I wasn’t originally planning on doing the Flushies this year due to the fact that I just wrote up a bunch of lists, but why not turn the voting over to you guys? Let’s keep it simple with three categories that you can vote on here: Best new MMO in 2013, best expansion in 2013, and most anticipated for 2014. When I get back from break I’ll tally up the results!
I’m going to wind up this year’s Flushies tomorrow and then get back to the normal swing of things, so you’ll have to pardon me if all of this seems rather… skimpy. It kind of is. I’m sorry! I’m only a human being with weaknesses just like everyone else EXCEPT FOR YOU. Stop looking at me with those accusing, patronizing eyes! I do not dance for you like a clockwork monkey; I am a man!
Best new MMO of the year.
Winner: [Tie] The Secret World and Guild Wars 2
OK, I know this is (a) no big shocker and (b) waffling to make it a tie, but I can’t help either.
While there’s a contingent that really seems to dislike GW2 out there, it’s such a relaxing, engaging, and beautiful game that I knew from the first second I stepped into that world that it would be a contender. The art and sound has set the standard for the industry, and the gameplay ain’t half bad. Even if dynamic events aren’t as completely revolutionary as we might have hoped, they’re pretty cool. Plus, there are a ton of small innovations abounding that I wish would make it to the rest of the industry.
The Secret World is a rougher game, especially with its difficulty level and sometimes wonky combat. However, whatever rough spots exist are forgiven in light of the title’s stellar storytelling, voice acting, and general setting. It’s a type of MMO that we just don’t see anywhere else, and I can’t help but love it.
So I can’t really choose between the two, and since it’s my blog I don’t have to.
- Pirate101 — I do wish I had some time to play this, since it looks like another solid hit for KingsIsle.
- PlanetSide 2 — Not my cup of MMO tea, but I’m not going to ignore its popularity and general good word of mouth I’ve heard from my friends who play it.
Lots of great MMO soundtracks were released this year, and while I’m still plowing through them, here’s the standouts from the ones I’ve experienced.
Winner: Lord of the Rings Online: Riders of Rohan
In my opinion, Chance Thomas topped his already-iconic LOTRO score with this recording. It’s just such a great soundtrack full of emotionally evocative and aurally awesome songs. From the LOTRO Legacy medley to the wild themes of riding across the plains, it’s a soundtrack that I could listen to again and again. It’s got a lot less of the bombastic, hard-to-listen-to tracks that were dominant in Moria, which has my gratitude as well.
- Spiral Knights: I’m only through the first volume, but dang if this isn’t a catchy, clever score. “Lucky Knight” gets a lot of play at my house.
- The Secret World: I just love the theme song — not a lot of MMOs do “eerie” well.
- Mists of Pandaria: Another excellent World of Warcraft score, par for the course.
- Pirates of the Burning Sea: I almost, almost put this as the winner, because I’m totally in love with the high seas tunes. You really wouldn’t regret buying this, I don’t think.
- Guild Wars 2: Or, you know, this one. Should I have put this as the winner? 78 tracks, quite a few of which instantly entered in heavy rotation on my player. But I think I’m going to stick with my choice, as sometimes Soule’s songs get a little samey.
Today’s Flushie is the best non-MMO video game I played this year. Shut up and listen, fool!
Toss Firefly, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and Rogue-likes together, and you might end up with this clever, addicting, and downright difficult space adventure title. It stands out not for its graphics (which are Flash-adequate) but because it puts the emphasis on managing the inside workings of a starship instead of piloting it and hitting the “fire” button. Tough choices and the nearly inevitable doomed fate keep you on your toes through each round. I’d really, really love to see it on a tablet, however!
- The Simpsons: Tapped Out — The gameplay is unabashedly Farmvillian, but the Simpson facade, humor, and relaxing “check in and check out” nature of the game made it A-OK in my book.
- Mass Effect 3 — I haven’t actually finished it yet, but what I saw was a return to form and very good. I hear the ending is AWESOME so don’t tell me otherwise.
- Punch Quest — A silly 16-bit-esque endless runner on mobile devices that stands out due to its insanity and laser-raptors.
- Knights of Pen and Paper — A surprisingly excellent mobile RPG that puts us in the shoes of a D&D group sitting at a table, working through quests.
