MMOs are dead; hey, let’s give ESO another try

MMOs are not dead because people aren’t forced to group or because people can’t commit 18 hours to camping a spawn anymore. MMOs are dying because the generation that loved them is growing up, had kids, and generally has other things to do. The newer generation visits MMOs but doesn’t live in them the way we did.

Maybe it’s time for a new paradigm in online gaming.*


I posted this as a comment on Facebook earlier today and am wondering if maybe I hit a nail on the head, at least as far as my own MMO experience goes. I play them, but I don’t live them anymore like I used to; and even then, I don’t play them nearly as much as I think I’d like to.

(It’s like the person who keeps waiting for that other person to call because they said they would, but they haven’t yet and it’s been 3 weeks. If that person wanted to call they’d have done so by now. We make time for the things we find important.)

I still call myself a gamer, I still keep a bunch of games around, and I even keep some of them up to date, but I don’t really actually play all that much. I do way more thinking about gaming and talking about gaming than actual gaming, and even the thinking and talking are down to an all-time low compared to, say, 2009 and the heyday of this blog. (Man, time really flies.)

I suspect MMOs will end up being a mere blip on the evolutionary landscape of whatever gaming is turning into, because whatever it becomes it’s clear gaming itself isn’t going to go away anytime soon — it just probably won’t look like what the dinosaurs from the turn of the millennium think it should or would.


In the meantime I’m downloading The Elder Scrolls Online again, mostly because of this fascinating article that a friend linked on Facebook and that led to the above-mentioned comment. Sometimes MMOs are a cynical labour of trying to screw as much money out of people as possible, and sometimes they’re a hopeless labour of love, but they’re almost always made by at least a few people who are literally pouring themselves into something that usually doesn’t have a whole lot of chances of succeeding, or not for any length of time. And when someone cares that much, it makes me want to take another look at a game I tried and cavalierly abandoned after a few weeks — not because it was awful, but because it didn’t galvanise me the way Asheron’s Call and the early MMOs did.

The problem is, no game can. One can’t go back. Maybe it’s time for me to admit that, move on, and find my own new paradigm.

PS: Yes, I’m still mad at World of Warcraft.


*I don’t think I’ve ever quoted myself quite this blatantly before. I don’t know whether to feel cool, conceited or just a little bit dirty.

Demon Hunters ready, get set, chaaaarge!

Almost exactly a year ago I was terrifically underwhelmed by the whole Demon Hunter and Legion thing. Mostly because I was taking part in Blaugust and needed something to write about, but partly because it does seem as though we’re rehashing some material these last couple of Warcraft expansions. I say potato, you say deepening the fantastic amounts of (utterly incomprehensible to me) WoW lore.

legion patch

So now here they are, the Demon Hunters, or will be when the servers come back up in a few hours, hot on the heels of the biggest class changes I remember ever seeing in World of Warcraft. Am I excited? I’m not sure.

Ever since I started playing tabletop RPGs my favourite classes have been the pet classes, either the ones with pets (rangers) or the ones who can be pets (druids), so it’s no surprise that my absolute fave classes in WoW are Hunter (since beta) and druid (I came late to that party but I love me some feralz). And hunter seems to have taken a bit of a beating on the pet side for the latest mega-patch.

All the classes have had their spells and skills reduced by what seems like 50%, and I’m actually OK with that after having played it a few days, because 3 full hotbars is just too much for an elderly brain to remember. (EQ2, are you listening?) I started a handful of newbie characters on Dalaran server just to see what it’s like from scratch, and while the plethora of skills has been rationalised a little, the feel for most of them is still the same. (Almost. What most of them feel like at the moment is “I’ve really only got 3 skills I keep mashing,” but I’m not sure that’s very different from “I’ve got 19 skills at level 10 but only 3 of them are worth mashing.”) The notable exception seems to be my Elemental shaman but don’t take my word on that — my ‘main’ shammy is only in her 60s and the new one is level 20, so I don’t speak from a position of great experience.

