Random Screenshots #4

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This morning is one of those mornings when I am super thankful that I cobbled together the random screenshot tool.  Last night I sort of failed at doing any measure of directed content.  I tuned into Spiral’s stream as she continued to push forward into Final Fantasy V and spent most of the night alt tabbing between twitch and Final Fantasy XIV.  I’ve been on this mission to make sure that I complete the Ixal quests each day, and they take significantly longer than your average quest.  In truth the bulk of the slowdown is all of the swapping back and forth between classes and having to craft items over and over until I get X number of high quality baubles for the turn in.  Sometimes I just get unlucky, and the higher crafting gets the harder this seems to be.  So while I might only need 4 items for the turn in… I might end up with a stack of 15 normal quality items that I had to craft to get those four HQs.  Needless to say when I finally finished up with the quests it was around 9 pm last night… and I was feeling largely done with Final Fantasy XIV for the night.  So instead I popped into the bedroom where I have my Wii U connected and played some more Zelda.  It is growing on me, but I still find a lot about the game frustrating, or at least non-intuitive.  As a result I don’t have a whole hell of a lot to talk about this morning, and definitely no screenshots so… once again I crawl back into the vault and do a random sort.

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Chua Starting Area – Wildstar

While I may have issues with Wildstar… it will always be a gorgeous game.  This is I believe a screenshot from the tail end of Crimson Isle, the Chua/Draken starting zone.  There are times I miss my little Chua, and I went so far as to create a new one awhile back as a Warrior.  The problem is the game of Wildstar itself just never quite clicks.  There is just too much going on visually for me, and the style of targeted directional abilities with hotbar combat never seems to feel as good as I think they hoped it would.  I feel like the game would feel a lot better on a console where you can bind your main attacks to the triggers and bumpers and control movement and aiming with both analog sticks.  In theory you could emulate this… but keyboard to controller emulators never quite work as flawlessly as if you set the controls up for that purpose out of the box.  Just like running a console with a mouse and keyboard…  you are trying to fake out the hardware while using out another control scheme under the hood.

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Funny thing that I get a World of Warcraft image in this search because I really have not talked about the game lately much.  I am admittedly on a bit of a break right now, and in part I am simply just not forcing myself to log in when I don’t really want to.  For three or four weeks the real world got in the way of my raiding… and then I just got out of the habit of logging in regularly.  As it stands I have this meeting on Wednesdays that usually lets out about 6pm which leaves me an hour to get home.. find food and log into the game for the raid which is simply too rushed for my tastes.  So for the moment I am on extended leave, until the spirit drives me to start playing again.  This image is from me finding the Burning Plate of the Worldbreaker… aka the Protection Warrior alternate appearance.  This is probably the moment in Legion when I was playing the most intently, and every single day I made a trek out here to see if the shield was up.  The day it finally was… I took lots of screenshots and I so happily used this appearance until I got something newer unlocked recently.  The Legion launch and the first few patch cycles will always be a happy memory… even if I have sort of fallen out of the habit of playing the game.

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Another happy moment in a game… at the end of a long grind is when I finally got Turquoise on my Chocobo in Final Fantasy XIV.  For those who are unfamiliar… your base Chocobo can be dyed through an insane process of feeding the chocobo various fruits.  What makes the process maddening is that one set of fruit alters the RGB values… and another set of fruit seemed to instead alter CMYK.  When we first started doing this it was largely trial and error before the calculators came out… and even when they existed it never really was an exact science.  At the time we were doing this… the fruit for dyeing was prohibitively expensive.  While we were trying to keep an active stock of seeds growing in the garden… it never quite met up with the desires.  If you find yourself interested in this process, check out this calculator because it seems to be the best.  I remember towards the end I teetered back and forth between three colors until it finally clicked and gave me the Turquoise that I was hunting for.  All of this…  was simply to make sure that it matched my Leviathan Barding.

Random Screenshots #3

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This is another one of those mornings when I feel like I don’t have much of anything to talk about.  Work encroached upon my gaming time, first with a meeting that I did not get out of until 6 pm…  when I normally get out of the office around 4/4:30.  Second when I did get home I had a bunch of things that I needed to look into given that we are still ironing out the issues with a brand new website launch.  As a result by the time I finished up I largely just crashed on the sofa and watched some Black Mirror as I had not touched season 3.  That show is extremely creepy, but also something that I cannot really stop watching.  It is a sort of technological tales of the crypt, and if you have never watched the show…  be prepared for some disturbing content.  That said it is still very much worth your time and the latest season has at least one gem scattered among the digital nightmares in the form of the San Junipero episode.  Anyways this morning is going to be a random screenshot post morning because I am not sure what else to really talk about.  I am still fairly groggy and probably shouldn’t have finished the 4th episode last night, and instead just headed on to bed.

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I am not entirely certain of the context, but this is of course a screenshot from Wildstar.  I believe it is from the moon mission where you have to figure out what happened to all of the miners.  Even though I have long struggled to really click with this game, I cannot deny how much of an interesting vision it really is.  The art direction was on point and everything feels like it exists in the same shared technicolor delusion.  For whatever reason I never really liked how spastic their flavor of hotbar combat felt.  Most recently I paid a little money to be able to create a Chua Warrior and I found it enjoyable…  but still not really clicking as hard as I would have liked.  Honestly this game and Guild Wars 2 sort of exist in the same space for me…  where they are equally interesting to visit but not exactly the same of place I want to call home.  I will say though that the people who do play the game regularly are amazing and I am super happy to have a whole bunch of them occupying my social media streams.  This is one of those games that I root hard for…  just from a distance.

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We go from a game that I don’t really get fully, to one that I absolutely do…  but still don’t end up playing that often.  I believe this screenshot is from one of the opening shots of Makeb which was the sequence of content I last played during a December 2015 binge of the game thanks to Force Awakens Star Wars hype.  I honestly thought I would similarly return during the Rogue One hype machine but it never actually materialized.  I realize I am missing so much great content, and I keep saying that one of these days when I hit a lull in whatever other games I happen to be playing that I will swoop back to Star Wars the Old Republic and gobble up all of the goodies I have missed.  I still have yet to start any of the Shadow of Revan content…  let alone Fallen Empire or Eternal Throne.  I did have an active sub, but I let that lapse at some point…  they keep roping me in with offers of “subs get X shiny bauble” and then I never actually end up playing.  I should in theory pop back in before this last bit of sub time lapses and I am stuck playing in freemium hell.

