WoW Classic: Why I won’t go home again

I blame Heart1lly for this post!

In my Twitter timeline it is full-on WoW Classic Mania this week. While it’s fun to see everyone taking delight in retro-gaming, I haven’t joined in.

Part of the reason is that while I played and enjoyed WoW, it wasn’t, y’know, life-changing for me from a gameplay point of view. MMOs that were life-changing for me personally: MegaWars III (my 1st MMO) and Ultima Online (the one MMO that I played to a point where it started having a negative impact on my real life). WoW was just another in a LONG line of MMOs that I played and enjoyed.

It did happen to land in a weird time in my life. I had gotten laid off and decided to chill for a few months; do some freelancing and live off savings for a bit. Because of that I could devote massive amounts of time to WoW. I joined a guild, became friends with a lot of those people and often spent upwards of 8 hours a day online with them. I knew them, knew their partners and kids, new about their real lives. We were very much a family.

But once I started working again I couldn’t maintain that lifestyle and I drifted away. By the time The Burning Crusade came out, I was ready to move on from WoW. I’ve re-subbed a few times since but without my “family” it just felt kind of empty. Which is strange since I mostly solo in MMOs and am not much of a guild joiner. But in my head, WoW = these friends I’ve lost touch with.

My favorite WoW memories have little to do with gameplay. One thing I love about WoW is how time mirrors real life and, back then, people sought out servers in their time zone. It would be 3 am, the world would be pretty quiet as most players would’ve gone to bed. A friend and I would head out to Westfall and sit near the lighthouse and watch the light play across the sea and talk about life and troubles and whatever and just enjoy the night.

Other fond memories involve silly roleplay in Stormwind, or the time friends stuck with me for 6 hours helping me get a rare pet for my hunter.

Going back to WoW, visiting those zones… it would just be sad for me. Those friends are gone and even if I could find them, it’d be like that awkwardness you feel at a school reunion. People change over time.

I’d rather keep these fond memories as they are. I don’t remember any of the pain points that there must have been. I just have wonderful memories of a good time in my life, and going back could only taint them. So no WoW Classic for me.

But I hope everyone else has a blast!

Final Fantasy XIV Crash & Burn

The last time I wrote a proper post here was June 10th and at that point I’d been playing FFXIV for about 10 days. And until about a week or two ago, I’d been playing it every day, pretty much exclusively.

Then I skipped a day for some reason. And another day. Then I logged in for about 10 minutes and that was that. I may be done with FFXIV for now.

This always happens to me; it’s my cycle of Discovery, Ridiculous Enthusiasm (accompanied with “gonna play this 4-ever!” giddiness), The Routine and finally, the big DROP happens. I think I need to learn to acknowledge when playing has just become due to habit rather than desire, and maybe step back at that point. If I play a few times a week rather than every day maybe I can keep the enthusiasm up. Makes sense, but y’know, at my age I’m not sure I can learn new tricks.

They don’t look like trolls but believe me, they are.

What really killed FFXIV for me was the Horrible Hundred; the huge swathe of quests that happen after you finish A Realm Reborn and before you start Heavensward. During these (which took me a few weeks to get through) there is almost no multiplayer content. A few raids and dungeons, but mostly you run around doing fetch quests.

Back when these were new people were probably mixing them up with doing dungeons for fun, but with the “Road to 70” buff I was already so over-leveled that I didn’t want the XP that would come with doing anything extra. I just wanted to get to Heavensward so every night I’d log in, feeling vaguely irritated by how much these quests sucked, but determined to get through them.

And I did, finally. And then Heavensward began and it was more of the same. Heavensward, at launch, was meant to take characters from level 50 to level 60. I was level 60 before I started it, meaning now the Heavensward quests are trivial. The ‘correct’ course for me would be to level a 2nd job, and I thought about leveling a healer but now it’s been so long since I’ve done MP content that I’m facing my natural resistance to doing it. I was a social gamer for a while, though!

Plus as soon as I stopped logging into FFXIV I started remembering the 5,000 other games in my backlog, frontlog and sidelog. (OK I exaggerate a little.) I’ve been bouncing around from Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to Dragon Quest Builders 2 and then to Days Gone (among others.).

The best thing about playing an MMO is that you save money on other games, but the worst thing about playing an MMO is that you miss out on so many other games.

