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.”

One to X: Finishing What I Have Started

While brainstorming ideas for this blog, one that came to mind was a regular series tracking my progress through several MMOs as I work toward max level. Ever since I began wandering through multiple games I never really made it past the opening levels, generally stopping in the teens and twenties before moving on, always rerolling when returning to previously visited landscapes. That process has left me with quite a few unfinished characters across several MMOs but no opportunity for end game activities in any of them.

One to X is a chance for me to go back through and try to complete what I have started. I won’t be doing this for every MMO I have tried in the past, only for those I enjoyed. And while I may comment from time to time on my progress as I level, I’m mostly interested in writing down a few thoughts about each MMO as I complete the trek to level cap. To begin this series I want to talk about two games in which I recently finished leveling, Final Fantasy XIV and Marvel Heroes 2015.

My journey through Eorzea began back in August or September of last year. When I first purchased the game I created one character—a Thaumaturge—and leveled into the thirties in one go with one detour to earn the fifteen levels needed as an Archer to unlock the Black Mage job. Generally when I start a game I play into the teens on my first class, then try another, and so on. Playing one class into the thirties lead me to think that perhaps I would stick with it to the end for once. Unfortunately, that was not the case and after a couple of months my interest waned.

Since then I’ve returned a couple of times and every time I have started up a new class rather than completing a previously leveled one. The same can be said for this most recent return, however this time I made it all the way to 50 on the Ninja job. One of the reasons I often lose momentum in a game is due to the process of deciding on a class. Final Fantasy does this better than by allowing you to play all classes on one character meaning you do keep some of your progression even when you make a switch. However the initial run of levequests, dungeons, hunting logs, and guildleves needed to power level up to wherever you left off in the story can be grindy.

Nevertheless I pushed through and was able to pick up the main storyline where I had left off. Ultimately I still out-leveled the story and thus while I am technically at max level, I’m not really able to participate in the end game content because I am behind on the story. This is one of my biggest complaints with Final Fantasy XIV—content, systems, and progress in general is gated behind the story. It is clear that Square Enix still considers Final Fantasy XIV a traditional RPG first and an MMO second, and for some veteran players gating every branch of the game behind the storyline progression may be off-putting. At times it has been for me.

This brings up a good question as far as my goals in One to X; am I looking to simply reach max level or do I have a specific progression goal in mind? With Final Fantasy XIV I have decided that for now being level 50 is enough and going forward I will make that decision on a game by game basis. Perhaps once I have a few more characters at max across several MMOs, I’ll circle back through and work on progressing those characters into whatever the end game has to offer.

Which brings me to my other recently achieved max level character, X-23 in Marvel Heroes. I couldn’t tell you when I started playing Marvel Heroes, but I do know my first character was the Human Torch. At first I enjoyed both the game and the hero but quickly I grew tired of both. When X-23 was announced she looked interesting to me and when I discovered she was only going to cost 200 eternity splinters I quickly made the purchase and started anew. It was the best hero purchase I have made (and I’ve made too many).

I have been playing this game off and on in short bursts, but bit by bit I have made progress with X-23 and just this weekend I decided to make the push to 60. The thing I love about Marvel Heroes is that you can really level in several different ways. I’m sure someone somewhere has figured out the optimal way to level, but as for me once I had completed the storyline on normal mode I continued my leveling via legendary quests and grinding in Midtown. Both allow you to get right into the action, and with the amount of story and cutscenes in some of the other games I’m playing, I welcome the shoot first and never ask questions later approach of Marvel Heroes.

Once I reached level 60 I realized how little I knew about this OARPG. There are so many currencies you earn along the way, so many different types of gear (and ways to earn it) that I really wasn’t sure where to begin. After some research this morning I purchased a legendary weapon and began running some of the terminal quests on a higher difficulty level. I know there are raids as well but I’m not sure if that interests me. For now when I play X-23 I’m going to focus on a complete set of level 60 unique gear and leveling my legendary weapon.

But then again, why worry about end game at all? Instead of pursuing the best gear and maxing out every other form of progression as a level 60 hero you can start over with a new one. Another feature I love about Marvel Heroes is that it is possible to treat leveling alts as a kind of end game, and it is supported through several bonuses granted for having multiple high level characters. For me I think this “end game” path is the one I will focus on. Sure, I’ll do a little work on X-23 here and there, but for the most part I plan on leveling a second hero to 60.

Now that I’ve finished leveling in these two games (which were admittedly low hanging fruit) where to next? Well, currently I am playing SW:TOR and this game is an excellent example of one in which I have returned many times and started many classes and characters but never made it further than the teens on any of them. Therefore I think either Iron’weakness, my Jedi Sentinel or Lone’weakness, my soon to be healing Scoundrel will be the next contestant in this One to X project.