But back to the hunter, and specifically the Beast Master hunter. It feels very different now, it’s more like the (Summon-lots-of-temporary)Beast(s)-Master hunter and not the one-woman-and-her-dog/cat/bear/spider it used to be. I miss that. But perhaps I’m just resistant to change. Apparently the Marksmanship and Survival talent specs got huge boosts (which IMO they needed because they both bored the pants off me play-wise in the last few years), so good for them. I guess I can be a MM or Surv hunter for a few years, until the next expansion mega-patch changes everything again.

What does all this have to do with Demon Hunters, you ask? Nothing, really. I was going to write about them but I’ve done ZERO research on them and I’ve been far more interested in whether my favourite chars have been chopped off at the knees. But they’ll be in early access in a few hours so we’ll see then.

Will I make one? OF COURSE I’LL MAKE ONE. You clearly don’t know me at all.

FFXIV – Back in Eorzea

On a pure whim, I went back to Final Fantasy XIV – A Realm Reborn, about a month ago. I have no idea why, aside from the fact that World of Warcrack just doesn’t appeal at the moment (I really need to cancel that sub), EQ2 seems like way too much trouble to get back into right now, and FFXIV lets me scratch the harvesting and crafting itch relatively well. And it’s a very pretty game, which EQ2 really isn’t no matter which way you slice it.

So here I am, having transferred to @Psychochild’s server – Midgardsormr – because I am nothing if not obedient to my friends’ orders. That was actually my first paid (and possibly first voluntary) character transfer ever, now that I think of it. Aside from not being cheap ($18), it was remarkably painless. And I’ve been taking screenies, because FFXIV is a game that sort of demands them, at least from me, and there are plenty of cutscenes as I whittle away at the main story quest. The good thing is the action pauses every time someone says something, so getting decent screenshots isn’t all that hard.

I probably wouldn’t have posted about it — the blog remains weak in me these days — but yesterday I acquired some new gear that made me look like a total ho and I figured I should share it. As one does.

The original pirate-ho look. Yes, it’s a plate-mail bikini… but at least I have a stylish tricorne and eye-patch! And the first thing I did after acquiring said armour was a dungeon (no really, me, in a dungeon) in a howling blizzard. Of course.


The pirate-ho look, slightly modified, now with shorty-shorts. Marginally less mortifying.


Psychochild found my deep embarrassment extremely entertaining. Admittedly, he’s been there himself.

A few other things I encountered in the last few play sessions include:

A cool dragon skelly in the snow. Oh yeah, and some plot and bad guy (actually corpse of the not-so-bad-guy that the bad guy murderised and impersonated).


A super cute but also mean sylph. Sylphs are awesome. I would totally roleplay one if I could. (You need to read the text. They all talk like that, only not all so scathingly. Though the NPC was remarkably stupid, I have to admit.)


A level 50 group-hunt type mob. I don’t really know much about those other than seeing them around, since I’m not level 50 in any class that matters (i.e. adventuring). It was the name/model combo that made me laugh. Also, me on a beach in pirate-ho costume, which seems appropriate.

Dark Helmet

Camp Dragonhead at sunrise. The landscapes are beautiful in the game and the weather is very well-done. Even the lens-flare stuff is awesome as opposed to overblown and tedious.


Me and my buddy Cid flying through the Eorzean skies in the good ship Enterprise. Yes, someone said “Engage”.


And finally the Mor Dhona loading screen because the loading screens are so pretty I want them for wallpapers. Minus the Moogle and text, ideally, but beggars and choosers.

MorDhona Loading Screen

And there you have it. As @Stargrace always says: Happy Gaming, no matter where you find yourself. And may the RNG be ever in your favour.

IntPiPoMo – final miscellanea

I was going to write about how the Sims seems to have ended up as my go-to solo game for the last 6 years (since the Sims 3 came out, in fact), but I can’t seem to find my old Sims 3 screenshots. They’re not lost — they’re just buried in what is now a secondary-secondary drive slaved in from the computer I had back in 2009. And I can’t be arsed to go find them.

Instead, here are a few of the other screenies I came across while looking for the ones you’re not going to see.

Guild Wars 2

I didn’t play it for more than a few weeks, but it sure was pretty.