My only real regret is that I bought TWO 60-day time cards in order to get two Fat Chocobo mounts for 2 characters and so my sub is paid through to something like October.

The good news for everyone else is that in patch 5.3 (which is out sometime later this year I believe) the developers are going to streamline this early content to make it faster to get through. There are no real details of that, but if you’re considering picking up FFXIV, I’d urge you to wait until 5.3. Right now the grind is really depressing. And despite what some will tell you, the story does NOT make it worth it. (Well obviously that’s my opinion.)

I had a good run, though. Hopefully before too long I’ll be ready to jump back in for a while. I do come out of it with some fond memories….

I don’t know these people but they invited me to their wedding, which was ADORABLE!
I joined a guild and lasted like 6 weeks before my inner introvert drove me to leave.
Of course eventually I gave in and created a Viera.

Final Fantasy XIV makes me a better person. Sort of.

Recently Square Enix was running one of its “come back to Final Fantasy XIV” promotions. If you were a former player you could get a week of sub time just by logging in. As the period for this was winding down I figured “Hey free time, I better use it!” so I did.

I’ve always loved the world of Final Fantasy XIV. The weird creatures, the ridiculously overwrought dialog, the cute female characters [ahem, not sure I should admit that one]. For me it really leans into the “fantasy” part of the title.

I’ve always disliked Final Fantasy XIV because of the forced grouping. In order to unlock things in the game you have to follow the Main Story Quests and these send you to group dungeons fairly often. I simply DO NOT like playing with others, particularly strangers. It makes me super anxious because I’m afraid I’ll do something that negatively impacts other players and I hate looking stupid in front of people. [Yeah don’t think this stems from altruism; we all know me better than that. I just don’t want to embarrass myself.]

Busy starter cities
I was happy to discover that the ‘starter cities’ are still nicely populated

But I started playing and thanks to a “Preferred Server” buff I flew through the levels and the quests and within a day or two I was faced with queuing for dungeons. I summoned my courage, queued up, started sweating it out. When the Duty (as they are called in FFXIV) popped I almost declined it, but I didn’t. And I found that at this point you are essentially carried in low level dungeons. Bosses die so fast (since most of your party will by max level) that you don’t even have to worry about special mechanics.

This, I guess, is the beauty of FFXIV rewarding high level players to replay low level content. And for me it made a huge difference. That first dungeon wasn’t so bad. Just to be safe before I did another I watched some YouTube videos showing the special features/tricks of the next few dungeons, then I pressed on.

Questing
All these people are doing a level 15 or so quest. The little filmstrip icon next to their name shows they are in a cut scene

Before this gets stupid long, let me summarize. I learned that low level dungeons are generally stress free. I learned that letting folks know “This is my first time” often actually gets you helpful advice. And I learned that if the party wipes, it’s generally not the DPS dude’s fault (that’s me), it’s just over-exuberance on the part of the tank, and people shrug it off, slow down a little and finish the fight.

Somehow I’ve now gone from dreading these dungeon runs to looking forward to them. Now my gripe is that queue times are too long for a DPS and I’m thinking of starting a tank or healing job. Now I’m often the first guy who says “Hi!” in group chat; I’ve become, dare I say it? Social. I joined a Free Company (guild). I joined a Linkshell (group chat). OK so it is the Novice Network linkshell that is pretty impersonal, but still!

I don’t know what this is, but I didn’t mess with it. It was level 50

I feel like after playing FFXIV for a while, I’ll be able to go into any other MMO and queue up for group content and not sweat it so much. I’m sure at some point I’ll have that experience of someone getting mad and rage-quitting or calling me names because I suck, but already I have a nice body of experience that shows me that is the rare exception and not the norm. Honestly for the most part, people don’t talk at all except maybe a hello at the start and a ‘thanks for the party’ at the end.

That said, I’m still having a blast with FFXIV. I’ve re-subbed and will keep playing for the foreseeable future. Which reminds me, I should probably cancel my SWTOR subscription. 🙁

Return to SWTOR

I’ve been meaning to write this post all week but never did because I kept forgetting to take some good screenshots to support it. I still haven’t but y’all know what Star Wars: The Old Republic looks like anyway, right?

