MMO timeline of 2016

Seeing as how this is the last day of the year, I thought it was fitting to provide a quick overview of all of the major launches, expansions, adaptations, and closures of MMORPGs in 2016. This is, of course, from my constantly updated MMO Timline page.

  • January – Blade & Soul launches in the west
  • January – City of Steam closes
  • January – RuneScape classic reopens
  • March – The Division launches
  • March – Black Desert launches in the west
  • March – Path of Exile: Ascendancy
  • March – FFXI on consoles closes
  • April – EVE Online: Citadel
  • April – Trove: Mantle of Power
  • April – Ascent: The Space game launches
  • May – DUST 514 closes
  • May – Tree of Savior launches
  • June – Landmark launches
  • June – Lineage II: Helios
  • July – PlanetSide closes
  • July – Star Trek Online: Agents of Yesterday
  • July – Aion: Echoes of Eternity
  • July – Riders of Icarus soft launch
  • August – World of Warcraft: Legion
  • September – LEGO Minifigures Online closes
  • September – Star Trek Online launches on consoles
  • September – Otherland launches
  • September – Path of Exile: Atlas of Worlds
  • September – Destiny: Rise of Iron
  • November – EVE Online goes free-to-play
  • November – The Crew: Calling All Units
  • November – EverQuest: Empires of Kunark
  • November – EverQuest II: Kunark Ascending
  • November – RIFT: Starfall Prophecy
  • November – EVE Online: Ascension
  • December – Star Wars: The Old Republic: Knights of the Eternal Throne
  • December – ArcheAge: Revelation
  • December – Trove launches on consoles

Looking back at the 6 MMOs I played the most in 2016

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Seeing as how this will be my final MMO-related post of this year, I thought it only fitting to look back over 2016 and recall my exploits in MMORPGs. While I did dabble here and there in various titles, such as Firefall, ESO, and Trove, for the most part my year was dominated by six titles — none of them surprising, but all fun and influential in my gaming career.

One of the best things that happened for me in terms of playing MMOs was getting a new computer that could actually run them well. That’s been such a boon.

(1) Final Fantasy XIV

At the beginning of the year, I had made a resolution to find a “home MMO” and settle my butt down to mostly focus on one title. Initially, that became FFXIV, as it was fairly new to me,, had a lot of positive word-of-mouth, and offered a lot of content.

I had a good run in that MMO, I think, although around April I decided that I had run out of steam and was losing the will to play it. That was unfortunate, because I was finally nearing Heavensword content and had found a really great guild, but alas. In retrospect, there was a lot I ended up respecting and liking about the game as well as a lot of irritating issues. I think my biggest gripe is that it never quite clicked with me even though people kept urging me to stick it out because, I quote, “It gets really good later on!” I shouldn’t have to wait more than four months for a game to get really good, and my patience wore out. Maybe I’ll go back some day. I’d like to think so. That Red Mage looks pretty cool…

(2) World of Warcraft

WoW got its hooks back in me early and kept them there, pulling me right back into this old favorite. The first half of the year was spent plowing through Warlords of Draenor, building up my expansion, and prepping my roster of characters for the new expansion. The second half was all Legion, all the time, and it’s been a really good ride so far. Found a terrific guild, got a pair of legendaries, built up my Death Knight to a great place, and still have a good amount of content on which to chew.

(3) RIFT

The announcement of Starfall Prophecy got me back into RIFT, and it’s been a reliably second-tier MMO interest since then. Again, discovering a wonderful guild — perhaps the best I’ve been a part of in MMOs — was a major factor to my stickiness, but having an expansion’s worth of content and a new house to build certainly kept me busy. I have just so much left to do here and no real desire to leave.

(4) The Secret World

Back in February I seriously splurged and bought a Grand Master membership, which I really don’t regret doing. The constant buffs to currency/AP are wonderful, the extra cosmetics and mounts nice, and having a monthly allowance of points is terrific. I did take a long break in the middle of the year due to my disinterest in City of the Sun God, but I finally rallied to complete that and move on to Transylvania. I’m hugely excited to see what might come for this game in 2017!

(5) Star Trek Online

Star Trek Online has been an on-again, off-again journey. I get really excited about it for two or three weeks, then let it go for a month. I did come back for some fun adventures, although getting bogged down in Delta Rising was death to my interest. Recently I’ve jumped past that and gotten excited to go through the more recent episode arcs.

(6) Lord of the Rings Online

Early in the year I spent some time getting through the Battle of Pelennor Fields, after which I took a very long break until just recently. However, over the past month I’ve been logging in every day or two to advance my Captain through Update 19 in anticipation of the Mordor expansion next year. It’s great to be back and I hope I won’t leave any time soon.

