It is a mere 13 days until the Extra Life gaming marathon for Children’s Miracle Network. I’m 30% of the way to my goal — can you help? Even $5 will make a difference for critically ill children and their families. I’m posting my donation video again here in case you haven’t seen it yet, or just head on over to the donation page.
The Newbie Blogger Initiative continues apace, and mad props must be dispensed to both Doone of T.R. Red Skies and Roger of Contains Moderate Peril for doing a great job of managing this whole month-long event.
Of course the NBI is all about the newbies, so here are a few of my own favorites of the bunch so far:
- JVT Workshop: you might recognize author Joseph Skyrim from his entirely sensible comments here and on other blogs over the last little while, and now he has joined in the fray!
- Megadirge: For the most part Seth at Megadirge plays games that I do not (TSW and FF14), which I actually quite like in a blog, and his enthusiasm for the games comes through in every post.
- Cogitationes Astalnaris: Astalnar plays a bunch of different games, MMOs and otherwise, and walks that fine balance between really smart commentary and an inviting tone.
There has been some discussion in the NBI forum about “what is a good blog post in your opinion”, and you might see a theme with my selections: not terribly long, conversational style, a variety of topics, and enthusiasm for the genre. Check these newbies out!
There are two single-player games that just came out that I feel compelled to strongly, strongly recommend.
First is The Wolf Among Us by Telltale Games. It helps that I already like point-and-click titles, but the real winner here is the damn zippy writing. The world of TWAU is cribbed from the Fable series, but the murder mystery story is totally original and the characters are given fresh sparkle by the game format.
The main character, Bigby, makes a great noir-style detective and my dialogue choices are acted out in a very stylish and often endearing way. The story itself is a little cliche so far, but it’s made up in the delivery.
Depending on how the other 4 chapters go, TWAU is almost instantly a serious contender for my Game of the Year. (I’m doing a pretty terrible Let’s Play of this on YouTube if you want to watch it. I’m practising spontaneous speaking, don’t judge!)
Also amazing and also a title that is more driven by story than gameplay is The Stanley Parable. I knew I needed to try this game after watching one of the early trailers:
There is a free demo of TSP on Steam that lasts about 20 minutes. I hesitate to say anything at all about the experience because you are definitely better off not knowing what to expect but I suppose suffice to say that it incorporates game mechanics into storytelling in ways that I’m not sure I’ve seen before. If you like games that are not particularly game-y but push the boundaries of interactive fiction, do not walk but run to your computer and try the demo.
This post seemed like the inevitable follow-up to yesterday’s about why I’m not playing RIFT!
I moved across town a few weeks ago, and as the movers were carrying a bookshelf into the new space the false back that I did a poor job of tacking on fell off. “Oh man, I’m sorry,” I said to the movers. “Excuse my crappy IKEA furniture.” One of the guys stopped and leaned against the bookshelf, and then replied kindly, “You know, everyone I move has IKEA furniture, and everyone always apologizes for it.”
I thought of this story yesterday as I was apologizing on Twitter for playing WoW again, which I think makes WoW the IKEA of MMOs.
So why do I feel guilty for being fully back into the Warcraft?
Certainly in part it’s that during much of the past few years I downright hated WoW. Its success paralysed the MMO genre, and other games that I would argue were better died on the vine in its shade. WoW has become a force for the homogenization of MMOs, and its producers seem to accept “fluff” content like costumes and housing only grudgingly, if at all.
I suppose it’s sort of similar to how ex-smokers often become radically opposed to smoking after they quit. While some friends have also slowly popped up in Azeroth again over the last couple of months, others remain steadfast ex-WoWers and give me withering virtual stares every time the game comes up. They’re disappointed in me, I think, for going back to the enemy.
Indeed, occasionally I’ve even been disappointed in myself over the past few weeks as I look up at the clock and realize that I have played WoW for the last 4 hours, something that for whatever reason I was hard-pressed to do in other MMOs. “Again, brain?” I ask myself. “We’re really going to spend our nights like this again?”
Even without the old 6-12 hours a week of raid leading, I find it stunningly easy to spend hours doing farm dailies and hunting down mounts. To be fair winter is coming, and I’m trying to save money, and cold dark cheap nights are the best time for games, but still.
Plus, honestly as much as I’m sensitive to the smell of failure on MMOs I’m equally sort of a game hipster and now I’ve gone back to the mainstream, maaaaaaaaan. (Why yes, I am difficult to please.) I mean WoW. It’s so 2008, am I right?
And yet.. here we are. Much like how yesterday I concluded that I simply got bored of RIFT, here I have to conclude that I’m simply having fun in WoW.
Because I really, truly am. And I suppose that’s nothing to be sorry about.
Wilhelm over at TAGN wrote today about how RIFT is definitely in the post-boom period from its switch to free-to-play. I was surprised to hear that Trion is cutting the number of servers by half, but it made me realize that although I once considered RIFT to be my one true MMO love I haven’t logged on in.. months? Huh. How did that happen?
(By the way, mad props to the PR team over at Trion for writing a real doozy of a post about the shard mergers. It’s not low populations and server closures, it’s advanced technology bringing players closer together! You asked for it, and now you get it! I have serious professional respect for that level of spin.)
