Coming back to Norrath (maybe?)

I never got to play Everquest when it was current. I can’t remember when I put my feet in Norrath for the first time, but EQ was already free to play by then.
Since then, I’ve been trying to come back several times. I have a handful of low-level chars on different Live servers, and I’ve even created a couple of them on TLP servers when they’ve launched.
But as much as the “Old School charm” calls to me, I abandon it not much later. Especially in the TLP servers, where grouping is mandatory almost full time. Most days I can’t group the old way: go to the tunnel, start  spamming chat, try to find some ports, go to the camp… Before I can start killing mobs I’m already on my bed.

This periodical self-induced nostalgia has come back this week again. At first, I should come back to live, where I can use mercenaries to overcome the need of grouping, but… What if I would go to Norrath, but in its second incarnation?
Long story short, I’ve downloaded Everquest 2 and created a couple of characters.
Mmmmmmh. Or maybe… maybe I should come back to a TLP server on the original EQ. I’ll take it easy, slowly leveling, exploring… Maybe I can roll a second account on the laptop to duo?

I can’t understand why I would do this to myself. We are talking about a secondary game. I mean, I’ll keep playing Eve online, I’m fishing for a second game for these days where I don’t feel like killing internet spaceships. An on top of that, I’m feeling nostalgic about games that weren’t part of my “young days”.

And thinking about that is how I ended reinstalling Star Wars Galaxies. At least this is a game I actually played when it was current; post NGE but current. I remember leveling my smuggler on live when the news about closing the game came out. Ok, then: definitely, I joined Legends, a “post NGE” emulator, macro-leveled an entertainer and started leveling my commando.

It’s only that… although I’m not an uber WOW fan… you know… tomorrow we get a new expansion… I know, I know. If I join, I’m going to just level 110-120, do a couple of times each dungeon and got bored but… It’s current content.
Aaaaaaand basically this is what happens to me periodically, about 3-4 times a year. I spend 1 or 2 weeks downloading, installing and uninstalling a few games before settling on “the one”.

Different mindset for different games

I’ve read a lot of times about how different MMOs are for different people, and I agree, but what I am thinking lately is that we adapt our mindset to different games, as well.

Probably every player has found that some days they want to play challenging content, try to push harder… and sometimes they only want to log in and take some relaxed quests, or gather some materials, or just be there chatting. Now taking it even a step further I find myself thinking or feeling really different when comparable things happen on different games.

Something that bores me to death in most games, and makes me park them is endless grinding. I enjoy leveling and advancing the MSQ in Final Fantasy XIV but as soon as I get to the end of the patch and I have to repeat each and every day the same content just to get some “Allagan Tomes of whatever” I get bored, start logging in once a week and… then not again until the next expansion is coming. It’s the same feeling that I have with other games (WoW, Rift, Archeage…).


Then, you see me entering into Wurm, and I would spend hours after hours doing the exact same thing. Using the same skill over and over during a whole weekend, mining the same tile just so I get a bigger number on my mining skill that would help me… grind again the next week to get a bigger number on Armorsmith. And it goes on and on, but I keep playing this game.

Similarly, I love EVE online. I love the thrill of never being 100% safe. If I am just doing some anomalies, trying to get money and some hostile jumps into the system and interrupts my grind, it feels good. It forces me to be ready or die. I will have to reship into a PVP ship to fight back or wait until (s)he gets bored and moves away. Sometimes is the other way around. I am the one hunting, trying to punish people who become AFK without docking, or has too many alters at the same time and cannot save them all.

Now, What if the same thing happened in a different game? What if I were on FFXIV mining or fishing and some random player jumped on me and ganked me? And on top of that, they would destroy all my gear and stole my inventory? No way I would play with that conditions!!
Same conditions, same punishment, same mechanics… but different games. The thing I enjoy in one setting I would never accept in the other.

I wonder why. I assume it has something to do with all the other game mechanics; how it fits with everything else. For instance, in EVE, once you’ve gotten the basics, you are able to avoid combat in almost all situations. You’re not going to win all battles (actually, you are going to lose almost everytime at first), but you can run. And if (when) you get caught, you can identify what you did wrong and become better. Of course, there are some tricky situations, but identifying them and deciding if you want to put yourself into them or not is part of the game, and part of the “avoiding” mechanics.

