6 MMOs that shaped my gaming in 2017

2017 was an interesting year for my MMO gaming career. It wasn’t really marked by any super-huge new releases; in fact, the year was pretty anemic for new MMOs, period. We’re still seeing lots in development, but only a handful of big budget, big studio projects, and most of those are for the future. Instead, this year was mostly about returning to old favorites and continuing on in my adventures.

I am really glad that I’ve been doing a monthly “gaming goals” article, because it helps me track what I was playing over the course of the year. This was the first year where I fully did that, and it is neat to look back at my aspirations vs. realities while also following the threads of my gaming life. So with that in mind, here are the six MMOs that dominated my gaming time this year:

1. World of Warcraft

This past spring, I felt the need for a break following a nearly two-year run in the game. I was feeling listless and in need of variety and direction, and I am glad I took the time off. But sandwiched around that break were my continuing journeys in Legion, my endless experimentation with alts, my progress as an Undead Warlock (the highest I’ve ever leveled one to date!), and some excitement over Battle for Azeroth and Classic. I’m ending this year mostly focusing on bringing my Gnome Hunter up to speed while giving equal time to other titles.

2. Dungeons and Dragons Online

DDO was really the surprise experience this year for me. When I went back to dabble a little bit in it, little did I know that the DDO bug would bite me hard once more. I should have remembered how much I was in love with this game back in the day, and it’s only grown since then. I’ve had some amazing quests so far with my Gnome Artificer, although I still haven’t really found a guild that’s very active or involved. Hoping to change that in the new year, and also to see the game’s expansions as I start to get up into the double digits.

3. Lord of the Rings Online

This was pretty much a steadfast experience, taking my Lore-master through the remainder of Gondor and then finally into Mordor with the fall’s expansion. While I did try out some alts (Minstrel, Hunter), most all of my time was given to the LM. Mordor proved to be a tough slog with only a handful of interesting and engaging moments, and my enthusiasm for playing started to sap away by the end of the year. Still, I’m excited about Northern Mirkwood for 2018, so there’s hope left!

4. Secret World Legends

I had to say farewell to The Secret World and my character of five years this spring, and while that definitely was a hard blow, at least Legends injected some new life into this faltering title. Taking a new character through the game and getting her back up to where I had left off pretty much consumed my attention for the remainder of 2017, and hopefully by the time the new year clicks over, I’ll be ready for season two.

5. Star Trek Online

I think I had about a two- or three-month run back in STO, doing some of the newer content while dusting off my carrier and fleshing out missions I hadn’t run yet. It was… fine, I guess, but definitely not as memorable as I was hoping nor as long-lasting as trips back to the game in the past.

6. Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars 2 edges out FFXIV on this list by virtue of time, if nothing else. I put in about two months in this game vs. one in FFXIV, but both ultimately conveyed to me that I just wasn’t in the mindset to come back to either. There are so many things that I enjoy about GW2 but also so many things that really drive me nuts about this game that I can’t settle back into what used to be an MMO gaming mainstay for me.

Honorable mention: Elder Scrolls Online

Tossing this into this list because I should mention ESO for a few reasons. I really did want to get more into this game than I did, at one point vowing to make this my main summer title (which worked out as well as my plans usually do). But the allure of housing and the new expansion did get me to put in a few sessions, and it remains very, very high on my list of games to come back to soon.

Advertisements

ESO: How to kill an elf god

OK, I fully admit that I don’t have the first idea of what I’m doing in Elder Scrolls Online. My gear is a mish-mash of plate armor, ascots, cardigans, leather strips, and chafe-inducing thongs. Yes, thongs plural. If I’m given a task and a direction, I’ll just start making a beeline for it according to my compass, no matter what’s in the way. Let’s say that if I operated a motor vehicle like this, my car would be plowing through marshland and nursing home with impunity.

Am I playing right? There’s some sort of main questline about a god losing his powers, but I keep getting distracted by quest chains picked up along the way. Should I be spreading out my power usage for skill ups? I keep spamming my basic cliff diver animal summons in the hope of one day earning a bear. I assume that if I get a bear, I win the game and become the new raid boss. I think I’d make a great raid boss. I’m perfect with pointless speeches in the middle of looking pompous.

In a way, being so clueless is liberating. I’m just experiencing, not worrying about optimal leveling paths or looking for something different than what I’ve done before. And Elder Scrolls Online is, so far, a great game to just play tourist. It’s pretty, it’s amusing, and you can pretty much loot everything. Of course, most all of the loot is worthless, but if the price of chipped plates ever skyrockets, then I’m going to be a rich man.