FFXIV – A Realm Reborn

After a very unfortunate beta and first launch (tried one and therefore skipped the other), FFXIV came back better, stronger and faster. I thought I’d play it until the earth got swallowed by the sun, but like so many other MMOs I’ve played in the last decade, it didn’t stick. I’m not sure why, because I have very fond memories of it — aside from the need to do dungeons to progress the main story whether I wanted to or not — but as I wrote elsewhere I think that has a lot more to do with me and the lack of a constant group of known-people (friends, even) to play with than with any flaws in the game itself.





…Aaaand, that’s 50 (52 for the nit-picky). If Thanksgiving weekend food-excess and torpor allow, I might post a few more before November becomes December, but don’t count on it. Thank God for IntPiPoMo, or I might not have posted at all this month! Ahhh Blaugust, where art thou?

Happy Thankstuffing, US folks. Belated Thanksgiving, Canadia folks. Booyah, everyone else.

IntPiPoMo – Warhammer Online

I have to do some Warhammer Online screenies, because getting into that beta and joining Casualties of War (a guild by bloggers for bloggers (and anyone else)) was what started this blog. And through this blog I’ve met millions and millions of new people — okay, a couple hundred maybe. And a few dozen of those I like a lot and am friends with (is it YOU? Is it not you? And if it isn’t you, why isn’t it you?!). And a handful of those I am now good friends with, some of them even IRL. So yeah, definite turning point that was.

Besides, it was an excruciating amount of fun, if only for a little while. It’s also the only MMO ever where I played a healer as a healer (as opposed to playing a Shadow Priest or a Feral Druid) and had fun doing it. I don’t seem to have many screenshots of Amariel the Archmage, but that’s probably because I was too busy spamming heals in scenarios to actually stop and take pictures. The pix below are therefore from Ysharros, my solo char.

Kaltlauf 1900

I don’t remember what all the places are, but that’s ok. I remember the fun. And as a little nostalgia kick for anyone else who played, here’s a link to THE DUDE WITH THE THING. It actually applies to pretty much any PvP carry-the-thing scenario. There is one rule: KILL THE DUDE WITH THE THING.

Ysh and big skelly

Ysh and the Big Nasty



I tried to find just one, but LOTRO has the best landscapes of any MMO ever. Period. No, I didn’t play them all, but I’m still sure. These screenshots are 5 years old and date from my second foray into the game (I was in Beta/Launch for a while) — and even back then, with a scabbier graphics card and a much scabbier computer, the place is breathtaking, even in the low-level areas that I didn’t ever leave (I made it to… 35? maybe).

So here are half a dozen pix. It would have been 12-20 but I figured that was probably too much. Check out the LOTRO post tag for wayback-machine posts. I did enjoy the Ironman LOTRO I played for a while (= no quests! only mob grinding! arrrrrr!).

Click for larger versions.

Random landscape that I don’t remember where it is
Elf starting area
Elf starting area
Hobbit & Hoom starting area
Hobbit & Hoom starting area
Elf starting area (I *like* Elves)
Elf starting area (I *like* Elves)
The Shire near Bridgeford
The Shire near Bridgeford, IIRC
Obligatory Amon Sûl shot
Obligatory Amon Sûl shot



Wot I'm Playing – September 2015

This is a total cop-out post because I’m not actually playing anything, hee hee, ho ho. So you’re about to be regaled with all the games I’m not playing, which has been a quarterly litany this year.

WARNING: Do not click the subheading links unless you want to watch extremely silly and definitely NSFW comedians on YouTube. YHBW.

A Compuder

I’m not playing WoW, even though the Draenor flying patch is in and whatnot. Not for lack of interest — well okay, partly for lack of interest — actually, wait, almost totally for lack of interest. And not just in Warcraft. Nothing is really calling my name these days. I’m also not playing TSW, though I keep both games up to date. I’ll have to log back into TSW soon, if only to take more screenshots. Easily the best game evar for moody and evocative screenshots — and for allowing me to make a character that looks the way I would totally love to look in that grindy-ass Real Life game.

