Posted in Star Wars: The Old Republic

SWTOR: The new adventures of Paya Perki

Right now during the fall, I need new MMOs to play like I need additional holes in my oversized head. It’s been a long time since I’ve juggled more than two games at a time, and now I’m somewhere around five. Which is stupid, I know, but it’s hard to resist that call when you’ve got the hots for a game. I’ve learned a long time ago that it’s fine to give in to those bursts of interest and see where they lead — sometimes they peter out quickly, sometimes they persist and grow into something great.

So I did, for whatever reason, jump back into Star Wars: The Old Republic lately with a brand-new Scoundrel called Paya Perki. I realize that I have a WoW-sized hole in my MMO life, and this is one of my tried-and-true WoW clones that fits that tab-targeting spot.

So with the mindset that this might be a completely disposable character that there’s no way I’ll be able to get her to the new expansion by the time it comes out, I cast off all inhibitions and simply… played. And it was good. Very good.

There’s that period of time when you return to an old favorite MMORPG that you engage in a whole lot of nostalgic reminiscing. A lot of “oh yeah, remember when you used to be totally sucked into this?” Because that’s what was going through my mind in SWTOR as I piloted my sarcastic Scoundrel along through the main storyline. For a good period of time there, SWTOR was my main jam. I loved it for the story and the setting and the limited ability to roleplay within the developer-created boundaries of the plot.

It’s good to see that this is all still there. Not as good to see some of the more annoying F2P restrictions are still lingering about, but hey, whatever, I’m not going to cry about it. I can run around for 20 levels instead of paying for an earlier speeder bike unlock, thank you.

This definitely fits in the area of “comfort gaming” for me, because it’s not overly difficult or frustrating to engage with, nor is it that demanding on my time. If I want to pick it up for an hour here or there, great, it’ll be waiting. I guess I’m keeping my interest in low gear to see the reception to the new expansion and how much of a resurgence SWTOR receives from it. There’s always the option to kick into high gear in the new year!

Posted in New World

What’s coming next for New World?

Progress and adventures in New World have been much slower than anticipated these past two weeks, largely due to a busy schedule, full queues, and juggling multiple games. And you know what? That’s actually totally fine for this game. Probably the worst thing that could’ve happened would be to get so sucked into it that everything else would suffer, and the second worse thing would be if it was a straight-up terrible game.

Instead, I’m having a good time when I do log in, I can slowly pursue various goals, and I don’t feel any urge or pressure to rush. It’s not like we all have to get this MMO finished because there’s a brand-new triple-A big-budget title coming out next week or anything. Sip and savor rather than gulp and then look around while belching and going, “Eh, what’s next?”

One of my big goals was to hit level 15, to be able to equip the first tier of faction gear. I managed to buy a coat with faction currency, and I really wasn’t disappointed with how it looked. Very swanky and cool all around. I also spent an evening figuring out how to get materials and then craft iron cartridges for my musket. Did that, but man, that might be more trouble than it’s worth.

My next goal is to continue to try out all of the different weapons. The rapier looks so amazing, but I’m not going to be so stubborn as to not see what else is out there. Hatchet time, anyone?

Meanwhile, the big question lurking at the back of my head is what is coming next for New World. Right now, Amazon has its hands full weathering this chaotic launch and shoring up various problems — both from people and the game itself. But sooner or later, things will calm down and the studio’s going to need to announce what features and content it’s working for the first big patch (and beyond).

This will be very telling, whenever they reveal this, because it’ll show where the team’s focus is and how it’ll be handling the growth and expansion of the game. As we talked about on the MOP Podcast last week, the general consensus among us is that we would much rather have Amazon focus on features for now, especially ones that are not working that well or are missing entirely. It’s getting a whole lot of feedback now that the game’s gone live, and that’s going to show what’s rising to the occasion and what needs to be fixed or cut.

