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.

One feature I would want in GW2 from WoW

wow archaeology collections overviewThere is one feature that I would truly love to see in Guild Wars 2: Archaeology from World of Warcraft.

Let me explain first what archaeology is, for those of you who may not be familiar with World of Warcraft and its professions. Thankfully, I even still had a 10 day free trial of the last expansion of World of Warcraft, so I could actually reactivate my account for free to show you these nice screenshots! All for you, my non-WoW-connoisseurs!

So, archaeology is one of the secondary professions in World of Warcraft. You can have up to two primary ones (e.g. tailoring, enchanting, armorsmithing – the usual), but your character can learn all available secondary professions (first aid, fishing, cooking and archaeology). The short version is: You go hunt for pieces of lore all around the maps and have a chance to get some nice rewards like mounts (well, they do exist in WoW, after all :p), mini pets, nice-looking weapons and so on.

wow archaeology surveying toolWhen you have learned the profession, you see several available dig sites on the map. You have to go to such a dig site and click your archaeology skill. In the game, your character puts up a surveying tool and you need to look at the direction it is facing towards as well as the colour of the little blinking light. Move into the direction the tool is showing. If the light is blinking in red, then you are far away from a relic and know you can walk quite a bit – it could also be further left or right of where the tool is facing. If it is yellow, you are in medium range. If it is green, you are only a few metres away from the relic. Once you are within range and use your skill, the relic shows up. You can collect several relics at each dig site before you need to move to another one. Every relic belongs to one collection. It counts up based on the rarity of the relic (see screenshot above). Once you achieved a certain amount, you can “hand in” the collection and then start all over again. Every time you complete a collection, you get something. It’s random, but you can see what you will get as soon as you start a new collection.

wow archaeology collections

Continue reading “One feature I would want in GW2 from WoW”

My favourite “Evergreen-Game” – Blaugust Day 15

This post is part of Blaugust and I decided to “take a break” from the posts I’ve planned to do in order to write about one of the prompts:

What is your favorite evergreen game?

An evergreen game is a game that you find yourself going back to consistently despite doing other things and playing other games in between. Usually an evergreen game holds up over the course of months or years.

My very first MMORPG was World of Warcraft. I started playing it because bookahnerk had been playing it and after telling me how great it was, I caved in. At first, I had just asked him to let me try the game myself on his account… I got my own account two days later. :p We played until the end of Burning Crusade, but quit before Wrath of the Lich King came out. While bookahnerk went back after half a year in WAR, I stayed away for a longer time… this, however, will be part of another blog post later. Yes, I will take you on a journey. ;)

Header_WoW Draenei

I don’t think a single year has passed where I did not go back to World of Warcraft. I had left during BC, as mentioned above, returned at the end of Wrath of the Lich King and stayed for quite some time of the Cataclysm expansion. After that, I always returned when Blizzard had given me 7 free days again. But it even goes as far as putting a reminder in my calendar, so I wouldn’t forget to activate my current 7 free days before they expired at the end of last week. :p One time, after those 7 free days, I also bought the expansion “Mists of the Pandaria” and a 30 day game time card. Unfortunately, this was also just a few days before Rift announced going “free to play” and WoW had no chance against me being able to play Rift again.

Speaking of Rift, this is the second game that qualifies for the title “evergreen game”, at least when it was still sub-based. Every few months, I would get a few days – I think it was on weekends – of free game time. I always went back to play that game during those weekends, dreaming of the day they would go free to play. Needless to say, now that it is free to play, I am playing it and enjoying it immensely (while yes, also giving Trion some of my money once in a while – I feel this always needs mentioning when I say that I play again because it is “free to play” as I don’t mind paying, I just do mind being forced to pay every single month).

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Just a few days ago, I downloaded Lord of the Rings Online again and logged into my account for the first time in about half a year or so. I even bought the Beorning class, created a character with that class and started playing it. But returning once for a very brief time does not count, right?

If I could, I would also return to Warhammer Online in a heartbeat – yes, despite ranting and raging about how bad that game was. :p It did have some really good ideas for really good features and if only they could be implemented well (without lagging, rubberbanding, server crashes), this game would have been quite good, actually… in PvP, at least. Let’s better not mention the PvE side.

