When I first read that BlizzCon/BlizzConline was cancelled I shrugged and didn’t really think about it. But then I saw Wilhelm and Redbeard and a few more people comment on it.

The idea of a studio-owned (gaming) convention has always been a bit weird to me. Sure, we had the Games Convention here in Germany and I even attended once, but it was overall video game show, maybe comparable with PAX East, but bigger? No idea, that’s not the point. Even though I pretty much exclusively played WoW between 2006 and 2014, the thought to go to a WoW convention never even crossed my mind. I mean, I’m no stranger to tech conferences and more than once I went out of my own pocket, not just on my employer’s budget. I also know (know as in direct personal friends, or guildies) zero people who ever went there, but I guess that’s because it was in California. Maybe would’ve been different if it was in London, Paris, or Berlin.

I also never went to anything WoW-related in particular, I guess that comes with playing on EU servers and having people from all over Europe, from what I heard German guilds did more meetups, or if you had a lot of people in close proximity, say in the UK or the Netherlands (both countries where I had a ton of guildies). Only now I’ve been in a German WoW guild for a few months, and I was onboarded by real life friends.

I’ve entertained the thought of going to an EVE meetup if the pandemic allows, and I guess I’d go to Amsterdam or London for that, maybe it’s a little different if you can potentially meet anyone you’ve ever encountered ingame, thanks to a single server.

This rant was neither here or there, but I guess for most of us Europeans BlizzCon was never a real thing anyway, because there was no chance to attend. And by the time the virtual tickets came, most people had lost interest in the game anyway. EVE Vegas is a bit of the same, I don’t think there are a ton of Europeans attending, but somehow again the draw is bigger and EVE seems to have a generally older population who might just decide to put their vacation budget on this.

New World

I’ve avoided writing about Amazon’s New World and the reason is pretty mundane – there’s nothing in it that sounded enticing, which is a bit weird for a new MMO launch. I mean, not that I’d have a time right now, being in full swing in FFXIV, still raiding in WoW, and playing EVE in between. Also I’m paying for too many MMO subs already. But wait, New World is Buy To Play, like Guild Wars 2 – so that wouldn’t be the problem. No, I’ve watched a few people play it and I am simply not feeling it. From what I’ve heard the story is as exciting as the trailer, gameplay should be fine, but I don’t see a goal. Also doesn’t help that I have hardly any immediate friends who started to play. Only some internet friends where I wouldn’t be joining their server/guild/faction by default. So in the end? I’m a little bummed out to be not excited about an MMO launch, but it is what it is. I’m not ruling out to look at it whenever I develop interest and it’s still alive. Maybe next year?

Not-so-ninja-edit: Bhagpuss wrote about transmog/glamour/looks, a point I hadn’t even thought about or only unconsciously noticed that I don’t like the bland looks of the chars I’ve seen, but it’s another point.

Would you play your favorite MMO without its IP?

I missed the original post on Massively OP, but I saw Paeroka’s post “Would you play your favorite MMO without its IP?” and I find this a fascinating question.

So let’s try to recall all the MMOs I’ve played. I started with Ragnarok Online. Despite it being based on a Korean Manga I’d never heard of it. I started it because an acquaintance on a forum posted some screenshots and said he’d been playing it. I tried it out and was hooked for many years. So the lore does not apply.

Next up was probably World of Warcraft, which was an interesting case. I was indeed a fan of WarCraft II & III, but not a huge fan of the lore. I liked the gameplay. And when people started posting about the WoW beta on our university forum I was… not enthusiastic at all, despite the IP. Zero interest. Only when a friend showed it to me in person over a year later and I played it for an hour, I also wanted to play. So I guess again the IP didn’t primarily matter. Also the lore was never really good, Thrall being green Jesus and a lot of other shortcomings.

Then came Lord of the Rings Online, this is easy. Of course I tried it because of the IP, but the game never fully made me go all in. So this never counted as a favourite.

