MMORPGs that never really captured my attention

Hello again, readers!

This week I’d like to point to a few MMOs that have always sat on my hard drive, but barely get enough attention to register in my mind. I always take a few hours during each week to update all of the titles I currently have sitting in my games folder, and these titles almost always make me raise an eyebrow… and then I continue on to play something else.

It’s not really the game’s fault. I mean, sure, we can blame my lack of attraction on the games because they do not have what it takes to attract my particular self, but they are good games and seem to be perfectly capable of attracting plenty of other people. So, why don’t they work on me? I decided to give each another quick visit to see if I can sum up my gut reactions. I also hope to grow a relationship of more substance with these games, because in the end they really do offer some quality fun. (I’m guessing.)

Guild Wars 2

This will surprise many of you but I didn’t particularly like Guild Wars 2. Don’t like, I guess I should say, because when I log in these days I can only stay in for a half an hour without logging out. I can’t figure it out. I made an adorable character, have made it to level 11 or so, and enjoy running around exploring. I think this one comes down to 2 main issues.

The camera controls are…. spongy. Hard to explain.

The environments and world and UI are all very busy. There’s something about both of them that just make my old gamer eyes uncomfortable.

OK, so those are some very specific, odd reasons. Still, it’s the truth. So the pop-up quests and instant action are a bit tired as well, but when I take a few hours to slow down, allow my eyes to get used to the particularly odd color pallette of the world, I do enjoy the game. Richie Procopio, a fellow writer and friend suggested that at my level and obvious non-real-interest in the game, I should just explore and find some adventure and enjoy the ride. Funny, because I am usually the guy who tells people to do that with MMORPGs, but he was right. After I took some time to learn what my backstory was and to talk to some other players, I had a lot of fun. I even made my way to Lion’s Arch and started exploring there. The game looks amazing, so I will make it a point to log in more.

Star Wars the Old Republic

This is an easy one. The game never interested me because the combat was… so… borrrriingggg. Oh man I was never so disappointed until I logged into SWTOR, worked through a couple cut-scenes, marvelled at the wonderful, stylized graphics only to be told “Go out and grind on some lame mobs.” I almost cried. I left the game and only half-watched my wife play until she grew bored.

The game is good, I think, for those people who travel with others more than I do. My travelling ego rarely stops for too long in one game (although I do make my way back around to many different games, so much so that I have high-levels in several) so I can understand that a game that is good for groups might not be great for me, but I mean… this was Star Wars! I should have been drooling just to play another Star Wars game.

One of the main issues I had with the game was its inability to run smoothly, even on my gaming PC that normally ran all of the latest and greatest games on max or high settings. I simply could not get SWTOR to stop hitching! It reminded me of the old Vanguard days, back when performance was a real, real issue, but this was a modern game from a modern company and on a modern gaming PC. It drove me nuts.

Then I look at some YouTube cut-scene video and it makes me cry. I want to join in on that fun, I want to have a starship and a crew and a companion and make my character slightly evil and wounded and scarred and a bounty hunter who is tiny but feared and…

I’ll try SWTOR again. In fact, I am patching it now. Like I said, I love its looks and its potential. I wonder what I need to do to make it shine?

The Secret World

I can easily tell you what I do not like about The Secret World. It’s not the out-there lore. I like the lore for the most part and I like the strange graphics. I dig the gothy setting and would love to get in on some fun roleplay. I also love the modern setting and quirky references to pop culture. While I am not a huge fan of the Whedon-esque “everyone is a smart-alec” type of dialogue, I do enjoy the fact that the game doesn’t take itself too seriously. I also like its supposed connection to The Longest Journey, whatever it is.

What do I not like about The Secret World? The combat. Take away the combat. Leave a game with the mysteries, the socializing, and the setting but delete that noisy, boring and mostly overly-complicated combat stat system. Sure, you can make your character use any weapon and magic and all that stuff, but it’s all so noisy and repetitive and BLECH.