Without really planning to, I’ve been taking a tour of old MMOs for the past month or so. Last week I noticed a few friends have been playing SWTOR, then the trailer for the next movie came out, and I figured “Sure, why not?” I’d only gotten it installed when the Star Wars Celebration Event (that I was unaware of) kicked off and suddenly my Star Wars interest spiked.

My old, old account was protected by a security key which I couldn’t find. It was from back when they put a piece of hardware in the game box (yes, younglings, games used to come in boxes that you bought at a shop) to help you secure your account. Best guess was I’d have to call support to get that account back so I said “Heck with it” and bought a starter kit that came with 60 days of game-time for less than what I would’ve normally paid for 60 days of game-time.

You can play SWTOR for free but my recollection was that there were a lot of limitations and I knew I’d end up subscribing anyway so…

Corso is staring at me again, isn’t he? SO CREEPY!

Anyway, so new character on a new account. I’d forgotten about the Legacy System where all your characters contribute to leveling up and unlocking things or I might’ve made the effort to recover the old account. Eh, water under the bridge now.

Bioware has put out a few expansions since I played and they REALLY want you to play this new content. You can create a character ready for the new content (level 50 or something) but I created a basic level 1 character. I can’t handle jumping into a game and being handed 2 dozen skills all at once.

Still Bioware pushed. There is a permanent 200% experience bonus while you play the vanilla content, and by default side quests aren’t shown on the map. They want you to just play your story missions and the main storyline for the planet you are on. I’m way too OCD for that so I turned on the side quests and jumped in.

She looks fine but her armor needs better textures, no?

Generally speaking the game holds up pretty well. All it would take is a high-definition texture pack to make it look quite good. The kind of stylized design of the characters ages well, but the armor and weapons could really used some more detail. It’s an old enough game that when it detected my graphics card it said “Gosh I have no idea” and set everything to “low” but I toggled everything to max settings and holding 60 FPS is not a problem.

Gameplay-wise, this vanilla content is very easy since you’re leveling so fast. By the time I left Coruscant, the first ‘main’ planet in the storyline, I was level 35. The game auto-scales you down (to 18 on Coruscant) but you’re still a beast. My companion even more so. If I set the companion to heal I almost think it would be impossible to die, but I haven’t tested this. The only enemy I didn’t try to kill on Coruscant was the world boss. Everything else, including heroic missions, was a cake walk. Too easy, really.

Finally got my ship back, now I’m off to the Republic Fleet

They’ve also added a solo mode to flashpoints, the “dungeons” in SWTOR. Originally designed for groups of 4, you can now do them in solo mode with you, your companion, and a provided combat droid. This was very easy too, though it took a long time just because the enemies still have a lot of HP to burn through.

What is really saving me and keeping me in SWTOR is the story and characters. I’ve played through all of this before but it was such a long time ago that it feels fresh. (I’m also playing a female character which changes things a little, based on some of the interactions.) I may also be paying more attention to the story since I’m not looking over my shoulder to see if some NPC is going to kill me, or feeling like I’m falling behind my friends as they level quickly. There’s something to be said for the pure solo-ist lifestyle in a game with this much story/dialog.

My only real concern is that if I stick around long enough and get to where I’ll have to actually fight smart I won’t know how to. I specced my character as a healer (way out of my wheelhouse) because I thought I could practice on my companion as I go along, but I’ve had the opportunity to heal him maybe 3 or 4 times, he’s such a beast.

I’d forgotten there was space combat

But knowing how flighty I’ve been recently, that’s just borrowing trouble. I may never get that far. For right now I’m enjoying plowing through this content, meeting nice (NPC) folks and bashing the villains. I have my ship, a nice apartment, a couple of companions, and a shiny blaster. What more could a Scoundrel like me want?

Maybe legacy/progression servers aren’t for me

Between all the vitriol seething around stupid (IMO, obviously) issues with modern games, and just the fact that I’ve been away from PC gaming for a long time, I’ve been revisiting some old favorites lately. It’s good timing since it seems like plenty of folks are on a nostalgia kick when it comes to games, and MMOs in particular.

In the last months I’ve at least dipped my toe into WoW, LOTRO, Guild Wars 2, Age of Conan, Star Trek Online, Secret World Legends, Neverwinter, DC Universe Online, EVE Online, Anarchy Online and Everquest 2. Mind you in some cases it was a single login (looking at you, Age of Conan and Anarchy Online).