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On to yet another game that I have really fond memories of but never end up playing.  This is I believe a screenshot from one of the betas for The Secret World.  To the best of my knowledge this was me creating my very first character.  To be truthful I never was a huge fan of the character creation system in TSW, as it always felt like I never could create exactly the character that I wanted to create.  However on so many levels I loved this game, but the biggest problem is attempting to return to it.  Since you can repeat almost every quest it becomes extremely hard to see just what you have completed and what is new and something you should focus on.  When they release an issue I find it hard to actually track down all of the things that have been added and given that I last actively played during “Last Train to Cairo” which was issue number six… and they are currently on fifteen there is a ton of content I have missed.  I just find it extremely hard to get back into the game after being gone for so long…  and given all of the systems that they have seemingly loosely tacked onto the base experience.

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I don’t have an awful lot to say about this screenshot other than I thought it looked cool, so I decided to post it.  This is of course from Farcry 3 Blood Dragon, which is this insane 80s movie romp.  If you took every 80s sci-fi film and distilled it to its campy roots, then dumped all of that pure essence in a blender…  you wind up with Blood Dragon.  If you have never checked it out, you probably really should given that it regularly dips down into the $5 territory.  It is a completely stand alone experience and does not require Farcry…  nor does it really have anything to do with the Farcry Franchinse at all other than modeling some of the open world roaming gameplay.

 

Bad News Day

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Goodbye Everquest Next

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Yesterday the MMORPG industry received a couple of really bad bits of news.  Firstly Daybreak Games has officially announced that Everquest Next is no more, and that they would be rushing Landmark into “launched” status this spring.  Firstly it really should not come as any surprise that this is happening because in truth we have not had any substantive news about “Next” since SOE Live 2014.  So when Storybricks parted company in February 2015 and SOE was sold to the holding company that renamed it to Daybreak… I fully expected we would never see anything further from Next. Storybricks was going to be the guts of this new approach at how to create an MMO and allow it o almost center around procedural interactions with he various factions and NPCs in the game.  With that core gone… I could not reason how the game would function, and deliver even half of the lofty promises it had made.  The other huge concern was the fact that Daybreak now seemed like a company desperately trying to survive under the yolk of evil overlords.  When a company known for grooming technology for sale purchases a game company…  it seems like creative freedom and the broad daydreaming that got SOE where it is today would be the firs thing to go.

The concerns I have is that it feels like Landmark is getting foisted upon us, in an unfinished state.  It had been a couple of years since I last played the game and I popped in last night to see just how different it is.  In truth it still feels like the prototype game that it has always felt like.  I roamed around and collected items and then logged back out because I wasn’t really drawn to stay. The thing I love about Landmark is the community, and I am just hoping that through all of this transition they can manage to keep that intact.  The problem I have with Landmark is that it is a fun sandbox that lets you build really interesting structures…. but I still wouldn’t really call it a game but instead more of a toybox.  Sure you have the trappings of combat now, but while wandering around in the zone the game dumped me in…. there was actually nothing to fight.  Maybe I need to dig down to find that, but the only thing I actually encountered that was potentially damaging were some exploding shrooms.  I am hoping that in the few months left before the official launch that they can somehow pull together some of the ideas from Next and make Landmark a proper game experience.

Wildstar Falters

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The other concerning news from yesterday is that roughly sixty employees were laid off in a “restructuring” within Carbine.  This has honestly been a topic among some of my friends for awhile now, but we were dreading some form of action to be taken.  Wildstar has not been performing amazingly well… in fact they are performing far worse right now than with City of Heroes was shut down by NC Soft.  As a company goes they are notoriously brutal when it comes to closing titles that they deem are not operating as well as they expected.  Wildstar is a significantly better game today than it was at launch, and the Free to Play conversion was more than just a payment model change, but an entire reworking and re-tuning of some of the game concepts.  The game felt fresh and new and was exciting…  for a period of time.  The problem is, that Wildstar is just not my game.  I have good friends who love it above all others, and for them it hurts a lot to see the company struggling.  Every now and then there is just a game that does not for whatever reason “click”, and that was this game for me.  On paper it sounds and looks like everything I could have wanted in a game, and I still think it has one of the best implementations of player housing I have ever seen.  Unfortunately I just don’t ever have the desire to play it, and always seemed to prioritize playing something else over it.

The scariest statement about the whole press release is this line. “These cuts are directly tied to WildStar’s evolution from a product in development to a live title“.  That right there seems to be signalling the end of active development on Wildstar and shifting the title into maintenance mode.  An MMORPG cannot thrive without fresh dose of new content, and while you can do things like add new quests and script events without a lot of active development….  you can’t do things like roll out new zones and raids.  Admittedly the game is getting fresh content with the release of Arcterra, and hopefully this will not effect that.  The other worrying statement is that apparently there were statements floating around that the employees were told to expect more layoffs in the future.  So much happens when layoffs are announced, and there is an internet dog piling of bad blood towards a game.  I have nothing but love for Wildstar and its community and I want it to weather this storm and somehow bounce back stronger.  I am clinging to hope because I know a lot of people who really need this game to succeed and thrive.  All of that said… the cynic an realist in me still keeps saying that this is not going to end well.

 

 

Week in Gaming 10/4/2015

Moving in Slow Motion

This morning I am having one of those days that feels like I am fighting against quicksand, to be able to accomplish anything.  It is the fitting end of the week I have had where so many issues have come up, that I had to deal with.  This week was one where my boss was out of the office for most of it, which meant I got to be the boss.  This is a concept that sounds fun on paper, but after having done it for years…  I promise it is not nearly as entertaining as it sounds.  Being the boss means you are the one that has to deal with isssues when they arrise, even when the issues are of a magnitude that makes you just want to pull the covers over your head and forget the world exists.  As such my gaming was a bit odd, because I needed to vent my frustrations in the form of shooting aliens.  There were many nights this week where I intended to do something else, but ended up playing Destiny all night.  As such there really are not a lot of individual games to talk about but here goes nothing!

