Jaded's Pub

Earlier this week I was playing some Final Fantasy 14 and chatting with friends when Scarybooster, who is new to FF14, got his subligar. The subligar is the bottom half of a gladiator get-up. You can learn (a little) more about subligars in the real world on this Wikipedia page about the history of the bikini but for the purposes of this post, let’s just say it looks like leather underwear.

Of course Scary being Scary, hilarity ensued as he went on about his butt cheeks hanging out of his underpants and so forth. Another friend, Oakstout, who was hanging out in chat but not playing, said that he wasn’t sure he could play a game where you had to wear such ridiculous gear.

I am ~almost~ in agreement with Oakstout, but not quite, and I think I’m exactly who the subligar was designed for. I wear it because when you get it, it’s the best armor for that level. But I hate how it looks, so that gives me an incentive to level up and get better gear to replace it.

In general FF XIV goes old-school with gear. You are ‘born’ wearing decent looking street clothes but soon you find yourself in what are essentially burlap sacks (‘hempen’ clothes) and oven mitts and stuff like that. But then you see a level 50 person strut by looking really cool and you have this aspirational moment of “Whoa, I gotta level so I can look like that.”

I feel like this method of coaxing players to level up used to be a lot more common than it is now. Just one more way FF 14 is a bit retro. I kind of dig it, but I also completely understand folks like Oakstout who aren’t interesting in spending $$ to look like a fool in a game.

Then there’s also the issue of gender. I am guessing that people who frequently play female characters don’t give the subligar a second thought. Female characters so frequently wind up wearing ‘armor’ that barely covers anything that the subligar (it is a ‘unisex’ bit of gear) probably seems conservative in comparison. That’s just a theory. Would appreciate comments on that.

Here’re a few subligar shots… when paired with a war harness they do look slightly less ridiculous then when you’re wearing one with a leather jacket or something:

If you don’t get the title, go here => https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4ga_M5Zdn4

Anyway, lately there’s been a bit of buzz in the gaming social network realm about people canceling their Wildstar accounts. I guess enough people did this and shared it to cause a spike in curiosity about why “everyone” is quitting (and I put that in quotes because of COURSE not everyone is quitting).

I don’t know why people are surprised by the exodus (is that too strong a word?) from Wildstar. What would be really surprising is if a new ‘hot’ game hit the market, “everyone” (that word again!) signed up and stuck with it. A surge of interest followed by a drifting away is normal for a new MMOs these days.

And why not? There are a TON of great games out there and more coming every day. And one of the basic truths about our species is that we’re curious. We’re always looking for something new to investigate. Why did “everyone” (now it’s just getting funny, right?) run out and see Guardians of the Galaxy as soon as it hit theaters? Because it’s better when it’s new! Why? There’s no reason why. It’d be the same movie next week but it wouldn’t be new! If you don’t like movies you can make the same analogy with a new restaurant, music…whatever you’re into. Many of us are excited when something new in an area of interest we enjoy comes along.

So we flocked to Wildstar. Hell I played it and I didn’t like the beta. But I played it because it was new! (Granted I only lasted two weeks.)

The point being, playing an MMO seriously requires dedication to that one game and means more or less ignoring the multitude of other awesome games available. Who wants to do that? So we play the new MMO hardcore for a few weeks, then get a little distracted and start to play it more casually. Then since we’re playing casually we either run out of things to do or stop making progress, at which point we think about that $15/month fee and decide it isn’t worth it. So we quit. And of course we announce that we’ve quit, though why we do that is the subject of another post (once I figure it out). We rarely announce that we’re quitting free-to-play games but I guess that act of hitting “Cancel” on our sub feels more concrete than just drifting quietly away from a free-to-play game.

But what about the people who stick around? Well I don’t know, really, since I’m never the one who sticks around. But I have a theory. The people that stick to that one game are the people who are more socialite than gamer. They play MMOs because they enjoy the company of other players and they have a group of friends that play. I know my one time of playing an MMO seriously was vanilla WoW when I was unemployed and living alone and a little bit lonely and I’d log in and start chatting and laughing with my friends and the game hardly even mattered. The game was just the glue that kind of held us together… it was busy work to give us an excuse to spend all night chatting.

