DDO: Turn on the Waterworks

A tunnel full of blasting acid? Huh. Must be back in the Waterworks.

Ah the Waterworks… of all of my foggy memories of DDO of the past, this one remains one of the strongest. It’s not because I was particularly enamored of it, but because we ran it so many times with groups to get that sweet, sweet loot at the end. It used to be a rite of passage for lowbies and something groups would stumble over, but I think this has changed with time.

The Waterworks is a four quest chain series that’s tied together with the titular underground adventure zone. As it’s all sewers and ugly rooms and gobs of kobolds, it isn’t something that’s exactly a thrill-a-minute, but again, it’s all about that end reward for the chain. For me, this time around, I wanted to run through it in order to put a wrap on the Harbor and move on.

I wasn’t particularly interested on carefully exploring the areas. Relying on my vague memories (which proved to be pretty reliable, thanks to muscle memory), I blitzed through the quests and mowed down hundreds upon hundreds of kobolds. So many orphans are going to have a bad day today, methinks. Just about none of it is that fun, but perhaps the worst is one quest where you have to find a single dead body that’s randomly placed in one of three dozen cells scattered about. Wheeeee.

While Waterworks is about 90% kobolds, there is a smattering of giant spiders, ogres, and even zombies to mix things up. In the end, however, all it did was make me so ready to ditch the Harbor for good.

At least I got a level out of it. Hello Level 5 Artificer!

To the dead kobold that ended up floating in mid-air thanks to a placement glitch, know that I am forever memorializing your great sacrifice as a brief mention on an MMO blog. It’s the literal least I could do for you.

On to the Marketplace! Just eyeballing the area, there are soooo many quests to be done. I’m also going to have to re-acquaint myself with the area and figure out where all of the different services are.

All I know is that I’ll never look as cool as that fighter up there. You’re amazing, dude. Imma going to head back to Salvation Army +1 to see if I can find a turquoise jumper from 1989.

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Requiem for Marvel Heroes

While the writing was on the wall for about a month now, it was still a blow to hear that Disney is shutting down Marvel Heroes. As of the time of this writing, we don’t have any specifics on when and how this will happen, but… does it really matter? It’s over and done.

And man is that a shame. Marvel Heroes had so much going for it, especially following its 2015 revamp. It had the creator of Diablo at its head, a scorching hot IP, limitless character possibilities, plenty of revenue streams, monthly updates, regular events, tons of giveaways, and some pretty awesome voice acting. Plus Squirrel Girl. My love for Squirrel Girl is completely due to Marvel Heroes and my adventures with her in this game.

I have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes, but chances are that licensing and revenue issues are involved. I get the feeling that the console version — Marvel Heroes Omega — was a last-ditch effort to save the game and drive up revenues, one that didn’t work out as well. I never got the impression that Marvel Heroes was hurting, per se, but ever since Omega you could see the PC exodus taking place.

Again, a shame. People loved this game. I loved this game. It was a great title to jump in and jump out to have some quick fun. It felt responsive, it had that great Diablo loot, and it let you play a huge variety of Marvel characters. It seemed that pretty much every couple of weeks there were new heroes and team-ups, and you just wanted to collect them all even if you didn’t play them.

I won’t say that it was perfect. It wasn’t. Marvel Heroes got too complex and convoluted with its character development and gear for my taste. It couldn’t ever quite figure out how to streamline and balance the classes either. But I admired that the studio was pretty generous with what it gave away for free and that there was a lot to do even for a completely free character.

My main run with the game was pretty much for the duration of 2015. I had some absolutely great times, especially with Squirrel Girl and Doctor Doom, and I thought it was brilliant how the game would constantly cross-promote with all of the Marvel TV and movie releases. It seemed like a perfect fit and I’m a little aghast that Disney is just ditching that angle. But then, I might not have all of the financials and pertinent information.

I feel especially bad for people who have paid a whole bunch of money into this game. Sure, none of us have any assurance that a game is going to be around for a given future, but I know that Marvel Heroes is the type of game into which people have really poured a whole lot of money — prompted by those yearly package deals — with the hopes of collecting a roster that would entertain them for years to come. Instead, Marvel Heroes’ lifespan will be a little over four years (2013-2017) when all is said and done.

Anyway, here’s to Marvel Heroes. You delivered great superhero entertainment and I really will miss you. You deserved so much better than this.

If you want to walk down memory lane with me, check out all of my Marvel Heroes posts from my time playing the game!

LOTRO: Two strode in, and death followed behind

I find it oddly charming and comforting that even in the deepest midst of Sauron’s domain and power there exists a tribe of free folk who stubbornly cling to their land even as the enemy encamps all around them. I gladly accepted the offer to head into the Red Sky Clan’s camp and visit with these wild natives, feeling refreshed to see friendly faces and architecture that isn’t trying to secure a spot on a heavy metal album cover.