Star Wars the Old Republic

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As of last night during the AggroChat podcast I have officially completed the original Smuggler storyline, and with it… I have a lot of thoughts about what I experienced.  When Kodra played through this content I can remember him being extremely disappointed… but maybe I am just more simple minded, but I absolutely loved the ending.  It is everything I expected underworld dealings would be… romance, betrayal, and getting revenge on the people who betrayed you.  It wraps up everything a good outlaw story should, and like the best ones… ends up with you on the side of justice.  Maybe I just grew up with too many westerns, but it felt like it should to me.  My character wasn’t necessarily a white hat, but he definitely was not a black hat… and at the same time I got to do enough things that felt like decisions I would make, to keep me hooked on the storyline.  Now that I have wrapped this one up, I think I am going to work up faction on Risha and see what that romance option looks like.  After that I think I am putting the Smuggler to bed for awhile, no pun intended… and moving on to something else.

While I doubt I will manage to play through the four imperial storylines before the launch of Fallen Empire, I think I am going to make a good college try to do so.  It would be cool to go into Fallen Empire with the special perk for having defeated all eight storylines.  Last night I swapped over and started working on my Sith Warrior which is the next closest to moving forward.  I have to say once I stopped doing side quests and only focused on the character story the entire experience became far more enjoyable.  Not that the side quests are not awesome… but when you have done them multiple times…  they begin to drag on.  As I play my Sith Warrior I will probably keep doing side quests because most of them on the Imperial side I have not actually seen.  I wonder how many if any duplicate between the two factions.  In any case I am still very much enjoying my SWTOR vacation and I think it has been a great way to spend the lag time between 3.0 and the 3.1 patch in Final Fantasy XIV.

Wildstar

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I have to say the disappointment of the week has been the free to play launch of Wildstar.  I guess I say “disappointment” in quotes because really… any time you do a major launch there are significant issues expected.  Wildstar relaunch has not been smooth by any measure of the word.  In theory from what I have heard if you can manage to get things are fine…  but that was not my personal experience.  I fought through the queues twice this week, and each time moments after actually getting into the game… I saw a message scroll across my screen warning me that the servers would be coming down in 15 minutes.  What does not help I guess is the fact that I am entirely focused on the Entity server, which happens to be the most populated.  At some point I will get some play time in, but at the very least I was able to go fiddle with my inventory and clear out my mail box.  I also gathered up all of my new items, and I am almost tier 6 on the Cosmic Points system.  I have premium sub time through next May so I am sure during that time I will play it quite a bit.

Destiny

Oryx is a badass

Not really sure what I can say about Destiny that I did not already cover this week in my blog post about it.  That said I am still having a blast playing, and several of my friends have also rekindled their interests in the game.  I’ve been getting snagged into a fire time quite often and as a result we are doing quite a few strikes to help my friend Damai get geared up.  Also this week Carthuun joined the game, so I have a feeling we will be doing some lower level content to help him catch up.  To some extent I have been working on leveling my Warlock other than doing my daily bounties, and enjoying replaying through the content.  This game is just so zen for me right now… nothing quite relaxes me like headshotting all manner of aliens, and in the strikes I have run I seem to get the lions share of the kills because of my focus.  I am absolutely in love with the Sunbreaker because seriously….  every game needs the ability to throw flaming hammers at your opponents.  I actually even spent some time running crucible skirmishes and enjoyed myself.  I didn’t lead the kill count for my team but I did manage to place second, and I didn’t have the negative experience some of my other friends have reported as a result.  I imagine that the community for Destiny PVP can be pretty horrible, I am just lucky that I have not seen that yet.

As far as today… I am probably going to spend a lot more of my time playing Destiny as while waiting editing the podcast this morning I managed to knock out most of the objectives.  After I wrap those up I will probably migrate downstairs and spend the rest of the day SWTORing on the sofa while watching something on the television.  Destiny has for whatever reason been the perfect blowing off some steam game for me this week.  My hope is that as I continue to gain light and gear up it will stay just as enjoyable.  I have yet to really try any of the true “endgame” content like the Raids and the Heroic Strikes, but I have to say if I have enough friends playing…  it might be interesting.  I am still just blown away by how much better the game feels to me.  Once again if you played the game at launch and found it lacking… I highly suggest you patch up your client and at least give the game a spin.  The changes trickle down through the entire game, and you should be able to see if you like the new feel before purchasing Taken King.  Thankfully there is the option to ONLY buy Taken King without having to repurchase the entire game… but those options are only available for digital copies of the game.  Not sure if you can upgrade a former physical copy or not.  The Destiny theme song however is playing in the background as I type this… so I am going to go answer its call.  Hopefully we all have an awesome week to come.

 

Performance Anxiety

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Cash Shop Fodder

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With the impending launch of the Wildstar free to play model, I thought I would talk this morning about one of my problems with cash shops in general.  One of the most popular items in any MMO cash shop is the “experience potion” for lack of a better generic term.  These are items that grant a limited duration buff and increase the aquisition of something.  These sometimes apply to experience but also pvp systems and token currencies.  They seem to be fairly ubiquitous when it comes to MMOs and they often times hand them out like candy in your introductory packs.  My theory is that they want to get players hooked on these early so they keep coming back to the cash shop anytime they run out.  Now if you had boomboxes in Wildstar you already have a few of these more than likely.  My problem is…  I never spend them.  I just logged into my Rift account to take a quick census and I am currently sitting on somewhere between 150 and 200 of these in various forms.  They are generally locked from you selling them on the auction house…  and since I am not using them they just take up inventory space.

The problem I have with them is that I feel like there is a value associated with them.  They cost money, and I want to make sure I get my most out of them.  So when a game gives me one.. I hold onto it forever never quite finding the right time to spend it.  If the potion is an hour long, it feels like I need to find the perfect time to use it when I will have an hour of uninterrupted time at the keyboard.  Even more so it feels like I have to figure out the optimal way to spend my bonus experience time.  I do a lot of running around aimlessly in video games, and when I have used an experience potion it feels like I am “on the clock”.  I have to get the most out of my time and need to do whatever I am doing with minimal downtime.  As a result I just end up crushed with indecision and so they sit in my inventory unspent collecting dust.  I end up resenting them being there, because they are taking up space that I could be using for other things.  I didn’t want them in the first place, and the game keeps handing them to me like they are important and special… and something that SHOULD be desired.

