OMG, R U STILL AROUND?

Trapped in a world without color
Trapped in a world without color

I don’t actually talk, or type, like that texty speak. I don’t know what came over me.

Well, I kinda know. There was a bunch of bloggish commentary a few months back on the kind of random ranting bloggers do. You know, bloggers don’t have any deeper insight than anyone else on anything, by and large, but we do have our blogs. It makes us feel more important, gives us a louder voice. But everyone shouts on the internet. It gets tiring. I realized that I really don’t have anything to say about the current state of MMOs. I’ve stopped trying to follow the crowd to every new game; Sim City 5 cured me of that. Wow, way to buy into the hype, right?

I’m trying not to be caught up in the EverQuest Next hype. It’s such a blank slate at this point that people feel free to read anything into the various teases. People in the public chat channels in EverQuest 2 speak with absolute certainty about things that contradict what some other certain person believes. As far me, I haven’t seen any evidence of any gameplay, some thread through the game that keeps people logging in. I fear it’s just going to take the usual sandbox route of being PvP focused — “the players are the content!”. In which case, they fail, because almost nobody plays the various EverQuests because they are astoundingly awesome PvP platforms. SOE may feel that PlanetSide 2’s success has given them a good feel on how to make a successful PvP MMO, but — EverQuest is not PlanetSide 2.

See, ranting again. It’s an easy trap.

I still game, every night. My favorite nights, though, are when I game with friends. With Team Spode on Sundays, and with Kasul in Neverwinter on Mondays. I hope against hope for a regular group in EverQuest 2, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. The guild was going really well, lots of people were logging in and leveling and ready to go, but some key people left for a raid guild and that had a devastating effect. Maybe it’s partly because of summer. But irregardless, I’ve been looking for a new obsession for awhile.

Not Candy Crush Saga. What is it about Match 3 games, anyway? I haven’t found even one that I can play more than once. There’s this huge, endless genre of games where you win by letting your mind wander as your fingers do some kind of complicated meditation that sends ever more flashing lights and loud sounds straight through your optic and auditory nerves into your brain. The resulting trance-like state must bring people close to some sort of nirvana.

Wikipedia says of nirvana (the religious concept, not the band):

The word literally means “blown out” (as in a candle) and refers, in the Buddhist context, to the imperturbable stillness of mind after the fires of desire, aversion, and delusion have been finally extinguished.

That… is what I assume playing Candy Crush Saga is like, for adherents. A stillness of mind without the cares of the physical realm. The MMOs I play are a step removed from the pure stuff. I have never understood how calling a game “addicting” would be a positive selling point. Maybe CCS is the pathway to enlightenment. A prayer wheel for the 21st century. Children, trained on CCS, will be able to fall into a trance state instantly, shuffling colors around in their mind, every match sending jolts of endorphins deep into their cortex.

Indie developer Dave Toulouse challenged people on Google+ to try his Match 3 game, Bret Airborne, which (he thought) would appeal even to people who insisted they hated Match 3 games. Steampunk! Airships! Mad science! I bought it, played it as long as I could, haven’t touched it since. The developer wanted feedback, but I was so depressed by my failure that I just stayed mum and moved on.

I just can’t enjoy life.

Raiding in DCUO
Raiding in DCUO

I mentioned awhile back that we were going to give raiding a shot in DC Universe Online — strictly random raid stuff. We — meaning only me, at this point, I guess. I need so many Marks of Triumph for gear (several thousand per piece, about a hundred per Tier 3 group mission at a time) that it will take me months and months to get even one piece at our current rate. Everyone else has managed to earn enough marks and farm enough exobits that they are playing at a much higher level. Me, those solo missions take me hours to do with lots of dying and aren’t any sort of fun at all. So I stopped doing them. I have this idea that I would stop playing a game where I wasn’t having a good time.

I also have this weird hangup about joining random groups. I’m paranoid that people will call me out for being a crappy player. This is because people regularly call me out for being a crappy player. We were working through a raid a couple weeks back and someone said they should start a vote to boot the crappy controller. Me, being the only controller in the raid, agreed, and said we should boot her right away. Nervous laughter — wondering, maybe, if I understood they were talking about me. The vote was taken, I was kicked. I spent the rest of the night flying around cities alone, listening for the hum of exobits and wondering why I just didn’t log off and delete the game. The other guys successfully completed the raid.