I think that’s part of why so many people go back to WoW. [Sidenote: World of Warcraft saw a drop of nearly 1M players in three months, says Activision Blizzard] WoW is like the universal language of MMOs. “Everyone” (ha!) has played it so getting friends to go back isn’t difficult, and WoW has been rolling along for so long that it’s comfortable and easy to slide back into. Because after hot new things, what we like most are well worn, comfortable things. I’ll posit a theory that most of the people who go back to WoW are social gamers; as a dedicated solo player I never feel the slightest urge to go back.

What’s hastening the churn even more these days, I think, is that after bouncing from game to game for so long, and losing track of friends with each bounce, we’re seeing clumps of players gathering together on voice chat servers just to gab even while they’re playing different games. So we’re starting to lose that “Well I’m not really feeling this game but all my friends are here so I’ll stay” stickiness. (After all it’s not like we often actually play together even when we’re in the same game.) So maybe you’re playing WoW and Jane is playing Wildstar and John is playing FF XIV and I’m actually just watching TV, but we’re still all chatting. Basically we’re heading back towards AOL chatrooms only this time using voice.

So that’s my theory as to why “everyone” is leaving Wildstar. It’s just the natural order of things. There’re too many options for gamers to ignore, and socializers don’t really need to be in the same game any more, and the reason “everyone” starting playing in the first place is because “everyone” loves the smell of a shiny new game and all our friends were going to play. Plus there was HYPE!

The good news for Wildstar and every other MMO publisher is that we gamers travel in herds and 6 months from now Wildstar will be the Flavor of the Month because they’ll announce something new to catch our attention, and we’ll all head back in there for another 6 weeks. And of course there are still the folks that fall outside the quote marks of my everyones and who have found a second home in Wildstar (and probably an active guild of friends) and who will be long-term dedicated customers. Every MMO that’s still around has that group of people (else the game wouldn’t still be around) but they don’t all jump on Twitter once a week to announce they are still playing, so we don’t notice them.

Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries is an ‘action platformer’ that re-tells/re-spins the tale of Little Red Riding Hood. This time out Woolfe is the CEO of Woolfe Industries and it seems like Red’s father has died in his employ. Red wants revenge but she’ll have to hack her way through an army of animated toy soldiers (among other things) to get it.

Woolfe is being done by Grin, and the game has already been Greenlit on Steam and featured on the ID@Xbox platform (Microsoft’s push to get indie games on their consoles). But developer Grin has had to cut some features, particularly magic, and they’re running a Kickstarter project to generate funds to get those cut features back in. I’ve grown a bit wary of Kickstarter in general, but this is an example of a game being created by an established developer who already has gameplay to show; I think it’s a pretty safe bet.

They did a lengthy video about the game:

And here’s a snipper from the PR blurbage:

The new video reveals the origins of Woolfe’s creation when, two years ago, aspiring game developer Davy Penasse applied for a 3D artist job at Belgian-based indie studio GRIN. While Penasse was unsuccessful in securing that position, the team at GRIN were blown away by a short, 3D demo at the end of Penasse’s portfolio. Featuring a stylized Red Riding Hood character attacked by evil living trees in a dark enchanted forest, this 10-second clip became the starting point of what would eventually become Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries.

The story of Little Red Riding Hood has been told in various forms since the 10th Century, but Woolfe’s interpretation is a dark fantasy revenge story far beyond a modern fairy tale. Following the death of her father, Red dons a cape, picks up an axe and faces her worst fears in a bloody vendetta against the evil B.B. Woolfe, CEO of Woolfe Industries.

GRIN has also launched a Kickstarter campaign for Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries to help the small indie studio take the game to the next level. The core gameplay is already in place, but additional funding will help GRIN add new features and mechanics, including magical powers for Red that would compliment her current melee combat abilities. Among the many rewards on offer, backers will be able to customize their own Toy Soldier; part of the robot army employed by B.B. Woolfe to enforce his iron rule. The Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries Kickstarter campaign has a funding target of $50,000 and will run until September 4, 2014.

Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries is scheduled to release for PC, Xbox One and PS4 in Q2 of 2015.

UPDATE: Polygon has now set the record straight in NIS America to make its GaymerX payment ‘in full,’ conference founder apologizes. I’m so glad to see this: faith in Polygon’s editorial policies restored.

Original post begins:

In case you somehow missed it, it all started Monday night when the CEO of GaymerX, a “gaming event for everyone, but focusing on supporting LGBTQ gamers and allies” took to Twitter to share an email sent to him by an employee of NIS America, a small video game publisher that focuses on localizing Asian games for the Western market. Apparently NISA had pledged $3000 to sponsor an event at GaymerX and now this employee was indicating they weren’t going to be able to pay.