Performance Anxiety

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This just highlights a bigger problem I have in games, that I will  call performance anxiety for lack of a better term.  It is like there are times when I have to be super focused on the game and take it more seriously than I really want to.  When I sign up to raid I accept the fact that once the raid starts it is “go time”.  The rest of my game time however I want to be able to stop and smell the roses.  The problem is when I group with another living person… I feel like I am also “on the clock” and responsible for making the most of that time grouped together.  So instead other than dungeons and raids I actively avoid grouping with anyone.  That way I am only responsible for my own enjoyment and won’t feel guilty when I need to step away from the screen because my wife needs me, or the animals have knocked something over and I have to go investigate what they just broke.  The worst is when I am in an MMO and there are quest objectives to be done.  I feel like I not only have to be aware of my own needs… but the needs of everyone in my party and assure that they also accomplish whatever they need to get done before moving on myself.

I realize all of this is irrational, but this is the sort of mental struggle I go through each time I accept someone else’s group invite.  Most of the time I can steel myself against the anxiety and just push forward, but there are other times…  when I just cannot risk taking responsibility for others.  I talked some yesterday about my current desire to “hide out” and as such I thought I would talk a bit this morning about the other side of the coin.  Grouping with other people is often times a draining experience for me.  I shift into responsible adult mode, and step up to the plate like I know what I am doing.  I am willing to take on this mantle for my friends and my guild…  but I am rarely willing to take on this mantle for strangers. I realize most other people don’t quite have the hang up I do with grouping with strangers.  So when someone asks me to tank something, or dps something…  I always feel strange asking if it is a guild only group.  The worst of these experiences so far has been when it comes to partially queuing for raid content.  The anxiety that comes with tanking for strangers in a dungeon… is nothing compared to the anxiety of tanking for a raid group full of strangers.  For me at least it ranks among the least comfortable experiences, and I would rather simply do nothing… than queue with a bunch of people I don’t know.

Opening The Curtain

I get the impression sometimes that folks seem to think I have my act together.  The truth is I am just as strange and vulnerable as the next person.  I put on a really good front sometimes, and I do a fairly good job of pushing down my own insecurities.  You might ask yourself… why in the world would I be opening up like this?  Well the truth is that I know there are lots of people out there with their own quirks, that think they are somehow lesser for them.  My theory is that by showing the weak points in my own armor, that others might be more comfortable with themselves as a result.  Once this down cycle finishes I will be back to my normal self again, and the armor will go back up.  In the mean time I am talking about the things I am struggling with, in hopes that it might help someone out there.  We all have our own hang-ups and we learn to deal with them however we can.  My coping mechanism tends to be disappearing for a bit while my shields recharge.  Tonight I will be submitting myself to a raid group where I assume that we are ultimately going to have to PUG people…  even though every fiber of my being tells me to run screaming into the night.  There is a certain power in knowing your own limitations and forcing yourself to face them.  I’ve learned over the years that everyone is broken inside…  just most are better at hiding it than others.

Week In Gaming 8/30/2015

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Stressed but Still Here

This week turned out to be a shockingly stressful one, but thankfully all of said stress happened at work… and I could more or less leave it there as well.  There has been a twinge of sadness as well because months ago I had hoped to be able to attend Pax Prime and get to hang out with friends there.  However that didn’t quite work out, and since I lacked tickets to go there…  because AggroChat was not apparently qualified as a media outlet, I stopped pushing quite so hard.  The beginning of the school year is especially rough on my wife, and it would have been even more stressful to be travelling during this time.  As such I am doubting that Pax Prime will ever really be in my cards unless for some reason they decide to move it either earlier or later in the year.  I will always have Pax South however, and I fully intend to go this coming year.  I am going to be trying to talk as many people into attending as I can, and hopefully can organize a meetup or something while there.  There were plenty of people at Pax South last year but I was completely overwhelmed by it being my first real convention, and the internet was pretty horrible…  so I missed most of them.  Anyways…  on with what is I hope becoming a Sunday tradition, where I review the games I played over the past week.

Final Fantasy XIV

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Currently “The Rising” event is going on in Final Fantasy XIV that marks the yearly anniversary festival.  This year the quest that goes along with it is one of the most touching quests I have experienced in a game before.  I don’t want to spoil too many details about it, but suffice to say there is a little bit of fourth wall breaching going on.  Diehard Final Fantasy XIV fans have this hero worship for Naoki Yoshida and the rest of the team, and it is absolutely well earned.  It feels like there is very much a symbiotic relationship going on there, and they understand fully just how important the loyal fans are to the continued success of the title.  The game is in this interesting place where it is extremely humbled by the fact that it launched in 2010 and failed to capture hearts and minds.  They are putting everything into the game and leaving nothing on the table, and it shows.  Other than the anniversary event we worked on Ravana Extreme attempts, and I have every hope that we will be able to down him this coming Monday.  Past that I have honestly been taking a bit of a break from Final Fantasy XIV, or at least not really logging in every day.

Diablo 3

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If you are wondering where the bulk of my game time was spent, you can look no further than Diablo 3.  I am not sure if it was my time playing Hellgate London, or the fact that I finally pulled my head out of the sand and realized there was such a thing as a “season”.  Whatever the combination I have been pumped to be playing Diablo 3 again and have been spending a lot of time with my friend Grace was we worked on pushing up our seasonal characters.  At the beginning of the week I managed to get my Crusader from last season to 70 with the help of Grace and her crazy torment farming ways.  Then Friday when the new season opened I started work immediately on a female Barbarian.  As of last night I am now level 60 and making the final push to 70.  That is really what I intend to spend most of my time today working on, and hopefully by tonight I will be sitting at 70 and starting to work on gearing up for doing torment and beyond.  I am having a blast, and I am not sure whatever mental block cleared that has allowed me to get involved once more with the click to attack madness.

Wildstar

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I can’t say that I have made stellar progress since last week, but I am continuing with my new tradition of trying to play Wildstar Tuesday nights.  At this point I am level 25 still in Whitevale but I think maybe I can see the end of the zone.  My hope is to move on past it this week and hopefully into something less desolate.  I feel about Whitevale the way I feel about most desert zones in MMOs.  I have come to realization this week that it is never the biome necessarily that I like or dislike, but instead the zone design.  I was warned that Malgrave is coming up, and a desert… but from what I have seen of the imagery inside it seems like something I will enjoy.  I want to devote more time to this game, but for now I am going to settle with making it a Tuesday night thing.