Last Sunday, we raided again. I chose the “damage” role that every class can choose so that I wouldn’t be tapped to be a controller. Though I intended to play that role anyway. Entering as “damage” would just ensure there being a real controller along as well. Instead of trying to use crowd control powers, though, I just fed mana continuously the entire raid. Nobody tried to kick me, and we eventually succeeded. 200 Marks. Only about three thousand more to go for my first piece of Tier 3 gear.

Neverwinter Gateway
Neverwinter Gateway

I really enjoy my Neverwinter nights. Kasul and I alternate between doing Foundries one week and blasting through all the quests in a zone the next. Monday we explored The Chasm, a deep canyon full og toxic spell energy that warps the people and creatures within with the Spellplague. The zone’s story ties neatly in to one of the first quest arcs you encounter in the game, a knight’s desperate love for his spellplagued wife. There are twists and turns, and their story ends here.

Outside of game nights, we try not to gain too much experience (though the pig herding minigame in the Midsummer Festival zone is now my new addiction. I can’t enjoy Match 3 games, but pig herding…. SOOOOO-WEEEEE.) Kasul and I are both inveterate _crafters_, though. Cryptic offers their entire crafting and auction house interfaces via their Neverwinter Gateway. So crafting can continue outside the game; it’s always as close as my phone. As of the most recent update, the one that brought Weaponsmithing into the game, I’ve been making our weapons, while Kasul handles the armor for both our characters.

Naturally, with Neverwinter being a free-to-play game, the best results come only as a result of spending a significant amount of in-game currency in order to buy the exponentially expensive tools to get even a chance at a good result.I’ve spent all my in-game cash and a significant amount of real world money to get part of the way; Kasul has worked harder and gotten even better tools, some of which he’s lent me as I try to make the weapons that will bring us to max level.

Not sure what happens at max level. The looking for group channel only seems to want people with astounding gear who can demonstrate a deep knowledge of every end game zone. This is almost always my cue to find another game. We’re in a dead guild and won’t be able to meet the requirements for groups or for experience with zones we’ve never seen.

We’re talking about restarting, but I was hoping for some new classes to make the trip up more interesting. Neverwinter is all about ratcheting up the grind (literally) exponentially. Every step up is four times the difficulty of the one before, or requires four times as many resources. It takes sixteen tier 1 crafter hirelings to make one tier 3 crafter hireling, at a minimum time of (16 + 4 + 1) x 18 hours. 376 hours total? Minimum? You can speed this up with cash, of course. It takes 4 to the 7th power tier 1 enchantments to make even one of the tier 8 enchantments required in each piece of gear at end game. And here, Cryptic has given the “fuse” ability that takes four enchantments of one tier and produces one enchantment of the next tier, a chance of failure that increases to near certain failure as you move further up. Unless you spend cash.

I fear we’re nearing the F2P cliff with Neverwinter. People are always saying that for MMOs, the game really begins at max level. But that just means it isn’t the game that kept us logging in for all the levels before max level.

Cryptic’s thought — the thought of all F2P game companies — is to hook them, then make them pay to continue. I get that, these games need to make money in order to stay running. I’ve spent quite a lot of real money in Neverwinter. They’ve gotten paid. But this exponential grind thing — that’s just paying for punishment. If I had a living guild or some more friends who wanted to group and play — but that’s not a thing that will happen. The GOGOGO mentality is alive and well in Neverwinter, and there’s the gear checks and the aversion to new people and everything that drove me away from WoW.

So whenever I hit one of these F2P pitfalls in Neverwinter or some other game, I wonder how SOE is planning to punish me with EverQuest Next. They’re going to start setting the hook with EverQuest Next Landmarks this winter, where players can create content for SOE to put into the main EQ Next. It sounds like we’ll be charged to use this player-created content in the live game.

Just kinda worries me when I start hearing details about the monetization when I’ve heard nothing about how this game plans on being a game.

Plus, they seem to be setting the game in an alternate past, giving them no connection to the lore or locations from the current games, stomping on the number one request from current EverQuest and EverQuest 2 players. Bring back the world of EverQuest that we love, but with the latest technology.

Not gonna happen.

All they have to do, the only thing left for them to do, is announce a PvP focus for the game, to completely separate themselves from anything EQ players wanted from the game… er, sandbox.

How Castleville Lost Me.

The Castleville board.

With each new “-Ville” game, Zynga adds something new to their base clicker gameplay. Their latest, Castleville, adds fairly involved crafting to the farming mechanic from Farmville and the town building and creature fighting mechanic from Frontierville. Cityville’s trading game and Empires & Allies rudimentary PvP are absent here.