Runes of Magic. Oh well, I’ve been lamenting every time I mention it. The IP is nonexistent I guess. I’ll always call it a bad WoW clone like no other game I’d ever seen.

Anarchy Online? Would have played without the IP, but it never counted as a favorite.

Warhammer Online. OK, this is 100% a No. I only tried it because of the IP and while it was fun it didn’t really stick, so not a favourite.

Guild Wars 2. Again a funny story. The same friend who got me hooked on WoW showed me Guild Wars 1 and I found it so unbelievably bad when watching him play for an hour or two that I downright disregarded GW2 for years. After a while I still picked it up and liked it very much. But 100% would have played it without the IP.

Marvel Heroes. I hadn’t even heard of this game until I read about it on Green Armadillo’s blog, at the end of 2014 (wow, that long ago?). Of course the IP played a part, but I’m unwilling to give it a 100% yes because again the draw was “a cool online ARPG” with the added twist of a nice IP. I have to admit I was engaged by “oh look how this character I know plays”, so maybe 25% because of the IP would be a good number. But to be fair, I’ve stayed away from the DC games for lack of enthusiasm about most of their heroes and villains. I basically only like Batman.

TESO – The Elder Scrolls Online. Ha, Elder Scrolls you say, surely that’s drawn you in because of the IP. Sadly, no. I’d never ran into the Elder Scrolls IP except that one XBox 360 game I have and I can never remember if is Morrowind or Oblivion. (OK, I just checked, it is Oblivion, and my XBox is 15 steps away from my computer, in case you were curious. But the thing is that I hated it. I think I got it early with the 360 and my last console controller experience had been some 15-20 years past and I hated the controls. I repeatedly died to the rats in the first room.) So again I might have checked out TESO earlier if not for that.

WildStar. Hmm, what about original IPs? I saw trailers and was instantly hyped. The lore didn’t seem that cool, but the art style and execution was. I miss WildStar.

EVE Online. Well, doesn’t apply. There is some lore, but it’s no IP thing.

Pokémon GO. I had played one Pokémon Game on the Game Boy but I’m not sure if this was after my first contact with PoGo. That experience was “ok”, but apparently I’m not a huge or even a fan. I only installed PoGo because I’d tried Niantic’s Ingress years before and saw some potential, but found the execution very lacking. And phone batteries didn’t last long enough. PoGo was better on all accounts. So I guess I can call this “a bit of interest from the IP”.

Star Wars: The Old Republic. I guess I started SW:TOR because of the IP but I think it would be good enough without the IP. Sure, some things are really neat and I’m the first to spew random facts about some planet we’re visiting or something announced in a new expansion. On the other hand when not playing a Jedi you can easily forget that it is a Star Wars game, if you’re doing dailies, or some grind, not the story basically. So yes, good chance I might play it, but I wouldn’t bet on it. It’s a strong IP, it’s even one of my favorites.

Final Fantasy XIV. I don’t know how small of a minority it is that started playing XIV before the big push this year and has zero clue about the Final Fantasy franchise and IP, but I am 100% in it. I think I played a single FF game on the Game Boy Advanced (I’d need to look up which), I played and liked Kingdom Hearts but I never understood any FF references in there and I saw “The Spirits Within” and I still don’t see any connection. So the parts I took in, I am 100% oblivious to and so this is a resounding Yes to the IP question. I don’t even have an idea what is FF IP and what is just FFXIV stuff, after playing it for over half a year. It’s simply a good game. Also if I read some cues right, there are several incarnations of the same hero/person in different games, with the same name and traits, but living in different worlds. Same as reboots and alternate universeses in comics. Let me just say I hate this, so if it’s true then I’m kinda playing the game despite its IP.

That turned out longer than expected, but I guess the TLDR is that I’m not easily drawn in by IPs, but it has happened. I think I mostly try games and then play them if I like them, despite their shortcomings. And sometimes I am surprised that I missed out on a good game because I didn’t try it because of the IP. Does that mean I should go and try DC Universe, Star Trek Online and lament that I didn’t play Age of Conan?

