One to X: SWTOR, Trove, and Marvel Heroes

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update on this project, but then that’s the nature of pursuing something like this; it takes more than a couple of days to reach max level in an MMO. Last time I had reached level 60 on my first hero in Marvel Heroes and level 50 in Final Fantasy XIV. Since then I’ve more or less abandoned FFXIV but I have continued to work on other heroes in MH2015. I have also stepped back into Star Wars: The Old Republic and Trove where I’m working toward my first max level character in both games. I’m not quite there yet with either, but I’ve made significant progress.

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Star Wars: The Old Republic

My healing Scoundrel was level 35 when the 12x XP kicked in, however during the weeks the buff has been available I haven’t made it very far. I could have easily leveled to 60 by now if I had only been playing SWTOR, but the XP multiplier in addition to my renewed interest in Trove has really killed my motivation to play the Star Wars MMO. However I have made it to level 50, which was the level cap when the game launched. I have a little more of my class story to finish and once I do I’ll move on to Makeb. My plan is to continue this character utilizing the 12x XP so that I can start playing the Shadow of Revan content. Not only would I like to see the new zones, flashpoints, and storyline, but I would also like to start earning the credits I’ll need to raise up an army of alts.

Once I’ve reached level cap on my Scoundrel, the plan is to continue with a second class in the game but this time I may turn off the XP buff, something I never thought I would do. I like the speed of 12x XP but I’d like to experience the planet storylines and I also prefer to diversify my leveling experience with Flashpoints, Warzones, and Galactic Starfighter matches rather than limiting it to just class story. I’m thinking I’ll start a Sage next, or maybe a Sage and a Commando so that I can test out both of the other healing specs in the game.

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Trove

In case you missed it, you may want to check out this post on why I think Trove is such a great game. I’ve been back in the voxel MMO for a couple of weeks now and I’ve made some significant progress toward level 20. My Dracolyte is now level 17 but the progression at this stage is slow going and I’ve spent most of my time lately playing the Candy Barbarian instead. Both have a playstyle I enjoy but right now the Candy Barbarian is by far my favorite. Currently my Barbarian is level 12 and at this rate I may surpass the Dracolyte class and reach 20 for the first time with this sweet warrior.

I’ve mentioned this before but I’m going to say it again, the thing I love about Trove is that the leveling game and the end game are so similar that there is no reason to rush. Once you reach level 10 you have reached “end game.” At that point you can pretty much participate in everything that you will be doing at level 20 with the difficulty level increasing as you go. Thus the first 10 levels are a kind of extended tutorial, giving you time to grow familiar with your class so that once you reach the “Uber” zones (Trove’s high level maps) you have the class knowledge and skill sets to continue the leveling process through end game content.

Marvel Heroes

As I expected, I picked up another hero rather than working toward gearing out my first 60 for end game content. My approach to Marvel Heroes will likely be leveling multiple classes to 60 rather than focusing on what the game offers at max level. Of course, that might change if I find a hero that I like well enough to continue progressing but for now I’m content to continue leveling heroes. After X-23, I started to play Ms. Marvel until the Avengers XP boost was announced. At that point I switched to Black Widow and in a few short weeks I had my second hero up to level 60. This weekend I began playing up to level 10 with the other available Avengers—I have enough eternity splinters to purchase one—and decided unexpectedly on Hawkeye. I had already purchased him along with Black Widow back in December when all heroes were half off (they were only 225 Gs!), so I still have my eternity splinters to spend at a later time.

I actually tried Hawkeye last, assuming there was no way he would be my favorite of the bunch but surprisingly he was. I like the archer/ ranger archetype in general and Hawkeye has a great assortment of trick arrows—explosive, electric, poisonous, etc. The downside is that he runs out of Spirit quickly so I have been maxing out points in his basic attack as much as possible since I am reliant on it for damage. He can also be a little squishy but so long as I leave enough spirit to use his dodge ability to stay at range, I’m usually okay. Plus his Rocket Arrow is powerful enough that I can nearly one shot elites; dead mobs aren’t much of a survivability threat.

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The Future of One to X

Currently I’m pretty content with these three games. Once I’ve reached max level in SWTOR and Trove I plan on leveling multiple classes/ heroes in all three games. I may swap in DC Universe Online for one of the games at some point to finish my level 17 Green Lantern but otherwise there aren’t any games grabbing my attention right now. Rift and The Elder Scrolls Online were on my list, and WildStar might be as well if it does in fact go F2P, but none of these games are attractive enough to set aside what I’m currently playing. If that continues to be the case, then I may retire this idea for now or I’ll continue to cover my progress as I level new classes in SWTOR, Marvel Heroes, and Trove, discussing the differences between the various classes during the leveling process. That could be interesting, but it’s definitely not in line with what One to X was supposed to be.