But is not only avoiding. You can fight back. In other games, as a low-level player, you can’t even scratch high-level players. But EVE is a different kind of beast. As a new player, you can focus all your training on small ships (frigates and their T2 variants) and be a pain in the ass for the big ships. You can speed tank them, tackle them, bump them, ECM them, relay info about them to your allies…

Another point where I feel different depending on the game is inventory management (the truly central theme of all this Blaugust 😉 ). Both in Wurm Online and EVE, I lost everything I was carrying when I die. In Wurm, I can come back to the corpse and loot it. EVE server would randomly destroy a part of it and let anyone loot the rest. On top of that, both games track where I leave things. There is not a single central “magical” bank where I can deposit something, cross the whole map and recover it on the other side. If I want something moved, I have to move it myself or ask somebody to do it (and usually pay for it, of course).
If you had to remember where you’ve deposited each item on games like WoW, FFXIV… the forums will be full of ranting posts, Steam rates would be trash, Reddit would be burning in memes… I wouldn’t want it either.

There are games when this kind of mechanics add to the game, and there are others where not. If you could safely move any kind of item around EVE, local markets would not make sense, so EVE economy would be radically different (worse, in my opinion). Without risk, PVP would be radically different; it would be like any MOBA, or arenas on other MMOs where you get some points,  ranking, and everything is reset again for the next match. But, the other way around, if I am not risking anything, don’t bother me with bank management, it doesn’t add anything.

In the end, I have different preferences over the same mechanics in different games. It’s not a matter of which option is better or which one goes with a better game, but which one fits on each game. All the games I’ve used for the examples are good games for me, and I would not change the way that mechanics are implemented on each one.

Introducing my new “guild”

Today I want to introduce you to the guild I joined in this old-school game called blogging. A lot of times I’ve thought about coming back to the game, but for a solo player is really hard. Newbie areas tend to be empty and the most fun areas are all designed for groups.

But a couple of weeks ago, while I was driving back home, listening to the MO podcast, Syp introduced a guy named Belghast that happened to be a guild master inviting people to join his guild: Blaugust Reborn. Take a look at the roster.

Now, after a few days lurking around, I decided to ask for an invite and almost instantly became a new member, hoping that they weren’t a bunch of bittervets. You would not believe the amount of nice people I found there! And they have a lot of services for all the members. Nothing of this “Officers only” thing.

  • Do you need something from the “Guild blog-inspiration Bank”? Sure, take it.
  • Need help with game mechanics? Ask in chat.
  • As soon as you get a new Achievement (or a post as we call them in this game), guildmates will teleport around your area and cheer you up. How cool is that?
  • What if you don’t know what gear is best for you? Don’t worry, there is a group of veterans ready to help you choose.

There is this idea floating around of getting a quest every day for a month, but everybody understands that life comes first and some people will play hardcore and others more casually. It doesn’t matter, everybody is welcome here.

We usually hang out in our Guild Hall (named Discord) or somewhere around “The Bird Tabern“, also called Twitter.

The perfect game

I want to talk about some features that I’m attracted to in MMOs. It doesn’t mean that they are 100% necessary for me to enjoy a game, in fact, some of them may exclude others, but if a game has some of this characteristics I would probably turn my attention towards it.

Probably, there is not a single game that gets them all, and it will never be. Actually, I’m pretty sure that if a game tried to grab all my “amazing features” at the same time it would become some kind of Frankenstein monster that nobody (even me) would want to play.

Now, what would make this amazing terrible Frankenstein game need?

Skill progression

This can actually mean two different things, and I am ok with both.

It can be skills instead of levels, as EVE or Wurm Online do, where your character is always evolving, but there is not a single number defining your power. Your character may be the best in one aspect of the game, but terrible in another, but you aren’t more or less powerful in absolute terms just because of that.

A small part of the EVE skill tree

Another view could be skills and levels. Everquest, for instance, has this system where you will get levels as you accumulate XP, but your skills will improve when you use them. So, if somebody helps you power-leveling a tank, you will end at max level, but with 0 (or close by) blocking or parrying skills. Or, in other words, you will not be a tank at all.

This accent on skills can become grindly depending on how long does it takes to level them, and has the risk of you becoming a kind of Jack of all trades, but master of none if you are not planning thing beforehand. But at the same time

Catch up systems

I’m thinking about two different things, again. The first is the one you can see in a lot of veteran games. It’s basically a way to level faster at least up to some point close enough to be able to play with veterans. I personally don’t like the “Max level instantly”, at least for the first character, but being able to level with just the main story, or avoiding the grind for old reputations helps a lot if you are arriving “late” to the game.

There is a variation that also looks cool. It’s the level-syncing (think ESO). It looks great on paper, but if you get into the game alone, it can be tricky to find groups at first.

The second one is more controversial. I’m talking about short term caching. Some system that guarantees that a player who has lees free time to play don’t fall too far behind the most hardcore ones. It’s actually dependent of the type of game. I mean, for the usual theme park I don’t mind at all leveling slower than other more dedicated people. If they are puting the effort, they deserve to get there first.

