Paeroka’s Ponderings: Racial skills?

Paeroka's Ponderings featured image for columnI have recently tried hopping into Elder Scrolls Online again and as I want a fresh start, I looked up guides and possible builds for the classes, to get a feeling for which class I may want to play. While I did that, I noticed that several posts about builds (e.g., this one or this one) come with suggestions which race you should pick as they have different advantages and disadvantages when combined with a certain class or in some cases, with a certain playstyle of a certain class.

I like racial skills in general as they give a little bit of flavour for your character, but I also know that in the grand scheme of “balance”, they are very difficult to implement.

Guild Wars 2 has racial skills, but they cannot be used in structured PvP! Every race has several skills they can use. I know that at some point, I used one of the elite skills to call a golem, but I have not used any in quite some time. With the game’s restriction to just a limited amount of skills, you tend to use the best ones available for your build and these are usually not the race-specific ones – there is even a recent discussion about these skills in the forums. Personally, I do not even notice the skills exist most of the time, because I focus on my class’s skills instead. So yeah, being able to call a golem as an asura is fun, but both my warrior and my mesmer have more important skills to use than these and it’s just this little bit of flavour. I could call a golem if I wanted to, you know?

GW2 Asura with golem

Rift has racial abilities, too. The linked list is not up-to-date for dwarves, though. At some point, Trion removed damage from falling, so their racial ability was changed to give them the “Dwarven Breakfast“. This one saves me a bit of gold as I need to buy less food to regenerate health between fights. Of course, if you’re a better player than me and know how to avoid damage from simple mobs in the world outside, you may see this as even less important. The other races’ skills are mostly about increased movement speed, but none of them can be used in combat. The second set of racial abilities is an increased resistance towards one of the elements. E. g., a dwarf gets +20 water resistance. My level 70 dwarf cleric currently has 5631 water resist, so this +20 seems negligible. It may have been more impactful when the game first released. But it is only for defense, so nothing that ever affected your offensive power.

I remember years ago, in World of Warcraft, the Undead had a racial skill that was considered very handy in PvP: Will of the Forsaken. Getting out of Fear (you cannot use any skills for a few seconds except for skills that remove this effect) is just a really cool and important thing in PvP fights and it used to give immunity to such effects for a few seconds on top of breaking the current spell on your character. Blizzard has nerfed this racial skill, but it’s still nice to have! In general, I remember there being lots of heated discussions about the racial skills, mostly for PvP environments, but some were also quite useful in PvE. In PvE, it was mostly relevant if you were looking to min/max your character – still, not a lot of people chose dwarf even if the racial skills were nice to have. :p Since I haven’t been actively playing in any competitive way, I do not know how important racial skills are in World of Warcraft, but I did also find a more recent discussion about them and it looks like most players are not influenced by these skills when creating a new character, but a few actually are. Which lets me to conclude that the way Blizzard is still handling the racial abilities is worse than how Trion and ArenaNet implemented them in their games. If you ask me, racial abilities should never be more than just flavour and it should not be mandatory to choose a certain race if you want to maximize your damage output!

Now let’s take a look The Elder Scrolls Online again: I have found this reddit thread from about a year ago where some say that race is a stronger factor in PvP while others say it’s more important in PvE and somebody says it doesn’t matter because fights are too easy anyway. :p This thread from May 2015, this thread from July 2016 and also this thread from December 2016, have players discuss back and forth whether it makes a big difference or whether choosing what you like should be more important when creating a character, but as I mentioned above: Guides for certain class builds actually list recommended races!

I thought about playing an Argonian sorcerer, but when I read that I will miss out on 10 % max magicka, it sounds like a lot. Or when people say something to the effect of “well, you can play an Argonian, but…”, it just makes me not want to do that. If I turn out to be just a mediocre player and chose a less-than-optimal race, I would feel bad playing with others. So, a possible mediocre skill level should probably at least be paired with an optimal race (for me personally, not saying others should do that as well). Apparently, making an Argonian sorcerer is not a good choice. In fact, if you want a meleeish sorcerer, go with Redguard, if you want a caster sorcerer, go with high elf. If you want a healer sorcerer, go with Breton. So you better make your choice – not just about class and race, but also about how you want to play said class – before creating your character!

Elder Scrolls Online Breton Sorcerer

Needless to say, I am still torn and have created several characters, but I am not sure which one to try now. I love melee characters that have some utility/spells to use and my favourite races in Elder Scrolls Online are Argonian and Orc… But I also don’t want to be laughed at by other players for choosing the worst possible combination. Even if it turns out not to be a big deal at all, I greatly dislike feeling this insecure and if you ask me, racial skills should never even have such an impact on players in the first place!

