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.

Help! I like too many MMOs…

In the past few weeks, I thought I had finally fallen out of love with Rift. It was to a point where I did not even log in anymore to get my daily artifact (they changed the system now where you get nicer bonuses for logging in, but that’s not why I went back). Then I suddenly felt the urge to continue building in my dimension. I figured that that’s something nice and since I really don’t like this “old-fashioned” combat anymore, I would at least focus on something. But then I found myself out in the newest region, the Planetouched Wilds, playing through a quest chain with bookahnerk. And while the combat really is boring, it’s just great exploring this world! Rift is one of those games with no loading screens between zones – at least those who are on the same “continent”, like in World of Warcraft. There is something amazing about being on top of a mountain and just looking down to see all the players running around or the NPC doing their daily work. In other MMOs, those mountains can’t always be used to climb on because they are there to avoid having to deal with “invisible walls” as they restrict this zone from the next and you can only switch to another zone at specific points which let you enter after a loading screen appears.

Rift Planetouched Wilds

Then poor Guild Wars 2 was on my list of games I would go on “hiatus” for a bit. There has not been any new content in quite some time and while I liked the new maps at first – some of them, at least – it felt repetitive going through the zones over and over again. While the recent patch has not given us new content (and if I interpret them correctly, there won’t be any new content until July?), they did some other much needed changes which revived the game in general for me. You can now play WvW and the Edge of the Mists and get a reward track like they introduced in sPvP. I also completely forgot that you can unlock Hero Challenges in Tyria through playing WvW which means that I can slowly unlock my alts’ elite specializations without having to visit all the PvE challenges. This alone is motivation enough for me to play the game more often again!

This leaves Wildstar and Black Desert Online. My two newest MMO-addictions. Wildstar has amazing combat and I actually prefer it over Guild Wars 2 – well, in some areas, at least. But once my medic hit max level, I actually did not really know what to do in the game. I still have much exploring to do, so that is something, but I still felt… lost. Now that they introduced the new zone, Arcterra, that’s different. I haven’t played much on it yet, but I certainly will! And Black Desert Online – it’s a bit funny, actually. My first character got this quest chain for a mount and that’s all nice, but I switched to playing a Valkyrie instead and I can’t find that quest chain for her and she’s still running around on foot and that’s annoying me enough not to continue playing the game at the moment. I want to go to the bigger town and explore that and play there and quest and level, but I also want to find out where I can get that mount. It’s not even anything great like a noble steed. It’s a donkey. But still, I want it. :(

Wildstar Arcterra

On top of that, I actually don’t have that much time for gaming! I “stole” some and ignored other things that need to be done for a day or two recently (chores mostly :p), but I can’t do that all of the time. So I guess I should decide which games I want to focus on. But they all offer something unique that I want to experience.

5 years of Rift…

Since Rift and our blog are almost exactly the same age, I always get very nostalgic when I read about their anniversary preparations. As always I am looking forward to the Carnival of the Ascended, even though I am currently taking a break from playing Rift. I don’t think I will manage to stay away from that game during the carnival. At least, I think there are some nice rewards attached to that festival usually.

Either way, Trion also announced some big events connected to the anniversary. It sounded really great at first, but then I realized that it’s a “if you belong to the most active 1000 players, you have a chance at winning something”. Me having a fulltime job means I am automatically out of the competition. That’s a bit sad, actually. I guess it’s for the best of the game, though, because it means that there will be a lot of activity on the servers. But for me personally, as a player, it’s a bit disappointing. Still, more activity in the game also means that if I do log in and want to play, I will have lots more players with me and that is always good in an MMORPG.

If you want to participate in those events, you can find all rules and regulations here in the official forum and a blog post with more general information on the official website.

I was a bit confused when I had a look at my old screenshot as I had completely forgotten that there was a long headstart period starting in February. So here is the very first scenery screenshot I think I took.

Rift Scenery Starting Area

And here is one from my favourite region in that world, Gloamwood. This is where I enjoyed following the main storyline the most! Seriously, if you want to play Rift, make sure to give the storylines a chance until you’re in that region (it starts around level 20).

Rift Gloamwood

So congratulations to Trion and to Rift and let’s hope the game will stick around for a long long time!

Paeroka’s Ponderings: Spending money in Trion’s games

Paeroka's Ponderings featured image for columnA side note first: I am very late with continuing the “Blogging 101” challenges, as I did not have any good ideas for some of the last tasks. Blogging 101 asked me to make a regular column, but I just did not have a good idea until now. I regularly have rants and ramblings in my mind, but never really know if I should post them. So I will try to give my rants a place in this blog with “Paeroka’s Ponderings”!