Here’s hoping, with fingers crossed, that this won’t be a stubborn and prideful studio that is above acknowledging its faults as a novice MMO developer and being willing to go back to the drawing board to figure out the problem areas and the quality-of-life improvements that would make what is right now a good game WAY better.

Posted in New World

Is New World a totally chill MMO experience?

Thanks for asking, header! Why yes, yes it is!

I’m very glad that I didn’t place all of my interest and stock into New World last week, because I would’ve been very frustrated with the incredibly long server wait times. Instead, my attitude was that of the seasoned MMO veteran — that is, “This is typical, I’ll play if I can, and if I can’t, there are other worlds than these.”

That said, I did get in a few sessions, and the game ran great for me when I was in there. I really enjoy the North American-ish feel of the starter zone, with its forests and farms and luxurious beachfront condos (read: shipwrecks). It’s a good place to slowly run around, which is fortunate because there’s no faster way to get to where you’re going. Usually.

While New World is getting compared with ESO a lot, I definitely see a whole lot of Secret World in this, too. It’s hard not to get New England flashbacks here, and you can’t tell me that the Corrupted isn’t the Filth 2.0. But New World is its own thing, too, pulling in a lot of other game concepts and fashioning it into a remarkably chill experience.

I think this is the only way you really can engage with New World and not be frustrated. If you’re trying to advance quickly, it’s going to be way more stressful than a typical MMO. I don’t see it designed this way. Instead, you can pick objectives and work on them, gradually leveling up different skills, and smelling the roses along the way. Some of my objectives last week included figuring out how to procure cartridges for my musket, grinding out faction quests for gear, leveling up mining and woodcutting, and learning how to effectively use my rapier in combat.

To that last point, I think I’m getting a whole lot better. It really is more about positioning and timing, and I particularly enjoy using riposte to counter attacks and smack a foe backward.

I’m most eager to hear Amazon speak as to what it’s working on for the future, because while New World is good, it’s got a lot of potential that needs to be tapped — and some glaring issues to be addressed. Probably the weakest part of it, from my early experiences, is the story, which is so vapid that I can’t recall much of anything that’s happened. I feel like a soldier, blindly following the orders that show up in my journal, while thinking of the next time I can go fishing. So I hope we do hear and then see some good improvements on this and other fronts.

Posted in Elder Scrolls Online

Elder Scrolls Online: Vvardenfell Vvamping

I find it an encouraging sign of a good gaming decision that even with New World’s, um, newness and all of the FOMO going on, I’m still quite happy to spend an evening with Elder Scrolls Online. Excited to, even.

So I did head back into Morrowind’s Vvardenfell with my Warden. Even though I did it on a previous character, I had enough great experiences here that I wasn’t begrudging the repeat. And besides, I feel like I know how to play and navigate the game better now, and there’s an increased enjoyment when you can play with that sort of confidence.

I still think that Morrowind’s stories are really great stuff. I’m amazed how much variety there is, from a tale of helping an assassin-in-training find her brother to restocking a depleted egg mine with a giant bug. I’ve been working my way clockwise around the island’s volcano, and man is there a whole lot of content here. Some of these quest chains, particularly the aforementioned assassin one, are much longer than usual.

And I had forgotten about the superhero (vigilante) questline! The Scarlet Judge, dum dum DUMMM. Really great stuff.

I did make one change along the way, which was to respec my character from lizard to Breton. It wasn’t that I minded the lizard — I just felt like a change of pace. And look, she’s got a flower in her hair! Awww.

As I’ve been going through Vvardenfell, I took some time to address a growing concern of mine, which was that I was in danger of losing track of what zones I had done, had left to do, and had left to purchase. So I buckled down one evening and made a not-nerdy-at-all spreadsheet, adding a fourth column — archaeology — as well. With this fall’s DLC, I think there’s north of 40 zones in this game, which is a whole lotta story left to uncover!

Posted in General

When did we stop being thrilled with our operating systems?