In a couple of cases (LOTRO and EQ2) I’ve decided to roll on the progression servers (or as LOTRO calls them, Legendary Servers). My thinking was “Hey, it’s a nostalgia trip, might as well go all-in.” Further thinking was that the games ought to be simpler to get back into on these older builds that don’t have years of expansions layered onto the foundations.

Well it turns out that while it was simpler to get back into the games in this way, these servers are not for me. In my heart they are, but in my real world having slower than normal progression doesn’t pair well with my “OK I think I can sneak in an hour of gaming tonight” lifestyle. I just don’t get anywhere.

This might not be a big deal if not for the fact that I never hit cap on these games back when I played them live. I’m a notorious game grazer, so getting through half the content, then coming back years later and starting all over rather than picking up where I left off and seeing new content…it just doesn’t make that much sense for me.

All that said, though, these servers ARE a great way to re-acclimate myself. In both LOTRO and EQ2 I started a new character on the special server and played for a couple of hours. I felt dusty old neural pathways flicker back into life as I remembered the various systems (I’d totally forgotten about the existence of Fellowship Maneuvers and Heroic Opportunities). But once I was feeling comfortable again, I abandoned these half-formed virtual lives to go pick up some old character from years ago, armed with a least some familiarity with the game again.

Ironic, really. I spent a bunch of money for a PC that can handle all the modern games on high graphics settings, and now I’m playing games that I could’ve played on one of the old PCs that it collecting dust in the closet!

Still, I’m having fun and that’s what matters.

Checking out Elder Scrolls Online’s Skill Advisor

Somehow this weekend I found myself back in The Elder Scrolls Online. A random YouTube video triggered my desire to log in and once I did I remembered there’d been some big changes since I last played. One of those was the new Skill Adviser, a system intended to help players spend skill points as they level up.

One of TESO’s biggest barriers up until this point was that you could really gimp your character if you didn’t get the build right. As a newbie, the best way to avoid that was to do some research on the web to find a build put together by an advanced player and follow that. It’s what I did and honestly it wasn’t all that fun, but it did work.

The Skill Adviser [hereafter, SA], I assumed, was Zenimax’s way to obviate the need to turn to the web.

I decided to take it for a spin. I was playing on Xbox where I didn’t have any capped characters or high-level characters so I was, I thought, a good proxy for a new player. I did have a level 29 Stamina Templar and I started there. I reset his skill points and dove into the adviser.

For each class they offer 5 builds: a “newcomer” build, a Stamina DPS, a Magica DPS, a Tank build and a Healer build. The “newcomer” build for Templar is based on Magica and I didn’t want to reset my attribute points, and as rusty as I was I didn’t want to go Tank, so I chose the Stamina DPS build.

I have to say, it was a struggle. The build had you take just one self-heal and it was the one (sorry, I forget the name) that relies on having corpses laying around. My SA-specced StamPlar did fine fighting crowds of above ground mobs (I should note that all my testing has been done solo and outside of dungeons) but when a story quest led me to a 1 on 1 fight with a powerful opponent and no trash mobs to leech health from, I was doomed unless I had plenty of room to kite (the build pushes you towards dual wield and bow). I fought one end-of-mission boss (in a confined area) a dozen times before rage-quitting the mission. Finally I went ‘off plan’ and put a couple points into healing skills so I could self-heal and started doing MUCH better.

My assumption is that the Stam Templar DPS build it intended for group play with a healer. Or possibly for more advanced players who have access to better gear, better food and better potions.

My next test was a level 8 Dragonknight. I re-specced him and started following SA Dragonknight Tank build. Seems a natural fit. I almost immediate ran into problems where the SA was telling me to take skills I hadn’t unlocked yet. Further I never would unlock them because it never told me to take skills from the same line with lower requirements (which would cause that skill line to grow until the one it wanted me to take unlocked). I ditched that one quickly.

For my 3rd and final test I rolled a new character, a Nightblade, and followed the ‘newcomer’ build. It had me go Magica and so far this build is WEIRD but is working well. I’ve held my own against world bosses (can’t solo them but don’t get pancaked immediately) and delve bosses are no problem. I’ve had fights that have been a struggle but not an over-whelming struggle. More of “OK that didn’t work, let’s try another tactic” struggle, which are so satisfying when your new tactic works.

