Another year has passed and it is time to look back a bit on my MMO gaming in 2012.
City of Heroes
For most of the year, City of Heroes was my base game, the one I always fallen back to after excursions to other MMOs. Except for the months July and August when I had a break from the game, this was one I played to the very end. I do very much miss the game and community, in particular on my main server Defiant. I still get sad about it from time to time. There has been a lot of discussion and speculation why it was shut down; it would be good at some point to hear actual reasons and a bit more specific than “change in policy”. It would also be good to hear why they handled the shutdown the way they did, but I guess that is not something we will ever hear.
I did also play some of the competition to City of Heroes in the superhero genre, both Champions Online and DC Universe Online. After all, I am a lifetime subscriber to Champions Online. There are certainly good things in Champions, but for me that is a game that I can only enjoy during short periods of time. Part of the reason for that is because some of the features and elements of the game felt like simple money-grabbing features – the crafting/harvesting is one of those. I initially liked the change they had made, but realized it was a broken design from a game-play perspective – which could be overcome somewhat by spending plenty of money. I am ok with spending money on a game that is “free to play”, but not when design seems to be broken on purpose for people to spend money.
DC Universe Online
Very late this year, after the shutdown of City of Heroes, I also tried out DC Universe Online again briefly. Previously I had played in on PS3, but this time was my first experience with the game on a PC. I liked it a little bit better on the PC, but in the end the controls and the horrible character creator and tutorial turned me off that game. That, and that I could not use my SOE acount either, but had to use a ProSieben1 (Alaplaya) account – plus that it was not possible to merge these two accounts either. Maybe I will give it ago at some point later, but the controls does put me off this game.
Star Wars – The Old Republic
During spring-time I also ventured into Star Wars – The Old Republic. It was really a great and fun game to play – at first. In the beginning it was very cool and fun to play and I enjoyed trying out most of the different classes available, up to the point that it was time to leave the starter areas. For continued play, I stuck with my Sith Sorcerer and it was a quite enjoyable ride for some time. In the long run though the non-class-story missions started to feel grindy though and even getting to the different points for the class story missions became grindy – which is when I lost interest. I reached about level 30 I believe. Maybe at some point I will give this game ago again; I did not read up closely on the details for the “free to play”, but it did not seem that it would require much or any money spent from my side really considering how I expect to play. This is probably a game I will return to at some point in 2013.
Early this sping I did play a bit of Anarchy Online as well and enjoyed it quite a bit; at least for some time. The setting is marvelous, even though the graphics are dated. While there are many nice people in the game, many are long time veterans that have played the game for years. Most of them started playing the game long after I initially played the game, so in calendar time I am “more veteran”, but a newbie in terms of played time in comparison. We do not quite play at the same level, unfortunately. I do hope for a revamp of some of the combat mechanics; it is too much reliant on auto-attack for my taste at the moment. I did sign up for a 12-month subscription close to the end of this year and I hope to jump back in the game during spring, hopefully when there may be some beta testing of a new New Player Experience and the new game engine.
Age of Conan
Late this spring I also jumped into Age of Conan. I do like this type of fantasy setting better than the typical high-fantasy-with-elves-and-dwarves settings one see in a lot of MMOs. I am not too keen on fantasy settings, but this one is at least more tolerable. In the end though it felt a bit empty – most active people seemed to be doing high-end raids and dungeons. The gold seller spam was also quite annoying. Plus, another Funcom game craved for some time and attention in the summer-time, with a more contemporary setting. Similar to Anarchy Online, if this game gets a bit more people playing in my level range and experience level I might try it out again.
I played Guild Wars a bit on and off during spring. This is a game I love returning too – every time I do I realize why this was my favourite fantasy MMO-type game. For some reason I do not stick around though – I have yet to figure out why that is. While I have completed all of the main campaigns in the game, there are other story-oriented content I have bought but not yet played and a number of things on my to-do list. Remains to see how many people still play this when Guild Wars 2 is the new kid from Arenanet.
One game that I played briefly in the beta, but did not write anything about, was Raiderz. For some reason I got an invite to the beta for this game, so I tried it out for a short time. I did not expect to like it, but I quite enjoyed the tutorial/starter area. It was a bit different and it was fun. Then I got to the main land and to me the game transformed a bit from quite fun to more of a normal fantasy MMO-with-a-bit-of-grind from Asia. Perhaps the launch version is better, but the fantasy setting did not thrill me though.
