Jaded's Pub

I typically am not a fan of Achievements or Trophies. In fact I’ve ranted about my issues with Achievements in the past. But finally I’ve found a reason for them and a way for them to add to my enjoyment of a game.

I’m still working my way through Bioshock Infinite. My feelings haven’t changed substantially; it’s an interesting world, interesting story, Elizabeth is one of the best ‘companion characters’ I’ve seen in a game (almost as good as Ellie in The Last of Us), but the minute-to-minute gameplay tends to be fairly mundane. There’s way too much time spent searching corpses and crates for supplies, and (I can’t believe I’m saying this) not enough combat.

And of the combat there is, lots of it is just mowing down cannon fodder until you get to some kind of hero or mini-boss character that’ll put up an interesting fight. Early on I settled on just carrying a machinegun and RPG and found little reason to use anything else. And god was I bored.

Which is when I started looking at the Trophy list (I’m playing on PS3). There are a bunch of Trophies for killing X bad guys with Y weapon (I assume it’s the same on Xbox, just subbing in Achievements for Trophies). I decided to start working towards these, which caused me to switch up my weapon selection, which in turn caused me to want more $$ to upgrade different weapons, and suddenly I felt invested in the game again.

These achievements also offered short-term goals when the game wasn’t really giving me any, which I also appreciated.

Now to some extent I could’ve done this without Trophies. I could have just opted to use different weapons without being incentivized to do so; it just never really occurred to me. Stick with what works, right? So the Trophies also acted as a suggestion mechanism.

So yay Trophies.

All of this has kind of opened my eyes to why people enjoy Achievements and why I generally don’t. I can see how Trophies can help you extend your time with a game. If I wanted to play through Bioshock Infinite a second time I could do so with an eye on getting Trophies I’d missed and that would nudge me towards playing through the game in a different way. I can see the appeal from that point.

But I very, very rarely play through a game twice, and I’m almost always relieved to finish a game; most games go on too long for my tastes. This in turn is a result, probably, of just buying too many games for the amount of playing time I have. I always want to finish the game I’m playing so I can get started on the next one.

If, on the other hand, I could only afford a couple of games every year, I’d want to squeeze as much enjoyment as possible out of them, and Achievements/Trophies would help me do that.

So yeah, after years of ignoring Trophies and Achievements, I finally ‘get’ why people like them.

[Use of the term 'cheevos' in the title is a shout-out to my buddy Scott. I hope he appreciates it because he knows how much I hate the term! :) ]

I know everyone played Bioshock Infinite long ago and haven’t thought much about it since, but I’m new to it. I got it as a Playstation Plus freebie and downloaded it, and now my PS3 hard drive is getting full so I need to work through some backlog on the last-gen machine. BI seemed like a good place to start.

(Oh, there’ll be some early-game spoilers in this post since I figure I’m the last person to play it.)

And y’know at first I LOVED it. I loved the aesthetics and the weird slice of Americana that you’re first introduced to. Y’know, before you win the contest to throw the first baseball at the mixed-race couple that are going to be stoned to death (via baseballs) for polluting the purity of the white race.

Then as you learn more you get really comfortable with remorselessly destroying everything and everyone that keeps this twisted society going. So that’s fun. It’s like shooting Nazis or something. Hardly anyone ever feels remorse about shooting make-believe Nazis in a video game.

But as I played I started to feel really bogged down until now I’m just not enjoying myself any more. Why?

Searching containers.

As you move through the world of Bioshock Infinite you encounter about 10 containers/minute. Exaggerating? Well let’s see, that’s 1 every six seconds and yeah, that sounds about right. And if you’re OCD like me you will HAVE to search every one. They hold things like money, ammo, health and mana (here called salt) and sometimes lockpicks. Or they hold nothing. In addition to containers there’s plenty of junk just laying around that you’ll want to pick up, particularly Silver Eagles (money). But you don’t vacuum these up, oh no. Just in case you decide you’re much too rich and want to pass them by, the game makes you aim at each one and press the Square button to pick them up. Same with ammo, health and mana (though in the last two cases there might be times when you’d rather leave it for now). Oh yeah, and when you kill a bad guy, you have to search his corpse. too.

When you’re not going through trash cans for a Sandwich (+health) and a few Silver Eagles (because the people of this world often throw money away) you’re picking up voxophones (audio recordings), watching kinetoscopes (short old-fashioned movies) or peering through telescopes to be a sight seer.

