games are the ones that will offer a fun experience and entice you to open your wallet for fun extras, instead of hinder you by putting up pay walls. It’s a fine tightrope, though, between entice and force, and I’m not sure we’ve seen it walked perfectly yet. It’s certainly a slippery slope leading down into exploitative territory.
So $22 for hot wings and $50-$75 for parking? I’m sorry, Atlantic City. If you were a Free-To-Play game, I’d consider you leaning heavily on the exploitative side of the equation.
P.S. – I do find it funny, though, that not long ago I posted about the tricks casinos use to get your money and Free-To-Play MMOs using very similar tactics. It was only a matter of time before the tricks came back around.
My tickets have been purchased and I’ll be seeing Guardians of the Galaxy tonight, and I’m really excited about it.
I know I’ve said it before, but I am very eclectic in my nerd tastes. I like Star Trek, but I’m not the biggest fan of Star Wars. I’m part of a periodic Pathfinder group, but never really got into D&D. I love attending Renaissance Faires, but you will not find me dressing up in costume for it. My tastes vary greatly from topic to topic. I love a good medieval style fantasy, but I can’t stand Game of Thrones. I’ll love one thing, but hate something very similarly related. Heck, I don’t have the faintest hint if I’ll like something until I really give it a shot, hence why I try a lot of different things.
So comic books and the whole superhero genre? Meh. Never been into it. The plots are usually as deep as a puddle, the characters cliche, the worlds need quite a healthy suspension of disbelief, and the whole concept of a single “hero” being effective where entire hard-working police/fire/government agencies are useless is a fallacy that I don’t think should be promoted. They say fiction follows societal trends, though, and so superheros come into prevalence when overall faith drops in the agencies designed to protect us. So, is it surprising superheros are peaking right now? Yeah. Superheroes have always been one of those nerd pursuits that I never looked down on, but I just never *got*. Spandex, muscles everywhere, destruction that magically fixes itself, scantily clad… everyone. Bleh.
Watch your step.
The emails that I keep getting from Gazillion are *very* tempting, though. Filled with goodies, and the truth is that when Marvel Heroes released, it’s word-of-mouth wasn’t that complementary. Having three or four of the same superhero running around, not a ton of content, very bland gameplay, and if you want another character, the only way to get it was to open your wallet. It just didn’t *feel* right, a cash grab, and it was hard to get excited about your own character. But I gave it another shot recently, as it’s free and the waves of emails are tempting, and it is by far not the same game that it use to be.
Now, finding the same character as yourself running around is infrequent. Your starting character can be one of 10 different heroes, so you’re not seeing copies of yourself everywhere. Gameplay itself is a ridiculously fun experience, explosions everywhere and giving a very epic feel to your hero and their incredible abilities. Heroes can be earned in-game, and the roster of heroes is up to 37 now with the recent inclusion of Star-Lord to the roster, thanks to quick development and movie tie-ins. Each hero plays a completely different style than the others, too.
When I came back to the game, I started playing as Daredevil, a character whose movie wasn’t something I was terribly impressed with, but he was one of the free ones and seemed like a very quick and versatile fighter. And he blew me away. DD was a powerhouse, from swinging around his nunchucks to jumping around like a maniac. But he isn’t my favorite superhero. Even though I’m not a big fan, remember that old 1992 X-Men Arcade game? Damn did I drop a lot of quarters into that when I was younger, and my favorite was, hands-down, Nightcrawler. He flashed all around the screen, hitting everyone, and his teleport powers were just badass.
So I dropped a few bucks on Marvel Heroes as I was really enjoying the game, and picked up Nightcrawler. This has been, in retrospect, one of the best MMO purchases I can think of in recent memory. As a playable hero, he does NOT disappoint. He slices his dual rapiers around while teleporting all over the place like a madman. As a hero, he seems best played by using his teleport and sword abilities to great effect. Boss about to smash you? Just teleport behind them and keep on beating. Bunch of bad guys out of range? Teleport to them, grab them en mass and bring them right next to where you were, then slice away.
The only downside I can see about the game so far is that the story isn’t big enough. By the time you hit level 30, the story is done, but the level cap is 60. In order to hit 60, you start farming the social zones, play challenges, or replay the story again but at a higher difficulty. And so if someone wants to max out all 37 heroes, that’s playing through the whole story 111 times! So, if you’re reading this, Gazillion, you have a seriously fun game, but make more story content!
This whole Rainbow Bridge thing still doesn’t make a whole ton of sense, but sure, I can roll with it. Rainbows are awesome.
But the real side effect of playing? I’m starting to get into the whole superhero thing. I think I get it now. I still don’t think the characters are all that deep, but huge explosions? Sciency-tech? Being badass? It’s a lot of fun. I’ve rented all the movies that have been out and I’m almost fully caught up. Still have a few to go, and I still think they’re far from being cerebral academy-award winning flicks, but for an awesome romp, they’re hard to beat.
So I’m seeing Guardians of the Galaxy tonight, and thanks to Marvel Heroes, I’m *really* looking forward to it. If that doesn’t say a lot about the game, I don’t know what does.
P.S. – One of the streamers I’ve been watching on Twitch lately, is a huge Marvel Heroes fan, and he seems like a great guy. Give him a follow if you’re looking for a fun stream: CritDamageCrazy.
P.P.S. – Short review of Guardians of the Galaxy: Totally worth it. Awesome. See it. In 3D. Maybe not IMAX, unless it’s true IMAX, but definitely in 3D if you can.