My First MMO? Neopets

I used to say Maple Story was my first MMO, even though it was quickly discarded for World of Warcraft. But before I picked up a staff and collected squishy liquid blobs in Maple Story, I played Neopets. I didn’t think about it as an MMO for a long time, but one day I must’ve had MMOs on the brain and saw something related to Neopets, and it clicked.

How Neopets looked when I used to play frequently!

Neopets was is an MMORPG.

Note: I’m not sure what tense to use here. Neopets still exists and the owning company has made some very small strides to attempt to move the flash-reliant site to something people can still play in modern browsers. But the experience is nowhere near the same as what it used to be. All this said, I’m going to go with “is” since it’s still technically around and parts of it are playable.

In case you’re not familiar, Neopets is a virtual pet website where users take care of digital pets called Neopets, buy and sell digital products with the in-game currency Neopoints which could be earned by playing flash games, and various other activities.

When I started writing this, blog post, I eventually realized I’d written over 1000 words about Neopets (the history, how I played, current drama) and thought it might make sense to attempt to split up my thoughts into multiple posts. But first, I want to continue the argument that Neopets is an MMO. I think it’s not usually categorized this way because you’re not moving a character around in a 3D space. You don’t really create a “character” per-say, instead you create and adopt Neopets and act as their caretaker. I still argue it fits the definition of MMO.

Aishas were my favorite because, come on, they look like cats!

It’s massively multiplayer. According to this undated Neopian Times article, there were, at one point, 60 million accounts. I have no idea if these were all active, or even what the peak active players was for the game. I remember active forums, guilds, and a steadily flowing economy. You compete with other players for game trophies and can duel them (or, your Neopets can dual their Neopets–it was more like Pokemon) in the battledome.

It is definitely online: the whole thing is played from a browser.

Neopets didn’t have roleplaying, per say, but there are likely forums and guilds dedicated to it. (It wasn’t something I participated in.) Like modern MMOs, it has as much or as little roleplaying as the player wants to put into it. It also has other features you’d commonly associate with MMOs: quests, battles, guilds, housing, and even daily activities users can do to earn Neopoints.

And it’s obviously a game. It’s a thing people play.

Faerie Bubles was my favorite mini game.

I think modern MMOs could learn a thing or two from Neopets. The game was sticky. I might do an entire post about the Neopets economy, which is above and beyond better than any other MMO I’ve played to date. The customization options are beyond the usuals like housing to teaching an entire generation HTML. (One way to tell the difference between an older and younger millennial is if they learned HTML on Neopets or MySpace.) It offers so much to do that you can pick and choose which aspects of the game interest you–there was something for just about everyone.

Perhaps that last part should be past tense–I’m not sure what you can still actually do in the game. I’ve poked around the revamped site a bit. It looks like Neopets finally adopted the Web 2.0 aesthetic with all the overly rounded corners and drop-shadows. It seems to have gone the way of other old MMOs, owned by a company that doesn’t really care about it and is ready to let it slowly decay with a few half-hearted attempts to keep it kicking.

I think Neopets deserves better. I’d love if Neopets were something I could show my 5-year-old, as a way to slowly introduce him to the internet. Neopets is like an old friend, one where you’ve both changed so much you hardly recognize them. One that you miss, even though they’re still around, because you miss the people you both used to be.

Cover image: Faerieland, one of the many zones (yes, let’s call them zones) in Neopets.

The screenshot of the old Neopets site I found at this blog post from someone who worked there for 12 years. I never played the poker game. Sorry.

Six Things I Love About New World (And Four Things I Don’t)

I’ve been playing New World. I’ve been wanting a new MMO to scratch my itch in just about forever, and this one seems to be doing the trick–at least for now. As with any game, there are things I love a lot, and things I love, well, a little bit less.

Six Things I Love

1. A World to Explore

I enjoy going off and exploring. New World seems to have ample opportunity for this, at least so far. I’m sure eventually I’ll see every nook and cranny, but for now I’m enjoying the journey. There are even town project missions you can do that are exploration based. I haven’t picked one up yet (I’ve been too busy crafting) but I’m looking forward to trying one!

