Three future Kickstarter MMORPGs the World almost forgot

Or maybeee it’s just me but really, what’s going on with Shroud of the Avatar, Camelot Unchained and that Pathfinder MMO? Are they still happening, where are they in development and who’s holding their breath? Let’s have a look at some status quos!

shroudoftheavatar.com
shroudoftheavatar.com

Shroud of the Avatar
The assumed comeback of Lord British was successfully funded on Kickstarter in April 2013 and has since raised a total of $4,852,936 according to the official front page. For a while after Kickstarter, there wasn’t much to look at except for some worrying ingame “footage” of its pre-everything development stage, accompanied by an excited Garriot’s commentary. In general, lots and lots of Garriot appearances on twitch hangouts and other outlets. The official forums hit it off ever so slowly, with veterans of UO glory days tossing around ideas about features that should go into this new title (naturally, lots of notorious player killing and housing). Lo and behold, already at the end of last year the first playable build was announced to backers and more updates have followed since. This September 2014, the latest test build was released with promises of new polish and stability improvements. I’ll say no more than that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder and SotA should probably suit a diehard UO or Darkfall audience just fine. The game was recently approved for Steam via Greenlight and you can read all about its spin on “single-player narrative meets sandbox MMO” there. According to the Wiki, we are looking at an official release end of 2014.

Camelot Unchained
Camelot Unchained’s Kickstarter followed one month later in May 2013, beating SotA by 300k in funding raised by significantly less backers. After closing, an additional $3 million was contributed to the project by private investors, including $2 million directly coming from studio founder Mark Jacobs. From the very beginning, MJ made clear that this was gonna be a very PvP/RvR-centric title that welcomed an oldschool, non-compromising approach to player versus player. Over the course of this year, features such as the combat and crafting system and the somewhat uninspiring RvR map were revealed to assure the playerbase in wait things were moving. In the latest September 2014 update on their official page, MJ was happy to announce the imminent first round of non-public pre-alpha testing, with access for backers on the horizon soonish. In his words, the team has stuck to schedule thus far and having reached this first milestone, CU finally looks like a ”real game rather than an engine build”. While this is probably welcome news to some, it also means that for the time being fans of the project and DAoC-hopefuls must remain patient for any actual glimpses of the game.

https://goblinworks.com
https://goblinworks.com

Pathfinder Online
Possibly the least visible title of the three, Goblinworks’ and tabletop Publisher Paizo’s Pathfinder Online only just made its second Kickstarter goal in January 2013, raising $1 million. Yes, lots of “fantasy open world pvp sandbox”-funding going on that year! After creating an initial buzz with a fairly decent looking and playable tech demo (also previously kickstarted), dazzling artworks and interesting details such as limited small-size servers, PO soon dropped below the radar. Undoubtedly the last year was spent “doing things”, polling the community on core features like respawns and permadeath, revealing war towers and the crafting system. That last one always seems high on any developer’s list. Finally in June 2014, the first friends & family alpha was announced and a trailer soon followed. After delaying the original date, the Alpha 9 patch finally went live this October 6th with future stress testing and “early enrollment” aka early access in mind. It’s safe to assume that Goblinwork’s FAQ page will see several more updates in terms of the still far off official launch date sometime in 2016.

It’s interesting to see several Kickstarter MMOs that were all crowdfunded early 2013 making their individual journeys. Shroud of the Avatar has taken a clear lead in terms of official launch at least, with Pathfinder Online closing in on that early access. As for Camelot Unchained, fans will clearly interpret slower updates as a sign of the devs taking time that will pay out in the long run. I keep my fingers crossed for everyone curently waiting; having no intentions towards either SotA nor CU, I remain at the most mildly interested in Pathfinder, assuming I can still remember its name in 2016. And then it’s probably still going to feel and look like something that should’ve come out 10 years ago.

Marketing and the Hype

As somewhat of a connaisseur of MMO hype machines, I’m also not convinced the fairly low profile approach all these projects seem to follow is such a good thing. Sure, some players are tired and disillusioned with alpha/beta and MMO launch hypes but keeping things down is risky business (hello TSW) and really takes much of my personal enjoyment in Vorfreude away. Carbine/Wildstar and SOE/Landmark have taken a very different road in making their games visible and transparent to a wider audience early on and that’s still something I personally appreciate. Sometimes the best thing about an MMO launch is the rush and excitement that goes on beforehand. Right now, I’m just not feeling any of these upcoming titles.

Introducing: The Gaming and Entertainment Network

There seems to be a natural transition of the gaming blogger into other venues, such as streaming, vlogging or podcasting. The MMO blogosphere has seen a good portion of its longterm residents take up new projects over the years, sometimes leaving altogether to write for bigger sites or then, creating their own independent channels and collaboratives. For a while now we’ve seen an increase of great MMO podcasts hailing from our own neighbourhood, some of which I feel closely related to. I am therefore very excited to announce the launch of The Gaming and Entertainment Network – a new podcasting network by gamers for gamers, bringing the following independent podcasts together under one roof:

TGEN is a collaborative relationship between like-minded podcasters and serves as an aggregator for general MMO/gaming themed podcasts that fit together from a synergistic perspective. It’s meant to make discovery easier for our individual audiences and helps spreading the word across different shows. All podcasts remain independent in their current form. In the future, TGEN may also host regular cross-podcast, round-table discussions between its members.

