In reply to my previous post, pskinner mentioned Trove, which apparently could be a crafter’s paradise. I saw that this morning, just before checking my mail…

In which I found this:


And then I remember why I quit ArcheAge before the alpha phased into beta, and why I’m unlikely to ever pay for a Glyph game again. It’s one thing to give actual perks for subscribing; it’s quite another to offer features that nobody would want to be without. If you’re going to be free to play, BE free to play. If you’re going to be subs-only, then man up and admit that’s what you are – it works pretty well for WoW after all.

Maybe the whole ArcheAge thing just left a sour taste ($150 for the privilege of Alpha testing being the first thing, and I won’t get started on the rest or this will become a rant of epic proportions). It was my choice to spend the money, after all. Just like it’s my choice to not play any of their other games now. There’s just something too… grasping about the whole Glyph money model.

I’d also forgotten Trove is supposed to be a Minecraft-alike. If it’s very much like it — specifically with how the camera works — then the only thing that will happen is me hurling my breakfast all over the room, so that’s another no right there. I think if I want a voxel game I’ll just go back to Landmark; it’s been over a year and a great deal of water has gone under that bridge (which isn’t even a Sony bridge anymore), so maybe those pesky graphics issues — the ones where anyone with an nVidia card would crash — have been fixed.


LOTRO – "F2P" business must be good

I’m increasingly grateful that I bought Angmar/Moria/Mirkwood before LOTRO’s F2P model went live.

For one thing, it’s now almost impossible to find a copy of Moria outside major metropolitan areas (and Albuquerque apparently doesn’t count) or eBay – aside, of course, from the LOTRO store where it now costs 2495 Turbine Points. A few weeks ago I’d have said that was about $24.95, but that was back when 1 TP was worth $1.

The F2P launch must have gone really well, because all of a sudden Turbine Points aren’t worth 1:1 anymore. It’s more like 1TP = $1.5, which to me is just shy of highway robbery. I liked the 1:1 ratio, it’s easy to remember and easy to apply when you’re looking at stuff in Turbine Points — and it doesn’t make things seem all that expensive.

I’m rather shocked at the sudden 50% inflation in the cost of points. Shocked, but not all that surprised.

It also seems to be entirely impossible to find any copies of Siege of Mirkwood, anywhere, unless my Google-fu really has deserted me. Not even in the LOTRO Store and I’m very confused about that, but I could probably find an answer to it if I trawled through the forums a bit. Naaaah.

I’m loving LOTRO, yes. Loving how the spousal unit is getting fleeced because I didn’t get my ducks in a row before “F2P” went live? Not so much.

+ Gratuitous Basenji pic because we have one and they’re AAAAWWWESOME! (Ours is brindle though.)

Basenji duz not approov of fleacing playas!


The month in games – July 2010

One month, three games — that’s probably some sort of record for me.

When June ended I was playing Fallen Earth, and then from one day to the next I went back to EVE and shortly thereafter started Guild Wars. If you’d told me that four months ago, when I was still perfectly happily playing EQ2, I’d have snorted at you in disbelief.

Fallen Earth

Thanks to the frenzy surrounding layoffs at Icarus and the subsequent issue of 1000 (more?) free game codes, I was able to come back to Fallen Earth for the first time since my stint in the beta back in late 2008.

Fallen Earth is a lovely game and quite a lot of fun, but a couple of things did put me off. The factions stuff… eh. I wasn’t looking forward to having to putz about with that faction wheel, and I would have had to in order to do and get the stuff I wanted to do and get. On the bright side the whole faction system is being rethought and hopefully revamped, so we’ll see what’s what when they’ve had a chance to develop and implement that.

But at the end of the day — and I’m a little annoyed with myself about this — it was the trekking that did me in. Travelling around sector 1 isn’t much of a problem. Travelling around sector 2 isn’t much of a problem. But travelling from one Sector to another — even with a biodiesel bike (the Willie Nelson I) — it got a bit yawnsome. Again though, this is something that has already been addressed with the bus stop system.

Still. Part of me wants travel to be meaningful and I certainly understand why devs and designers want it to be meaningful — but 10-30 minutes of uninterrupted going from A to B along an empty road is not meaningful and it’s not interesting.