The combat (in my experience, of course) interrupts the fun. I might log in, get a call from some NPC, go meet the NPC, get involved in a cool conversational cut-scene about some dark secret that I have to literally use an in-game browser to solve, get sent on my way and then have to fight batches of baddies using the same action OVER AND OVER AND OVER. It’s as though the game grabs you, sits you down and says”

“Look, this game has some serious lore meat on its bones. It’s good stuff. Well, the sex stuff is cheesy as hell, but the rest is good, gothy fun. You’re going to want to explore that part of the game. I get that. But, see, we needed to put something in this game to give those hardcore burners something to do. We needed to slow them down. So, yeah, go kill a crap-ton of zombies, please? And, oh yeah… use this lame weapon and ability.”

I cried.

There are more games like this out there, odd games that just felt awkward and sluggish and bulky and slow. Games like FFXIV (do not get me started on the epic journey just to install that one!) But, I will try and revisit the ones I listed. Perhaps I will find something I missed? I hope so, because they are all obviously made very well, with love.
Beau

Another week in the life of an MMO explorer

OK, so another week or so has passed us by and, as usual, I spent much of that week working. Working. Working. I have answered so many emails, in-game-messages and PMs about game mechanics, concerns and other MMO-related things that my eyes are blurring. Luckily I can take a break in as many virtual worlds as I have time for. And I do. I spend a ton of time crossing through many different worlds.
Here’s where I (mostly) went and what I felt when I went there.
Star Stable is a horsey MMO. Yes, an MMO that is all about horsies. If you like horsies, you’ll probably like this MMO. As a matter of fact, I consider the horsies in this “kid’s” MMO to be some of the best I have ever played with. You have to take care of them and customize them. If you stop caring for them you are not only a real jerk but the mount will stop performing as well. Turns and jumps won’t work as well, basically. And you’ll still be a jerk.

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The MMO is based on a single-player game and you’ll often feel like you are playing in a single-player game while playing Star Stable. That’s not a bad thing, really, because from the beginning you will understand that the point of the game is to play through a very linear storyline. There are side quests and activities like racing or socializing, but the central story is so fun and the characters are so goofy that it’s easy to see how a player burns through all of the content quickly.
I just did a quest that had me find Big Bonnie (who was not particularly large) so I could drag her back to the clock tower that she broke. Well, I found her in a farmer’s silo where she had been living for years (yes, inside a silo) and was surprised to see that her non-stop diet of potatoes and isolation had made her very… interesting. Still, her story was a sad bit of information and I finally snuck her back to the village so she could make up for her past mistakes. Her plan was to hide in a sack so I could take her to her house. She ran into the house and came out…. in a mask of someone else. I love Big Bonnie.
Firefall is one of those MMOs that just sucks me in as soon as I log in. Granted, shooters tend to do this, games like PlanetSide 2 or Defiance, and a lot of that must be due to their instant-on action options. Firefall offers the same open-world, “pop-up” adventure you’ll find in those other two but it keeps everything really, really fresh. For one thing, the developers are working with characters that use jetpacks a lot. That means the game is very vertical. This height gives the game a great chance to open up like I haven’t really seen in an MMO before.
Recently the developers patched the game to include an invasion of the Melded, the in-game usual baddies. Basically there are three towers surrounding a larger tower. Players have to activate each of the smaller towers to lower the shield on the middle tower. Once the shield is lowered, players run in and try to destroy the source of the Melder’s power. Or something like that.

