Summer Gaming Patterns and Outside MMO Impressions


Assassins Creed

I am a creature of habit.

Sometimes those habits don’t quite mesh well with my hobbies, but that’s just the way it goes. Specifically, my gaming habits change dramatically with the changes of the seasons. I’ve found that during the fall and winter (last winter we got 68 inches of snow) I tend to stay indoors and will start picking up and playing more long-term games like MMOs a lot more seriously. During the summer, though, I head outdoors. BBQ’s, bars, camping, going down the shore, baseball games, disc golf, weekly Ultimate, you name it. So in the summer, gaming takes the far backseat. Sadly, writing about gaming goes with it. When I don’t play, I don’t have a lot to say (unless you want to hear about my Ultimate and disc golf exploits? Maybe?).

Walking Dead, Season 1

Walking Dead, Season 1. Complete. Damn, Telltale really is doing a fantastic job.

I realized I had a pattern to the way I play games way back during my young days of playing World of Warcraft. Back when I kept the subscription going year round on the “hope” that I would find time to play, but never did (what a fool I was). I found, though, that I kept coming back at the same time every year. Right in the middle of the Halloween festivities.

So from October to March, I’m all about gaming. From April to September, not so much.

This doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped playing entirely. Quite to the contrary, I’ve found my tastes shift. I’ve really started getting into single player and indie games, finishing up games like Assassin’s Creed 1 and 2. Also playing a lot more mobile games like Tiny Tower, games that I can pick up on the go (Note: I use the phrase “mobile” and “games” in the same sentence very loosely, these mobile things are more like psychological traps).

Tiny Tower

Tiny Tower. Seriously, this game should come with a Surgeon Generals warning.

The latest MMO offerings this Spring really haven’t been enough to draw me away from this pattern, either. Here are a few very off-the-cuff thoughts:

Landmark – A Minecraft clone with better graphics. Pass. Sidenote: Why did they remove the Everquest title from Landmark? Are they now backpedaling, and cutting any possible link that would have existed between the two games? Sorry, just seems a little shady.

Elder Scrolls Online – Yet another fantasy hack and slash themepark MMO, wearing the trappings of Elder Scrolls, one of my favorite series. I won’t lie, the setting of a game means a lot to me. It’s why I’m still such a big fan of Star Trek Online after all this time. But when they remove the soul of the series, TESO doesn’t have much left that hasn’t been done before. The title may say Elder Scrolls, but it just doesn’t have the *soul* of Elder Scrolls and that’s a major turn-off for me. If it had been the same engine, but any other IP, I might have been more interested.

Wildstar – Looks a lot better than the others, I’ll give it that, but even the premise of Open Beta didn’t entice me. The telegraphing system looks to be just an evolution of The Secret World’s style, which is fine, but nothing drastic. The art style, though gorgeous in it’s bright colors is too reminiscent of World of Warcraft’s cartoon styling for me to not be reminded of it at every turn. Finally, the “elder game” looks to also be trying to grab that piece of the Warcraft pie, using the same raid-or-die approach. What this all says is that the game simply isn’t for me. I’ll leave all the real time-investment-heavy stuff to those of you with more time and interest.

ArcheAge – This may be the only title that has really piqued my curiosity as of late, but I’m not sure why. I don’t think sandboxes and I make a good fit. I don’t have the time to invest or the inclination to use others pre-made efficient builds, which most sandboxes require. But the whole “paying for alphas and betas” thing seems too sketchy. Pay a lot of money to be a part of a buggy experience and the chance you might get really tired of the game before it even launches? Ha! No thanks. If anything, the cost to be a part of alphas and betas should be LESS than the cost of the game when it launches. Stop this enticing with items nonsense and entice with price. I’ll wait for release, whenever that will be, to see if I’m still interested.

Octodad, Dadliest Catch

Octodad: Dadliest Catch. Not a long game, but frustratingly fantastic. Not to mention some of the awesome one-liners.

But in the meantime, I’ve heard that The Secret World’s Tokyo is right around the corner. Even though the hype of it has long since faded, I’ve read that it is still very much worth the wait. Star Trek Online has released Season 9, and has a new Featured Episode, which I hear is one of their best ones yet. My backlog is still plenty full and needs trimming, and then I’m still working on that old resolution list.

In other words, don’t mind me. I’m still here, just more in the background, getting as much out of summer as I can. Even if that means less gaming.

// Ocho

Listmas 2013: 5 Games That I Have Zero Interest In #Listmas

Privateer, Star Citizen

To correspond with yesterday’s list of 5 Games I Am Really Looking Forward To, today my list is the opposite, 5 Games That I Have Zero Interest In. None. Well, it’s none, or it’s very minimal. Whenever I see a post come up on these games, my first reaction is generally a huge eye-roll. Like “Oh no. Not this again.” I’ve left the hype train at the station a long time ago and I am just not jumping on.