It doesn’t help that MMOs are better with other people. But other people tend to play in the evenings, and in the last 6-36 months I’ve tended to conk out right around the time the sun goes down. (Turns out that’s almost certainly the medications I’m on and not just some weird mutation that’s turning me into a sloth, but that’s a whole other story for another time.)

I got all up in ARK‘s business for what, a week? … and haven’t fired it up since. (Playing alone probably didn’t help that one.) I played Shadowrun: Hong Kong and that was super fun, but when I thought I was about a third of  the way in it turns out I was almost at the end, and I finished it before I truly realised what was happening. Super fun but too damn short! Of course, it includes some sort of development platform so maybe there will be other adventures to play. It was never intended to be another Skyrim or Witcher, after all.

Speaking of the Witcher, been meaning to pick up the 3 that people are raving about but haven’t got round to that either yet. In fact, if you were to check my to-do list you’d notice I haven’t done a single item on it.

I haven’t played my new Sims 4 Legacy family in over a month — but there I’m not so worried, because I always go back to the Sims. After looking down my nose at that game for a number of years (and incarnations 1 and 2), I picked up Sims 3 on a whim in 2009 and have been pretty regularly hooked ever since. I don’t play it all the time, but I do play it several times a year for a month or so. So the Stylishes will be back, sooner or later, and I may even post about them someday.

What I have been doing is preparing for the impending parental visit. My mum will be staying with us for ONE. WHOLE. MONTH., so we have to brace ourselves and assume crash positions. And clean the house. Lots and lots and lots of cleaning the house.


Me? Mobile games? With my reputation?

It’s also possible I’ve been *cough* playing a few mobile games. I never did get the point of those until I got a decent tablet; the only games I have on my phone are sudoku, crosswords and a Bejeweled clone and I hardly ever play those as it is. But on the iPad… hell, if it moves I’ve downloaded it. Well, not quite, but I’ve tried out a few games. And I spend a few moments every day doing whatever non-in-app-purchase moves I can do. Which isn’t many, but when you have about 6 games that’s about an hour’s worth.

I’m currently farting about with Happy Street (which fails to hook me but is super cute and so easy it hurts, and it’s all Syl’s fault), Paradise Bay (ditto with nice Disney-like graphics), Adventure Capitalist (seriously, making money to buy more stuff and make more money faster? I might as well be raiding), Best Fiends (which is super cute and kind of fun, since I like match-3 games), and the standard crosswords, sudoku and mahjongg.

Le tabletop game est sur la table

And of course there’s the attempt at a tabletop group and some games. There’s a G+ community going at the moment with a half-dozen folks, and we’ve met up a couple of times on Roll20. Yesterday we did some character creation with about half the group and will fit the other half in as and when schedules allow.

[Tangent-ish: speaking of which, because the schedules and time zones of the current dirty half-dozen are so hard to reconcile, I’d be happy to sort out two or even more groups – playing or GMing, I’m easy. So if you’re interested in playing something FATE-related, or even finding out what the big deal is about FATE, leave your Pathfinder books at home and holler at me in the comments, or on G+.]

Oddly enough it never occurred to me that scheduling is possibly even harder online than it is in person. I expected it to be the opposite… but we have 2 players from the UK, 4 from the US East Coast, and me in the US South-west, which gives us a 7-hour time-zone spread and makes things a little complicated. Add to that some odd work schedules (some folks have non-Sat/Sun weekeneds, some work rotating shifts, some have pretty hefty workloads, we all have other external commitments, etc. etc. etc.) and I swear it’s been harder getting us to our computers and keyboards than it would be to head down to my local game shop and kidnap a few callow youths.

Problem is, I don’t want callow youths. One of the best things about getting older and being an experienced gamer is that you get to play with other older and/or experienced gamers — gamers who don’t think a dungeon crawl with 10,000 gp as a reward is the best thing you can get out of tabletop games. (Not that I have anything against a good Monty Haul campaign, mind you, but I did outgrow those in the 90s.) Or, to be a bit more tolerant of the chronologically-challenged, I don’t want inflexible callow youths. I want to play with folks who don’t mind stretching their gaming comfort zone, as I am currently trying to do.