I just feel like all this constant searching and collecting is really bogging the game down. Plus it makes me a little ill, literally. Since I’m always whipping the camera around checking every corner for a crate or a barrel or a trash can to be searched, I can only play a short time before I get woozy from simulation sickness. So that’s my gripe with Bioshock Infinite, and I’m kind of ashamed of myself for griping about it.

You know, it must suck to make games. Irrational built this huge beautiful world for gamers to explore and play in, and here comes some dork like me whining that he has to search too many containers.

I admit I’m being an ass about this! But I can’t help feeling the way I feel. I’m so sick of opening containers and having to “aim” at something to pick it up that I might just quit, and really I’ve barely gotten started (I just got Shock Jock from Slade).

I want to love it, but when you have a backlog that, were it not digital, would fill your apartment with game disks, it’s so easy to just say “Naaa” and bail on a game. And yet I feel bad for doing so since I know a team of hard working people crafted this world for my enjoyment. I’m such an ingrate. But I need to tip my hate to Irrational for making such an amazing game.

[This post is an elaboration on a tweet I posted earlier today.]

So the World Cup has started. For most of the rest of the world, where soccer/football is much more popular than it is here in the US, this is a big deal as it only happens once every 4 years. This time around it’s a bigger deal in the US than it has been in the recent past due to soccer becoming somewhat more popular and the fact that it’s being held in Brazil so it is ‘time zone friendly’ for US audiences.

Anyway, so now the World Cup is everywhere including in our social networks. Most of the folk in my social networks are gamers and a lot of them seem bemused by this onslaught of World Cup propaganda. If I took all the reactions, and simmered them down into a cohesive thought I think it’d be basically “I don’t get why people enjoy watching sports.”

In years past I’d totally get that because gamers play games while sports fans (hereafter known as sportsers) watch sports. Play vs Watch. Active vs Passive. I just figured gamers were doers and sportsers were watchers.

But that was before Twitch.

Twitch changes everything because it is extremely popular among gamers, and it turns gaming into something passive, so my old theory has fallen apart. A lot of the people who are puzzled by the popularity of the World Cup (or more generally, sports) are also fans of Twitch, and that in turn makes me puzzled.

It’s curious to me that a person who enjoys watching a MOBA match, or watching a guild take down a raid boss, or just watching someone play any game can’t understand how a sportster could enjoy watching a soccer match or a football game. And then there are the ‘between’ things like poker. I LOVE watching poker, but is it a game or a sport?

Now just to be clear, I’m NOT saying everyone should enjoy sports; not at all. Nor do I mean to come across as ‘scolding’ or anything. It’s just a curiosity for me. I’m questioning why the concept of watching sports is so foreign to someone who is so comfortable with the concept of watching games being played, since at their core sports ARE games.

The funny thing about sportsters is they’d be considered complete geeks if there weren’t so damned many of them. Have you ever heard two baseball fans get into an argument about who is the better player based on the approximately 50,000 different stats (might be an exaggeration) tracked for each player? These sportster nerds have that shit MEMORIZED, trust me. It’s totally geekdom! Except since it’s main stream, it isn’t. But it is. Or should be.

I consider myself a gamer but not really a sportster. I’ll watch American football and I have a team to root for, and as I said I love watching poker, but neither is something I do regularly. Lately I’ve started watching cricket. This has been really fun for me because I had zero understanding of the game. It just all looked like a bunch of people basically standing around to me. Then I learned the rules and it got a little more interesting. And as I watched more I started to get the strategy involved and really started enjoying it. Strategy, I like. In days gone by I was into wargames because again, strategy! I think that’s why I like American football. Football is like (more or less) civilized warfare and I love the battle of the coaches as much as, if not more than, the actions of the players themselves.

Anyway when I first started watching cricket my confusion felt familiar and I finally realized when I’d felt the same way: when I’d tuned into a League of Legends match. Since I’d never played LoL I had NO CLUE what was going on and it just seemed like random chaos with no strategy at all. Sadly I never got past that point, and now I think I might want to so I can appreciate watching LoL the same way I now appreciate watching cricket.