Nevertheless, I’m happy with the progress I’ve made. Once I finish Trove, SWTOR, and possibly DCUO, that will be five new games in which I have characters at max level. That’s a far cry away from the days when WoW was the only MMO in which I could play end game content. It’s not like I need max level characters in every MMO, only in those that I like well enough that the time invested is worthwhile. If nothing else, I would say focusing on reaching end game in several titles has helped me find the MMOs I like enough to keep playing. Playing until end game while time consuming, is a good way to give a game a fair chance to prove its worth. What I’ve found is that I largely prefer games in which end game is a non-issue like Marvel Heroes and Trove. Ironic, isn’t it? That in my pursuit of reaching end game, I discovered I would much rather play a game without it.

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The Novelty of Fun in Trove and Marvel Heroes

Whenever I read an article on Trove or Marvel Heroes I always think “man, that game is fun.” That’s pretty much it. I don’t have any guilt when I leave one or the other for extended periods of time, no reservations when I return, no concerns as to how playing either of them “on the side” will affect whichever MMO I’m currently focused on. I think that’s intentional; neither game is directly trying to compete with the traditional MMO paradigm. Marvel Heroes has been categorized as an OARPG while Trove in a recent interview with Massively OP was christened by Trion as an MMOG, which I’m assuming is meant to be a removal of the “Role Playing” aspect of MMORPGs and not a misspelled apocalyptic reference (I’m not ruling that out as a possibility). And yet while neither game is intending to overthrow the rule of World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic, or any other traditional MMO gameplay they are both quietly imbedding themselves into the community while simultaneously breaking barriers between MMOs and other gaming genres. What is it about these two titles that is so compelling? I’ve got three reasons why I think both games are having success within the MMO community and will continue to grow in popularity over the next year. Individually these traits may not be that compelling, but wrapped up in one neatly styled package, they provide something that has often been lacking in my traditional MMO sessions: fun.

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Free-to-Play Business Model

This is a no brainer, both Trove and Marvel Heroes have such a low barrier to entry there’s little reason not to try them out, especially when word of mouth on these two games is spreading so quickly. You read an article on Massively OP or a post by a favorite blogger and you think, “sure I’ll give that a shot.” Next thing you know, your elbows deep in chocolate fudge fighting a cupcake on the back of a unicorn wearing a moustache. You’re wearing the moustache, not the unicorn. Don’t be ridiculous.

There are negative elements to this business model as it is presented in both games, Marvel Heroes more than Trove. Whenever you log in you are conveniently reminded of current promotions and newly released content for sale. Both games can technically be played for free but both hamstring gameplay just enough with limited inventory slots (amongst other quality of life improvements) to make it very tempting to spend at least five bucks here and there. Trove is far more generous in my opinion, as the speed with which you can gain in-game currency for purchasing new classes is weeks faster than what it would take to earn another hero in MH2015 however the promotions offered in the latter are quite generous, often giving away heroes for free so perhaps it balances out over time.

Familiar Concepts, Bite-Sized Conception

This is perhaps the number one reason I return to both Trove and Marvel Heroes. After years of playing massive time sinks like World of Warcraft, I revel in the opportunity to jump in, make progress, and jump out— easy peasy, lemon squeezy. I don’t always have two to three hours to devote to a raid or running several dungeons, let alone the weeks and months it can take to level a new character to end game in most MMOs. As such I appreciate being able to log in for 30-45 minutes for a couple of days in a row, drop the game for a week or two, then come back without fear of feeling behind the curve or uncomfortably unfamiliar with how the game plays. Both games still feature levels, gearing, dungeons (sort of) mobs, and crafting—all concepts familiar to every MMO player—and yet the games do not feel as demanding on your time. I get the gameplay I want for a reduced cost, at least when time is the currency I’m most concerned about.

The Leveling Game is the End Game is the Leveling Game

This didn’t even dawn on me until I sat down to write this post, but one of the other reasons I find Marvel Heroes and Trove so care free and relaxing is that I’m never in a rush to get to the end. Well, almost never. If anything, the pressure I feel to get to end game comes from the conditioning I’ve received from traditional MMOs, not these particular pseudo-incarnations of the genre. When I finally reached 60 for the first time in Marvel Heroes it was quickly apparent that most of what I would be doing at level cap was the same as I had been doing while leveling, just at higher levels of difficulty with better rewards. Trove appears to be much the same.

