Early this month I went to Atlanta to do some in-person work with my team. Since I’m remote, I hardly ever get to see my coworkers. After a day of group work, we headed to a place called Revery. It’s a Virtual Reality bar in Atlanta. I know VR’s been a thing for a while, but I hadn’t tried it yet. Being a lifelong fan of VR-based fiction (hello, Holodeck!) it seemed too primitive to warrant dropping $400+ on a device.
The VR bar turned out to be the perfect place to check it out. The floor was a bit sticky, but the delicious (and reasonably priced) cocktail I had made up for it. I’d recommend not drinking too much if you’re there to play. This activity requires quite a bit of moving around!
We tried out several games, many recommended by the staff. My favorite was probably Fruit Ninja–I used to play that game obsessively on my phone. I could see myself getting really into that one in VR. There are a ton of games to choose from, although selecting one or another was a bit tricky. The staff was always around to help so we got the most of our game time.
The bathroom had some cool lighting, so I took a bathroom mirror selfie: something I hadn’t done in a while!
If you ever make it out to Atlanta, and you want to give VR a try, I recommend checking it out. More cities might have VR bars, too. It’s a great way to try without having to buy your own device.
Cover Image: Another game we played, Beat Saber, which is like Guitar Hero with light sabers in VR. Image via Dual Shockers.
I tried Albion Online. I picked it from my list of MMOs to try first because I was traveling and it would run on my MacBook Pro.
ProTip: Don’t play a game where you do a ton of clicking on a laptop without a mouse.
I think I have about 30 minutes of game time in, and that’s enough to know this game’s not for me. Here’s why:
While I like the graphic style, everything looks kind of the same. I’d tolerate this for a quirky indie game, but in an MMO I need more variety. This also means the character creator is boring.
If I wanted to play a game where I just clicked a bunch, I’d play Diablo III.
I got lost in the tutorial area.
Yup. I really wanted to at least get to the real game before deciding this wasn’t for me, but that’s not going to happen if I get lost before I can even get there. You start off the game, like most MMOs, in the character creator. Playing as a woman, you get to pick from various skin colors, hair colors, and faces. All of the faces look about the same, like Lego faces but with less detail. Then you pick your underwear, from a potato sack style garment to extra-revealing. I went with the potato sack.
You get in the game and you get quests where you go out and gather materials for new things. You don’t pick a class, but eventually you can pick a skill from a choice of two. Oh, goody. Eventually you get a mule. It’s definitely the fastest I’ve ever gotten to ride a mount in an MMO. After a couple more gathering quests, I had to go to some new mountain area. I couldn’t find it.
Sometimes getting lost is good, if you find interesting things, but I just found this tower full of identical mage-types that were easy to kill. I did not find anything that made me sit up a little straighter or want to play more. And so, I logged off for good.
Cover image from Albion Online. I always go for the quaint medieval village concept art.
I love MMOs. I consider MMOs a hobby. I’m not playing any MMOs right now. Last year I played some WOW and tried out the LOTRO legendary server, but neither stuck. Once in a while I’ll get into Secret World Legends for a bit, but does it really count as an MMO if I never see another player? Here’s why I’m not playing any MMOs, even though I love them.
I’d be starting from behind
ESO looks like a cool game. I know a lot of people who play it. But I feel like I’d be starting from so far behind and have to drop so much money on expansions and content to ever catch up. See also Guild Wars 2.
You log in and see people with amazing costumes and mounts and weapons and think it’s going to take me months and months of playing to even get halfway there. I feel tired just thinking about it.
It wasn’t quite what I wanted
Two games come to mind when I think of MMOs that were almost there but not quite: Wildstar and World’s Adrift. Both of those games start with W. Both of those games no longer exist. (Okay, technically World’s Adrift hasn’t shutdown yet, but it will soon. Don’t @ me.)
Wildstar promised bright graphics, fun raids, and not to take itself too seriously. Then it went too far. The graphics were too cartoonish. I could’ve lived with that. The raids were too serious. I think that’s all that needs to be said. I wanted to like the game so badly. I’d leave and come back and feel the same disappointment all over again.