Hearthstone

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The game that I played that shocked me the most this week was Hearthstone.  I have not really spent much time playing it since release, and with the addition of a new expansion of cards I decided to poke my head in.  This is where I found a brand new game mode called Tavern Brawl.  Apparently you have a different weekly challenge, and this week was essentially playing with a randomized deck.  I played hunter and had a good amount of success.  Playing with a random assortment of cards, including many of the brand new Grand Tournament cards gave me a nostalgic feeling much like the early days of Magic the Gathering.  I used to love the days when I was limited based on the  cards I physically owned and as a result made some odd decks to try and weave in my favorite elements.  In truth I would probably play Hearthstone more often if this random brawl option thing was a fixed item.  I know this coming week there will be a completely different Tavern Brawl, but I will likely poke my head in to see what it is and give it a shot.  This might breathe new life into the game for me, and for that I am kinda pumped.

Fallout Shelter

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My week in review would not be complete without at least talking a bit about Fallout Shelter.  Now I have been technically playing this game for awhile now but since I do not regularly use my iPad, the sessions were limited and I went weeks between opening the app.  With the release of Fallout Shelter for android I have been playing it far more often on my phone, and it has now become my default “moment of downtime” game as I check in on my little post apocalyptic ant farm.  All things said I learned a lot of lessons playing it on the iPad that I have now applied to this new vault.  Where Vault 999 was a relative failure, Vault 861 is pretty damned idyllic.  Through a bit of luck of drops, and some careful planning I have managed to create a pretty safe environment that can absolutely shred raider attacks.  I had a random person show up at the vault that was fairly warriorly, and once I equipped her with power armor and a plasma pistol she has been roaming the wastes dispensing justice.  At the same time she has become a major source of income and the gear she brings back I am slowly outfitting all of my settlers in.  I have jokingly started calling the restaurant on the first floor Cafe Death, because the raiders always go there…. only to get shredded by all of my shotgun toting vault dwellers.  The only thing that I feel bad about is that I essentially  have one couple that is slowly populating my vault.  I have left them in the room for weeks now and they have half a dozen offspring roaming around as a result.

Hatoful Boyfriend

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The last game that I played a significant amount of this week was of course Hatoful Boyfriend, and last night we recorded the AggroChat game club show for it.  This was Grace’s pick and I think a lot of us went into this assuming that we would end up hating the game.  We were mostly wrong as the vast majority of us had lots of good things to say about the game. To make it even crazier this is the first game that the majority of us have actually played through more than one… but given that an individual play session tends to only be around the hour long mark that makes sense.   If you want to hear our length discussion about dating “Birbs” after the apocalypse you should totally listen into the show.

[AggroChat] [Direct Download] [iTunes] [Stitcher]

Pax Prime Hopes

The Big Show

It feels like we live in this world where there is always another big games show around the corner.  I remember when quite literally all that existed was the Consumer Electronics show, at least for the United States.  Now we have dozens of shows sprinkled throughout the year, all of which vying for exclusive announcements.  As a result companies have to trickle information out so that everyone that attends one of the shows feels like they are getting to see something unique or special.  This weekend of course is Pax Prime, and I had hoped this year I would be attending.  The truth is however that Pax Prime will likely never be in the cards, as the husband of a teacher…  August is a HORRIBLE time for me to be travelling.  During this month my wife is in full on panic mode as she gets adjusted to another school year, and while for a bit I was bummed at not being able to attend, I am realizing it was ultimately for the best.  As a result I will be a loyal yearly Pax South attendee and pretty much brush aside the thoughts of doing the Pax Prime thing.  Instead at some point I will just go out to Seattle to meet my friends that seem to be pooling there, instead of trying to make one big combo trip.  Having been to a Pax, I have to say in truth the folks at home have a much better view of what is going on there through the live stream.  As a result I am looking forward to spending much of the weekend watching as much as I can.  Which gets to the point of this mornings post.  I thought I would talk a bit about the various things I am hoping to get out of Pax Prime 2015.

Final Fantasy XIV

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The thing that I want this weekend… is a release date for 3.1.  I know we are getting close, but I want to know a firm release date so I know just how long I am going to have to wait.  Right now Final Fantasy XIV is going through a bit of a content lull much like it did after the release of A Realm Reborn.  Quite frankly at this point I am tired of running Neverreap…  since that seems to be the dungeon I get most often.  Two dungeons in a roulette rotation simply is not enough, and I am honestly a bit concerned with the news that 3.1 is only going to add two more as well.  My hope is that they create a four dungeon expert roulette instead of moving Neverreap and Fractal to Hard Roulette and making expert just be the two new dungeons.  The other piece I am really looking forward to is the next 24 player dungeon the Void Ark, aka the creepy airship you sometimes seem flying around in the Sea of Clouds.  The game needs a shot in the arm of content, because folks are starting to slow down… myself included.  More so than this… I would like to see some future vision type stuff for 3.2 and beyond.  In the past we have usually had this list of things that Yoshi P had promised for “future” patches and we are a bit low on that right now.

Wildstar

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Similar to FFXIV…  and honestly a lot of the things I am going to talk about this morning….  I just want a date for when the Free to Play conversion will happen.  They keep putting new patches on the test server and it is starting to feel like maybe they are close, but what I need from them is a date.  I am enjoying Wildstar so much more than I have at any point in the past, and a lot of the changes that are coming in with the free to play conversion are going to be generally good for the game as well.  Past the free to play conversion… I would like to see some information about what their long range plans are.  I don’t even know if they have a presence at Pax Prime this weekend, but even if folks don’t they tend to time announcements around major shows as well.

Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns

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Since the expansion announcement at Pax South, I have had a strange connection with this title.  Traditionally speaking I do not really enjoy Guild Wars 2 that much.  That said I have to say the revenant looks more interesting than any of the previous classes. I fully expect that I will be picking this title up when it launches if for no reason other than the fact that it is once again “buy to play” and I have gotten my original purchase out of the game.  This has been the year of announcements completely unfettered by timelines, and it is starting to get frustrating.  Once again we have a big title looming on the horizon with zero date announced for when we will be expecting to play it.  I am expecting that this one is going to be a lot like Heavensward was, where they announce the launch date and it is only a few months away.  My hope is that Pax Prime finally is going to be the show where they talk about this at.  Give your fans some firm dates.