The majority of the Castleville board is hidden beneath a “gloom” that can be dismissed via exploration, that can expose new resources and NPCs with which to expand your kingdom. The ever-helpful NPCs you meet will lead you through the game with quests, as in all the previous games.

I usually give Zynga games a couple months, but it’s gone from my Facebook stream now. The picture below tells the story.

Castleville owns my timeline

Castleville friggin’ took over my timeline. I post pictures to Facebook, chat with my family and non-G+ aware friends. When I look at my timeline to see at a glance what is happening, and all I see is Castleville… well, that can’t happen.

This isn’t the only annoying feature Castleville adds. Recent Zynga games have let you spam only your friends that are also playing the same game. Castleville does not give you this option. You can only select from a list of every friend in your list, or those who have played at least one game at some point (so, pretty much every friend on your list). You can’t limit your spam to just Castleville friends, or just Zynga friends.

Castleville by itself isn’t a bad game, and the crafting is innovative (though since it uses non- or very slow-renewing resources, you’re forced to do most of your harvesting in your friends’ kingdoms). You no longer need to click your harvests — you can just wave your mouse over items to instantly collect them. I’d have liked to have seen that in Frontierville.

The timeline I wanted to see.

I’d have liked to have played Castleville some more. But it’s just too damn annoying and way too noisy. Thankfully, removing the app lets you have your timeline back.

Daily Blogroll Oct 12: No time for heroes edition

Magic Castle for Sale: Sold!

A few days ago I was trying to define what I thought of as an MMO. I started off thinking it was just a realtime, online game with other players, but as the day went on, thinking about it more, I felt it had to include a persistent avatar representing the player that could be named and customized. I was pretty confident that nailed the essential nature of an MMORPG.

Well, Zynga’s newest semi-interactive “Ville” game is going to bring MMO gaming to Facebook. Via Massively,

You can build your castle, show it to your friends, and craft things like potions or armor. You can follow the game’s story and its characters. You can trade and barter with friends by visiting their towns. And you have to defend your town against beasts who are outside the walls. The game has more personalized storytelling; players explore the world around them. You meet characters and make them happy and unlock new characters as you progress.

“In short, Zynga is bringing massively multiplayer role-playing games to the mass market,” Jackson said.

If this sort of non-realtime probable clickfest is the future of MMOs, then the genre is dead. It does sound like, after CityVille and Empires & Allies nudged into SimCity and Civilization territory, that it will be returning to the avatar-based gameplay of Farmville and Frontierville. Of Frontierville, the NY Times writes:

Cityville, its biggest game, has picked up a little steam recently with 13.5 million daily users, according to AppData. FrontierVille, however, has been sliding faster than a pioneer bitten by a varmint. Introduced in June 2010, FrontierVille peaked with nine million daily players but now has about 5 percent of that.

So there’s a winning strategy right there, I guess. Zynga has to keep pumping out the games ever faster because people tire of them ever faster. How fast Zynga can shovel new games at us now? They have 2500 people writing them!

But there’s more stuff to talk about than Sims Medieval clones! After the break!
Continue reading Daily Blogroll Oct 12: No time for heroes edition

Treasure Abyss closes its dungeons

Treasure Abyss' goodbye message

I was on a quest last year for a Facebook game that was really a *game*, especially some sort of RPG. The great thing about Facebook games is that there are so _many_ of them, that there’s bound to be a couple that appeal.

I fell pretty hard for Treasure Abyss, a whimsical RPG from gaming giant Namco Bandai that let you create a party formed from your character and those of your friends and kill dragons and other stuff. I sunk a lot of time and a fair bit of money into the game. I don’t mind paying for games if I’m having fun.

After awhile, I moved on and so did Namco Bandai. Treasure Abyss development slowed; in the time since I stopped playing six months or so ago, they have added just one dungeon, a very short dungeon meant for new players. One new (hideously expensive) set of armor that can be worn by all classes, a couple new magician weapons and a daily lottery spin.

Even the most casual player would long have completed and left the game. Still, it’s sad to see it close down.

Dear Treasure Abyss Fans

After one year of good time with Treasure Abyss, we sadly announce that the page/game will be closing 30 September 2011. Item sale will finish on 9 September 2011.

We want to say THANK YOU to those who enjoyed Treasure Abyss and tell you how much we have enjoyed having you as a customer. Please don’t hesitate to contact us by writing on this page if there is anything we can do for you before 30 September 2011.

We are sure we’ll meet again with new and exciting games!!

Sincerely,
Treasure Abyss Staff