I was very excited about World’s Adrift when I first hear about it, until I got to the part about the perma-pvp. I like PVP, but I don’t want to be forced to PVP. As a casual player, I can’t play something where the hardcores can just come and kill me. It’s not fun. By the time World’s Adrift announced a PVE server, I’d already as much as dismissed the game. And it hadn’t even launched yet.
It’s not out yet
Honestly, the only MMO that’s really on my radar right now that’s not out yet is Fractured. It looks like they’re trying to have a decent PVP and PVE balance.
I even kickstarted the thing, after I said I wasn’t kickstarting video games anymore unless they’re from Red Thread Games. (Ikenfell, will I ever get to play you?)
I am keeping an eye on Crowfall, but it’s not looking casual-friendly enough for me.
I’m just sick of it
And finally we get to WoW. After playing for about a month it started to feel like a chore again, likely due to their lackluster latest expansion. The Vanilla server doesn’t appeal either–I’ve already done all that stuff.
Pokemon Go was my only MMO-like game for a long time until they added so many features it became a chore and wasn’t fun anymore. Wizards Unite just launched and is already bloated, so I’m passing on that one.
I’ve thought about making an effort to try some lesser-known MMOs, but I’m not sure where to start. I think many of them have the same PVP issues as World’s Adrift. The games would have to be, at least, free-to-try so I can see if they float my boat before I invest my hard-earned cash. (Or on Steam so I can get a refund, like I did with Project Gorgon.)
But for now, I think I’ll continue playing vicariously through the Massively OP Podcast, which I’ve been listening to in some iteration for over five years now.
Anthem. It’s coming soon, people are talking about it, there was a demo, and yet I wish it didn’t exist. Let me explain why.
I primarily play four types of video games: adventure games, RPGs, strategy games, and MMOs. Let’s put aside strategy games and MMOs for a second and focus on story. For me, both RPGs and adventure games are all about the story. The story is my reward. In adventure games it’s more obvious: solve some puzzles, unlock more stories. When I play RPGs, what hits my reward center in the brain is the same: more story. Kill some baddies, do some quests, unlock more story.
Loot and gear doesn’t interest me aside from that it allows me to complete more content and get more of the story. If I could play the entire game with the same armor and weapons I’d be fine with that. Gaining new skills is fun, but also not my primary motivation.
It should be no surprise that I loved Dragon Age: Origins. It was completely story-driven and everything I did unlocked more pieces of the story. I knew next to nothing going into the game; I’d only heard from others that it was good. I called in sick the next day because I had to keep playing. I’d become attached to the characters and I needed to know what would happen next. Someone told me I’d probably also like Mass Effect 2, so I played that. When I finished, I wanted to play the first one to play the story I’d missed. The first one wasn’t as good: the combat was clunkier, but the story was still there so I didn’t mind. I was just killing baddies to get more story. The one part I hated was driving the mako around desolate planets looking for stuff.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy exploration. I particularly dig it in MMOs. What I hate is being unable to find something specific, which is exacerbated by trying to maneuver a vehicle with difficult controls.
People gave Dragon Age II a hard time, but I loved it. Yeah, the combat zones were all repeated, but who cares? The combat isn’t the point of the game! And the story was good and not your typical fantasy RPG story. Plus Hawke is the best player character since April Ryan. I didn’t love the Mass Effect 3 ending, but it didn’t bother me as much as most people. I still loved those games.
Then Inquisition came out. Before Inquisition there was Skyrim. It was very popular and featured an “open world.” I played it. It took me a while to get into it. I hadn’t played a non-Bioware modern RPG. I found the NPCs incredibly boring and my quest log just filled up with so many quests and I didn’t know what to do. I’d about given up on it when I read somewhere about certain quest lines that were interesting, and after a lot of mods, I finally got into it. When I heard Inquisition was going to be more open-world I was very disappointed. I didn’t want Bioware following trends and trying to make their next game more like Skyrim. I just wanted another Dragon Age game.
The intro started off well enough. We had some returning characters and intriguing new ones. Then we were dumped in this Hinterlands place—and it was an open world and we had 101 things to do there. I didn’t want to do these things. They were boring. I don’t like side quests. They distract from the main story. (Unless it’s Skyrim and the main story is boring and the side quests are more fun, but I’d prefer a brilliant main story and a handful of side quests that tie in to the plot—which I thought Mass Effect 2 did the best.) I found out I just had to do enough to get out of there and unlock more main quest, but I kept getting lost. My objective would be just beyond that mountain that I couldn’t climb over! I’d run around in circles and just get mad at the game. I’d still say I loved Inquisition—there was enough story and character development to make up for all the frustration of not being able to find silly side quest objectives.