MMOs are multiplayer games. Maybe.

As I was just standing in the kitchen on a short break from work, making a coffee, I had some sort of epiphany. Not the grandiose kind that would make me rich and famous, but this sort of personal insight.

In our EVE Slack there recently was talk about cohesion and people not going on stratops (we don’t have mandatory anything in BRAVE) and I noticed that while I noped out of the war, since we declared a loss I’ve been doing a lot more, including undocking. So my playstyle has shifted from “purely solo” in the last year to “mostly group activities” again.

And I noticed the same both in WoW Retail and Classic. I log on to Classic once per week for our group and don’t feel a lot of excitement otherwise, and I log on to raid twice a week in retail and maybe a bit more, but only for chores like weekly/dailies or opening the vault and sorting enchants for the next raid. Nothing solo.

In FFXIV it’s a bit of a weird mix. This week I focused on crafting and my Beast Tribe Dailies and a little bit of story progress, and I mostly lump in duty roulette and random LFG activies as solo play. I say hi, I might write or read a few sentences about strategies, but I’m not engaging. This is not my guild/FC or a group of friends, just temporary allies for 20 minutes. They could be bots, I don’t care. But it’s fine like that.

I’m happy to have one game for solo play and one or two or three for group play. I guess from the point I started BfA until I planned to start raiding again with Shadowlands launch, I was playing WoW Retail as my solo game. I talked to my guild in guild chat, but I’m not sure I went to voice chat more than twice in those 2 years. When Classic launched it was a mix of solo and group activity, separated by which toon I played.

Not a huge epiphany, but I think doing “group and solo” only works when I am 100% engaged in a single game, I guess Shadowlands launch counts, leveling up solo, doing dungeons in groups, then raiding in groups. Then solo leveling all the alts. But in general, it’s either group or solo.

Horizon: Zero Dawn, finally

When I bought my new computer in late 2019 I held off buying a proper graphics card because my old one was still good enough (despite being 3 years old) and I only played WoW and SWTOR and other older things anyway. I looked around during 2020 and said to myself I’d buy one when Horizon: Zero Dawn would come out on PC, one of the few titles I’d actually been waiting for since the PS4 launch. Then it came out in August but I wasn’t really in the mood to play a game like it, so I put both purchases off. Then in December I started looking for a card and bought one around christmas.

Two days ago I finally also bought Horizon: Zero Dawn on GoG because it was on sale and despite not feeling like starting a new game, I started playing, because I’d put off buying it for such a long time…

Anyway, I’m 4h in and I’m loving it. I’m playing on easy because the moment-to-moment gameplay isn’t exactly my cup of tea but on this difficulty I can enjoy the scenery and experience the story. Right now my plan is to approach it slowly in 1-2h increments every few days, that’s also what pushed me through Borderlands 3, a game I wanted to see but didn’t completely enjoy from a gameplay perspective.

Aloy looking at things

Magic Legends – First Impressions

I’m not even sure I had heard about Magic Legends before, but I heard about it yesterday. The Open Beta has started a few days ago and there’s supposed to be no wipe until the real launch, and it’s Free To Play, that sounds interesting!

A little bit of back story, I learned about Magic: The Gathering in highschool in 1994 or 1995 and quickly became a huge fan. Homelands and 4th Edition were when I started, then came 5th Edition and Ice Age, and I played roughly until the Mirage Cycle (Mirage, Visions, Weatherlight) in 1997, with a bit of Rath Cycle iirc (Tempest, Stronghold, Exodus). Then I didn’t play for many years with new stuff, just grabbing the old decks once in a while and playing. Around ~2014 I tried to play my old stuff against a coworker with current decks (and mechanics) and he blasted me away without a chance. That’s when I stopped playing. Also I really, really dislike card games on the computer so anything Magic was completely uninteresting for me. Magic Legends sounded like a Diablo-like ARPG with cards/spells, but not a card game. So I downloaded it.