I’m not entirely sure why I’m not getting on all the hype trains. Maybe I’m tired of jumping from game to game. Maybe I’m tired of making what seems like stagnant progress that adding yet another game to my currently playing list (which would also mean kicking one of them to the curb), isn’t that enticing. My current stable of MMO’s that I’m playing primarily are The Secret World, then Neverwinter, then the sidegames Guild Wars 2 and Star Trek Online. The last two I even haven’t played in a long while, so any of these new games will have to top my interest of even them.

So, these are the games I am wholeheartedly NOT on the hype train for.

5) Star Citizen by Cloud Imperium Games Corporation

Chris Roberts had a big hand in some of my favorite old school games, the Wing Commander series. And Wing Commander IV is still one of my favorites. Mark Hamill, John Rhys-Davies, Malcolm McDowell, and Tom Wilson are just a few in the star studded cast. Star Citizen, which has received an exuberant amount of funding, and looks to be a rebirth of the series in the MMO space, looks fantastic on paper. But yet, it doesn’t feel right. Have you ever played Privateer? Privateer is the base of Star Citizen. An individual pilot, you making funds trading and taking out the random pirate here and there, helping the local authorities, and then when you think you’re good enough to explore outside your own system, you’re shown how wrong you are. The game has an intense ability curve, such that if you leave the starting area of like, 4 planets, you better have already grinded out the best ships and the best weapons. If not, you’ll be coming back to those saved games over and over again. I also feel like they’re going for a more active combat EvE Online, and since I don’t really have any interest in EvE Online, either, this isn’t helping.

4) Wildstar by Carbine Studios

I do have a little interest in Wildstar, but it is only after hearing some of the news coming out after the press NDA drop. But that interest is slim. From what it sounds like, Wildstar is essentially an active-combat stylized World of Warcraft in space, mixing in some elements of Guild Wars 2. That sounds great and all, but when the game’s closest cousin is World of Warcraft, that is not that enticing. I played the heck out of World of Warcraft ages ago, then completely stopped after I looked at exactly how much I spent on that one game. On a whim, I bought the Cataclysm expansion, signed back in, took a few steps in Azeroth, and realized all the things that made me quit in the first place, and haven’t returned. The cheesy dialogue, the overly cartoony graphics. It just rubs me the wrong way, and Wildstar looks like it’s taking all the things that Warcraft has that I found annoying (including the subscription), and making them the game’s focus.

Skyrim, The Elder Scrolls Online

3) The Elder Scrolls Online by Zenimax Online and Bethesda

I love the Ender Scrolls series. I’m a huge fan. I started playing with Arena, skipped over Daggerfall, and then played the hell out of Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim. I love the lore, I love the open-ended single player style. So much so, that I don’t think the game will work in the MMO space. Making an Elder Scrolls game into an MMO, you’re taking away some big keys of what makes it feel like an Elder Scrolls game. Yes, the games do have a linear story, but in the single player games, you could ignore the single player story for as long as you want and still have a massive game ahead of you. In themepark MMO’s, if you ignore the main story, you don’t get very far. I don’t think there’s a way to have your cake and eat it, too. Trying to create a game that’s a Themepark and Sandbox simultaneously, you’re going to either make a terrible Themepark or a terrible Sandbox. And what makes The Elder Scrolls single player games great is that they get that combination right! I just don’t think that it will work as an MMO.

2) Rift by Trion Games

My apathy with Rift first started during the game’s beta. Not only was my system having a really hard time with the graphics, such that I had to turn all the settings down to their lowest, but I found the game’s core mechanics terribly annoying. I started as a Defiant character, and started the standard moving from quest hub to quest hub, leveling up. Except I would kill my ten rats, come back to the quest hub, and there would be a rift having taken it over. And I remember thinking “Cripes, this rift is just getting in the way. I just want to turn in this quest and head on to the next hub, but I can’t!” I found the rifts to be annoying, and when the game is called Rift… yeah, it’s just not going to work out.

World of Warcraft, Warlords of Draenor

1) World of Warcraft by Blizzard

World of Warcraft was my first foray into MMOs. And I loved it for the few years that I played it. I met some great friends that I still have and keep in touch with to this day, and I have a lot of great memories from the game. But I feel like I’ve matured, I’ve grown up, and going back to World of Warcraft is as appetizing to me as going back to high school. It was a great starter MMO, but it is far from perfect. I’m not a fan of the end-game grind, which is then completely nullified when the next expansion comes out and you start at the beginning again. Over time, they’ve included some great improvements. Tokens, instead of a slot-machine loot system. Easier grouping tools, and easier access to raids. But, even with that, I feel like I’d be taking a large step backwards if I headed back to WoW. So, this new upcoming expansion with housing? No thank you. I wish Blizzard and all WoW players well, but it is simply not for me.