One thing I do know is that this man right here must die. I’m not an idiot, I know that I just immigrated to an entire island of elves and that I’m going to have to pretend to be on their side once in a while before my master revenge plan is complete. But I have to draw the line when it comes to helping some sort of defective elf god restore his powers.

No. flipping. way. My theory? You take the head elf down and the full elf kingdom will fall. Elves will be sucked into the abyss and I will plunder their ill-gotten loot. Now how to kill him? That… I am working on. It might take some doing. I don’t care what people saying about this doofus being so incredibly powerful, we could probably dogpile him with a thousand noobs and chisel his health bar down to nothing. After that, my bear’s going to eat him as a pre-bedtime snack.

What I am genuinely enjoy the most are the quests and dialogue. I don’t know what it is, but ESO has very engaging quest lines. The characters, their conversations with you, and their scripting pops. It’s not as belabored as FFXIV or as stilted as SWTOR, just enough to have some fun, make its point, and keep the story moving. I was pretty surprised how many of these quests featured scripting and mid-quest conversations. Even little epilogue vignettes!

The mind-controlling spiders who wanted victims to dance was decidedly odd and interesting, particularly when the questgiver turned out to be an incredibly snobby Breton rich lady with little regard for her servants’ well-being. Maybe I can recruit her in my war against elves.

It’s even pretty funny at times. This guy’s an even worse fibber than I am.

ESO: Real estate in Morrowind

Nothing like standing in front of a lava field with your dumb dog thinking about drinking from it. If you were to correctly interpret the look on my character’s face, it would be “I have no idea what I am doing, but I’m going to strike a pose and make others doubt my ineptitude.” Also, “Hey dog, you’re going to be pooping fire tonight if you keep that up.”

I’ll give Elder Scrolls Online this: It’s slick, it’s polished, and it feels wide open in a way that I think the devs wanted to mimic from the solo games. I have a few quests in my log, but I’m largely free to go where I want and die how I want. So when I logged in the other night, my goal was “get a house.” I’d been starving for housing in many of the other MMOs I’d played this past month — WoW, GW2, SWL in particular — and I have heard really nice things about what ESO has done in this regard.

And unlike some other games that make you wait until you’re level 50 and have jumped through many-a-hoop (FFXIV, I’m calling out names), you practically get a free house right out of the gate in Morrowind. To be fair, there is a short quest chain beforehand, but the most difficult part of that is a 10-minute road trip (via jogging; I have no mount as of yet). After doing an errand, I got a deed to my own apartment in Vivic City — and a quick port to it to boot.

Here it is: Syp’s grand castle. OK, it’s a small room with no windows, but you know what? It’s free and it’s large enough for now. I thought it was kind of funny that one part of the housing quest asked you to buy (or make) at least one housing item. I didn’t have a lot of money, so that little stool over there represents about 1/3rd of my current wealth in the game. I’m worth three stools. The only other decoration I have is a spare pet that I planted in the corner and told to watch over my stool. HANDS OFF MY STOOL U NOOB.

Maybe it’s strange and a little pathetic, but I feel more “established” now that I have a home of sorts on this island. Time to head off and pay lip service to needy red-eyed Elves.

ESO and FFXIV: The siren call of summer expansions

Does anyone else hear it?

Can anyone else feel it?

Summer… it’s here. And carried on the wind is the smell of sunshine, pool parties, and MMORPG expansions.

June is shaping up to be an especially busy month for the MMO industry. Elder Scrolls Online is releasing its first expansion, Morrowind; FFXIV is coming out with its second expansion, Stormblood; Black Desert Online is launching on Steam; Elite Dangerous is coming out on PS4; RuneScape’s got an expansion; and Secret World Legends is happening. Oh, and there’s also E3 and any possible announcements contained therein.

Of course, standard disclaimer, I’ve got plenty to do in my games as it stands, but I cannot deny that I am weak-willed when it comes to an expansion launch — even if I’m not playing the game. And I am feeling tugged toward both ESO and FFXIV, a situation that I did not predict but could very well be fueled by all of the coverage and hype going on.

Morrowind is especially appealing because that was the only Elder Scrolls game to date that I actually liked and played for any length of time. Plus, it’s a perfect start point for new characters, there’s that housing system to check out, and a pet-based class? It’s like they’re checking off my wish list. ESO also remains one of the big MMOs that I still have yet to give a fair shakedown, as I’m just not sure I can get past the combat, console-esque UI, and generally blah armor models.

FFXIV? I’ve been mulling over a return for a couple of months now. My character was on the cusp of Heavensward, and that’s when everyone said the story gets good. I genuinely miss the community and the dungeon runs (especially as a healer). Red Mage looks pretty sweet too, even though it lacks bears. BEARS. On the minus side, there’s the general hodge-podge of FFXIV annoyances I’d have to overlook and a subscription fee to contend with.