- The Walking Dead — I’ve only scratched the surface of this adventure game, but I can already tell that it’s in its own league of scariness and thought-provoking decisions.
I’m a bit crunched for time with Christmas coming up, so I don’t have the time to really sit and doodle up a cool graphic for this year’s award ceremonies here at Bio Break. I haven’t even really thought it through past today, but I’d hate to break a tradition. So take these as an award or just a “things I recommend that I saw/played/read/enjoyed this year.”
Today’s topic, best book I read in 2012.
Winner: Wool by Hugh Howey
Wool is a series of (currently) seven novels and novellas centering around a post-apocalyptic society that lives in a giant underground silo. It’s a fascinating idea that’s coupled with cool characters and lots of surprising twists. Books 1-5 are the core story, with 6-8 designed to be a prologue series of sorts.
- Eli Monpress series by Rachel Aaron — Good light-hearted fantasy in a quite imaginative world where every object has a living, thinking spirit attached.
- Prince/King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence — A dark fantasy series with a completely rotten character as the protagonist. Yet you come to root for him, and that’s the amazing part.
- Pines by Blake Crouch — A “what the heck is going on in this weird small town” story. Kind of brutal and a little confusing, but worth it for the payoff.
- The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks — Weeks is a heckuva author, and it was great to return to his series where characters use color as their magic.
- The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King — Just a side story to the whole Dark Tower series, but still it was like coming home to return to this series for it.
- The Rook by Daniel O’Malley — Buffy crossed with the X-Files crossed with Harry Potter crossed with awesomeness.
- Zero Sight/Zero Sum by B. Justin Shier — Probably my most favorite series written by a medical doctor and starring a vampire.
- The Anathema by Zachary Rawlins — While I don’t care much for the main character (or, heck, many of the characters), it’s a ridiculously imaginative, intricate, and labyrinthine setting where characters with superpowers are trained in an academy and then sent off to join cabals that fight against each other.
- Leviathan Wakes and Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey — Great space opera stuff with a goody-two-shoes war hero, a depressed private eye, and a horrible threat that may just end everything in the solar system.
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline — If you love 80s culture, MMOs, and a pretty neat look at what the future may hold in store, here you go.
- A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin — Way better than Feast of Crows, A Dance with Dragons continues the Song of Ice and Fire saga in a way that we’d expect: with lots of blood, surprises, and deaths.
- The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss — Not quite as good as The Name of the Wind, Rothfuss’ follow-up is nevertheless good reading with one of the most compelling main characters of modern fantasy fiction.
Another new experiment in the Flushies legacy, the Readers’ Choice Awards! In our last round of Flushies, I asked Bio Break readers to submit their own awards — and winners — in categories that they themselves made up. It’s far more entertaining than anything I could’ve written, so let’s see what you all created!
Hardest Working Live Team: Star Trek Online
Many MMG Live Teams content themselves with patching in a handful of quests and balance tweaks quests every few months. STO’s Live Team has added the ability to walk around your ship, make DIY missions, play minigames, assign duties to each and every member of your “lower decks” crew, and voice chat with other players.
All this while doing ground-up redesigns of ground combat, the skill system, crafting, and the quest log. (From Chris Letoile)
Most Fantastic Bug: Hangame deletes an entire MMO
This would be an award given to the game who has a glitch of fantastic proportions, such as WoW’s Corrupted Blood plague of ’05, or the Faldor Massacre of ’06. As far as winners go, I would probably give it to M2, which was accidentally obliterated about a month ago (you wrote the Massively article on the incident, I believe.) However, I’m not really happy with this choice, and feel that there might be a better fantastic MMO glitch out there. If you know of any better ones that occurred this year, do tell. (From Kyle Connor)
LotRO wins it hands down! I almost throw up every festival time doing the pub crawl quests, it’s awesome!! (From James Hoysa)
Creepiest Crafting Skill: Butterfly milking in Glitch
There’s just something so unsettling about getting special lotion to message and then milk a butterfly. (From Psnacky)
Most Server Closures: Star Wars Galaxies
Too bad SGW beat out Warhammer for that distinction this year. Maybe they’ll do better in 2012. (From Attic Lion)
Best Simulation of Queues Usually Only Seen In Such Places As Disneyland: Star Wars: The Old Republic
Resurrected Gaming D-bag Who Thinks Awfully Highly Of Himself Since He Hasn’t Done Anything Relevant For A Decade: Richard Garriott, aka Richard Garriott de Cayeux, aka Lord British
Congratulations! Sir Richard can’t be here tonight as he’s busy telling the entire world how they should play their games and that his ‘ultimate RPG’ is better than anything you could have ever dreamed of, so I’ll accept for him. Thank you! (From Targeter)
Best player vs devs combat: Jita 4-4 Revolt in EVE
You knew it was coming — and here it is! 2011 Flushie awards doled out to MMOs themselves!
