FOMO and the weird pull of FFXIV

Fear of missing out, or FOMO, is an effect that dominates our online play. Or it *can* influence it, at least. With so many MMOs out there — too many to play, nevermind to master — and their always-evolving, time-limited nature, there’s a fear that if you don’t get on board, you’ll miss out forever.

It makes me think back my first month of college. I would stay up so late every night and keep going out, because I had a fear that I would miss out on all of the fun that was going on with parties, events, clubs, etc. College was this sparkly awesome unknown thing to me at the time, so I wanted to gorge on it. But soon enough, I realized that sleep was pretty important and that you kind of settle into a more limited slice of activities, friendships, and interests (along with classes).

And it’s kind of this way with MMOs. I write professionally and personally about the wider field of MMORPGs because I love the genre as a whole, but I can only viably engage in one, two, or perhaps three MMOs at any given time. I can only be part of (usually) one guild per game. It’s a small slice.

But then FOMO comes calling with that sinister whisper that maybe another guild is even more fun or will connect harder. Maybe a different game, a different faction, a different class is where it’s at. It makes it hard to commit, unless you put on blinders or steel your nerve, because the temptation to jump somewhere else is strong.

Sometimes it’s pretty fun to give into that temptation — and inconsequential, pretty much, because these are just games. Doesn’t really matter in the long run if I stick with one or sample at the buffet.

I’ve been thinking of FOMO because out of all of the MMOs that drift around me, FFXIV has always been the one with the loudest siren’s call. I see many of my friends deeply enjoying the game and I acknowledge the regular content updates and general health of the game, and so I fear missing out. This is why I’ve jumped into FFXIV so many times, even though I struggle with parts of it that I like and parts I don’t.

But I know that the FOMO wave is going to crest later this year when the expansion comes out and everyone and their brother will be talking about FFXIV again. And perhaps, yeah, I’ll go back and see what there is to see. Because I’m always afraid of missing out on the party, you see.

Should we be beholden to our gaming backlogs?

It’s such a modern day phenomenon that we have so much entertainment at our disposal that there will never be enough time in our life to even make a dent in consuming it. And it’s one thing when stuff is out there to be accessed or purchased at a later date, but it’s another thing entirely if you’ve actually spent money to buy something you’ve yet to read, watch, or play.

Gaming backlogs have become so prominent because of all of the huge sales that digital platforms like GOG and Steam like to do. There’s a fleeting satisfaction of going on a cheap spending spree to pick up scads of titles, you know, to play later on. And then a backlog is born, growing from a half-dozen titles to a mountain of guilt bearing down on you.

But how do we get through our backlogs when we’re more comfortable playing familiar games and don’t have the time to do it anyway?

I’m right there with you, pal. I might not have the most ridiculously large backlog, but it’s in the hundreds. I snap up free Epic Store titles every week, used to splurge on GOG sales, and never quite seem to make enough time to sift through them.

Originally, this was going to be a strategy guide for getting through a backlog, but there are tons of those out there — and I don’t think I’m really the best person to ask for this anyway. It’d make me a bit of a hypocrite, I think. There are going to be games in my backlog that will go on being untouched on the day of my death, and I’m absolutely cool with that. I’m certainly not going to let this become a source of guilt and pressure.

Personally, what I’ve done is made a document that’s full of lists. I have a list of movies to watch, a list of purchased books to read, a list of purchased audiobooks to listen to, and all of the games on my backlog that I might be interested in at some point. If I get to a place where I’m read to watch a movie, read a book, or play a game, I’ll look down these lists for one that strikes my fancy or simply take the next one.

I do have a standing appointment on my calendar on Saturdays to try out a game from the backlog and blog about it, but it’s usually one of the first thing that gets ignored and bumped off when I’m doing stuff that day.

And I feel that I’m getting my money’s worth with GOG, at least, because I’ve played more than 60 titles to blog about them — some at great length — which is probably more than what a lot of people do.

So no, we should never let entertainment — including games — become some sort of created master or Italian grandmother crossing her arms and projecting guilt until you do what it says. I’m the master of my stuff, and it can just sit there quietly until or unless I’m interested in it.

The Curse of Monkey Island: Sunburned!

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1997’s The Curse of Monkey Island. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

With some clever ventriloquism, Guybrush convinces the deluded Mr. Fossey and his monkey crew to abandon the ship — but the first mate leaves before Guybrush can get him to dig up wherever they buried Elaine’s statue. So he’s just going to have to swipe the map and get to lookin’.

It turns out that the monkey crew “buried” Elaine on the stage at the theater, making her retrieval none-too-difficult. It even got a standing ovation.

With Elaine, a ship, and a crew, it’s high time — and high tide — that Guybrush gets off of Plunder Island. LeChuck is heading that way with his entire undead army this time!

My kids, who are independently playing CMI as well, keep asking me how to get into the beach club. I’m not going to tell them, but it does involve chickens and maggots.

The club is guarded by the snootiest of all snooty guys, who is repulsed by Threepwood’s meager attire — so you imagine that it’s very satisfying when you finally show him your club card and then flick a wet towel his way.