GaymerX’s CEO, Matt Conn, was understandably upset and shared the email via twitter. (Tweets have been deleted.)

Polygon covered the story in NIS America allegedly backtracks out of GaymerX sponsorship. The post was written by a Polygon staffer who disclosed that she was a personal friend of Conn. It’s good that she disclosed this fact but bad that it was she who wrote the piece in the first place. The piece included this line:

Conn noted that he felt NIS America’s actions denote a poor attitude towards queer people. “I feel awful and betrayed,” he said.

Here’s what Conn initially tweeted:
“To me, this isn’t about the money, this is about standing up against bullies”
“The whole POINT of gaymerX, the reason why I left my high paying job @bandpage was to fight for queer geeks”
“I don’t care about the money, $3000 is nothing in the scheme of life. that’s a month of pay. The big deal is a company is bullying us”
“they’re bullying us becuase they think they can get away with it and I wanna show the world that you CANT get away with bullying queer geeks”
(again, all deleted unfortunately)

Meanwhile Joystiq covered the situation too in GaymerX in dire straits after NIS America pulls pledge [update]

Joystiq opted not to make this about sexual orientation, and added an update:

Update 1: Though it has no formal comment at this time, NIS America tells Joystiq it is “trying to work with GaymerX so that we can resolve this issue as soon as possible.”

By later on Monday Conn and NISA had already begun to sort things out. Another string of his tweets:

“We are working towards a resolution on this matter tomorrow morning and I’ll be able to update you then.”
“NISA is a good company that made a small oversight and I responded strongly. We both are at fault and I look forward to a quick resolution”
“I have no interest in causing NISA harm..i just want to be paid for the services that were rendered. I have been assured it was a mixup”
“And I take them at their word. Everyone can calm down now. Call off the war train or whatever”
“I deeply apologize for implying their choice to not pay was related to anything due to my sexuaity as I’ve realized that was self projected”

In the meantime another small publisher, Devolver, offered to cover the $3000. Tuesday morning Polygon reported on that:

Hotline Miami publisher is coming to the rescue of GaymerX after this week’s funding mishap (update)

There was no mention of the fact that Conn and NISA were working towards a resolution, but did reiterated that original issue.

Devolver Digital has come to the rescue of the LGBT-focused video game convention GaymerX after the event’s original sponsor NIS America pulled out earlier this week

Notice according to Polygon they have no longer “allegedly” pulled their pledge, it is now being reported as fact.

At some point during the day on Tuesday Conn and NISA cleared things up.

“We have come to an agreeable arrangement with @NISAmerica and they are currently making things right.”
“Agreeable meaning they’re paying what was owed and we both apologized for the misunderstanding and way that this went down”
“Everything is all settled – @NISAmerica has explained the poor wording of the email which I misinterpreted very poorly, apologies and hugs”
“Please note that @NISAmerica unlike most AAA companies was willing to sponsor and be at @GaymerX, which takes extreme courage”
“I have nothing but respect for @NISAmerica and their team, this was a poorly worded email that I received and acted very strongly to”
“I apologize for any distress that I may have caused their team and anyone who follows their or my threads.”
“I will be reaching out to press to help update the story and that it has come to a positive, peaceful resolution quickly”
“I personally do feel terrible for escalating it to such a level so quickly, I felt hurt and upset by the wording and reacted far too strong”
“for what the situation called for, I’m just happy that they have cleared up the confusion and confirmed that they will fufill payment”

These tweets are still on Conn’s stream but I wanted to capture them in case for some reason he decides it’s best to delete them. I won’t embed them all but here’s the first one

So the good news is, the story ended on a happy note. GaymerX is getting their $3K from NISA, Conn seems happy, everything is sorted out.

Later that day Polygon ran another post on the situation:
The industry is trying to resurrect GaymerX, $3,000 at a time

There is NO mention of the fact that Conn and NISA have settled the issue between them, no mention that Conn himself is trying to get the press to update the press about what he himself calls a “positive, peaceful resolution” to what was apparently an unfortunate mis-communication.

If someone were to only read Polygon’s posts (and ignore the comments…I’ve been trying to fix their poor journalism via their comment system) they’d think NISA was a homophobic company with “a poor attitude towards queer people” even though the source of the comment has pointed out that NISA was one of the few companies to sponsor the event in the first place.