Blizzard Titles

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I am honestly not expecting anything new to come out of this conference from Blizzard.  They did their big reveal of the World of Warcraft expansion at Gamescom, and I fully expect that with Blizzcon coming up in November that they will be holding everything else closely waiting on their big show to reveal it.  I fully expect that they might announce a new Overwatch champion at Pax Prime, and potentially some more Heroes of the Storm champions or maps.  What I am really wanting from them is an announcement for when Overwatch testing will begin and a beta key delivered in my mailbox.  Everytime I launch the patcher and see that Overwatch button at the bottom of it…  I get a little sad in side.  I really want to play this game, and I sincerely doubt I will be doing so anytime soon.  Over the last few weeks I have come to the realization that I still very much love Blizzard games… it is apparently only World of Warcraft that I am on tentative terms with.  I would love beyond love them to announce something for Diablo 3…  like maybe another expansion?  They have already hinted that they might be doing a Warcraft RTS after they wrap up with Starcraft II… so that alone has me pretty pumped.

No Man’s Sky

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I am so irrationally hopeful about this title, even though I keep telling myself that there is no way it can deliver on everything it has been promising.  I love exploring new areas, and I love killing strange and interesting creatures.  No Man’s Sky promises to give me a procedural generated world where I can do this… over and over again throughout the galaxy.  On top of that the graphics are kinda cool as well with their hyper saturated version of reality.  Again…  all I really want from Hello Games is a release date.  I have a feeling that we will have an announcement for some sort of beta testing to begin soon.  Supposedly Amazon UK is already taking pre-orders so hopefully we will get a date this weekend.

Horizon: Zero Dawn

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At this point I just want more information on this title.  We saw a short trailer from E3 and I have been wanting more information since.  Once again I have no clue if there will be a presence at Pax Prime, but I am hoping!  I want to know more about the nuts and bolts of how this title is actually going to work.  I want to know if there is going to be a multiplayer aspect, or if this is just one big single player skyrim-esc sandbox.  I also want to know more about the world that surrounds the game.

Devilian

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With my recent foray back into Diablo 3, it has made me extremely interested in Devilian a Diablo like Korean game that Trion is going to be publishing.  I know Trion is going to have a good presence at the show so I am hoping we find out when the beta process is going to begin.  I ended up with a key from Gamescom and I keep checking my Glyph launcher expecting it to show up in the list of games that are playable at some point soon.  While on the topic of Trion Games, it is too soon to hope for a Rift expansion but I would still like to get more information about where that game is heading, and some more detail on the future plans for ArcheAge.  The folks at Trion Worlds are awesome so I am always interested in what they have to say.

 

 

Too Much of a Good Thing

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Viva Proactivity

Yesterday I suffered from a bit of a dilemma and could have used the assistance of Hermione and her time turner.  Sometimes the stars align just perfectly, and a sequence of patches hit at precisely the same time.  This happened once again yesterday with the Final Fantasy 3.0.7 patch and Diablo 3 2.3.0 patch.  This also conflicts with the fact that lately I have been trying to make Tuesday my Wildstar night, as it is the raid night of my guild and I am sure to see lots of people on as a result.  In truth at some point I would like to get into a rhythm of Tues/Thurs being Wildstar nights much the same way as they were previously World of Warcraft nights.  As a result I game hopped a bit. First up I poked my head into Final Fantasy XIV but did not really stay very long.  At first glance I didn’t really see the people that I needed to pull together a full guild group expert, so instead of hanging out and waiting I moved on to the next thing.  I could have easily relied on the Duty Finder, but since my passions were already deeply split last night I figured I would not really press my luck.

I will be raiding tonight so I figured that I would get plenty of time to explore the changes, which mostly for me included the addition of a TP bar in the party interface.  This could be a huge thing if it means that Bards, Machinists and Ninjas start proactively feeding their tank TP when they are starting to get low.  I know when I play ninja I always find it hard to time when is the best use of Goad.  Traditionally I try my best to time it so that I use it at the mid point in a fight, figuring by then especially if the tank is a warrior they will be struggling a bit.  As a Bard I rarely if ever played Army’s Paeon unless specifically asked by a tank because there was no real viable way of knowing when best to time it.  Mage’s Ballad on the other hand… I could time easily when I saw that both healers were starting to hurt for mana.  As silly as it sounds I think the addition of the TP bar to the party interface is going to drastically change the way the game feels for tanks at least.

Whitevale is Huge

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They keep threatening to hug me.

Last night I continued to chew away on Whitevale in Wildstar.  I managed to ding 25 which technically would have been a historic level for me…  if not for the kitty hoverboard and the snarflex.  Those have given me a nice mount to use since the moment I started playing this character, and have honestly spoiled me more than a little bit.  I am hoping that there will be similarly purchasable mounts from the in game store when the free to play conversion happens.  That would honestly be the number one thing stopping me from alting in this game, is the thought that I will not have my stable of mounts to carry over with me.  While I started upstairs last night, I ultimately crashed on the sofa working my way through the various quests in zone.  I keep hearing that all of the zones after Whitevale get significantly better but this zone serves to be this endless and impassible white wasteland.  I’ve remarked before that ultimately on my Chua Engineer it was the zone that stopped me in my tracks and kept me from progressing forward and I am remembering why now.

I am not entirely certain what it is about the zones design but something just feels bad about it.  If you were to ask me what my favorite biome is… and I think I have answered this question as part of the Liebsters…  I would probably say snowy zones.  If I think back to all of my favorite zones in games, most of them are places like Iron Pine Peaks in Rift.  The problem here is it feels like a white desert more than a snowy climate.  Maybe it is the fact that the entire zone has a purplish/bluish overtone but there is just something off with the lighting.  It has this feeling of vastness that makes me feel like I am making absolutely no progress.  That said I have put a big dent in the zone and have whittled down the available quest hubs to only a few left.  If I actually devote some time I think I can push through it in a few more hours.  I am anxiously looking forward to putting it behind me and never returning again.

Insomnia and Demons

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Big demon spider thing, going down!