P.S: Orc as stamina sorceress is what I am going to try. It did come up as suggestions when I researched for orc-class combinations and it is one of my two favourite races, so it seems “safe” to choose.

I regularly have rants and ramblings in my mind, but never really know if I should post them, so “Paeroka’s Ponderings” is where I will try to give these rants a place. Sometimes they will make sense, sometimes they won’t.

Paeroka’s Ponderings: When is a game worth your money?

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I know there are a lot of gamers with a huge backlog of games and a bad conscience whenever they get yet another game even though there is this long list of games they never or hardly played.

Most of the time, I compare the money I spent on the game with the amount of time I played it. Obviously, not counting the ones that I did not like at all as these are obviously a waste of money. So far, my comparison was usually a ticket to the movies. Let’s be generous and say 8 € for 2 hours, because I don’t go to 3D movies and don’t need the extra comfortable seats in the back. :p But in a lot of games, you already spend half an hour or so in the tutorial! With that comparison, if a game has a long tutorial (or you just need longer to get through it like I usually do), a game for 8 € would be worth it already if I get through the tutorial. So while it is a good comparison in a way as its anchor is another pastime that costs money, I think it’s not too good considering the nature of games. That would be a bit more like me comparing it to the trailers that you see in the cinema before the actual movie starts. :p

A colleague of bookahnerk said to him: “I have an easy calculation: 1 € per hour played”. I like it because it’s easy to calculate, but also a lot stricter. For some weird reason, my brain really needs such a calculation, though, to justify getting yet another game. I like that this one is a lot stricter than mine but probably still reasonable and only slightly less arbitrary. :p

Let’s take a look at my Steam profile: The one with the most amount of time played is still Star Trek Online with 258 hours. I would say that I spent most of these hours trying to figure out how the space fights work and how to get a good ship. But MMOs are always different and Star Trek Online is a free to play game on top of it (I think I paid for it once and also bought the original series uniforms? I’m not too sure, but I do know they got some money from me). Then there’s Tropico 4, Civilization V, Tropico 5 and Prison Architect with 139 to 106 hours played. There is no question about these games: They were worth their money if you ask me! Where else can you get that much entertainment for that amount of money? Especially considering I got most of these games on sale.

But let’s look at Tropico 5 as I know I bought it for full price when it came out and only went for the sales for the extra DLCs. Summing everything up (I kept the emails), I spent 62 € on Tropico 5 for 109 hours of entertainment. So yes, it’s in the positive. Phew. Still, as I said, my brain needs some kind of justification and I think this formula will help with that. It will also keep me from buying impulsively, I hope. And I’m sure I’m not the only one coming up with some calculations, right?

And one day… one day I will try out all these tiny little games that I don’t care about because they were part of a bundle. And once I do, I will write about my experiences here. Sometimes these little ones are true gems. Sometimes they’re garbage. You never know until you tried, right?

 

I regularly have rants and ramblings in my mind, but never really know if I should post them, so “Paeroka’s Ponderings” is where I will try to give these rants a place. Sometimes they will make sense, sometimes they won’t.

Paeroka’s Ponderings: Gear and level-advantages in PvP

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Some time ago, I read a topic in the German section of the Black Desert Online forum where a player suggested that the game’s PvP may be better if there were no level-advantages as a higher level gives better stats, for example. He was laughed at by others and called “carebear” for wanting that. Unfortunately, I cannot find the thread anymore – but it would be in German anyway. But this is apparently how PvP should work and it is good this way: If you spend a lot of time in the game, you should have an advantage over those who play less often or are new to the game – other than the already mentioned increased experience and skill in playing your character, of course!

I admit, I am a carebear. I am a huge big carebear! – Why? Because I think that being able to win against somebody who has no chance whatsoever at all, no matter how skilled that player may be, simply because I am higher level and/or have better gear, is a horrible design flaw of PvP in a lot of MMOs. If some new player comes in and has not played the game much but knows how to play so much better than me, then kudos to him! He should be able to win against me. I, on the other hand, should not win simply because I have been playing longer and managed to get my character in better gear. I was just very surprised to see that somebody asking for an even playing field and letting skill and experience decide a battle rather than stronger gear and higher level, is called a carebear. Some people…