OK, so it’s no four-star Hilton, but after a couple of zones of unrelenting hostility and no real “good guy” camps, I’m almost weeping with joy to see this. It makes me miss the more upbeat areas elsewhere in Middle-earth, and I make a mental effort to push that aside and focus on the task at hand, lest I get bogged down in despair.

It doesn’t take long before I convince the tribe to help me and whatever non-puking Rangers there are about to assault the nearby fortress of Kala-Gijak. Everyone assembles, a hush falls over the swamp, and then the head Ranger tells me to go in solo and pretty much kill everyone, destroy everything, and then stand aside as the army rolls in afterward to claim all the credit. Uh… no. Why don’t you come with me? I mean, the second I start killing people — and you want me to slaughter at least 30 Orcs! — it’s going to arouse a little suspicion and negate any advantage that surprise would have. Let’s just go together?

No?

Fine. But I’m keeping all of the Orc ears this time.

Fortunately, I do bump into a wandering Minstrel who just so happens to be doing the exact same quests as I. We gladly team up and start taking the place down. With one player, it would have been a horrible slog, but with two, it became pretty tolerable. I would assume that more would just steamroll the place. Gee. Wish there was an army at my back.

Methodically, we go through the camp, towing death behind us as an overworked, underpaid intern. My companion does seem to run literal circles around every enemy he attacks, but as he’s contributing both DPS and heals, I’m not in a position to complain.

Mission accomplished, we hack our way out and return to the camp, feeling that we could have single-handedly won the War of the Ring if only Aragorn had put us onto the field sooner.

Battle Bards Episode 109: Club Penguin

When you’ve got a club full of penguins overseen by the Mouse House itself, you know things are going to get both wacky and weird! Club Penguin may not be everyone’s go-to MMO for music, but its wide array of simplified genres certainly give the Battle Bards a lot to discuss on this week’s show.

Episode 109 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “Hello Yellow,” “Extra Planetary Force,” and “Cabin Trails”)
  • “Starting Fresh”
  • “Medieval Theme”
  • “Cart Surfer”
  • “Bull’s Eye”
  • “Pizza Parlor”
  • “Ocean Voyage”
  • “Rock the Boat”
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Listener notes from Katriana_games and Zoward
  • Jukebox picks: “Divine’s Lament” from Divinity Original Sin 2, “Inner Light” from Destiny 2, and Level with Emily Reese
  • Outro (feat. “Strange Galaxy”)

World of Warcraft: The leveling path less traveled…

What can I say — I travel in style via blind death angel.

With about a week of leveling my Undead Warlock behind me (more or less), I’ve made a really interesting realization about bringing up new characters in World of Warcraft. You see, up until level 15, it’s a pretty linear experience: do all of the quests in your particular zone, and if you have it, switch to a different starting region. But then level 15 hits and the group finder opens up, allowing for dungeon runs from anywhere in the world.

In the past, this is the point where I pretty much plunk my character down in her capital city and start chain-running dungeons until the leveling pace starts to slow down — which can be quite a while. At least until 80 or 90. It’s just dungeon finder on repeat, with occasional trips to the bathroom, auction house, and bank. Fast, efficient… and soul-crushing.

When I started doing this on my Lock, I really noticed an abrupt switch in my interest. I had been really into this character, the setting, and the quests, but suddenly I was gaming the system and ignoring the actual “world” of World of Warcraft. I had hopped onto the leveling train, choo choo, and it quickly divorced me of my affection for the character.

Now, I have no problems with dungeons and group content. It’s good, I think, in moderation. As a full-time activity, it stifles me, especially with its repetition, lack of narrative, and that “I’m trapped in a run and can’t escape at my leisure” feeling. But previously I felt compelled to do it in WoW on my lowbies because that was the quickest path to the cap.

After a night or two of dungeon runs on this character, however, I stopped and asked myself why I was doing it. I had no great reason; expediency didn’t seem to be that important to me. There was seriously no rush to get to the cap and back into Legion, especially after the Battle for Azeroth announcement. So why do it?

And I saw that the two main paths to leveling — chaining dungeon runs and standard questing — were open in front of me, and that I had the choice. It wasn’t a hard one, really. I got out of the city and got back to questing.

Within a short time, I felt the interest in my character flood back. I was having a great time exploring the landscape, reading quest text (yes, I do that), and getting to know my character’s growing rotation. I decided that I would put myself at the mercy of the adventure guide, taking its suggestion for a good leveling zone to do. I’d head there, mop up an entire zone, and then see what’s next without a great concern for staying on a certain path or going through an expansion from start to finish.

That landed me in Arathi Highlands, an old favorite zone from vanilla that doesn’t seem TOO different than it used to be. Still kind of green, plain, and host to some classic ruins. For the heck of it, I switched from Affliction to Demo to see if I could grow into a workable rotation instead of trying to cobble one together at the level cap like I did when the class changes hit in Draenor.