 

I had every intent of just saying that last night was a Wildstar night and being done with it.  I had patched up Diablo 3 earlier in the evening but had not actually popped in to check it out.  When I wife decided it was bed time around 9 pm I attempted to lay down with her.  Problem being my body intervened and decided that even though I was sleepy… I was not sleepy enough to actually sleep.  I have this nasty habit of catching a second wind just as soon as my head hits the pillow.  I waited around a bit, attempted to watch some television and lull myself to sleep…  but that didn’t actually work.  Instead I finally got up and decided to mindlessly kill demons until sleep claimed me.  Now that Season 3 is over the pressure is mostly off, and my Crusader is just another normal character that I will eventually get to maximum level.  Since it was a Seasonal character, I feel somehow obligated to continue the storyline that I started and I pushed through the never ending series of staircases to get to Azmodan.  On Hard difficulty the game is still exceptionally easy, which is fine because I didn’t really want to think much last night.

The real question I guess is that in two days the fourth season starts.  Will I finish the Crusader first or start a new character for the season?  Honestly I am leaning towards making another Crusader for Season 4 because I really love some of the abilities.  The other option is to make another warrior, because while I like my monk… I don’t think I like its game-play enough to run up another one.  Crusader seems to hit all of the finer points I love about classes and gives me a highly tanky and defensive character with some ability to damage lots of things at the same time.  I might end up making a female crusader just to keep from feeling like I have a duplicate character in my stable.  The problem there is I am notoriously unmotivated to play female characters in games.  I tend to project myself on every character that I play, and for whatever reason I struggle to get the same “this is me doing this thing” experience when I am playing a female character.  Diablo on the other hand… there really isn’t much “you” in the characters that you create.  You are playing a stock character and dressing them up in cool armor, but other than that there really is little “personal touch” to them.

Week in Gaming 8/23/2015

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Stealing Ideas

This morning I am absolutely stealing an idea from Grace who happened to post something today called “What I’m Playing”.  Sunday is traditionally a rough day for me as far as posting goes.  One of two things has happened, either I have stayed up way late on Saturday night to finish editing and posting the AggroChat podcast, or I am rushing around Sunday morning to finish it.  This ends up making the morning feel like a big hassle either way, as my body thinks I just went through this epic struggle to get our podcast posted.  My brain is telling me… isn’t that enough?  Do I really have to make a blog post too?  At which point I tell my brain to shut the hell up and stop being so whiny, and btw give me a topic to write about while you are at it.  So now I am latching onto this week in review post idea like a life raft and just going with that.

Final Fantasy XIV

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A subtitle for this week could easily be called “failing to accomplish goals” because there is a lot of that going around.  Monday night we made solid attempts on Ravana Extreme, and Wednesday we didn’t quite have the people to pull anything together.  Other than that I have honestly been pretty scarce in game.  I get like this after finishing a grind to accomplish one of my goals, and for awhile now I had been grinding in so many different ways to gear both the Warrior and the Dragoon.  I had all intention of capping Esoterics this week, but as of last night I just have seventy five.  I could spend my day grinding to play catch up…  but I highly doubt that is going to happen.  Hopefully we can return to our normally scheduled Final Fantasy XIV play schedule next week.

Wildstar

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I am still very much playing Wildstar, but similarly to Final Fantasy XIV I didn’t really spend much time actually playing it this week.  I made a minor dent on Whitevale on Tuesday, but I spent more time talking about Wildstar with friends this week than actually playing it.  I am not really sure what was up this week but I was overly tired pretty much every day.  We had one horrible night where the storms woke me up and I never could get back to sleep fully, and I think this lack of sleep pretty much pushed the rest of the week out of whack.  Each night I felt like I lacked the mental fortitude to concentrate on an MMO, so ultimately just ended up playing something else.  I want to continue my climb on the Warrior because I am finding the game more enjoyable than I did at launch, and am actually really looking forward to the free to play drop.

Dragon Age Inquisition

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I spent an awful lot of time playing this game over the week, but my overarching goal was less about actually playing and more about figuring out how to play it from my laptop.  I maybe obsess about stupid shit sometimes.  As you can see from the screenshot I finally left the Hinterlands!  I am actually enjoying the game quite a bit now, but for whatever reason I am not finding it nearly as “sticky” as the previous Dragon Age games.   In Origin and even in 2 I had these moments where every fiber of my being just wanted to see what happened next.  It was like turning the pages of a really good novel, and this game doesn’t have that same feel.  It very much feels like I am playing levels in a video game and I find I care less about the story than I have in previous games.  That is not to say the game is not enjoyable, because I am absolutely having fun… but it is just a different sort of fun.

Diablo III

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I apparently worked the Hellgate London out of my system, but instead it has given me a desire to play Diablo III.  For most of the week this has been my go to game, as it has just the right amount of friction for my mental state.  I don’t have to think about it much, I can just push buttons and kill things…  and that works.  In the continued theme of setting myself up for failure, I apparently decided that creating a Season 3 character from scratch was apparently a brilliant idea.  Now in order to get any of the Seasonal rewards I need to get a character to 70…  before 5 pm PST tonight.  This is not a thing that is going to happen since I am just now sitting at 27 as the above screenshot shows the ding.  The positive is… I am actually really enjoying playing the Crusader.  I figure when Season 4 starts I will make another seasonal character and see what I can make it to with a full three months or so of playtime available.

Hatoful Boyfriend

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I curse everyone involved for introducing this game into my life.  It is so damned crazy, but I can’t seem to stop myself from playing it.  At this point I have now seen six different endings for the game.  From what I can tell I have yet to actually scratch the surface, but at least I feel like i have a lot to talk about for the upcoming show.  I imagine that I will play it some more and go for a few more endings.  The ending that I have not seen is the supposed “bad ending”, which I guess means you have to play the game without much thought taking random birds to do things.  At this point I have taken the approach of setting my sights on a specific bird during each play session.  I have a few more left to do that with, so that is probably going to be my focus in the sessions between now and the aggrochat show.

Heavensward Mega Episode

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For awhile now the AggroChat crew has deliberately put off talking about the events of Final Fantasy XIV Heavensward in an attempt to allow folks to catch up on the content.  However this week the gloves are coming off and we are dipping into a full spoiler episode where we hash out the events that have occured since the 2.55 patch show.  We trace the steps of our characters from setting foot into Ishgard to the final conflict of the expansion, with as much details as we can think about in between.  This is a roughly two hour long show because of the truly large amount of content to go over.  We considered chopping this into two halves, but figured we would release it uncut.  We talk about our favorite characters, our most emotional moments and what we are looking forward to with future content patches.

