Why Can’t I Just Turn Off Achievements? November 7, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II, Guild Wars 2, Lord of the Rings Online, MMO Design, World of Warcraft.
Over in a corner of the blogesphere this week achievements have been the discussion point.
Syl at MMO Gypsy started venting on Twitter about achievements and went on the write about about her hate of them and other like things at her blog.
In the way of the world, that lead to Liore at Herding Cats to express her love of achievements. Cuppy joined in on that front as well, while Klepsacovic just wonders if they are the right tool for the job.
The lines were drawn, let the battle commence!
Both sides make impassioned, emotional pleas for their point of view. The ill-defined concept of “immersion,” which I think means something different to everybody, has been flung about. Comments have popped up trying to explain one point of view to those whole held the other, myself included. All just the blogesphere functioning as designed.
I fall on the achievement lovers side of the argument. They went into World of Warcraft five years ago and I have enjoyed Blizzard’s implementation ever since.
I don’t think they necessarily belong in every MMO… and some retro-fits, like the EverQuest implementation, make me groan… but for WoW, already a bright and shiny game with a cultural reference around every corner, it seems like a good match. I especially like the statistics tab which tracks all sorts of little details, but I am that sort of person.
That isn’t to say that I don’t “get” the dislike of achievements. And while I think trying to describe what immersion is to each other is like trying to describe what blue is to each other, I can understand how some might find that a shiny pop-up in the middle of their experience might break that for them.
And while I was absorbing all of this, a thought popped into my head.
What if you could just turn them off?
I am not even suggesting that they be expunged from the game, but that the game have a check box somewhere in the settings to not pop up achievements, yours mine or ours. They would still accrue somewhere in the background in case the person in question changed their mind, but while the correct box was checked somewhere in the settings, they just wouldn’t be a thing on that particular game client. No pop-ups allowed.
And in imagining that, it sounded so simple that I had to believe that such a setting was already there. I mean, you can turn off all sorts of things in the UI in most games. How could that not already be a thing?
So I launched World of Warcraft and went to the setting to check.
You can turn on and off lots of UI elements in WoW. You can toggle the on screen quest list, quest tracking, floating names over players and NPCs, quests markers on the map and so on and so forth. There are even conditional settings, so you can have NPC names hidden unless they are part of a quest you are on.
But as far as I can tell, there is no setting to turn off achievement pops.
Well, WoW is a big game, with 7.6 million subscribers at last count. Maybe somebody has filled this niche with an addon! So I went to Curse to look at achievement related addons. There are dozens of addons devoted to helping you find, track, and achieve your achievements, but not one to suppress them. There may be one out there (let me know if there is) but I couldn’t find it in my admittedly limited search.
I decided to check other games. The next up was Rift. I downloaded the latest update, which was sizable, and got into the game. Ignoring the fact that somebody clearly left the realm administration console unlocked during a bathroom break (Or was that server-wide broadcast about Ceiling Cat watching you part of the current event?) and the blinky telling me I earned a reward just for logging in (that I could do without) I started leafing through the settings.
Like WoW, Rift has a pretty comprehensive set of things you can turn on and off. There is even a social media tab where you can annoy your soon-to-be-ex-friends by spamming Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr with all of your achievements. But I could not find a way to keep achievements from popping on your screen.
I can automatically decline marriage proposals (which I have set) but achievements are sacred. I even tried editing the UI to see if I could move achievements off screen, but that particular UI element isn’t part of the editor.
No luck on that front. So I moved on to Middle-earth.
Lord of the Rings Online doesn’t have achievements… at least not in the WoW sense of them. But there are traits and pop ups and all sorts of little nags that do get on my nerves. And they also have a pretty comprehensive list of things in the settings. But on the achievement-like traits front there was no joy there. Like other games, there are plenty of potentially immersion breaking things you can turn off, but trait notifications… and the accompanying “Visit the LOTRO Store!” message… are stuck on. So I moved on.
Next I patched up and tried EverQuest II. EQII has such a half-hearted “I’m just like WoW! Love me too please!” attempt at achievements that even I am not really interested in them.
Which is odd when I think about it, because EverQuest II had a sort of proto-achievements implementation back at launch in 2004. In addition to server first and world first discoveries, which were kind of neat until they inevitable ran out, there were the slaughter titles you got for killing so many undead or gnolls or what not. But they felt they needed to tack on the WoW model as well, making EQII even more of a mish-mash of conflicting visions.
Anyway, in digging through the “monumentally huge since day one” options window of the game, I figured out that achievements are part of the updates and notifications in the game. You can set how quickly they are displayed and where the UI element shows up, but it doesn’t appear that you can actually turn them off. I suppose you could move that off-screen, but since it shows information for things besides just achievements, I am not sure if that is a viable solution. Call that a “maybe” at best.
I thought about checking Guild Wars 2, but was brought up short by two things. First, their super duper, point of interest, laundry list, be the completionist mechanism seemed so much a part of the game when I tried it that I seriously doubted you could turn it off. And it seems to have progressed since then.