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Fighting in Firefall is fun just how it is, but when you add a simple goal — defend those three towers so you can destroy the one in the middle — it becomes addictive. I could have easily killed an entire evening with the tower scenario, but my arms really started to hurt after a while. Shooters get me every time!
The great thing is that all of this content is open to anyone. Sure, newer players could be knocked out or might not perform as well as “older” players, but within the time I played that tower (and beat the enemy, by the way) I found several new friends and joined a group of players in a guild (army.) On top of all of this, Firefall is an amazing looking game.
Galaxy on Fire: Alliances is a neat mobile game with amazing, smooth graphics and interesting — if not a bit unoriginal — gameplay. The game offers a fantastic tutorial that suddenly becomes a hassle when it drops all of the helpful arrows and directions… and at a point when you actually need them!
Luckily for me I remembered a game with a similar set of mechanics and was able to get through the slower portion of the tutorial, but then the game goes on to ask you to join a group of players (an alliance) in order to progress in the tutorial. I put in several applications with many alliances but all of them had 7 or fewer players. Needless to say, I gave up my search and just kept playing. The game is so well made and it flows so nicely on my 8-inch Galaxy tab that I found myself opening it just to play with the pretty pixels. A battle report that is normally a bland wall of text in other MMORTS’ becomes literally an animated battle in Galaxy on Fire: Alliances. Sure, after you see the animated battle for the fourth time you skip the next one, but it’s a nifty twist.
What Galaxy on Fire: Alliances needs is more players. It might be the server I am on (if that’s even a thing) but the lack of a “world” chat and the empty spaces make for a lonely experience. Still, it’s very well made and lovely to play.

Second Life is still a great game — er, world — to play in. If you think the long-running experience is nothing but sex dolls and furries, then you were never exposed to the rest of Second Life. I tend to skip right over those sex-seekers (no one denies they exist, but the tools to avoid them are very easy to use) and go for the good stuff: the art galleries, the poetry readings, the amazing builds, the live music sessions and, yes, the parties. I haven’t really been to a party in Second Life in a long time, but one of my freelance employers was hosting a party and asked us all to go.
I have to say that going to a party in Second Life brought back many late-night memories. My account goes all the way back to 2004, and for many years I would hang out with virtual friends while building stuff or while seeing how bad we could make our avatars look! I look back on those 3 AM sessions and smile; the world of Second Life is still a blast to meet and discuss in.

Of course, this was a party I attended so we ended up attaching old items to our avatars (I found an intertube to go with my bear outfit) and listening to each other on voice chat. Second Life has changed in many ways over the years but at its core it is the same. It’s still just a cool experience that is often tainted in the media by stories of virtual sex. If you’re into that stuff, go for it, but I wish sites would cover the art and creative part of Second Life just as much.

The hightlight of my night in Second Life was hearing one of the players almost choke because she was laughing so hard. The almost choking part was bad, but she was laughing so hard that I couldn’t stop either! Perhaps the party best explains why Second Life is still ongoing and seemingly popular. Socializing, laughing with friends, getting into heated political discussions, building and exploring together; Second Life does all of these wonderfully.
OK. On to another week.
Beau

Why I continue do the MMORPG thing

Hello everyone. A quick introduction before I get into my heavy-handed blog post for this week. My name is Beau Hindman and I have been playing MMOs for 15 years and covering them in some way for eight or so. I tend to prefer sandboxes over themeparks, but you can just as easily find me in a linear, quest-based MMO as you would in an epic open-world exploration game. I’ve written and blogged all across the internet and on many different sites (including this one, years ago) but now that I work for an MMO I wanted a more public place for my personal blogs. So, here we are. Read on!

I often wonder why I continue to be so fascinated with MMORPGs. I see other players come and go, some of them because they are angry at recent developments or because their favorite game left them burned out, but I continue to chug along. Along my 15 year journey in MMOland I have found other people who seem to enjoy them as much as I do, and these people often act as a helpful shield against the rage-filled landscape of bloggers and players who seem bent on destroying their own hobby.

I was discussing this topic with my wife the other day. The great thing about being married to someone who also works in the industry and who has been in gaming literally as long as I have (I brought home our first copy of Ultima Online in ’99 and haven’t looked back!) is that we can get right to the meat of the matter without explanation.

She brought up the holidays and the wintertime and described how it reminds her of World of Warcraft. She can remember taking off time from her job to play with the new expansions, usually around the fall and winter. She’d just bought the latest WoW expansion and we were discussing the reasons for continually purchasing the aging game.