I want to thank Braxwolf for inspiring this collaborative and doing the lion’s share in terms of communicating between many different parties, conceptualizing and creating a shiny and functional layout for the TGEN homepage.

Another big thanks goes to all our regular listeners of Battle Bards who have been following our quirky little podcast since April 2013 and made this such a fun and rewarding experience: Thank you for your continued support and spreading the word about TGEN. We hope you’ll stick with us on our musical journey and discover some more great and new podcasts on the way!

Links: TGEN webpage and twitter account.

[Wildstar] Now Raiding

So I started 20man raiding in Wildstar last week and have downed a couple of mini-bosses as well as X-89 in Genetic Archives thus far. It took my guild of jolly freeform raiders several wipenights to get a team of 20 people fully accustomed to the drill, something that players already need to learn during the dungeon attunement: individual performance matters. Even if some veteran 5mans get easier over time for a seasoned group of well-geared folk, many fights require every member in the party to be familiar with fight mechanics. Wildstar combat is a dance more than WoW ever was, unforgivable unless players continuously adapt their playstyles. The X-89 in GA comes with two different “YOU ARE THE BOMB!”-features which means an unsuspecting rookie is likely to ruin it for everyone else.

sylraidws01

There is no hiding in Wildstar’s raids – addons are seriously recommended, cooldowns must be juggled and adjusting your tragically limited actionbar for every encounter is a given. Execution demands a high level of focus because the fights are so mobile. From that point of view the learning curve is quite steep, especially for genre newcomers. Considering how 40mans must feel in comparison, which are no less unforgivable, it becomes apparent why raiders have been crying out for Carbine to critically consider their endgame. In their most recent state of the game Nexus Report, they finally address this issue albeit just briefly:

malzek: That “other” MMORPG abandoned the 40-man model 9 years ago due to logistical issues.  WildStar’s raids are much more unforgiving, leaving many scratching their head at this design decision. Has any consideration gone into bringing raid content to a more realistic level for the playerbase size?

CM: “All I’m willing to say right now is yes. Yes, there’s been discussion. I’m not going into details at this time…..the devs are listening.

With subscription numbers dwindling and complaints both from the casual and hardcore (see the rest of the Q&A), Carbine cannot afford not to act. New content dumps may appease some non-raiding players but the fact remains that Wildstar endgame is tuned to a difficulty level that not enough people enjoy longterm. For myself, I will say this: I had fun getting to grips with the X-89 mechanics and I didn’t mind wiping as much as we did – but I am also under no illusion that the really hard bosses are yet to come and will test those spirits further. Have raids felt harder than vanilla raiding so far? - No. Do I expect them to get much harder? Oh yes! Woe to all that underestimate this endgame.

Server merges

The dreaded server merges of both global region’s PVE and PVP realms respectively, have been hinted at going live sometime around mid-October earliest. The names were decided by community poll and it appears I shall soon reside on Jabbit, a name I neither endorse nor understand.

Alas, for me the merges can’t come soon enough. Lightspire’s Dominion side has quickly turned into a graveyard, with probably 60% of its active members hosted by my guild and only one single other, competing guild in terms of raiding. The AH is dreadful, with entire subsections entirely empty or then, most likely offering an item or two by guildies (keeps the money in the family!). The costs for much coveted items such as runes amount to a subscription’s worth of platinum, just to get a basic gear set kitted out. No, I do not like this situation at all. We need a better market, we need comparisons and proper competition. For once, I don’t think a merge can do more harm than good – the fact that I cannot reasonably accumulate fancy hats and robes via the auction house is frankly intolerable.

So, why is Wildstar not doing better?

Yesterday, Rohan tried to put a finger on why Wildstar isn’t doing so well only 3 months into launch. Wildstar the great AAA-hope of 2014, the polished, cartoony WoW-esque holy trinity, theme-park MMO that appeared different yet similar enough to accommodate the mainstream. I agree with Rohan that WS has a higher difficulty level than WoW, although the leveling process never struck me as hard or tedious on my Esper. WS is packed with some fun quests and a very linear, well-paced progression to level 50. I’d happily place bets on FFXIV:ARR being grindier than WS, only FFXIV is so fortunate to have a faithful, asia-based community on top of all the western influx since revamp.

However, it’s true that WS dungeons are tough and by the looks, raids even tougher. Even if you’re not after the attunement, bronze runs are a tricky to pug. That said, I don’t think endgame is the problem either – at least WS has an endgame that poses a bit of challenge and brings guilds back to the table. What does GW2 have? No endgame, failing guilds and not even great housing. Somehow, there’s always something to complain about.

