These Are A Few of My Favorite Things: DAW15 Part 2

So last time I thanked the SWTOR devs for their efforts. Today I want to highlight one of the things I appreciate about TERA.

While the game got raked over the coals in critiques, both socially and mechanically, there is one thing about TERA that I can not do in any other MMO that I play. One fun thing that nobody else really does. And that is that it has made me comfortable playing the game with the UI turned off, without having to mouse click any of my skills. Now to be fair, this is something that most ARPG’s and some MOBA’s have already gotten right – Diablo, Marvel Heroes, World of Tanks, etc. All of these can do that. But there are no straight MMORPG’s that I play that allow me that option and, more importantly, where that option of watching the fight unfold rather than watching numbers and buttons, is actually beneficial.


I actually took that screenshot above while fighting. And its not unusual for me to gather the quests in a given area, hit Ctrl+Z, and run off to play the game. Its refreshing (and immersive) to not have to look at boxes and buttons and wheels for a change. And TERA is a truly pretty game with lots of gorgeous landscape, interesting cities, and of course, colorful characters. Its kinda like playing an online version of Alice in Wonderland I suppose, and it has some unique charm in that.

So thank you En Masse and Bluehold developers, for creating a unique MMO that lets me feel even more like I’m at home in an RPG.

#daw2015, #tera, #mmo, #2015

Biblical MMO?

Wilhelm today brings us news of a new RPG project hitting Kickstarter yesterday, Bible Chronicles: The Call of Abraham.

At first glance, it would appear to be an MMO, at least from the UI, but there is nothing on the Kickstarter page or video that it is a multiplayer experience [ETA: Wilhelm dug out the press release – it is indeed single player]. But that is an interesting thought…first lets looks at the project itself, then we can tackle a biblical MMO.

The Bible mandates Schwarzenegger-sized pectoral muscles.

The project itself is…well, from a vision perspective its quite fun. The story of Abraham covers a decent chunk of Genesis and being a part of the Abrahamic caravan is a good setting for some OT (that’s Old Testament for the unitiated) adventure. There’s some exploration, some intrigue and sneaking, some combat, and plenty of decisions and places to plug a fictional character in at. But there is a lot left out too – no David, no Solomon, no prophets like Elijah and Elisha to make fun of pagans and make it rain miracles. In truth, you won’t need a lot of special effects for the portion of Scripture that the game covers.

As for the design crew itself – well…not all that inspiring. Its not so much the lack of RPG background – if there is anything the fan community has proven over the years, its that good games (or should I say good storylines) can come from anyone with some dedication and a smidge of talent. For me its the four or five people (they say four and then give five bios) on the “advisory team” for Biblical accuracy. None of which has any academic credentials. Not a one. Instead we have guys who are presidents of country clubs and golf foundations, youth pastors and blog writers. At least they had the good sense to include an advisor of the Roman Catholic persuasion (without whom you are leaving out around half your audience), though I’m sure his appointment to the advisory committee is news to the RCC.

I guess if you are just looking to make sure you follow the biblical story to a verse, you could really do that with anyone. But if you want to get all the backstory, settings, costuming, language, and interactions right, those are the wrong four or five guys to talk to, unless they have degrees that for some crazy reason they decided not to include in the bios listed.

Go forth and kill seven rats, one for each day of creation. This shall be pleasing unto me...uh, I mean, pleasing to God.
Go forth and kill seven rats, one for each day of creation. This shall be pleasing unto me…uh, I mean, pleasing to God.

The idea of a biblical MMO is not really all that crazy. There are indeed plenty of settings for it. Personally I think the book of Judges makes for an excellent setting – plenty of chaos, different people mixed together in the land, skirmishes and petty kings, trade and roguery. You could play any number of cultures, and number of roles, and it would make for a nice sandbox mix. You have Ehudian Assassins, Manassahian Adventurers, Asherim Druids, Samsonian Strongmen, and more.

