Saturday, February 21, 2015

MMO Game Journalism

Blizzard Watch Image

Massively Overpowered Image
Two new MMO gaming journalism sites replacing those of Joystiq
It has been a little over three weeks since there was an official announcement on Massively that it would be shutting down along with the other MMO site on Joystiq, World of Warcraft Insider.  Almost immediately many of the people from World of Warcraft Insider announced a new site, Blizzard Watch that would depend on Patreon for funding.  A few days later, the people from Massively announced a Kickstarter campaign for initial funding for Massively Overpowered.

Let me start by saying I admire the dedication of the staff of both sites for starting off on their own with little knowledge of whether the funding would work or not.  I admire the work they have done on both their old and new sites and I am grateful that they are funded.  There are a few gaming magazines still around but few sites focused on MMOs like these two are and there was really nothing to take their place.

However, since this is my site that takes a rather different view of MMOs, one of a person who spends much less time than the average MMO blogger playing or reading about MMOs, I want to express my own view of these actions as well.  I truly hope they both succeed long term and I know the games I enjoy playing will be less successful without them, but I've discovered again that these sites aren't for me.

As I started reading MMO blogs, it didn't take me long to find these two sites with a wealth of information about MMOs.  I subscribed to them in Google Reader but left them uncategorized because I didn't want to have to go through all their posts while reading the more person posts of the blogs I read.  There were times when I read the posts, even a one or two times when I caught up with all that they wrote, but, for the most part, they would sit in Reader, untouched while I read the other MMO posts.

When Blizzard Watch opened up, I immediately subscribed and for almost two weeks I kept up with their posts.  I was even excited about their success.  However, soon I found that there was too much information in those posts that I didn't really care about and the list of unread posts went from 10 to 20 and I came to the realization that, once again, this isn't for me.

Let me add that I believe we need game journalism and that both of the sites deserve to be called that.  People should be paid to get the news out and express informed decisions about MMOs.  I enjoy the writing on both these sites, it's just too much for the time it takes.  It's sort of like the five Garrisons I have in World of Warcraft.  For several weeks I kept up with all of them, but then, even though individually I enjoyed the activity, if I spend more than 30 minutes on them, it feels more like a chore than entertainment.

I do subscribe to MMORPG on my news feed (now Feedly).  I don't think they are better than these other sites, they are just better for me.  I find the writing more enjoyable on Massively (now MO) and World of Warcraft Insider (now Blizzard Watch), but MMORPG is good about have a short, 3 or 4 line intro that goes on the feed.  I can read this and pretty much get the information I want and, if it's a game I don't care about, I can just skip to the next post, having spent only a few seconds to determine whether I'm interested or not.  

I feel some guilt that I almost never visit MMORPG and so they aren't earning money from me directly that way.  I feel some guilt that I gain from Massively Overpowered and  Blizzard Watch, but don't fund them either.  However, I've decided that there are others who have more time to spend on these games for whom visiting these sites is a natural extension of that time.  I get to benefit from those who spend that time, and that's a good thing.  Just like those who play World of Warcraft for many more hours a week for the same $15, benefit from the fact that I'm a casual player of the game.  I can't keep tallies of how much I owe and whether I'm ahead or behind.  I don't really care (other than feeling some guilt if I might be behind in my investment).  Like many things in life, they are best enjoyed and, usually, in the long run, things work out.

I hope for success for all three sites.  I think they all provide a valuable service for those of us who play these games.  To all three I say:  Congratulations on your success so far and I hope you, and these games, are around for many years to come!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Daybreak Games Company (formerly known as SOE)

SOE Sign
Picture courtesy of Massively (somewhat ironically)
We had two significant changes in the MMO area over the last two weeks, both involving large companies who no longer want to play in that space.

Sony sold Sony Online Entertainment to a holding company and it became Daybreak Games Company.  This wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.  It makes sense that they would like to go into both XBox and mobile gaming and neither works so well with Sony as their owner.  However, because this is a holding company and they typically want to see changes and profits quickly, the announcement was very quickly followed by the announcement of large and significant layoffs.

President John Smedley says that work on Everquest Next and their other projects continues, but I would expect one of two things to happen.  It is possible that the buyers see EQ Next as a large source of potential profits and the schedule gets accelerated.  As someone who works in software, I know that sometimes lower scope and delivering something more quickly is the right thing to do and that might happen here.  However, there is a high likelihood that the smaller scope alienates much of their fanbase and possibly the more likely outcome is that it gets cancelled.  

