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Archive for June, 2010

I make no secret of the fact that I’ve been exclusively playing Guild Wars as my MMO title for the past while. In light of that fact, I felt a slight makeover of my blog was in order, and with that, a new header image. I was surprised to find that although I have many Fraps folders full of lovely GW scenery, not many can be fully appreciated with a mere banner-strip of the view. Raisu Palace (or was it Raisu Pavillion? I don’t remember) turned out to be photogenic from just about every angle, though, so enjoy. It was either this or my character wearing a pumpkin hat.

While my excuse for neglecting my year-long subscription to Star Trek Online is the new War in Kryta content and my desire to acquire shiny things, my better half has been lured by one, then another, then another, single-player game. Having murdered the bad guys dead in Mass Effect 2, he is now taking a shot with ME1, being a villain and a scoundrel in Overlord, and has his eye turned to Mount & Blade next, as well as the Dragon Age DLC.

What happened to Star Trek Online? I’m not sure. After an exciting head start, we both lost momentum with the release of ME2 – the better half because he was playing it, and me because I put my character on hold while he played it (those pesky spousal leveling contracts will get you every time!). The first flaw I found with STO at the time was that due to the way content was funneled along a single path, I could not hope to run an alt during my downtime without exhausting content I’d just have to run with my partner all over again. So, strike one for Cryptic: no alternative content paths for leveling.

By the time we got back into playing with any regularity, I found my interest in space combat beginning to wane. I discovered that I don’t connect well to ships as avatars, and as a result I did not look forward to launching yet another mission and spending yet another 45 minutes in space shooting things up – even when it looks spectacular. I longed to do my exploring on foot rather than beam down for the conclusion or penultimate part of an episode, and since the only other way to spend most of my time on the ground was to do ground PvP exclusively, the appeal of the whole game went a bit south for me.

Meanwhile, my better half was tearing up PvP Klingon-side with his alt while I played Guild Wars, Wizard 101, Aika, Everquest 2, and made a few abortive attempts at LOTRO and DDO. For his part, PvP came down to one too many 9 vs. 1 battles, and one night he logged off and vowed not to return until Cryptic had found a way to balance the maps more effectively.

We continue to watch the updates and patches come in for STO with interest, and I did make a point of logging in and getting my proper Original Series shirt with the scoop collar, and proper wraparound skirt, thankyouverymuch (am I bothered that the uniform will now be available in the C-Store? Not at all; I decided that the content was worth $10 to me for the privilege of having at launch. Everyone else who wants it now can have at it!). It’s nice to know that since we have paid for the year, we can pop in whenever we like to sample the water. Cost of the yearly subscription aside, I can’t stress the value that freedom holds for me. If we’d had a monthly subscription, we likely would have canceled by 30 days and not returned at all, so anyone who’s still playing – you’re welcome; our money is helping you get content!

Alas, now our respective focii are elsewhere, so I retire my Lieutenant ship for the time being, and bring you Canthan palaces. Next, I bring you the tale of how I came to embrace the PvE meta of Guild Wars, kicking and screaming all the way.

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It’s been very interesting watching the new footage and information that have been coming out from E3 about Rift: Planes of Telara. I have been half-watching this game since it was called Heroes of Telara and only had a tech demo to its name a year ago. Then, as now, I am impressed by the graphics – among the closest to my idealized fantasy style as I’ve seen to date – and the notion of events that change the world around you, villages that can be destroyed, rifts that send different enemies out into the world each time and whose rewards grow greater with every warrior that steps up to fight the threats involved.

Of course, a year ago ArenaNet was executing some radio silence on Guild Wars 2, and has since resurfaced with a fairly comprehensive description of their own dynamic events (among other things). While I am still very interested in R:PoT, it has fierce competition for my heart in GW2, in which I have a fair amount of commitment invested in the lore and inhabitants of that MMO universe. Neither game has revealed a release date, though it is probably safe to say we won’t see either until 2011. I can only hope that with both games promising a new kill-ten-rats-free game mechanic that gamers have been craving for some time now, there is enough room in the MMO-verse for both to satisfy their respective fans, and perhaps get more than a few to cross over between the two (an easier accomplishment than with other games since GW2 will not require a subscription).