And, second, I’ve forgotten my password and I cannot get Anet to cough it back up again because I’ve changed internet services since I last logged in so they think I am trying to hack the account. Saved me from patching in any case.
I also considered checking EverQuest, which has had achievements grafted onto it as well, but I was starting to get bored with the whole idea. Plus the pattern seemed to be pretty clear and I hated to ruin it by finding a contrary example. Once you have two points, draw the line, calculate the slope, and move on I say!
But this does leave me with a few questions.
First, does any MMORPG with achievements let you turn off the pop ups? Did I miss an example or a setting or an addon that would do that for any of the above or some other example? And why isn’t the option to turn off achievement pop ups available? Do companies believe them to be so important that the game cannot be separated from the achievements?
Then, would turning off the achievements as I have describe be enough for you explorers and those of you who just do not like achievements in general? Or does the fact that achievements simply exist bother you?
Destination? Journey? Destination? Journey? October 23, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, MMO Design, World of Warcraft.
I always feel a mixed set of emotions when something like a double experience event gets announced. Lord of the Rings Online has one going now as part of their ramp up to the Helms Deep expansion in November.
That is a pretty long stretch of double experience. A lot of games will toss that sort of thing out for a special weekend or maybe a holiday or “please come back and play!” event over maybe a week. But a 30 day stretch seems like a lot. I cannot recall off hand any other game going for double for quite that long. I wonder what SynCaine would say?
And when I saw that offer on the front page of the LOTRO site, a little voice within me said, “Wow, I should totally take advantage of that to get a few level!”
I mean, I made it through Moria with my captain on Brandywine (5th server, 5th guild) and if I just pushed a little bit forward I could actually get into Siege of Mirkwood content that I purchased a couple of years back.
Basically, opportunity! I should take advantage of it.
Then another voice in my head coughs and says something along the lines of, “Weren’t you just grumbling about how fast leveling is in MMOs these day?”
And I must sheepishly admit to myself that I have groused about how trivial, for example, the 1 to 60 game in World of Warcraft has gotten. One of my issues in my quest to see the Horde side of the post-Cataclysm world is that I seem to out-level the quest chains in a given zone long before I am done. The achievement for doing all the quests in Azshara, as an example, shows 60 quests to be completed. But the zone had pretty much gone gray to me just after the 40 quest mark with one character. And with another, with whom I did a couple of instances, I was beyond the zone before the 30 quest mark. In fact, I was so far beyond that the Warchief’s Call board directed me to essentially skip the next zone in line as well.
Likewise, back in LOTRO, I was skipping whole sections of content. I actually optimized my path through the game to visit some of my favorite zones… The Lone Lands and Evendim being two where I ran down the whole zone of quests… but otherwise leapfrogged until I could get into Eregion and then Moria. Even in Moria I ended up skipping a big chunk of the content while running through some of the areas. As it turned out, I think I picked the better areas… the content in Moria is somewhat uneven, with areas in the old fetch-and-carry quest hub model while other areas are in the more recent, more dynamic vein that Turbine has adopted… but there was still a lot left behind.
Of course, I write that in full knowledge of my own hypocrisy. What is that I have equipped in my pocket slot?
What has it got in its pocketses indeed! A 25% XP boosting item!
Well there’s your problem.
Or at least an insight into the problem, the competing aspects of such games that pull some people, like myself, in contradictory directions.
While seeing the world, experiencing the content, ought to be the part of the package, at the same time level based progression oriented games like this also push the achievement button for people. As somebody who tends to be very goal oriented, at times I find myself quite caught up in the progress aspect of games. Pushing on, getting another level, getting access to another zone, another instance, another expansion, another whatever, can quickly become my focus, especially if the content is nothing to write home about. A series of fetch-and-carry and solve the local bear/boar/wolf problem quests become an obstacle to overcome in pursuit of the next stage of the progression aspect of the game.
In getting my fourth character to level cap in Rift before the Storm Legion expansion, my run became very much a matter of progress over everything else.
Progress, and giving feedback on progress, can be very powerful motivators. There is a reason we went from the dark ages of TorilMUD, where you had to travel back to town to speak to your guild leader to see where you stood in your progress to the next level (and he would only give a vague answer that you could translate into which 10% segment of the climb you were in), to the tiny little five bubble experience bar in the character window in EverQuest which used to cause people to track progress in pixels (I had a friend who used to take a before and after screen shot every time he played so he could compare the bars and get an exact pixel count), to experience bars that are part of the main UI and which go from edge to edge across the screen, chopped up into nice little 5% increment.
This whole thing is exacerbated by the general “more levels” expansion plan that MMORPGs have been using since at least Ruins of Kunark. When you start a game and you are staring at 85-90 levels to get to the latest content… presumably the “best” content, or at least the content where most of the population is playing… It becomes just that much harder to ignore progress in favor of content.