AAA MMOs are so expensive and complicated that most of them end up having disappointing releases.   If you look at the potential profits in mobile gaming and MOBAs compared to the cost, MMOs are a huge risk.  I'd expect to see something in the mobile arena pretty quickly.  Hopefully it won't just be a Hearthstone, League of Legends, or Clash of Clans clone, but those would be the most obvious choices.  A console game is also on the wish list.  They already produced Champions of Norrath but that was more than 10 years ago.  My personal feeling is that the prospects for Everquest Next have gotten worse.  It will either be rushed and not the revolution SOE proclaimed it to be or cancelled.

The other huge change was the closure of Joystiq, publishers of both Massively and WoW Insider by AOL.  I've decided to save that for another post.

Friday, February 6, 2015

A Week in an MMO Life: Gone Fishing

Fishing!  What MMOs are for, right?
This has been another couple of weeks without a lot of progress in World of Warcraft.  I'm not sure if this is a sign that I'm starting to enjoy the game less and it will be time for a break or I am just in a lull.

Kanter now has a iLvl over 640 without having been to any raids or more than 2 Heroic dungeons.  I keep thinking I will spend an evening getting some quests done in the Heroic dungeons but it doesn't happen.  The good news is that my iLvl is high enough that I shouldn't be a burden in them.  I still don't like random groups and that is probably part of the reason I have put them off.  

Kanter has been doing the Garrison Campaign quests and now only has three more left.  He was generally getting one a week but he skipped one week when I was out of town and I was able to get two done this last week.  I'm not sure if that's a coincidence or not.

I was able to take Kantra to Spires of Arak this last weekend, finished the quests for the Salvage Yard and got her to level 98 so I can do the quests in Nagrand now.  In theory once she is level 100 I will get the Silver Healing Proving Grounds achievement and start running dungeons with her using the Inn quests for extra rewards.  Given my almost complete unwillingness to go to dungeons as DPS, I don't know how willing I will be to do it with a healer but we'll see.  Questing with her is much easier with her Death Knight follower, but I did manage to kill him (and myself) just before I hit level 98 by pulling two groups accidentally.  Fortunately I was almost done with that quest and had to do just one more quest solo before I reach my goal of getting the level.

Because I have Garrisons with toons for all professions except for Inscription, I have been building up a lot of the daily components needed for crafting.  I am hoping with the follower, gather Savage Blood won't be too difficult with her once she hits level 100 and I can use those components more.

I also finally finished up some of my fishing goals.  The Level 3 Fishing Shack requires catching 700 enormous fish.  That was too big of a goal, so I decided to use the daily fishing quests to reach it, catching which ever of the 7 fish was specified and ignoring it if I had already reached the goal.  Once I got close on a specific fish, I decided to finish off the quest once I needed just one additional 5 minute lure that lets you catch a much higher percentage of the required fish (usually between 10 and 15 in a 5 minute period for me).  

Finally, I was down to three fish left.  I realized at this point I'd be ignoring most of the dailies, so I went ahead and caught all the fish I needed once I had the last two quests.  The final fish, the Sea Scorpions, have no daily quests, so it was just a matter of grinding them out and I finally did that and was able to upgrade my Fishing Shack.  Now to get Nat Pagle as a follower and decide if I want to grind my reputation up with him.  I made to to 'Good Friends' in Pandaria, so we'll see if I can take the last step to get to 'Best Friends' in Draenor.

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Week in an MMO Life: Time away

Where most of my time has been spent in game.

The last two weeks I haven't played World of Warcraft or any MMO much.  As is usually the case, it isn't so much the game as it is not knowing what I want to do and real life getting in the way. 

For most of the last week I have been visiting my parents and they don't have internet access.  I visited Chik-fil-a one day to use their free wifi in order to do my garrison runs on my 5 characters that have a garrison and make sure none of the mail I send between characters gets deleted but I have managed to do without.  It has been good to spend time with my parents and let them get to know my youngest daughter better.

Prior to that, I still wasn't playing much.  I raised Kanter's (my Hunter) iLevel to over 635 with a nice upgrade from a garrison quest and I have plenty of parts for everything I want except for my gun upgrades for Kanter.  I finally raised my x to level two for my priest, Kantra, so she can have a tank as a companion.  It does make questing and gathering a lot easier on her and I now plan to do the same for my mage.  I don't think it would make much of a difference for Kanter since he hasn't had issues anything he has done, but for a cloth not pet class, I can see it as a big help.

