Flipping Tables

Garrisons & Mission Tables. Such a polarizing topic among WoW players these days.

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WoW developer Watcher posted a long response to some of the concerns about the Mission Table v. 2.0 in Legion.  A few things I want to address here.

But at the same time, there are people who do enjoy the mission minigame, and there are some positive elements, such as a bit of offline progression, and the fun of looking forward to a reward waiting for you when you get home and log in. Not all aspects of the game are intended to appeal to all players – that’s part of the challenge of creating a single game that is played by such a diverse audience with different preferences and playstyles. But while garrison followers and missions were a substantial portion of the content in Warlords, Order Hall missions are probably more like 3% of Legion.

Let’s back up for a moment. Does anybody REALLY enjoy the mission mini-game? I have no doubt that when Blizzard pulls their reports on what players are doing when they log in, they see a whole lot of players running missions, likely on multiple characters every single day. But running missions does not equal enjoyment. Personally, I run missions on 6 characters every single day. It’s NOT fun. It’s NOT enjoyable. It’s NOT something that I think about while I’m at work and it’s definitely not something that I look forward to. I run missions for one reason: gold. It’s similar to running dailies in previous expansions, I’m not doing it because I enjoy the activity, I’m doing it because I want the gold and I feel like I’m missing out on gold if I miss a day.

I understand that there is a fair amount of cynicism, and there are some who are probably reading this right now and thinking that it’s just a bunch of nice-sounding words trying to cover up our sinister plan of mission-table supremacy. But even if we wanted to, we know that we can’t hide anything here. Well before Legion is in anyone’s hands, people will be experiencing the system in its entirety in beta, and we’ll be judged on that basis.

Cynicism is an understatement, and it isn’t undeserved. People have serious mission fatigue right now.

The core of the class Order campaigns is epic quest content that is custom to your class. If you’re a Death Knight, you might be working to raise a new set of Four Horsemen who are powerful enough to stand against the Legion; as a Mage, you may be investigating a plot that threatens to undo Dalaran from within; and so forth. That’s what the Order campaigns are. We start you on these chains during the level-up experience, but they’re intended to be a story that unfolds over time, complementing the game’s level-up and endgame progression.

Could this not be done with traditional quests? I get it, I really do. I love the idea of Order campaigns, class fantasy, and so on. But mission tables are not the right way to do it. The best way I can describe it, with no disrespect intended, is that the playerbase currently has mission table PTSD. The mere sight of a mission table is causing dizziness, nausea, flashbacks, and panic. Maybe the best thing to do would be to cut the losses, move the missions to traditional quest experiences, and just move on.

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Nostalrius and BlizzCon Living Together, Mass Hysteria

First off: Yes, I am planning on going to BlizzCon! Mr. Moxie and I normally go to the beach or something for vacation (if we take one), but we wanted to do something different this year. We were debating about various locations, but I realized that BlizzCon is something that I’ve always wanted to go to, plus it’s close to Disneyland, AND I’ve never been to the west coast or a game convention. So BlizzCon it is! We don’t have any guildies that are planning on going at the moment, so it’ll just be the two of us. That’s okay in my book – we’ll have freedom to come and go and hit just the sessions that we’re interested in. Still, if you’re reading this and planning on going, let me know! I’d love to meet folks!

On to the main topic… private servers and Nostalrius’ imminent demise. Honestly, I totally understand why people play on private servers. It still breaks my heart when I go to old favorite zones like Darkshore and Ashenvale and they’ve been ripped apart by the Cataclysm updates. They don’t feel the same, and I don’t like the new versions at all, so much so that I no longer level alts through that content. The fact of the matter is that if I want to go back to those places to level alts and experience the nostalgia, I can’t unless I go to a private (vanilla) server. I don’t play on private servers for ethical reasons, but I understand why some people do.

On one hand, I feel that Nostalrius wasn’t competing directly with Blizzard for a couple of reasons. First, the experience on Nostalrius is not offered by Blizzard at this time. Until Blizz opens vanilla servers, there is no real competition. Second, the majority of people that play on Nostalrius are not going to sub to retail just because the private server isn’t available. They aren’t interested in the current version of WoW. Third, Nostalrius wasn’t actually making a profit… people could play for free and could provide optional donations. They were barely making enough to keep the server going.

