So I was checking out the latest weekly sale on GOG.com and once again felt the urge to really invest some time into one of the many games that I’ve bought or downloaded for free. I’d like to do a sporadic series here on Bio Break chronicling my journeys through them, but I thought that maybe you could help me choose my first adventure.
Here are the games in my account. Which should I journal first?
So I made a vow to myself that I’d try my best to keep up with the new living story content in Guild Wars 2 instead of being half-hearted about it. So far, so good in that respect; I’ve taken my Engineer to Southsun for the first time (I didn’t want to touch Lost Shores with a ten-foot pole) and become engrossed in achievement hunting. Is there a story to go along with all of this? If there is, it’s downright subtle and I doubt many people are paying attention to it. Instead, the event has turned the zone into an achievement-hunting, event-running, loot-farming frenzy, which is pretty fun at this scale.
I felt uplifted when I realized that the achievements to get the title and backpacks weren’t the most insane grinds (you never know with ArenaNet, after all) and that a casual player such as I could probably get them. I’ve been dutifully plugging away at them and am more than halfway done so far, having already gotten my sparkly flower back item. I AM ALL THAT IS MAN — FEAR MY FLOWER!
OK, I’d rather have a steampunk backpack, but beggers can’t be choosers.
I do have a few quibbles with the zone, however. It’s right up there with Orr in terms of troublesome navigation at times, and while the mobs are loot pinatas, they also hit like a Mack truck. It’s not that enjoyable to suddenly find 60% of your health gone and you sprawled on the ground like a floor mat just because a mob sneezed in your direction.
The crab toss game was interesting until I started playing it. This right here encapsulates all of the things I loathe about PvP: Feeling as though I am struggling to catch up but never can, getting owned by twitchy players who are far better at all this, and watching my precious time being wasted with little or nothing in return. After one game I dusted my feet off and never looked back.
Finally, I am just bashing my head on the desk at this skipping stones jumping puzzle. Who likes jumping puzzles? One of the devs, apparently, and maybe a legion of sadomasochistic fans. I’ve ranted on platforming in MMOs before, so I’ll just give my monitor the evil eye.
Quibbles aside, I do like how the atmosphere of the zone has turned into a social cooperative party. People are doing a lot of stuff together and generally helping each other out — rezzing, porting, tag-teaming mobs, and so on. It shows me that the Guild Wars 2 model works, not just for the novelty of the first month, but throughout. It’s a game that genuinely encourages people to play with each other and help each other instead of viewing each other as node-hogging, mob-stealing competitors. Hopefully this living event will develop a story better than the last one, but at least the activities so far are worth the price of admission.
I was part of the media roundtable for WildStar’s second closed beta call the other day, and I came away from it feeling as though I’m missing out from being part of the testing experience right now. No, I still haven’t applied and I’m going to be good and stick to that, but there’s always that part of me that wants to be included, wants to be behind the scenes, and doesn’t want to be left out in the cold, dingy street with my nose pressed to a window while I watch a happy family dine on succulent ham.
This feeling wouldn’t be so strong if Carbine would just stop saying things that make me really want to play this game. In addition to the call, the team released the patch notes for CB2, all 19-or-so pages of it. Even if you’re not in the beta, as I assume most people aren’t right now, you can still get a good feel for what’s going on by digesting all of this. I instantly skipped to the end to digest the housing changes (nothing huge other than, oh, 400-or-so decor items being added). I still am rubbing my eyes in disbelief that they’re placing such a great importance on housing and integrating it with the rest of the game experience, and hearing about housing dungeons made my day.
The interesting thing for me is that there are plenty of aspects of this game that interest me not at all: PvP, raiding, addon modification. And yet I’m still happy that they’re being worked on, because it takes all types to build a healthy game community, and I know that these will get others excited in the same way that housing and playstyle paths are interesting me.
One thing that I took away from the phone call is how passionate the team is about this product. There’s a lot of voluntary above-and-beyond going on; Jeremy Gaffney said that there’s no mandatory crunch, but devs routinely spend their evenings there anyway because they want to. It reminds me that I definitely belong on this side of the games industry, because I would have a huge problem with staying past 5 pm at any job. Maybe games development is for the single folks, I don’t know. I always wonder how their families cope with the fact that mommy or daddy or that person they married spends most of their waking hours not at home.
Anyway, I have a hunch that not being part of the WildStar beta is only going to get worse as the summer goes on. I mean, thank goodness that there’s so much else to do right now, but that doesn’t make the desire to get into that game any less.
We’ve all heard the news by now: RIFT’s going free-to-play in less than a month. No big surprise; everyone’s wondered for a while, F2P is like a “second launch” that most MMOs enjoy, and RIFT had the structure of RIFT lite and the shopping cart in place. Still, this news gets an enthusiastic thumbs-up from me.