I talked about how those feelings of nostalgia — helped by the time of year and the literal changing of the wardrobe — all connect with the game to help cement the event into the brain and memory and emotional core of the gamer. While both my wife and I have played so, so many titles over the years, we each have those special titles that really stick to us for some reason or another. She originally said that she was not going to buy the new WoW expansion as her work on another MMO tended to pull her away from all others, (and, let’s face it, Dragon Age Inquisition had something to do with her distraction) but the nostalgia and excitement pouring out of the internet — even the whinings about the problems with connecting to the WoW servers — made her very aware of her sudden need to buy it. So, she did.

These connections can be felt in other genres, sure. Perhaps you are a shooter fan who stands outside of a local game store to buy the latest chapter of your favorite shoot-em-up, or you are a Nintendo fanperson who obsessively collects digital stickers and virtual medals. MMOs, in my opinion, can form an even stronger, stranger bond between the gamer and the product because they are the only genre to offer the massive worlds that you might find in an Ultima Online, RuneScape, Defiance, Eldevin, Mabinogi or World of Warcraft. MOBAs are instant-on action and not much more; single-player titles offer truly in-depth character building, but generally only while the player is alone. Only MMOs offer that real-time, massive connection.

Consider also the look of your favorite MMO. It’s probably stayed the same for many years. It would be a safe bet to say that most of the MMOs you can think of have looked basically the same — minus a few updates to character models or tweaks to UI — for as long as you can remember. Think about the sounds in your favorite MMO. Imagine the gurgle of a murlock in WoW or that insanely loud DING from EverQuest. MMOs are some of the few games that can not only be played for years — if not decades — but that continue to look, feel, play and sound the same way for much of that time. When you a buy a new standalone title, you are often buying an entirely new title with new characters and mechanics, even if it is in the same IP.

MMOs are not just worlds that we visit, they are worlds that are contained within our real world. There are several layers of living that go on within an MMO. The player lives her life but comes home to live another while she is living the first one while she is making friends and killing baddies in the second one while she is eating at her PC in the first one. This layering creates not only a sense of nostalgia for the activity of playing the game, but nostalgia for the gameplay and the world in which it takes part. It’s fascinating, and will only become more fascinating as these worlds become much larger, more common and — hopefully — more original and interesting.

So, I sitll have many reasons to love MMOs and no matter where I find myself in life — attempting to write a novel, sinking myself back into art or trying to relearn the drum lessons I forgot — MMOs are a staple. The longer I play them, the more locked they become in my memory. I’ve tried other games, and MMOs are the only genre that make me feel so connected.

Beau

F.E.A.R. Online: Not very scary, but really fun!

fear4When I was asked to check out F.E.A.R. Online, a new FTP shooter from one of my favorite FTP publishers Aeria, I was a bit hesitant. This is my blog, the shiny, happy place where I post mostly what makes me happy. Why would I want to play yet another free-to-play FPS that would probably just be a pit of despair, peopled by the lowest gaming scum on th…

OK, enough dramatics. Yes, there are some bad FTP shooters out there. Yes, there are a ton of them. Still, shooters seem to fulfill one of our basic needs as gamers. No, not the ability to “kill” your enemies. I’m talking about the ability to point a dot at something and have the thing on the other end react. It’s like a magic lightning bolt of power, and if the game is right it makes you feel sort of powerful. Shooters can be really fun.

So, I jumped in. The PR guy was cool enough and, as I said, I like Aeria.

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The tutorial sucks. Let’s just get that out of the way. It’s not really in-depth and feels too scripted to be of much help. Granted, I played it before the game went live so I need to go back again to see if it has been tweaked, but once you’re out of it you jump into the actual lobby. When I played it on the test server, the game appeared dead. Now, however, there are tons of players and it’s very easy to find a game (except for the PvE-based coop missions. More on that in a second.) In fact, using the option of having the game find me a match meant that I was in a full match within minutes or even seconds. I wasn’t able to pick the map or other settings when I hit the “Just put me in a match, already!” button, but the option meant that I always had a match to play. Even when I picked out the parameters of a match I was still in quickly.