This should have encouraged me to level my priest since it'll be easier and it will give me access to the Savage Blood from her barn needed for the gun upgrade mentioned above but I just haven't allocated the time to do it.  I also still have four Heroic Dungeon quests that I would like to get done with Kanter but I really don't like queueing for anything in WoW.  Part of my reluctance is that since I don't play that much I don't know the fights and I don't have confidence in my ability to contribute.  Also, I'd rather use my limited play time in an environment where I know I won't run across bad attitudes.


Since I started this blog, I wanted to be able to enjoy an MMO where I only spent one night playing it in a dedicated way.  That was the origin of this blog's name.  Right now, I am squeezing in time to do my garrison activities and, while I enjoy that, too, I don't have time where I am making real progress and once I get back home, I will try to set aside a night to do that.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A New Year: 2014 Data and 2015 Thoughts


2015 is here!  Happy New Year!

I have been reading a lot of end of year summaries and I decided there is value in being able to look at a post and see a review of the previous year and thoughts on the year to come for myself.  Hopefully others will enjoy it as well.

This Blog

Blog posts total:  66 (not counting this one)
Blog posts in 2014: 28
Blog posts in 2013: 24
Blog posts in 2012: 14 (My first year blogging)

Eventually I'd like to post once a week but I'm fine with just over every other week and I'm glad I made a few more posts this year than last.  It shows that I'm not losing interest.  This is a casual gaming blog and it wouldn't be casual if I was posting every day.

Games Played

As of 12/31/2014, Raptor shows my game time as:

Dungeon Defenders

6.5 hrs
Hearthstone

1 hr
Civilization V
1 day
2 hrs
Mass Effect

2 hrs
Minecraft

1.25 hrs
World of Warcraft
43 days
4 hrs
Cook, Serve, Delicious

2.75 hrs
Dust  

1.25 hrs
Total
44 days
19.25 hrs

I didn't record these hours last year, so I don't know what was from 2013.  Not surprisingly, World of Warcraft dominated my time (96% of my time recorded by Raptor).  As you can see I sampled several other games but other than Civilization V and possibly Dungeon Defenders I didn't really get involved in them.

Other games played:
Final Fantasy XIV
Don't Starve Together
Plant's vs Zombies (phone and Kindle)
The Tribez (phone)

I'd estimate I played a few hours each of Final Fantasy XIV and Don't Starve Together (Beta).  I have set up tracking for Don't Starve since I expect to be playing it more with my daughter.  I'm not counting casual games like Sudoku or 2048 (my blog, my rules).

Other 2014 events

Gamersgate was a big event in 2014.  I hope we have confronted the ugly side of gaming and that it didn't just become a chance for many people to talk to those that agree with them and entrench their positions.  If enough people condemn the treatment of women within some games and by many in the game community it will change, even if it won't go away all at once.  Even though I don't play as much as many others, I still consider myself a gamer and that we shouldn't let some people usurp that label with actions I and most others who play games won't accept.

Looking forward to in 2015

I'll be interested to see how long I keep playing Warlords of Draenor.  I have exceeded 630 iLevel so I could raid with my guild, but I'm not sure I want to.

The only new MMO I think I might play is Shroud of the Avatar.  It is possible I will go back and play Star Wars the Old Republic.  I have two characters there and since it's free to play it would be pretty easy to try it out again.

Once my activity in WoW settles down it may be a chance for me to enjoy some single player games or games with my daughters again.  We played Dungeon Defenders and Minecraft some (two of my daughters now play Minecraft, but I've never played it much myself). I have 24 games on my Steam wish list but even though many just went on sale, I didn't think I'd be playing them soon, so I decided to wait.  As of today, the most likely one for me to get is Banished but if I get in a strategy mood and don't want to play Civilization, I might play Age of Wonders 3 once the price goes down to $10 or less.  I played a lot of the first two versions.  I would be surprised if I pay much more than $10 for any single player game (I paid more than that for Don't Starve, but I received two copies, so I still paid less than $10 per copy).

I enjoy gaming and I expect it to remain a part of my life, but I have learned to adapt it to the other things happening around it in my life, rather than the other way around.  Whatever 2015 holds, I am sure it won't be something I expect, but that is one of the pleasures of life.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Week in an MMO Life: Trials

Not really related, but I did try out the (a?) glider in Nagrand with my Talbuk
I hope everyone reading had a Merry Christmas and has a Happy New Year!  I did quite a bit these last two weeks.  I hope this doesn't just come off as a list.