In fact, what I’m really doing is trying out systems that formalise how my RL friends and I played for years. We didn’t always play so-called storytelling or story-heavy systems, but we always played them as though they were. Character was paramount (possibly herded by a literature major who has very definite opinions about whether character drives plot or the other way around *cough*). And–

And so on. Since this is still nominally an MMO blog, at least until I change the tagline at the top of the page, I won’t froth about tabletop gaming. But the 2 semi-sessions that have been managed have been fun so far; here’s hoping we’ll manage a few more.

The Obligatory Comment-Inducing Question at the End

And you? What have you been playing or wishing you had time to play? Do you think the moon is made of cheese? Who really shot JR? And was the ending of LOST lame or what?


Poll Saturday – 5 September 2015

asuraI didn’t play Guild Wars 2 for more than a few weeks (not for any nefarious reason, just had other games and things to do), but I know a lot of people who do and who have loved it. I also know a lot of ink was spilled this week concerning the raids and whatnot. So now that passions have had a chance to cool a little, here’s a poll, just to see how folks feel.

I tried to balance the possible answers but I have NO pretensions to knowing how to build an unbiased poll. And this is just for kicks – mostly I wonder how the raiders feel about it. My general impression is raiders always love more raids, but since they didn’t exist in GW2, are even the raiders worried about what this might do to the game as a whole, not to mention to the community and the general tone?

Feel free to expand in the comments.

EDIT — Edited to remove the don’t know / don’t care answer which I wasn’t intending to allow in the first place since they don’t bring much to the table. Apologies to the person who got one past me. 🙂   OK fine, I put the Don’t know / don’t care answer back in. I still don’t see what it’ll bring to the discussion, but I am nothing if not pliable when it comes to the whims of my readers.

EDIT2 – The damned poll isn’t behaving. I give up. By all means add 18 ‘other’ answers as you like. /le_sigh

Blaugust Day 27 – Game MMOver?

Well, at least by now I’ve learned how to type Blaugust and not Balugust, Blagaust, or Blasgut. Small victories, folks — small victories.

I’m careening full-speed ahead on my tabletop RPG kick. It’s energising me far more than the thought of any MMO has in the last [insert time span]. In fact, thinking about tabletop playing has energised me far more over the last 4 or 5 years than MMOs have; the fact that in half a decade I still haven’t managed to get myself a regular group with a regular game is entirely my fault and not that of the poor games I’ve perused, pondered and reminisced over. Like my writing (what writing, we ask?), it’s something I really, really want to do — in the case of tabletop gaming, because I actually enjoy it as a social activity and because it’s a great creative outlet… But, as with “proper” writing, I spend more time wanting to do than actually doing. Again, this is entirely my own fault. Time to stop QQing or going down nostalgia lane and DO SOMETHING about it. But for now, let’s talk about MMOs.


Last night, as I lay wide-awake after too much coffee too late in the day and too many creative juices churning with no outlet (they should make a pill for that), I wondered once again whether I’ve finally outgrown MMOs. I’m not the only one to ponder this during Blaugust or indeed at any other time of year, so perhaps it’s simply part of growing up and growing older, this wondering whether we have outgrown the things we used to love so passionately.

Perhaps. But it’s been 15+ years since I played Ars Magica and I’d play it again like a shot given the chance, so clearly I haven’t outgrown that — or moved on from tabletop RPGs. Not playing because I lack the gorm to get a group together /= having outgrown it.

I think my problem with MMOs is that I have nobody to play them with. Which may seem like a rather sharp about-face given my usual stance on solo vs. group, but that’s playstyle, not playing. I’ve always preferred bimbling around by myself in MMOs — I don’t mind mine being the only butt I see onscreen… but up until a few years back there were always a bunch of other people also bimbling around at the same time, single-butted or otherwise, and I was in constant contact with them through chat.

alone together

In Asheron’s Call we had a large and active monarchy (guild) and loads of people to mess around with even using the incredibly primitive chat. A number of the AC monarchy people moved to Star Wars Galaxies when that came out, and we had friends both old and new cursing the not-so-primitive but also non-functioning chat. We moved from SWG to (City of Heroes, briefly, then to) World of Warcraft, so there again we had old-old friends, new-old friends from SWG, and new-new friends from WoW to chat with on various channels.