Of course, allowing a setting like this also eliminates the funding for it. The biblical heroes of Judges are as amoral as they come, so Evangelicals are not going to be on board. And while Judges does grant us female heroes, its also about as un-politically correct a time period as you ask for. Racism, sexism, prostitution, you name it, you got it. So that cuts out the Mainstream denominations as well. And if they don’t fund it, how certain can a neutral publisher be assured of success? What if one or both groups boycotts? On some level any publicity is good publicity, but on another level, it takes a solid cash flow to keep those servers up.

I’m sure at some point a biblical MMO will hit the ground running. I’m also pretty sure it won’t take on the vision that I think would make it great. But I have to believe that given the crazy amount of money some people are willing to throw at anything that gets them some sort of biblical experience, its probably only a matter of time.

WAR is Over

Whether you want it or not.

News is probably old to most of you by now (being..what, 48 hours out now?) that Games Workshop is not renewing the license for EA/Mythic to continue running Warhammer Online. Is it just me, or does that sound like a blame game? “Well, we would love to keep it going, but…” I can’t see where the title really benefits GW as a company (outside of cash coming in I guess), but I can’t see that its really hurting them either. Surely they were not the ones pulling the plug.

In any case, this comes with a bit of sadness. My brother and I talked as we were wrapping up LotRO whether or not WAR might be a place to duck into for awhile. But neither of us really saw this coming. I just figured that they would eventually cave into the pressure and go F2P like everyone else.

So I am a bit saddened by the news. As Wilhelm points out, many of us started blogging with WAR and even banded together to form a guild.

So like other shutdowns I’ve endured (Shadowbane, EQOA, CoX), this one has a bit of personal bite to it as well. But unlike those others, I’m determined to do something different this time. I’m going to go back. Yep. I’m going to soil the nostalgia. I’m going to kill it with all the flaws I can find.

I’m going to play so that I can recall vividly how they abandoned the PvE game within 3 months, and how poorly tuned the leveling curves were, and how frustrating it was that even though in the tabletop my elf hero could wield whatever the hell he wanted to, in the MMO I could use only what they told me.

And I may not be doing it alone. If you want in – just say the words.

Either way, when December gets here, the plan is that I won’t feel so bad when the power goes out. I might come to feel vindicated and hope that it never sees the light of day again. I’ll remember why I quit playing and be happy to put this thing to bed.

I wonder…what will the world look like on the day Azeroth or (the real) Norrath goes dark forever? Or even the Three Realms of Camelot, which surely can’t be that far behind. And I wonder, when those days finally come – what will it feel like to know that a realm that not just 300k people – but 12m+ people have played (lived?) in will go dark forever.

Am I Done With MMO’s?

I was reading through the list of BioBreak’s poll: “What upcoming MMO’s are you dying to play?” I fully expected to be checking several boxes, but as I went through the list I realized the answer might be one he didn’t have on there.

None of the Above.

The list is underwhelming to me. TESO looks to be a group based dungeon crawler, instead of the sandbox experience we have all come to love in the series. And Syp is right when he ponders that maybe this was the wrong focus – instead maybe we should have gotten a new TES game with the ability to invite a few friends along for the ride (This was the impetus behind Two Worlds, which remains an under-appreciated game, if for not reason other than that alone).

I also skipped over all the games that are not MMORPG’s, but rather online shooters (Firefall, Valkyrie, DayZ). Not that I won’t come to enjoy them, but they are not MMO’s in my mind. I also dropped out a few others for the same reason. My enjoyable days in Shadowbane are the exception rather than the rule to my usual playstyle, so Camelot Unchained is not on the list. Pathfinder and WildStar are two games that are baffling to me – I have no idea why they are getting the attention and generating the excitement that they are. Maybe somebody needs to explain it to me? Same with EQN I suppose.

Transformers Universe gives me heartburn. We’ve been begging for the IP to be used in an MMO for years and instead all we’ve gotten is some MOBA PvP crap. Do people really think that Transformers nostalgists (who will spend any amount of money on old toys and cons) are also hardcore PvPer’s? Is there no limit to how out of touch a developer and investor can be?

The Repopulation gets a nod for its hardline sandbox design, but setting wise, I’m just not a fan. As Wilhelm has mentioned before, simulated sword fights are a little easier to make believe with than simulated gunfights where you know that one shot would normally do the trick.