Best Launch: RIFT
Even with the huge amount of interest that Trion Worlds’ freshman title produced, the team got the headstart and launch off with nary a hitch (unless you count the quickly vanishing queues). The game worked on Day One and most everyone who wanted to got in. Considering the numbers of people involved, it was widely hailed as one of the best launches MMOdom has ever seen, and I agree.
Best Expansion: Rise of Isengard
To be fair, there really weren’t a lot of expansions this year in MMOs, and I predict that 2012 will be even sparser. That said, LOTRO’s Rise of Isengard takes the award by virtue of a sizable expansion to the game’s landscape, improvements upon the game’s storytelling techniques, and a shift to one of the series’ most iconic locales, the tower of Orthanc.
Best New MMO: Star Wars: The Old Republic
It may only be out mere days at this point, but already SWTOR has proven itself as a mighty storytelling machine with polished MMO mechanics and a lovely Star Wars veneer. I’d say that, more or less, this game has lived up to the hype that BioWare’s put out for years at this point. Love it or hate it, we’ve just witnessed the birth of an MMO juggernaut, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since…
Biggest Personal Project: Getting 20 Hall of Monuments points in Guild Wars
I know, it’s kind of sad — only 20 points? Why is that a big deal? Yet it kind of was for me, since I spent the better part of a year, off and on, playing Guild Wars to build up 20 HoM points so I could save up some goodies for Guild Wars 2. In the process I met a truly awesome guild, learned a ton about the game, and realized that as pretty as Guild Wars is, I’m definitely glad that there’s a sequel coming out so I don’t have to play it any more.
Promising Contender: WildStar
NCsoft’s Carbine Studios burst on the scene this summer with an instantly captivating title: WildStar. With a fun trailer, gorgeous art style, and a promise to allow us to pursue a variety of different playstyle “paths,” WildStar is definitely on my radar and probably will remain so for a while to come.
Most Improved: RIFT
Even after its major launch, Trion didn’t sit back and coast for a while; instead, the studio began an intense rollout of major updates to the game on a bi-monthly basis, pumping out feature after feature, world event after world event, and responding to player concerns at such a rapid pace that it immediately put the rest of the field to shame. While RIFT may no longer be the new kid on the block, it is the most improved game in 2011 and worthy of a looksee if you haven’t already.
Biggest Surprise: Star Wars Galaxies’ closure
As SWTOR’s release came near, I wondered more than once what it would be like to have two (radically different) Star Wars MMOs out there. I needn’t have bothered; SOE abruptly announced that it wasn’t/couldn’t fight to extend the Star Wars license for SWG and that the game would shut down right when SWTOR started up. It wasn’t the first MMO closure but it seems like the biggest to date — and perhaps the first to happen due to legal entanglements instead of declining subscriptions.
Best F2P Switch: Fallen Earth
There were more F2P transitions this year than you could shake a stick at, yet I was most pleased to see Fallen Earth take the leap. Not only is this a terrific, underrated game deserving of a much wider audience, but GamersFirst created one of the most generous F2P models I’ve ever seen. Players can experience the entire game free of charge without any content walls or pay-to-win foolishness.
Worst Idea: Final Fantasy XIV announces a subscription restart
After one of the worst major launched MMOs in history, Square-Enix were so fearful of players deserting that they fired the team and allowed everyone to stay in the game with no subscription cost for over a year while they reorganized and retooled the title. Which is great, don’t misunderstand. The bad idea is that starting in 2012, the company will restart subscriptions. And no matter how good the game is now, I don’t foresee a good outcome of going from F2P to subscriptions.