I’ll admit that I am a somewhat capable FPS player. If I took the time I could easily become “good” at it. However, one of my Golden Rules is “There is always someone better than you” so I don’t ever expect be the best in a match. Still, within a few nights of playing F.E.A.R Online I got to the point that I wasn’t always on the bottom. During some matches — especially after I discovered the sniper rifle — I was downright deadly. I like how the game switches things up if you choose random matches, and you can easily be destroyed after sailing through earlier matches just by a change of arena style or weapon.

The idea is to “win” matches so that you get rewards and XP to level with. These rewards can be pieces of material used in crafting or time-limited weapons. Crafting is one of the ways to get much better weapons, although you can buy many weapons directly out of the cash-shop. Is F.E.A.R. Online a case of “selling power”? Yes, probably, but I didn’t notice any one player steamrolling others. It might be too early in the game’s life to see that cash-shop influence. The game even gives you a freebie weapon (to demonstrate crafting) that was the best weapon I used during my time.

I’m guessing the “F.E.A.R.” part comes in with the use of psionics. Psionics are essentially buffs to your character that you unlock as you gain experience. My starting psionic was a debuff to grenade damage, both from other players and my own. I also unlocked a psionic that allowed my player to move faster. I’m not even sure you actually activate these buffs or abilities, so it’s sort of a lame connection to abilities. Still, the extra buff is nice and adds on a bit of depth to the game.

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Where the game sort of goes wrong is when it invites you to play in coop missions. You and several other players will run through a scripted event, guns blazing and (in my experience) a lot of dying. I tried the easiest scenario — the easiest mind you — and we were never able to actually complete the mission. We were supposed to run forward in order to avoid an onslaught of fire (sort of like the running-away-from-an-explosion scenes you will see in action movies) and along the way we had to shoot enemies and avoid getting killed. Sounds easy enough, especially because the setting was on easy.

I played through that scenario several times with different people and it was by far not the easiest. I gave up when it stopped being fun and became just a question of “how many times can I repeat this?” On top of that, finding a coop game that actually loaded without kicking out the players before we even got in was rare. I’d skip the coop for now and stay with the PvP matches.

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In the end, I had a blast with F.E.A.R. Online. I was eventually able to do some damage and pull my weight on a team, and I even found some favorite maps and weapons. Along the way I gained some resources to put towards crafting some new weapons, but I’d probably just buy myself a new weapon or two instead of waiting to craft them. I’m still not sure what the scary little girl has to do with any of this other than the fact that she comes from the standalone F.E.A.R. games, but I still had some intense moments without her. Maybe as I play more I will begin to understand what the connection is.

You can play F.E.A.R. Online for free now, right here at Aeria Games.

Beau

 

SquirrelWarz for iPad: Adorbs, yes, but also frustrating

The graphics are basic but adorable

The graphics are basic but adorable

I was given a copy of SquirrelWarz to review and, at first, I was very excited to check it out. It has a silly, hand-drawn quality to it and the tiny squirrel animations and voices are adorable.Within a few minutes of the tutorial, however, I found myself frustrated about some very minor issues that should have been fixed in testing.

You’ll be in control of a squirrel army and will even have the chance to unlock other types of squirrels with real money. I stuck with the newbie army and jumped in, eager to protect my home tree and to defend my nuts! (OK, make your silly jokes now. Ugh.) You’ll start by selecting a gathering squirrel and will send him to a tree to gather acorns. The tress run out really quickly, so you’ll find the pace of the game a bit quick for its tone. I thought I was getting into a casual tower defense game that might be good for kids and instead found myself scrambling to find more acorns… to always find more acorns. Luckily with a little time you will learn how to balance army size and gathering, but you’ll often find yourself with a tiny group of gatherers who have nothing to do.