The bias (or incompetence, take your pick) shown by Polygon is unfathomable to me. I’ve lost so much respect for that site. I’m hoping today we’ll see the situation being cleared up by them.

BTW Joystiq also wrote a second post:
NIS America to pay agreed pledge for GaymerX2 [Update]

It included a Press Release from Conn and GaymerX. He is really trying to set the record straight. I’m not sure why his ‘personal friend’ at Polygon isn’t passing this info on to readers. Press release in full below.

I would like to give an updated statement on the events that have unfolded over the past 24 hours.

We, GaymerX, received an email from NIS America in regards to the sponsorship, which read as though there was a budget misallocation and that they would not be able to complete the terms of the sponsorship. This has been explained that that was not the case, however, they agreed that it was worded poorly and could understand how I could misconstrue the intent of the letter.

I apologized to them for escalating it to the press in the manner I did – as I have no intention of causing the NIS brand harm, and was only looking to defend our company and make sure that we were going to get paid. I realize that it would have been much better to have more back and forth on the subject before going to the press and that my reaction, while in defense of the company, was extemely severe given the circumstances.

I want to publically apologize for any pain or distress I may have caused NIS America or their team – they have been very genuine and sincere in fixing the issue and have confirmed that payment will be made in full. They have been nothing but professional during this process after the initial email, and it can’t be understated the fact that, unlike most conservative AAA companies, they were willing to take the risk of being associated with a queer event and they went out of their way to be a part of it. That statement alone is huge and I feel as though my statements were taken out of context. I in no way intended for the dialog to be that they had made this action because we are a LGBTQ organziation, my point, at the time, was that I did not feel like that email would have been sent to a larger convention or organization, and felt bullied because of that.

They have assured me that this was not the case, and that the email was just simply poorly constructed for the meaning of what they meant to say, which was: “We did not run this up the ladder properly, and we need to discuss how we can resolve this”. I did not interpret that message correctly and that is how we came to this point.

In the end, I am very happy that they have made steps to apologize for any miscommunications on their end and to pay the full amount invoiced, and I am happy to publically apologize for a) escalating the issue beyond what the situation called for b) making comments which could be inferred as that they were making that decision based on anything besides budgetary concerns.

I hope that this statement helps clear the air on this matter and myself, or NIS America, would be happy to answer any follow up questions.

Thank you very much.

vandal_grimoirI was trolling (in the fishing sense of the word) some gaming forums the other day, reading people’s thoughts about Destiny. One person shared a concern that got me thinking.

His (or her) concern was that the story missions keep sending you back to the same area. In the beta there are 4 or 5 Story Missions and they all take place in what was once Russia near some space-port-ish place. I hadn’t really thought about this, but then I’m an MMO player. If you’re coming to Destiny from a strictly single-player FPS point of view it must be strange. If you’re playing Call of Duty or something similar, (virtually) every single player mission has its own map/level, right?

Destiny story missions are a little more like an MMO. There’s a huge zone to explore and your story mission objectives are scattered around it. You can stumble upon them before you take the mission, in fact. Old Russian is the Elwynn Forest of Destiny. You might encounter the equivalent of Hogger well before someone hires you to take him out.

The only strange thing is that at the end of a Story Mission you beam back to your ship, which is essentially your hub. It’d be like finishing a quest in Elwynn and being teleported back to Goldshire, sort of. When you’re ready to start the next story mission you beam back to Old Russia in the same place you’d started all your other missions. Which *is* a little weird.

I think I get why, though. When you first hit dirtside for a story mission you’re in an open world. You will see other players going about their business. You can ignore them, or help them. No PvP here though. As far as I can ascertain these people aren’t necessarily doing the same story mission as you, and they might even be in ‘free roam’ mode (more on that later). By starting everyone in the same place it means there’s a bigger chance you’ll encounter other players (I assume you can turn this off so as to get a truly single-player experience if you want to).

When you approach the objective of your story mission you hit an area that The Darkness (the game’s ultimate enemy is The Darkness…every time it is mentioned I think of this:

“I’m attacking The Darkness!” LOL
Ahem, anyway….)

So you get near the objective and now you are on your own, unless you’re part of a FireTeam, which is Destiny-speak for Group. Point is you won’t get any help from random players in here. Respawning in the Darkness-controlled area is prevented. If you die you’ll respawn prior to the current encounter, which will be reset. The good news is you keep any experience you gained in previous attempts. The bad news is that any consumables you’ve used will still be gone. Once you accomplish your goals, you get auto-teleported back to your ship (after a brief countdown that lets you gather up any drops that might be laying around).