My veranda in Wildstar.

I’m not convinced anymore that WS would be faring better if endgame was toned down to accommodate pugging. What I will say is that like ANet before them, Carbine took their good time to fix long-standing player concerns as far as the UI, submenus and other optimization concerns went and they are still far from done in my book. I personally know three potential subbers that still cannot run WS smoothly on their machine and have therefore given up playing. Then there’s players like this one who believe Carbine aren’t doing such a great job in marketing their title to a wider audience – but how big an issue is this, really?

Maybe it’s just that simple: WS isn’t WoW just like none of them are. And we have crossed the notorious 3-month mark. The dwindling player base was to be expected. Today’s MMO market cannot reproduce the successes of WoW, not with titles that are “similar enough” and not with titles that are completely different or exactly the same. Even if you own a niche like EVE does, you need to content yourself with 500k subscriptions. And while some WoW attachment still lingers on and declines only gradually, the rest of the market must cope with grazers and players opting for f2p or b2p over subscriptions.

Wildstar is a fine game. It can’t be helped that it wasn’t released in 2004. We’ll see if mega-servers are a blessing or curse for its core community. Maybe it doesn’t matter either way.

Where all the Hate comes from

This is a very personal post. If you’re unaware of the events around gamergate or lack feminism’s 101, you won’t be educated by me here. 

After an intense discussion of the events around gamergate for an upcoming CMP round-table, I got talking some more about the internet mob and general hostility directed at women like Anita Sarkeesian with the excellent Roger and Sean. The comment that really kicked this off was Roger pointing out how Sarkeesian never actually condemns anyone for enjoying the games she’s covering; neither does she claim you’re a horrible person nor does she ask developers to stop creating violent content full stop. What she does for the most part, is pointing out how carelessly most of the violence against women is included in games and how it differs from violent imagery in general.

So why is this woman met, no stalked with such extreme aggression? Why can we observe similar irrational, emotional responses all the time when the topic is representation in games or a feminist concern? Some gaming press articles lately have identified a sub-group of “socially inept male gamers with female resentments” that are panicking at the prospect of the industry changing, as the main driving force behind the attacks on Sarkeesian or Zoe Quinn. While I have known few such individuals myself firsthand, it doesn’t explain why so many gamers from much more diverse backgrounds and areas of life are allying themselves with the gamergate or notyourshield tags. I’ve witnessed similar hostility to reasonable feminist concerns from some of the best people I know, so it’s clearly not just a few left-overs from 80ies gaming culture that like to sneer and spit when confronted with uncomfortable questions.

Everyone wants to be a good guy

I grew up in a very sexist family. Like most in similar situations, I didn’t realize this until much later in my life. My family was what I knew, what was normal. I knew my mother wasn’t in any way on equal footing with my father but I had never heard of the term feminism, only of emancipation in more negative terms every now and then. There was much that I hated about my past when I finally moved out at 20 but I had no name yet for the natural oppression of the women in our family context. I only felt acutely that we didn’t deserve to be treated like second class citizens.

I was also for a large portion of my life what I liked to call a tomboy. I preferred the company of boys – they shared my interests, they were easier to get along. I kinda deluded myself that I was part of certain clubs when I really wasn’t. Much worse however, is that I actively perpetuated my state of “not getting along with women”. I didn’t know why I had no female friends and in my book none of that was my fault. It was cool too, who needs women, right? Oh god.

The moment that first bubble burst was really painful; when I realized how I never really had a voice in my own family, how I didn’t stand up for myself or other women, how society treated me differently from men in many areas of life. The system is rigged against me. And men too in some ways. I had felt it hundreds of times like Neo in the Matrix but I hadn’t grasped the overwhelming picture up to the point when I started educating myself. I was angry, I was defensive. There was no way all of it could be true. But once you’ve become sensitive to these matters and you start going back, analyzing situations and becoming more aware of how people are treated around you on a daily basis, you can’t deny sexism any longer. Not the one targeted at you and not the one perpetuated by yourself. It’s a horrible feeling and difficult to face.

My second bubble burst a lot later, the question of why I don’t have female friends. I should probably add that I do have a very close female friend since childhood, but in many ways she’s a copy of me and I never managed to connect to another woman until I was 30, internet buddies aside (you are all awesome and I do owe you). The truth is I did want to have women as friends but I wouldn’t admit my own inadequacy. How can you not get along with 50% of all people? Around 30, things changed when I met a co-worker from Vancouver who I really connected with. It was scary as hell but it got me taking a hard look at myself and how I still treat women differently from men when by now, I should know better. And I’m not alone – I keep watching my female co-workers cheer on guys for being assertive while attacking women for the same traits, I witness jealousy, unsupportiveness and double standards that don’t apply to male colleagues and it makes me sick to my stomach. I don’t want to be like this.