On the other hand, I used to work in the intellectual property industry. One of the unspoken rules of IP is that if you want to protect your IP, you have to defend it, at least some of the time. If you have registered intellectual property but never actually defend it, it may as well not be yours. Most companies pick and choose their battles. Fan art, homemade crafts, and the like is usually skimmed over, but blatant usage of intellectual property to provide services similar to the owner, or to give the impression that they are the owner or an affiliated company, are typically pursued swiftly and aggressively. From that point of view, I can totally see why Blizzard works to shut down private servers.

In all honesty, the answer is for Blizzard to open a vanilla server. One vanilla server. Set it up with the last update before TBC launched, and then let it ride, no further updates. I think demand would be huge to start with, but over time population would stabilize and it would be a home for a small hardcore vanilla fanbase and a revolving group of tourists that just want to pop in for the occasional nostalgia. It would also be a historical point as well, so that gamers that started in Cataclysm or later can experience the game’s roots. Blizzard has of course said no to this in the past, but to be honest, they’ve said no on a lot of other things before that have since come into fruition. It make take a while, but I would be willing to bet money that this will happen at some point in the future.

Starcrack Valley

I don’t often play single-player games. I enjoy the social aspect of MMOs, so for me most single-player games just don’t cut it. There is one notable exception however – Animal Crossing. I’ve played every game in the franchise since the original came out for the Game Cube years ago, but even that you could say is a quasi-social experience, since a very large part of the game is socializing with the NPCs and basically creating a village experience with them. Otherwise, I largely ignore most single-player games.

That is, until Stardew Valley came out. I hadn’t even heard of the game until after it had released and a friend mentioned it to me. It looked like Harvest Moon, and crazy as it sounds, I’ve not really been a fan of Harvest Moon games either. The Day/Night cycle always seemed to move too fast, like there were way too many things to do within each day, and it felt more like a time management game – I have enough time management issues in real life, thank you very much, and really don’t need to deal with it in my game time. So I was skeptical – but as I looked at it, it seemed to also have blended in aspects of Minecraft, Terraria, and – joy of JOYS – Animal Crossing. And the price was right at $14.99. So I gave it a whirl.

AND OH MY WORD THIS GAME IS CRACK. I love it. As long as my plants get watered, I can do whatever else each day, so the day/night cycle doesn’t bother me too much. Mostly it only bothers me when I’m mining and trying to dig down through the levels to hit another elevator. The game itself is charming, with the SNES-era sprites that make me feel like a kid again, vibrant color palettes, and a wonderful soundtrack. The NPCs all have character and it does feel like a social experience even as a single-player game. My favorite character is currently Linus, the homeless NPC that hangs out at his tent by the river, dishes out philosophical wisdom and is more than happy to be given food. Most of the NPCs are rote social stereotypes – the athletic guy, the emo guy, the Fabio guy, the alternative girl, the good girl, the nerdy girl, etc – but they are done fairly well and they all have a backstory with some twists and turns.

So far I’m just trying to build up cash by farming, mining, and selling everything that isn’t nailed down. I haven’t even really started on trying to woo any villagers or build up friendships via gifting, I figure that will happen in year 2. It’s the little things in game that give the game heart – such as the train that rolls by dropping items off that you can grab, or the little fairy that stops by some nights to make your crops mature faster.

It blows my mind that one guy developed the entire game, including composing the soundtrack, and that he is committed to continuing to push out updates. That is a major accomplishment, and I’m happy to support indie designers that have taken something like this on. It’s a great complimentary game to play alongside World of Warcraft, and in this case, I actually like that time stops when I’m not playing, because there’s no pressure to play and I can fit it into my schedule any time.

In The End, There is Azeroth

If you follow my twitter feed, you can probably guess what happened with me and FFXIV… I tried, I really did. The game itself is really well done in a lot of ways, and I can definitely see why it has the playerbase number that it does. It’s polished, well thought-through, and interesting. But honestly, it just wasn’t my genre. I felt about FFXIV a lot like I thought about Wildstar – both fun novelties and excellent MMOs in their own right if you’re into JRPGs and Sci-Fi Westerns, respectively. But JRPGs and Sci-Fi Westerns aren’t my thing, so it was difficult for me to viscerally connect to those games. I lasted a few weeks, and then I was floundering about again without a game home.