City of Steam
Industral Age fantasy with steampunk elements – that is how the setting for City of Steam is described as. This game have had four closed beta weekends during autumn/winter an d I have played a bit in these four weekends. A notable feature of this game is that is is a browser-based game – there is nothing to install (except for the Unity3D web player plugin). The game looks great for a browser-based game; I think it compares favourably to for example Runes of Magic (at least as I remember Runes of Magic). I thought the combat was pretty fun (dual-wielding “wands” that throw lightning balls – what is not to like… 🙂 ). There are some design elements that I do not quite like or am on the fence about; but the interaction betweent he developers and the community is top notch I think. I would be happy to provide some support to the game because of this, even if I would end up not playing it so much. There will be an open beta later in 2013, but no dates are set yet. I will try it out again then.
Guild Wars 2
A big game of the year, but one I only played for about a week. Pre-ordered the game and played for almost a week – then NCSoft announed that they were going to terminate City of Heroes and Paragon Studios on August 31st. My focus switched to City of Heroes then after that weekend and I have not played Guild Wars 2 since that. I pretty much lost my urge to play the game during that period. Perhaps in 2013 if I get some cravings for fantasy settings I will try it out again. I am not sure that I will spend any money in the game though; I do have a bit of a trust issue with NCSoft corporate.
The Secret World
And finally, the game that for me has been the best still remaining game of the year. I played it a fair amount from early access to a few weeks after launch, then due to Real Life interfering activity dropped significantly during summer-time. The City of Heroes situation forced a pause from the game as well and now in December I picked up up for real again. The stories and missions are for the most part really quite enjoyable and I have gotten back into making builds/decks for my character, trying out different abilities and play styles & weapons. Contrary to most other MMOs I have mainly played melee-oriented combat in this game and I am quite enjoying it.
I have a lifetime subscription for the game and with the recent change I will get monthly bonus points to buy stuff for from the store. I will probably spend more than those points in the end – not because it would be necessary, but because I am more inclined to buy stuff just because I love the game and want to support it. The same thing happened in City of Heroes, so I suspect it will happen here.
I had a look at the MMO games sold on Steam now. In their best-selling list, 4 of the top 5 titles were all Guild Wars (Rift grabbed the #2 spot). The #1 spot is the Guild Wars Trilogy package, which is now 14.99. Separate Guild Wars campaigns/packages are 7.49. The lowered price would certainly help sales, but my guess is that whatever news is coming about Guild Wars 2 may also be driving some sales of the old game.
Personally if I had to vote for my favourite fantasy-themed MMO:ish game, it would be Guild Wars.
Gods & Heroes has fallen down to the 6th spot, but considering that the game has a considerably higher price tag than the other games on the top 10 list it is not too shabby I guess. It still beats EVE Incarna and STO, for example.
This week saw a bit of playtime in four MMOs; somewhat short visits for each of them.
City of Heroes
First it has of course been the usual suspect City of Heroes. The past two weeks has mainly been with some of my not-yet-at-max-level characters; a mix of different archeypes which makes for good variation in gameplay. Since a bit before Going Rogue was released I have regularly attended the weekly Rikti Mothership raid on Sundays, but this weekend I passed. The past few weeks there has been so many people that an additional instance of the Rikti War Zone typically had been created because there wer too many people. And in particular the past 2-3 weeks the game performance has been really bad during the raid also; not too fun. So this weekend I passed on that.
The good thing about Earthrise is that the game performance is significantly better than at launch; it is actually playable. The bad thing is that performance is still not good, animations are choppy etc. I had managed to sort out with support so I would get my pre-order armor and my goal was to get enough battle points (= XP in Earthrise) to get my armor skill up to that I could use it. While it has been claimed that Earthrise is supposed to be a sanbox-type game, right now I think that is not true. To get battle points one has to kill mobs and/or do missions that asks you to kill mobs. These can then be assigned to “buy” various skills. Most of the crafting skills have crafting points instead to buy skills with. But to get material to do come crafting with, one has to kill mobs – that is the only way currently (will be other ways later).
Right now the game feels like a grinders dream; if you are happy to grind mobs for hours and hours to progress, go for this game now. And if you get killed, you will drop all uninsured non-mission loot on the spot, free for anyone to grab. Fortunately there are some nice people in the game and I have had people pick up the stuff I dropped and given them back to me.
Despite the shortcoming the combat is fairly ok I think, with good performance it could be fun. And the world looks quite nice; although I think it does feel a bit sterile – it does not feel quite alive. The music played is pretty good, but is general music brought into the game – some of it was Laibach I think, or maybe a Laibach-inspired band.
I decided to cancel my subscription and come back in a couple of months to see how the game was then. However, the information fields for my subscription info said “N/A” in the fields, so I am not sure what that actually means. Choosing Cancel Subscription gave a success message (multiple times if you choose it multiple times), but did not change the status shown. So I do not know what the state actually is in their billing system – no confirmation mails or anything was sent either. Such bad handling is bound to get people a bit upset.