So why is it weird? At level 20 I have not put a single point into a weapon skill or an armor passive. Everything has gone into the Nightblade skill trees, including passives. One passive rewards wearing heavy armor so for now that’s what I’m doing, which seems crazy right? I’m running dual-wield on the front bar mostly because aesthetically it fits the combat style (a lot of nightblade skills are based on stabbing and such). So here is a magica-based, plate-wearing dual-wield ninja, teleporting into combat, then vanishing from sight and hitting again with a stun. Very mobile build…in heavy armor. On my back bar I put my single buff and my single dot (the other slots being dupes of the front bar for now) and I’m using a Restoration Staff (what?) that has a mana leech ability. Basically if I run low on mana I switch over to the staff to leech some from the target, but most of my time is on the front bar.

At some point I’ll go off-plan since I have like 7 skill points I can’t spend yet since I’m waiting for my class-abilities to level up enough to use them. But I’m waiting to see how far I can get just following the SA.

I have been told that at level 40 you get a free respec coupon as a level up reward. Based on my findings and that fact, I think the “intended” way to use the Skill Adviser is to start a new character, follow the “Newcomer” build to level 40, and then if desired switch to a more focused build. By that time all your class skill lines will be leveled up (as well as whatever weapons you’ve chosen to use). I also think we need to take the name literally: this is a Skill ADVISER not a skill dictator. If you feel like you need a skill that isn’t “advised” be willing to bend the plan to your needs.

I mean, that’s just a guess. We’ll see. Given the 4 year anniversary event going on, leveling is super fast (you get a 100% experience buff). You now get ‘level up rewards’ and at low levels you get a lot of gear that is +exp as well. I created my new character Saturday evening and hit 20 by end of day Sunday…I’m going to guess 6 hours total play time maybe? And I wasn’t really hurrying, just playing the game and enjoying the ride.

Poor Far Cry 5 got kicked to the curb during all this, but as a single player game it’ll wait. I’m really enjoying this 100% exp buff ride so I think I’ll stick with ESO for the next week until the event ends.

Putzing around in Final Fantasy XIV

In a way I picked the worst time to return to Final Fantasy XIV. There’s a new expansion officially out on Tuesday and early access started Friday, I believe. Not only does this mean the servers are congested with login queues and disconnects, but the game was down for a full day. Once you get logged-in, dungeon queues for us LOLDPS noobs are extra long since the expansion added two new DPS jobs and lots of people are trying them out, ergo more LOLDPS dorks fighting over the slots made available by the tanks and healers.

All this would be fine if I’d come back for Stormblood (the new expansion) but I didn’t. FFXIV expansions are aimed very squarely at level-capped characters as far as I can tell. I haven’t bought the last expansion yet (there’s very little in it for people like me) let alone the new one. So first I have to “finish” the base game and then I can buy and play through Heavensward and only then will Stormblood be on my mind.

That time I was a girl…until some creep started sending gross tells.

So that’s a lot of bitching in a post I wanted to write because I’m having so much fun! In spite of the crowds and all that, I’m really glad I came back to the game. I’m playing it mostly on my terms, which means I’m not racing for level cap as fast as possible. I play FF XIV because I’m delighted in the world. It feels a little like a virtual Renaissance Faire to me, with the NPCs and their overwrought dialog, and of course all the crazy costumes.

So sometimes I ride my chocobo from one citystate to another just for the fun of seeing what I’ll see along the way. Today I decided to take up carpentry, and one of my first tasks was making maple shields. I could have purchased the material but where’s the fun in that? So I went off to train as a botanist so I could go gather maple logs to make into maple lumber. Then I needed bronze rivets, which required becoming a miner to gather copper and tin ore, then becoming a blacksmith to smelt that ore into bronze ingots, and from there to bronze rivets. Then I finally went back to the Carpentry Guild and made my shields.

Now clearly that’s not an efficient way to play and it’s not something I would do if I seriously wanted to level up carpentry, but for me it was fun to do. That’s pretty much my FF XIV philosophy: do what’s fun.

