Bro, Do You Even F2P?

Man, these F2P titles are killing it! What a great weekend we have lined up! All except one.

SWTOR is doing a double XP weekend – well, not even that, a whole week! With the announcement that next week they will bring back the popular bounty hunting for another week as well. All this along with their usual weekly sales.

And TERA? Also a double XP weekend! And they also are running a cross promotion with ZMR for some silly outfits and also free loot boxes.

World of Tanks is celebrating their gaming league and their 4 year anniversary, last weekend handing out x5 XP bonuses and huge sales on premium tanks and in game gear, and more stuff anticipated this weekend. And War Thunder is running their popular Chronicles series allowing you to reenact popular battles from WW2, as well as running a contest to help fill out their Wiki with good articles. All this in addition to the usual daily random boost and standard weekly contests.

STO continues to run their Delta Recruitment promotion with various skill boosts. NWN has a Wonders of Gond event with free items to collect and such. Uncharted Waters Online (I know, none of you play it) is celebrating a new Chapter of their story and a big game update along with a 50% boost to skill proficiency gain!

And the newest F2P contender, Elder Scrolls Online, they are doing a Welcome Back Weekend, trying to get people to come in and give the game a shot! With a live stream! And … um … yeah. That’s about it. No bonuses. No sales. No boosts. No free stuff – well, unless you enter the costume contest or the orienteering race and try to win a prize. You could buy an exclusive mount this weekend only, for $20. But that’s about it.

Bethesda has a long way to go if they want to succeed at this F2P thing. I know they are trying to be generous in their model, and I appreciate that, but right now they are the one restaurant on the boulevard that doesn’t have a sign out front or a coupon in the newspaper. It looks like its going to be a bumpy road for that team for awhile.

#mmo, #2015, #elderscrollsonline, #theweekend

Time Capsule 2015

So for those that haven’t read one of my previous capsules, or my opening thereof, here’s how this works. I record some of the things I’m looking forward to, some of my burning questions for the year ahead, and record my biggest nostalgia impulses. And then a year later, I see how they turned out. (Hint: sometimes not as great as I thought, sometimes, even better).

So here we go:

What I’m looking forward to in 2015

As others have pointed out, this is a down year for MMO’s. There are no real major launches that we know of, and nothing waiting on the back burner to amp up. So most of my anticipation is locked into games I’m playing in the here and now (and that’s not a bad thing!)

Maxing Out Marvel Heroes Online

I started last year with just a free hero (Hawkeye) and some time to kill, but the game was so good I put in enough quarters to buy out my two favorite Marvel characters: Moon Knight and Taskmaster. Moonie is…well, he’s a complicated character and its hard to get a good build on him. Taskmaster on the other hand, is a world of fun. I added Rogue over Christmas through the Steam sale. She is the quintessential utility character, something I thrive on. So I’d really like to get those guys maxed out, or at least to where I have all their fun abilities, including ultimates, unlocked.

Grats to Gazillion on raking in that Game of the Year award too. And they deserve it. All the other action RPG type games are built on PvP – but not this one. This one is built firmly on PvE, and that is what has made it such a nice secondary game for me. Drop in, drop an elbow on several hundred henchmen, and drop back out. Good times folks, good times.

Unleash the Tiger

The inscription in Russian reads:  "Pic Unrelated"
The inscription in Russian reads: “Pic Unrelated”

One of the seminal moments of the World of Tanks beta for me was, as week before the wipe and launch, unlocking the Tiger tank. My boyhood dream, come to life in a way that had never, in my opinion, been done right before. And then War Thunder comes along, and, in my opinion, they do it even better than WoT did. And I’m sitting 61,000 RP from unlocking that steal beast in WT. Well, maybe a little more than that, as I’ve elected to beef up my AA lineup a bit first. So call it 85k or so. Shouldn’t be too long, but unlocking it is not what I’m looking forward to – playing with it is. In WoT the Tiger was always a mediocre tank – the way they rank it, it falls into battles where its already poor mobility was combined with a new weakness – armor that couldn’t stop anything. It was….disappointing. I’m curious to see how it fares in WT. Will it live up to the image cast by my younger self, watching Kelly’s Heroes and drooling longingly?