Star Trek Online
I really really like this game! It is story-focused and in addition to the Featured Episodes there are a number of nice story arc missions. I have pretty much avoided most of the generic missions (patrol this and that) and just played the story arc ones. And this has made my playtime a lot more fun in the game.
This weekend I also decided to create a Klingon-side character; so far I have only played Federation side. The content supposedly is still lacking in comparision to the Federation side, but I found the slight difference in tone and objective ( a bit more villainous, so to speak) to be quite fun and so far. And I love the Klingon voice over The target’s shields have failed – I don’t remember how that sounds on the Federation side, but it feels just right on the Klingon side I think.
I also got a bit of time in Guild Wars again; I have barely played it in the past year and it was nice to get back in the game, even if just for a short bit this weekend. One of the new features I tried out was of course to just use heroes in a couple of missions; I also added some slots to bring in some of my other characters in the teams. So far I have slotted two out of three slots, with my necromancer and my Ritualist; they could pretty much be considered my “main” characters in the game. Will see what I do with the third slot.
It has been a while since I have played Guild Wars. There is no particular reason for that, I still really like the game and for fantasy MMO-type game titles, it is probably my favourite. It just has not happened, perhaps because I have prioritized non-fantasy games for a while now.
However, recent announcements about new additions to the game in the form of Embark Beach does trigger a thought that I maybe should play a bit of Guild Wars again, after all. More details can also be found here.
This update is actually mostly a quality of life update for the game, such as quick access to various locations from Embark Beach and vice versa. Another nice feature is that you can have up to 7 heroes in your team now (as opposed to only 3 before). And on top of that, you can use your own characters as heroes as well – if you onluck mercenary hero slots. These slots are unlocked for a fee, but that is something I would definitely buy at least one slot – I would love to bring my own characters along with me in a team. A very neat feature I think.
That is perhaps something another part of NCSoft should take note of – Paragon Studios have received a fair amount of negative feddback from beta players for one of the new Incarnate slots – the Lore slot. The slot allows the player to gain a pet, but the pet is restricted to a few types of Praetorian NPCs. Many seem to have reacted quite negatively to the idea that they would have to pick a Praetorian sidekick, if they want to use this slot.
If Paragon Studios would do something similar that their ArenaNet collegues are doing with the mercenary hero slot, I think many would be a lot happier (I would ;).
I have seen a few posts from various bloggers about how bad 2009 was for MMOs. Personally I do not quite agree. For me personally there were more interesting new titles released in 2009 than in 2008. But also considerations for a good/bad year should include existing games as well – new expansions and changes, different price and payment models etc.
Thoughout 2009 I have played/tried a few different MMO or MMO-type games:
City of Heroes/Villains, Guild Wars, Lord of the Rings Online, Chronicles of Spellborn, Runes of Magic, Jade Dynasty, Project of Planets, Zero Online, Vendetta Online, Pirate Galaxy, Champions Online, Saga of Ryzom, Dungeons & Dragons Online, Fallen Earth, World of Kung Fu, Twelve Sky 2, Age of Conan, EVE Online, Shin Megami Tensei, FusionFall Online, GhostX – perhaps a few others also that I have forgotten about. Some of these would be an emphasis on tried rather than played though – for various reasons I barely completed the tutorial on some.
While otherwise limited in content updates, I loved when NCSoft/Paragon Studios released Mission Architect for City of Heroes/Villains. A really great feature! It was however plagued with being exploited by some and also in a sense too successful – too many story arcs and less than adequate search tools initially caused some trouble. While it is used by players today, it has perhaps not created the subscriber success that some may have hoped for. Still, it is an important step in making an innovative approach to MMO content a reality. I think that was one of the major milestones of 2009.
With the exception of Guild Wars, most of the fantasy titles I only played for short periods of time. Sometimes a bit grindy and with no special love for the fantasy genre, I gre tired of most of them quickly. Guild Wars has been lots of fun though – partially because it is a good game, but also very much due to the people of Tuesday Noob Club. Not played much lately though and the combination of real life schedule and lack of excitement for fantasy titles has contributed to that.
Just as I managed to totally avoid Warhammer Online last year I also totally avoided Aion this year, and World of Warcraft as usual. There simply has not been any compelling eason to consider playing either of the games.
Champions Online has received the bulk of my play time lately and for good reason – it is an excellent and fun game if you just want to mess around a bit, blow off some steam and get your mind of real life issues, just for a short bit. It is a good complement to other games or other activities.
I think most of the games I have played or tried I have not written much about – which is not to say that there are bad games. Sometimes it has just been bad timing, or some technical issue. I am glad that I have at least tried a fair number of games and see more of what is out there, rather than just focus on a few new Western subscription-based titles and live on the hope that the next big title with be it.