Both games offer group content of a higher difficulty level at end game but neither seems to be rushing the player to it. However both encourage you to level additional classes or heroes, and whether you do that or spend your time with a max level character you’ll largely be playing the same game. Compare this to the raiding culture in Warlords of Draenor. The end game model almost exclusively funnels players into raiding, yet prior to that point there is no content of a similar nature to experience along the way. WoW isn’t the only game performing the old bait and switch; this is a common complaint amongst players of vertically progressing, theme park MMOs. Of all the features offered in Trove and Marvel Heroes, this is the one I would like to see carried over into traditional MMOs, a common thread of activity between leveling and end game such that you do not feel pressured to rush through the former in order to reach the latter.

Fun, What a Novel Idea…

Neither of these two games could ever become my main stay, I’m still married to the features and gameplay of traditional MMOs. Nevertheless, I doubt I will completely leave either of these games in the near future. Trove and Marvel Heroes aren’t asking me for my exclusivity yet they are wining me over by being what all games should be: fun. I may prefer more persistent worlds and customizable characters, but there is a lot for the traditional MMO studios to learn from these two titles. With no barrier to entry, activities with lower demands on my time, and continuity throughout the leveling and end game content it’s no wonder these titles are doing so well. If you’ve never tried one or both of these titles give them both a try, especially Trove. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how fun they both can be.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have about thirty minutes before my kids go to bed and there’s a cupcake in candy land about to get a beat down. Cover your eyes kids, this ain’t gonna be pretty.

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“Who you calling princess, bub? Time to bring the pain, you yellow-bellied, cream filled confectionary.”

State of the Rez: Invariably Variable

Commitment is not a strength of mine; I’m more of a visionary. That’s true of both my blogging endeavors and my MMO gaming habits and while I’m conscience of this tendency toward good intentions with little follow through, having it on display via blogging heightens that self-awareness. A few weeks ago I decided to post three times a week— Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday— with specific categories in mind for each day. I was able to maintain that schedule for a week or two but quickly realized it was too much. I’m now committing (as I did at the start) to once a week with anything else being optional. That said, I have in mind to improve my speed as a writer and may attempt one or two additional posts per week, limited to 30-45 minutes for completion. (If any other bloggers have advice for writing quickly and briefly, I’m all ears).

Around the same time I set a goal to write on a schedule I also wrote a post about Final Fantasy XIV, stating that it would serve me well as a “home” MMO. I’m no looking for permanence in my virtual spaces, I’m more of a world traveler when it comes to these games but nonetheless I was enjoying the title so much I thought surely it had become the homestead amidst my nomadic exploration, a place for hat racks, area rugs and of course, ninjitsu. As with every venture I’ve had into Eorzea it begins well but ends with a fizzle. On paper it fits with what I’m looking for in an MMO and I imagine I’ll revisit the game in the future but for now I’m finished with Final Fantasy XIV.

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The deciding factor was Elliot’s post at Massively OP listing the steps necessary for a fresh 50 to be prepared for Heavensward. When last I left FFXIV I had just reached 50 and was planning to take a month off before returning to finish the main story scenario up through 2.55. I did not realize at the time that completing the story would require a certain ilvl. To be ready for Heavensward I would need to devote my time more fully to FFXIV rather than casually playing through a series of quests as I had expected so instead I uninstalled the client for now. I may return in the future but at this time I am put off by the prospect of having to go through the end game grind of A Realm Reborn before entering the next expansion.

Final Fantasy XIV wasn’t the only game I removed from my hard drive recently, either. The WoW token was released this past month and I had more than enough gold to purchase several months of game time and could do so from the character selection screen. Warlords of Draenor still offered little of interest for me but I had intended on leveling my followers and setting up my garrison in such a way that I could passively earn enough gold to continue my subscription indefinitely. After two weeks of logging in daily to send my followers on missions with little desire to pursue any other objectives in game it dawned on me: if I’m not having fun in WoW anymore, what’s the point of having a garrison able to cover the cost of a subscription?