And it is not just the fantasy MMORPG where this holds sway. I was thinking about why I left off playing World of Tanks earlier this year. In part I think it was because I had hit a point where I was logging on every night to get my “first win” bonus XP with a couple of tanks on trees that I wanted to advance, and then logging off when I was done. The fights seemed like they were becoming secondary to progression, at which point you sort of have to ask yourself why you are playing. In my case, that dialog seems to happen somewhere in my subconscious and I simply stop logging in if it comes out the wrong way. And now that I have picked up War Thunder, which has a similar daily bonus scheme, I wonder if I will end up in the same rut over there eventually.
It is easy at this point to say that we should focus on games without levels and the like. But we will find our various progress metrics. There are no levels in EVE Online, but people will track their progress in ISK, skill points, kills, standings, loyalty points, or being in one of the alliances on the sovereignty map. We do like to have our cut and dried indicators. And I think if you worked to eliminate all such things, you might just end up with no game at all.
Progress is in these games for a reason. It can be both a good and a bad motivator. I like the idea of getting to level cap. In a number of MMOs my having arrived at that point meant me feeling done, in both a satisfying and a terminal way. And progress, in my mind, is invariably tied in with the journey. I couldn’t really get myself on board with SOE’s play to sell the jump to level 85 in EverQuest II. In part that was because of the mire of skills and points and what not you are handed without any context. But it also feels a bit like cheating, jumping up all those levels. That is my own feeling anyway. I wouldn’t point fingers at those who chose that path, but in my gut it feels like skipping all that progress… even though I have no inclination to do it myself at this point… is skipping the game.
Which sort of ties progress back to content in some odd way in my brain. But, in the end, do I play the content in order to progress, or progress in order to play content? And is there a “right” balance in there somewhere?
How do you feel about the balance between content and progress?
NBI – To All The Guilds I’ve Loved Before… October 22, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, TorilMUD, Warhammer Online, World of Tanks, World of Warcraft.
Tags: NBI, New Blogger Initiative, Newbie Blogger Initiative
Doone’s Permanent Floating New Blogger Initiative II has been up and running for a while now. It has forums and goals and things to do and participants and all that.
And while I signed up as some sort of sponsor, I have so far completely failed to anything very sponsorly.
Of course, I was a bit glib the first time around as well. In part that is because I have trouble swallowing some of the advice people throw out for bloggers. And, also, because I have trouble taking myself seriously in this regard. So while I came up with some bits and pieces of things that worked for me, my only real advice is to be the blog you want to read. If you look at your blog and cannot answer the question, “Would I read this if it was written by some stranger?” then you might be doing it wrong.
Anyway, I thought it was about time to earn my so-called keep as a sponsor . Doone has a couple of blogging activities for the month, including something called a “Talk Back Challenge” that appears to be an attempt get a few people tackling the same subject. One of them happens to be about Guilds in MMOs.
Guilds: What For? What functions to guilds serve in games and what kind do you prefer? You can talk about your experiences in guilds, what attracts you to them, and their role in the games you play.
Rather than going about this by describing what I think guilds should be about and such, I thought I would do a bit of research to see what guilds I am still in (or which still influence me since I have left) and try, from that, to derive some indication as to what a guild appears to actually mean to me.
Because this is just a list of guilds with a few comments, I will hide this after a cut so as not to make the front page a mile long.
Heroic in Norrath – Straight to Level 85 October 2, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II.
Tags: Free Samples, Heroic Character, Station Cash
I took a little time away from fretting over the logistics of getting myself and some ships down to Curse to look at SOE’s new idea for EverQuest II.
The SOE plan is to sell level 85 “heroic” characters for the low, low price of 3,500 Station Cash. (~$35 at the normal cost of SC, but as little as ~$12 if you wait for one of those Triple SC sales.) They are selling them right now. And, for the moment, they are also giving away free samples. Between now and at least October 15th you can test drive a heroic character for free.
In some ways this is both a dream come true for some players and an out for SOE who has a game where the current cap is level 95. If you want to join your hard core EverQuest II pals, you no longer have to grind through a lot of lonely levels to see the newest (and presumably the best) content and play with your friends.
According to the SOE Heroic Character FAQ:
In response to both former and current player feedback, we wanted to provide an opportunity for players to return to EQII without worrying about an overwhelming level gap. We’ve also been asked by all kinds of players for a way to try out high-level classes before committing valuable time to leveling one.
Being an old and extremely lapsed EQII player… I have a few characters in the 50s and one up in the 60s… I had to try this out.
The first question was how to take SOE up on the offer. You can either try this as a fresh character, or you can apply the jump to level 85 option on one of your current characters.
Being a long time SOE customer, I was pretty sure that if I applied this to any current character that the whole thing would be irreversible or that it would forever taint that character. And while I am not overly enamored of my characters… nor am I likely to ever really play them again except to show up in the game once in a while to remind myself again why I stopped playing… I figured the safest option was just to get a fresh heroic character.
(I do find it amusing that, according to the FAQ, if you upgrade a character, you get a potion renaming. Presumably this is to hide the shame of having created a store bought character or some similar perceived stigma.)