This Tuesday, April 28th, seems to be a day of MMO birthdays. City of Heroes will kick off their 5th anniversary with some special event where CHAOS is going to break loose. Whether that means actul chaos, some new supergroup named CHAOS or something else remains to be seen.
In Guild Wars the 4th anniversary celebrations have already started, but it seems that April 28th is the main day and when everyone will get the birthday presents.
I will definitely try to attend the birthday events for 5 and 4 year olds on. For the newborn I will probably wait a bit, but the parents and their friends all seem to consider him/her really cute and fun, so will probably give some playtime a bit later.
Setting and accomplishing goals, even if no-one else knows about them, is an important part of the gaming experience I think. My current playlist consists of four different MMOs and the goals for each tend to vary a bit:
City of Heroes/Villains: My longest running game so far, 31 months and counting. While I have not experienced everything on the villain side, I have played through a large part of it and many times also. There is not really anything that keeps me playing for too long on that side, except to have some fun with friends who want to play on villain side. There is also a bit of a meta-goal: to get all my dominators to max level. A long time ago I set up a goal to get all the dominator pets and consequently I also created dominators covering all powerset options available. That goal was reached long ago. Dominators are still my favourite archetype and as long as there were other interesting content and goals to be set, I usually played it with a dominator.
Today I have 4 dominators at max level and 2 more around 40 (39 + 43). But without any other plausible goals on villain side may possibly not get the dominators to max level – I will certainly not grind my way there just to get some level.
On hero side it is easier, since I have not played that much and there are still zones and areas I have barely touched yet. However, with a controller at 41 this part may fade a bit. If I can jump into the game and team up with some friends I absolutely jump in and play, because that is an area CoX excels in. But there is little else currently driving my play.
Guild Wars: This game I think it absolutely brilliant in its design. Not only does it have excellent story content and very little grind type content. It also provides all sorts of added challenges and pieces to help set goals both for PvE and PvP. The story-driven content is very much in what is called cooperative missions, with some quests sprinkled in between them (and not grindy “kill X boars”). Each of the cooperative missions have a base requirement for completion, but also a master/bonus requirement, which typically is a bit harder to reach. There are also other types of missions which provides high score type gaming, PvP etc. Combine all that with the excellent skill system which provides a lot of freedom to mix and combine skills to fit the current challenge – there is no one size fits all. And if the story lines are completed that unlocks hard mode, which could be compared to heroic/elite mode of content in some other games – and that is all mission content and all zones.
Add to this a number of titles that can be strived for that actually have some meaning or a sense of accomplishment; e.g. survivor titles that is earned if the character does not die at all, protector titles for completing master levels of all cooperative missions, explorere titles for actually visiting and seeing a large part of the zones and the different areas in those zones. The game makes it very easy to set various goals and I always tend to have at least a few different ongoing goals. Finding motivation to play has not really been an issue – everything from experiencing the story arcs, exploring the beautiful world, trying out new some new skill combos or play styles, working towards some title etc.
The Chronicles of Spellborn: Two pieces are driving here – the neat combat system and the interesting setting and environment. The combat system is quite different from other MMOs – not the regular button-mashing type, but which requires a bit more presence and thought sometimes. In a way it pushes similar buttons (pardon the pun) that Guild Wars’ skill system does – provide room for improvement and encouraging some experiementation on that path.
The setting and the lore of the Spellborn world is another driving factor. Exploring and learning more about the world is absolutely a significant set of goals here. While the quest system does not have a huge amount of quests and some of them are of the “kill X boars” type, it also provides number of quests with enjoyable stories – perhaps exposng and learning more of the lore of the workd, or perhaps some comical twist. Perhaps because there are not so many quests those that are good and is worth remembering stand out easier. While I might rank Guild Wars higher in terms of quest quality I still think Spellborn does a farily good job. Even with some kill and fedex quests I still am interested in doing more, since the already completed quests have been good enough overall for me to want to go for more.
However, the whole split of the European market and some current bugs and misfeatures does dampen the will to play a bit right now. So I am waiting a bit to see what happens. I will still be paying for the game even if I not play; it has enough potential that I do not want this one to vanish due to lack of paying customers.
Lord of the Rings Online: This is my black sheep. The game is easily the prettiest MMO that I have seen and the epic story line seems nice and interesting enough. While there are a lot of different ways to advance your character in the game, too much of it feels like it is some kind of grind to get to the goals and getting there may not be that interesting. I certainly do not feel any sense of accomplishment for being awarded just having used a certain skill 500 times, or killed X number of some certain type of enemy, which I might almost do blind-folded as long as I remember which buttons to press.
I do want to like the game and and find things to drive my play time in there. But I struggle with this to find enough that do not feel grindy and feel worthwhile.