So that’s story missions. Destiny also offers a ‘free roam’ mode where you just teleport down to the planet and explore. There’re are missions here too. You get them from ‘beacons’ which could just as easily be NPCs with a ! floating over their heads. These missions tend to be pretty easy and just give you a little extra incentive for running around killing bad guys. Once again in free roam mode you’ll encounter random players and in this case you can work together to complete your missions. Really you’re just working together to kill bad guys but as a side-effect of that you’ll complete your free roam missions.

Destiny also has Public Events where some uber boss-type critter will spawn and everyone in the area can swarm it and try to take it down. In the beta at least (which has a level cap of 8) these are pretty straightforward fights, but they’re a lot of fun and the rewards are solid.

There are also Strikes that I haven’t tried yet. These seem to be the Destiny equivalent of instanced dungeons, but I’ll know more once I actually, y’know, play through the one in beta.

I’m really enjoying my time in the beta and am super excited for Destiny to launch so we can level past 8 (sub-classes don’t even kick in until 15 so we know nothing about them) and see other worlds!

If you’ve never known anyone with a gambling addiction you probably don’t think it’s anything serious, but it is. People get so addicted to gambling that they destroy their own lives. It’s a serious issue for people with compulsive personalities.

So what does that have to do with video games? I’m concerned with the increasing use of gambling mechanics in these games. I’m going to use Firefall as an example but many games have similar mechanics which boil down to spending actual money on a chance to get a good prize.

In a blog post Firefall devs teased this cool glider.


How do you get it? It is an “Epic Reward” that comes from a Red Bean Reward Token. These are tokens you get when you purchase Red Beans in an amount above $20. Of course, just because you have a Red Bean Token doesn’t mean you’ll get that glider. You have a CHANCE to get it. How much of a chance? Since Firefall’s gambling system isn’t regulated they don’t have to tell us. Maybe it’s a 1 in 10 chance. Maybe its 1 in a million.

The bright side is that you DO get the Red Beans you purchase, so in this case the Token is like throwing your business card into a fishbowl at the local deli in order to get a chance at winning a free lunch.

Then there’re these wings:

So how do you get these? From Gold Tokens. Gold Tokens are purchased with Red Beans, which in turn are purchased with hard real-life currency. How much do they cost? Well that’s hard to say since Firefall devs try to obfuscate the cost of Red Beans as much as possible. For one example, $20 gets you 168 beans (technically 160 plus 8 bonus beans) which means a bean is 11.9 cents (the more you buy at once, the cheaper they are by a slight amount. Spend $100 and the’re 10.4 cents). A Gold Token costs 30 beans which works out to $3.57.

So you pay your $3.57, pull the arm of the slot machine and get… something crappy. OK spend another $3.57 and try again. Nope, not that time either. What are your chances of getting these wings? Once again, no one but Red5 knows. They don’t have to tell you. I’m going to assume it’s 1 in 4,000,000,000.

Oh, and just to add to the pressure, both of these items are only available for a limited time, so if you really want one, maybe skip making your car payment this month and buy more beans. You can always catch up next month, right? As long as no cool new items are introduced.

samurai_hatOf course you do get something. Unlike ‘traditional’ gambling, everyone is a winner. Of virtual goods that don’t cost the company anything to give you. And much of what you win is the same stuff you could earn by playing the game for 10 minutes. I won this cool (?) samurai helm that I can’t really even see. In my case I bought $20 worth of beans that got me a token which gave me a chance to win the first item above. Instead what I won was 2 Gold Tokens, both of which gave me a chance to win the second item above. It wasn’t my lucky day, though. I got the helm and some other stuff that made such an impression that I’ve already forgotten what it was.

If you DO get what you want, that’s awesome! That’s teaching you a valuable lesson: that gambling is the road to success! This is an especially useful lesson for younger players.

Of course, defenders of gaming will point out that many states have a lottery that is no better. I agree and I don’t think state lotteries are a positive thing. But a)they are at least regulated so you know what your chances are and b)at least part of the money you piss away on them goes to improving conditions for others: school improvements, better highways, or whatever. I think usually that money goes towards public schools.

The odds in these free-to-play gambling systems (and again, Firefall is just one example) all favor the house, and in an MMO the house is the publisher. I’d really like to see these systems go away and have less suspect systems replace them. Just sell items at a fair price and make your money the honest way. Inserting gambling systems into your game just makes you look shifty.