So, I resubbed to good ol’ faithful: World of Warcraft. As much as I dislike Garrison gameplay, I’ve ended up maxing out 4 garrisons (and working on two more) with Treasure Hunter followers and running gold missions each day for easy money. At the end of each expansion I typically run dailies for gold anyway, so this is just a more efficient version of that. It’s not really “fun”, but I like checking my Accountant mod at the end of each night and seeing the day’s totals tallied up. I’m also working on finishing leveling Archaeology and Fishing on my paladin, since she is my new main these days.

In addition, yesterday I came across this post on Tumblr that is proposing a fantastic idea: Taking the first two weeks after the Warcraft movie comes out to hang out in starter zones and assist new players. Since I currently play on a high-pop realm that is tagged for new players (Dalaran-US), we will likely get slammed with an influx of new players when the movie launches. So, new project: making and stockpiling Netherweave Bags and putting some gold back to give to lowbies. The plan is to hang out in Elwynn/Kharanos/Dolanaar and hand out the bags & gold, answer questions, and generally assist lowbies to make their starting experience more positive. My LotRO guild did something similar in LotRO back when it went F2P, and my GW2 guild (Gaiscioch) has done this in RIFT and GW2 with great results. It was fun so I’m definitely looking forward to doing it again, and I’ve already gotten a few others in my guild (Drunken Hooligans represent!) on-board to assist as well.

Next time: Stardew Valley, one of the very few single-player games I actually enjoy!

First Impressions of FFXIV

Typically the week between Christmas and New Years is a heavy gaming time for me, but this year was thrown off-kilter by two things. First, I didn’t have enough PTO to take off the extra days between the holidays, and second – I really wasn’t feeling any game that I had installed. Wurm Online is the old faithful that I adore and will always keep in my back pocket, but sometimes you just want to throw down some old school MMORPG questing action. I’m currently subscribed to WoW but it’s become primarily about logging in to take care of garrison business and make gold to prep for Legion. I updated LotRO and logged in a couple of times, but I have a very uneasy sense of dread about that game and it’s future. I even floated back into GW2 a couple of nights, but I couldn’t get motivated to do anything there either. ESO tempted me, but I couldn’t justify paying for the game when I didn’t know if it would be my cup of tea. Then, there was Final Fantasy.

I don’t have a history with the Final Fantasy franchise at all… I’ve always been aware of it but I never really thought about playing it. I like my games to be set in a medieval world, with just enough fantasy/magic to make things interesting, a la LotRO or Wurm. Low-fantasy, I guess. So Final Fantasy with it’s high-fantasy, eastern feel never really appealed to me. I’ve also never been impressed with the screenshots or videos that I’ve seen, it looked ugly to me, sort of RIFT-ugly. Still, it had a free trial, so I figured that I would give it a go. I’ve only played it a night or two and I’m still only level 7, but here’s my initial thoughts…

  1. Graphics: Okay, it’s not as ugly in person as it looks in other media. It’s actually kind of pretty at times, and has a certain charm to it. I feel like the NPCs are made out of play-doh, like a really high quality claymation film, but it works when you see the characters up close and animated. There’s something still slightly off-putting to me though, but I can’t put my finger on it just yet.
  2. Races: human (yay), elf (yay), big ugly blue person (yawn), kewpie doll (huh?), and catperson. I took them all through customization (great customization options, btw) and ended up picking a catgirl, inspired by my cat IRL. She’s actually pretty cute, the only real cat-like things about her are the ears and tail so it’s not too over the top.ffxiv_12312015_224120crop
  3. Combat: A bit slow and clunky, but otherwise pretty easy to get the hang of. I picked an Archer, with the thought of becoming a Bard later. So far, so good.
  4. HUD: It’s fine, fairly self-explanatory and easy to use and change. It took me a minute to figure out how to resize the UI elements, but once I did, all was well. Well, except for…
  5. Maps: Let’s talk about this map system. It is atrocious. I have an excellent sense of direction, in both games and IRL. I’m the person you want to hang with in a strange city, and I can figure out the easiest/shortest way to get around in a game with no problems. But so far the FFXIV map system has me beat. They took one huge zone, split it into tons of miniature zones with specific gates in between, but not every gate is usable due to your level. Then if you are in one mini-zone and need to go to another to take care of a quest, you have to find the screen for the quest zone and somehow backtrack/trace a route to the zone that you’re currently in, but you never get to see all the zones on the screen at once. It’s annoying, frustrating, and is a huge time-waster. I’ve watched videos trying to explain how it works. I still don’t get it. I did find this site with an all-in-one map of the world, and keeping that open on my second screen is the only way I can tolerate it right now. Terrible design here.Grumpy-CatFFXIV
  6. Atmosphere: I primarily play games to relax after rough days at a stressful job, so typically games like Wildstar don’t do it for me – they tend to agitate me more than give me a peaceful respite. FFXIV so far is having the desired effect – as long as I’m not looking at the infernal map or trying to figure out where to go, it’s peaceful, relaxing, almost happy-ish. I’ve seen it mentioned on Twitter that it is in some ways LotRO-like, and so far I see it as being LotRO-like in that specific regard. It just seems like an enjoyable place to roam in.
  7. Quests: So far not too bad! It’s the typical kill ten rats, take this package here sort of thing, but that is standard and I’m perfectly fine with that. I kind of like reading the quest text in what I think are the characters voices – it’s almost an exercise in imagination and it adds to the immersion.