ArcheAge is about the only thing on the list I’m interested in, and I know its at least another year off. So while I’m interested, I’m tempering it with patience and a dose of “wait and see” for how all that PvP is handled (does the judge, jury, jail system really work?) and what cultural translation issues are going to crop up.

Is this it for me?

Even Rift has not been as engaging this time around. Last time I couldn’t wait to log in, this time I do it, and enjoy it, and enjoy the company in it. But I have no burning desire to log in on an off night and do a few Rifts or dailies.

Shortcuts for TSW and EQ2 are also currently sitting on my desktop gathering dust.

Maybe I’m just not phased in right, maybe I’m not in the mood. Maybe Tanks has become that one game for me. Or maybe I’m just done with MMO’s. I don’t know.

Somewhere within me though, a voice says that I’m not done, and that I need to rediscover some of the fun that I was having before. I’m not quite sure how to do that, but I would like to. Maybe its time to experiment a bit and see what I come up with. Because if anything is going to generate some excitement from me, for the time being, its going to be something that’s already available.

When It Is No Longer What It Was: The Tale of EQN

I played a lot of Magic: The Gathering in high school.   I still remember my first time watching a game, on a cheese wagon as the band went to its first away game my freshman year.   I was hooked.   And it all revolved around a lore set that drove the game mechanics:  you were a planeswalker,  an archmage traveling among dimensions, with eldritch ties to those various lands you had visited that powered your magic and allowed you to summon their inhabitants to your aid.   Each new set unveiled new lands, new peoples, new spells for the planeswalker (the player) to collect.   It was great!

Throughout college, my interest waned…and then died.    You see, with every pack I opened in college, I started noticing a trend.   The cards were no longer spells, they were actions of a predetermined set of characters, as Wizards of the Coast turned each set into a story.   Before a card that let you draw cards might be named after a famous planeswalker (not unlike Mordenkainen’s line of spells in DnD), now it might be named “Wisdom of Gerrard” after one of the characters in the drama, and the flavor text relating to the story of the Weatherlight airship and its current adventure.   Then we got cards that were simply not spells at all – Hand to Hand comes to mind.  Eventually we got sets specifically designed to trash rules that had been developed by the lore of the game – big powerful flying *water* creatures.  Regenerating trolls…that were part of the nature magic category instead of chaos and destruction.

Doesn’t look like an enchantment to me. The great wizard Oz has cast a spell that forces you to use your fists on each other?

For me, at that point, specifically when I unwrapped a pack and found a card whose name I don’t remember but that depicted the Weatherlight taking “evasive maneuvers” – I realized I wasn’t playing Magic: The Gathering anymore.   I was still playing a similar game mechanically, but so much had changed that was a hallmark of the game and its lore that I just wasn’t interested anymore.

And that is pretty much what I feel when I look at all the information about EQN.   I ask the question – how is this Everquest?  I mean, its fine for Trion to say “we’re not in Azeroth anymore” – but how would you feel if Blizzard said it?  This is Norrath – but not Norrath and nothing will be the same except for names.

And we can already see the edges of that.   Where are the Erudin?  The Trolls?  The Kerran are a staple now?  Why not call them Vah Shir again?  Which leads into questions about the art style.   We’ve decided to go down the road of giant shoulderpads and overly decorated shields.  That works for a lot of MMO’s, but that has never been a part of what Everquest is (Where are the incredibly done cloaks, robes and hoods?)  We really aren’t in Norrath anymore are we?


And that brings up classes.   Classes with unique abilities and a system of checks and balances – another well established feature of the game.   Sure rogues are pure DPS – unless you want to trade some of that DPS for some useful group buffs (bard).  Do you want a mage with some CC, or one that trades its CC for some extra heals?   Deep in a dungeon you probably want a purist tank class – but the casual grouper could use some of the self healing that shadowknight or paladin brings.    Everquest 2 went one step further and gave us classes that had trademark abilities revolving around throwing knives and calling a band of thugs, temporary pets from the abyss and a wide variety of healing from warding to reactive healing to HoT’s.   Some classes have pets but others can take direct control over them, fulfilling roles the group may not have.