But thinking of a game like Eve, if I hadn’t be able to level my skills offline, I would probably abandoned the game after a week. There are some games where leveling the table is important. Of course, somebody that is playing  hours a day, 7 days a week would have more money or learn more about PvP than me, playing more casually and I am absolutely OK with that.

Deep crafting system

Maybe deep is not the right word, but it has to be something more than collect materials -> click button -> receive the item.

My favorite (of those that I’ve known) was Star Wars Galaxies. You had some generic requirements like: “200 units of metal” and you could use any metal you had. But each kind of metal had different properties like weight, strength… that affected to the stats of the crafted item. On top of that, you could try to improve the result with some research points (I don’t remember the exact name). So, in the end, crafting the same item would yield a lot of different results. A bit tankier, a bit quicker… Amazing.

Meaningful player impact

I came to MMOs coming from RPGs. I want to shape the world. It can be in subtle ways, it may need the cooperation of a lot of players, it can (probably should) have limitations, but it has to be something.

EVE, or Wurm are again great examples of what you can do. In EVE you have the high sec areas where players are (up to some point) limited in how they can change the universe. Sure, you can go and kill somebody, or deploy a citadel, but the 4 NPC factions control and shape that areas and that’s all. But as soon as you move to low sec, J-space or null sec, there is a ton of things players can influence. In low sec (parts of it, at least) you can help one of the 4 main factions gain control of a solar system. In null, they simply don’t exist. There are some NPC pirate areas and thousands of systems directly ruled by player alliances. The map changes daily. Empires fall and rise…

Wurm is actualy quite different. There are some PvP servers that actually are similar to null sec Eve, but most people play on PvE servers. There are vast areas of land that you can terraform, mine, buid, develop…

Wurm online terraforming and building.

Yoou can pay and get a deed anywhere you want, except overlaping to other deeds, that (on PvE servers) would stop other people to modify. You can even drop massive amounts of dirt or sand over the water and create a new island.


There are a few more cool things like a complex player driven economy or incentives to cooperate but, in the end, I’ve found they are more subtle, harder to find unless you really try the game and stay for a while.

And maybe that’s the key. You can think a lot about what kind of game would truly be your “perfect” game but, in the end, you try a game and you enjoy it or not. With its virtues, its flaws, its community; thanks to them or despite them.

Issues I have with (some) expansions

This is my second post during BlaugustReborn.

Today I want to talk about Expansions (DLC’s, seasons… you name it). More specifically about some issues I have with expansions.

  1. Poorly named expansions. I’ve played (on and off) EVE for 11 years now, and I barely can connect one expansion with their content. There have been 16 expansions untill now with names as descriptive as “Inferno“, “Castor“, “Trinity“, “Kronos“… Now, with some more “story-driven” MMOs, the thing can work (think Legion for WoW), but EVE is more like… “Take these new mechanics and this balance pass. This is your new expansion”. So I have an approximate idea of when some systems become a part of the game, but don’t ask me the name related to them.
  2. The overwhelming pack. This is obviously a personal thing. Probably people who have played the gamefor a while will know about the expansions and will have their memories but… Think for a second: Everquest has 24 so far. Final Fantasy XI has 11 (including what they call Add-ons). And given that we are talking about old school games, there is not much hand holding there so, if you’ve never played these games, good luck figuring out what or where you’re supposed to be at your level.
  3. But wait, there’s more! You know this really good game, with immersive lore and a good story that, in the end, leads you and your friends to kill that powerful demigod that was going to destroy your world? Well, now the expansion hits, and you know what? That demigod’s mom is not happy about it. So get ready and begin killing bears and picking flowers again, because we need you to save the world again. I understand that some level of epicity is needed, but “end of the world” scenarios every other week gets boring soon.
  4. Should have been at launch. Main two offenders that come to my mind are not strictly MMOs although they “have” an online component. Let’s talk about No Man’s Sky, first. They promised multiplayer (and a few other things). Two years later, they’ve finally managed to deliver. I’m ok with some features coming after launch, and I understand that on launch week servers are not going to be very reliable but they knew that multiplayer was not going to be ready at launch, nor “around lunch”. They simply lied. And my second example is Elite: Dangerous. They launched the game unfinished (planet landings come to my mind, there were more), but they came clear (at first). They warned us that some parts were not going to make it in time, but they will patch in the future. But later they announced “Horizons”, the first expansion, that will include a lot of the missing features… for those who would buy the expansion. What? We’ve already paid for that!
  5. Aaaaand that’s it! I really enjoy Star Trek Online. It has its defects, of course, but the setting, the division of quest in episodic arcs, voice-acting… I love this game. But 6 quest and 1 single queue? You can’t call that “Expansion”. That is a patch. Yes, I know, 2 new races, a few ships… But for people that’s been playing for some time, it’s not much content. On the plus side, it’s free, as all the expansions on STO.