Now I DID join a Free Company (guild) after one of the Mentors reached out to me. She happened to contact me just as the Novice Network that I talked about a while ago took a turn for the worse as more and more noobs/returners piled in and started treating it like general chat. She told me her Free Company was a ‘learning FC’ so I joined. I’ve since learned that she just trolls the Novice Network for warm bodies, but it turns out I don’t care. I interact with them very little — the odd ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’ — but I get some buffs from being in the FC and now I don’t constantly have to deflect random FC invites. I know they’re recruiting in an attempt to get enough people to do Stormblood content and that’s never going to be me, so I might get booted. Or maybe not. They all seem pretty chill. Whatever happens is fine. I guess they have a guild hall and stuff but I haven’t gone looking for it.

I had to do dungeons in order to unlock the ability to ride this cute and cuddle mount

One of my biggest beefs with FFXIV is that it forces grouping on you in order to unlock stuff like Chocobo riding. This time around I’m trying to roll with this stuff and it’s working OK. I’ve done 5 dungeons now and each has caused a little less anxiety. I’m getting better at targeting with the controller (I’m playing 100% on PS4) and I’ve been doing my homework and reading dungeon guides before I go into each one so I’ve at least had a clue as to what, if anything, I need to do special. So far (knock on wood) the PUGs I’ve been in have been silent beyond maybe a “Hi” at the start. No one has been yelling at anyone else. So far.

I bought a 60-day time card which at the time was kind of a bummer because I doubted I’d use all the time (I couldn’t find 30-day cards at Amazon) but it turns out I might. I mean I’ve still got a ways to go in the first month so things could change, but FFXIV might be what gets me through the summer gaming drought.

I have the toughest time paying attention to the orders that Minfilia gives me.

Final Fantasy XIV is really welcoming to us noobs

Through an unexpected sequence of events I won’t recount here, I’m back playing Final Fantasy XIV.

I have the weirdest history with FFXIV which I also won’t recount, but for all intents and purposes I went back to the game as a total noob. Couldn’t remember how to play so I rolled a new character and I’m playing exclusively on the PS4 (so far at least).

FFXIV has always indicated noobs (they use the more polite term Novice) by putting a little seedling icon next to the player name. You’re considered a novice for 168 hours (14 days) or until you hit some point in the story that I’ve already forgotten. I ~think~ it is the end of the main story questline from the original game at launch.

In addition to Novices, there are Mentors. Mentors are players who have offered to help Novices, but there are guidelines for who can become a Mentor. You have to have accomplished certain achievements in game and there are different types of Mentors (Trade Mentor, PvE Mentor, PvP Mentor or just plain Mentor). Here’s a list of Mentor requirements.

When a Mentor and a Novice group up, they both get a 20% experience bonus (up to level 20), so there’s an incentive for the two groups to interact.

Additionally there’s a persistent chat channel called the Novice Network. It’s only open to Novice players and Mentors. It’s supposed to be a channel for getting questions answered. The only flaw in the system I’ve seen so far is that a Novice has to be invited into the channel by a Mentor. My new character was level 20 or so by the time he’d encountered a Mentor to invite him in. I’m surprised Novices aren’t auto-joined to the channel.

There’s a new (to me anyway) NPC in the starting hubs called a Smith and they’ll tell you all about Novices and Mentors. At level 15 they’ll also direct you to the Hall of the Novice. This is essentially a series of solo mini-dungeons that teaches you how to play an MMO as your class. I’m an Archer so I got sent through the DPS series of tasks. The Hall taught me to avoid telegraphed attacks, taught me to attack the mob the (NPC) tank was tanking, taught me to pull adds off the healer, and so forth. I knew all this stuff but I imagine if this had been my first MMO rodeo the Hall would’ve been a great learning tool, plus you get some new gear for going through the mini-dungeons (you can do them all in maybe 30 minutes, tops).

If you don’t choose to do the Hall of the Novice at 15, you’ll get sent there before Sastasha, the first dungeon that you unlock. Since I’d already done the Hall, I’m not sure if doing it is mandatory before Sastasha or if it is just recommended.

In addition to being a Novice, you may be a Returner. A Returner is someone who has returned to the game. In order to qualify you have to have one class to at least level 50 and have been gone from the game for 45 days. Returners get the same bonus exp and access to the Novice network. They have a little flower next to their name.