Sleeper Hit: Glitch
Good things happen when you least expect them, and I don’t think anyone expected Glitch. The browser-based 2D non-combat MMO became an overnight sensation in the community due to its whimsical humor, community building, and crafting focus. While it went back into beta for more tweaks (which is… odd), Glitch nevertheless proved that you don’t have to be a huge AAA MMO to steal headlines.
Today we’re trying something new in these here parts: Handing out Flushies to the MMO community (and, more specifically, the blogging side of it). In the past I’ve been reluctant to do so, because for every award I dish out, there are many sites that are perfectly good, entertaining, well-written, and interesting — but don’t make the list. In other words, I hate excluding folks. So these awards come with the caveat that there are loads of terrific MMO blogs, many of which are listed on my blogroll to the right (and many more of which are in my daily RSS feed). That understood? Good. Let’s begin.
Funniest Blog: Killed in a Smiling Accident
While not the most prolific of bloggers, every (sizable) post by Melmoth and Zosu is to be welcomed — because a laugh is assured. The KIASA crew tackle MMO topics and games with a decidedly tongue-in-cheek manner that always impresses me with how witty and verbose it can be. I have a hard time not making their posts the quote of the day every time they put out a new one, and I curse how clunky I feel in comparison to their style.
Saddest Departure: The Pink Pigtail Inn
Blogs come and blogs go with steadily regularity, but the established, well-liked ones are the ones that you hope last forever. While I might not have been into World of Warcraft at the same time Larissa was, I did appreciate her excellent insights and thoughtful presentation. When she closed the doors to the inn in July, it was definitely a loss for the MMO blogging community.
Best New Blog: Mana Obscura
This may be somewhat of a cheat, as Mana Obscura actually started in 2010, but during a two-week period in 2011 this blog shot to the top of many of our radars as MMO bloggers started linking to Gazimoff and pointing out how enjoyable his writings were. Bonus points for a cool site design and a nifty name!
Best Podcast That I’m Not In: Mos Eisley Radio
Due to time limitations, I don’t listen to a lot of MMO podcasts, but out of my current roster of favorites, Mos Eisley Radio stands out. It may be one of several SWTOR podcasts, but I feel it gets an extra nod because its crew takes turns talking (no one person dominating the conversation, a pet peeve of mine), they’re pretty entertaining, and the show feels tight. They made the wait until SWTOR’s release bearable.
Best MMO Comic: The Jedi Gambit
Greg Moran did excellent work when he was doing a webcomic on Warhammer/World of Warcraft, and it’s great to see that he brought his talents to a new game: The Old Republic. The Jedi Gambit is well-drawn and -written, and you can even download the entire first issue as a PDF file.
Best Retro MMO Blog: The Ancient Gaming Noob
TAGN’s Wilhelm is unafraid to look back when everyone else is looking forward. From talking about Star Wars Galaxies to TorilMUD to EverQuest, he kept these classic titles in the limelight and did so with panache. Bravo, I say. Bravo.
Best Specific MMO Blog: A Casual Stroll to Mordor
Between podcasting, covering Lord of the Rings Online news, and writing up guides, the husband-and-wife team of Merric and Goldenstar have come to dominate the LOTRO community scene. And I’m not just saying that because Merric suffers to do a podcast with me; CSTM is the gold standard by which game-specific blogs should aspire. They make it hard for me to top them on a weekly basis with my Massively LOTRO column, and that’s a good thing.
Every once in a while the pseudo-married couple of MMO bloggers get into a public spat and we all benefit from the fallout. Tobold and SynCaine may be polar opposites — Tobold has a cool tone while SynCaine cackles like the Joker — and it shows in their opinions, attacks, and counter-attacks upon each other. If they stopped, I’d honestly miss it.
Groovy Discussion: Game By Night
Each MMO blogger has his or her own focus, tone and style, and Game By Night’s Chris just gels with my own very well. Any time I read a post from him, it’s usually well-thought out, levelheaded, and interesting — and more often than not, gets a discussion going on other blogs.