Now, please, go ahead and tell me how wrong I am.

// Ocho

Master of Orion and Syp: A Tale of Humanity

“While I prepare for the usual Ysharros defense, Ocho is destroyed.  Again.  Seriously, Ocho?  Can’t you go a day without getting blow’d up?” – Syp from Bio Break

This is quite possibly the best quote ever. And to be fair, being blow’d up is what I do best.

To all of those who haven’t seen yet, a war of epic proportions is being waged over on Bio Break, a war deciding who, truly, is the Master of Orion. And the blow by blow details is surprisingly intense. I mean, we’ve all played them, those faction, strategy based games like Civilization, Sins of a Solar Empire, Heroes of Might and Magic, etc., but Syp is showing us tangentially WHY we find these games so fascinating…

We can create our own stories.

Isn’t that a big component of why we love MMO’s as well? I mean, most of the ones we see today are heavily story based, but yet within these worlds, we create our own narratives. MMO’s without the emphasis on story, like EvE Online, do a tremendous job of creating their own intrigue. EvE‘s recent War in Fountain is one of those stories, culminating in the largest online battle between digital spaceships in history. Even some of the bigger news outlets got in on the fun. But who hasn’t had guild or server stories? I’ll tell you a quick one…

The Red Shirts raid Stormwind and hold the Deeprun Tram tunnels.

My very first World of Warcraft character (and really, my only one), was an Undead Warrior by the name of Ocholivis… hence… Ocho. Anyway, one day early on in my leveling, I joined up with a guild of fantastic people called The Red Shirts. To show our solidarity, we all wore red shirts under our red tabard. This one single thing joined us together in one of the most tightly knit guilds I’ve ever been in. In fact, I still remember the names of some of my closest guildmates, despite it being almost a decade ago. Kant, Kalli, Krem, Thrym, Grimfear, Shugorei, Aiyanna, Thax, Dimensia… the list goes on. These names still mean a lot to me. As a guild, we ran dungeons, we invaded Stormwind, we partook in the endless PvP at Southshore/Tarren Mill, and we just had fun. As Horde, we were outnumbered about 5:1 on our server, but we didn’t care. Our guild was tight. Then… we all hit level 60 around the same time, and things changed.

There was a faction of the guild that wanted to raid and wanted the so called “phat lootz”. However, those of us who didn’t have the time to keep to a set raiding schedule due to real life wanted to keep the guild a casual, fun place. This caused a schism. A subset of the guild decided to break off and form their own guild, The Yellow Jackets, and they wore yellow shirts. Gang warfare ensued. A smear campaign against The Red Shirts was waged, infighting ensued. As more Red Shirts hit level 60 and felt the raiding bug, they left to join the Yellow Jackets. Some wanted to still remain friends and periodically join forces, but not all, and there was a lot of bad blood. I stayed faithful to The Red Shirts, but eventually the guild collapsed into a former shell of itself. For a time, I stopped playing WoW. The game simply stopped being fun for me.

The neverending Tarren Mill / Southshore PvP. Yes, back in 2005, before Battlegrounds and tokens and everything, THIS is where the Warcraft PvP happened.

Since then, I’m still not the raiding type, but the “story”, our own story, that that drama created is something I’ll never forget. What Syp is creating is not the same as an MMO’s drama, but it’s a microcosm of why we love the genre, and I highly suggest you head on over to give it a read.

Among the digital, among the 1’s and 0’s, we are drawn to the humanity.

// Ocho

P.S. – I don’t know if the Red Shirts are still around in any capacity as I’ve stopped playing WoW and switched servers ages ago, but if any of the old Red Shirt clan someday happen upon this post, drop me a line. It’d be great to hear from you guys again. 🙂

P.P.S. – Kinda sorta maybe related, but I wanted to share this as well. It’s the song “Come to Your Senses” from the musical ‘Tick,Tick…Boom!’ by Jonathan Larson. You might remember Larson from his most popular musical ‘Rent’. Well, Larson’s first endeavor, which won him a ton of Awards but was ultimately rejected by the Orwell estate, was a musical called ‘Superbia’, based on the book ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’. This was the big number of ‘Superbia’, in which a woman feels she has lost her friend, whom she communicated with remotely through her headset and video. In the song, she reveals her love to the static-filled screen. … Through technology, humanity.