I hit the button and created a freshly minted heroic dwarven berserker. And he was indeed in possession of heroic stats and equipment, certainly relative to any other character I have.
He got the full set of supplies as outlined in the FAQ, which include.
- A set of Level 85 weapons
- Level 85 jewelry
- Level 85 armor
- 20 Food and Drink
- Ammunition for Fighter and Scount Ranged Weapons
- 6 24-slot bags
- Variety of Potions
- A Pegasus Mount
I do not think any of my EQII character ever, at any level, have been so lavishly equipped. You also get 280 AA points, pre-populated for your convenience. (If you want to set them yourself, you have to pay the 3,500 SC.)
I was particularly happy with the abundant bag space. And there was a flying mount, which was a nice touch.
Of course the flying mount also represents the same mixed blessing that it does in every game. It is super nifty cool to be able to fly around and explore, but it completely takes the wind out of any concept of space or travel in the open world. And SOE’s latest stay mounted compromise, where your mount disappears as you enter combat and shows up as soon as it is over is… odd. I am sure I would get used to it in time, but I feel strange having the frilly Pegasus mount show up under me just after I finish my latest murders.
And I certainly was not alone aboard a frilly Pegasus mount. Once I rolled up my character I was dropped into the Great Divide zone (third instance) with a dozen or so similarly mounted characters around me. Heroic characters were quite the thing according to reports.
Now, of course, the question is how much of this is novelty, with people like me showing up to kick the metaphorical tires, and how much of this represents people eager to return to playing (and paying) in Norrath?
So there I was in a zone… a snow zone, which meant it looked like pretty much every other snow zone in the game… seriously, I though I was outside of New Halas at first… and wondering what to do next.
There is something of a tutorial going on as you wander around, but it seems aimed at people who are either new to the game (but not MMOs) or who have forgotten a lot more about the game than I have at this point. So I started ignoring those and went off to grab a quest to see how heroic this new guy really was.
And the answer was, “Pretty darn heroic indeed.” Look at this shot of him absolutely destroying a level 89 mob with one of his attacks.
Clearly, basic survival in the field was not going to be an issue. I actually had to walk up to a mob to get that picture, as I was one-shotting everything with my bow if I tried to pull mobs at range. And, if I this whole heroic character thing became suddenly super engaging to me, I had the post from Karen Bryan, perhaps the most serious correspondent Massively has, about what to do with your new heroic character bookmarked.
How to do it though… that was the key. What I most feared came to pass.
One of my complaints about EverQuest II is that SOE apparently cribbed their underlying philosophy from my mother-in-law, going with the idea that “Too much is never enough” or “Nothing exceeds like excess!”
So you have, in my opinion, too many races, too many classes, too many cities, too many crafting recipes, too many crafting ingredients, too many chat channels, too many AA trees, and, far and away worst of all, too many damn player skills.
And the skill thing has actually gotten better over time. There was a point when not only were there too many skills, but they had too many different names as upgrades to skills were called something completely different and even, at times, had different icons which was often shared by another unrelated skill.
But there are still way too many skills. And this is the reason I went with the berserker class. I have four other berserkers in the game, so it was my hope that some mild familiarity with the class would help. I also, hoping against hope, thought that maybe SOE would have a plan to deal with this.
And SOE does have a plan. It just isn’t a very good one.
When you start off you have only one hot bar exposed with some of your combat skills on it. Given how quickly I was killing stuff, I probably could have made due with one hot key. All of your other skills are on additional, but still hidden, hot bars, which get mentioned as you progress. Your skills are pre-populated in… an order of some sort. Not the one I would have chosen, but I think in this I was handicapped by having played the game, but not recently.
So I ended up exposing a pile of hot bars to figure out my skills and ended up being annoyed when I couldn’t find certain things either in the hot bars or in the skill book. For example, what happened to that skill that starts the heroic opportunity cycle? I could not find it. Did they kill that feature?
Anyway, it was the morass of skills that took the wind out of my sails. There is a reason that, every time I come back to EverQuest II, I create a new character. It is simply easier to get back into the game that way, picking up skills in a somewhat organic fashion rather than trying to decipher the huge set of skills you left off with last time and which have been changed since.
Well, that and the fact that my UI seemed to be having issues. I had to kill off the old EQ Maps addon because it was using an incompatible version of the map xml. And then my experience bar seemed to have expanded itself off the right side of the screen, pushing some of the controls off the edge with it. I don’t think this was related to EQ Maps, as it was fine last week when I patched up and got into game in anticipation of this update.
So, all in all, I wasn’t sold on the idea. I was certainly done with it in about an hour.
But I am, by my own admission, hardly the ideal target audience.