Today’s topic is the recent shift in how Trion wants to monetize Rift and Trove. It started with Rift – if you ask me, several months ago already. I already complained about the prizing of the Primalist, a profession I am interested in, but won’t buy because I think it’s too expensive. Yes, I know that by paying I support Trion in developing Rift and that the few who are willing to pay something are financing the game for those who do not want to or are unable to. But let’s be honest here: I am not rich at all and I need to see where I am at the end of the month as well. If I want to feel generous, I rather donate money to charity. So when I do spend money on a game, I also ask myself: Do I get what I’m paying for? And in this case, it just feels too expensive. They also increased the price Europeans pay for credits (the currency you use in their cash shop) just a few months ago.

Rift Store

A couple of days ago, Rift’s community manager announced a change that came with very short notice (2 days). The earring slot and the unlock to wear water-based items would no longer be able to be unlocked with in-game currency, but with credits only. To elaborate: With the last expansion, character sheets also got two slots for earrings. Those earrings can add quite a bit to your stats (Rift is very much a stat-based game)! And then there are some items that can only be worn if your character is attuned to water (the element the expansion focuses on). So, without spending real money, you either have a weaker character than everybody else and sometimes drop items that your character cannot equip or you save all your gold (“platinum” in Rift) to spend on a REX. REX is an item bought with real money by a player. That player can then sell this REX in the game and receive platinum for it. With that REX, the player who bought it can exchange it for credits, the cash shop’s currency, and buy those earrings slots. Long story short: Every unlocked earring slot was paid with real money from now on. In other words, unless somebody pays money, your characters are weaker than other people’s characters. What was the definition of “pay to win” again?

Again, I do get that they need to earn money. And what I really like about Trion, despite all this, is how open they are in their communication. At least, they’re not waiting until the “shitstorm” dies down, and reply to the community. But at the end of the day, I still strongly disagree with what Trion is doing and it will reflect in my willingness to spend money on their game.

Trove_Mounts in the store

Not long after that announcement, Trove also announced a shift in how they are earning money. Some of those changes are minor, I would say. You get fewer initial cubits, but the amount you get in the beginning isn’t that huge anyway. And since this is one of the in-game currencies, I think it’s okay. Yes, cubits are used to pay for some items which can be paid with either this in-game currency or real money, but I still don’t think it’s too bad. Additionally, I actually thought some items were rather cheap on the store and wondered why I should pay with credits (the real money currency) if I can also pay with cubits. The much more controversial part is that classes will no longer be unlockable with cubits! In order to get a new class, you will have to pay. But they also said that there will be ways to randomly get a class coin which can be spent on any class in the cash shop and that you will be able to unlock a few classes for free. In fact, you will be able to unlock more classes for free than you are now, but if you want all of the classes, you will have to spend at least some money.

On top of that, they are considering hiding features behind the Patron status (monthly sub). While I understand the first two parts, I am scared of what will come out of this change! I do not pay monthly subs, because I just don’t play most games often enough to justify one. The only exception being Wildstar right now, but I do not intend to keep my sub running once it expires. Instead, I plan on spending some money to buy a few costumes or mounts and unlocks. I would really hate to see features that I like being hidden behind a paywall. What’s worse is that since patron is a monthly fee, the minute I stop paying, I lose access. Unless I decide to pay the monthly fee again, of course. But once again – and even stronger here than in Rift – I get the feeling that they want to communicate with us and maybe reduce the negative reactions both games are facing now. They also stated that patron benefits will not include playable content. So maybe, those changes won’t be that bad, after all. Maybe.

2015 in screenshots

As I previously said, Haffle’s “Screenshots Of The Year 2015” post inspired me to do something like this myself. Instead of going by game, I will try to go through the year by months.

January 2015 was all about the Guild Wars 2 stencil contest that ArenaNet had hosted together with fansites – and, of course, the Heart of Thorns announcement.

February 2015 marked Trove’s open beta.

Trove_Monocle
My character as candy barbarian in her cornerstone

In March 2015 the second German Foostival took place. I was also still playing lots of Trove. And our blog turned 4 years old.

April 2015 – more Trove… and Guild Wars nostalgia…

In May 2015 …which didn’t engulf me until May. I also revisited Folk Tale (still not released, by the way. I’ll have to re-re-re-visit it again, I think. It is constantly being developed further, after all!)

June 2015 was… all about Trove again. Oh, and look: New Lion’s Arch!

July 2015 had me hide in my Rift dimension to build – oh, and Trove launched.

August 2015 was the busiest month here as I participated in Blaugust. There wasn’t much time to play with the amount of posts I wrote. I had started to feel at home in Wildstar, though. Oh, and I gave Project Gorgon and The Repopulation a  serious try.

September 2015 – my birthday month. Not that much happened gaming-wise, actually.

October 2015 was the gaming month. Wildstar switched to “free to play” and Guild Wars 2 launched its first expansion.

In November 2015 I spent quite a lot of time enjoying the Guild Wars 2 expansion.

And last but not least, in December 2015 I hit 50 with my first character in Wildstar and was busy with Christmas preparations and visiting family and friends.

This is it. My year 2015 in screenshots. :)