2. A Creepy Atmosphere

Some of my favorite games aren’t horror, but they are creepy. Don’t Starve is probably the perfect example. It’s not a horror game, but it’s creepy. You don’t know what’s going to be around the next corner, or if the thing you find will be useful or harmful.

Most of the stuff in New World is useful, but it still has that “I could get hurt here and I don’t know what’s behind that boulder” feeling that I love. The sound effects in the game really make it–you can hear other players fighting in the distance.

3. Visual Appeal

Hi. My name is Alli, I can be a bit of a graphics snob. I don’t like voxels or anime-style graphics. I can dig pixels. I like things that are super stylized. And I like realistic, if it’s done well. It’s done well here. Combined with the incentives to explore and the game’s atmosphere, it’s definitely a place I want to spend time in.

Stopping to admire the view while hunting for iron

4. Gathering

One of my favorite things to do in MMOs is gather. In New World you could probably spend your entire time gathering. If there’s a tree, you can chop it. If there’s a boulder, you can mine it. If there’s a shrub, you can harvest it. Of course, certain things are rarer and more valuable than others. But I just love the fact that you can gather everything! It gives me even more incentive to explore.

I think I’m going to need a bigger bag.

5. Gathering, Though

This needs a second point because of how awesome it is. If you’re wandering around and someone is chopping down a tree, you can hear it. And you can see it falling. It might even fall over the path you’re walking on. (It would be extra fun if it gave you damage from falling on your head, but I haven’t seen that.)

6. A Good Place to Start

I liked the intro/tutorial. It was detailed enough to give me what I needed to play the game, but brief & entertaining enough that having to repeat it to create a new character doesn’t sound like pure torture.

Something I like about playing new games vs joining an older one years after launch is that older games tend to get bloated with various systems, many of which become useless as new ones are added in subsequent expansions. I’m not feeling any system overload yet–it’s at least spacing out the systems to new players in a way that’s manageable.

Three Things I Don’t

1. Locked Servers

When I initially made my character, I did some googling to find the unofficial RP server. I find people on RP servers to generally be more mature and not have incredibly irritating character names. Of course, the unofficial RP server was full. I joined a different server in the same server…cluster? I’m not sure of the official term. Amazon has a forum post on server transfers, but check out this line:

You cannot move your character to a full world.

So if I’m understanding correctly, I wont be able to transfer my character to the unofficial RP server if it’s still full. (How would a server become not full?) Or if I want to join Belghast but his server’s full, I’m still SOL. I don’t think I need to explain why this is terrible for the game. I think everyone gets it. Belghast’s post Fragmented Community digs into why this happened a bit more.

2. Somewhat Boring Storytelling

The quests aren’t that interesting. There does seem to be some stories and I’m enjoying some of the NPCs but the quests are very much of the “kill 10 rats” variety. Not my favorite. I am someone who cares about story, so this is an issue for me. I know this was originally designed as a PvP game and PvE was added later, so it makes sense that the quests seem like an afterthought. I’m hoping it’s something Amazon will improve on in the future. And don’t get me started on the factions–I need an entire post about why they’re fairly boring (at least early on in the game).

3. Lack of Character Customization

Alright, maybe I’m missing something. In which case, refile this under “confusing character customization.” And don’t interpret this as me saying the characters look bad. They look good.

But after selecting your face, that’s it for facial features. You can’t pick face 5 but change the nose. And there’s no body type selection, so you can’t make yourself fatter or thinner or taller or shorter, you just are. On top of everyone being a human, it makes everyone look kind of the same. Pretty sure, but boring.

Which leads me to my one question: I thought this game was supposed to have pistols! Come on, Amazon: where are my pistols?

Cover Image: Concept art for the game, via the official site.

Alli Tries Albion Online

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.