Followers:
I have my 20 Followers on Kanter and can't decide if I want to level my Barracks or replace it with another building so it stays at level 1 for now.   My Salvage Yard finally coughed up some armor for my followers so now I have 3 iLevel 630 followers and they give me better quests including some for more follower gear.  The iLevel 630 quests also give iLevel 640 (?) gear for my character so that's been a nice boost for him.

Alts:
My first two characters, my hunter and priest were pretty well set.  I knew I was going to use my Druid, Kantree, to instant level to 90 since he had two professions none of my other 90 toons had (leatherwork and skinning).  Once I used the instant level, I had to try out the intro quest and once he had the Garrison, he needed to be able to use the Barn and by that point, it made sense to get him to 92 for the Mine.

By the time Kanter hit 100, I was starting to accumulate a lot of things to be Disenchanted by my enchanter, Kantrina, so I thought I should get him a Garrison, too so I could use the materials and since she is also an Engineer, it only made sense to get the level 2 Garrison so she could start producing the Engineering dailies as well.  Once you have the level 2 garrison, you might as well get to level 92 so you can get the Mine again, right?

At this point my enchanter had used up most of her supplies on the dailies and work orders and I had a surplus of ore to use.  Someone suggested that I could use the ore with a Blacksmith to get more enchanting supplies, so I started leveling my Blacksmith Warrior, Kantro.  Once he had the Forge I could have stopped, but it didn't seem right that my only miner didn't have a mine, so today he reached level 92.  This is what leads to having  five toons with Mines.  I have gone back to leveling my priest who was stuck at level 94 and I'm looking forward to having a level 3 Barn and to try out the Inn with her (assuming I ever learn how to heal).  Right now I'm happy with where my other toons are, but I suspect there will be something that encourages me to do more than the work orders, crafting dailies, mining, and follower missions.  It does take some time just to do that.

Stables:
I spoke about the stables in my last post and at this point have 7 of the 8 mounts you can get from them (and the Mountain o' Mounts achievement).  I am glad I had vacation because it did take a little while to bring all 6 mounts each day to their next battle.  The battles were not difficult for my hunter though it was odd not having a pet.  Each mount takes between 7 and 12 battles but the way I did them (maybe it's how it always works out), there were always two on the same battle each day so I would have three places to visit each day and the respawns were pretty quick.  If you have a specific item in your pack when you defeat the last of these battles, you also get one more mount, a pretty cool armored pig, so I got that as well.  There is an 8th mount available for completing these battles with another more difficult item in your pack, but I'm in no rush to get it.

Trials:
I knew if I wanted to go on Heroic Dungeons or raids I would need to complete the Silver Proving grounds achievement, so I started working on it a couple weeks ago.  Leveling a hunter is very easy (after leveling the priest, druid, mage and warrior, I know this well), so I wasn't very well prepared for it.  I first had to figure out the best way to get AOE damage (I needed to put Barrage on my bar and I learned that using multishot causes my pet to do AOE damage, too).  Then it was more a matter of practice.  Learning to move and shoot again.  Learning to interrupt when needed.  Learning to more quickly switch targets.  I play on a laptop and for questing it's fine, but for this I had to move to where I had larger monitor and a mouse rather than just a track pad.  I did eventually get the Silver achievement and went on my first (and only so far) heroic random dungeon.  I thought the trials were pretty effective and I'm sure I'll do better DPS (particularly for AOE) and I'll be more likely to hit interrupts because of it.

Molten Core:
I thought that I would work on the Legendary ring quests this weekend, but one night a few people in my guild said they'd be going to Molten Core so I went along.  I've heard nightmare stories about some of these runs, but this went pretty well.  We did have one point where someone added a second hound pack in the middle of when we were fighting the first and they kept regenerating until someone manufactured a wipe.  Otherwise I think there may have been one other wipe, but after my experiences in Vanilla, this was trivally easy and it was fun to see it again on level.  Yes, I am now a proud owner of a Core Hound Mount more than a week before it'll be done!