Out on the beach, Threepwood runs into a very pale man who makes his living on the hard work of others. Threepwood:

Kind of feel like the devs are being passive-aggressive here.

So you’ll never believe what you actually have to do to get the map to Blood Island. It’s on this guy’s back, so once you jump through some puzzle hoops he’ll turn over… and then you use cooking oil to get his skin to burn and then… and then…

It’s so gross. I was gagging a little. What’s wrong with you, developers?

Guybrush finally sets out on his new ship, with his new crew, and his disgusting new map! And just as quickly, his fortunes are reversed. His crew is much more interested with whale watching than helping to avoid being boarded, so Guybrush loses the map to another pirate. And then he has to navigate through a whole musical number to try to get the crew to stop singing and start sailing (hint: pick “orange” as the rhyme).

I guess we’re getting somewhere, but some days it feels like we’re just going about in circles.

Battle Bards Episode 195: In the mountains

Battle Bards Episode 197: A royal affair Battle Bards

Bow to your king and queens of MMO music royalty, for the Battle Bards have donned the crown, taking up the majestic scepter, and issued a proclamation that all sorts of royal music must be heard through the land!  Episode 197 show notes  Intro (feat. "Behold Tarantia!" from Age of Conan, "The Royal Bodyguard" from Blade and Soul, and "Illusion Castle Radiant Hall" from Cabal Online) "To Wear the Crown" from Monarch "Krakunta" from Lime Odyssey "Royal District" from Project Copernium "The Castle of Luteran" from Lost Ark "The Grand Duchy of Jeuno" from Final Fantasy XI "Royale" from RuneScape "Ode to the Queen" from Elder Scrolls Online Which one did we like best? Listener notes from George Wilson and Katriana Jukebox picks: "Letting You Go" from The Sims 4, "Stereo Madness" from Geometry Dash, and "Windward" from Bravely Default Outro (feat. "Royal City" from MapleStory 2) Talk to the Battle Bards on Twitter! Follow Battle Bards on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Google Play, iHeartRadio, and Pocket Casts! This podcast is produced using copyrighted material according to Fair Use practices as stated under Section 107 of the 1976 Copyright Act.
  1. Battle Bards Episode 197: A royal affair
  2. Battle Bards Episode 196: Project Gorgon
  3. Battle Bards Episode 195: In the mountains
  4. Battle Bards Episode 194: No Man's Sky
  5. Battle Bards Episode 193: Tribal jams

Attempting to summit the very best of MMO music, the Battle Bards head up, up, up into the mountains with this episode! What musical motifs do the ranges hold in online games? The crew of Steff, Syl, and Syp are going to try to find out — if the yeti doesn’t eat them first!

Episode 195 show notes (show page, direct download)

  • Intro (feat. “Berg” from Drakensang Online, “Snowhorn” from Runes of Magic, and “Mountains” from Valheim)
  • “Interdica High Mountain” from Aion
  • “Wind-Washed Mountains” from Genshin Impact 
  • “The Vista from Mount Crom” from Age of Conan 
  • “Steamfront Mountains” from EverQuest 2 
  • “Mountains of Past Times” from Elsword Online 
  • “Sunqua Peak” from Guild Wars 2
  • “The Mountains of Night” from Age of Conan 
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Listener notes from Katriana
  • Jukebox picks: “Welcome to the Academy” from The Slormaster, “Frontier Music” from The Trail, and “A Big Adventure” from Sackboy
  • Outro (feat. “Cold Mountain Duet” from World of Warcraft)

WoW Classic: High and low times as a leveling Shaman

Check out Syp getting knocked flat on my back from an ogre attack! That’s heroism, right there!

As my entire guild raced toward level 70 and did all of their Karazhan attunement, I spent pretty much all last week laser-focused on bringing my Draenei Shaman up through the old world. Originally I really was going to alternate days between my Shaman and Warlock, but man, I want that Shammy in Outland something bad.

And you know how it is when you have a tantalizing goal right in front of you — it makes you want to push on toward it. I had a lot of these goals pop up last week. The first was hitting level 40, which would give me access to mail armor and dual-wielding. Now my Shaman is attacking like a tornado, and it’s a whole lot more fun to wade into a fight and smack people around.

The only drawback is how fast I chew through mana and how slow it is to rebound. It’s forced me to be very stingy with using skills, so now I’ll usually only use lightning shield and flame shock at the start and then auto-attack my way forward so that I can regen mana a bit. Gift of the Naaru heal is a great help, too, as it’s a heal that doesn’t require any mana whatsoever.

Another major milestone was finally hitting exalted with Stormwind! I wasn’t going to buy an elekk mount, no sirree, so I tracked down as many Stormwind rep quests as I could. By level 42, I hit that goal and was able to buy a horsie for my Draenei. I know it’s a cosmetic thing, but it’s important to me, especially if I was going to have to watch myself ride something for all of the levels until I get flying.

The next major goal is, of course, getting to level 58 and jumping into Outland. I’m pushing myself to ding at least one level a day while doing as much skinning and leatherworking on the side as possible. Hopefully by next week I’ll be there and put Azeroth behind me once and for all.