At long last Firefall is launching. I’m not sure exactly how long this game has been in development, but I remember it was playable at the first PAX East which was 4 (?) years ago. The game launches for everyone on July 29th.

In this case, “launch” apparently means “we’ll remove the beta tag and make it available on Steam” and that’s about all.

After all this time in beta and all the huge changes the game has gone through (including one that just happened) I was pretty astonished to learn that they weren’t wiping the slate clean for launch. But they aren’t. That means if you log in on launch day for the first time you’re going to be WAY behind.

To add to that chasm, many (maybe all?) beta testers got in to ‘early access’ yesterday, on the 15th. That’s a two week head-start on any new players that come into the game when it is officially open to all comers.

Now just to be clear, old characters have been changed in some ways. I’d tell you exactly how but it’s been so long since I played the game that it seemed new to me when I logged in, except I was level 8 (or more precisely, my battleframe was level 8) and had an inventory full of stuff and a wallet full of credits.

Now folks who’ve been playing the beta are fine with this. I mean they’ve been playing the beta for YEARS so I can understand why they wouldn’t want their progress wiped. Some have also spent money and of course Red5 can’t just delete things players have spent real money on.

This isn’t the first game that has sold stuff in its cash shop ahead of launch though. Usually what happens is that at launch you get all your store currency credits refunded. After launch you can spend them again on the same stuff, or on different stuff.

So why does this all matter? In a lot of ways it doesn’t. I suppose it means new players should stay away from PvP until they’ve caught up, but there’s plenty of PvE stuff for them to do with their fellow, level-appropriate new players. My biggest concern is the auction houses. Firefall is supposed to have a “robust” player economy but when your brand new players are dumped into a game chock full of filthy-rich long-term beta testers they aren’t going to be able to buy anything on the auction house.

Imagine logging in for the first time on July 29th with the goal of becoming a crafter who supplies other players with gear. Fat chance of that since there’ll be hundreds of players who have already done the (in-game mechanic) research and who can farm materials much faster than you can.

Firefall isn’t the first game to roll open beta into launch with no wipe and in fact the practice is becoming more and more common. I’m singling it out mostly because it has been in beta for such an incredibly long time that the gap between the old-time beta player characters and the new “Hey I saw this new game on Steam” characters is going to be HUGE.

And compounding that, somewhat, is the fact that you only get 1 character slot. That means that if you’re a beta player and want a fresh start (maybe to re-learn how to play) you have to really commit to it by deleting your old character, thus placing yourself in the ghetto that Red5 has created for its new players that will start the game far, far behind on July 29th.

Dchaser~Jul-15-2014~New Eden~1~p1

borked_from_ birthLast week I mentioned how Divinity: Original Sin’s miserly dolling out of levels had me itching to jump into an MMO to level up! After flopping around a bit I’ve settled on Guild Wars 2 as my ‘dabble in’ MMO (for now).

I left Guild Wars 2 mostly because of their event system. For holiday events as well as their Living World stuff, I felt like the developers expected me to schedule my life around playing a game since the opportunities were of such a short duration and (for the Living World stuff) once you missed it, it was gone for good. That’s kinda my “I don’t believe in the game’s principles” reason why I left.

The other reason I left was a self-inflicted wound. (This wasn’t really obvious to me until this weekend when I went back.) I was trying to do crafting and my crafting alt needed these rare low-level drops. In order to maximize my chance for getting those, I was doing nothing but the low-level zones, trying to get 100% completion in each one before moving on to the other. So I was in my 30’s but doing level 1-15 zones (downscaled) and ignoring the “My Story” narrative stuff. I remember being adamant that I wouldn’t buy the materials I needed from the Auction House because that was ‘cheating.’ What evs, me-from-the-past!

Anyway back to the present. With Living World Season 2 the Guild Wars team is doing things differently. While it’s still probably most rewarding to do the season 2 content as it arrives, you will be able to replay it after the fact. That was enough to snag my interest. If I fault a game developer for doing things one way, and then they change things, I feel like it’s only fair that you give them another chance.

The first thing I did was log into my Guardian, who was sitting at level 40. Holy smokes, lots of things have changed (and/or been forgotten by me) since I last played. Currencies are all now account-wide (I think that’s new?) as are dye unlocks. There’s a new wardrobe system and transmute ‘charges’ are also account-wide, and there’s a magic find stat that, again, is now account wide. I had a bunch of inventory stuff that had been converted and in general my bags, both character and bank, were STUFFED full of stuff I didn’t know what to do with.