I’m still working on finding the appeal of watching someone running around randomly in WoW or Rift or Wildstar; there must be some appeal since so many people stream this kind of content so there must be an audience for it. I’ll put that on my list after I’m done learning to appreciate LoL. But right now I have to go see if I can catch the end of the Chile vs Australia match! It turns out that soccer is pretty interesting to watch too. Guess the rest of the world knew something I didn’t!

warlock_webI’ll be the first to admit I’ve been excited about Destiny, Bungie’s new game, so keep that in mind as you read the following happy thoughts. I got into the Alpha this evening (I guess everyone who applied did) and got to spend an hour or two playing. For some reason they start you at level 3 and I got to level 5.

Now let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat. Destiny is a shooter. The basic mechanics of minute-to-minute gameplay will be very familiar. It’s nothing revolutionary in that aspect. It’s more the meta-game that’s interesting. Think of Diablo. The basic mechanics of Diablo are pretty simple right? But people love to play it to level up and gear up their characters. Destiny is like a first person shooter version of Diablo 3 in some ways.

You have two weapon slots but can carry a bunch of weapons (hit the Options button to open your inventory and decide which two are ‘live’). You have regenerating health (that even sounds kind of like Halo’s shield regen). I was playing a Warlock and he also has a grenade ‘spell’ that has a cooldown. There’s also a pretty fierce melee attack. I didn’t find a way to crouch but you can sprint and jump (and my class can do a kind of hover jump…maybe all can).

When you start the alpha you’re on Earth in that part of Russia we’ve seen over and over in previews. As far as I can tell this mission is strictly single player. You need to get to an objective far away and snag something. Along the way you’ll encounter lots of baddies to blast (and be blasted by). You’ll also be in danger of becoming side-tracked. I found an old bunker and when inside, got lost and finally stumbled onto a boss of level ?? (the universal symbol for “You’ve got no chance, kid.”). I liked that; I liked that I could go off the beaten path and find challenging things to do.

Once I finished this mission I was prompted to beam up to my ship and then navigate to The Tower. You don’t actually fly your ship through space…you just pick a destination and off you go. The Tower is the central hub of the game. I saw lots of other players there. I checked my mail. I turned in my quest rewards. I browsed vendors who had upgrades for guns, armor, ships and vehicles (purchased with a variety of currencies). I explored and find some odds and ends that seemed to give me…something (still figuring this all out).

Once I was bored of that I decided to try PvP in The Crucible. The only map they have open is a 6v6 conquest kind of thing, but there are icons for maybe half a dozen competitive game modes. But for now we have conquest. Y’know, occupy check points and gain points based on how long your team holds it. It was as fun as PvP FPS ever is (I’m not a huge competitive FPS player) and I earned some Crucible Points which I could spend on special gear.

When that was over I went back to Earth/Russia to check out the open exploration mode. While you’re roaming around down there killing baddies you can find missions. I captured video of me doing one. I found that there are at least two factions of bad guys and they don’t like each other much more than they like you, and you’ll often come across them fighting each other.

I’d just finished my mission when I noticed a blip on my radar; it was another player! We spent some time fighting together which was a lot of fun. At the time I was level 5 and we were encountering level 9 bad guys that could really soak up damage when trying to take them solo, but with two people flanking them, they went down fast. People who know me know that I LOVE this kind of random organic ‘grouping’ where you encounter another player and can help each other out without drawing up a social contract first.

If you really just want to play alone or with your friends, I believe that option will be in the final game but I didn’t see a switch for it in Alpha. The person I encountered (actually I ran into two) wasn’t on my friends list…it was just a random stranger.

And that was about all I had time for. And stomach for. I haven’t played a shooter in a while and after a couple of hours I was starting to get a little queasy. /blush.

During my time playing I found 4 or 5 new weapons, upgraded my helm, gloves and chest armor, found some “Materials” that I suspect will be used in crafting in the full game. Some of the loot you find is ‘encrypted’ and has to be taken back to the tower to be used. Think of this stuff as Unidentified Items in Diablo. I also unlocked a few new skills for my character.

Bungie has a website for the Alpha and I have a profile on there but I’m not sure how to make it public, or if you can. It’s nice that even though we’re only in Alpha they have their version of the “Armory” where you can check out your characters gear and stuff from the web.

Bungie says the alpha is a ‘tiny slice’ of the whole game, but I really appreciated that they included single player, co-op and PvP missions in it. I’m looking forward to playing more, and to playing with friends. So far I’m really enjoying it.