Would I have wanted to play MMOs in the early 2000s?

It’s pretty human nature to look back at the past and wish that you had done some things different. My imagination sometimes thinks about what I would say to Past Me if I was given an opportunity — what advice I would say, encouragement, etc.

But if I was going to make recommendations to Past Me about gaming, I really don’t know whether or not I’d advise myself to get into MMORPGs earlier on. Back in college in the late 1990s, I didn’t have internet in my dorm room, so it wasn’t until 1999 that I started to have dial-up access wherever I lived. And that was, of course, dial-up. I didn’t use the internet to game; I was still engaging in console and single-player PC titles.

I was somewhat aware of MMOs back then, but only in the sense that a few of my friends played them and seemed weirdly and unhealthily obsessed with them. But every time I went to the store and picked up an EverQuest or Asheron’s Call box, I really wasn’t keen on the graphics or the idea of a monthly subscription. So it wasn’t until 2003/2004 that I got into games like Anarchy Online, City of Heroes, and World of Warcraft.

My personal irony is that from 1999-2003, I was living as a bachelor, so I had more time than I knew what to do with. It was only when I met my wife and started a family that my MMO interest ramped up even as available time decreased.

So would I advise Past Me to put some of that spare time into MMOs? It wouldn’t be because I deeply regret not playing those games now, that’s for sure. If I had to pick any title from the 2000 era, I’d say Asheron’s Call, but I wouldn’t be that enthusiastic about it.

But I might still prompt myself to check them out if only for the social scene. I was incredibly lonely back then, and knowing how much MMOs provide social interaction for me today, I think that would’ve actually helped my mental state somewhat.

It’s a moot point, of course; what happened, happened, and I’m happy where I am now. I’m just wondering, that’s all.

Counting down to New World’s release

While I’m looking at a few months spent at Outland Summer Camp for Brave Kids, I’m sure that by the end of summer, I’ll be ready for a change of pace. That’s why it’ll be the perfect time for Amazon to release its much-delayed New World.

If I had to put my current hype level for New World on a meter, it’d be a… six? Six sounds about right. I’m excited, but in a “it’ll be nice when it comes” kind of way rather than “I MUST HAVE THIS NOW AND WILL GO ON A FISH-SLAPPING RAMPAGE TO MAKE IT HAPPEN” spree.

Part of those tempered expectations are the fact that Amazon’s yet to release any online game that it’s kept running. Plus, while I generally like the setting and theming, the whole package looks like a generic if well-rounded MMORPG. I don’t see a whole lot here that’s standing out in an innovative or exciting way.

So I expect that it’ll be a good time when it arrives, and if the actual experience exceeds those expectations, then all the better. I keep getting a bit of a Secret World vibe from the screenshots and my time in the demo, which definitely doesn’t hurt.

If Amazon does have a solid product here, it has a great opportunity to strike it big for MMO players starving for big-budget, high-profile releases. It’s not as if it’s going to be fighting off other new competitors, and that end-of-summer launch window is a historically great time for MMO releases.

As long as I get to shoot ghosts in the face with a Revolutionary War-era musket, a good part of me is going to be satisfied. And if I get to move into a cabin and put my feet on top of a bear rug in front of a roaring fireplace. I may or may not be talking about a video game at this point.

We so need to be done with MMORPG factions as they stand

One of the unfortunate effect of video games falling into lazy trope wells in development is that they start to carbon-copy and dilute interesting ideas into the realm of the bland. Take factions, for example.

Aligning yourself with a faction — or factions, plural — could be a really fascinating part of your game experience. You could start out without being aligned to any of them, and as you learn more about them, you could pledge allegiance to one or more and engage in overt and covert activities to support them.

Or you could just pick a “red” or “blue” side at launch from the two sides that the developers present, which means practically nothing more than the color of your character’s hair to you. You’re picking a side with no context or personal experience, just because the devs figured that PvP needs an “us vs. them” setup. If it’s a fancy MMO, it gets three sides, not two.

I’m seriously tired of this. I think a whole lot of players couldn’t care less about their factions. Every year at BlizzCon, cries of “For the alliance!” and “For the horde!” sound a whole lot weaker than the year previous. That’s because even die-hard fans know that it doesn’t really *mean* anything. Horde has been bad and then good and then bad again. Alliance has done the same. Both sides have been allies and then heated enemies and then allies depending on whatever nonsensical story beat is being played out.

I just don’t think that devs picking our sides for us in MMOs is effective, especially at character creation. Factions could be realized in exciting ways, especially in a developing game world. Imagine if one month while you’re playing a game and a new faction emerges after rumors have been spreading. People debate this faction’s intentions, and there’s a scramble to work for or against it — or even to investigate its workings and sell that knowledge to the highest bidder.

Players could be double-agents between factions. Players could be empowered to create factions that are a level higher than guilds. Factions could offer real stigma and consequences if you ally with one of them. Factions could even be destroyed, creating yet more memories of players recalling past regimes.

I don’t think we can water down factions any more, but studios certainly could seize upon the idea and build them up into something useful, engaging, and more complicated than an Orc shouting at a Human or a Klingon getting all testy with a Vulcan.