There will often be an enemy next door to you, and they love coming at your home tree to attack. No worries, right? After all, you have four or five crafty units that will take care of them as… hang on a second, the enemy just sort of walked past your defending army. Oh wait, there they go, now they are defending… wait, OK. Nevermind. They are standing around again. Clicking on your units and moving them to the enemy can work, but often you’ll click to move them to an area for defense and the enemy will not register because your unit is still moving. It’s…. odd.

Being attacked!

Being attacked!

There doesn’t seem to be a way — at least in the beginning of the game (but why would the developers hide it for later?) — to select multiple units with a drag of the finger as you’d find in many RTS-type games. I am able to select five units at once, but sometimes in the heat of battle the tiny icons are hard to select and then I click on the ground and they would run there and once you click on a unit and then click on the ground the unit is deselected meaning that you have to reselect all of the units again! AGH!

It’s all good. Remember you have that special unit that goes berserk! Yes, it warns you that berserk-mode means that the unit will attack friendly units as well, but all good. There, he’s going berserk. OK, now he won’t stop. He’s attacking my tree. He won’t stop. He won’t stop. He won’t stop. It goes on forever. HE WON’T STOP ATTACKING HIS OWN PEOPLE.

I’ll craft more critters. I select one from the selection screen and… oh wait, I need to go BACK to the unit selection screen. How. There’s no back arrow to take me back to the unit selection screen if I suddenly decide I picked the wrong unit or want to pick a different one. You have to X off the unit you were thinking about making and you’ll go back to selection. It’s a small issue but these little things add up to a smooth (or rough) experience.

IMG_0178To be honest, the game feels like it wasn’t properly tested with anyone beyond the initial development team. I have seen this before, many many times: a small team makes a game and tries it out. Because they know how the game is supposed to work, they do not notice that the game is not smooth and polished. The team forgets little things, things that would have been noticed (and fixed) by handing the game to a newbie or stranger or family member and watching them play. Instead, the game was pushed out for $1.99 on the App store.

SquirrelWarz for iPad is adorable. The tiny icons, cute voices and smooth animations are the makings for a good game. Unfortunately, the game needs to go back to testing. Not for performance or for difficulty, but for the basics. Do the controls work perfectly? Does the game ramp up the difficulty too quickly? Should units deselect every time you click on the ground? Do many of the units look too similar to each other for a fast-paced game? Shouldn’t the AI be better?

Either way, I would be happy to play it again once it is patched up. It’s very possible that I am missing some of these basics, but the point is that many of them should be integrated better so that I do not have to wonder if I missed them.

Even at two bucks it’ll be a great deal, provided that the team tweaks it some more!

Beau

My, Trove, how you have grown into a proper MMO! @TroveGame

Screenshot (776)I have been playing Trove, Trion‘s lovely voxel-based sandbox, since its opening. I was impressed by how it looked, and still find myself thinking it might be one of the best looking games I play. Yes, even among the realist ones. I was also impressed by its free-form fun, allowing players to build almost anywhere, to explore as much as they want, and to still offer linear or quest-based content that resolves with leveling and skill-raising. It’s always been an impressive attempt at an MMO.

But then I logged in after being away for many weeks. Holy moly… how it has changed! It’s now more impressive and fun than I ever remember it. I couldn’t stop playing. That is, until my wrists started aching because of all of the fine movements needed to be made while playing the game. I started to set up my controller to do the work, but it would be so lovely if the game came with controllers already accepted.

You’ll start off on a small newbie island that will walk you through many of the basics. You’ll learn how to fight, craft and finally leave the island by crafting a gate that transports you to a more public area. I had no idea so many players had spent so much time creating massive structures; entire cities with friendly, open layouts and handy stations that can be used for crafting. I found several buildings that allowed me access to different types of crafting stations. Even though I had no idea what many of them did, a simple search in my own crafting menu told me details.