Borrowing a term from EVE Online, if there is a “bitter vet” class of SOE customers, I am pretty sure I fall into it. I started playing EverQuest on day one and EverQuest II on day four if I recall right. (November 13, 2004) I have many fond memories and consider myself a fan of both games, and yet I have trouble finding any joy in playing either game at this point. When overcome by nostalgia, I can get a quick fix by starting a fresh character and running through some older zones. But by level 20 or so the novelty wears off and the weight of the years and all the changes and updates and compromises begins to take its toll. And somewhere after level 40 I feel lost in the world and tired of the game, which starts to become an alien place to me.
In EverQuest II, the game starts to fall off for me at Desert of Flames, so punting me up another 30 levels and dropping me into the very generic looking Great Divide was never going to be a winning proposition to start with. All of the rest was just icing on this cake of woe. Even the changes to equipment unlocks haven’t helped all that much.
But for people without such a history with the game, this might be an opportunity. If they have some friends playing and can sink their teeth into the path to level cap and spend the time deciphering the myriad skills that come with the level, this could be a winner.
I am watching how other people respond to this new-ish initiative. (*cough* Death Knights *cough*)
So far I have seen:
- Bio Break – EverQuest 2 – The Curse of Insta-85
- GamingSF – EQ2: heroic characters offer a whole new world
Have you given this a try? What did you think?
SOE Tentatively Returns to Selling Content for Station Cash and Removes Equipment Unlocks September 27, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II.
Tags: Age of Discovery, Station Cash
One of SOE’s big EverQuest II free to play fiascoes was, in my opinion, getting themselves in a position where they had to stop selling expansions and subscription time because they had devalued their RMT currency, Station Cash, so badly. As the big chart over at EQ2 Wire showed, if you timed things right you could have ended up paying as little as $1.25 a month for a Gold level subscription back in the day.
Likewise, expansions could be had for a pittance compared to their list price in the face of sales at both the Station Cash and the Station Cash Store ends of the business.
So all of that clearly had to go, leaving me with the big question about what to spend all my Station Cash on.
Well, there was a change on the expansion front today as a new Producer’s Letter announced that SOE would begin selling the Age of Discovery expansion for Station Cash. You can buy it as one big bundle for 4,000 SC, or as individual pieces totaling up to 7,000 SC.
- Beastlord: 2500 SC
- Mercenaries: 1500 SC
- Tradeskill Apprentice: 1000 SC
- Reforging: 1000 SC
- Dungeon Maker: 1000 SC
According to the Producer’s Letter, the Age of Discovery expansion will cease to be sold for anything besides Station Cash as of October 1, 2013. However, The Chains of Eternity expansion, and the upcoming Tears of Veeshan expansion, however, will require some real world money to purchase.
Still, this is actually something of a big step for their cash shop as it gives players something substantial to purchase. I know some people love mounts and cosmetic gear, but it is nice to have something with some “heft” to it in the shop.
In addition to that, and something that might actually get me back into the game to spend some of my Station Cash, it was announced that both Free and Silver level accounts would no longer face gear restrictions. So when I go back to take a look at EverQuest II, my first in-game alert won’t be about how my character can’t wear his currently equipped gear.
This seems to be part of an ongoing loosening of the free to play restrictions on the game. Previously SOE removed the restrictions on races and classes (except for the Freeblood vampire race and, of course, the Beastlord class) and has tinkered with things like bag slots before.
Free and Silver accounts still face restrictions on skills, character slots, and in-game mail access.
In turn, in order to set Gold level accounts… the classic $15 a month subscription option… apart from their lesser brethren, SOE will be boosting coin loot by 15% and mount speeds by 10%. The former sounds okay, but mount speeds are already almost terrifyingly fast at this point, does anybody really need another 10%?
All this goes in place on October 1, 2013, along with a new Station Cash item that will boost your character 280 AA points. Add in the whole Try and Buy a Heroic Character option and it seems like the EverQuest II team has been busy stirring the pot to get more people back in game.
Expansion Watch – A General Lack of Excitement September 11, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Gaming Industry Trends, Guild Wars 2, Lord of the Rings Online, Neverwinter, Star Wars: The Old Republic, World of Warcraft.
Normally I would say it was just me, content in my little gaming routine, that was feeling a lack of excitement about MMO expansions right now.
But after working for a good minute or two on the subject, I began to see some signs, and get a general sense, that I might not be alone on that front. Certainly the game companies haven’t been doing much to light a fire. And I say that while noting we are headed straight into the last quarter of the year when some companies traditionally ship, or at least announce, expansions.
This is what I have noted down so far.
CCP has been on the “about two a year” track for ages now. Just look at the list up to June of this year. Sometimes they slip one way or another, with their expansions running early or late. And I am not sure if Revelations II should be counted as its own expansion or not. But for the most part CCP has a system and it has worked.
Yet here we are into September and we just got Odyssey 1.1 with a whole pile of changes. That seems awfully close to the margin when you want to start off rolling new features into the main code branch for integration and sanity checking reasons. There is a hazard in changing things up too frequently.
On the flip side, CCP has not been very successful with the long wind-up for things. See DUST 514. And EVE expansions tend to have a pretty short cycle between announcement and go live. So they may still be operating as normal.