WoW_Undead Poets Society 2Still, the one and only game that always draws me back is World of Warcraft. I did get all expansions but Warlords of Draenor and the just-announced Legion. We still went to the announcement of the expansion at gamescom. We were already at the convention anyway. There was so much excitement and yes, nostalgia as well, of course.

So, while I do like returning to WoW for those 7 free days – and also, logging in to my account with my low level characters (you can now play for free with characters level 20 and below!), I just don’t see myself returning to the game in a serious manner. This ship has sailed. Not because I don’t like World of Warcraft anymore and not because the game would bore me, but because I do have so many alternatives right now that I’m more or less actively playing (Guild Wars 2, Rift, Trove and, most recently, Wildstar – especially when the latter goes free to play later this year), that there simply is no point in investing any serious amount of my gaming time for yet another MMO. But that gaming nostalgia will always be there. I will always have fond memories of WoW and the fun I had with friends and family. And whenever I do start up that game, I realize: Those times are gone. They are fond memories, but the current game is just not the game I used to play anymore.

Impressions from Gamescom 2015 – Blaugust Day 11

Thursday is the day where gamescom is usually the least busy out of all the days that are open to the general public. But it is still far from empty! That’s the reason why we completely skipped gamescom last year. There was also nothing there we had really wanted to see, so we only went to the Guild War 2 community party in the evening. This year, however, we wanted to see gamescom as well, even though again, there was nothing we really wanted to see. I don’t need the Guild Wars 2 demo, for example, when I can just play the beta weekend event on my home PC. Thankfully, they opened more halls this year which meant that the crowd got to spread out a bit more and I think the paths between the booths were also a bit wider. The only hall that was so crowded you could hardly move was the merchandise one. Very weird if you ask me!

It took us a bit longer than planned to arrive in Cologne (1,5 hours drive) as there had been quite some traffic on the roads. But we have also spent several hours in a traffic jam once a few years ago, so that was nothing in comparison. We decided to park our car in a parking garage close to the venue of the Wildstar Community Event in the evening, so we would not have to park our car in two different spaces (which would have cost more) and walked to gamescom from there. I really love that walk as it leads over a big bridge and you can see the Cologne Cathedral from there as well as overview a part of the Rhine.

Cologne Cathedral 2015

Once inside the gamescom, our first stop was the computec media booth. As subscribers of one of their magazines, we got a little goodie bag there. Unfortunately, it was mostly stuff we will throw in the bin this time. Very ugly cheap green plastic sunglasses from “Just Dance 2014”, for example. A copy of “Sacred 2” and a magazine guide for Minecraft from last year (original cost: 10 €) are the only two useful things. Unfortunately, we don’t play Minecraft. But eh, it was free, so I won’t complain.

Gamescom 2015 EntranceDirectly next to the booth was the XMG booth where Rocketbeans were set up. This is something that non-German speakers probably don’t know. Or maybe you have seen the name before as they are quite popular on Twitch. They are German only, though. We watched them for a bit, but you could only see them and not hear them as they were inside a “glass cube” and streamed live on Twitch from in there. It felt a bit like a trip to the zoo and we were watching the animals inside their cage. ;)

We also watched a guy at the Cyberith Virtualizer booth for a bit. He had just gotten into what looked like a “baby walker”. It did look interesting in how his own movements got translated into this fantasy world we could see on the screen. He moved and turned around and what he could see through his Oculus Rift changed accordingly. What did not seem to work too well was the actual “walking” part. The guy walked and walked and walked, but the image on the screen showed veeeery slow movement, if the “character” moved at all. I feel it needs to be polished still, but the general idea is really nice and it did look impressive nonetheless!

So, I actually tried a game. Well, “tried”. The thing is – and the reason why I don’t care much about long queues personally anyway – that I want to *know* what I’m doing and I need time to read the tooltips and to get into the game. I want to do that in my own time without knowing that lots of people are waiting for their turn right behind me. Since this is not possible at gamescom anyway, I tend not to play anything and just watch others playing. But there was one booth where several gaming stations were empty. Unfortunately, all stations are prepared for right-handers with the mouse on the right side and I cannot play like that. Some even have asymmetrical gaming mice making it even harder for me, even if I get to put the mouse on the left side. On that note: Thank you, NCsoft, for having symmetrical mice at the community party, so I could just put the mouse on the left side of the keyboard and play! But this is also my personal problem with being unable to handle a mouse with my right hand and an aching wrist and so on. Still, it’s not much fun, right?