Warhammer Online Chicken in Tier 1

Let’s look at other MMOs, though: Warhammer Online, for example, had four different PvP (here called “RvR”, but I’ll continue using PvP to not mix up the terms all the time) tiers and bolstering up. The first tier was for levels 1 to 11. So right from the start, you had your map with PvE zones and PvP zones. If your low level 1 entered the tier 1 PvP zone, it got bolstered up in stats to level 11. It was still weaker than a “real” level 11, but at least, you got much closer to the other player. The best part, however, was when you were too high level for a given tier – in our example, when your character turned level 12 – that you were turned into a chicken which could be one-shot by other players. You regularly had people in chat say: “Okay, that’s it. See you in tier 2” and then you could see the chicken run out of the PvP zone as fast as their little feet could carry them. I do remember some heated discussions about this feature before the game launched but Mark Jacobs stood by that decision. Of course, simply getting downscaled would have been the better option in my opinion, as that would have freed up the whole game to you once you were max. level instead of restricting you only to the highest tier. But I still think the chicken mechanic is better than having high level players repeatedly kill low level players. Especially when you consider that low level players also may be new players which are kind of important to keep in an MMO… ;)

GW2 sPvP with level 2
All specializations are unlocked, even though my character is only level 2. In PvE, you need to work towards unlocking the specializations first

Guild Wars 2’s sPvP (instanced PvP) goes even further: No “artificial” bolstering up, but being at maximum level with exactly the same stats and exactly the same gear as everybody else! When I heard that they were doing it like that, I got pretty excited! Those who have a lot of time (and who are usually the ones with the highest level and the highest gear in other MMOs) are probably also those who get the most practice and as such they will have an advantage over people like me anyway. However, there are also those who do have a lot of time on their hands, who do get a lot of practice and who may turn out to be worse than somebody with less practice but quicker reflexes or whatever the reason. I ask again: Is this bad? Am I a carebear if I say that this is how it should be? That skill should determine the winner of a battle and not the playtime, the level or the gear that a player acquired?

Thankfully, we have so many games around that I think everybody can find a game that does it the way they prefer. So, I know that even though Black Desert Online looks like an interesting game, it is not the game for me. I do prefer Guild Wars 2 where level and gear don’t matter!

 

I regularly have rants and ramblings in my mind, but never really know if I should post them, so “Paeroka’s Ponderings” is where I will try to give these rants a place. Sometimes they will make sense, sometimes they won’t.

Paeroka’s Ponderings: Bored-out instead of Burnout?

Paeroka's Ponderings featured image for columnExcuse the bad pun up there, but something got me thinking… In a conversation about GW2’s content drought, somebody wrote (I don’t have a link, so I’ll paraphrase here out of my memory): MMOs aren’t meant to be played exclusively. They are made to play with breaks in between.

But when I started my first MMO, World of Warcraft, I don’t think anybody would have said that. In fact, it was the contrary. When you left for a month or two and then came back, you certainly had to find either a different raid group or try to catch up somehow as the others were ahead of you in the fights and working on the next raid boss or bosses and you had to learn the mechanics of the fight or even worse, they outgeared you. I heard a lot of people say “I would love to try World of Warcraft, but I don’t have that much time to play.” To be honest, I don’t think I heard people say that about Rift or Guild Wars 2 lately.

Saying “I need to take a break from WoW, I’m burned out” was also something I regularly saw back in those days. Even I felt like that, although I never was in any big raiding group. I was part of a Saturday evening raid which consisted mostly of people with their alts and a handful of people with their mains (me included). It was a rather casual laid-back raid. Then I joined a Sunday Karazhan raid group which was originally made to “just enjoy the content”, but we soon noticed that the raid leader had actually wanted to speed-run through the raid. Which wasn’t possible, because the tank and the healer (yours truly) were neither experienced nor geared for it and he had known that in advance as we had asked if that would be okay with him and he had been happy to take us (as usual, the lack of tanks and healers probably left him with no choice). It started to feel like work and having your weekend evenings booked with raids was just too much for me.

But maybe this mentality has shifted in the meantime. I cannot speak for World of Warcraft as I haven’t actively followed this game in a long time. So I will take Rift as my example instead. I left Rift for a couple of weeks as I had lost interest in the game and returned when I felt like picking it up again. I stay far away from raids in all my MMOs, so that part is out of the equation for me anyway. I know that Trion is adding new raid content every now and then and I know that my guild is doing raids. But it just doesn’t seem to be as it was back in WoW. I hardly ever see them talk in guild chat about needing this or that piece of equipment. It also doesn’t seem to be a problem if somebody disappears for a month and then returns. Maybe it’s because they are even more laid back than my Saturday WoW raid was, but maybe Rift is also just “slower” and you don’t feel left behind that fast.