It's been a busy week (and yes, I played more than one night this last week ;)).  I still don't have a definite direction.  I would like to work on the Ring quest with Kanter but would rather go with someone in my guild if I can.  I would like to try a Normal raid with the guild as well thought I'm not interested in being good enough to do Heroic or Mythic and I don't want to get in the way.  I'll be interested in leveling my Priest to 100 and then trying the Healing proving grounds.  I mentioned before I had finished Bronze during Pandaria.  Once I get that done, I would like to try to do the daily Inn quests on her, but that means dealing with random groups and I'm not sure how that will go.  I'm still doing the fishing dailies and I'm about half way to getting my level 3 Fishing Shack which will lead to another series of tasks for Nat Pagle.  There is also the Pet Menagerie just sitting there with an available quest and Syl kindly provided a guide for a newbie like me (I think my highest level pet is level 4 and I only did that because my daughter wanted to try it).

I have plenty to keep me busy.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Week in an MMO Life: Level 100


Kanter flying on a flight path since no flying otherwise in Draenor

Recently Kanter reached the new max level,100, in World of Warcraft.  As is the case these days, this isn't as much a sign of completion as an ability to start many other things.

Before I go into the future, I want to talk about questing.  I liked the Yrel story as much as I've seen it.  I've done all the quest achievements except for Nagrand and I have no desire to do the 'Bonus Objectives,' areas where you kill so many of different kinds of mobs for a reward.  That said, I liked the Pandaria quests better.  I seem to be in the minority, but I liked the stranger in a strange land setting and I think the time travel is something of a cop out, though I understand why they did it.  More on that in another post if I ever get to it.

The Garrison has a lot to keep me busy, maybe too much.  I feel compelled to get all my herbs and ore every day, along with the daily crafting activities.  Kanter is doing the Alchemy dailies, Kantra, the Tailor and Jewelcrafting ones, and Kantree has just started the Leatherworking ones.  Note that they mostly aren't daily quests just daily activities at the garrison station and daily cooldowns for core crafting components.  That is an improvement from Pandaria:  you don't feel overwhelmed with dozens of dailies once you reach max level.

Kanter picked the Lumber Mill  as his first middle size plot item and harvesting has been happening pretty naturally along with quests.  It does seem to keep my garrison stocked with the supplies I need.  I've only had to wait overnight once to build or expand on a plot.  I'm also looking forward to getting the Follower who works in the Lumber Mill.

When I improved my garrison to level 3, I received three new plots and got the Stables, Trading Post, and Salvage Yard.  I really like that the Stables displays a random set of my mounts every day.  I also like the quests to raise more mounts, but it's becoming too much now with four mounts I'm working on at the same time.  I'd rather they would have serialized them.  You don't have to take all the quests but it'll be difficult for me to not work on all of them and with six to work on, that will be a lot.  The ability to gather while mounted is very helpful and with it and the speed buff at level 3, I don't think I'll ever get rid of it (particularly since I can play with the other buildings on my alts).

The Trading Post has been neutral.  As of now it's just a way to turn gathered ingredients into garrison provisions.  I like the Lumber Yard better for that, but I may eventually not want to wander around and I can get the components her from the Herb Garden and Mine located in the garrison.  The Auction House would be nice to have, but it looks like it won't be easy to get it.

So far, the Salvage Yard has been a bust.  Only some of the garrison quests yield salvage and I haven't gotten anything interesting from it.

I'm also not very happy with the Garrison quests.  I've only tried to solo quest and it seemed too crowded and took too long.  The second time wasn't as bad because there were fewer people, but I still don't like it.  I had the option for a similar quest with the same 800 Apexis Crystal reward at Socretar's Rise but when I completed my quests there, I was only 18% done and couldn't be bothered to grind the rest.

I've always found Fishing to be a relaxing diversion in WoW even though I don't like it in real life.  I'm using the dailies to get my 100 fish of six different types for Draenor Fisherman achievement.  After that, I can work on getting Nat Pagel as a follower.

When I started, I thought I would probably advance my Hunter and Priest close together, but I've been focusing on my Hunter, Kanter, so far, probably a sign that I'm not that interested in group quests.  I would like to have my Mage, Kantrina, have access to the Enchanting and Engineering plots, but I don't have any incentive yet to bring my Warrior since mining isn't an issue with the Garrison mines and nothing is compelling me to get Blacksmithing at this time.

In summary, I'm enjoying Warlords of Draenor, but I'm not sure I'll do much group content.  The Garrison works well integrating a base into the game and the quests have pulled me along, but so far I can't be bothered to gear up for the normal end game content.