This is one of those navel gazing posts that no one will really care about but six months from now *I’ll* read it and laugh at my own weirdness.

I have a stormy relationship with MMOs. I love them right up until I hate them, at which point I quit them forever, which generally means a couple months at most. By then I will have forgotten that I hate them and remembered that I love them, and I’ll get excited for one and find I’m missing the unpredictability of being in a game with a lot of other people. So back I’ll go.

Over the past few months I’ve been hardcore into MMOs…too many of them. Landmark, ArcheAge, Elder Scrolls Online and Wildstar. I’ve sort of cycled through them, unable to decide which one I wanted to play. Obviously trying to play 4 MMOs is incredibly stupid and something had to give, and it has.

E3 was this week and there are a number of games I’m interested in. But I’ve got a huge backlog of great games on my consoles and on Steam now. And I’m missing the satisfaction of finishing a game, crossing it off my list and then looking forward to the inevitable sequel.

At the same time MMOs have been disappointing me. The last two I’ve been playing (ESO and Wildstar) I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone and really tried to be social and haven’t had much luck. Most of my issues I think have to do with my reluctance to use voice chat. I’m happy to use voice chat for a purpose (a dungeon, a PvP outing) but the idea of jumping on just to ‘chat’ is not something I’m interested in. I don’t really like chatting in-person; I certainly don’t want to do it via VoIP. A lot of gamers SAY they’re introverts but I don’t think they know what that really means. Chatting with a group is exhausting to me and when I finally get done my day and can fire up a game at 9 or 10 PM I’m already pretty tired and the last thing I want to do is chat about cats or listen to dick jokes or whatever the hell people talk about when they’re gaming alone but in voice chat together.

That’s totally my baggage, not anyone else’s. But these two factors (excitement over new non-MMO games, and frustration with social in MMOs) have pushed me back to that ‘hating on MMOs’ place again.

So I’m diving into my backlog of single player and non-MMO MP games again. Tonight I started Bioshock Infinite on the PS3. After that I might try once again to finished Dragon Age: Origins in order to get ready for the new game coming out this fall. We’ll see.

Not that the blog is all that active to begin with, but if I’m playing old single player games I probably won’t have a lot to say here, so the blog will probably go even darker than normal. Though I probably will keep dabbling in Landmark since it is inherently non-social and is almost more a creativity tool than a game anyway.

Of course Destiny beta starts in July and I’m all over that. The nice thing about MP gaming on consoles is that people log in and actually PLAY TOGETHER which makes voice chatting relevant. Hope to see some of my friends in the Destiny beta!

Last December my pal (well at least in my own mind) Dusty Monk shared this fan-film “Croft”:

Yesterday at E3 a new Tomb Raider game, “Rise of the Tomb Raider,” was introduced with this video:

Coincidence? Or was last December’s video a bit of viral marketing?

Sony held its press event last night and man, it was good thing it happened at night because it was definitely rated M for Mature. The old Sony that we used to know and love…the one that brought us a mix of ‘serious’ shooters and quirky, colorful games..that Sony seems to be dying out. The new Sony seems to be targeting a specific audience: one that craves violence and gore. Let’s look at some trailers (and yes I’m cherry picking these and leaving out the few that don’t fit, like the Little Big Planet 3 announcement):

The Order 1886 has werewolves and I has a sad.:

Suda51 is always hyper violent. Here’s Let it Die:

If you loved Demon Souls and Dark Souls, maybe you’ll enjoy the blood-crusted new title from From Software, Bloodborne:

I was pretty surprised that Sony decided Dead Island 2 was press-conference-worthy but I guess they haven’t realized we’re getting sick of zombies:

Then we had Mortal Kombat X, which hit the “jeebus this is too much for me” line. Of course it also got the loudest cheers, reaffirming my suspicion that I’m way outside the mainstream when it comes to gaming

Solid Snake uses the ashes of a fallen soldier as cover-up. Disgusting and disrespectful:

I was disappointed not to see more color during the Sony presser. But I can’t just have a post full of negativity. I have to include one bright spot. Here’s a very cool looking indie title called No Man’s Sky. I can’t WAIT to play this oneL:

So I made a promise to myself to play Wildstar exclusively until I hit level 15 just to give it a chance, and this morning I made it. So now what? Will I keep playing or am I done?

