Waiting For Rez: 100 Posts

This will be the 100th post on Waiting For Rez. I had completely different plans on what I was going to post today (another impressions piece for Black Desert) however realizing this post will be a kind of mile marker for the blog, I thought I would go a different direction. A little over a year ago Massively was shut down and Massively OP was born and in the middle of those two events I decided to start blogging. I was already considering it having discovered Bio Break and other popular MMO blogs but the threat of Massively going away for good was the catalyst to get me started; I wanted to continue conversing with the community surrounding MMOs.

While there was certainly a period of silence I am still blogging today and I’m proud of reaching the 100 post marker. So I thought I would provide a few links to some of my favorite posts over the last year. Most of them I like because they’re funny (or at least I think they are) but a few are significant for other reasons.

Crafting in ESO: Writ Certification Part 1

This is by far the most popular post on my blog; with the launch of ESO on consoles my daily views skyrocketed because of this post. And while I have no reason to believe that everyone who visited the site read through the post let alone anything else on my blog, I think I did a good job with this guide. If I remember correctly it was also the first post I had featured on Global Chat, a column produced by Justin Olivetti at Massively OP. Sadly there was never a part two. I meant to follow it up with a similar post on the other half of writ certification but I never did. Now I would have to read my own guide to remember how the process works!

Welcome to Coldharbour

Another post on The Elder Scrolls Online. This was just something silly I put together using some screenshots I took during a return to Coldharbour after the revamp. It really was an improvement on the tutorial experience but rather than a standard impressions piece I decided to do something a little different.

Invariably Variable

You can probably skip through most of this one. It was one of the “here’s what’s going on in my gaming life right now” posts that I referred to as the “State of the Rez.” But definitely get to the part about the Sandbocolypse and sending my grandson back in time. And the Bree-800 series cyber-economist. I should turn this stuff into a popular film series.

Movement Progression in Trove and the Value of Flight in Draenor

I think this post sums up why I loved Trove so much last year and it was also one of those moments when I really started thinking that, despite my enjoyment of the theme park model of MMOs (see Invariably Variable), there really was a lot of stagnation in the way they were designed without enough innovation that fundamentally affected gameplay rather than changes that were nothing more than grafted on mini-games.

Eleven Years, Dancing Cheek to Cheek

I wrote this post for my wife last year for our eleventh anniversary. I wanted to write down our story like my Grandpa had for his wife, kids and grandkids. The longer we’re married the more remarkable I realize she is and how blessed I am to be married to such a strong, gracious woman.

Beard and Soul

I enjoyed writing this post even more than I did making those bearded characters in the game. And while I was being a little tongue and cheek  I really was impressed with the facial hair options and the character creator in general in Blade and Soul. This was one of those MMOs I never expected to try let alone to enjoy as much as I did but it really is a great title and the more bearded men we get balancing out the number of busty women and fluffy tailed children the better.

Dual Wielding: Negativity in the MMO Community

Dual Wielding: A series featuring two bloggers writing on one topic and answering the question, “If the pen is mightier than the sword, what happens when you dual wield?”

(Be sure to check out Mersault’s take on the subject as well.)

There has been a number of blog posts written lately regarding negativity in the MMO community, and amongst bloggers specifically. I’ve read a few of these posts and from what I gather the concern is that the growing number dissatisfied players publically sharing their pessimism about the genre is either a sign of the end times or the cause of it. While there may be greater attention on this problem right now it’s nothing new; for as long as I’ve been reading MMO forums and blogs there have been complaints, dissatisfaction, pessimism, and open threats. There is of course the question as to whether it is escalating or not but honestly I couldn’t say. Quantifying negativity over time sounds like a dubious endeavor and so while I’m tempted to say yes, it is getting worse by a few degrees, I can’t say for certain whether I think that because it is, or if I’m simply noticing it more because it has become the topic de jour.

So what are some of the common arguments amongst those unhappy with the state and direction of the genre? I’m sure this list isn’t exhaustive, but here are a few of the most common:

  1. The motives of publishers when developing their business models (F2P, early access, etc.)
  2. The competence of developers to produce a quality game experience consistently.
  3. The direction the genre is moving—from sandbox to theme park, from hardcore to casual, from group dependent to soloable content, from social multiplayer to selfish singleplayer—pick your own poison.

Are they wrong about all of these concerns? Or is this all legitimate criticism of the genre and those behind it? I think it’s clear that to some degree whether or not you find any of these things disconcerting depends on what type of gameplay you prefer and which MMO(s) you are evaluating. Publishers and developers need to make money but the line between sustainable income and greed can be hard to define objectively; the quality of a product might have as much to do with creator competence as it does with the resources available to said developers. As for the direction of the genre, whether the changes that have already occurred are a gain or loss will likely be determined by those iterations that are yet to come.

If you were to say that’s a flimsy, non-committal answer you’d be right and that’s my point. That negativity exists is certain; whether or not it’s justified can only be determined in hindsight. The systems involved are simply too complicated and the available data too incomplete for the average blogger or forum goer to predict the success or failure of an entire genre. Especially when these voices are often few in comparison to the silent masses happily playing the games available on the market, completely ignorant of the warring words among those most engaged with individual games and the genre as a whole.

Or are they? That’s another question I’m not sure how to quantify; I know that negativity exists within the MMO community because it is being voiced regularly in blogs, on reddit, and on forums but what I don’t know is what percentage of the overall player base actually pays attention to these sources. I certainly do, but I think at this point I’m clearly a member of this “inner circle” of MMO players and so are most of the people I interact with who play MMOs. Outside of this community that is paying close attention to new releases and the changes being made to older titles, there may be a great number of MMO players actually enjoying these games with no idea that they are approaching the genre incorrectly.