Within the first night of doing this, I had managed four levels and had a dozen or so screenshots tucked away from my adventures. I wasn’t dependent on someone else’s pace to proceed, and I could enjoy guild chat instead of keeping my focus strictly on the minutiae of a dungeon crawl. Good stuff.

Secret World Legends: Bye-bye, AEGIS, don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

Now that I’m back in Tokyo in Secret World Legends, it’s like I never left. Of course, the first time around I was experiencing the zone piecemeal as the devs slowly brought it online, whereas now I have the whole package waiting for a nonstop experience.

There’s certainly a whole lot to do, and I’m going to return to doing both main and secondary missions (I had abandoned side missions for a while in Transylvania there for the purpose of advancement). A good starting point is Gozen’s diner, so I waded back into the Tokyo pool with all of the enthusiasm I could muster.

Gozer… er, Gozen’s introductory quests are fine for what they are. She’s not my favorite NPC of the city, although her relationship with Richard is interesting. Would love to hear more of that backstory.

Definitely the best part of returning to Tokyo, other than feeling *less* behind than I was before, is that AEGIS isn’t being shoved down my throat. In fact, so far I haven’t seen it at all. Mobs are just mobs again without those annoying shields, and combat feels a lot like how it did in previous zones. That’s a GOOD thing, by the way. AEGIS was poison to this game, and I’ll never relent in saying so.

Probably the best quest that I (re)did was the one where I’m chasing an Oni spy in and out of the Hell dimension. Secret World’s Hell is a really fascinating place, kind of an overlay of the real world only more fiery, industrial, and demon-filled. Although the current state of Earth doesn’t put it far behind in the demon department.

I’ve also enjoyed returning to a more urban environment. The modernity of it lies in stark contrast to the “old world” setting in Transylvania and the desert landscape of Egypt. Sleek skyscrapers and modern trappings offer more of a stark contrast to the Filth everywhere and the constructed walls that attempted to keep the apocalypse at bay.

Oh hey, I’m totally sure this billboard has NOTHING to do with where we are heading after Tokyo. Foreshadowing? Nah. Couldn’t be. Not a chance.

While we’re on the subject of the Congo, how do I feel about it as (probably) the next zone? I guess OK. I mean, I’m happy to get *any* new Secret World content at this point, but my feelings on jungle zones are pretty well-known here. Could be visually interesting, could also be a nightmare to navigate. As long as there are a lot of great stories, I’m in.

Is he… compensating for something? Kurt’s another Tokyo NPC that doesn’t exactly get my imagination revving, but at least his missions are straight-forward as can be.

Tokyo’s more complex investigation missions are pretty hit and miss, in my opinion. Some, like Wetwork, are devilishly clever, but the Love and Origami quest that I just did feels half-baked and in need of another pass. I think it’s a great idea to have the player actually do real origami as part of the quest, but it’s not explained or handled very well in execution.

Why MMO guild halls do nothing for me

Here’s a weird thing: As much as I love player housing and will take just about every opportunity to gush about it, I’m far less enthusiastic about guild housing. As in, I almost don’t care about it at all. I even resent it when an MMO — such as Guild Wars 2, DDO, Guild Wars 1, or City of Heroes — decides to include group housing without an individual option as well. I guess many of us are like that when a game includes a feature we don’t want instead of one we do.

So why does guild housing (or halls or superbases) fail to spark my interest? It’s more of a subjective than objective thing with me. Objectively, I appreciate that the game has another option and can even acknowledge the positive benefits of providing a space for guilds to gather and work on group activities. I’ve seen some impressive guild halls in my time, especially in EverQuest II and RIFT. They can be cool for parties, but outside of those, I haven’t seen a need or use for guild halls.

Outside of games that prioritize the inclusion of guild halls to the exclusion of individual housing, my main objection to this content is that I as a player usually have no direct say in the acquisition, decoration, and function of the guild hall. It’s almost always a project of the guild leadership, a box of toys for them to play with and the rest of us to admire without touching. What’s the fun in that? I can only root so much for a guild hall to be built up using the resources or money that I’ve helped to provide but have no say in how it’s used. I cannot summon the passion to care.

What’s frustrating is that with some thought, guild halls could function on both the group and individual levels. In fact, I have seen this played out. In RIFT, I was part of a guild that used a giant shared space in which all members were given permission to build and then set up little homes dotted about the map. I think Trove’s clubs work like this, but I could be mistaken. And FFXIV did kind of a cool thing where guild houses had a doorway that led to individual apartments, linking the two types of housing together.

I also would like to visit WildStar again soon and see how the new housing communities are coming. That seems like a great compromise of group and individual control, although they’re not large enough to be a guild-sized endeavor.

MMO guild halls (usually) do nothing for me. But they could.