It’s so hard to disconnect yourself from the culture you are taught by your parents and society around you, the one that is never questioned. It’s hard to accept that you’re part of a system and part of the problem. It’s much easier to get defensive and spiteful, to blame others or deny the truth. Growing pains.

Everyone likes to think of themselves as the good guy. [R.D. Precht, German Philosopher]

Nobody likes to hear that they’re part of an unjust system or that they’ve got privileges they do not deserve. Men and women struggle with the idea of sexism because they’re both complicit one way or another, before making conscious effort to question the status quo. Some take great offense at being called profiteers of the system, others take equal offense at the suggestion they might be systematically slighted, because they consider themselves strong enough and not part of “those other, weak women”.

Now, Anita Sarkeesian’s videos might not be condemning games or gamers but they constantly rattle the matrix. They force you to question what’s given and consider your own role and motivations. That path inevitably leads to bursting bubbles. It’s uncomfortable and painful – so much easier to unleash wrath upon the source of all that discomfort. The irrational hate directed at Sarkeesian is fueled by kicking and screaming fear. There’s no denying it: once you’ve opened that door, it truly is the end of the world as you knew it.

The Crusade against the SJWs

There is a waxing resentment being nurtured by gamergate and notyourshield exponents against so-called “social justice warriors” (and white knights). If you consider this briefly, it is a pretty horrible state to be in, to fight against social progress or those that speak for more inclusion and equality. How can anyone be against that?

This too, begs for a brief digression. I was for a period of my life a vegetarian for several reasons. I am not any more although meat is still a rare commodity in my diet. Anyone who thinks we eat animals for any better reason than because we can, is likely to get my eyebrow together with a link to Eating Animals. However, I was never a confrontational or preachy vegetarian. It was a personal choice and I wanted to be left alone just as much as I ignored others. I wasn’t complicated either, I’d eat whatever was left minus the meat when invited to friends. Despite all of that, my vegetarianism became the most unexpected and eye-opening social experiment for all the unprovoked hostility it exposed me to. I had people mock me, question my motives and trying to drag me into discussions of explaining myself. Some became instantly apologetic or embarrassed. My mere presence at some social gatherings was an issue, I was a spoilsport for no better reason than ordering ‘without the meat’.

I had never been aware of the deeply rooted, sacred ritual of eating meat/food together in our culture until I disturbed said ritual. I had become a point of vexation to some, like a silent reminder of all the questions they did not want to ask about their own consumerism. I didn’t mean to hold a mirror to anyone but it happened anyway. Genuine disdain was directed at me simply because I refused to be “complicit in eating meat”. I don’t know how many times I had someone tell me “you know, you’re not better than me” or “it doesn’t change a thing anyway”.

And that’s what “social justice warriors”, aka people who give a shit, do: inadvertently or not, they hold a mirror to anyone that chooses lazy complacency. They remind others that there are injustices yet to be fought right under their nose. Defensiveness and aggression are a typical reaction to feeling blame or guilt. Mocking those that care more than you do is a fine diversionary tactic.

No hatred more passionate than the hatred for a truth that hurts.

Truth hurts

Change isn’t comfortable. You can hide behind tone arguments but at the end of the day, if you’re at all committed to matters of social progress or equality, you have to accept that bubbles will burst. You have to accept pain and confusion on an existential level. And you will need to be brave.

The moments when you feel like screaming and kicking those who have caused your discomfort, are most likely the ones where you get to learn the most about yourself.

[Wildstar] Silver Dungeons and the Return of the DPS

(Is anybody still playing Wildstar out there? Well…I am!)

Before disappearing from gaming for the past few days due to real life, I got my Esper in Wildstar ready and prepped for silver dungeon runs. No doubt the bronze patch is incoming soon to speed up that attunement process somewhat but silvers are still on the table for many players and frankly, I was curious about difficulty compared to WoW heroics. Turns out, Wildstar silver runs are really more like mini-raids than WoW-style 5 mans. There’s no way a random group of mostly inexperienced people will finish anything for hours and hours.

Silver progression goes the same for most groups and guilds: STL first, then KV, SC and SSM, that last one being a nightmarish place created around a jumping puzzle. There are only four dungeons to run in WS albeit in three different modes. In no way can they be compared to adventure difficulty. Silver comes with a timer and extra objectives/bosses compared to bronze. Gold on the other hand, comes with everything and zero deaths. So far the theory.

I’m halfway through silvers now myself, thanks to running with experienced groups and vocal leadership. It still took several attempts per dungeon due to the unforgiving mechanics, yet that is nothing compared to what early progression teams had to go through. Even if you keep the same people around to crack a dungeon, and that’s what anyone does who wants to reasonably progress, you’ll spend entire afternoons learning WS dungeons before silver. You’ll be resetting over and over, going again after an early wipe or unlucky deaths slowing you down. You’ll consider mastering single bosses a success, rather than entire dungeons. You’ll be back after dinner. Persistence is the only one way to crack silver dungeons, so you better bring a good-humored bunch of people.