Lately, I’ve been engaging in some ’90s tech nostalgia, mostly via watching YouTube videos that spark my memory about what computers used to be like. I know that on some level, nostalgia is pointless and frivolous, but I find it comforting to experience prompts that help me reclaim memories and feelings that have been in long-term storage for decades now.

And what I’ve realized is that for all we’ve progressed in terms of convenience, computer saturation, processing power, and internet accessibility… we’ve lost some things along the way. One of those elements is an actual attachment and even fascination with an operating system. An operating system! I mean, who cares these days? If I think about Windows 10 and its cold functionality, it’s to be annoyed with its start menu, its pushy Cortana interface, or how Windows update seems to have broken my laptop. It’s not fun. It’s never been fun. I don’t enjoy love using it; I just use it.

You’re probably shrugging, because who does enjoy operating systems in 2021? But the weird thing is, we totally used to. Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 were godsends for a kid who grew up navigating the ins and outs of the DOS command line. Now we had this graphical flash and organization that made sense, and it felt revolutionary. That start menu… man, that start menu. It was a portal to possibilities. It was your computerized life, neatly filed and arranged for access.

Pretty much everyone I knew in the ’90s went nuts customizing Windows. Desktop wallpaper, screensavers, animated figures, sound files, color schemes… the works. Often it was garish, in the way that late ’90s homebrew websites lacked subtlety. But it was ours. It was like putting stickers all over your pencil boxes or posters in your locker in high school. You were taking this space that everyone else had a copy of, and you were making it distinctly your own.

Perhaps Win 3.1 and 95 were of much more interest to me prior to always-on internet, because I wasn’t spending 99.9% of my time in a browser. That limitation forced me to poke around, trade for programs, and see what my computer could do with the tools at hand. But that’s not entirely the case. Even as “recently” as Windows XP, I did like tinkering around with the OS and enjoying setting up various extra applications and options.

I kind of miss that. But with my phone and the internet, my desktop and OS don’t serve as great of a purpose. I have precisely two modifications to Win10 — Open Shell (to add back the start menu) and Stardock’s Fences to organize my icons. I have a static background I change maybe once every six months. I feel so dull in this space compared to how I used to be.

Of course, it’s not like I’m being held back from tinkering once more, so the change might be just as much me as Microsoft (or Apple or whatnot). I guess I just miss when interfaces and OSes were just as fun to use as the actual programs.

Posted in General

Touching base with my most-wanted MMOs

One of the main reasons that I’ve set up a list of Twitter links on the right side of this blog is so I can quickly check in with in-development MMO projects that I may forget about otherwise. And since I was doing that already today, I thought I might share a few comments on what’s going on with the games that I want to play the most.

At the top of the list, Palia kind of bummed me out with an amazing initial announcement followed by a summer of relatively low communication and a pre-alpha that virtually nobody was invited to play. The pre-alpha is over, and it sounds like there’s another test coming up with an expanded testing pool. While I usually don’t go for betas and such, I really would like to check this out for curiosity’s sake.

I’m both worried and excited about Corepunk. I like a whole lot of what I’m seeing, but the team isn’t talking enough about the project and it’s delayed its beta until December. Hopefully then, I can take a look at it. I need to know if this is something to actually anticipate or if I should write off my excitement now.

Let’s see… Ship of Heroes. Yeah, that’s on the list. Still rooting for the best, but after playing it earlier this summer, I can see that it still has a ways to go.

Ashes of Creation’s doing its Alpha 1 stuff, and that tells me that we’re still in for a long wait. Don’t get me wrong, when this comes out I’m there on Day One. But I don’t feel the urge to check in with it that much. I kind of feel the same way about Project Gorgon and Pantheon these days as well. Launch, and then we’ll talk.

Book of Travels is doing the early access thing “soon,” which I’ll check out. Into the Echo is starting a pre-alpha soonish, too. I just want to hear more about that game instead of playing it right now.

I am keen on following Monsters & Memories, because I like the tone and the approach that this indie team of ex-EverQuest devs are using. Could be a sleeper surprise?