One of the great things about Trove is how simple it is. You can grab cubes of materials by shooting them (instead of mining them up close as in standard Minecraft) and can easily use those cubes for many different things. You can change those cubes into different types by using a station, and can eventually craft mounts, weapons, outfits and much more. If you want, you can also buy many of these items inside the in-game cash shop. Some of the items sell for coins that you can earn while playing the game, but a small, quick deposit will get you enough cash-shop cash to buy plenty of toys.

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Graphically, the game continues to impress. It can run on lower-end machines but cranking it up all the way shows off spectacular lighting effects, beautiful sun/moon phases and even rain that falls straight down, even if you dig a very, very deep pit like I did. As I said, it’s one of my favorite games for graphics, even taking into account amazing-looking games like ArcheAge or Guild Wars 2. I just prefer a stylized look, and the fact that one of the developers — @HeyAndrewK — told me on Twitter:

Thanks! I’m incredibly pleased with where we are myself. Much more to come – it’s a lot easier to add to vs. hi-fi MMOs.

.. makes it even better. Many players would see that quote and think “Oh, he’s looking for an EASY way to make a game” or “Ugh, easier to add means ugly” but the truth is that you want a developer who can easily add to an MMO, and an MMO that offers graphics that are easy to tweak. You want that, players, trust me.

Screenshot (780)The dungeon adventures are a lot of fun, and many can be found spread throughout the game world. I am not 100% sure, but I believe that players can host and make their own dungeons and adventures, as well. I found one in particular that sent me into a deep dungeon to fight some sort of mega-boss (and, by the way, the dungeons are open to other players!) and I had a blast figuring out just how to destroy him. He chased me around several corners until I fell into a pit. I could see him up top, laughing with an oddly-scary robotic voice, so I built a column of cubes, stood on top and pegged him with my gun until he burst! I only wish I had Fraps running at the time.

Trove is shaping up to be a fantastic value. No, it’s not a “Minecraft-clone.” It IS a wonderful, great-looking, open-world sandbox where players can simply and easily get together to build, loot, fight and explore. Minecraft offers that, yes, but Trove is all self-contained. No mods to download, no joining servers that could or could not be fun. Trove is a proper MMO and I am so happy to see it chugging along.

Beau

 

Star Stable turns 3… still a great game! @StarStable

Screenshot (764)I’ve written about Star Stable many times before. It’s a fantastic story-based MMO that runs on even basic PCs and is great for all ages. It’s based in a world of horses and young girls — yes, horses and young girls — and players spend their time going through a mostly linear quest line in the hopes of getting to the end (and to wait for the next portion to open up.)

I found it a wonderful, charming and inviting MMO for families and for older, casual players. It forces a cheap subscription after level 4, complete with bells and whistles. You’ll join up with a horse, the most important part of the game. The horses feel solid and are easy to control. In fact, I found the mounts to be some of the best in MMOs!

They are now offering a code for free in-game coins. Go to the site, sign up and enter BIRTHDAY3 in the redeem section. Sign up is free. Be aware that the game runs only in fullscreen mode and does take a while to download, but it’s totally worth it!

Now, get in there and get your horsey! You KNOW YOU WANT TO.

Beau

Is Wakfu’s improved early game really more fun? @WAKFUEN

Screenshot (754)I’m a huge fan of Wakfu. I was excited for its release, played in its beta and have continued to play it over the years. After becoming employed by another MMO this last year, I have been pulled away from playing MMOs like I used to but still managed to get into some of my favorites. Wakfu was always on my favorites list, but the last time I played I realized just how stuck my character had become. I considered making a new character but didn’t look forward to making my way through the confusing newbie levels.

Luckily Ankama recently announced a “re-do” of the beginning levels, adding not only new tutorial steps but helpful quests, NPCs and revamped areas to help smooth the transition.