Wild-Pay: Payment Models and Wildstar

Internet Fighting, SMBC

First and foremost I am not a news site, nor do I even pretend to be. So I’m not just going to rehash news that is already released on much better sites than mine. However, I will give you my commentary on the news…

This morning Carbine, the makers of the upcoming game Wildstar, which so far has enjoyed being the Internet’s MMO darling, announced the payment model for the upcoming game. This has been met with (Surprise!!!) a lot of commentary. Massively’s post on the subject has so far enjoyed an almost 2 comments per minute “discussion” on the ongoing battle of the merits of payment model. See what you have to look forward to, Everquest Next? I’d tread the topic very carefully if I were you.

On the one side, we have “The Purists”. Those that are die-hards in favor of the subscription model. That everything needs to be on a level footing in our games, and the only accomplishments achieved are from within the game’s interior. Only the

industrious need apply, as time is the only factor that should determine one’s gaming success. Want to play for free? Well you’re just a dirty freeloader and are what is wrong with the genre and is bringing about it’s downfall.

On the other side, we have “The Experimenters”. Those that enjoy the flexibility of cash-shops, free-to-play, buy-to-play, optional subs, and a multitude of playing options. They understand that not everyone has thousands of hours to play a game and feel being tied into a subscription, when there are plenty of fish in the sea, is a waste of money and a steep mental barrier. A subscription model is the past and we need to look to the future of payment models! Not every model is going to be perfect, but each one adds onto the mistakes of the past until one day we have the perfect payment model.

And, of course, there are all of those in-between gamers who like both, or neither, or who just like bashing the other side’s opinions in the comment-section-PvP-zone. They usually bring about the destruction of the never-ending conversation and

I am a full fledged Experimenter
. I LOVE the path that payment models have taken. I love all the options and choices given by the developers. I see that, from the developers standpoint, tradeoffs have to be made to keep a population up, that Free-To-Play generates more income for them, and without it they would most likely not survive. Maybe we here in the Western Hemisphere are starting to see gaming more like the Eastern Hemisphere has been doing for ages now. The Internet makes the world flat, afterall, and only the most ethnocentric of us deny that. Open up the gates to the park and charge for food, snacks, and rides!it fully devolves into name calling and attacks on the mass of one’s parental units.

Wildstar’s payment model was announced as follows: You buy the game by service or box for $60 and are given 30-days free. After that 30 days, you can either subscribe for an extra $15 per month, or buy CREDD for $20 or in-game gold to use or trade that is worth 30 days of playtime. Sleek, simple, and the infographic they have on it has to be seen. I especially like the fate of Player D.

I… I don’t think their model is going to work.

I don’t mean to bash those who determine their metrics, but I don’t see this as a lasting model for the future. It simply comes down to, in my understanding of the MMO community, the lack of players who are 1-game-only types. I know they are out there. I’m personally friends with a guy who is a huge Lord of the Rings Online fan and has been playing religiously since release. That’s awesome. But all of the 1-game types, they’re already in their 1-game and will be until it shuts down. The group Wildstar is hoping to attract are the already faithful, so that they become faithful to their title. “Leave your husband so you can marry me”. Right. Sure. Okay. The faithful are the ones the sub-model was designed for in the first place and was a perfect fit for World of Warcraft. Why? The MMO genre was really small at that point, but Warcraft as an IP was really popular. They brought a huge number of fans who had never played any other MMO, and who were probably spending more than $15/month on games anyway. Blizzard’s timing was impeccable and something we’ll probably never see again.

The model is also designed for grinders and end-game players. If you can grind the gold necessary to buy the CREDD, more power to you. If you’re a hardcore raider, this should come as second nature, and so shouldn’t be a problem.

So, the uber-faithful, and the hardcore raiders. In the Venn diagram of MMO gamers, these two groups overlap quite a bit. However, I’m going to go out on a limb here and assess that this really only makes up less than 15% of the gaming population, assuming you can make the already-faithful cheat on their current love. And so, as a long-term solution, past the 3-month MMO hump, when we will most likely be seeing other new shinies come out, I don’t see it as sustaining profit.

My suggestion: Buy to Play. Charge for the box, and keep those box prices up well past the game’s release. Since housing and cosmetics look to be playing a large role in Wildstar, have a cash-shop! Cosmetics and cash-shops go hand-in-hand quite nicely. Have an optional subscription in-game that awards points and goodies you can’t get from not-subscribing. House decorations, clothing options. A highly stylized and colorful world, people are going to clamor for the best looking outfits. Also, keep the CREDD! I love that idea. Create an exchange so that players can buy subscription time from others in-game! So, in other words, don’t go with the STO/Neverwinter/Guild Wars 2 method of an in-game gold/points currency. Just have the basic Buy-To-Play, Cash Shop, Subscription, and CREDD but allow gold to function between them. Then, make sure the game has an appropriate amount of gold-sinks so that it doesn’t inflate or deflate out of control.