It’s a mixed bag of big and small titles, but those are the ones (outside of New World and existing MMOs) that really have my attention. What about you?

Posted in General

Age of Empires IV and the rekindling of an RTS addict

It has not escaped my attention that at the end of October, Age of Empires IV will be released. I think I’ll be saving it for a Christmas wish list idea for family who bug me for ideas, though. I think I could wait on this, considering everything else that’s clamoring for my attention.

That said, I do want to play it and I am looking forward to seeing if it might rekindle that old fanatical love I used to have for real-time strategy games. You ever look back on your life to past interests and hobbies and say, “Where did that go? When did I stop being so into that?” That’s me and RTS games.

These used to be, second to RPGs, my favorite type of computer games. There’s a lot of reasons for that, starting with the sheer replayability factor and the unfolding stories that were made during each match. True, most of those stories were “I built something up and knocked something down/got knocked down,” but it was fun to go through the process over and over again without an undue time investment.

I always felt that RTS games gave me a huge bang for my buck. Previous to MMOs, this was imperative. I didn’t have $60 every week to drop on new games, so I wanted the ones I bought to last. RTS titles often fit that bill. I got hundreds of hours out of each one, and that’s not bad for the price.

But somewhere along the way, my interest waned in these games. I don’t think it died overnight, nor did it ever go away, but there was a definite downslope of personal involvement. Looking back, this seems to mirror the decline of RTS games being released year-over-year.

It’s also that RTS games changed and evolved. We don’t call games like Dwarf Fortress or RimWorld “real time strategy,” but they totally are — just the next iteration. Clash Royale, which I play daily, is a micro-RTS game. And titles such as Planet Coaster have proved that there’s still an audience out there that likes to build up kingdoms of all kinds and see how they unfold.

I am perfectly fine to have my interests where they’re at, I just hope that I haven’t completely abandoned my affection for these titles. We’ll see how it goes when I get my hands on Age of Empires IV. It might be a rekindling… or it might feel like an outdated, alien experience. I hope for the former.

Posted in Gaming Goals

Syp’s gaming goals for October 2021

September 2021 in review

  • This may well be one of the craziest, most shifting gaming months for me in recent history. So what happened is that I ended up burning out on both FFXIV and LOTRO at separate points, and since I was still in a holding pattern for New World, I spend an awful lot of the month bouncing around to different games. So let’s run down it all!
  • In FFXIV, I got through most all of Stormblood’s patch content, bringing me right to the cusp of Shadowbringers before I unsubscribed. I tried, I really did try, to stick with it, but I was not feeling the fun at all here.
  • And in Lord of the Rings Online, I brought my Captain up into Minas Morgul but felt like I was slogging through stuff I didn’t really feel like playing at the moment. Needed a break from this, so a break I had.
  • I spent a week or so in Fallout 76, trying out a new character and the level adjustment system. But that sent me into Bethesda’s sister game, Elder Scrolls Online, where I ended up having way more fun. I finished up Stonefalls and started right in on Vvardenfell with my Warden. Last I checked, she was level 147.
  • I did a week in Guild Wars 2. Wasn’t really ready or interested in coming back to that game. Also put in a sad little week with Runes of Magic. It was OK.
  • I started Pillars of Eternity 2 for the occasional lunch break. Good stuff, but the performance and load screens was slow.
  • And I got in some Star Wars: The Old Republic time with a new Scoundrel named Paya Perki. That was fun.