So what’s the plan? Do neither? Do both? Pick one? It’s a big summer ahead, and I wouldn’t mind a change-up of my MMO stable, especially since my other anticipated releases — Project Gorgon, Sea of Thieves, LOTRO’s Mordor expansion, GW2’s second expansion — are coming no earlier than fall at best. It seems like a perfect time to try on ESO for real or to give FFXIV another go.

I’m at a loss, really. I could see myself enjoying either of these, but I could also just be jealous with that time and keep investing it into LOTRO, GW2, and to a lesser extent, SWTOR. Anyone else hearing this siren’s call, or have you already made up your mind?

Why player housing should be mandatory, not optional, for MMORPGs

housing

Yesterday we got a huge amount of insight into Elder Scrolls Online’s upcoming 2017 player housing system — homesteads — and I have to say that this news definitely tips me over the edge into wanting to play the game. It looks kind of terrific, with multiple house styles (and yards), freeform placement, and interactive stations. In my eyes, it was the final big piece that the game needed to be fully fleshed-out… maybe not done, but an MMO proper.

Housing isn’t a fancy extra that some of the more extravagant MMOs can afford; it should be absolutely mandatory to any serious online game that wants to maintain and grow a community. Over the years I’ve migrated from the position of “oh housing is nice if it’s there” to “why is it NOT in this game? That’s a travesty!” I’m genuinely nonplussed that popular games like World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2 (not to mention more niche titles like The Secret World) lack true personal housing system. Each of those three have tried some weird offshoot of housing but have yet to offer true player housing as we see in RIFT, WildStar, and EverQuest 2.

Why do I feel so strongly about housing? It it just my fanboy preferences reaching hyperbolic limits or is there some objective reasons behind my demand for its inclusion everywhere? I won’t deny my emotions, but I have to say that feelings aside, there’s a world of difference between an MMO that contains housing and one without.

An MMO with housing tells you, the player, that you have a place here. That you are welcome, that this game is “your house” in which to make yourself comfortable. It gives players ownership and agency, a place to express personal creativity and to mold the game around them instead of only vice-versa. An MMO with housing encourages more socialization and roleplaying, activities all outside of the constant murder-spree that we seem to otherwise engage in. Housing transforms our characters from nomads without strong roots into citizens with a home base.

For a studio, housing is free publicity for the game. Players LOVE to show off their houses — on forums, on YouTube, in blogs — and each mention of that is an invitation to come play your game. It’s player-created content in your game that can, with some thought, be promoted and utilized to expose your whole community to a changing and diverse world.

Housing is a bridge between players and developers, both of whom become co-creators and teammates. Players aren’t just consuming what developers make, but creating something to share back in return. It fosters goodwill and excitement between the sides and makes communication something other than players complaining about the most recent patch.

It it hard to add such systems? I have no doubt. I also would fully believe that there’s a chunk of the playerbase of any game that wouldn’t care about housing at all — but that’s true of most systems.  But it is worth it. So, so worth it. In a time when hundreds and hundreds of MMORPGs are running, when players have the financial freedom to play any they like, a game with a housing system has a great long-term advantage over one that doesn’t. It’s an investment in your community, in your future, and it elevates an MMO from being merely a game to virtual world status.

Developers of MMOs without housing, stop dismissing and downranking such projects. Make it mandatory. Make it happen. Players of MMOs without housing, keep up the pressure and demand for such systems. Make it hard for studios to ignore you by telling you what you “really want” is something completely different.

Six MMOs I’m considering playing this fall

We’re now deep into September, which means many things for my life. It’s the start of the school year for my job, what I always see as the MMO expansion season, and the onset of the fall and preparation for winter. As I settle comfortably into both World of Warcraft and RIFT right now, I’ve been considering what I might add to my roster for the remainder of 2016. I have several options in front of me, and if things calm down a bit more, I might be playing one or more in the near future. So what’s being considered?

1. Project Gorgon

It’s not a question of whether or not to play Project Gorgon, it’s just a matter of when. I hate this whole early access nonsense, because you never really know when to leap on board, even when the games go into quasi-persistence. There’s three thoughts here: Just play it already and roll with the changes that are sure to come, wait for the Steam early access release that should come by the end of the year, or really hold out for the official launch in late 2017.

I have to weigh waiting for more features and less chance of partial wipes with the fact that it’s more-or-less persistent now and there’s already lots to do. My thinking is to hold out for the Steam release and then take it casual from there.

2. Master X Master

Not technically an MMO — yet people keep calling it more of an MMO than almost any MOBA that came before it. I took a look at some previews and really found myself warming up to its PvE side, various characters, and fun gameplay. I’ll definitely take a look when it releases, but how long I’ll stay is a huge question mark.