Ready for battle! Well...sorta.
We’re ready for battle! Well…sorta.

Or maybe you just get very lucky sometime and have a team invite you that’s already done most of the work together, with willing leaders and/or imba DPS (or the stars will align for you once every 100 years while pugging). At encounters like Stormtalon your damage dealers easily decide over make or break – a difference most acutely felt by healers.

Bringing DPS back to the Table

There is something that dawns on the traditional healer in WS at silver runs latest. It’s an obscure hunch the first few times you keep dying horribly during an encounter, a hunch that solidifies once your group keeps going on without you for minutes on end, sometimes until the boss dies. A guildie of mine condensed it best in a related forum topic on healing, a comment that hit a nerve for me too -

Tank is most important
Dps need 2 out of 3 good
Average healer = complete adventure/ dungeon.

the worrying thing is that in every other MMo I have played the healer was rated as important as the tank now with the interprets we are last even behind the Dps. imho.

WS is a game of self-sustainability first. Even if the healer dies, at least half of the encounters allow for the party to continue (and DPS finish fights). That doesn’t mean healers should die by any means or that bad healers cannot still screw up your silver runs – they definitely can. However, nothing is quite as devastating as missed interrupts in WS, the mechanic all major encounters revolve around thus far. And the responsibility of timing and rotating interrupts is almost exclusively on tanks and DPS, even if every class can theoretically do them. Needless to say, I concurred with my guildmate’s points although way more cheerfully so:

WS healing is indeed quite different to the position it holds in many other MMOs. I’ve been a healer in many games and I agree with you on this. the reason is Wildstar’s game / encounter design:

Mechanics are more unforgiving and a lot more about individual survival skills (dodge that shit, use a pot) than in other classic MMOs (not GW2, GW2 is more similar and has no roles anyway). I was used to being able to ‘save’ most of my party members all the time in WoW – you can’t do this so much in WS. People die quickly if they screw up and so does the healer, so your overall playstyle needs to be a lot more centered around your own survival + MT. There’s less leeway for the ‘extras’ (not the normal damage but the unnecessary one) in WS than in other games that I’ve played (and then there’s also the telegraph / cone thing that gimps healing). Sure, once a healer has better gear, stats, etc. he/she can make up for more screwups but still, many mechanics are just unforgiving and up to the individual player. You can’t save a one-shot, and depending on the situation not a 2-shot either.

And that’s why you feel the healer matters ‘less’ in WS which is true; because the onus of survival is more well-spread in Wildstar. So really, think of it as a good thing. The fact that even the healer is allowed to die first sometime (for some encounters it doesn’t matter), is a good thing. It means responsibility is shared more evenly, which is also true thanks to the interrupt mechanics in WS. So, imo we are more even now / not less. DPS finally aren’t just being carried in this game. [Syl]

I love it. I love the fact that DPS don’t get the back seat in a trinity-based MMO. Enrage timers aside, there was never a time during my WoW era (up to Cataclysm) where pewpew were nearly as much on the spot as they are continuously in Wildstar’s encounters. The scales have evened out and while some oldschool healers might feel that sting of lost power, they should also feel the relief of shared pressure.

Wildstar silver KV - cheat when you can!
Wildstar silver KV – cheat when you can!

Tangentially, I realized that there’s still a strong WoW healer beating in this chest; I installed GRID right away and am still working on “untargetting” my healing style. And I still die way, way too often because I choose to try save others over ruthlessly minding my own six. That simply doesn’t fly with heroic telegraphs – it’s be there or be square for each and everybody!

Blaugust News and the Gaming Questionnaire

The blogosphere has been busy blaugusting under Belghast’s lead, an event I have been absent from due to a very hectic August and final examinations upcoming next week. Not that I would ever have managed a daily posting schedule, anyway. There were more great things happening this month however, the birth of the 8bitkitchen among them – a brand new gamer foodies blog graciously set up by Liore, so the blogosphere has a place to blog collaboratively about the foods they enjoy cooking and eating (welcoming more recruits!). I am loving this, also for its insight into fellow bloggers’ lives and our cultural diversity that we don’t necessarily get from MMO-related blogging. Needless to say, this should totally be on your reader / twitter feed!

More recently, a couple of podcasters from the blogosphere have started discussing a shared directory, maybe even a future podcasting network. Roger has been so kind to set up an aggregated page of all the known podcast feeds for now, so if you’re into discovering new MMO/gaming related shows, check it out and let him know what’s missing!

This brings me to the Gaming Questionnaire, a shared topic by Jasyla which seems to have timed perfectly in with Blaugust and is a ton of fun to read through on other blogs. It is tangentially also something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, so in lieu of much else from me this month, I am embracing this challenge (with few omissions due to not having an answer)! As far as a more in-depth gamer bio goes, I’ve already talked quite a bit about mine on Gameskinny before, the focus of that interview being more narrow.