Looking at Guild Wars 2 and at the original statement, it seems to back this up. True, Guild Wars 2 has been adding raid content. So if you do like raids, your content drought isn’t as strong as everybody else’s. But even with raids, it doesn’t feel like you need to catch up. One big reason for this is that Guild Wars 2 is not gear-dependent. So you do not get outgeared by others if you take a break.

GW2 Shrug emote

Maybe MMOs in general have changed to not require you to play all of the time. Or it is related to the game’s payment model. After all, with no mandatory monthly fee attached to GW2 or Rift, there is no need to get you to keep playing and paying. I guess it just becomes a problem if you get too bored with it and then never return, no matter what gets added to the game. In my case, I got too bored with Rift, but I did return, because as much as I dislike the world and its lore sometimes, I just love too much about this game (mostly the way the world looks – other than the Nightmare region – and the dimensions, of course). The same goes with Guild Wars 2. Even though I am currently very bored and don’t care about the content I haven’t experienced (like the raids), I know I will return to the game and actively play it again.

I guess this is much better – and healthier – than playing too much and getting “burned out”. And maybe, in the long run, it’s even better for the developers. Because if you leave burned out and stressed, there is a negative feeling towards the game. Leaving because you are bored is a more “indifferent” state and as soon as they add something that sounds interesting, you may want to jump back in with enthusiasm and fun!

Paeroka’s Ponderings: Original vs. expansion “maps”

Paeroka's Ponderings featured image for columnWhen an MMO originally launches, I often find myself exploring the world and simply enjoying the stories that can be found. When you play a hobbit in Lord of the Rings Online, you start off with things like delivering a cake to a neighbour. There is this peaceful village that has no idea about the threat in the outside world, so naturally, their biggest concern is this cake (and well, they are hobbits, after all). But even in other regions, you get to explore the culture of the people living there, you get to read about their lives and all that. One could argue that it is a bit boring at times, but I personally enjoy this part of an MMO. I mean, it is a virtual world, so why not have a look at the everyday life of its citizens?

But with expansions, this seems to be gone quite often. In Rift, for example, I don’t find myself exploring. Instead, I find myself eye-rolling and longing for the previous worlds again. Of course, Rift’s “Nightmare Tide” expansion is an incredibly bad example as I find it to be by far the worst area/region I ever played in any MMO. That whole “you’re in a dream/nightmare“-stuff is just too over the top for me. But that is my point, after all. Everything is focused on the expansion’s storyline and yes, you even do get to experience the way the citizens live in that world. But for me, it is too much and I want to get back to the origins in the “original world”. It often feels slower and wider than what you get with an expansion.

Rift_Dreams

Could it simply be me? That the “magic” of exploring a new (game) world is just gone and I can’t appreciate these things anymore like I did when I first entered the game? On the other hand, I wonder if it really is related to the scope of the story. How much time does it take to create such an MMO? How much time does a company have to let their artists and writers create the world and how much time do they get to create the expansion maps? Or maybe it’s just the typical “we start slow and then the ‘main storyline’ gets into the focus more and more”. The developers may feel the need to bring out bigger and better stories and with that, the little calm areas that I care so much about just get pushed off, because they’re not important anymore.

I would say that this is at least partly what bothers me about Guild Wars 2. I get it, the threat of the Elder Dragons gets worse every day and it would not make sense to have our characters stroll through an area and bring a cake to my asura’s grandmother. There is a world to save, after all! Still, that doesn’t mean that I have to like the change.

Looking at the different MMOs I have played – at least those who did get an expansion – I would say that I liked World of Warcraft’s Burning Crusade as it gave a whole new continent and two new races with two new starting areas. The new maps had different storylines they followed while the big bad guy, Illidan, had his own storyline. Not everything was focused on this big bad guy. Guild Wars 2’s Heart of Thorns and Rift’s Nightmare Tide both focus on a big storyline and the maps seem to exist only to deliver the story (while yes, also sometimes telling a side story). Thankfully, both games have a feature that downlevels you (or lets you downlevel in Rift’s case as it is optional there), so I can actually go back and enjoy the lower level zones whenever I want to! Still, I wonder what those two games would need to do to give me new high level maps that I enjoy.

I regularly have rants and ramblings in my mind, but never really know if I should post them, so “Paeroka’s Ponderings” is where I will try to give these rants a place. Sometimes they will make sense, sometimes they won’t.