3. Neverwinter

Yeah, I might go back to Neverwinter. I always have a soft spot for Cryptic games, and Neverwinter is actually doing huge right now. Loads of players, lots of content added, several platforms — and the assurance that this is a game that has a long future ahead of it. Would like to try a new character and perhaps make it further than I did in the past.

4. AdventureQuest 3D

Currently this title is eyeing an October release, and while it’s most assuredly going to be very content light when that happens, I’ll be putting it on my phone as my go-to mobile MMO. I want a pocket MMORPG and this one, given enough time and care and affection, could blossom into one worth playing. The enthusiasm of its devs and community is downright infectious — and there is no cure.

5. Elder Scrolls Online

I picked up a very cheap copy of this a while back and it’s been sitting on my shelf like, “Play meeeee!” And I’ve been ignoring it because I’m a jerk to video games like that. It’s a case of a game that I really haven’t spent a lot of time in, has shored up its weaknesses with a lot of content, has a promising future, and could be a potential if I want to give it a go.

6. The Unknown Dark Horse Underdog

And then there’s always the possibility that moods and whims might lead me somewhere else entirely. Oh, at times I’ve looked at RuneScape, Trove, WildStar, Marvel Heroes, and even Guild Wars 2 as possible fall entries, but most of those might be best left alone… for now.

I have a separate list for 2017, although that’s much more in flux at the moment. Fingers crossed for a better year for new and upcoming MMOs!

Five MMOs I’d be playing if I had all of the time in the world (which I don’t)

eso

I don’t care who you are — there ain’t none of us who have the time to do more than either scratch at the surface of a handful of MMOs or really dig deep into one or two of them. Even if you’re so “fortunate” as to have few responsibilities and copious amounts of free time.

Well, unless you’re this lady from NCIS, who apparently figured out how to beat all MMOs:

“You hold the high score in virtually every massively multiplayer online roleplaying game!”

Man, that clip never fails to crack me up.

While I certainly wouldn’t trade my job and family for something as frivolous as having more time just to game, it doesn’t stop me from creating impossible hypothetical situations in my mind such as, “If I had as much gaming time in a day as I wanted, what other MMOs would I play?”

As it stands now, I’m pretty contained into three games: Star Trek Online, World of Warcraft, and The Secret World. I feel like I have a great balance going and can dip lightly into each of these to pursue various goals. But if I was to add more to the pile without concern for time, here’s what I might tackle:

Elder Scrolls Online

This is probably just because ESO has had a good run of news lately, but I’ll admit to always being attracted to/impressed by MMOs that have fleshed out content offerings, have a thriving community, and are showing signs of future growth. ESO has all of these in spades, and perhaps if I had gobs of time, I could end up liking this game as much as any other MMO. My one and only foray into it was rough and unimpressive, but first impressions aren’t always spot-on.

Fallen Earth

Yeah, Fallen Earth probably doesn’t have many years ahead of it or great amounts of future content, but it’s pretty much the best post-apocalyptic MMO out there and one that I had a great time playing. It’s also a total time gobbler, so that’s kept me from heading back into it. I just miss riding my horse across the irradiated wild west and blasting mutated hermit crabs with my shotgun.

Dungeons and Dragons Online

It’s been a very long time since I played this regularly, but I still haven’t come across an MMO that’s quite like this one. The focus on dungeon runs, the dual campaigns, the free-form character creation, the dungeon master, the passionate community… these are all speak in favor of DDO’s worth. And Turbine keeps adding onto it, too. Probably more content in that game right now than I could get out of it in a couple of years of hardcore playing.

EverQuest 2

I and all of the fortune tellers and industry analysts in the world couldn’t tell you what Daybreak has in store for the EverQuest franchise at this point (if anything). The premature demise of EverQuest Next is still rippling out across the MMO community, sending the impression that the lineage of EverQuest has come to a sad end with Landmark.

Yet there’s still EverQuest 2 and it’s still getting expansions and some dev love. This has always been one of those MMOs that I feel that, in a parallel universe, I would be totally into. It certainly checks all of the boxes of my wish list, has a vibrant playerbase, and is so packed with content at this point that it’s almost intimidating to consider playing. Which is probably why I don’t.

RIFT

I’ve always seen RIFT as a “safety” MMO. If I’m disillusioned or burned out on whatever I’m playing, there’s always RIFT to go back to. Good comfort gaming: lots of features, regular updates, and that sweet, sweet soul system. I think back to the first year or two of playing this game and trigger all sorts of nostalgic love for the fun I had in the game. I never stick around long when I do go back, but I usually have a great time.

So what about you? If time wasn’t a restrictive factor, what additional games would you be playing (if anything)?