The Gaming Questionnaire

1. When did you start playing video games?
I started playing VGs in the early 80ies, the first console to hit our home being the ill-fated Intellivision around the time of the great videogame crash. An Atari ST and NES soon followed, so these would probably be my formative years and platforms.
2. What is the first game you remember playing?
Tough one. I don’t actually remember much of the games I played on Intellivision, so I’d rather go with my first ever favorite game on Atari ST, which was Mousetrap in 1987.
3. PC or Console?
I grew up with a lot of consoles and still own quite a few, SNES and PSone being favorites because RPGs. However with the coming of the MMO age, my platform of choice has become the PC and there’s no going back for me ever. I love connectivity, digital gaming and WASD.
4. XBox, PlayStation, or Wii?
If I was actually buying next gen consoles, it would probably still be an XBOX (the 360 was awesome, ROD or not) – certainly never another Nintendo console. Wake up, Nintendo!
5. What’s the best game you’ve ever played?
Chrono Trigger. Duh.

ctgang
The best gang in the world.

6. What’s the worst game you’ve ever played?
I tend to forget bad games and nowadays it’s so easy to avoid them. I remember really hating Vib Ribbon back when I bought it though.
7. What are your favourite game genres?
RPGs, MMOs, (Action-)Adventures, Sandbox / Building Sims, Survival, silly things
8. Who is your favourite game protagonist?
I don’t really have one. I like Chun-Li, Frog/Glenn, Kefka, Conker and Vivi even if they aren’t main protagonists. Okay, Conker is.
9. Describe your perfect video game.
The perfect game is a polished package with intriguing story, open world, memorable characters, dazzling music and overall aesthetics. And an immersion factor that manages to make me forget about dinner. So basically Skyrim.
10. What video game character do have you have a crush on?
I don’t develop crushes on fictional characters so much but I really like Geralt of Rivia from the Witcher series, which is testament to the authenticity and quality of the games. Geralt is more or less a typical, taciturn lone wolf protagonist but the maturity level and atmosphere of Witcher2, paired with fabulous character design and an amazing voice-over (I have a thing for low voices à la Alan Rickman) make him incredibly attractive and intriguing a character to me that is also well developed story-wise.

geralt
Hot hot hot! :oops:

11. What game has the best music?
Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, Final Fantasy 7-11, Xenogears, Skyrim, Fable, Lineage 2, AION, WoW, GW2 and many more. I follow composers more so than titles or franchises, so I’d have to mention Mitsuda, Uematsu, Elfman, Soule, Zur, Hayes, Kurtenacker and C. Thomas to name a few.
12. Most memorable moment in a game:
I will never forget the descent of Sephiroth in the final battle of FF7, mostly because of One-Winged Angel.
13. Scariest moment in a game:
I scare easily which is why I don’t play horror games. One of the coolest scares I remember was Psycho Mantis making my PSone controller “hover” over our carpet floor. Long live MGS and rumble packs!
14. What are your favorite websites/blogs about games?
Anyone that’s on my blogroll. I don’t really follow any more mainstream gaming websites due to lack of transparency. My best references for picking and recommending games have always been friends.
15. What’s the last game you finished?
The Wolf Among Us.
16. What future releases are you most excited about?
Witcher 3, Everquest Next, Dragon Age Inquisition, Destiny, The Division, Tales from the Borderlands
17. Do you identify as a gamer?
Absolutely.
18. Why do you play video games?
Immersion, escapism, art, challenge, entertainment, team work, creativity, inspiration, community. And because nothing else will satisfy my rampant imagination.

[Wildstar] Of Unfun Raids. And: That Attunement just got Nerfed

Following up on Monday’s post about the complexities of healing Wildstar dungeons, which clearly doesn’t entice everybody, I came across this interesting link on Wildstar’s raiding being a major pita (my words) by one who seems to know what he’s talking about. Now clearly, no raider speaks for everybody but it’s rare to find one of the cool kids looking back and saying”yeah, that sucked” or “I don’t miss it one bit”.

To paraphrase some of Fevir’s points in the video, raid encounters are such hectic and constant telegraph dodge-fights that everything else that’s usually fun and rewarding about raid challenges – such as employing different tactics, improvisation and saves – has no room whatsoever. Fights boil down to dodging 40+ mechanics per boss while staring on the ground, or alternatively looking for healers so you can position yourself in green telegraphs. The unforgiving survivability test requires such a degree of focus that multi-hour raidnights are mentally draining and exhausting. Not to speak of the blame-game.

To be honest, I don’t fully buy into Fevir’s commentary. Much of it sounds like 40man vanilla WoW style raiding where raid nights were as draining at times as they were rewarding. At the same time, 40mans were great because there was actually room for error and creativity, and room for carrying people. And they were far, far from being mobility checks. Once more, I am getting the impression Carbine are out to combine everything other MMOs are already doing in terms of difficult mechanics. That makes Wildstar a game of grim satisfaction a lot more than lighthearted fun. It sure feels that way to me.