AlbionOnlineScreenshot.png
I’ve got a mount already, so that’s cool (that’s me, Plixxa, with the yellow text).

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:

  1. 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.
  2. If I wanted to play a game where I just clicked a bunch, I’d play Diablo III.
  3. 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.

plixxa.png

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.

Let’s Try Something New

I want to try some new (to me) MMOs.

I’m not playing any MMOs right now and I’d like that to change. I haven’t tried every MMO out there, and I was thinking about finally giving Final Fantasy XIV a try when I thought, why not try a few? I’ve worked on compiling this list of MMOs I haven’t and would like to try. Since Blaugust is happening again, I’m going to take that time to try out some games and write up my thoughts. Maybe I’ll even find a game I want to stick with.

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Each new game will be like a little gift to me from me. Photo by Ekaterina Shevchenko on Unsplash.

What MMOs Shall I Try?

Final Fantasy XIV – This has been at the top of my “maybe I should try this” game list for a while, so I’m definitely going to give it a shot. I’ve never played a Final Fantasy game. Maybe I’ll be hopelessly lost, but that’s why this is a trial, right?

Albion Online – I love isometric games, okay? Maybe it’s a nostalgia thing, but I dig it. I’m concerned about this game being PVP-centric, but I haven’t played much PVP and maybe I’m missing this huge piece of gameplay I’ll actually love. We’ll see.

SWTOR – Technically I’ve played this game since beta tested it. But since I was actually testing the game and reporting bugs, and that was many years ago, I think it deserves another visit. I mean, it’s Bioware.

Star Trek Online – This is on the list because I loved Star Trek: The Next Generation as a kid. Probably the only game on my list because of the IP. I normally prefer games that are new universes instead of existing IPs, and I can’t think of many IPs that would instantly make me want to play something. Okay, I tried both the Harry Potter mobile games and liked neither of them.

riker
Riker: one of my first fictional crushes

Black Desert Online – I want to try this game because I think the would looks incredibly pretty and it might be fun to explore. I also heard the character creation is lots of fun. (Is that still available outside the game? It would be great to create a character outside of the Steam two hour reimbursement window.)

Path of Exile – I found this looking at Massively OP’s game column list to see if there was anything on there I hadn’t tried yet. I saw this one. It’s not spectacularly appealing, and if I have to cut a game from my list, this might be the one to go.

Do you play any of these games?

I’d love a tour guide! Hit me up via the contact form, Blaugust Discord (I’m “Alli”), or email (allirense AT gmail) and let me know what you play and you can show me the ropes.

Any Suggestions?

Got an idea for another MMO I should try? My list is getting full, but I don’t want to miss out on something awesome. Here’s a bit about what I’ve already tried and what I look for in games if you have a suggestion.

I’ve previously played World of Warcraft, Secret World Legends, Maplestory, and if you count it–Pokemon Go. I’ve tried Guild Wars 2, Eve Online, ESO, Project Gorgon, Wild Terra Online, and LOTRO. I have no interest in playing City of Heroes, Rift, or any looter-shooters with MMO-like qualities. I tend to be drawn towards games with a more western character style and I like bright colors. I’m fine with isometric and I love stylistic graphics, but I don’t like Minecraft-style voxels.

My main gaming motivators are exploration and story. You can read more about my motivation profile here.

Know something I might like? Let me know in the comments!

Cover image via Black Desert Online. That game is just so gash darn purdy!

I’m Not Playing MMOs, But I’m Still an MMO Fan

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.

daylight desert drought dry
Empty like SWL. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.

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It’s all about the balance. Image via FracturedMMO

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.

By the way I wrote a post on Medium a while back about working from home. Check it out!

Cover image via World’s Adrift. Their island creator was so cool, I hope other games pick up that idea in the future.

Happy Friday – August 24 Edition

Or I should call it “I’m really tired” edition. I only have three links and a video today because I forgot about this after a long day of work, cooking dinner, and playing WoW.

Pregnant people, don’t let others tell you what you can’t do. (Except your doctor or midwife.) Non-pregnant folks, don’t tell pregnant people what they can’t do.