Stay tuned next Monday as I post my hopes and aspirations for the new month — and the new year! In the meantime, let me know in the comments what were the most important and influential MMOs to you in 2016!

9 games I can’t wait to play in 2017

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I don’t even want to talk about my gaming backlog. It’s big and it’s just not getting any smaller, not with sales and recommendations and all of these pesky new titles coming out. And then there’s my book backlog… and my TV backlog… and my music backlog… and my backlog backlog. There’s a lot of logs around here is what I’m saying.

I guess it’s just not going to stop me from getting a little excited about what’s coming in 2017. MMO-wise, I’m pretty happy with everything under my belt, not to mention that most of the games that interest me are probably more than a year out. But there are at least nine games that I am very interested to at least try out at some point next year… and here they are.

1. Project Gorgon

I know, I’ve been more talk than play on this game to this point, which has mostly come down to waiting for the game to get to a state where it feels ready to start for real. I think, for me, this is going to be Steam early access. Or the release of the fairy race. One of the two, but either way, that should be spring next year. I can’t wait to comb through this world with a notebook at the ready, keeping track of all of the secrets and puzzles.

2. Bit City

I’ve been a huge fan of Nimblebit’s personality-filled economic simulators (Pocket Train, Tiny Tower), and next year will see Bit City, the studio’s version of SimCity. It looks adorable and cool, although we don’t know much more than screenshots at this point. I’m prepared to get addicted all over again.

3. Torment: Tides of Numeria

The spiritual successor to Planescape Torment comes out in February and has had really strong word-of-mouth. I haven’t been able to devote a ton of time to a single player RPG in the past few years, but I will definitely be making an exception for this one.

4. Battleheart 2

Love, love, love Battleheart and Battleheart Legacy. A full sequel of the real-time party battler? Yes, please.

5. Sea of Thieves

It’s not a pure MMO, but Sea of Thieves looks like it will sport an MMO feel and enough elements to be a kissing cousin. And in any case, playing pirates in a colorful world full of accordions, grog, and kraken is a no-brainer for me. I’m really hoping this might be a huge, fun world to explore and will be in on day one.

6. Red Dead Redemption 2

If it comes for PC (which it might?) and has good multiplayer elements, RDR2 could be a decent substitute for the western MMO I’ve been wanting for years. The screenshots look gorgeous.

7. Mass Effect Andromeda

Uhh… it’s Mass Effect. It’s video game law or something that we all play it.

8. Vampyr

You know me and you know that I’m not a big vampire fan, but this is the follow-up project to Dontnod’s Life is Strange, and I’ll play it based on the studio alone at this point. Make me like vampires. I dare you.

9. Galaxy of Pen and Paper

I just found out that there’s a true sequel to Knights of Pen and Paper coming in 2017, only with a sci-fi RPG setting instead of a fantasy. I’ve logged so many hours into this humorous and creative series that I can’t wait to see what they’ll do with science fiction. Bring it on!

10 (non-MMO) games I loved in 2016

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Always, always I wish I had more time to play games than I do, and one of the casualties of being an MMO gamer is that it severely cuts down on any attention I can give to non-MMO titles. That isn’t to say that I avoided them all this year! Sitting down this past week, I easily came up with 10 titles that I greatly enjoyed at some point in 2016.

Seeing as how we’re staring down the barrel of 2017 right now, let’s send out 2016 in style with a few great lists!

(1) Tales from the Borderlands

Hilarious, touching, strange, and absolutely gripping, I think Tales from the Borderlands is my all-time favorite Telltale title to date. It even has a robot that I liked more than Rogue One’s K-2SO. Seriously, Loaderbot is the bomb. And those intro music videos for each episode? Classic. My only complaint is that this all ended.

(2) Firewatch

While it wasn’t perfect (particularly in its awkward resolution), Firewatch as an experience was mesmerizing and one of the most immersive titles of the year. Playing a summer as Henry, a middle-aged man fleeing his sick wife to become a fire ranger in Wyoming turned into a gripping tale of two damaged people talking over the radio.

(3) Life is Strange

Adventure games had a great year, apparently, and Life is Strange was such a wonderful discovery. The five-episode series of a high school girl who found out that she had the limited ability to rewind time took us through a slowly unfolding disaster, a relationship between two previous friends, and layers of mystery worthy of Twin Peaks. I am not satisfied with the ending or the explanation of the time mechanic (why did she get it in the first place if it was so wrong to use?), but boy was it a great ride.

(4) Clash Royale

I was never a big Clash of Clans player, but Clash Royale hooked me with its RTS-meets-PvP angle. Simple, quick, and colorful, the game allowed players to throw units at each other in order to knock down an opponent’s towers and unseat the king. I ended up playing a lot of this while riding my exercise bike over the year.