October 2021 gaming goals

  • I’m expecting — har har — that this will be a more calm and regular month. Primarily, I’ll be focused on getting into New World and getting the lay of the land, build up crafting skills, and get a house. I have no idea for a level goal, so I’m not going to put one here.
  • I also really want to keep on with Elder Scrolls Online. If I could wrap up two or three full zones this month, that’d be fulfilling. I want to get the Blackwood chapter (I have all of the others) and get into that for a review and to snag the companions.
  • Book of Travels is kicking off early access on October 11th, and I figure I’ll be doing some of that for curiosity and columns. Maybe enjoyment too!
  • My single game purchase (I try to keep it to one per month) will be Wildermyth, because it’s high past time I gave this one a look. Seems like this game would make a great blog series.
  • Apart from that, I’ll probably get in some LOTRO. If so, I’d love to get my Captain through Minas Morgul and to level 130.
Posted in A Week In..., Runes of Magic

A Week in Runes of Magic: Adventuring with Super Anime Girl

One of the reasons that I wanted to do this “A Week In…” series is to satisfy my curiosity about various MMORPGs. And I’ve certainly been curious about Runes of Magic, which might well be the poster child for the forgotten MMO. It was super-popular for about two weeks in 2008 when people latched on to this as the “free-to-play World of Warcraft,” before F2P was that widespread. Since then, it’s continued to be updated but has really faded into the background. Perfect for an expedition!

Sunday: The goal of this week is to simply make a new character and pilot her through the newbie experience. While Runes of Magic really lacks in the race (human, elf, dwarf) and generic class options (I went with Scout, which is a ranger/archer), I greatly amused myself with all of the sliders. You can make some really freaky looking alien characters, let me tell you. I made Super Anime Girl by blowing up her head, giving her saucer eyes, and slapping some blue paint all over her hair. And I kind of like the result!

Monday: Right off the bat, the game offered me a “handsome reward” if I would deign to run its tutorial. I never say no to a handsome reward, so I humbled myself to be taught how to move and click on things all over again. Did you know that WASD moves your character? Amazing! The actual tutorial is weirdly short, culminating in a seconds-long battle against a brightly colored Spider King.

Question: Since I defeated it, am I the new Spider King? Spider Queen?

Tuesday: Forget the mediocre graphics — Runes of Magic’s real artistry is in its lush soundtrack. Seriously great stuff. It’s one of those underrated MMO soundtracks because not many people think much of the game itself, but it’s really top-shelf material.

Anyway, today’s adventure took me into the starting village of Pioneers… something. Cove? Hamlet? I already forgot, that’s how memorable it was. PioTown! That’ll work. While the starting quests are extremely vanilla — talk to these dudes, kill some fungus — one weird thing is how much *stuff* Runes of Magic throws in your inventory from all of these starter missions. I swear, half of the quests were “You need to go talk to this guy, he’s got a welcome package for you. Now get a package from that other guy. And those next six guys.”

Wednesday: Two observations I want to share today. The first is that I discovered that by clicking on waypoints or quest givers on the map, you have the option to have the game automatically run you there. Some people don’t like auto-run, but I figure that if you’re OK with automatic transport elsewhere, it’s pretty much the same thing on a smaller scale. Gets you where you want to be.

Secondly, while the game may superficially look like early World of Warcraft, the combat is nowhere near as tight, interactive, or has that audible punch that I came to expect from WoW. It’s serviceable, but nothing better than that.

Thursday: I have two distinct memories of Runes of Magic from Back in the Day”. The first was the novelty of having a free-to-play MMORPG that was sorta (but not really) like World of Warcraft, which was perfect for those on a low budget. The second surrounded reports of how monetized the game was. The above quest is an example of this, as it’s a monetized quest. Haven’t seen those in MMOs lately, eh? Well, here you go. You can do the quest normally or pay to do it faster and get a better reward. And this is in the newbie zone, so they’re just buttering vulnerable players up for more milking later.

That makes my skin crawl.

Friday: By the end of the week in Runes of Magic, my heart really wasn’t in this. I can see why desperate players who couldn’t afford WoW would have flocked to this game back in the day, but it’s not an ideal substitute. The animations, combat, and visuals come off as stiff, and the cash shop-infused design leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I mean, it was functional? That’s something. And the music is, as I said, wonderful. But I can listen to the music and play something else entirely, which is what I’ll do.