Not that I’m particularly fussed about raiding at this point. If we can’t make it, there are plenty of other games to play.

Raid Attunement going Bronze

I’m not going to fake surprise at this week’s news in terms of the Wildstar attunement. I put myself on the spot declaring the chain over the top and snottily giving Carbine six months to reconsider some of the hefty requirements, so three months it is. No condemnation from me for evaluating player concerns, the way they did for more varied body types, too.

wsohnoes
forums.wildstar-online.com

The related forum topic is naturally, already 46 pages long and consists largely of whining about whiners. To clarify what really happened: silver dungeons runs (with timer) weren’t nerfed – instead, the attunement requirement was dropped to bronze mode (no timer). To some kids who clearly don’t belong to the hardcore who have already begun raiding in Wildstar, that is the end of the world as we know it, despite the fact that you can still do silver (and gold) runs and best timers for feels and extra loot. That last point demonstrates the underlying motive of exclusivity over actual content difficulty; you can still do ‘better runs’ but the fact that the attunement just got nerfed, mildly, means endgame has become just a tad more accessible. Amagad.

As far as skill checks are really concerned, Carbine’s primary reason for the change was timers not effectively serving as such. That’s the actual development team saying “yeah, not really working as intended”. Timers promote rushed runs, skipping trash and risky pulls that put most of the onus on yes, the healer. No biobreaks allowed, no disconnects, no swapping specs manually (thanks to the inane interface), not even time to sit down for consumables. Raids are just like that?

What “remains” now are difficult veteran dungeons full of running, dodging, frantic resource management and wipes, only without people hating each other as much afterwards. Anyway, given Wildstar’s current raiding difficulty, I’m not sure how much more accessible raiding really got. There is however value symbolic or otherwise, in being allowed through the door, sniffing some of that endgame air for yourself. What’s the harm?

For the more hardcore players both imagined and real, there’s mostly this concern: now that they’ve nerfed / showed sense on the attunement, Carbine might adjust more things about raids in the future (noes?). I’m sorry for the lack of empathy in this case because MMOs constantly evolve, balance and change their content. They already do that! Also, I lied about being sorry! Life is too short, yo.

This week in Wildstar: Common Sense 1 – Vainglory 0.

Wildstar Healing and all the Ways it’s different

For the last two weeks, I’ve been on a roll with my Esper getting her through the first 7 steps of the raid attunement which includes silvering all veteran adventures. Having also healed through my first veteran dungeon last night, I’m finally back to the point where my old healer muscles and reflexes run on auto-pilot; healing is a routine and if you’ve stared at other people’s healthbars for years in WoW or elsewhere, you own the mindset that comes with playing support classes.

The main reason why healing is appealing to me is the complexity of choices, not just for yourself but everyone in the group. It’s the splitsecond decisions on what action to prioritize next and if need be, whom to sacrifice for the sake of the greater good (or a much needed lesson in self-management). While most roles are centered around the interplay between ‘self and the other’, healers focus on three units in combat and depending on the MMO, they’ll be asked to do this while being more or less mobile. Healers are also the guardians of time, as far as their role within trinity-based MMO combat goes.

sylheal

And Wildstar asks for a lot from healers. I wouldn’t say it’s more difficult than in some other games but in terms of complexity, there’s an adjustment phase that can feel bewildering to someone coming straight from WoW, Rift or LOTRO. I’ve tried to put my finger on what initially felt so different about healing and decided that similar to Wildstar’s doubly-active combat system, it’s a new combination (and accumulation) of several aspects:

  • Positioning telegraphs
  • Focus and combo management
  • Mobility
  • Limited actionbar

None of these mechanics are new. MMO healers are used to managing mana and optimizing their healing, for instance via proc timing. Games like Age of Conan have featured non-targeted and instead more area- and conebased healing. Many newer titles come with some form of action combat and minimal UI. For some of them like GW2, that makes sense too.

Speaking from an Esper perspective (which more or less applies to all classes), the biggest difference about Wildstar’s healing is that it combines all of the above added difficulties or restrictions at once. The most noticeable change for me personally, was mana management in combination with a resource / combo system, similar to a rogue’s combo points in WoW or a warrior’s rage. Not only will you manage your focus (manapool) but Espers can stack up to 5 combo points (and only with certain builders) which are required to heal efficiently and dish out the big single-target or area heals. That’s two numbers to monitor for your healing at all time while making smart builder- and finisher choices.

Of course this being Wildstar, even as an Esper many of your heals and cleanses aren’t targeted but come as a cone or AoE. So, in addition to moving out of red telegraphs constantly and staying in range of the tank, you’ll have to try position yourself in a way that affects as many party members as possible. They should do their utmost to stay in range / in front of you of course but in the heat of battle, well…we know how the theory usually works out.