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At that point I made the decision to not only uninstall the game but also the other Blizzard titles I own, the battle.net client, and to delete all the bookmarks to the WoW related podcasts and news websites that I have followed for the past three years in order to completely distance myself from the game. In all this time I’ve been playing other MMOs, I’ve never completely left WoW. Even when I wasn’t subscribed I continued to follow the news and listen to opinions on class design, content release, and lore. I was like an ex-boyfriend too curious about the current status of an old flame. As such I would inevitably return to the game but I think it’s time now for a clean break and a cleansed palette. That’s not to say I will never play again, but that if I’m going to return it will be refreshed and curious, rather than jaded.

Several other titles were uninstalled as well leaving only those games I am currently playing and a few others I may pick up again in the coming months including Star Wars: The Old Republic, Marvel Heroes, Rift, The Elder Scrolls Online, Guild Wars 2, and Trove. As for my current favorites, I have nestled quite contentedly into Star Wars: The Old Republic and Marvel Heroes. Coincidentally, the former was the title that a little over a month ago I thought was unable to compete with the others on my “must play” list. With both expansions purchased and having played for a month as a subscriber I have subsequently changed my opinion. It turns out I’m quite happy with the Star Wars flavored WoW clone, theme park, combat lobby MMO. In fact, I believe those words— often used derogatorily by many a Massively OP patron and columnist— describe the elements I enjoy most in the genre. It’s liberating to recognize and be content with the fact that I am happy with the mainstream model. Besides, if I wait long enough the genre will shift and I’ll get to tell the new MMO youngsters about the glory days of dungeon finders and gear treadmills.

“You mean characters used to progress vertically grandpa?” my cyborg grandchild will say.

“That’s right Mark-I,” I’ll nod, remembering those nights of chaining dungeons and raiding for hours with guildmates. “And we use to gamble on loot pulled from the corpses of dragons once a week as well.”

“You mean you didn’t have to wait in these lines? What about the crafting overlords, weren’t they mad you didn’t have to buy their stuff?”

Reality will wake me from bittersweet reminiscence. “That was before the rise of OPnet and the Bree-800 series cyber-economists,” I’ll say, resisting the tears. “That was before #Sandboxgate ruined everything.”

And then of course I’ll send my cyborg grandchild back in time to prevent the Sandbocolypse by stopping the development of Star Wars Galaxies at all costs. As his form vanishes a Bree-800 series android will burst into my open world housing plot and overcome my avatar slowly but assuredly with item decay.

….what was I talking about again?

Right, Star Wars: The Old Republic and Marvel Heroes. With 12x XP arriving on May 4th, I plan on diving into the class story of my Scoundrel however lately when I log in I spend most of my time healing in Warzones and Galactic Starfighting. With most MMOs in the past I’ve engaged in PvP sparingly and sporadically, but in SWTOR I am uncharacteristically preferring the leet pwning of noobs over PvE questing and Flashpoints. I’m not great at either Warzones or GSF but this past week has seen a couple of significant milestones for me in these arenas. During my last GSF match I managed to rack up eight player kills, three of which were rapidly one after the other. It was exhilarating. I attribute this relative success to my upgraded striker as much as any skill development on my part. As a healer in Warzones I managed to heal one million HP in a single match at level 35 this week and over 650k HP without a single death in another. I accomplished something similar in the 10-29 bracket but that was largely due to the fact that few people knew to target the healer at that stage. This time I survived because I had a better grasp on when and how to use my defensive cool downs, crowd control abilities, and cc breakers.

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Whereas SWTOR is my new favorite MMO, Marvel Heroes is more of a guilty pleasure. I recently leveled my first hero to 60 and rather than explore the end game for max level characters I have decided to level the other heroes I have in my roster. At first I was working on Ms. Marvel but with the announcement that the Avengers would be receiving an additional 50% bonus to XP, I decided to give Black Widow a try. In a handful of days I’ve leveled her to 40 and I fully intend to blitz my way to 60 before the event concludes. Afterwards I’ll pick back up where I left off with Ms. Marvel or set this game aside for a while as I tend to play it in bursts.

A lot has shifted over the last month with both my gaming and my blogging. My intention with this post was to outline some of those changes and to put my current blogging expectations in writing and to mention what I’ll be playing over the coming weeks and months. Expect one post a week with one or two writing exercises in brevity as well. I’ll be chronicling my leveling progress in SWTOR as well as Marvel Heroes and hopefully I will also get back into the habit of writing reflectively on scripture once again. David and Goliath Revisited was one of my favorite posts of this past month and I’d like to do more in that vein going forward. Of course, given my proclivity for writing down one set of plans and then taking off in another direction entirely, next week I may be chronicling the adventures of a fictitious time-traveling, cybernetic grandson instead. One never knows.