I don’t usually interact with other players in MMOs (ironic, I know) but when I was randomly invited into the Novice Network I accepted. It’s a pretty active channel and at least for the short time I’ve been in it, quite civil. It’s definitely kind of chatty…I saw a long discussion about Pokemon games taking place in it. But when I did ask a question or two I always got an answer, and often several.

This experience drew me out of my shell a bit, and by Sunday afternoon I’d dug out a bluetooth keyboard so I could talk in the Novice Network more easily (typing with the controller isn’t ideal). I saw that there’s a linkshell that extends the Novice Network; I guess folks were making friends in the NN and then getting kicked out thanks to no longer being a novice, and so they created a player-run version to keep in touch.

This is the outfit that attracted creepy tells from some sleaze

I played a ton of FF XIV over the weekend and had 1 bad experience (playing a female character and having some creep sending my tells about how sexy I was) but other than that, my experience with the player base was very positive. I ran 3 dungeons, they all did not go perfectly, but no one was giving anyone grief about it.

Overall the way FF XIV welcomed me as a player kind of re-kindled my love of MMOs.

I switched over to a male character but I guess I just can’t help being dead sexy! 🙂

Bouncing off MMOs

I’m not sure if Belghast of Tales of the Aggronaut came up with the phrase “bouncing off” a game or if he borrowed it, but I heard it first from him so I’m giving him credit. It’s a great phrase so I’m also stealing it. When he says it, I imagine a game as a globe. You can hit the surface of the globe, pass through and immerse yourself in the world of the game, or you can bounce off the atmosphere and leave it behind. I assume that’s generally his meaning, though I never asked him.

Anyway, I just ‘bounced off’ MMOs again. I’ve been focusing pretty much exclusively on single player games for a while, but a couple of weeks ago Skyforge hit the PS4 and I decided to give it a go. I played casually for a week before getting bored, then moved on to trying other MMOs on the console. DCUO lasted a couple nights, then Neverwinter entertained for about a week, then I was back to Elder Scrolls Online for a few days, and now I’ve left the MMO planetary system and sailed off into space, only to splash back down into Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag’s sweet, sweet single player bliss.

It was probably the shortest trip into the MMO-sphere that I’ve ever taken.

Now I live in my cozy little bubble so I’m probably completely off-base, but it seems to me like MMOs are losing traction and not just with me. Maybe it’s just my social media circles? I dunno. But folks who used to talk about playing MMOs now tend to talk about games like Overwatch instead. I think most of my MMO-loving friends still play their MMOs casually, but the genre just doesn’t seem to be as much of a focus as it used to. Maybe it’s just that no big new releases/expansions have hit recently? Just part of a cycle? What do you think, oh anonymous reader? You’re probably exposed to a broader cross-section of gamers than I am. I hope I’m wrong. I LOVE the idea of “virtual worlds” even if I’m not currently playing in one.

Indeed, I’m glad I’m out again. I tried to push my comfort boundaries this time. I PUGged in both Neverwinter and TESO, something I normally don’t do. And honestly both experiences were fine. I didn’t encounter any asshats or anything. But doing group stuff still kind of stresses me out, even when I’m having fun. I play games SLOW. I like to peek into every corner and potter about. In a group I have to move with the group and the pace always feels kind of frantic to me. Each night I PUGged I couldn’t get to sleep later that night, I was so wound up and stressed out. (I’m sure that would go away if I did it more.)

I know I can solo in my MMOs and go at my own pace but eventually you hit that wall where you really need group content to advance, OR you just start to feel like you’re missing out on the coolest content by not doing dungeons/instances.

It’s awesome that there are decent F2P MMOs on console now so when I do get the itch I can dive in for a few days/weeks/months. And though this last dive was brief, it was fairly deep. I spent about $20 on Zen for Neverwinter and signed up for a month of ESO Plus for $15, so my intent was to stick around. But in both cases I just suddenly didn’t want to log in.

There’s a lot of reasons I prefer single player games these days but right now as I’m writing this post the #1 reason is: they end. There’s a TON of games I want to play, but an MMO is forever (not literally but you know what I mean). Curiously, I used to prefer MMOs, even playing them solo, BECAUSE they had no end. So I’ve totally flip-flopped as far as that goes. Even though I’m enjoying Black Flag, I can’t wait to finish it because there’s like 4-5 other games I really want to get into.