So I logged right back out and created a new character, a Necromancer. LOL With empty bags and a light heart, I started to play as a noob and immediately started having fun. Rather than chase map completion I was leveling just enough to take on the next chapter of my story at an even level. When I had questions I turned to twitter and got a ton of good advice from friends.

After 7 or 8 levels I was ready to face the Guardian again. I spent a good chunk of time over the weekend clearing out inventory, salvaging a ton of stuff, crafting up extra bags for my alts (I have, um, 7 characters, only 1 above level 15) and even deleting stuff (I had character-bound stuff for characters I’d deleted clogging up my bank.)

Finally I had things under control and headed out to see the world. And my goodness how things have changed! Lion’s Arch has been destroyed. Divinity’s Reach is in good shape with some beautiful new buildings. What caused all this? I had no idea, I wasn’t paying attention while all this was going on and now I regret it. Happily for me, a friend wrote up a recap. Unhappily for you, it’s not in a public post so I can’t share it. :( But you can read the Wiki for a less entertaining version of the story.

I looked up my guardian’s “My Story” and read through the recap to remind myself what was going on, then set about moving it forward. I’m doing level 30 “My Story” content on my level 40 character; that’s how long things have been neglected. Over the course of the weekend I leveled from 40 to 43. I unlocked (just by logging in) the first part of Season 2 but I need to get to 80 before I can take part, but at least I’ll be able to play through a ‘recap’ when I get there.

The only fly in the ointment is my class. Compared to playing the Necromancer, the Guardian feels a little dull. He has high survivability (for now at least) and he’s probably a lot of fun in groups since so many of his skills benefit group members. But playing solo he feels kind of routine and scaled down like he is I can win most 1-on-1 battles by putting his first skill on auto-attack. I’m hoping he’ll get more interesting as I get close to content that is of my true level, and maybe start encountering other players.

He IS fun to play when trying to solo events and other situations were many enemies are incoming at once. I’m guessing I’ll see more such situations as I advance.

I feel like I’m over that “oh crap, how does this all work” hump that you so often encounter when going back to a game after a long time away. I’m having fun, at least for now. We’ll see how long it lasts this time, but hey it’s not costing me anything to play. In fact I kind of feel like I should buy some gems just to support the game since the last time I spent a dime on it was at launch. Opening another bank bag slot wouldn’t be a terrible idea…

Also, I’d forgotten Eir and her totally functional armor. Oh Eir, you’re so dreamy!!!


Destiny is the next game coming to us (on Sept 9th) from Bungie. I describe it as a mash-up of the loot & level gameplay of Diablo and the shooter mechanics of Halo.

I have a lot of confidence in Bungie; I’ve been playing their games since Marathon came out on the Mac, and Myth: The Fallen Lords is one of my all-time favorites. Then of course there is Halo, which is the only pure shooter franchise where I play through every game.

This summer Bungie is running a beta for Destiny and I think it’s being handled rather poorly, though I’m not sure if the blame should be placed on Bungie, Sony, or both.

This generation Sony has been borrowing a lot of Microsoft’s tactics: going after exclusive content connected to cross-platform third party games. In Destiny’s case they’ve been pushing the fact that Playstation fans get “early access” to the beta.

Now coming from the land of MMOs, when you tell me there’s a beta I figure it’s going to run for a few weeks at least, or a string of weekends, or something along those lines. It’s supposed to be a way to test the game so the developers can make adjustments, right?

Well of course not. That would be a true beta. This is a marketing beta, and now the details are out. The beta “starts” on July 17th on the Playstation platform. I put that in quotes because the 17th is when you can get your key from Bungie.net. You’ll then have to download the client which could take anywhere from a couple to many hours. Assuming you’re an adult with a job and you can’t get this process going until you get home at 6 pm, you probably won’t play much on the 17th.

Once you finally get in, you can play until the 20th. So basically Thursday the 17th is for getting everything set up, then you can play Friday-Sunday. On Monday the 21st the beta comes down for “Maintenance” for two days. On the 23rd (Wednesday) it comes online again and Xbox players can start playing. It runs until that Sunday (the 27th) and that’s it. (There’s some kind of special reward you can earn for logging in on Saturday, the 26th.)