I’d hoped to be able to decide but honestly I’m still on the fence. I guess the truth is I’m leaning more and more towards sticking around but I haven’t fallen off onto the “Wildstar is awesome” side just yet. If I had nothing else going on then I’d definitely be subscribing but I have to decide if I like it more than Landmark, ESO and ArcheAge, basically. Clearly trying to play 4 MMOs is ridiculous.

This weekend I’ve spent messing around with my house a little. Housing doesn’t grab me as much as I hoped, but I have a relic mine and a farm on my housing plot and they’re both handy. I also added a crafting station so I have all the ingredients I need to make medi-packs and stuff without leaving home. I think I’ll buy a house, though. The freebie pre-order house is, IMO, stupid looking. (It’s a fat round spaceship that looks like it came from a kid’s cartoon.)

Meanwhile out in the world I helped take down what I guess was a zone boss. All I know is someone said in zone chat “Everyone come to StemDragon!” and then a chorus of “WTH is StemDragon?” Turns out it’s a big dragon-beast with somewhere over a million HP. I ran there to help and it was pretty fun, though really just a matter of spamming attacks along with 15-20 other players. For my trouble I got an Achievement which is nice I guess.

A lot of the content I’m moving through now is pretty group-desired. You can solo your way through but you have to have a care not to aggro too many mobs, or even a single mob that is heroic. The good news is you can just organically join other players when doing this content. It makes things both easier/faster and more fun and so far the community seems prone to helping each other which is kind of awesome. So over and over I find myself traveling with another player or two and while we don’t talk or Group we help each other along.

One of the types of Settler missions is gathering materials for an NPC builder to build some structure. I’ve been doing these and moving on, pretty much ignoring the ‘construction site’ since to finish the quest you only have to contribute a fraction of the materials needed for the site to be completed. This morning I decided to stick around and after I finished the quest I kept gathering materials until the project was done. Along the way I was also harvesting relics and crops plus killing lots of mobs so I got the benefit of that too.

In this case the completed project was a de-probing center (shown in the image at the top of this post). In this area of the world an alien race has been abducting people and using probes on them. Then they’re returned with the probes still inserted. (This gives you a good feel for the style of humor in Wildstar.) Once the de-probing center is built you can take a quest to remove the probes from some patients. It was a really quick quest…took under a minute. The de-probing center also has a vendor. I’m not sure if another class could enhance it or not. I’ve done some things as a settler that are “Step 1″ of a project and require a Scientist or a Soldier to do Step 2, but I’ve never had anyone on-hand to do step 2 so I’m not really sure how all that works.

I’ve been pretty grumpy about the Lore in Wildstar but I have to say that now some of the story questlines are getting more interesting. I still don’t bother reading the books and files you find but if instead of working ‘horizontally’ and doing every level 10 task and quest before moving on to level 11 tasks and quests, you grab a story quest and just follow the series and ignore distractions, they can be a lot more interesting. One I enjoyed started with having to sober up some dude in a bar and took me all over the place and finally into a kind of secret base. Fun stuff!

So that’s all the good stuff. I don’t have a lot of bad stuff honestly. There’re still bugged quests and the game UI goes wonky often, though generally a quick /reloadui fixes things. I get terrible lag spikes now and then and random disconnects but frankly these are the kinds of things I expect from a newly launched game.

I think at this point the one thing missing is a large group of people to play with. I’m in a guild but seem to keep different hours from most of the members. Last night when I was playing there were only 5 people online; this morning I was the only only one! This is during the free month and I’m really concerned about what will happen when subs kick in. It’s hard not to compare this to ESO when during the first few weeks there’d usually be 20+ people from the guild online. As far as I could tell, each of the 5 was doing his or her own thing and no one was talking in chat except for me and Chris. So if I’m going to keep playing I’ll probably quit this guild and go in search of something bigger.

I don’t think Wildstar is a good solo game; it’s just not how it was designed. I mean you CAN solo but everything is more fun with more people in this one. I’m really happy playing ESO solo; I’m really invested in the story and the lives of the NPCs and all of that. Wildstar though is all about ACTION and jumping around like crazy during combat and generally the more the merrier. If I’m alone in an area for too long just fighting by myself I tend to get bored and log out. Happily just the addition of random players helps to stave that off.


some_hatLast Sunday I was at level 10 in Wildstar and determined to play it exclusively until I got to level 15, at which point I’d make a decision about whether or not I was going to add it to my roster of games. Level 15!? Bah! I’m a lightweight! Both Scopique & Scarybooster are committing to a year of only playing Wildstar. Apparently the game is scratching a major itch for both of these gentleman.