More Jet Combat In World of Warplanes

I know that sounds weird, but, now that I have a couple of jets in my inventory, I’m really starting to like the way the game plays out around them. In War Thunder, at those levels, it appears a one second burst can shatter you jet beyond repair, but the mechanics in WoWp are more forgiving, and combined with the greater difficulty in maneuvering at those speeds…well, its a fun and fast paced challenge. I never thought I would be in that place, a year ago, I’d have said to take jets out all together. But I really do think the game is set up to handle them well, maybe even better than it handles the lower tier prop battles, which is already very good at building high paced furballs.

My Burning Questions For 2015

Speaking of WoWp…

Where will things stand a year from now? Will the game be improved, with greater numbers of players, or will it have dwindled south? Will it even still be around? Already some NA players have moved to the RU server, trading a rough delay for the ability to have a large population present. For me, my heartache would be in the loss of the game I love, but not in money invested. Warships will be coming soon and I know I will be invested in that as well, so any gold I have will find a happy new home there. But I genuinely love WoWp, and the thought of it disappearing on me…well, it would be a hard blow to take.

What will Elder Schools Unlimited Actually Look Like?

Screenshot_20150115_204737

They say that nothing will be restricted, but I’m calling baloney right now. XP gain will be choked back, without a doubt. Which means if my brother and I want to keep moving at the comfortable pace we are living at right now, we are going to have to stay subbed. Which means there are no real benefits for me to derive from the game. Yes, I know, the Crown Shoppe, or whatever they will call it, but…unless they are also lying about restrictions in the realms of fashion – I already change outfits and colors almost nightly – there is nothing more I could want to buy from the shop in terms of cosmetics. But if they are lying about that too, and the crafting content will also be restricted….well, then, again, I’m not better off than when I started. Honestly, it doesn’t really hurt my status quo, so there is nothing for me to be mad about. But as someone who is already loyally subbed, I stand to gain nothing in the switch it seems.

What MMO Closures will 2015 Bring Us?

It was this time last year when word came that Vanguard would be closed down for good….err “sunsetting” as they euphemize it. That made it the fifth MMO I’ve played to shutter its doors (EQOA, Shadowbane, CoX, SWG are the other four). So the thought is in my head as I write this: who is going down this year? Will it be the very original, but long suffering Pirates of the Burning Sea? They admit this is going to be a tenuous year for them revenue-wise in a recent letter, but if they can get in place the things they need, they can probably hold on for awhile longer. Sony has proven itself the harbinger of doom when it comes to closures in the last year – is there something else on their list to axe? Dragon’s Prophet maybe? Do any of the really old school games that have clung to life face an end in the next year? Dark Age of Camelot? Asheron’s Call?

Or…will this be a closure free year, which will seem to be, after the last couple of years, a rarity?

Where Will I Return To In 2015

Ah, the nostalgia lanes. Last year I enjoyed trips into retro-RPG lands. What about this year?

ArchAge Online

Given how passionate I was about this game early on…should I go back and try to rekindle some of that interest now? I mean, it is free to play, so if it doesn’t work out, no big deal. And I doubt I will ever get through enough of the content that PvP will be an issue. And in some sense, it woudn’t be a return since I never made it that far on the RU server. Still, an interesting possibility.

Dominions 4

I would love to do a nice, long (maybe playing just once a week) playthrough of a Dominions game and write up a narrative of the action. It would function in some ways like Syps Nostalgia Lane, though I really only have an interest in doing it for this game, which it would work well on I think. His Master of Orion playthrough in that format was a great read and a lot of fun.

Or….

Or will something not here jump up and catch my fancy, something like the recently resurfaced Uncharted Waters Online….

I must have ships on the brain. Anyway, here’s to 2015. May it surprise us in a good way.

Opening the 2014 Time Capsule

So, according to my notes, this is my second year doing this. Instead of predictions at the end of the year, at the beginning of the year I try to capture my hopes, dreams, and thoughts for the year in one space, and then go back and look at them the next year. This change was inspired by SWTOR after I realized how I went from gung-ho-on-fire for it to hating it in the course of a year. How quickly things change in the world of online gaming, right? So here is where I was 12 months ago, and my reflections now.