SO many awesome games and there’s no sign that new great games are going to stop arriving any time soon. Remember when we use to have “gaming droughts” at certain parts of the year where we’d tackle our backlogs? That’s pretty much a thing of the past, eh? I guess maybe late-spring/early-summer is a little dry but otherwise we’re getting awesome games all year long.

I’m babbling, so I’ll quit for now. I have lots to say about Black Flag but I’ll wait until I’m finished. I know everyone is eager to hear my thoughts on a 4-year old game. LOL.

The Elder Scrolls Online’s New Life Festival

I skipped No Man’s Thursday last night in favor of checking out some of the limited time events I mentioned yesterday. I tried my hand at Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare’s multiplayer mode and that went about as well as expected (in other words, it was a disaster). Why can’t game companies do matchmaking right? The match I was in, and I believe it is 5 on 5, my side had two level 1 players (me and another guy) and we were short a man. The other team had 5 guys level 40+ (our other two guys were also 40+). Needless to say we lost, badly. Though honestly I got more kills than I expected to.

Anyway, then I logged into The Elder Scrolls Online to check out the New Life Festival. I’m not sure what to think of it so far. Maybe what I think is that rushing to do these the first day isn’t the best idea. For me, I’ve only explored one of the 3 factions in TESO, and the quest began with an NPC (Brega) deep in the Ebonheart Pact area. So step 1 was riding through three zones trying to find a path the the NPC (there’s probably some way to teleport there but I couldn’t find it). Once you find the main quest giver she sends you off on a series of sub-quests to see how the different people of Tamriel celebrate New Life Festival (which is essentially New Year’s Eve, so no decorated trees or anything).

First quest sent me back to the Daggerfall Covenant lands so I took a wayshrine to where I needed to go and did that. (I had to perform for various crowds… simply push a button in the right place.) Then back to Brega for a box ‘o loot and my next quest. Number 2 took place right near her so that was simple. The next took place along the trail of wayshrines I’d tagged on the way to starting a quest. After that I had to go to Grahtwood. I had no idea where that was but after a bit of scouring the map I saw I could take a boat from Wayrest to Grahtwood, so I did that. The Grahtwood quest actually involved a tad of combat (the earlier ones are basically go somewhere and click a button to perform some task) and the poor mobs barely spawned before they were slaughtered.

After talking to Brega again I was sent to Shadowfen, another place I’d never been. I couldn’t find a shortcut to get there so more riding across zones. For this quest I had to do some fishing, and this is where things got ugly. There’re a couple of areas where you can catch the event fish and the first one was packed!

People were selling the needed fish in chat for large sums of gold. Other people were shouting they wanted to buy fish. And a third faction was cursing out the people selling the fish for ruining a Christmas event (reminder: not a Christmas event) by their greed. I decided to move on to the second spot to fish in. It was much less crowded and after maybe 5 minutes I had the fish I needed. Turned them in and back to Brega who sent me off to Betnikh for some big party. At that point I’d had enough running back and forth for one night so I left the rest for another time.

Each completed sub-quest got you a box of stuff. Some event motifs, some recipes, some silly trinkets like fake swords so you can do a sword swallowing emote, and some materials for making the holiday crafted items. I dunno what happens when you get through all of Bregas stuff. I assume there is one per race so I should have 4 more to do.

Its kind of sad that these events can bring out the worst in people. The folks who need to have EVERYTHING as soon as possible just seem to get crazy at the start of events. I don’t understand why anyone would care if someone was selling those fish. Personally I don’t see the point of buying stuff…I mean catching the silly fish is part of playing the game. But I guess for some people the point is to Have All The Things rather than to play the game. Or possibly they’re crafters who want to have all the motifs so they can sell holiday-themed gear for major amounts of gold.

Anyway, it all kind of turned me off the event. People shouldn’t be getting so angry about a game; games are supposed to be fun.

Also, I watched Tipa streaming some of the Final Fantasy XIV holiday event and from the few minutes I watched (I was at work, shhhhh) it seemed much more narrative-based and much less “OMG GET STUFF NAO!” than the Elder Scrolls one. TESO’s event felt like “OK we wrote some lore about this festival, now let’s dole in out in bite sized chunks via isolated simple quests.” while FF XIV seemed like it was telling the player a story. I’m a little bit jealous of FF XIV players right now.