The big news maker at SOE Live was EverQuest Next. That was what everybody was talking/writing about. But, somewhere amongst the sand art the talk of voxels was an announcement about the next EverQuest expansion. The 20th expansion. A big, fat hairy deal, making it to 20 expansions one would think. And so this important milestone was named…
um… where did I put those notes…
It was named Call of the Forsaken! There is even an official title/logo/graphic thing, which puts it well ahead of the game compared to most other expansions at this point.
Given how much press it has been getting, that name might give the Chains of Eternity expansion a run for its money in the unintended irony department.
SOE has announced beta and pre-orders for the expansion, but as far as I can tell has not bothered to post a feature set or other details on the main EverQuest site. I suspect that this is in part because the name of the expansion does not follow the standard naming format of “Something of Something,” which has lead to some internal rebellion by the web team. Or they were part of the layoffs.
Like its older brother, EverQuest II had an expansion announcement at SOE Live which was likewise completely overshadowed by EverQuest Next. The new expansion, Tears of Veeshan, was announced in a hallway somewhere and hasn’t been heard from since as far as I can tell. Unlike the EverQuest site, the EverQuest II web pages appear to have no mention of the expansion whatsoever. Remember what I said about SOE and keeping excitement going?
The expansion is planned for November, so SOE has some time. But it is starting to feel like past versions of Norrath are on the back burner while EverQuest Next hogs all the excitement by… uh… talking about whether female dwarves should have beards or not. Jesus wept.
Guild Wars 2
No expansion for Guild Wars 2 has been announced or even discussed to my knowledge. But when you are clearly making most of your revenue from selling boxes, and you have a history of selling boxes, it seems like you might want to get another box on the shelves at some point.
Lord of the Rings Online
At last, somebody who has an expansion in the works, who has announced it, and has followed up with… something. They have a press release posted on their site at least. And a logo.
And I guess they showed some stuff at PAX. But if you were just me poking around on the web trying to find information about it, you might wonder if they were really serious. Usually Turbine is out with the per-order incentives and such about now. So far it seems pretty quiet for the Helm’s Deep expansion.
[Addendum - There is now an announcement for the expansion release date.]
Star Wars: The Old Republic
SWTOR already had an expansion this year, Rise of the Hutt Cartel. That came out six months back. But now, if you are a subscriber, you get it for free. I am not sure what that says about how well it was doing. And I have to guess that, if you’re a subscriber, it means you really like the game, so you probably bought it already. Well, They have a little something for your trouble at least.
World of Warcraft
Ha ha ha, I know. They just released Mists of Pandaria like a year ago. That is practically yesterday in World of Warcraft terms. And they just gave us the Siege of Orgrimmar update with all sorts of new features. Even Kihei was on her level 90 reaping the rain of loot that is the Timeless Isle at the moment. I am sure that will be nerfed significantly before I get there, while all the best noodle cart locations will be taken. Yes, we got noodle carts with the patch as well. I am not making that up. Go read the patch notes I linked there, you’ll see.
Anyway, will the new stuff in patch 5.4 be enough? Can a patch, no matter how feature rich, have the same draw or get the same attention as a full blown expansion. As much as expansions expose the ludicrous nature of the level based system, often stacking the shiniest new content as far out of reach of new players as possible, it is the sort of thing that will get people to buy boxes and resubscribe. So I will be surprised/dismayed/annoyed if Blizzard does not announce something like a WoW expansion at BlizzCon this November. Hints about character remodels are not enough.
As slow as they are, Blizzard did get a Diablo III expansion into the queue for next year, so there should be something.
That is just the stuff that springs to mind. Are there any other expansions that ought to be noted?
I figure that Final Fantasy XIV and Neverwinter are too new. Trion is probably too busy with the free to play conversion and their own internal turmoil to have anything set for Rift. And who else is there that might ship an expansion?
I am not sure how well selling expansions mixes with free to play in any case. LOTRO has kept it up, and SOE is trying. But other players in the space seem to be just dropping semi-regular content updates in the hopes that they can tempt you into spending at the cash shop, or at least annoy you into returning to the subscription model that I suspect some free to play developers still secretly love. Why else would you sell hot bars at your cash shop?
But expansions have been, in the past, a community focal point, a way to get both your current and former customers excited about your game again. Only I am just not feeling it this season.
Am I alone in this? Are things different this year? Or is it just too early in the season?
Has the WildStar Team Looked Into How is Krono Working for SOE? August 20, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, EverQuest Next, WildStar.
Tags: CREDD, Krono, PLEX
The big news so far this week… at least at the point when I started writing this post… seems to be the announcement about WildStar’s business model.
WildStar is going for the classic monthly fee subscription model, which means they had better have something new and different to offer. Given what I have seen so far, I hope their secret weapon is still under wraps, because the MMO market is pretty harsh these days. The masses have spoken, and they do not like monthly subscriptions and won’t tolerate them without good reason.