All that is gone.   Instead we have gone the route of GW2, but apparently without even the most basic class anchors that they put in place.  Now we are playing Pokemon with classes (gotta catch them all!).    And if you don’t think that this isn’t a set up to sell you rare and unique classes in a F2P game, your head is either buried too far in the sand or too star struck to catch wind of the obvious incoming danger-close round.

Not to mention the music.  Oh god, the music.  Everquest’s main theme is epic beyond reason.   When you hear it, the reaction it draws is comparable to hearing the theme to Star Wars or Jaws.   It rips emotions out of you and throws them on the table for you to look back, and gives you flashbacks the likes of which LSD could never hope to match.   And instead of that, we get a new theme that has not even the barest of nods to the original.  Instead of calling us to adventure and awesome, it calls us into self-reflective naval gazing.


Add into that some further unknowns.   Over at the EQN website, they are asking about ninjas and shotguns.  Are we really still that deep in the conceptual stage?  Does that mean the game is still 3, 4, 5 or more years off?  What is Landmark really?  How much of it will take place in the real game and how much will be its own entity?  Are we really serious about letting players blow up the landscape?  If so…cool I guess, so long as you check & balance it, but again – how is that Everquest?

Will EQN be a great game?  Who knows.  Will it fulfill all our hopes and dreams?   Probably not, because we tend to have lofty expectations.  Will we enjoy it and get all hyped and excited?  Most likely.    But none of that really interests me.  Its the same drama that gets played out with every new MMO release.    The real question I have right now is – will this really be Everquest?   I’ve played all three Everquest MMO’s, both the console based single player RPG’s, and even the PnP RPG.  Right now, it doesn’t look or feel like it.   None of the things that make Everquest what it is are present in the game.  To me, it just looks like another new MMO.

And for the IP that all but gave birth to this genre, that’s about the most damning thing I could say.

Gaming Budgets and Spending Money

I mentioned previously that I was a little short on spending money.  You see, I was doing a little money upkeeping, budget work, etc.  You know, all that stuff you have to do when someone starts using your apparently stolen card numbers for nefarious purposes.   (On the bright side, there are lots of safety nets for that sort of thing, and in this case I can safely say that this was not my fault!)


Anyway, that along with the summer sales has led me to doing something I hadn’t done in a while, which is seeing how much I spend on games this year.  Years ago it was a pretty set amount – I’d ask for whatever new games I wanted as Christmas or birthday gifts, and just paid out 1 or 2 subs a month for a year.   Back in those days when F2P was not an option.   And I never really got a discount because I could only bounce around month to month and there was always some shiny new game to check out, all of which required a sub.    Throw in some scratch money for the occasional clearance game, and it was a pretty easy number to conjure with.


So I was both shocked and also relieved when I totaled my “fun” spending for this year and encountered about the same number.


*rough estimate.


On the one hand, shocked because the only real sub I am running these days is for Xbox Live and its a bit cheaper than your plain old run-of-the-mill MMO sub.   Not to mention we are only halfway through the year!   And that there is some money not counted there because of gift cards that offset.


On the other hand, our life and job situation is better, and there are some one-time purchases in there (I had to break down and buy a bigger hard drive for Xbox because of my daughter’s purchase and obsession with Minecraft, for example).    And since that money is not only games but also includes books I’ve bought for pleasure and my soccer league fees, I guess its not too bad (though fantasy football season approached with alarming speed).   Part of me is convinced that is a far cheaper hobby total than what some of my peers are involved with.   Like, say, owning a boat – which involves gas and maintenance and such.  Then again, as my wife is quick to point out, at least in that hobby the rest of the family gets to enjoy the spent money in some way (time on the lake), whereas my hobby is cheaper but in not way contributes back to the family.