Best Roundup: Welcome to Spinksville
What’s this award about? Some bloggers are very insular and only write in their own universe while others are social butterflies and keep the link love flying. Best Roundup goes to Spinksville for doing a consistently awesome job rounding up blog community quotes, discussion and news while adding her own unique thoughts on top.
Best Bloggernalism: Kill Ten Rats
Bloggernalism is a completely made-up word that I’m using to describe a fan blog that manages to get in some legitimate investigative or interview journalism in there somehow. Kill Ten Rats had several exclusives over the past year with ArenaNet and Guild Wars 2, and that’s to be applauded.
Sharpest Analysis: Player Versus Developer
Player Versus Developer has made a name for itself by providing spot-on analyses of MMO games, packages, options and other features. If you want to know how free-to-play titles stack up against each other or what in-game festivals have to offer, PvD is the place to go.
Sometimes you just want an MMO blog that simply focuses on the day-to-day play sessions of the author, and in this regard two blogs equally share top honors. MMO Gaming Chick and ETCmmo.com have become favorites of mine due to a readable writing style, attractive use of pictures, and keen insight.
Welcome to the 2011 Flushies! The Flushies are Bio Break’s own award ceremony to recognize some of the highs — and lows — of the past year in MMOs and gaming culture. They’re solely my own opinion, and many of the categories are made up on the spot and will never return again.
This year the Flushies award ceremony will take place in four parts, with today’s focus upon… let’s call it “geeky” stuff. These aren’t necessarily related to MMOs, but have to do with my personal interests as a geek. So what’s on the docket?
Best Book: A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
Martin’s extremely long-awaited fifth book in his Song of Ice and Fire series overcame the lameness of A Feast for Crows and brought back the awesome characters and stunning twists that the series is well-known for. While it concluded all-too-soon with some characters almost standing still, it entertained cover to cover.
Best iPhone Game: [tie] Tiny Towers and Tiny Heroes
This was a surprisingly competitive category this year, and in the end I had to settle on a tie between the pixelart-tastic Tiny Towers and the Dungeon Keeper-esque Tiny Heroes. Both are addicting, highly replayable, and very much worth your time if you have an iOS device.
Best Movie: Super 8
Not exactly the best year for movies in general, I was underwhelmed by many that came out. While I certainly haven’t seen them all, the best that stands out in my mind is J.J. Abrams’ Super 8, which is a loving sendup to E.T., The Goonies, and 80s childhood flicks in general (even though it’s set in the 70s). Very entertaining and a must-buy for me.
Runners-up: Bridesmaids, The Muppets
Best TV Show: Game of Thrones
Another difficult category to narrow down to just one show, but to be utterly fair, Game of Thrones deserves to be crowned (ahem). It was the talk of the blogosphere last spring as its brutal yet excellent production values stayed fairly loyal to the books and had viewers hanging on every twist, plot and bare piece of anatomy.
Runners-up: The IT Crowd, Parks and Recreation, Community, The Walking Dead
Best Toy: Star Wars LEGOs
I know they’re not new, but dang it if Star Wars LEGOs aren’t the most addictively attractive things in the world. And expensive. I’m always looking to collect all of the original trilogy sets, but some of them are well north of $100, and that is really hard to justify. So for now I’m sticking with the mini-sets and occasional gifts from relatives.
Best Meme: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
Why must Ponies be so awesome even though they’re targeted at little girls? Why did such a huge community swell up around this show, including adult male “Bronies,” that love Applejack, Twilight Sparkle, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, and Rarity without shame? We’ll never know, but it became one of the biggest meme hits of the year. Mods are asleep, post ponies!
Best Webcomic: xkcd
While it might be full of stick figures, obscure mathematical and geek references, xkcd never fails to delight with humor, dazzling charts, and nerdy doodles. I always love seeing new comics come out of this workshop, and I really need to get an xkcd t-shirt one of these days.
I’ve been hard at work on this year’s Flushies awards for next week, and I wanted to try something new this year. One of the days of awards will be reader-submitted. As in, you make up the award, and you tell me who won it. The whole package.
So I’m asking for people to send me in their award categories AND winners to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Here’s the thing: Don’t be normal. Don’t be bland. Don’t do “Best MMO.” Do something strange, weird, offbeat, and interesting to you.
Let’s see what we can come up with this year! Thanks in advance!