I love the idea of the tiny project challenge because little projects are so doable! Tiny projects can also build up into big projects.

Upcoming MMO Crowfall’s concept art makes me giddy. Here’s some in action:

I’m not sure I’d want to watch concept art videos on a huge outdoor screen. Or maybe I would? Either way, when my son’s older I love the idea of outdoor movie night. Here’s how to make your own screen.

Cover image from Crowfall, which might turn out to be the prettiest MMO ever.

Video Game Lessons Learned

#VideoGameLessonsLearned is trending on twitter. Since it’s twitter, some of them are repugnant. But some of them are awesome. Here are a few of my favorites:

Last time my fiancé and I were playing WoW, he asked me, “Why am I burning?”

Treasure for sure.

See, video games can be inspirational.

For real life these are called “tutorials” or “instructions” and they’re magic: you read them and gain knowledge.

Here’s one for parents:

The only saved games I have from when I was a kid are on a CD that requires a Mac from the 90s to run. I think I’m safe on this one.

Finally, mine:

If video games taught me anything, it’s that you should stuff your pack with everything you can until you become encumbered. Even then, you might need that old coffee maker. Better hold onto it and walk slowly.

What have you learned from video games?

Cover image from The Longest Journey, a game in my top 5.

The WoW Itch

I used to play World of Warcraft.

I used to be ashamed of it, too, because I was generally ashamed of being a nerd. I started because a friend showed me the intro video, and then I got my boyfriend at the time to play with me. I was a human warlock. We found a small guild and hung out with them mainly letting them bring us through low-level dungeons. It was all good until the guild leader started to get a bit weird.

We moved to DC and after a while got the itch to play again, so we switched servers and joined a casual RP guild, which unbeknownst to us was run by another DC-area couple. My happiest WoW memories were during this time. We met up with the guild leaders a few times and I became a guild officer. It was during vanilla and Burning Crusade and I remember having a lot of fun running Karazhan. It fell apart when my relationship ended.

When I felt the itch to play WoW again, I felt strange about going back to my old guild. In retrospect, it probably would’ve been fine. But instead I joined a different RP guild and had fun with them for a while running regular RP events and raiding in Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm.

I left them to start a new character, Horde-side, with some friends from work. That didn’t last very long, but I remember it fondly. I think this was around the time of Mists of Pandaria, and that whole expansion completely turned me off from the game.

When Warlords of Draenor came out, I thought I’d look up the old guild from Burning Crusade times. They were still around and had decided to get back into WoW after spending some time playing Star Wars: The Old Republic. I played for a few days. I wasn’t having fun. I apologized and quit, saying to myself:

This time it would be for good.

But now there’s a new expansion coming out and the hype train is trying to get me on board. What’s making it hard to resist is that I haven’t been able to find another MMO to occupy this WoW-shaped hole in my gaming life. This is really the topic for a whole different blog post, but I’ve tried Guild Wars 2, Elder Scrolls Online, LOTRO, SWTOR. I play The Secret World: Legends, but I play it as a single player game. Here I am, days before a new expansion, and I’ve got it bad.

I’ve got The WoW Itch.

I’ve missed it. I’ve felt like playing in the past, and always pushed it back with the thought “Nah, I said I’d quit for good.” With Blaugust starting, I’ve had the idea that I could try it for Blaugust and see how it goes. If I’m still having fun at the end of the month, I’ll continue. If not I’ll quit (for good for really for realz this time).

for-real

It would give me something to write about. It would be fun. Right?

If I play again, I want to play Horde. I’ve always loved Goblins in the game and never played one.

Would my fiancé want to play with me? Maybe, he’s been playing Diablo III every night for a while now.
My old character is still on my old guild’s roster, but as I said before, I want to play Horde. Even if I play Alliance, I’m certainly done playing a warlock.
Would I be able to find a new guild?
Would it be a complete waste of time?

Help me decide! Should I play WoW again?