This allows for all gamers to participate in the cash environment to their liking and won’t turn Wildstar into a niche, boutique title.

// Ocho

P.S. – This is one of my longer posts, so if you made it to the end, thank you sooo much! Have a cookie!

Watching Boss and Dungeon Videos [Rant]

Alright, MMOs. I have a small bone to pick with you. Why is it deemed absolutely necessary by the playerbase at large to have to watch videos of a dungeon or other encounter before you can attempt it? Seriously, where is the fun of pure discovery? Of being able to figure a puzzle out on your own?

I’m not a fan of strategy guides, either. If I’m going to use one, it’s only going to be after I’ve got far enough in the game to where it doesn’t make a difference and to satisfy my completionist itch. But reading it beforehand or watching all of these videos BEFORE you do an encounter? Isn’t that just plain cheating?

“Hey, look! We beat the boss by doing exactly what this video told me to do! We also beat it by using this exact skill build somebody else figured out!” … Are we just playing games for other people, now? You let somebody else do 90% of the work, and then you perform your role like an automaton. Really, there is no self-accomplishment in that. Is there no pride in figuring out a tricky puzzle yourself?

When you go to the movies, do you have to first read every spoiler about it you can? When you read a book, do you just skip right to the ending? Why does it feel like nobody likes spoilers, but everybody still wants them. How essentially having the game played for you is fun doesn’t make any sense to me.

The only points I will concede is that it saves time. Also, since probably everyone else in your group has cheated and watched every video, too, you’re at a social disadvantage and will stumble over your feet while everyone else is acting like a pro, mimicking what others have done before them.

So, fine. I get it, and to not look like a fool, I’ll watch the stupid videos to appease the gaming elite. It just really irks me that this laziness is the social norm and these games are designed that not following these mores hurts not just you, but your team as well.

My solution: A solo version of a dungeon. Don’t give great loot for it’s completion, or really give a huge incentive, but allow people to use it to see the story and practice the mechanics of encounters without having to resort to these out-of-game videos. Since loot is pretty much the only real reason players run dungeons to begin with, why not give an option to those who just want to see the story? So, for example, a dungeon can have a “solo” mode, a “regular” mode, and then whatever “hard” or “epic” difficulties you want after that. I’d have no problems running a dungeon on solo a few times to learn the encounters, and if I get a few random drops and some experience along the way, all the better! I could still make some character progress and be even more ready for the group encounters. But more important, I’d feel like I’d accomplished it myself, instead of just having it handed to me by a video or guide.

Have faith that your players aren’t lazy and actually enjoy a challenge, and you will see returns on it.

\\ Ocho

P.S. – To it’s credit, the only MMO this really doesn’t apply to is Dungeons and Dragons Online. They already have this system in place. I don’t know if it’s in 100% of their dungeons, though, but it’s a great idea that I feel could do the rest of the genre a big service.

World of Warcraft Remote is Now Free: A King’s Competition

Obviously, I don’t play World of Warcraft anymore and don’t really intend to get back into it in the future, but I must say their decision to make their mobile offering free is a stroke of genius on their end, and their timing simply couldn’t be better.

The World of Warcraft mobile app is exceptional. It adds the ability to access the auction house, chat with your guild members, check server status, talent calculators, character profiles, etc. Making it free makes it easily the best MMO mobile app on the market, and I’m sure they’ll see plenty of returns on this move. Awesome and well played. (Other developers take notice… having a mobile app for your online game may not be really important now… but that will be changing VERY soon.)

It’s like watching a tennis match. On one side, you have Blizzard with it’s mega-hit veteran World of Warcraft. On the other side, you have ArenaNet with their unproven rookie, albeit with foundation shaking talent, Guild Wars 2.  In the past, when other games have released, Blizzard it seems never batted an eye. And why should they? Just look at their still staggering numbers.

But Blizzard is taking a look at Guild Wars 2, and it’s staring it down. Now, I may be a little shaky on exact details, but here are a few events and counterstrokes that I can remember:

1) ArenaNet tells the world that Guild Wars 2 will launch in 2012 – Blizzard counters by offering it’s players a free copy of Diablo 3 if they purchase a year’s subscription.

2) ArenaNet gives a release date for Guild Wars 2 – Blizzard plans to release a huge content update in preparation of Mists of Pandaria on the exact same day, including the anticipated talent tree changes.

3) ArenaNet will open it’s servers tonight around midnight for official opening of headstart access – Blizzard makes a previous unpopular subscription mobile app which includes guild chat, auction house access, and numerous other perks 100% free.