Anyway, the games in question were Van Helsing: Final Cut and Warhammer 40.000. We only looked at the screens, but what drew me in was that it looked like a Diablo-clone. And I mean that in the most positive sense! We actually thought it was Warhammer 40k on that side of the booth, but it turned out to be Van Helsing. Either way, I wanted to give it a try! I really like this genre and if it hadn’t had that resemblance, I may not even have looked at it. But I did, I picked up the mouse and killed a few mobs. That was more than enough for me to determine: Yes, I’m interested! I want to know more! Unfortunately, there was nothing. No flyers or anything as far as I could see. But at least, they had the names of the game everywhere, so I can use my google skills. :p

Warhammer 40.000: Inquisitor – Martyr” – sounds a bit weird if you ask me, but there you go. IGN also posted a gameplay video a few hours ago. If you’re interested, have a look!

And then “Van Helsing: Final Cut“.

I remember at a former gamescom we had stood in line to see what was inside the XCOM booth before its expansion “Enemy Within” launched. After waiting for quite some time, we were led into a dark room with bean bag chairs – very comfortable, but too dangerous to put them there at gamescom where you’re at your feet all day long… we didn’t want to leave anymore afterwards! On a sidenote: We just decided to buy a bean bag chair for our living-room. :p But back to “Enemy Within”: We were shown a video of the game, including the silly “I hold a controller in my hand and act like what you’re seeing is live right now and not staged at all”. And now, on to XCOM2 and back to gamescom 2015: The line had been relatively short. I think we waited for about 20 minutes or so until we were let in. It was a bit of a disappointment to see they had benches in there which were, of course, much less comfortable. On the flip side, they could fit in a lot more people at once which led to shorter queues. Once again, we were not allowed to take pictures or film the video. Of course we weren’t, because IGN has a report and the video uploaded now. If you want to see what we have seen, click the video below. Unfortunately, this has the guys from IGN talk all the time while we actually got to hear the in-game sound, voice-overs and all that together with some explanations on what we were seeing.

Of course, we also stopped by the Guild Wars 2 Twitch booth. In fact, we went there twice. This was when we first got to talk to Gaile Gray, who is the Forum Communications Team Lead for Guild Wars 2. We did not play the demo, as we both rather play the beta here at home. But it was still nice to watch others play for a bit and watch the ArenaNet team interact with the players.

At some point, we made the mistake of checking out the merchandise hall. It was horribly crowded in there. Yes, crowded-crowded! Narrow paths, booths with lots of people around them wanting to buy stuff and of course, everybody who walked along there watched what was available at the booths, so everybody walked slowly. It felt like ages to get through. And we went there twice, because we had been looking for something, but then ended up not buying anything after all. Close to that area was the food hall which we used to have lunch. The downside of the day tickets at gamescom is that you cannot leave the venue. If you do, you cannot get back inside. So you either need to bring your own food (not really a smart idea if you’re carrying your food in warm halls all day long) or buy what they’ve got there. Healthy food? Ha, you wish! We opted for the wannabe-Asian food of baked noodles with vegetables and soy sauce. A classic where you can’t go wrong, I guess. As usual for gamescom, there was a queue. Thankfully, there were two dishes on the menu: Baked noodles with vegetables and soy sauce – and baked noodles with vegetables, chicken and soy sauce. So we did not have to wait very long as they handed out the food in record speed. It was actually quite good! I would have assumed the noodles would be bathing in oil, but that was not the case. Of course, it was still super expensive, but at least, it was tasty.

Gamescom 2015
Queuing for food

We also later had crêpes (I chose the kind with applesauce, sugar and cinnamon while bookahnerk had the traditional “Nutella” ^^) and really bad coffee. Ever since I’ve stopped drinking my coffee with milk (oddly enough, I get sick when I drink coffee with milk, but milk on its own is no problem) and sugar (if I have coffee with sugar now, I have two distinctive tastes – coffee AND sugar, but not sugared coffee), I have come to realize how many bad coffees you are actually served. And that one belonged to the very bad category. It goes without saying that I still drank it all.