I’m still aiming at 15. Last night just before signing off I hit 14 (I don’t get a lot of time for gaming during the week). I have to say I’m enjoying it more than I was but I’m still on the fence. I have managed to ‘let go’ when it comes to the lore and I’ve stopped reading all the books and files because frankly most of them aren’t worth the time it takes. For every file that gives you info about the world there are 4 that are just intended to be funny or something.

A lot of the quests still feel pretty mundane but I have now gotten the chance to do some that have a bit of a twist. It’s a sad reflection on the state of MMO gaming when adding timed button presses or a mini game of “Simon” to a quest solution feels like a refreshing twist, but well…that’s the genre. MMO players, myself included, are so desperate for variety that adding a super-simple mini-game gets us excited.

Over the course of the week I’ve started to better understand character building and as I’d suspected, the more I understand it, the more interesting it becomes. I’ve started to veer my Engineer from the “Assault” (DPS) path to the Tank path.

Combat has become more challenging, at least at times, which has added to my interest in the game as well. Up to level 10 you can pretty much sleep walk through combat without any fear of death, at least if you’re an engineer. I can’t speak to other classes; remember the Engie has 2 robot pets to help him out.

Following the Settler path continues to be good fun and I still feel good when I can spawn a Taxi Stand (or some other boon) for other players.

Speaking of other players, I had one bad experience with the community on Dominion-Evindra so far, but plenty of good ones. I turned off the Advice channel but have left on Zone. There’re too many bugged quests in the zone I’m in and it’s nice to see players helping players when it comes to identifying gameplay problems. I’ve joined a few PUGs and they’ve been civil as well. In fact my PUG experience has been good enough that I’ve been offering to help people complete quests that I’ve already completed, just to try to be an asset to the community and make some new friends.

I joined the Alliance of Awesome guild but so far it’s been pretty quiet. I have the feeling I might play later than everyone else, or maybe it’s just that everyone is on voice chat. I’m not sure it’s going to be the right fit for me but I’m giving it time.

At level 12 or so I unlocked crafting but I haven’t done too much with it, though I have been gathering things. For both Farming and Relic Hunting you ‘gather’ by shooting something in the world. Since my guns have a fire zone that is wide and long, invariably I aggro mobs while I’m trying to gather, which leads to some chaotically fun moments of trying to dodge some beastie while I shoot the crystals off a relic. And sometimes the relic gets up and starts running around for a few moments before vanishing. I suspect I’ll get some goody if I can ever kill it before it poofs but so far no luck.

So as I say, still on the fence but enjoying the game more than I was at 10. I do feel like I suffer from “quest fatigue” pretty often. Any given area just seems to have endless quests that keep you in one spot killing variants of the same mobs for far too long. But I’m also out-leveling quests so maybe I’m not supposed to take them all.

Tonight I’ll see about doing the quest that gives you a house. Everyone seems to LOVE the housing in Wildstar and it might be the hook that keeps me around. I enjoy the housing in EQ2 but honestly aside from crafting there’s not a lot to DO in an EQ2 house, but in Wildstar it sounds like houses can be outfitted with a variety of activities. I also have a secret hope that Angela sees the housing and wants to play; having her interested in the game would go a long way towards keeping me interested as well.

I guess I’ll probably hit 15 this weekend some time and then I’ll have to decide if I want to press on or if I’d rather focus more on ESO, ArcheAge, Landmark, or single player games. My plate is pretty full and if a game isn’t really doing it for me there’s no sense in trying to force it. I know at the least I’ll celebrate 15 by taking a break and getting back into Watch Dogs! But last night I was playing Wildstar and glanced at the clock and it was after midnight and I realized I’d completely lost track of time. That’s generally a good sign for me. So maybe Wildstar is working its way into my heart.

bartWildstar’s Early Access kicked off this weekend and a lot of my friends are apparently having the time of their lives. Me, I’m stuck in the level 10 blues.

I was in the beta of Wildstar for a few months and honestly the game never hooked me. The only reason I’m playing is because I got a good deal from Green Man Gaming and so many of my friends were excited I figured what the heck. In Beta I never got very far on any single character; I think I topped out at level 12. With character after character I’d get bored and drift away.