The other straw for this camel’s back was that if you wanted to be able to make the really good stuff for char/skill/level X, you had to get books and harvestables from way higher up the skill/level/whatever chain. Some of the recipe books for items that would primarily be used in sector 1 could only be obtained from vendors in sector 2, and that only after you’d obtained the requisite amount of faction (which admittedly isn’t much).

Which means MyChar1 would be in crap gear and using crap stuff but MyChars2-4 could be twinked out the wazoo thanks to MyChar1 being able to get the stuff.

Of course that’s the case in pretty much every MMO out there these days, and I have nothing against twinking per se — not at all, in fact I rather enjoy doing it myself up to a point — but for some reason in Fallen Earth it was like a little bit of salt rubbed in daily.

All that being said I don’t think there’s anything really wrong with Fallen Earth — it’s a fun game, it’s come a hell of a long way from beta that’s for sure, and it’s definitely worth the price of admission if you don’t object to the setting. (Just don’t think you can turn it into YAFMMO in your head. It’s not fantasy, even if the “orcs” can set you on fire.) I definitely recommend it — it’s just not the game for me right now, and as it’s subscription-based I have to be picky and choosy.

EVE Online

This was another freebie, at least as far as reactivation for a few days went. I first played EVE for a month or two waaaay back in 2004, but ended up moving on to something else for reasons I now can’t recall — probably the lure of another new shiny game and the unlure of my ongoing issues with EVE itself. I played again in 2006, also for only a month or two, this time with the spousal unit, and the big problem I had back then was that space makes me RL sick. There’s nothing quite like wanting to yack up your dinner when you’re playing to make you reconsider a subscription!

Anyway, since then we’d got new machines and much larger new monitors, so we figured we’d give it another go just for shits’n’giggles. The good news is that I don’t get quite so sick in space anymore, though moving the camera around too fast in space can still make me feel like Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo. Combat is still a bit of a problem, chunks-wise.

The bad news is that I’m just not cut out for full on world-PvP.

Back in 2006 you could stick to safe space and pretty much pretend there was no PvP, but these days it’s everywhere. People try to warp-scramble you just because they’re there and you’re there and what the hell, right? — And this in 0.9 space no less. I’m starting to think that finding a nice quiet corner of 0.0 is probably less of a pain in the ass than trying to navigate through the newbie systems.

Anyway, other than the PvP the game does have quite a few elements to recommend it to me. The market/trading game is fascinating, though as with all trading you’ll make more money if you have more money to invest up-front — but it’s still possible to make money and indeed I have been (albeit modestly) this last month. The manufacturing game isn’t much of one at the moment, at least not at my newbie levels: ore and mineral prices seem to have dropped considerably since I last played and right now the profit margin on manufactured items is tiny — you’re almost better off just mining and selling the raw materials. I’ve experienced this in pretty much every MMO that has crafting based on harvested raw materials: sooner or later, the raws will be as valuable if not moreso than the stuff you can make with them.

Then there’s Planetary Interaction, which has been fun but is limited in the amount of playtime it takes. I’m further limited in my unwillingness to leave safe space — the chancier the system, the more likely you are to strike gold, so to speak. But again, it’s not impossible and I’m managing; I’m making a profit, just not as much and not as fast as I might be.

In EVE, the risk-reward ratio is very obvious — but even with minimal risk there is still a chance of getting some reward.

Right now the only reason I’m still subscribed is because Mort is playing and enjoying the game, and I figure that whatever money I can make can help fuel his more active ambitions in the game. He’s running missions, hopping around in low-sec space, getting stuff done — generally he’s just not as much of a chicken as I am.

Again, EVE is not a bad game at all. There have been a slew of improvements and the basic game itself is fun, for the right player. Hardcore you need to be, grasshopper, and prepared to overlook the godawful interface with its godawful font — but at least everyone else has to use the same godawful UI so in that sense it’s even.

I’m just not the right player. I keep telling myself I can hide in the corner in PvP games and still have fun, but at the end of the day it’s just too stressful for me. I don’t like adrenaline, you see. So people can tell me I’ll get to like it if I just get killed enough times — till they’re blue in the face — but it’ll never be true. Much though I would like to be a cool kid and more Die Hard than Disney, the fact is I’m Disney and always will be. Hell, I used to get stressed out playing Tomb Raider for cripes’ sake.