First of all you choose one of five Planeswalkers (according to the five colors of mana). While still knowing full well what each color means and what to expect, I was a little let down by the character descriptions, not sure why. In the end I chose a Red Mana Geomancer.

The game looks ok, but I wouldn’t call it overwhelming. I’m usually not one to criticize non-flashy graphics, but it’s a new game and it doesn’t look better than Diablo 3 (which is 8 years old) in any way, which is a little sad. Also the first cutscene/ingame RP was a little janky with the mouth movements and I’m not loving the voice work. Like, not at all. None of them.

Newbie Geomancer, no zoom available

So I’m Level 4 now, after following the story a bit, quests, doing a random event that popped up and a mini dungeon with 3 others. It’s all ARPG stuff like you’d imagine, but it all seems a little… unfinished. I know, I know, Open Beta. But I was trying to walk over some sort of walkway and I couldn’t spamclick because I was rubberbanding a little and pathing wasn’t exactly spot on. When in a town my toon was behind a wall/building with an NPC and I couldn’t see either.

Using Fast Travel isn’t very intuitive, you have to stand on the waypoint and then open the world map to use it. Or maybe you don’t even have to stand on it, but why can’t I interact with the waypoints, anyway?

Actually these are all very superfluous criticisms and I guess I could just ignore them or get used to them, but I think this game is not for me, for a completely subjective reason. The way combat works is like this: Left click is my default attack (in the Geomancer’s case it fills the shield by hitting enemies), Q and W are “unlimited” abilities with a short (5s?) cooldown, so far so good. But where it diverges from Diablo is that you don’t for example choose 4 skills from your “class list” and use those, but you use spells as in playing Magic, with your deck. So for example I use a Fireball and some sort of Pyroclasm (spells are on the digit buttons, 1,2,3,…) but if I used them they’re gone (for now) and after some time (not sure yet) some new cards(spells) are drawn from your deck and put into slots 1,2,3,4. So basically you can’t learn a rotation, but you need to “play the card” that you drew, and I hate it.

Maybe I’m actually terrible at games and need a proportionally long time to get my fingers used to some sort of controls (I am actually surprised I can play so many different classes in MMOs, but I always need a little time to concentrate when I switch), so having different spells on 1,2,3,4 every few seconds completely confuses me and I noticed I’m glancing down (while fighting) and trying to guess which spell exactly it is (they’re all kinda… red-orange-ish, except the creatures) and then hope for the best. Some have cones to target, some have circles, some are instant-cast point-blank AoE. I like the idea, really, it’s something fresh. But this is not something for me in real time, I could totally live with this sort of spell usage in a round-based game, but realtime clickfest and not knowing which spells are available? Difficult for me, very difficult.

I’ll surely try to play a little bit longer and also try another Planeswalker, overall it’s a really well-made game I think and it’s fun to see spells and creatures you know from the card game. But spontaneously it didn’t really click with me, so I don’t have high hopes for me continuing this game. Bummer.

MMOs old and new

Bit late to the party but I saw the twitter thread and after reading Belghast’s epic story in 5 parts (part 1) I thought I’d least double-check the list I am keeping on my About page.

So here’s the list of MMOs I played a ton, from months to years:

  • World of Warcraft (many years)
  • Final Fantasy XIV (maybe a year)
  • EVE Online (2-3 years of subs spread over 7 years)
  • WildStar (2 years?)
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic (3 years?)
  • Guild Wars 2 (a lot)
  • Ragnarok Online (years)
  • Lord of the Rings Online (not sure)
  • Marvel Heroes (probably 2-3 years)
  • The Elder Scrolls Online (a month?)
  • Warhammer Online (several months?)
  • Pokémon Go (several months)
  • Ingress (2-3 months)

Then there are ones where I at least made an account and/or checked it out:

  • Runes of Magic (can’t remember how long, also been pressured)
  • Anarchy Online (surely many weeks but not months I think)
  • EverQuest 2 (Demo, Trial, pretty sure it was pre-launch)
  • Dungeons and Dragons Online (1 day with coworkers…)
  • Project Gorgon (very briefly)
  • The Division (1 or 2, a week?)
  • Lineage II (honestly not sure if I tried it out myself or just watched in person…)
  • Tantra Online Beta (some sort of Asian Fighting MMO, not Leisure Suit Larry Online)

Stuff that can be seen as an MMO, but many people don’t:

  • Destiny (for me it’s a solo shouter with emergent group game play)
  • Diablo 3 (played a ton, but only with the same <10 people…)

So on that first list I only forgot Pokémon Go, because it’s such a different beast and I played it intensely in some short bursts, and after I was finished I remembered Ingress… On the second list I was missing DDO, Project Gorgon, EQ2, and The Division.

Not as interesting of a trip down memory lane as for other people, but I think it’s still quite a list.

Although the verdict is really clear – if I like a game, I will stick to it for many months and even years, or at least come back to it.

Five Games?

Naithin’s blog posts about the Five Game Challenge keep popping up in my reader and I think it’s an interesting thing to talk about from my point of view.

Put yourself into the hypothetical situation of being made to choose just five games to last you an entire year of gaming (and post what they are!)

The implied meaning is “wow, that sounds hard, just 5 games in a whole year”, but for me that sounds pretty normal.

Looking at my 2019 Year in Review post, I mentioned both versions of WoW, FFXIV, SW:TOR, EVE, and Borderlands 3. And one sort of mobile game I could’ve ignored, that’s not really more than five.

And in 2020 I’m not even sure I got to five. There’s EVE, there’s SW:TOR and then WoW. Then I bought and played Stellaris, but not enough to have it on a must-play list, even though I liked it a lot. Then there’s Forgotten Anne which lasted for a few hours and I also played 7 Wonders. So if I disregard some puzzle games there’s only a few MMOs left and maybe one large (AAA?) game…
2018 even had me between 15 and 20 games, that number sounds high though.

Well, people are different 🙂

I thought I didn’t like 4X

When I saw that Stellaris was on sale on Steam (and GoG) I remembered that I loved to play Ascendancy back in the 90s, but I’ve never been a fan of Civ and others. Someone even linked me an online abandonware version and I played around for a few minutes.

So I asked the Blaugust Discord if anyone knew Ascendancy or had any recommendations for this. Rakuno mentioned Master of Orion, but I somehow got them on GoG and without the nostalgia I didn’t really find my way into it back when I tried. Naithin mentioned Crusader Kings II, which seems to be free now, but I wanted space. Overall I was just told to try out Stellaris (it’s the free weekend after all) despite having watched a Let’s Play and finding it very boring. Totally unrelated Magi mentioned Endless Legend, and only after researching 4X games I noticed it is one, but it didn’t look enticing to me.

So I installed it last night and went to bed and what can I say, I played a little this morning and it absolutely scratches the same itch that Ascendancy did, I’ll buy it. Thanks for the recommendations, Blaugust Discord 🙂

MMOs and being involved

I just watched a few videos about a casual (one night per week) approach to MMOs and was reminded about Kanter’s recent posts (I think Syp would also fall into that category for the sake of my argument, playing so many different games).

This has made me realize that I can’t remember ever approaching an MMO like this. Neither having a dedicated day of the week for this, or being so strapped for time for a prolonged period that I could only make room for one sitting of 2-3h per week for an MMO. Maybe I should consider myself lucky here, but with no kids and a job that’s usually not too demanding in terms of overtime, I’d say it’s not too unique, as we’re not the types to spend several nights out, every week.

So either I’m in the mood for an MMO, then I go full blast (and often enough I have 2 MMO subs running, so I can either split my evenings with gaming time or take turns) or I am not at all in the mood for MMOs or games in general, then I don’t play at all, but not one evening.

Not a really substantial thought, but nevertheless it got me thinking. Apparently I can only take shooters in moderation, but not MMOs.

It’s Blapril and this is post number 18.