[AggroChat] [Direct Download] [iTunes] [Stitcher]

Loyalty Systems

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Another Bonus Post

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It is bizarre that once again I have something that I absolutely have to write about “right now” instead of waiting for a morning post.  This makes two bonus posts in a week… so it has to go down as some sort of red letter day or something.  The problem being I am just about to write out a post that is going to make a lot of people upset, or at least I think it likely will.  That said I feel like I have to be the bad guy here and take the other side of the discussion.  What is it exactly that is worth making a bonus post about you ask?  Well today Wildstar announced the scheme for their new “loyalty system” and the rewards that come with it.  Going further than just dangling shiny objects in front of our faces, they also made a fair attempt to explain how exactly the monetization and loyalty accruals would go.  On initial viewing I didn’t think much about it, but it was not long before the twittersphere was buzzing with frustration.

If you examine the system more closely you see that the deck is stacked in favor of players who pay physical money, over players who are paying with their time.  This is most noticeable when you take the issue of C.R.E.D.D. the token currency the game has had for awhile that provides players with an alternate form of paying for their subscripting by trading in game platinum for a months token.  The C.R.E.D.D. tokens cost players $20 and then can be sold on an in game brokerage for a variable amount of Platinum that fluctuates with the demand on monthly tokens.  This allowed some of those early players to get in on the ground floor and snap up several months worth of game time on the cheap, and then has continued to allow folks to play largely for free at the cost of time spent in game farming currency.

Currency Exchange

When it comes to loyalty the equation is very much not equal.  The player spending the $20 for the token earns 4000 cosmic points, in addition to whatever platnium they get out of the transaction.  The player redeeming the C.R.E.D.D. for a month’s worth of premium game time only gets 1000 cosmic points out of the deal.  The initial complaint that I keep hearing is that the C.R.E.D.D. player is paying $5 more per month than the subscription player who is getting their play time for $15 a month instead of $20.  At first glance this logic makes a sort of sense, but it isn’t quite that simple.  In some game systems you are actually selling your subscription token to another player who then sets the price point.  In Wildstar however there is no actual transaction between two players, and a such it becomes hard to really equate the two.  What is ultimately happening is this…

  • Player 1 purchases a C.R.E.D.D. and indicates that they want to sell it.
  • The Broker NPC gives that player an amount of platnium based on the current exchange rate for that token.
  • Player 2 indicates that they want to purchase game time for platnium.
  • The Broker NPC gives them a C.R.E.D.D. token in exchange for an amount of platnium equal to whatever the current exchange rate is.

At no point did the player actually pay $20 for a month’s subscription time, but instead bought in game currency.  The second player spent a fixed amount of in game currency to gain a month of subscription time in lieu of spending any real world money.  The key benefit of buying C.R.E.D.D. will always be gaining a month of subscription time, or in the new scheme a month of premium access.  The loyalty being gained is just a nice added effect, and a thank you from Wildstar for keeping the system running.

The Restaurant Analogy

The deck will always be heavily stacked in favor of the person who is paying physical money to a free to play game.  The “free” players have a lot to offer to games, largely because they make a game feel alive and active.  In an MMO this is especially important when it comes to filling out dungeon finder queues, and providing items for the economy.  However the hard facts are that without folks actually plunking down cash and buying into the game, the games would not and could not exist.  I don’t know any figures for the MMO market, but the mobile game market has something like an abysmal 2% “conversion rate” or the amount of players who actually make an in game purchase.  Even if we are exceptionally generious and think that MMO players are more likely to spend money… you are probably still looking at something like 10% of the players spending money.  Think back to every game launch and the copious tweets, forum posts and blogs that essentially say the same thing each time…  “I like the game, but not enough to pay for it.”

In High School I had a good friend from a broken home that was one of four children living off of a super meager single income.  My friendly simply could not do a lot of the things that I could do, so often times I would subsidize a dinner here or a movie ticket there… because I valued his time and companionship and knew there was no way in hell he would ever get to do these things unless I did.  I never felt used in the equation, or taken advantage of, because having him along made my experience more enjoyable.  However if you think about going to a restaurant with someone who is picking up the tab for the entire table.  They are doing it as a way of appreciating your company, or because having you along makes the dining experience more enjoyable.  However shift for a moment and think about the Restaurant.

While no restaurant owner wants anyone to have a bad time, and they want everyone to get good service…  or in this case the awesome game filled with interesting things to do.  At the end of the day the person who matters the most to the restaurant owner and their employees is that person picking up the check.  That person is going to reap the lion’s share of the special service, and if they tip well are also likely going to get remembered and treated especially nice from that moment on.  That check and those tips go directly towards supporting the restaurant and its employees.  It makes sense that the person who pays the bill is the one that gets remembered and gets special treatment.  So in the case of an MMO the loyalty systems will always be stacked in a way as to reward the person who is willing to keep funneling more money into the system that keeps the lights on, the community staff paid, the servers running, and more content being created.

It Feels Shitty

At this point you are probably saying, “But Bel, that isn’t really fair and feels really shitty” and I agree with you.  It does feel shitty.  It feels shitty when your time spent in a game and your loyalty to that product is worth less than someone who is spending a lot of money on it.  The problem is I can’t really fix that, and I am not necessarily saying it is an amazing system, but just the way these things work.  The term “loyalty” always gets bandied about but I think it is a horrible term to use.  This is essentially a patronage or donation system, where the folks that are willing to pay are supporting the rest of the folks who are enjoying the system.  There is a quote that I have heard hundreds of times, that today I finally looked up the source of.  It was apparently originally attributed to the user Blue_Bettle on a MetaFilter article called User-Drive Discontent.

If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.

As much as I dislike the cynicism of that statement, I cannot argue with the fact that it is absolutely true.  When we use Google, we are making a financial transaction.  They are providing us search results and we are selling them our rights to aggregate the data in those search results and present advertisements based on it.  Similarly when you purchase game time with C.R.E.D.D. you are essentially providing a product that Carbine turns around and sells to other players for cold hard cash.  It is very much the modern equivalent of “sharecropping” where the company owns the game, and you pay with your time spent… and get free rent as a result and a small small share of the rewards.  Loyalty systems will always be anything but, so long as the equation does not balance.