I Was Looking Forward To Four Things:

    World of Warplanes: Vought F7U Cutless

The Cutless was my favorite tier 10 at launch, and was supposed to be my first end game plane. Its defensive handling and speed made it a great choice. But I ran into two problems. One is that the Corsair line has been perpetually underpowered in the game. It is unrealistically nerfed in its speed and handling, and tends to be one of the worst choices to fly at tiers 7-8 (where the grind kicks in). So while I unlocked the tier 7, I never went beyond that. It sits in the hanger, gathering dust. The more serious problem though, was Warplanes population struggles. While things are better now, its still hard to find any sort of decent size match above tier 7, and anytime they do a special (like the one that has been going on the last month) its impossible to play anything other than the tiers directed (in this case, tier 4) because that is where everyone congregates. Its good for the overall health of the game to get people together, and there is no real need for a tier 10 yet, but still, it is frustrating. I have used free XP to unlock and upgrade the FJ-1 Fury, at tier 9, and one that is probably better suited for my play style than the Corsairs were.

    Elder Scrolls Mania

I think I spent just about half the year on subscription for Elder Scrolls Online. I continue to believe it to be a great MMO. But it is almost exclusively used by me for playtime with my brother, and the last two months have been nuts for both of us. We talked this week and are anxious to make a return to the game in the coming weeks. Part of my joy is the flexibility in playstyles. Its not unusual for me to have a different weapon and skill set equipped each night. Oh and the crafting…my word the crafting. I collect crafting styles like some people collect stamps. Or pets. Or achievements. Yeah, lets go with those.

    Playing Old RPG Franchises

I tried Wizardry 7. Oi. Character creation alone was crazy frustrating to me. So I figured maybe I went toooo far back in time, ya know? So I picked up Might and Magic 10 on sale, and it was a bust too. So I tried M&M7 again. Also a bust. The magic just wasn’t there. And that’s when I realized the problem wasn’t that I had gone too far back, but that I hadn’t gone far enough. So, I busted out some Might and Magic 2. Its still hard as hell, but at least my expectations are in line with reality. And I don’t have to deal with an inventory system from hell – Might and Magic 2 restricts every character to 12 items – six equipped and six in the backpack.

MM2

And character creation evokes the feeling of classic tabletop dice rolling for some reason.

...can't quite put my finger on why.
…can’t quite put my finger on why.

So, nostalgia enjoyed, thanks again NWC and Van Canegham for making a timeless classic!

    The Return of WoW

Yeah, not so much. Not sure why, but by the time release rolled around, any enthusiasm I felt was completely nonexistent. I couldn’t tell you why, as I’ve said before, I think WoW today is much improved from when I last played regularly (2007-2008), but apparently, for me, that ship has sailed.

I Had Three Burning Questions:

    What Will Come of Wildstar?

It came, it saw, it had some success. But I wondered if it would have some impact on the MMO landscape. And quite frankly, I don’t think it did. It certainly did not aim to be groundbreaking in style, graphics, or gameplay, but I think they did want to bring back some of that old subscription magic. And for me at least, they did not (though I would argue that, again *for me*, ESO did manage to do just that)

    Will ArchAge Be Arriving in 2014

This was bizarre. After months and months of dragging feet, Trion finally put their full wait behind this thing and shoved it right out the door, along with a hefty preorder price tag. The long wait time, sudden ramp up, and ridiculous pricing levels muted my enthusiasm. I had hoped that this would be the next big thing, but the mindless development enslavement to PvP and propensity for people to be jackasses (ie, gank helpless players), doomed this game to a dark corner. Oh, sorry, “niche market”, that’s the spin we want to put on it. Sad.

    How Will WarThunder’s Ground Game Hold Up Against World of Tanks?