But then we got Mass Effect: Andromeda. Which seemed like Inquisition, in space. And the mako came back. My least favorite thing in the entire original Mass Effect trilogy was a big part of the new game. I have 4 hours into my trial on Origin and I keep thinking maybe I’ll come back, but my play time is limited.
All I want is for Bioware to make the kind of game they’re good at. No trend chasing. I don’t love open-world RPGs and I like playing Bioware games alone. By myself. Aren’t video games supposed to be an introverted hobby? I like MMOs because they’re a mix of playing solo and being social. I like RPGs because you can play by yourself. I’m not a trend chaser. I’m not interested in MOBAs or battle royale, and Don’t Starve is the only survival game I’ve ever loved.
This is a very long explanation of why I’m not interested in Anthem to the point of being disgruntled about its existence. While I know there is a story, from what I’ve read, it’s not _about_ the story. Gear collection and customization seems to be a primary goal, which as I’ve said, does not interest me. After the game releases, if the reaction is positive, I might watch some Let’s Play videos and decide if it’s something I want to spend money on, but I’m not feeling optimistic. The flight suits are a turn-off for me: if I’m going to be playing a game that involves just running around fighting things, I don’t want to have to navigate a 3D space. I’m a bad enough navigator in real life. My biggest hope for Anthem is that it flops and Bioware can go back to making Bioware games. It seems more likely that it will flop and Bioware will fold into EA’s all-encompassing bosom. Even more likely that it will succeed and Dragon Age 4 will be an open world RPG focused on multiplayer and crafting where you fly around on a dragon.
I want _story_. I think video games are the best way we have to tell a story. Better than TV, film, and even books. Because they’re the most immersive, they have the biggest impact. I was thinking recently about the huge emotional impact I felt after playing Life is Strange. I wondered if my feelings would have been as strong if I’d read it as a book. Probably not. A major part of the impact comes from actually being a participant in the story.
Bioware was a major studio actually leveraging the amazing storytelling power of video games. Now their next major game gives story a backseat. Where do we go from here?
Cover image is from Dragon Age: Inquisition. Still a good game, despite all the boring bits.
On Alliance side, my fiancé and I decided to visit Stormsong Valley, because of how pretty it looked from the preview. It starts off interesting enough—you have to figure out why the fleet is missing. You get to a monastery and everyone is a jerk and doesn’t want to talk to you.
It felt like we played that for a while and suddenly we were helping bee keepers with their evil globs of honey. A tad cool on it’s own, but really disjointed and unrelated to why the fleet’s gone. Because I’m not really invested in these evil honey globs, my motivation dies as we kill each one.
On my own I decided to play my Horde character. Sneaking into Stormwind was more exciting than breaking out of prison, and don’t get me started on how cool Princess Talanji is. Daza’alor is much more navigable Boralus. It feels like it was actually planned, instead of things haphazardly built up on top of each other. It’s all angles. Plus, you get the royal treatment.
Soon I was faced with the question of where to go quest. The answer turned out to be easy: Talanji was going to Nazmir, so I would go to Nazmir, too. I had no idea the place was going to have a Temple of Doom vibe which is like catnip for me. You’ve got these Blood Trolls who are worshiping this mysterious G’huun character. They’re creepy Trolls with paper white skin and red markings that might be gashes.
The Blood Trolls are out and about doing what looks like draining blood from victims to make blood orbs. If you play WoW with your kids, I don’t recommend this zone. Although I was pretty young when I saw Temple of Doom of the first time.
Talanji realizes things are dire and we need to get the Loa to help, so they’re around, too. I always found them particularly fascinating. I’ve met two so far and both of those quest lines have been completely engrossing.
I don’t think I’ve ever been this into the quests in WoW. I want to stop writing now and play for the rest of my lunch break. I want to find the rest of the Loa and figure out who G’huun is! (My guess is he’s an Old God. We’ll see.)