Personally I envy those players because that kind of ignorance really is bliss. The time I was most satisfied with the MMO scene as a whole was when I was playing World of Warcraft during the Cataclysm expansion. No, that’s not a typo. I was happiest playing an MMO during the expansion that killed the game that killed the genre (or so I’ve been told). The reason? I didn’t know any better. I was playing an MMO for the first time and everything was new and exciting and I wasn’t influence by anything outside my own experience with the game. No one was telling me what the genre was supposed to be, and so I was happy with what I was presented.

There have been two expansions since then and as you might expect, my opinions of those expansions have been quite negative, especially Warlords of Draenor. Ultimately that’s where much of this negativity comes from, not because the changes happening are bad, but that there is change at all. I actually long for the days of Cataclysm because in my experience that expansion was good, it was exactly what an MMO was supposed to be. Is it any surprise that someone who began playing during vanilla WoW or Everquest or Ultima Online feels exactly the same? Our initial experiences forever influence our expectations and when those expectations are not met, we grow dissatisfied. For those of us who like to be heard, that means we take to the forums or blog.

However if I’m right in that so few MMO players actually read blogs or go to forums, then at least the genre is safe from dying simply because we all complained too much. In fact I think the ongoing evolution of the MMO tells a different story, that as the genre changes with the demands and desires of the marketplace as a whole—perhaps to the point we no longer recognize it as an MMO proper—the player base broadens and the number of people happy with what’s available also increases.

The changes happening within the genre could be an entire blog post of its own—in fact it will be sometime next month—but for now I’ll leave you with a few closing thoughts. If negativity within the MMO community is of concern to you, regardless of how you feel about the businesses developing them or the games themselves, stay away from those forums and blogs that feature only outlooks of doom and gloom. Either surround yourself with others who enjoy the genre and know how to write critically without exhibiting hopelessness or stop reading blogs and forums about MMOs all together. Just find the games you like and play them with the people you like. You won’t eliminate the presence of negativity within the community but you will remove its influence on your enjoyment of the games that brought us all together in the first place.

Revisiting My Plans for 2016

It’s been a month and already my MMO plans for 2016 have changed so I wanted to revisit my gaming goals for the year and adjust them a little. And since I wasn’t sure what was going on with Waiting For Rez at the start of January, I’ll also include my plans for the blog. There’s a good chance this “revisiting of goals” will end up being a monthly review (and possibly a running joke) because as the year progresses some plans will work out while others will prove to be the wrong direction for me. Honestly, iterating on plans made for a causal hobby is not a bad thing. While I want to accomplish some goals, I also want to be flexible because it is after all just for fun!

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The Secret World

First of all, I did decide to go ahead and purchase the Grand Master pack. While I have some concerns about long term gameplay (like what I’ll do once I’ve finished all the current issues) I still believe I’ll get plenty of use out of the subscription perks and bonus points. As for my goals in The Secret World, I’d like to complete the current story content such that I end the year up to date. I’d also like to complete the skill wheel by the end of the year; not the one for auxiliary weapons but the primary wheel. For the sake of staying invested in the game long term I’d like to find a good Cabal to join and to participate in group activities like dungeons, raids, or whatever else TSW offers.

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Black Desert Online

In my previous post I had mentioned The Elder Scrolls Online as a secondary MMO, one that would provide similar skill-point progression but in a fantasy setting. Once again, by no fault of its own (I really do enjoy the game) I’ve taken ESO off the table in favor of Black Desert. BDO was on my “games to watch” list but has rapidly moved into something I am genuinely excited about and definitely going to be playing. I pre-ordered the game so that I could participate in the second beta and now with the announcement of a March 3rd launch, I’m only a month away from playing the live game.

Assuming I enjoy Black Desert as much as I think I’m going to, my plans are to level a Tamer to 50 and then work on a few low level alts (Wizard, Sorceress, and Warrior or Valkyrie) to help create infrastructure for crafting and trade. I don’t know what kind of time commitment any of this will require, but I would like to focus on ship building and fishing first, and then farming and horse breeding second. All in all I think Black Desert will make a nice companion to The Secret World, each one offering what the other lacks.

Blogging

My plans for the blog are to continue writing 4-5 posts on MMOs to publish during the weekdays, each around 500 words (or less). Then on Sundays I would like to publish another 500 word post on something I’ve been reading in the Bible lately. It was always my goal with this blog to have some kind of reflection on scripture on a regular basis but while these are often my favorite pieces to write they can be the hardest to get started. Still, I have a lot of ideas written down already that I want to pursue so even if it means cutting back during the week, I want to make this a priority. There’s a reason why “Waiting For Rez” has two implied meanings after all.

Single Player Games

I’m actually backing away from my goal of working through single player games as a part of my schedule. First of all, between The Secret World and Black Desert, I have plenty to keep me busy. In addition to a full plate already, I haven’t really enjoyed my time playing through the single player games on my steam acount. Sure, it could be the particular titles I’ve tried thus far, but I think what it comes down to is that I’m not a gamer, I’m an MMO player. Of the games on my list, I definitely want to complete Life is Strange but the rest may end up as a loss.

 

So that’s it for 2016, The Secret World will still take top priority while Black Desert will be a solid secondary MMO and a strong companion for TSW. The Elder Scrolls Online and single player games are off the menu (with the exception of Life is Strange) and my blog will focus on regular, 500 word posts. I think that’s plenty to keep me busy for the year; here’s to a productive (and enjoyable) 2016!