(5) Dungeon Warfare

This mobile title never got much promotion, but boy did I love it. It’s like a top-down Dungeon Keeper-slash-tower defense game with a high pixelated body count and lots of interesting towers. One neat move was letting players choose specific handicaps in order to gain more XP per map.

(6) Knights of Pen and Paper 2

Not a 2016 release, but I found myself coming back to this lighthearted tabletop D&D simulator a couple of times over the year (especially while I was on a cruise). The humor and RPG elements keep this an engaging ride, even though it’s kind of cheesy and repetitious in spots.

(7) Stardew Valley

I kind of wish I had put in more time with this odd farming/life simulator, but what I did play I really enjoyed. The retro look, the farming focus, and the huge amount of activities is perfect for a time sink. My greatest request? A tablet version. I’d play the heck out of that.

(8) Crazy Kings

Another somewhat oldie that got me coming back, I’ve had a great time working my way through this tower defense game that uses a card mechanic for its upgrades. It get a few minutes of my time every day, and the art style is quite appealing.

(9) Polytopia

Mini-Civilization, Polytopia stripped down Civilization games to their core and turned them into a fast-paced mobile title. It’s so slick and well-done that it really does shame the competitors.

(10) Star Control 2

I didn’t get through a ton of retro games this year, but I did manage to enjoy a few of them including the Quest for Glory and King’s Quest games. However, I think finally digging into Star Control 2’s space RPG was my highlight. So weird, so huge, so satisfying. I can’t wait to finish it up and see how it ends.

Try It Tuesday: Gone Home

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You come home after a long European vacation to your family’s new house… but it’s empty and there’s a scared voice on the answering machine. What’s going on? What’s happened? That’s up to you to find out in Gone Home.

A month or so ago, this interactive narrative game was being given away for free, so I picked it up. It didn’t seem like the kind of game that I would buy, but I had heard some good things, so it at least warranted a playthrough. And considering that it took about an hour from start to finish, it wasn’t like Gone Home was going to suck up an entire evening.

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At the onset, Gone Home really seems like a horror game, what with a giant empty mansion in the middle of a thunderstorm at night that you can’t escape. Yet once I got used to the creaks and thunderclaps and poked around, I found this game to be something completely different: a story told through its environment and written letters in that environment.

The goal, such as it is, is to learn about the family of your character Katie, why nobody is home, and what’s going on with each of the three members: the conservationist mother, the author father, and the high school daughter. A secondary goal is to turn on all of the lights, because ain’t nobody wants to be exploring some haunted mansion in the dark.

You know how there’s supposedly five stages of grief? Well I went through about three or four emotional stages of Gone Home. First, I was apprehensive that I had stepped into a horror game. Then I got a little curious as I explored and learned about the characters. Then I started to get fidgety and bored. Finally I was just ready to be done with it.

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There’s a lot of elements that I very much like at play here, including the heavy use of environmental storytelling and epistolary narrative. Playing sleuth and putting the pieces of a family’s life together strictly from finding stuff around an otherwise hollow mansion is usually what I go for.

But something about this game wore out its welcome quickly. It was weird piloting a character that had no voice or thoughts of her own other than the incredibly brief mouseover descriptions of interactive objects. The revelations about the family members were rather tepid… I guess I expected a lot more in the end. It’s a quiet piece about a family that isn’t as together as it should be, but I felt like the game was setting me up for something a lot more shocking or exciting than what it actually was.

I also kind of resent the whole fake-out of the ghost/psycho house thing. The game keeps building up a whole haunted house thing before just dropping it entirely. It’s something that I didn’t like about Firewatch and don’t appreciate here. Red herrings are all well and good, but not when they’re dragged on for this long and then turn out to be nothing.

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Considering the length of the game and its free cost, I can’t say that I regret playing it. I enjoy a well-told story, and the fact that this one utilizes video games to do so in a slightly different way than I’m used to is always welcome. Hearing Sam’s occasional journal entries helped me realize that I wanted a lot more voice acting (if nothing else, maybe some quips or verbal observations by the playable character). And there’s very little replayable value here, so it’s a one-and-done experience.

In a year where I’ve played Firewatch, Life is Strange, and Tales from the Borderlands, Gone Home had a lot to live up to in the adventure game storytelling department — and it just couldn’t meet those expectations, especially after the word of mouth recommendations. Still, it does a solid job in its own way of getting you involved in this family and telling a story with no visible characters on the screen. That’s something at least.

The post-Christmas lull

Merry Christmas and Bashful Boxing Day to you all!

We had a very nice Christmas in the Syp household. With four little ones running around, Christmas is just about the most exciting time of the year, and we had fun indulging in all sorts of traditions from our advent calendar to cookie baking to decorating the patio door with crafts projects to listening to our North Pole radio that gave us sporadic updates from the elves. We worked in a couple of days with the extended family in Indiana, a Christmas morning service at church, a first-time-ever viewing of A Christmas Story with the kids (first for them, not me), and some quiet time just to be together and play.