The limited actionbar (8 skills) in Wildstar is my only real gripe, because it makes no sense. There are games like GW2 where the minimalistic UI covers all player needs and is perfectly tuned to combat. Wildstar on the other hand, with its fussy skills menu and plethora of situational abilities in the offensive/support/utility department, forces you to manually swap skills for every other fight with only two specs per default (although you can buy more later for Elder Gems). Every time you swap something manually, you have to go back and fill in the points to boost said skill, too. It’s awkward and feels out of touch with the game’s overall approach to combat.

Healing in Wildstar

Wildstar certainly adds its very own flavor to group healing but once you’ve had the opportunity to heal a couple of dungeons in a decent group, you’ll adjust to its resource management, telegraph positioning and mobility requirements. Maybe more than for other MMOs, Wildstar relies on players knowing a dungeon and specific boss abilities (esp. also due to the limited action bar), so it’s advised to always do a practice run or two on normal mode before attempting to crack veterans.

Healers learning the veteran drill should also insist that party members bring their own utility (healing gadgets) and medipacks to fights for as long as everyone’s performance is in those early stages of chaos. There is only so much you can heal / reach and what goes for every other MMO out there, also applies to Wildstar: The tank always comes first. Many whelps? Handle it!

Wildstar Light Armor Styles and Dye Customization

So you just hit 50 in Wildstar and wanna look fabulous, cupcake? You don’t have any of those shiny beta or early access sets to start off? Fret not, there are a few quick and cheap ways for the early light armor wearer to feel like a pro!

Before I get to recommendations, a few words about Wildstar’s current customization: the dye system and gear management are pretty bad. Not only is there no outfitter built into the game by default, the dye menu is fussy, buggy and will make you pay each time you apply a different shade of color to your outfit. Items can only be used once per set, so there’s no copying over the same headpiece to different styles.

On the upside: Wildstar lets you equip all armor classes as cosmetics! That means as a light armor wearer, you can still go for that heavy plate look even if personally, I choose not to. A guildie told me my character looks straight out of a fantasy MMO rather than a sci-fi one, which is probably true (a tiger can’t change its stripes?). I like pretty and magical things, what can I say!

Four awesome sets for the distinguished Esper (and anyone else)

Below you’ll find four of the light armor looks I’m currently using and which were all pretty easy to collect, either from zone reputation vendors and/or the auction house. Wildstar frequently recycles gear looks too, so better not cling to the one source/name I will be giving for every look. What you want to get right away however is the Item Preview addon which will make your life that much easier (it also previews decor items). Sets are numbered 1-4 from left to right and are mostly mix’n matches. Level requirements aside, none of them should be faction- or otherwise restricted.

wsstyles

1) The Quintessential Healer
My favorite set in the game, I got all the pieces for this look from the AH right after hitting level 50. The chestpiece, shoulderpads, pants and boots are all part of the “Fibermod Starloom” series, combined with “Hand of the Tumbling Torrent” and a bandana headpiece which exists all over the place. The Fibermod look can also be acquired through some rep vendors. I caution anyone not to trust the colors of item preview in this case(!): if you get these items straight from crafting or the AH, you’ll find the colors are buggy and the set needs to be re-dyed completely (which is totally worth it!).

2) The Starship Trooper
As close to a sci-fi look as I’m going, you’ll spot many color variations of this set from random drops and reputation vendors as you are leveling up. One quick way of obtaining all the pieces is visiting the rep vendors in your capital city, two of which will sell you the entire “Suede” set (lvl 45) for about 25 gold total. From there it’s up to you where to go with this and colors may vary from a shrill space look to much more delicate shades. This is a very transformable set!

3) The Galactic Explorer
A more recent acquisition, I love this set for both its royal and slightly goofy looks. All items bar the sunglasses (which are a soulbound epic boss drop called “Mindmender’s Mask”) are obtainable at the reputation vendors in Blighthaven (“Blighthaven” set items) for about 30 gold total (the original headpiece is this oriental looking facemask). As you can see, I rolled with my previous pants here instead.

4) The Classy Gentlewo/man
Not feeling the headpiece, I’m liking this set for its more low profile leather and velvety flair. The headpiece and gloves are part of the “Fibertronic” set items, chest and pants are part of the “Polaris” set (the chestpiece can also be acquired from the rep vendor in Grimvault and is called “Polaris Premiere Polyweave Hauberk”). My shoulderpads are called “Supply Master’s Burden” and the pretty awesome boots are “Crimson Crescent Slippers” – all of which were acquired through the AH.

Maybe even more than in other MMOs, dyes are everything in Wildstar and many sets will only shine once you applied better colors to them. While dye acquisition is harder leveling up and mostly up to lucky drops, housing challenges or the overpriced Commodity Vendor, you will be stacking up on dyes swiftly once you are eligible for the daily quests in Northern Wastes at level 50 (which can get you up to 5-6 dyes per day with several definite drops). With that, I’d say there’s no time to lose – tackle that max level already and enjoy playing around with different styles and colors! Happy customization – for science!