So for all of Sony’s crowing about getting into the beta early, what it really means is you get a weekend to play when Xboxers can’t, and in total you get 8 days (maybe 8 and a half if the download is fast on the 17th) of beta.

Honestly I was expecting the beta to run through the end of August! Again, my MMO background showing through.

We also don’t yet know how much of the game will be there. Bungie and Sony had an “alpha” after E3 that ran for a few days and it only contained a small ‘slice’ of the game with a low level cap. (I’ve already forgotten if it was 8 or 10…something like that.) Hopefully July’s “beta” will contain more of the game and not just be another demo.

Originally we were told that you had to pre-order to get into the ‘beta’ but now I see all kinds of sites giving out keys. That’s bad news because it means once again this is about marketing, not helping to make Destiny a better game. If the beta was just for people interested enough in the game to have pre-ordered then maybe it could have been an actual beta, but now Bungie is going to want to tightly control the experience to get ‘testers’ who haven’t pre-ordered to buy the product.

I think it was Divinity: Original Sin that rekindled my desire to play MMOs. I don’t know what it is about “leveling” that I find so appealing but damn, I love to do it! D:OS has leveling but they’re so miserly in dishing out new levels that it was creating an itch that needed scratching. So where can a person scratch the leveling itch? Pretty much any MMO.

But which one? I’ve been dabbling all week. Re-installed both The Secret World and Guild Wars 2 and dipped my toes in. Last night I went back to The Elder Scrolls Online. I loved this game just a short time ago, but then I had something bad happen to me and had to wrestle with customer support over it. I got my issue resolved but it took a few weeks. Between that and the failed experiment of playing Wildstar my TESO cadence had been shattered.

Part of the resolution of my problem was that Zenimax gifted me an additional month of access, so I’m paid up for something like 60 days of TESO at this point (I’d signed up for the 3 month plan). I figured if I was paying for it I should play it, right?

I logged in and my immediate reaction was joy. I love how realistic TESO is. I love that everyone isn’t wearing technicolor armor fighting bright pink killer teddy bears or whatever. I love the lack of sophomoric humor. I popped open my quest journal and spent some time remembering what I’d been doing. The nice thing about TESO’s limited number of active skills was that I hadn’t forgotten how to play yet (when I go back to EQ2 I spend about 2 hours just remembering what all my 30 or so skills do).

Within just a few minutes I was back out there fighting bad guys. Rolling out of danger, hitting them with a life siphon, then charging back in to send them flying. Combat in TESO just feels SO good. When you stagger an opponent and then wind up for a powerful hit that just knocks them flat it feels SO…DAMNED…GOOD!

But that joy didn’t last. After about an hour I felt like I’d had enough. Somehow the game just wasn’t the same for me, and I’m not sure why. The little annoyances (like managing inventory) were bothering me more than they used to. Combat started to feel rote, quests were feeling stale, and then I started thinking about spamming zone chat with LFG shouts to do the next dungeon and… I just logged out.

When I was in my 20’s and still living in my home town I spent a lot of time in bars. I had my favorites where I knew the bartenders and ‘the gang’ and walking in after a bad day was just uplifting.

A few years after I’d moved out of the area I went back to my home town and visited some of those same bars, and at first it was awesome. Lots of the same bartenders, lots of the same gang, warm welcomes from all. But I never stayed long. Nothing had changed really, except me. I wasn’t ‘connected’ to that world any more, I guess.

I feel the same way about The Elder Scrolls Online I guess. I no longer feel connected to what’s going on. I’ve been away too long. I do think I could re-connect if I just focused on playing for a few days but I’m not really ready to seriously commit to an MMO right now. I just want to dabble. I’m still playing Dragon Age: Origins on the PS3, and once the weekend comes I’ll be back into Divinity (that’s not a weeknight game…it plays too slowly to try to enjoy it in hour-long sessions), and next week the Destiny beta starts up and I’ll be playing that.

It’s a shame to let 60 days of game time run down without playing but that might be what I do, and it’s another good reason not to subscribe to an MMO unless you’re wholly committed to it. (To be fair, I’d convinced myself I WAS wholly committed to TESO when I subscribed.) I think I’ll go back to ‘dabbling’ in Guild Wars 2. Why is that better? I think because I’ve been away so long that it feels ‘new’ and I’m having to re-learn its systems. Sometimes I think I get more enjoyment out of learning about a game than I do from actually playing the game. Maybe that’s way I start so many and finish so few.