And Carbine, WildStar’s developer, is working for NCSOFT (Didn’t they used to write it NCsoft?), which means the gun will be to their head from day one to make this work and work well. NCSOFT’s record of closing down games indicates that they either have no compunction about shutting them down or they have no clue about what works for MMOs and end up backing a lot of losers. Neither paints a happy picture.
So, yea, no pressure there Carbine. Hope you have your shit well and truly together.
The alleged mitigating factor in the WildStar plan appears to be a PLEX-like item which they are calling CREDD. As they put it on their site, after you buy the box and use up your “30 days with purchase” time, you have two options:
Option 1: Monthly subscription
Option 2: C.R.E.D.D.
So, the buzz after that has been people sorting themselves out into the love/hate sides of the subscription model, attempting to decipher exactly how this is “hybrid,” and generating inapt parallels to EVE Online and its PLEX scheme.
You all remember PLEX right?
PLEX has been around for about four years at this point. It has added to the usual EVE drama. You buy PLEX from CCP and get it as an item in-game, which you can then sell to other people for the in-game currency, ISK. You do this if you really need some ISK. If you buy PLEX, you can consume it for 30 days of game time or use it for various account services.
PLEX works in EVE.
It works for various reasons, the most important of which is that everybody who plays EVE with any level of seriousness has to be part of the in-game player economy. EVE is not World of Warcraft where you can say, “screw the auction house” and go run through the quest chains that lead you through the game and which keep your level of equipment… well… I hate to say “competitive” in a game like WoW… but you can get the basic job done, the bar being set low and the equipment being handed out readily making keeping you sufficiently over powered.
There is no escaping the economy in EVE. You need it for your ship, for your fittings, for your implants, for your skills. And the fact that ships and fittings and implants… and if you screw up, even skills… are constantly being lost to player action means that you keep going back. You keep a few ships fit and ready to go. You buy better fittings. You change up fits that just are not working. You spend a lot of ISK.
Or maybe not a lot. If you are new, losing a frigate seems expensive. Later on you’ll throw frigates away and laugh… if you last long enough in the game.
But another aspect of EVE that makes PLEX work is that the in-game currency isn’t an “I win” button. Sure, it helps. But if you can only afford to fly frigates, you can still find something to do. And if a battleship lumbers up to you, you can run away easily. Or, even better, you can tackle him, orbiting faster than his guns can track, and call in some friends to kill him. Or kill him yourself and laugh, if you are skilled enough.
Look at Gevlon. He has, through an admirable level of persistence, become quite wealthy in EVE Online. He has made billions of ISK. But has he “won” EVE? Was all that ISK able to save TEST? Is he powerful in-game in relation to his wealth?
I would say no.
Anyway, all of that is old news and has been discussed and argued over for ages at this point. The take away from that is that WildStar does not sound like EVE, so the success of PLEX is not, to my mind, a reliable predictor of success when it comes to CREDD. Feel free to correct me if you feel I am wrong. I am no expert on WildStar. But the two do not feel parallel.
No, WildStar’s CREDD seems like it might be closer to SOE’s Krono.
Krono has been out for almost a year now and it sounds a lot like PLEX and CREDD.
You buy it from SOE for real money and can turn around and sell it in-game to other players for in-game currency. The last I checked it was available in EverQuest and EverQuest II. While PLEX sounded like a viable plan in EVE from day one, I was a bit dubious about Krono. (I was dubious about WoW supporting such a thing in theory as well. Certainly the Kitten economy did not take the world by storm.) It seems like a decent idea. It ought to work. But it depends so much on the in-game economy, which can vary greatly from server to server, and which does not have anywhere near the buy-in you get in EVE Online.
I checked into the market price for Krono a few times early on, but haven’t heard much about it since. So it isn’t clear to me if Krono has been a big win, a modest success, or is another one for the list of SOE science experiments that will never be spoken of again. Did it get any mention at SOE Live?
The one ace in the whole that Krono had was the price.
A single Krono is $17.99, or two dollars cheaper than a month of SOE All Access, which starts at $19.99. I looked into this pricing scheme in a post a while back. It seemed like the one thing that might guarantee some Krono sales, since Krono can extended you SOE All Access plan by 30 days, just like it does a single game plan, and there are some price points where Krono wins for that.
Anyway, Krono seems like a much closer parallel to WildStar’s CREDD, so if I knew that Krono was a success, I think I would have more confidence in CREDD.
Of course, there isn’t a perfect parallel between any SOE game and WildStar.
Wildstar will be shiny and new, will be monthly subscription based, will have its own take on things, will presumably be different enough to stand out, and so on. Meanwhile, SOE games are all free to play at this point and the games closest to Wildstar in model are pretty old at this point, with EverQuest standing at 14 years of age and EverQuest II at nearly 9.