But when I played The Elder Scrolls Online in beta it never hooked me either, and I love that game now that I’m playing ‘for real’ and was hoping the same would be true for Wildstar. So far that isn’t the case.

The thing that changed ESO for me was the lore. During beta I ignored it and at launch I embraced it. With every random scroll and book I read a little bit more about the world and history of Tamriel was uncovered. I loved it! LOVED IT. I tried the same thing with Wildstar which also has lots of book and files to read but… most of them are just kind of random and an attempt to get a chuckle out of you. I’m not finding the lore here to be very interesting at all.

That actually extends to the quests which seem really shallow most of the time. I know at least one person who loves Wildstar and who uses an add-on that automatically skips quest text and just accepts the quest. That’s one person but I think it illustrates something. Wildstar is 100% game, 0% virtual world. Which is fine if that’s what you’re looking for.

It’s also intended to be pretty funny. Most of the jokes fall flat with me, but that’s a personal thing. I know people that find it hilarious. I admittedly have a very narrow sense of humor though, and I am not generally drawn to humor.

So that leaves basic gameplay, and y’know combat is pretty fun and it’s the one thing keeping me playing. It’s very kinetic and (assuming you’re not just mopping up trash) requires you to keep moving. You also tend to take on groups of mobs which I always enjoy. I am getting really sick of hearing “DOUBLE KILL!” “TRIPLE KILL!” “SUPER KILL!!!!” constantly though. That got old back when Unreal Tournament did it in the last century. Actually I should check the settings to see if I can turn that off.

Character building is pretty deep and I think there my problem is a lack of understanding. My level 10 character has 6 slots on his hot bar. He potentially has I think 8 or 9 skills, but I haven’t purchased them all. I figured why spend money if I can’t slot it anyway. Then he earns Amp points which go into a skill wheel and do things like +1% critical chance or +2 assault power. Amp points feel super tweaky to me and I find it hard to care about them at this point. Finally there are ability points that let you power up your skills. Skills come in 3 trees (for my class, engineer) and I’m not entirely sure why. But I know there’s a Support tree and some things power up Support skills, but not Assault skills, so that’s part of the reason. But under Support I have robots and I’m not sure if their actions are considered support or not.

Bottom line, if I want to play this game at all seriously I need to research character development.

And then there is questing. Wildstar is old school when it comes to questing. You find a hub, take about 78 quests (slight exaggeration) that are all a derivative of ‘activate a glowy object’ or ‘kill a thing,’ then you head out into the world. None of the quests make enough of an impression for me to remember them so I just randomly run around and activate anything I see that is activate-able, and kill anything with an icon over it’s head. After a while of doing this maybe a quest gets completed and I turn it in.

Eventually the number of quests remaining gets manageable and you can start to focus what you’re doing. And finally you’ll complete a quest that sends you to the next hub where you repeat the process. Personally I get really bored of each area well before I’m sent along to the next.

More interesting are Paths, or at least my Path which is Settler. As a Settler you pick up random materials in the world and can then build vending machines that offer free buffs to anyone. Doing this both increases your Settler experience and helps other players and it’s so far the most fun aspect of Wildstar for me, though there are aspects of it that I’m finding confusing and that I’m still working out.

There are also Challenges that pop up when you’re out in the world. I hated these in beta since they were super-disruptive to me, but now I’ve learned I can restart them from my quest log. So when I first get a challenge I ignore it until I’m ready to do it, then I start again. What’s nice about Challenges is that they can be pretty Challenging. I’ve had to try some of them 3 or 4 times before beating them. (Questing so far has not been challenging aside from the issue of competing for resources with other players…I’ve died once when I tried to solo Wildstar’s version of a heroic mob.)

So there you have it. Back to level 10, pretty damned bored, and thinking I should go play Elder Scrolls Online or Watch Dogs or just read a book. I THINK there’s a lot more to Wildstar once I get past these low levels. I know both mounts and housing open up not too far past where I am. I did just unlock crafting but I’m not sure I care about that, this time out.

To be clear, a LOT of my friends are ga-ga over-the-moon-in-love with Wildstar, so my issues with it are clearly just that: MY issues with it. I’m going to try to drive through this dead zone that I’m in and get to where the good stuff happens. If I find MMO gold, I’ll send word.