It would be easy to turn this into a tale of how F2P can rake in more money than sub games, but that’s not the case really.   On the one hand, as I mentioned, that’s a mixed bag of hobbies up there, and the spending on F2P games actually accounts for very little of the overall total (about a quarter of it actually).  So it would be easier to say that in the last couple of years, with the advent of F2P, it has not only allowed me to jump into several different games, but its also allowed me to spread my hobby money around into other areas.   I appear to be slightly less obsessed with games in general and MMO’s in particular.   On the other hand, after looking at the totals, I understand why my wife has threatened to ban me from Kickstarter.


So what about you?  Are you spending the same as you did back in the days of subs only?  More? Less?


And, most importantly, please tell me that some of you are spending about the same as me.   Otherwise I’m going to lose a discussion with my wife…


Help me bloggers…you’re my only hope!

Breaking Down the HEX Kickstarter Tiers

ETA:  To see an updated breakdown with the stretch goals, please head here.


Kickstarters, like many things in life, seem to come in threes.   While I’m still on the fence about how much I want to spend on Robotech Tactics, I have already thrown money at Luke Crane’s Torchbearer (if you are a fan of roleplaying games and you don’t know that name, shame on you), I am definitely in for Cryptozooic’s phenomenal looking TCG/MMO crossover game HEX.

With solo PvE play in a variety of dungeons, group PvE play in dungeons and raids, and the standard PvP fare, along with guilds and crafting and creating and leveling your own Champion (or enlisting the aid of mercenary champions when your skillset ain’t quite right), it looks to be incredible.   I stopped playing Magic: The Gathering years ago when the game stopped being about two planeswalker’s dueling – in other words, when it lost its RPG elements.

Reading the details about this game brought all fun crashing back down on me, but with improvements I could only have dreamed of.  Equipment for my Champion, playing with friends in a group setting…we tried (and invented a few) variants to squeeze these things out of M:tG, but it never quite seemed to work.   HEX works in spades, and I’m very interested.   The question as with all things is how much to go in.

Kickstarter is a dicey proposition to me.   I have backed four projects to date.  Three of those projects have promised me delivery of some or all of what I pledged for by now, and only one has delivered, and it delivered only a small slice of what was promised.   And this has been big projects and small alike, so Crypto is not exempt from that.    Even diving in now, I am mortgaging my current gaming allowance for something I won’t get to touch until this Fall, even if they are on schedule.

So, my strategy these days has become to buy in a little bit to help out and keep the project running, but not to overplay my hand – not to invest *too* much in something sight unseen.  So I do a lot of looking for diminishing returns and “bang for buck” deals.   I’ve left out anything at the $250 or above tier for two reasons:  1)  There are a lot of rewards at those levels that are hard to pin a value on, and that are widely varied.  The Pro Player gets 3 free boosters a week for the draft games, but there is some question as to how and where he can use those.  And what if you don’t play one week?  Etc.  2) If you are spending that much money, for the sake of your sanity, don’t listen to my advice.   Except maybe this:  If you’re gonna spend $250, just spend the $500 and get the perks of all five of the $250 level rewards.  That’s some serious value right there.

So basically that leaves us in the price range most of us are used to anyway when picking up a new game or Collector’s Edition.  Anyway here’s how it looks (in my mind’s eye) for HEX:

Squint or click to make it big!
Squint or click to make it big!

The Value Ratio is simply how much money you are spending versus the eventual cost of starter decks and booster packs, and accounting for the fact that all new accounts will receive one starter deck for free.  [ETA:  Just found out from the comment thread that the free starter is not the same as these starters, which must otherwise be paid for.  I adjusted the Value table to account for the new numbers, but the overall conclusions/results are the same]  PVE cards can only be used for PVE, while PVP cards can be used for both, so there is a little breakdown of that as well.  For someone like me, who will mostly be a PVE player, I’m more concerned with the total card count, but YMMV.  I also included as the last line, in italics, those lucky few who got the Early Bird reward tier, which was the King level at a heavily discounted rate.