On the other hand, some of the differences work in Krono’s favor. The fact that some of the SOE games are older and have mature economies means that there are players out there with the cash in hand to buy Krono at a price that makes it worth acquiring Krono from SOE. That might be an early days weak spot for WildStar. Will its economy have evolved and produced enough wealth to make selling CREDD a viable option just 30 days after launch? And if it has, if there is enough money in the market so quickly, is that really a good thing, or a sign that inflation will grip the economy?
That is a whole pile of questions and speculation without much in the way of answers. Such is my usual method I suppose.
What do you think? Is it going to work?
And, in another parallel, I do wonder where Krono fits into the EverQuest Next scheme.
EverQuest Next News Timeline August 19, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest II, EverQuest Next.
Cyanbane, one time helmsman for the EQ2-Daily podcast… at one time a pretty big deal in the EverQuest II fan base… has, like many of us, found his interest in Norrath rekindled by the revelations surrounding EverQuest Next.
Interesting times and all that.
The intent is to gather all of the EverQuest Next related news and opinion posts into a chronological framework, with the starting point, day zero as it were, being SOE Live and the big reveal.
Now, there are certainly other places to get your EverQuest Next news. All the big MMO sites are devoting time to the game, and some independent sites are springing up to focus on the game. Feldon, ever the master of all things EverQuest II over at The EQ2 Wire, has an EverQuest Next companion site up, The EQN Wire. There is also EQN Extra that is focusing on aggregating news an opinion.
But The Timeline has its own unique nature, in that it does stack things in a timeline, so you can get a look at who was talking about what and when. You can see bursts of activity when some new information shows up, and you can see things thinning out as news is discussed and digested. This will be a way to track something I brought up last week, which is how well SOE keeps the excitement for EverQuest Next going. Lots of white space on the timeline will mean “not so much.”
I could quibble about how effective space is being used in the timeline. The whole thing feels really constricted in the vertical plane. But it overall it is a new way to look at the EverQuest Next news. Cyanbane is working on similar timelines for other games of interest.
The Timeline was announced on the GuildM8s forum in a post that includes a history of the EQ2-Daily site and podcast. If you are like me, and appreciate such insights into the history of the net, that might be the more interesting piece to read.
At least until the next bit of EverQuest Next news shows up.
Is Your Faction Getting the Short End of the Stick? August 16, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, Rift, World of Warcraft.
Red Shirt Guy… you remember the Red Shirt Guy from BlizzCon, right… he got his own NPC in game… has an editorial up about the perception in World of Warcraft that the Horde is the favored faction and the the dev team prefers to work on things for the Horde to the detriment of the Alliance side of the coin.
Since he is a well established lore hound in addition to being a dedicated player, it was interesting to see his take on what has been a controversial topic from time to time.
Of course, the bias hasn’t always been that perceived the same way. I recall a time when it was felt that the Horde was neglected because they did not have a “pretty” race. And so they got blood elves. And the Alliance got blue space goats. Making things right or evidence of bias?
Anyway, this got me thinking about other games, and there are certainly times when I felt a faction was being neglected.
For example, when I started off in EverQuest back in 1999, I chose Qeynos as my starting place. That was a mistake in some respects. The city was somewhat neglected, was not the place to be if you wanted to craft, and was on the opposite side of a hostile continent from most of the player base. They were all in Freeport where all the cool stuff happened. So while I loved the Karanas, I still had to travel to Freeport time and again to by things or meet up with friends.
On the flip side of all of that, when it comes to nostalgia, being from Qeynos is now superior. Freeport continued to be lavished with attention, getting a graphics revamp a while back. Meanwhile, Qeynos remains in pretty much its original state, which is fine with me.
And the Freeport bias continued in EverQuest II, where at launch Freeport was a giant, over-wrought city or intricate detail. And Qeynos was a nice place to live, but not very memorable.
In EVE Online there used to be some irregularities in the factions. And I am not talking about the ships, which seem to favor one faction or another with each revision. Long was the rule of the Drake and Hurricane battlecruisers before their nerfing. But back when I was starting, there was a clear advantage to picking the Caldari faction and specific bloodlines and background, as you ended up with more, and more useful, skill points to start with. That has since been fixed, but for quite a stretch there was a “right” choice when creating a new character.
And, to beat a nearly dead horse, there was Warhammer Online, where it sure felt like destruction had been given some better options when it came to character classes back when a lot of people actually played it.
You could go on. the Guardians in Rift clearly got the better character models. The dwarves and elves in Lord of the Rings Online get kind of crap starting zones in my opinion, while the hobbits just get a version of the human starter zone, then get jumped from Archet to the Shire, breaking the story line.
But you start to get to nit picking and things that are really opinion. Some people might like the Defiant character models in Rift.
The question comes down to whether or not it really matters. I think in a lot of cases, it really does not. I got over the character models, you don’t spend much time in the starter zone, I’ve moved on to flying other ships, and once in a while it works out, as in the case of Qeynos. Not that I let anybody forget the slight.
Of course, I am in favor of there being a more difficult faction available, something that makes the game more challenging for those willing to accept the assignment.
What about you? Is there a faction getting a raw deal in your game?