So will I stick it out? Maybe. Too soon to tell really. I have two weeks to figure out if I have a future there, if at the end of 2 weeks I’m still playing and enjoying it, I may sub up. Stay tuned! 🙂

Scenes From The Northwest

After a weekend of digging and fencing, here’s where we are so far:

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Animal field: Fenced and Locked! I still need to dig out that mound of dirt in the middle, but all the animals are in their home now.

 

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Farm field: Almost done! I still need to rip down the small temporary animal pen, level it alllll out (needs to be flat to plant a farm), and finish a few more fence sections. We have plenty of food for now though, so this project will go on the back burner.

Next up on the docket is digging out the eastern border of the deed and getting that part of the fence finished, then we should be good and secure against trolls, spiders, scorpions, crocs, and the like. I went exploring tonight so that I could find a female sheep in order to start breeding for wool. What I found is that if I go about 2 minutes through the forest to the east, there is a huge area of steppe and tundra FULL of nasties. That’s why we have so many critters wandering onto the deed, they’re all coming from here. I’m not complaining at all, that is good hunting. 😀

 

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Note the big troll in the upper right – that is a champion troll (an elite) and in my mind, he rules this hill. One of these days his rule will end. 😉

Progress Post

Wildeacre is coming right along, slowly but surely. Let’s take a look at the progress so far:

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First, I needed to decide on a level for the deed and clean up the mine pit. It’s a tricky thing because the deed backs right up on a mountain, but is rather low towards the front. I ended up picking a low height that will look fairly natural in the front, and I’m cutting deep into the mountain in the back. It’s been a process of cutting into the back and then counting off the slope over lots of tiles to make sure that I’m working on the same level in both front and back. I ran into rock at one point in the back, about 25 slope higher than I would have liked, but I’m going to roll with it – that particular corner will be hidden by tall hedges, so we’re just going to leave it as is for now. Maybe at some point it’ll get corrected.

Once I decided on the level, I squared away around the mine. This wasn’t as easy as I would have hoped since I had to do some flat-raising, but I got it, finally. Then I sailed down the coast a bit to a big maple forest and went crazy plucking hundreds of sprouts off the maple trees. With those sprouts I made…

 

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Hedges! The mine pit has been lined with maple hedges that are short right now, but will grow into tall hedges the same height as the gate. We also built a guard tower to protect us from local wildlife, and I got the first story of my house finished. Since this picture was made, Mr. Moxie also built a mirroring house on the right side, where the packed tiles and crates are. These houses will likely end up being 3 stories high, with bavarian-style timber walls on the 2nd and 3rd floors and slate roofs.

My current project is creating a road from the front of the deed to the highway, and then leveling the entire border of the deed and getting it fenced in. After that, finishing the farm fence. Then, leveling some more space for the workshop/storage buildings, abbey, and winery. I honestly love this spot. While it doesn’t look like much now with the dirt piles and crates strewn everywhere, it’s beautiful, has great resources, a great view, a great location, and it’s shaping up to be a beautiful, cozy, lush Secret Garden-like deed.