Possibly ArenaNet’s placement of their game’s release just happens to almost coincide with the September 25th planned Mists of Pandaria release, but a month is a LONG time in this genre, and a month is more than enough time to see the inevitable dropoff from Guild Wars 2,  so release dates seem to favor both sides (and you can see why Lord of the Rings Online has decided to stay as FAR away as possible, now shooting for their Riders of Rohan release of October 15th).

Is there really a winner and loser in all of this? Financially, yes, both companies and their investors are closely watching. To us gamers… no. We all win. I’m sure Guild Wars 2 will launch and be everything people want it to be and more. Mists of Pandaria will launch and also be a much welcome addition to the Warcraft family.

Seeing these manipulations, though, I can’t help but feel a little like a puppet. What will be the next release that’ll pull our strings across the stage? I guess we have to keep watching the show to find out.

\\ Ocho

There and Back Again: The Future of PvP

When I was younger I remember sitting around my friends basement, eyes glued to my friend’s huge cathode-ray tube television set, controller in hand, staring intently into the upper right hand corner of the screen. Periodically, I’d glance to one of the other corners, though this tactic was frowned down upon as you would be able to discern your enemy’s location. The trash talk was thrown like candy from an Independence Day float, and the pizza and Mountain Dew seemed to never end.


This was my first foray into the world of PvP gaming, and man was it sweet. The feeling of trouncing your best friends into a James Bond-approved submission, showing almost superhuman reflexes and coordination necessary to end up on the top of the PvP rankings.

Compared to today and the plethora of MMOs I play, I could really care less about PvP. What the heck changed?!

It all comes down to gear. Equipment. Virtual swords and armor.

When I first started playing World of Warcraft, I remember when they first introduced the battlegrounds. Areas set aside with objectives to capture or defend, with or against your fellow man. Finally, in a setting that wasn’t Terran Mill and Southshore we could show up those Alliance kiddies in proper Horde fashion! I was excited the first time I jumped into a PvP game… and I was dead in seconds. Huh? It ended up being that I was too low level. So, looking at the way PvP was set up, I needed to come back when my level ended in a “9” in order to really compete. Level 19, 29, 39, etc. In the level 20 – 29 range, if you weren’t level 29, you were useless. It wasn’t even worth trying as the chances of making a contribution were slim to none.

At level cap, it was slightly different. Everyone was the same level and had the same advantage… but not quite. Those who had the time to raid three or four nights a week would be wearing armor that was nigh impenetrable, or wielding weapons that would stop you in your tracks. Those who played PvP more got better and better gear. It got to such a point that it seemed entirely futile. If you weren’t the right level, you were at a disadvantage. If you were at the right level, but didn’t have the gear, you were at a disadvantage. So, then, what is the point of even playing PvP if you have to be beaten down for 200 matches just to finally get the tokens needed to compete?

That sounds… fun?

The level of time and punishment needed to obtain even a semblance of equal footing just looked more and more insurmountable. So in today’s MMOs, I don’t even bother. I’m not a raider, so I’ll probably never see the best items needed, and I’m not willing to be teabagged over and over again just to finally be on the same level. So for this reason PvP, for me and a lot of other gamers, is pointless.

However, the times are changing…

On the Rift forums, it was announced that Trion is testing the waters of more competitive PvP that is based on equal stats. You want to win? There are no advantages. You need to outperform your opponents with skill and tactics. Their motive for switching to such a format could be the pending release of Guild Wars 2. PvP in the original Guild Wars was very skill based. Teams, with coordinated skill combinations, would compete with the same resources. If you went into PvP at level 2, you were bumped up to the max level. Those who acquired more skills obviously performed better, but that’s just because their toolset  was more diverse. The number of skills you could use were still equal. PvP in Guild Wars 2 will be a very similar style.

So if you take away that grinding of gear or tokens needed to PvP in the first place and put everyone on equal footing, just like in the style of Goldeneye, PvP becomes a lot more fun. It feels like Guild Wars 2, and now Rift trying it out, are showing they don’t just want PvP to be something for the small population elite. They’re taking a page from the shooter genre and showing that they want it to be enjoyed by everyone.

Those who are organized and good at PvP will still dominate and those who were just relying on overpowering gear will be humbled. This may be the change needed to bring MMO PvP back to being a fun part of gameplay for many. I know I’ll be giving it another shot.

