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

Explaining my strange love for Habbo Hotel — @Habbo

Screenshot (743)When I use the words Habbo Hotel, people picture a few things. OK, some of them would picture nothing at all because they have no idea what Habbo Hotel is, but for many gamers the words would bring up images of that strange, online, social, massively-multiplayer game thing that — if they could remember correctly — is for children.

Strangely enough, when I think of the game (and yes, it is an MMORPG, a browser-based social MMO that is generally thought of as a game for kids) I think of a massive building that floats in space. It’s filled with possibly trillions of people, all who work, socialize and live in tiny individual rooms and experiences. I have no idea if this is even the “lore” of the game, but when I see some of the art of the building I cannot help but imagining this is how it goes. I joked with my wife the other day that Habbo Hotel is where Tiny Tower people live.

I think I am in love with social-space MMOs because they feed into my natural tendency to suffer from nostalgia. I feel that funny feeling of the familiar so much that I even joked I must have a real-life nostalgia disease, one that effects particular areas of the brain and causes me to suffer from a love of tiny spaces, holidays and certain smells like pine and chimney smoke.

Just look at the little food.

Just look at the little food.

 

 

 

 

 

 

These social MMOs represent millions of memories and interactions, more than an MMO that is based in action like World of Warcraft or PlanetSide 2. To me, playing or even “living” inside a social MMO is like walking through hundreds or thousands of player’s memories, experiences and movements. A social MMO is a collection of dreams, albeit sometimes goofy dreams or the selfish thoughts of a younger person.

Habbo Hotel allows for beautiful interactions with other players. Yes, the game has had its controversies stemming from a mixing of many different age groups (imagine a giant chat room. Now, imagine one that attracts younger players and offers avatars that can interact with each other) but overall it appears that the worst is in the past. The developers seem to push much tighter restrictions on age limits and enforce ban policies that appear to be doing a good job. When I find something that seems a little off in game, I report it. I have literally watched as an offending player has disappeared in mid-creepy-sentence, either due to an invisible judgment or loss of internet service.

A house in the woods.

A house in the woods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I mentioned, my nostalgia affliction causes me to love — how do I put this without sounding like a weirdo — cute or tiny things, things like miniatures or toy-like creations. A miniature, working robot or tiny house with minuscule lights puts me in a dreamy state. Let’s just say this: when I was a child I created a three-inch Christmas tree for the bugs that lived under our porch. I placed it under there one chilly night. Strange, yes, but the truth all the same.

Habbo Hotel is built entirely of these tiny encounters, these little bits of working squares. My character can walk around with a tiny, steaming cup of coffee and can open his little window onto a dark city view at night. It’s brilliant stuff, but it might only make sense to the very young or to those who suffer from my same strange disease.

I love the little notes on the board.

I love the little notes on the board.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I suggest you try the game if you enjoy social MMOs, but the truth is that I do very little socializing. I admit to feeling a bit creepy at being a 40-year-old who might accidentally invade a discussion on the latest pop music, so I tend to explore, do quests and work on my own spaces. It’s strangely fun.

See you in there.

Beau

 

 

Is MMO exploration still a thing?

As many of you did, I jumped into the ArchAge beta this weekend with the hopes of exploring a virtual, magical world. As cheesy as that sounds, that is exactly what drew me to MMOs 15 years ago, and it is still what draws me to them now. Of course, the chatter about ArchAge being one massive sandbox didn’t help my expectations! The fact is that many of the people who moan about the lack of “real” sandbox gameplay in MMOs are the same people who rarely explore MMOs that are outside of their comfort zone (like MUDs or browser-based games.)

Once I got in the game, I was impressed with how it looked. It’s a pretty game, although to be honest I have always preferred stylized games (like The Chronicles of Spellborn, Wakfu or WildStar) over realistic looking ones. I am not a fan of the game’s character models, as well, as they just seem to pretty to feel real. Still, the game looks amazing and it only takes a moment to realize how spoiled we are as gamers, especially when it comes to graphics.

I was immediately spammed with quests, quests that were so basic that all I had to do was run to where the arrow pointed, turn the thing in and run to the next arrow. Ugh, I thought, this might be good for a newbie but for a gamer who has been at it for years. The simple quests made me feel more than a bit let down.

So, I did what any other explorer-type might do and ran off into the hills. Sure, I was still hit by certain kinds of content walls (leveled monsters, paths, etc) but overall I was able to get sufficiently lost within no time.

But is this the exploration that I remember? Is running off into the wilderness getting lost or is it just pausing the inevitable need to go back and do old quests or else be stuck with no abilities to move forward?

I think these feelings are due more to my years as a gamer. For me, exploration is no longer that much fun unless I am with other people. These days, people seem to follow the exact same path: grind, level, loot, grind… I have nothing in common with those players anymore, if I ever did. And, frankly, most of the older players who might feel the way I do have found a home game and spend time grinding in that one.

Even saying all that, it’s obvious that ArchAge is a fantastic looking game and promises a ton of adventure. I’ll wait until it comes out and will explore it some more. Perhaps I can really become lost next time?

Beau

 

Almost giving up on Google + ‘s Photos

I think I give up on being able to edit/arrange/title large batches of folders using Google + photos. The problem is that if you have more than, well, like 80 in a folder and need to arrange it… you can DRAG AND DROP batches or individual pics to arrange. The problem is that if you have a lot of pics in a folder, dragging arrangements can be painstakingly LONG.

Also, you cannot name pics in Photos. So, arranging by name — I guess — arranges by the name of the photo when it was uploaded? I have no idea.

So, download Picasa and arrange that way but — of course — downloading a folder from G+ Photos means that I do not download half of what was in my folder. As a point of example, my art folder has 977 photos in it. I use Picasa to download the folder so that I can arrange it easier and it only downloads half of the pics.

Why is Photos so limited for those of us who have more than a handful of pics? I’m tempted to go back to Flickr. At least their tools make everything easy to work with… you can rename, rearrange, and they have a desktop tool that works. Just sucks because I love Google’s products.

Steam Black Friday sales lead me to glorious gaming

I was NOT a fan of Steam for the longest time. At all. I hated how you had to run the damned thing just to play a game, it felt intrusive and silly. Now, however, I see how handy Steam is but more importantly I can see how handy it is for independent gaming. It’s done so much for indies, from allowing devs to get a game on one of the largest distribution centers in the world to letting us, the players, get a hold of some truly unique gaming that we might have missed before.

I will save much of this discussion for Gamer Hangout, but I nabbed a few titles.

I only spent about 50 dollars and have yet to even try them all out.

I got Spacehulk, something I have wanted to try forever. So far it looks great but I’ve barely touched it.

I also grabbed Bioshock Infinite. So far it plays like the original — a good thing — but I want to play more before I pass judgment.

I bought Gone Home, a great (but short) indie game that Leala has wanted forever. I won’t give away spoilers, but it’s fun to see indie devs make a game that is so simple and to the point.

I also paid for Redshirt, an indie game that is basically like a trip into the world of sci-fi Facebook (“Spacebook” it’s called in game) users. It’s cute but, as Leala pointed out, would make a much better mobile game.

I also grabbed Shelter, a weird indie about controlling a badger mother and kids as they simply try to survive. Who knows how this one will play out?

So, did you get anything good?

I love Steam sales. My Steam wishlist does too.

 

Beau