And that’s sort of where it ended. I moved on to EQ2 in 2006 or so, and while I made quite a few new friends there, it wasn’t the same either in quantity or in quality… and it only went downhill from there. In the last decade we’ve seen an explosion of MMOs, and while that’s a good thing in many ways, one of its less social effects is that it has diluted my pool of available friends and acquaintances when it comes to having people to play alone with, together. We’re all still playing, yes (albeit probably not as much as we did back in 2005), but we’re not playing the same games.

Or not at the same time, anyway. Many of us hop around from one game to another, myself included. In the last 5 years I’ve played more games than I care to count, but none of them for more than 3-6 months at a time. We try new games as they come out, and for a few weeks I’m back in the halcyon days of having plenty of folks I know in-game to talk and mess around with… and then I lose interest, or they lose interest, or for whatever reason we move on.


I really thought I’d come home when I started playing the SWG Emulator, as my posts back then attest. There were only a dozen or so of us playing but it was enough to keep the social momentum going. And then… one by one, folks dropped away. Including me. My enthusiasm was in full fire in April this year… and by July it had petered out to nothing. I haven’t logged on in over a month and my houses are probably on fire (well, houses don’t burn, but you can be sure my harvesters are gone). The worst part of it is, I don’t really care.

Because MMOs simply aren’t as much fun when the O doesn’t stand for “Others”, whether their character is on your screen or whether it’s just the characters they type in guild or global chat.

You can never go home

The social aspect is by no means the only reason MMOs are going stale for me, even if it’s a large part of the reason. I know I can slaughter 10 foozles over and over again for ages in the right company, because — well, because I’ve been doing it for 15 years in 30 different games. But there’s another rub: the 2015 foozles have better graphics and perhaps slightly better AI, but the beast itself hasn’t changed substantively.

It’s undeniably another reason why MMOs are going stale for me — even I, with my enormous capacity for repeating content, might be reaching my limit. I stumbled across this post from 2011 just now while looking for links to something else, and it shows that the growing malaise with endlessly doing the same thing in MMOs isn’t exactly new. How quickly we forget the dawn of time when everything was shiny and fun, even after 10,000 foozles. Ah, 1999, those were the days.

But that’s human nature, I suspect.

Back to the beginning

And so we circle back to tabletop RPGs. I started playing MMOs in 2000 because a friend told me it was just like tabletop roleplaying, only online*! You could play with other people at any time of the day or night!! You didn’t have to wait for your half-dozen friends to have a free weekend and pile everyone into a small UK house for 72 hours every 3 to 4 months!!! You could even play alone if you had to and get eaten by a pixellated grue!!

I didn’t get into MMOs because I played computer games (although I played quite a few, including MUSHes). I got into MMOs because they were supposed to be just like tabletop gaming, only different.

Turns out they’re too different, at least for me. I can’t roleplay in an MMO, for various reasons described elsewhere — or rather, I can but I don’t enjoy it. And the thing about roleplaying is that you’ll never have the same experience twice. Sure, some events will resemble other events, some plots will be rather similar to other plots, but those just add to the RP lore and mythos in your mind and in the shared memories of the group.

That element of creation, permanence and effect on the world — even an imaginary one — coupled with the social aspect is what I’m missing in my MMOs. It’s not that MMOs have become crap, or worse than they were, because if anything they’re improving (even if the WoW model is getting a little stale); it’s just that I can no longer pretend I’m getting out of them what I got out of tabletop RPGs.

So while I may dabble in my usual MMOs for the foreseeable future, I’ll be turning my energies to the tabletop arena. It’ll recharge my batteries and who knows, it might even help me recover that sense of fun in online gaming.

dark side

You’re welcome to join me. I’m going to set up some kind of social phlumphty-phlump (AKA I have no idea what to use — Google Hangouts? Vent? Skype? Roll20?) to chat with anyone who’s interested in trying (or returning to) tabletop gaming.


* You did have to pay exorbitant phone fees in the era of minute-based internet connections, but we won’t go there.