\\ Ocho

Blizzard’s New Not-So-Secret MMO: Diablo 3

I know it wasn’t too long ago that I published a post all about how Diablo 3 was blurring the lines between a single player game and an MMO and I concluded it with this statement: “When all is said and done, the answer to whether Diablo 3 classifies as an MMO is really ‘No’.” I take it back. When I said that, I was under the assumption that the primary arguments were an auction house and “Always-On” play. Yes, an auction house needs a lot of other players to make it work, and Always-On play does make multi-player gaming a lot easier, but really, Diablo 3 has let loose the final trappings binding it to the single player genre.

I apologize for being mistaken before, but Diablo 3 IS an MMO.

Pfft… anyone can memorize that…

May I submit to the court a few pieces of evidence that clearly show that Blizzard has finally taken the final steps and have crossed the MMO boundary that they have been stumbling toward the entire time. First and foremost, a very strict No Cheating policy.

Now, in a game that not only has an auction house, but one where you can trade real money for in-game items, preventing players from cheating is a necessity. If one could create cash and items from thin air, then the concept of trading items in the form of an auction just makes the entire process futile. So, yes, I agree, cheating should not be allowed. This keeps everything fair between all of the players partaking in the auction house.

I want to go down on record as saying I’m not a fan of cheating in games, either. Game guides, boss videos, the whole nine yards, I consider it all cheating. But really, a game isn’t just about being fair to others. Since when do we all play a game for the same exact reasons? One time, while I was playing World of Warcraft, I wanted to pick up all the backstory from Warcraft 3, but I wanted to do so very quickly. So, every level I played, I cheated and gave myself full invulnerability. This wasn’t because I couldn’t get past the levels on my own, but I wanted to see the full story, and the sometimes hour+ levels were just getting in the way. So by cheating I was able to see every level beginning, every piece of dialogue in between, every level ending, and every cutscene. Having cheat codes allowed me to see the game’s full story in a quick, condensed manner. Did I get a huge sense of accomplishment? Of course not, but that wasn’t the purpose I was going for. Cheating in single player games allows players to explore the game on multiple levels and fairness never even comes up in the equation.

However, you cheat in Diablo 3, which does not claim to be an MMO and what happens? You get BANNED. Banned! Done! Thanks for the $60! Now maybe you will learn your lesson! Next time maybe you’ll think before your single-player game is taken away from you!  This truly is the end of an era, isn’t it? Will we be sitting on our front porch years from now, playing our brain-embedded Google contact lens gaming system, telling our grandchildren about how we had “Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Select Start” practically programmed into our muscle memory? You know what those whipper-snappers will say, too, right? “Jeez, gramps, lame! I bet you couldn’t even feed your family and put down “World of Warcraft 5 Player” as your profession on your taxes!” (To which, you know you must reply “Get off my lawn!” to keep your retirement home street cred)

For all the ladies out there… who wouldn’t want the romantic heart of Griswold? Only $4.50!

My second piece of evidence is one that has been brought up before, but it needs a solid repeating: A Real Money Auction House! This… well, it honestly scares me a little about society. Not for the sellers, mind you, the sellers I can see this as almost being a genuine source of income (Taxes and all!), and so one could, if one knows the system first, end up making back the couple of Jackson’s needed to get the game in the first place, after taxes of course.  (Why do I keep bringing up taxes? Well, as my good friend has so adroitly pointed out, not only are you held liable for reporting ALL income gained from using the auction house, but if you get any money back through PayPal, they are obligated to report that income to the IRS. If you don’t claim it, but Paypal says you do… well lets just say that you might want to get your paperwork in order for a forthcoming audit.)

Anyway, for players who ARE making some extra scratch from Diablo 3 I say “Awesome!” A good friend of mine even recently said that in a few weeks, he’s been able to net himself about $20 off of items sold in the auction house. You know, he was able to do what the alchemists of old tried to do and failed miserably… create gold from thin air. He was able to, using Diablo 3’s auction house as a medium, turn a digital axe he found by the pure luck from a random number generator, and was able to sell it to someone else for more money than you could sell an old lamp at a yard sale. Wow. If this doesn’t make your head spin and show you exactly how much Diablo 3 is changing the face of gaming, then you’re really not paying enough attention.

Now let me go ahead and fire up Final Fantasy X, get a nice drop from this giant bird-like creature and… wait… I can’t trade it for some Taco Bell? Oh that’s right! There are no other players to trade anything to! To have that kind of market, you would need a lot of players… a Massive amount of them, one would say, and the storefront better be an Online entity. A Real Money Auction House can really only exist in an MMO setting. Too few players or too little exposure to it, and the destruction of foreign policy and the world’s litigation won’t be worth the cost of having it in the first place.

Seriously, if you haven’t read this… you need to.