So why am I not playing RIFT right now? I did for years leading up to the F2P announcement, and to be fair I played quite a bit afterwards, too. Then I just.. kind of wandered off.
Certainly as someone who dislikes F2P models on principle I found myself clashing with the new system while enjoying the game. I was really extremely super bummed when it turned out that the new outfits associated with Summerfest were all only available through the cash shop, and on top of that were quite expensive compared to everything else. (If a bikini costs more than a space pony mount, the pricing is wrong.)
Then in September patch 2.4 came out and promised new hairstyles. I logged on that night, excited to play Pretty Princess, only to discover that there were a couple of new hairstyles but most were only available though, yes, the cash shop. You could only buy the hairstyles as one big purchase, and they were also quite expensive. I know that a F2P game must make money from the cash shop to survive, but continually having to shell out for fun new casual fluff that I once could play the game to get became too much of a bummer for me.
I admit that I’m also not immune to that standard MMO player fear of failure. When your genre of choice relies on a critical mass of players to be playable, much less exist at all, it’s hard to resist jumping ship at the slightest sign of instability. RIFT (and Trion Worlds in general) has definitely been giving off signs of trouble for a while now, what with the closure of the San Diego office, their non-presence at PAX Prime this year, and the fact that one of the long time and much loved Community Managers, Elrar, was let go.
I still really like Trion, I’m just not sure I’d heavily invest time or money in their MMOs right now.
Of course neither the cash shop nor the feeling of producer instability truly affect gameplay. I could still be running around doing events and warfronts with almost no change from two years ago. But I’m not, and … I don’t really know why. I just got bored, I guess, which I suppose is as legitimate a reason to stop playing as anything other.
I’m giving away a copy of Assassin’s Creed III for Steam to the next person who donates at least $20 to my Extra Life Marathon fund!
This topic is part of the Newbie Blogger Initiative Talk Back Challenge Event. Today myself and newbie blogger LyleDark are being Armchair Game Designers. Go read his post!
I usually try to stay away from armchair MMO designing, as much as I like to complain about the genre. I’m not a designer — I’m a player with opinions — and I have little idea how one actually designs and develops a game. That being said I do have an awful lot of opinions, so let’s talk about how I would create a great MMO economy.
An MMO economy is a combination of creating goods (gatherers, crafters) and distributing them, usually through an auction house. There are a few key points to creating value in these materials or goods, and they’re usually the things that players say they don’t enjoy: scarcity of materials, rare crafting recipes, limited market listings, remote auction houses.
1) Location, location, location (EvE Online)
EvE’s economy hits just about every single one of those ways of adding value, but the one I want to cherry-pick is the idea that different locations have different auction houses. If I put some goods up for sale at Jita, they’re located there and players in the Dodixie region across the universe generally can’t see them.
Right now most games have an auction house in every major city that are interlinked. I say split those suckers up! Throw some more in! Players will naturally gravitate to having one central “trading hub” (you could interlink all the, say, Orgrimmar AH across servers for greater inventory and volatility), creating possible value for traders who want to make the effort to travel.
2) Keep resources limited (just about every game except Guild Wars 2)
Shared credit for mob tapping is all the rage now, which I personally enjoy. What I can’t agree with is universally available resource nodes, like in Guild Wars 2. When everyone gets all nodes, it floods the markets with raw materials and drives down the prices of finished products.
3) Create rare recipes (old school WoW)
Back in the early days of WoW, special high end recipes would drop off of raid bosses. The items they made would be relatively rare on a server, and fetch a pretty high price on the AH. This distribution method fell out of favor during the great Elitist Purge of the WotLK era, with most games now very much supporting an “all recipes for all crafters” vision.
To this I say: bah! The distribution method doesn’t have to be raiding — remember people farming for days for the Crusader enchant recipe? — but having rare recipes that very few players will ever own is the spice of a great crafting system.
All three of these things add time-consuming factors to player economies that in many cases have fallen out of fashion, but that is how an economy works! You make money because you hauled that item across the world, or you spent days looking for the recipe, or you farmed up 18 gabillion flowers.
As the goblins say, time is money friend. If I designed a player economy, I’d build in these features.
It’s a Cat Context Mini-sode! Elly and Liore got together for 30 minutes to get the recording schedule back on track and talk about Steam’s Family Sharing beta, Beyond: Two Souls anticipation, and plans for the upcoming Extra Life Marathon for Kids.
Liore got one of the latest wave of invites for Steam’s new Family Sharing program, and she gives the inside scoop on how well the new system works. Meanwhile, Beyond: Two Souls is out this week, but does auteur David Cage actually make games or just interactive movies? Opinions are divided. And finally, both Elly and Liore are participating in the Extra Life Marathon this year, and they talk about their experiences from last year and what games they expect to be playing for your viewing pleasure.
Also: Circle this date on your calendar, because Elly says Liore is right about something!
Like to watch? This podcast was also a Hangout on Air:
It would be downright awesome if you gave us a vote on iTunes. :)
* Free Music Archive page for our theme, in THE crowd by The Years
* Segment break music is Pope Spaceship from the Electronic Super Joy soundtrack
* Extra-Life donation page for Elly and Liore
* The Steam Family Sharing details
* Totally cinematic trailer for Beyond: Two Souls