So as you can see, on a pure card count, your best bets are the Warrior ($35) and King ($120) level.  Warrior has the added bonus of being the first level to give you a Mercenary card (which works a little differently in that they can replace your Champion in PVE contests) and that it gets you exclusive sleeves a nice trophy piece to let players in the future know you were there one Day One.  And the King level finds its real value in the huge number of booster backs assigned to it, particularly for those lucky early birds…

Your worst choices are probably the Champion tier (where you can get more cards, but not at a value rate any greater than the previous tier) and the Squire tier (where you are really only getting bit of value for what you put in).

You could argue the Supporter tier is, but giving a Beta Invite in exchange for a bit of support for the KS is really a smart idea.   I get to help your project and test drive the product before I really commit.  Sounds like a win win.   If Pathfinder Online (or maybe even Camelot Unchained) had offered such a small ante, I might would have taken them up on it.   So if you are on the fence, or just curious, this is the move for you.

Of course, I can’t account for your desire for individual cards.  The Scourge Knight and the pistol-wielding Dwarf Artificer Mercenary are particularly attractive to me, so I may find more value in those tiers ($50 and $65 respectively) than you do.   Or maybe the Digital Art Book is right up your alley and worth the $15 upgrade over the previous tier, with the extra cards just being gracy.  This is just to get a handle on the basics of things and show you my thought process.

Day Four: MMO Memories

This is difficult.  On the one hand I could regale you with a ton of great stories, but that would bore everyone but me.   So I’ll settle for four good ones.


The Priest and the Paladin

My main charater in WoW was a Human Paladin named Kohen – a transliteration of the Hebrew word for “priest.”   The overwhelming majority of people I ran into did not know that – or if they recognized it, probably chalked it up as coincidence.   But one day in my questing, I ran into an Elf Priest – I don’t remember the specifics  -whether I bailed him out of an add or vice versa.  But he asked about my name – “Are you really a priest?”  I replied no, I just know Hebrew, I’m actually a pastor.  Then I said, I’m guessing you are Jewish?  “Actually,” he said, “I’m a rabbi.”   We had a good laugh over that, even more so when I pointed out that we had carried our religious stereotypes into the virtual world – I was a very western crusader and he was a priest for somewhat ostracized people of ancient tradition.  I wish I had thought to write down his name.  I’m sure its on my friend list somewhere, but I don’t remember now what it was.  Just think what a podcast we could have done!


Baby Aid

When I was playing EQOA it was in the month leading up to and the years following the birth of my first child.  It was a rough time for us, financially and emotionally, with a long distance move, job loss, culture shock, and several other things going on.  I got a private message on our guild’s forums from a husband and wife duo that played with us.   They let me know that in real life, they were actually managers of a Baby’s R Us store.   And if there was anything I needed – diapers, formula, etc. – to let them know and they would be happy to send me anything I needed so long as I was willing to cover shipping for it.  Thankfully, I never had to take them up on that offer, but wow.  Just offering it was great.  It drove home that what I wanted most in a guild was a sense of community and family.


When Bloggers Unite

This is still one of my favorite MMO memories.  This is the only time I have been side by side playing online with another blogger.   I just never seem to be in the right game or the right place or the right level or the right time.   I’ve been close – I joined Rowan‘s guild in GW2, and I’ve been in chat with Ysharros in EQ2.  I’ve extended invitations to play in WoT to Kirith and to Wilhelm.   But nothing has ever come to fruition.  It was fun running around with someone I was at least acquainted with, and to see our varying takes on our respective blogs in the days to follow.



Hitting max level for the first time ever in an MMO.  An unforgettable event.

I could put a dozen others here.  Truth is I have a lot of fond memories in MMO’s.  Should I tell you about the early MMO games where dungeons were open world and quest drops happened if you needed the quest or not, and how that lead to awesome guild events where the entire guild would run a dungeon together, grabbing drops for everone?  Or watching retiring guildies throw themselves into the volcano outside Klik’Anon as a way to “say goodbye” to the game?  Or the time I got 8 kills in a WoT match and completely dominated?  Or the first time my brother and I, who grew up on PnP RPG’s got to adventure together in a virtual world?


If you get right down to it – these memories are the reason I play MMO’s, even down to the present day.  These games exist for making memories.  Everything else is just icing on the cake.