Finally, for my last piece of evidence, a quote from Blizzard’s own mouth, that Diablo 3 lacks a “long-term sustainable end-game”.  Sustainable end-game? This right here, aside from the huge other two pieces of information, just seal the deal. Now, having a replayability factor is very good for a game. It allows you to play the game through a second or third time and play with a different ending, or a different playstyle. But to just come out and say you’ve attempted to make your game with a “sustainable end-game”? Sorry, guys, just come out now and admit that Diablo 3 is an MMO. Admit it! If what lay for me at the end of every game was a treadmill-style gear grind just to be able to play more and more dungeons, I think I’d give up gaming forever. If you watch a movie… it has an ending. If you read a book, it has a final page. If I play a board game, there is a winner and a loser. If I play a single-player game, I want to be rewarded with an epic ending cutscene! (I guess by not having a solid ending, they were hoping to avoid the Mass Effect 3 fiasco). But it comes down to this… no ending, no single-player.

In conclusion, in the case of the Players vs Diablo 3, I hope you find that with the evidence strongly presented here to you today to find Diablo 3, with it’s strict No Cheating policy, it’s Real Money Auction House, and an admittance of the attempt for a “sustainable end-game”, that Diablo 3 should stop trying to pull the wool over it’s clients eyes and just admit that alongside World of Warcraft, Diablo 3 is Blizzard’s second MMO.

I rest my case.

\\ Ocho

P.S. – It sounds like if Diablo 3 can’t find itself a very good sustainable endgame solution, that it might end up…… getting burned.


The First Step on a Long Journey

He often used to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep and every path was its tributary. “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.” – J.R.R Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

This passage is how I feel as I begin to write the first entry of this blog. Trepidation, fear, but also excitement. First and foremost, thank you for taking the time to stop by. Let me introduce myself. My name is Mike, and I live in a small suburb of Philadelphia where I live currently with my wife of almost two years and a quite plump cat. To be honest, its a good life we have.

No, really... a lot of time...In my spare time, I do a ton of activities, from following sports, to fixing computers, to playing Ultimate Frisbee, to my primary hobby: gaming. I play a variety of every style of game, but I especially like MMOs. For those who do not know what I’m talking about, an MMORPG, or MMO for short, is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. Essentially, its a game where you develop a character in a setting that is filled with hundreds or thousands of other players all doing the same thing. It adds a dynamic to your standard video game. Instead of going into the dungeon alone, you can grab friends or complete strangers and tackle the dungeon together. You can buy and trade items from other players in a shifting game economy. You can lose yourself in conversation and end up doing nothing more in a gaming session than just sitting in the game’s main city.

I first became interested in MMOs with the game that is currently sitting on the top of the MMO hill, World of Warcraft. I played it for about 5 years off and on. The world of Azeroth boasts huge numbers. The latest figures state a gaming population of about 10.2 million players. Relatively, thats comparative to the size of Haiti, or the 82nd largest country in the world. Huge. However, to me the game over time lost its lustre. I fell in love with the genre, but out of love with Warcraft. I started to read MMO blogs and news sites, taking in all that I can and then expanded my horizons with many more games… Guild Wars, Lord of the Rings Online, Star Trek Online, Fallen Earth, and Dungeons and Dragons Online just to name a few. Because I play so many games, I have taken on a very casual, exploratory style of play. I take my time, I like to see what’s in the corners of a zone, I like to climb that hill, I like to go into that forest or cave just to see what’s there. I like to jump from game to game, too. In a sense, I’m a MMO nomad, a wanderer. This blog will not mainly be about MMOs but will also focus on other games or just anything related to gaming in general.

Yet, I feel it’s time to take my relationship with MMOs to the proverbial next level. For years, I’ve been a consumer, reading articles and opinions, listening to MMO podcasts, and taking every quest and event the developers could come up with. It’s now time to take all of that MMO experience and give it back to the MMO community. I’m what is considered a “casual” player. I’m not into the big time consuming endgame raids, I will never give up my life to play, I just fit the MMOs in where I can. This is a universal style, though. To a degree, everyone is “casual” at some level and it is this perspective that I write from. And the sword isn't overcompensating for anything. Anything!

The last class in composition I took was way back in high school. I am not a writer by trade, as I’m sure you can tell, and do not expect to make a living from this. I write because I feel passionate about the genre and feel that I can make a difference. And if you have the ability to make a difference, then why not do so.

Most of my entries will not be as long as this one. They will mostly be thoughts or ideas or observations I come across in my gaming travels. I plan on periodically releasing a gaming journal, chronicling my explorations, including all the many screenshots I take along the way. Hopefully you’re as big a fan of screenshots as I am.

Again, thank you very much for coming to this site and for taking the time to read my scribbling. If you have any suggestions for entries or feel like getting in touch with me, please do so either through my Twitter account or email me, you’ll find my contact information below.

\\ Ocho