My wife felt bad she couldn’t get me an NES Classic, but seriously, who could this season? And it wasn’t like I was going to go sulking in a corner or something. Actually, I received a couple of very nice surprises, including Bartle’s MMO book (which is a MONSTER of a tome), a Chrono Trigger mouse pad, and a nifty little Waka Waka.

One really unexpected surprise is that my mom found a box of a lot of my old Transformers and Go-Bots from the ’80s in storage. I had a blast pulling them out, seeing if I could still transform them (yes), and explaining each one to my kids. Some had strong memories attached, and I even recovered my very first Transformer from 1983 (I think).

I sometimes hit a bit of a post-Christmas lull, with a crash from all of the fun and excitement. In recent years, it’s been balanced out by my desire to get back to my structured routine after too many days off-track. That’s probably not going to happen until the second week of January, but I’ll be sure to keep busy until then.

It’s getting time to wrap up 2016 and start gearing up for 2017. I have some projects and goals in mind, and I’d rather get the ball rolling this week than waiting for the next. However, I do love end-of-year lists — both reading and writing them — so the rest of the week here at Bio Break will be focused on what I did and loved in 2016.

How was your Christmas? Get or give anything interesting?

The Secret World: Christmas conspiracies

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(Join Syp as he attempts to document a complete playthrough of The Secret World from start to finish. What will The Secret Adventures discover next? Find out in this exciting installment! WARNING: Spoilers and stories ahead!)

The Christmas Conspiracy (investigation mission)

I’m going to take a brief detour in my adventures through Transylvania to take advantage of TSW’s single Christmas mission (there are Christmas events, of course, but this series is focused on the missions), the Christmas Conspiracy.

I receive a text message inviting me to a performance of The Magic Flute at the Albion Theatre in London. I ain’t going to dress up for it, but I will wear this new mistletoe circlet and see if anyone wants to dare for a kiss. At the theater, one of the main actors calls me and says that his Council of Venice sister sent him something and that he was to contact me about it. This is as much conversation as we are to have, for almost immediately at the start of the performance, the purple Nazis come in and shoot up the place.

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Even though it’s my second time through this, this cutscene is still pretty shocking. It does nothing to endear me to the Phoenecians, which continually strike me as a bloodthirsty organization playing catch-up and not holding any reservations against murder and massacre.

After putting a stop to the assault (although far too late for the actors and audience, alas), I dig around backstage and find some information about what’s going on.

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Apparently — and this is the Cliff Notes version — all of this concerns the remainders of jolly Saint Nicholas, whose body and leftover juices are supposedly miraculous and all that. I don’t know why past people had such a fascination for keeping body parts and fluids of saints around, but it was gross. A sticker collection would’ve been better and probably just as useful.

So Santa here had his body split in two, and one half has been stolen away. There’s also a conspiracy with this particular play, as Mozart wrote it as some sort of code to accessing the catacombs where part of the body was kept by the Masons. And then Mozart was quickly killed in rather suspicious circumstances. Past people were just weird as all get out.

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Interesting fact: One of the books I found in the Council of Venice library (which is, again, just a horrible place to hold a library of physical books mere inches away from water that’s dripping and pooling) talks about Lilith and Samael, even suggesting that she might be behind Mozart’s death.

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Then I get to the meat of this mission, which is the trip through the Masonic catacombs. It’s best described as a “music dungeon,” as you use a magic flute to perform simple songs that have various effects — opening doors, moving statues, calling fire, calling water, and so on. The trick is to pay attention to the tunes you encounter and figure out how to use them in various situations. Also, sometimes you must reverse the tune to get the reverse effect.

It’s not that hard once you get into it, and there needs to be very little research outside of the game itself to finish it up.

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The catacombs aren’t particularly scary, although the large statues that slide along can be a little unnerving. Especially if you’ve watched Doctor Who recently. But no, they don’t come to life, and even the few times that you “die,” you’re just sent back a little ways and told to try again.

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At the end of the catacombs are another heapload of Phoenecians, including big baddy Lydia. I’m kind of annoyed that I go through all of the work to solve the puzzles and these purple jerks just blow a hole in from the sewers and get here that way. I deserve a raise.

Lydia’s thing is being bothersome to fight while taunting you and leaving riiiiight before you can kill her. Which she does. That’s OK, since I am able to recover the jar of Santa Juice.

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In a touching little epilogue, Saint Nick arrives in ghost form, kneels down over the slain Council woman who started this whole mission, and the two of them disappear in a bright flash of light. She’s at the North Pole now, Timmy. That’s where all murder victims go on December 25th, don’t you know?