Gamescom 2015 Hearthstone area
The Hearthstone booth

But back to the games part of gamescom. Overwatch. Bookahnerk would have loved to try it, but the queues were ridiculously long, even past 6 pm (gamescom closed at 8 pm that day). The convention has just become too popular and while tickets were sold out, they started letting people in past 2 pm as soon as enough other visitors had left the venue. However, we did get to see the announcement of the next World of Warcraft expansion “Legion”. I knew it would get crowded, but I was still surprised to see how many people had gathered there. Unfortunately, it also got very hot then. In general, the AC kept the temperature in the halls at a very nice level and it was very comfortable to walk around the booths (except for the merchandise hall and the hour around the expansion announcement). The announcement was one of the highlights for me. They started by showing off the trailer for the original vanilla World of Warcraft, then the expansions’ trailers in the appropriate order. So much nostalgia and lots of cheering and applauding from the crowd! And then, yes, I admit, I had some goosebumps when they showed the newest trailer and I saw Illidan. I immediately recognized the shape of him, although that’s not too difficult considering we have an Illidan figure in our glass cabinet in the hallway. We left after the trailer, because we had seen enough and needed to walk over to the Wildstar Community Event. But it looks like it will be a solid expansion. It will not bring me back, though. As long as World of Warcraft remains a sub-based game, it just wouldn’t make much sense. I just play too many MMOs as it is (with Wildstar currently being the exception because it will go free to play this fall).

One last anecdote before we end this blog post: Back in vanilla World of Warcraft, bookahnerk had one character slot reserved with a night elf hunter, waiting for Blizzard to release the “hero classes” as he wanted to make that night elf hunter into a demon hunter. As he said during the announcement: It only took them 11 years. – Better late than never, right? :)

Gamescom 2015
Leaving Gamescom

This post is part of Blaugust 2015.

Hello there, do I know you?

Perfect timing from Blizzard… Just when I feared I would have nothing to write about on the 4th day of NaBloPoMo, they sent me an email reminder that the offer of 7 free days of playtime in World of Warcraft is about to expire. I activated my account this morning, patched it and then went to work.

I think it’s great that they give you free days every year or so. It actually did make me return to WoW before. I even bought an expansion just for that. However, usually after the first month or so, I realize: You either pay or you’re out. And that’s when I usually leave again. I still like the game, but it doesn’t offer me anything that other games can’t give me either. Or, at least, they offer me a similar experience without forcing me to pay. I’m not a “freeloader”, in case you’re worried about that. I do give companies some of my hard-earned money. Especially now that my financial situation allows me to spend money on such luxuries as gaming. I am still very clingy, though, and don’t like to feel forced. It’s all about perception here!

Anyway, this doesn’t change the fact that Blizzard offering me 7 free days here and there has had the intended effect in the past. This time, however, I very much doubt I’ll return. Guild Wars 2 is releasing their new patch today which also comes with a new zone and Rift has just released their expansion which I’m slowly playing through. On top of that, Trove is entering open beta and I’m curious to see how the development of the game is coming along and when they will release the candy barbarian. That’s three fine games right there and not one is asking for any money, just so I can even play it.

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Left: old. Right: new.

But let’s look at World of Warcraft. I don’t know everything that has changed since I’ve last left the game, but upon loading the game, I got quite a shock. I had seen the redesigns of the character models and always thought: That looks nice! But when I saw my own characters, my heart sank a bit. It’s not that they look completely different, but in a lot of cases, something in their expression changed. While I chose this one human face because it has a mixture of naiveté and curiosity, it now just looks… weird. Yes, weird could be it. Maybe a bit skeptical even. Look at the picture and you will probably see what I mean. My dwarf had this pretty shiny orange hair. I loved her friendly expression. The new face frankly just takes away any personality my dwarf has ever had.

Thankfully, I quickly found out that you can re-enable the old character models. For a moment, I thought everything was gone. All those memories… yes, I know I’m not even playing the game anymore, so that doesn’t matter, right? But in a way, it did. Friendships formed in that game and for several years, it just accompanied me through my life. I know a lot has changed since then (both in my life and in the game), but my characters have always still been there whenever I returned.

I am curious what else I will discover in the next… 6 days. But for now, this blog post has actually been cut short as ArenaNet announced that they’ll be giving us the patch soon. This also saves you a lengthy rant today, I think. ;)