Surprisingly, I feel that Rift is not getting the magnitude of exposure that it seems GW2 has drawn, and I do wonder why that is, since Rift does have some impressive names to call from its roster, including Scott Hartsman. I often hear comparisons drawn between GW2 and SW:TOR, but we may be looking at a Power Trio to hit the MMO world in 2011 rather than the duo folks have been discussing. At any rate, I look forward to seeing more of Rift in the months to come. It certainly is a gorgeous game, and due to its fantasy setting is easily my second choice for MMO investment before the sci-fi Old Republic.

*I have corrected the game title for Rift: Planes of Telara; as pointed out to me, it is the Planes that are plural, not the Rifts.

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I have been putting many more hours into Guild Wars these days than I have since the release of Eye of the North so many moons ago. After a particularly embarrassing snafu in which I roped two acquaintances into helping me with the Riverside Assassination mission without realizing I needed to do the prerequisites before legitimately receiving the quest (this is why, boys and girls, if you are going to reference the Wiki for something, you better go all-in rather than hope to be surprised by the content later), I have taken a break from the War In Kryta festivities and turned my focus toward bettering myself as a player. For me, this has meant taking my main character through more of the Factions campaign and getting a couple more elite skills under my belt.

As noted in my byline, I am an easy mode gamer. I find anxiety in competition and stress in defeat, and I am not reward-driven; as a result, my main goal in most games is not to be the best, but simply to be good enough to get by. What drives me, then, to continue to improve in Guild Wars, even when I am beating myself against a seemingly impassable mission wall, is that I must know what happens next. For all the claims that MMOs aren’t meant to have storylines provided by external sources like the game developers, I have not found anything else that presses me on to become more efficient, faster, more aware of my surroundings, to acquire the right tools and the right NPC companions for the job, as that single factor. What is behind that wall? What happens to so-and-so? Will the lovers be re-united? And so on. Yes, I read the quests. Yes, every one. And I never skip a cinematic.

Realizing this about myself has helped me to see what I failed to see in previous MMO purchases, and explains why I quit Age of Conan after my level 30 destiny quest was completed, and LOTRO after I couldn’t get a group together to finish Book 2, and Warhammer Online after Tier 2. I hit the wall in Guild Wars after the Searing, and again in the Maguuma Jungle, and again in the Southern Shiverpeaks and later in the Eye of the North itself. I returned each time, determination renewed, vowing to get it right next time, because I can never leave a story unfinished.

So I find myself back in Cantha, plotting the downfall of Shiro Tagachi and making nice with the Luxons, not for the elite armor set, or the Allegiance title, but to acquire a few new skills and push myself a little past mediocrity so that I can return to Kryta, wipe that White Mantle scum from the face of Tyria, and find out just what the heck is going to happen next.

I’m suddenly faced with more content than I have time to consume, and not a title grind in sight!

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Regarding Turbine’s revelation that Lord of the Rings Online is going to go free to play this fall, I am late to the party as always – particularly so because I am not yet completely certain of my feelings on the matter. A summary of other bloggers’ thoughts can be found here, with most weighing in as optimistically apprehensive to positive in outlook. My thoughts on the change are that this is a good move for Turbine and MMOs in general; as a fan of free to play titles and a cheerleader for the Guild Wars franchise, this is a no-brainer for me. I do not buy the story that subscriptions are necessary for either server maintenance or continued content updates, so if Turbine (or the Warner hand that is guiding it) feels that a change in business model will bring more people to the title, I think it’s well worth the attempt.

LOTRO was supposedly already free to play for me because I bought a lifetime subscription over two years ago. However, due to that purchase, I have actually paid approximately $46/mo for my playtime, as I discovered too late that the game is not at all to my taste. I would have benefited from this model springing into play a little sooner, but I am determined to find a way to make use of the Turbine points I will be accumulating as a lifetime member, perhaps to buy a Warden and make one last attempt to pass through Middle Earth, if only just to say I’d been there.

Whether or not I am or ever was a fan of Turbine’s games, as champion of the growing free to play family, I must admit that it’s nice to see another game enter the fold. Come on in – the water’s fine!

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