The concept art for Nazmir is well done, but it’s not a zone I’d describe as pretty. Cover image via Blizzard Entertainment.
Yesterday I talked about motivations for blogging, today I’m talking about motivations for gaming. I’ve taken the Bartle test (I’m an Explorer) and the Quantic Foundry Motivation Profile (I’m Calm, Spontaneous, Relaxed, Deeply Immersed, and Creative!). Given my results and my own experiences, I’ve come up with a list of my own motivations for gaming.
When I’m playing video games I like to be surprised. One of my favorite gaming moments was playing Don’t Starve. If you’re not familiar, it’s a survival game with stylized graphics and a creepy atmosphere. I didn’t expect it to be my cup of tea, but a friend raved about it and it was on sale for five dollars. I hadn’t gotten very far and was exploring when I came across a chest. I opened it and it suddenly became winter, but inside was a bunch of treasures to help me survive the season. Woah! My reaction was “Holy crap, what is happening?”
Exploration for exploration’s sake doesn’t do it for me. I need a reason to explore. In Don’t Starve, if you don’t explore and collect things you need, you’ll die. The reason might be that you’re trapped in a giant virtual maze and need to find the way out. Or perhaps you’re looking for clues to solve a mystery.
I love a good story. I like reading them, hearing them, writing them, but most of all playing them. Here’s another gaming moment. I was playing Dragon Age: Origins for the first time. I didn’t know what to expect from the game, but I met the character Alistair and he was sarcastic and funny. I thought to myself, “This character is awesome! I hope he sticks around for a while!” You know what ruins a good story in a video game? Bioware clearly forgot: Pointless. Side. Quests.
I have yet to find a game that successfully blends story and exploration. The closest I can think of us Skyrim, but I had to force myself out of a “I have this list of quests and I must go do them” mindset to enjoy that game. Firewatch comes to mind. I remember moments where I felt like I was exploring, but the game was linear. Myst perhaps; but I don’t remember the story of Myst. I remember the puzzles. I used to want this: a game where you explored and it told a story. I’ve begun to think that every game that tries this fails. I’d rather have one or the other.
The Sims 3 is my favorite Sims. I like the creation part of the Sims games: outfits, houses, public places, etc. The Sims 3 let you be meticulous about design elements with the create-a-style tool. It broke my heart when it wasn’t in The Sims 4. (I’ve still been playing 4 because the graphics are so pretty.) I haven’t really found another game that scratches my creative itch.
This is where the programmer in me comes out: I like to solve puzzles. I like to figure out the best way to win. I’m not into making spreadsheets to determine the best stats for my WoW character. I prefer trial and error: If I do this, will I get more points? What does this weapon do and is it effective for my play style? My favorite way to find out is to try it.
What motivates you to play video games?
Strategy is why I’ve been playing Civ 6, but if you want to know why I often quit halfway through the game and start over, look back to Exploration. Cover image from the very beginning of one of my games. What’s out there?
I think I may have just ended my Civ 6 addiction. As in, just now. I was playing away and thought I’d switch governments. I thought we could handle 3 days of anarchy. We could not handle three days of anarchy. Now America is ahead. Darn you, Teddy!
My fiancé has gotten more into WoW than me. He’s been leveling up a new character from the beginning during nap time while I’ve been trying to take over the world. We hit 112 on our mains last night.
I decided I want to write some short stories. The trouble is, I’m stuck when it comes to short story ideas. Short stories have constraints that can be both helpful and bang-your-head-against-the-wall inducing. I picked up Damn Good Story because I wanted to improve my writing of short stories in particular, but I couldn’t find a short story-centric book that looked good. I love Chuck Wendig’s blog so I thought I’d give his book a try.
Several months ago I started going to Physical Therapy because of related problems in my neck and left hand. It was keeping me awake and hindering my knitting. My therapist discharged me earlier this week and I can knit again! I’m starting a hat for my mom. I finished the swatch yesterday:
Next I need to cast on but the Long Tail Tubular Cast On is giving me trouble. You have to finish all the stitches in one go and it requires attention. It’s not mistake-friendly at all. I have the hang of the mechanics but mess up the pattern. I’m hoping to get it done before bedtime tonight.