Boy is this one the opposite of my other questions. Ground Forces is, for me, an unqualified success. I have all but abandoned World of Tanks in favor of what I see as superior graphics, superior gameplay, and superior dedication to historical sensibility. I had no idea this was coming but I’m the happier for it. And while the game still has its struggles at times, the plane/tank crossover in one client has actually siphoned flying time away from WoWp as well. This is a case in point for why I do these articles. I had no idea 12 months ago I would be this deep in WT.

I Had Two Places I Wanted To Return To:

    EVE Online

I played again, I loved the visuals all over again. And once again, I quit after a month, because…well, I was bored again. There has never been a prettier game with less to do for those who came looking for an MMORPG. I think EVE is probably best classified as an MMOPBG – massively multiplayer online persistent battle ground. Because for all its wonderful variety, at its heart its a one trick pony. Still – what is it that GMC says? Do one thing and do it well? Well that is EVE – they do one thing, and they do it so well that a decade later, nobody else has even come close.

    SWTOR

I’m glad I went back, because I learned something. I learned that the problem I had with TOR was not all the random side quests. It was the story quests themselves. The terrible face choices and the arbitrary light side/ dark side assignation drove me away more than the slow gameplay and group advancement did. So when the 12x XP event happened last December, I literally laughed. I can’t think of anything less enticing to me than to say “just come and play for the story.” I probably have a stash of cash now, and who knows, maybe one day I will go back and putz around again, but right now, I have lost any latent desire or nostalgia that was present.

***

So there ya go. I’m in a different place on War Thunder, Eve Online, ArchAge, and SWTOR than I was a year ago. Stay tuned for the 2015 time capsule coming in the next couple of days to a blog near you (ie, this one!)

Customer Service Redemption

Some of you know that, like others, I have had issues with Bethesda/Zenimax in the customer service department.

Well, they finally got it all sorted out this week. It took opening a new ticket, but that did the trick. I got an answer within 24 hours (and an apology), and 24 hours later, had my Explorer Pack waiting for me. The total wait time for resolution: 25 days. But, I am glad that it is done.

Like Kaozz though, this has taken some of the wind out of my sails for the enthusiasm I had for the game. It seems a rule by now that every time you stop playing an MMO, it is harder to start up again. And after some number of starts and stops, you just lose interest. And its a shame that my first stop wasn’t a choice I made but through circumstances beyond my control.

I played last night and had a blast, but I know in the bottom of my heart its just not the same.

eso

Longest Wait?

What’s the longest you’ve ever had to wait on a response from CS support ticket? I’m currently at eight days and counting. The crazy thing is that they asked me for information, I replied a few minutes after that, and here I am, eight days later, still waiting for them to tell me that they verified my account and we can proceed.

Even worse, they are already in the doghouse because they sent me a canned response that did not match my ticket, and that was dated as a response to an issue that included dates that were two days previous to my ticket. In other words, they not only sent me a script that didn’t match, they didn’t bother updating the script to even pretend like they cared.

The game is good, but so far the customer service center is setting new lows in the industry.

Cult of Personality

Syp has a great post about the personality of games, and I would like to say I agree 100%. My Wildstar title was chosen with great care – “things that turned me off” – and not just off the cuff. I don’t think its a bad game. I’m just a getting a bit of an eyebrow raise at the terms some people are using to describe it – innovative being the main one.

Which leads me to the one way I can see a game as being bad. And that is when it misrepresents itself to the wider audience. SWTOR got absolutely pummeled post launch, and gamewise, mechanically, its not a bad game. Its quite solid. But when it is not playing itself out the way you promised people it would, its gonna take a beating in social media and in sales and subs as well.

By the same token, this has been the concern with TESO as well – you are advertizing Multiplayer Elder Scrolls – that had better be what you deliver!

But if you can show people what your game is in a realistic manner, keep the expectations in check as a result of that, and then launch without too many bumps, things will be just fine for you and your game. And as you might have guessed, the expectations part of that is the difficult one. Games that are greatly hyped had to deal with frothing masses and their exponential growth of expectations (one of the things that makes me worry about Star Citizen). In other words, you have to be careful when you develop a cult of personality around your game. It might not be a bad thing for business. But if the crowds discover upon launch that the personality they have been worshipping is not the one they got, well…

frankenstein_villagers