Wakfu wasn’t a bad game before, really, but it was a standard sandbox in a lot of ways. One of the worst things that many sandboxes do is confuse “realistic challenge” with “just make the game confusing and perhaps a bit boring.” Yes, it can be argued that a sandbox needs to be somewhat more confusing or “hard” than a standard themepark MMO, but I disagree completely. First of all, the “challenge” of a sandbox — or any other game — should come from its intense gameplay or in-depth systems, not from the fact that its systems are just too wacky to figure out without looking up a guide.

Screenshot (757)Wakfu was just… odd. I like odd, more than most people, but not when it’s at the expense of fun or, well, clarity. Yes, I enjoyed the in-game biomes and weather systems and the way the players could actually destroy the environment, and I enjoyed the unusual lore and combat systems but in the end it just wasn’t much fun.

When doing quests, for example, a player might be given a hint at the beginning of the quest (“the dungeon is over there”) but after that the hint or directions often disappear. Going back to the NPC would fix nothing, and hints were rare. Isn’t it “realistic” to have the ability to ask an NPC “Hey, I have been gone for a week and forgot so can you tell me where that monster was again?” The developers had confused confusion with challenge, using confusion as a tool to create a feeling of being challenged.

So, are the new improvements in Wakfu helping it be more fun? Yes, I would have to say so. As I mentioned before, I do not have as much time as I would like to play MMOs like I used to, but in the short time I have spent in Wakfu on my new character I have enjoyed it a lot more. The new tutorial is long, funny and introduces players into the world of Wakfu without first inundating them with too many bland details. A class isn’t even picked until later in the tutorial, giving players a chance to feel out the rhythm of the turn-based combat without having to pick the class they will play forever. It’s a great move and makes those first levels much more interesting.

Screenshot (761)The ploy seems to have worked, as there are a ton of players in game. Sure, it’s possible they are just congealing around the new newbie area, but it’s nice to see. The cash-shop has introduced helpful NPC groupmates that can be bought or even “tried out” for a limited time, and the game even features mounts now! WEE! No, seriously… WWWEEEE!!

It’s good to see Ankama taking the newbie stages seriously. I imagine that the game previously lost a lot of players in those precious new stages, simply because the game was more confusing than it was fun. Now the entire newbie process seems to be smoothed out, having something to do with its recent Steam promotion (I’ll bet!) Either way, the game is finally shining as it always should have.

Now, what will it be like in higher levels? I’ll do a write-up once this character gets up there. I’m enjoying it so much that I will probably just keep playing this one.

Beau

Top 10 things to do while waiting for @ArcheAge ‘s queue

1) Crochet a Death Star.

2) Watch an episode of Face Off on SyFy. No, seriously. I watched one. Sasha won. Oh, hush, I didn’t tell you which episode. The fact is that as I write this (after the episode of Face Off) the queue is still saying it’s “less than an hour.” I should have watched something else as well.

3) Bake some bread. Hell, if you don’t know how to bake bread, you could learn. You have time.

4) Meditate. You’ll need the calm inner-reserve to get past the fact that you are never going to play this game.

5) Learn to blacksmith. You think the energy mechanic is bad in ArcheAge? HA! Try making a sword in REAL life. The game should make your character sit there for days while he or she whines about being sore after they craft!

6) Read up on the lore of the game. No smart-assed comment here. I mean, you could read the lore. It’s good stuff.

7) Play something else. I could name 100 different titles that you could play on your tablet or in your browser, but we all know you’re just going to stare at that queue all night.

8) Watch Spytle stream some Destiny as there is no chance in hell you are buying that game for yourself I mean it’s not even an MMO and who buys games for 60 bucks anymore I mean…

9) Troll the forums. You know it makes you feel good, that moment when you find a thread that is filled with the same horrific, anger-filled vitriol that you want to scream at the developers but don’t have the guts to because you realize that MMO launches are hard, and servers can be overwhelmed quite easily and that the developers did not, in fact, create the queue to hurt you personally so then you just decide to try again early tomorrow.

10) Go to bed. The queue will be there when you get up.

 

Beau