RIFT is one of those games that while I may no longer be playing it, I have nothing but fond affection for it. It’s a highly polished, full-featured MMO that deserves a healthy-sized audience. I have no idea how many people are still subbed, of course, but I don’t think it was in danger of dying any time soon. A F2P switch doesn’t always signal a hail Mary survival throw, but sometimes it’s just a good business decision to bring in more players and make more money and ensure a longer lifespan for the title.
I’m impressed that RIFT launched and survived over two years as a sub-only game in this current MMO climate. People predicted RIFT to go F2P a long time ago, and Trion stuck with the subs (and quite aggressive marketing techniques) up until now. The sub was something that stuck in people’s craw, because it forced players to make two tough comparisons when deciding to stick with RIFT or not: Is it worth paying for RIFT when I can get so many other MMOs for free? Is RIFT worth the same (more or less) sub price as World of Warcraft?
Now those questions are moot. The sub barrier will be gone (but the sub itself is still an option) and we’ll see how RIFT can compete with the rest of the F2P pack. I predict that it’ll do just fine for itself.
In terms of the details of what’s free and how Trion’s going to be making money, I am quite pleased to see that there’s not going to be any silly SWTOR-like restrictions on classes, souls, and content. The base game (1-60, not including the expansion which must be purchased separately) is free and that’s all there is to that. Awesome. Instead of hobbling the game and making you pay to un-cripple it, the devs are taking the philosophy of giving the game away and then making money from extras (and those who still wish to sub).
That’s when we get into some of the murkier elements. Most of the cash shop mentions are generally fine — cosmetics, boosters, mounts, expansion souls, and so on. What has a few folks worried is that RIFT will also be selling gear, although there’s a limit on how good of the gear this is (the devs are promising that the absolute best still will come from dungeons, raids, etc.). This I don’t like so much. Even if it’s not “the best”, it still offers a significant shortcut and toes the “pay to win” line. Maybe you’re okay with games selling gear, but I’ve long ago decided that that’s where I draw the line in my acceptance of F2P offerings. It undermines progression (as gear is tied to in-game quests and activities) and can offer ways for PvPers to get a leg up on the competition through the virtue of the dollar.
That aside, it’ll be interesting to see how REX will combat gold sellers and create a new economy in the game.
Free-to-play isn’t enough to get me to come back right now, as my plate is more than full. But if you’ve never given RIFT a try, seriously check it out. I spent well over a year in that game and loved a great deal of it.
Betas are on the mind today — but when are they not? Dodge and Syp take a break from cleaning out their navals to pontificate on the benefits and drawbacks to being part of a beta. But after that? It’s right back to belly button upkeep!
Two topics in 30 minutes or your next podcast is free. You know you would listen to all this if it just wasn’t so… long!
I want to give a shout-out today to my Secret World cabal, who more or less dropped their original plans to help me get through a pair of insanely tough Transylvania quests last night. This was helpful, not just to my game progress but to my general sanity, as I’d been slowly going mad trying to solo a quest that was kicking my butt up and down ten ways from Sunday. I still don’t understand why TSW needs to be so flipping hard, other than to provide a speed bump to slow down the progress through the missions, but I truly wish it would either cut mob health in half or lower the difficulty by, say, 25%. Not to make it a cakewalk, just less of a slugfest.
I’m in the process of reworking my build for the umpteenth time. I think I may just focus on pursuing the Puritan deck to see if Funcom knows better than I do (hey, worst case is that I get a cool new outfit). Right now I can do okay for myself, with a hefty amount of health and survival skills, some debuffing, and a bit of DPS, but it’s nothing amazing. I miss the days when I could mow through packs of zombies in a few seconds.
And yet you could not tempt me to go back to Kingsmouth, I think. As with any MMO, I’ve mused about possibly rolling a new character to try to get it right (or at least better) — chase a different build, don’t waste my AP and SP on frivolous pursuits, see another faction’s perspective. Unfortunately there’s something about TSW that’s killed the notion of alting for me.
There are several reasons why. The first is that with the classless system, it’s not like there are other classes for me to try out. If I want to experience a different build, I just, y’know, do it. The second reason is that I’ve invested a crapton of time into this character, overcome really tough missions that I’d rather not do again, and still haven’t finished up Transylvania at my pokey-puppy rate.
The final reason is a bit of a cop-out, but I am still creeped out by a lot of Kingsmouth. It unsettled me in a way that Egypt and Transylvania haven’t quite achieved, and I’d rather not dive back into that pea-soup zombie-fest quite yet. Sometimes I feel like Funcom really splurged 80% of its best ideas and tropes on Solomon Island. Egypt was hard to make scary, because BRIGHT SUNNY DAYS aren’t as naturally terrifying as haunted amusement parks in the gloomy dusk. Even Transylvania seems more airy and cheerful (in a bloodsucking kind of way).
I’m not saying never, but just not today. There’s a new update coming out soon and then the Tokyo zone, so I think my character will have enough to do for the time being.