Of course, there is a lot of good parts that I enjoy about expansions, too. They add content to games I like, they usually attract new players… But I will write about it in another (non-ranting) post.

To boldly go…

It’s done. I’ve joined the Blaugust Reborn.

 

 

A bit of background

I used to have a blog. Back in the days before Twitter and Facebook, before having a smartphone online 24/7… I used to post about a lot of different areas: politics, local news, jokes… anything could go. Most of the people visiting were also bloggers, we knew each other and most of the time the comments were clear of trolls and flamewars (but full of friendly jokes and puns).

But at a certain moment, I switched jobs and suddenly I had to take care of what I would express because both coworkers and clients would come to the blog from time to time. This, coupled with an increased rate of trolling and spam led me to write less and less and, eventually, closing the blog.

I still have backups, and I’ve been thinking about resurrecting it from time to time but, in the end, I think it wouldn’t be the same. And if it’s not the same, it may be better to do a different blog.

Now, I decided some time ago that I wanted to come back to writing a blog and the blog would be about games, mainly MMOs. I went to write some introductory post while trying to decide more precisely what kind of blog it would be: Roleplaying with my characters, game guides, … In the end, I’ve decided to let it be more generalistic. It’s a blog about gaming, MMO gaming. Nothing less, nothing more. We’ll see where it goes from here.

And the second big decision was to write it in English. As you probably have noticed by now, I’m not a native English speaker. I am Spanish. I took some English classes at Highschool but basically, I am a self-learner (web, TV, games…), so I have big gaps in my knowledge of the language.

But traveling around Europe made me realize that even with those gaps, my English is good enough to have a casual conversation. I might struggle to find the words or to structure a sentence properly but in the end, people understand what I’m trying to say. And that made me a bit braver, so I started joining guilds (corps, fellowships…) where English was the language to use. And now, I am to boldly go where I’ve never been before and start blogging in English. For the learning experience and for the challenge.

So, let me apologize for mistreating the English language, I’m trying to do it the best I can. I will gladly accept any correction you may want to do in the comments. Actually, I accept (and want to read) any kind of comment except insults (no matter if against me or against any other person/group) or spam.

Probably I won’t be able to keep the rhythm of one post a day during the whole month, and I’m sure that, even if I manage to do that, coming September I will slow down. But I think that the whole Blaugust idea will help with motivation, and reading a lot of other people doing the same will help me get ideas, too. I currently only have a couple of drafts, which is a bit scary given the full month is ahead but… The higher the risk, the higher the reward!

 

What or Who is Magen?

When I was around 15 years old, a friend of mine and me started writing a text-based game. Think something in the line of old Sierra text-games, but a lot more amateurish, of course. It was set on a fantasy medieval world, with two main kingdoms (it reeeeeeeally sounds original, eh?). One of that kingdoms was called Magen and most of the early game (we never got to complete the project) happened there.

We got the name from the color magenta, that we used for the title screen and during the game to show vitals. We didn’t manage to go far with the game, but I liked the name and began using it for characters in a bunch of single-player games.

Years later, when I was starting with EVE Online, I decided to create a second character (that became my main till today). It would be joining a PVP corporation and I would play it basically as a soldier, so I named him “Magen Sisen”. The last name was short for “Sí, Señor”, spanish for “Yes, Sir” pointing to this soldier orientation.

 

Since then, I’ve had a character named Magen Sisen (or some variation) on almost any MMO I’ve tried.

 

So… Magen is a location, a character name, a memory of an old friend, a nick and now a blog. Not bad for just five letters 🙂

Seems like yesterday…

…but actually was about 11 years ago when I had my first contact with an MMO.

Some day around June 2007 I started a free trial on WoW and a few days later did the same on EVE Online. It would be difficult to find two more different beasts, and I kind of enjoyed both for different reasons.

Once the trials ended, it was the time to make a decision. At the time buying and paying a subscription to two games at the same time would have been stretching the wallet too much. Given that I barely knew what I was doing or what I was supposed to do I decided to start with WoW, that was fully translated to Spanish, and had spanish servers, avoiding the language barrier.

It didn’t took long after I went back to Eve Online. The oldest character that I still use (as an alter) was created in August 2007.

During all this time I’ve played a lot of different MMOs and of course, a lot of different games from a bunch of different styles, mainly RPGs and simulators. But, somehow, I tend to come back to my roots (EVE, mostly). I’ve played (and enjoyed) big groups, small groups, sometimes solo… But even playing solo, an MMO has something that no single-player game has.