So yeah… I don’t see EVE lasting so well for me. I’ll probably stay subbed up a few months to do some training and work on my PIs but if Mort decides he’s had enough it’ll be about 3 seconds before I hit the unsub button. I’m not cut out for the Wild West and lurking from one safe-space station to the next doesn’t feel like I’m getting my money’s worth.

Guild Wars

Oh look, another freebie — well, no sub to playbie anyway.

I’ve been intrigued by GW for some time now, mostly thanks to comments by and conversations with people like (the still blog-less) @longasc and Dusty. (There are many more and apologies for not crediting you all. You’ll have to bask in the warm glow of knowing who you are.) This is another game I played briefly in beta, though only in the open beta phase, and the only thing I remember about it from back then is that it was pretty and that it didn’t quite work the way I expected. Limited skills! Instances! No jumping!!11oneone!

Which just goes to show that first impressions aren’t always as reliable as people like to think. As a long-time believer in the uselessness of first impressions, I should have known better.

Of the three games I’ve played this month this one seems to fit my playing requirements best right now, and there are several reasons for that.

It’s light — I can pick it up, play 15 minutes or 5 hours, and put it down. No lengthy inventory and bank sorting sessions. No massive amounts of things to craft or sell or craft-then-sell. Just log in, go somewhere with my trusty heroes/henchmen/pets/spousal unit, kill some shit, log out. That is such a relief — and one I’d not expected.

It’s pretty. Sure, some of the graphical elements are a little dated (like the faces on Prophecies chars), but for the most part it’s a really good-looking game. Many of the environments are colourful without being over-saturated (thanks Tesh!), and the brown environments are… not too bad. Besides, I have characters in every campaign so if post-Searing Ascalon gets too much for me I can just play someone in the jungles of Nightfall for a while and get my fill of palm trees and giant ferns.

It’s easy. The initial learning curve is a little weird, partly because one has to unlearn a few MMO habits, but it doesn’t take very long at all to be comfortable with the way the controls work. Learning the intricacies of skills and choices can take a little longer, but that’s part of the fun of the game.

NO TREADMILLS. That deserved capitalisation. From what I’ve seen so far, armour is something you’ll upgrade maybe 3 or 4 times and that’s it — any other sets you obtain will  be mostly for the looks. Yippee-frickin-kay-yay! There’s a little more variation in weapons but so far I haven’t seen The One Weapon To Rule Them All that I’d have to strive for like a hamster on a wheel. Double yay.

Sure, there may be reputation or faction or something-else treadmills, but I can ignore those and not feel like I’m fighting sub-par. This is a joy beyond imagining for someone like me who isn’t particularly motivated by the chase for the next great gear-item.

Instant travel. This can be a double-edged sword but given how Guild Wars is built, anything else would have been idiotic in the extreme. You adventure in solo (or with friends) instances, and you do everything else in towns and outposts. Having you slog through multiple instances just to get back to a town/outpost would be truly irritating — this way you can jump into the action and jump back out of it just as fast when you’ve had enough or dinner’s ready or whatever. It works. I like it.

I’ve already got a slew of characters, not all of whom are likely to survive as I try out this profession and that one. My highest is currently a 14 Ranger/Paragon combo whose Paragon skills are sadly underused, but she’s fun all the same. The Necromancer/Ranger (see a theme here?) is stuck at 9 because I’m overdosing on post-Searing destro-Ascalon browniness.  I also just started a Mesmer/(currently)Necro combo to play with the spousal unit, and she’s a LOT of fun. There’s nothing like messing with mob minds from behind a sturdy meatshield.

I’m almost ashamed to admit this, but I’m glad there’s no crafting in Guild Wars. I’m tired of managing my inventories and having a million crafter alts. Maybe I’m just bloated from the bounteous crafting goodness that is EQ2 these days (largely thanks to its crafting dev, Domino) — there is, after all, such a thing as too much of a good thing.

And maybe in a month or three or six I’ll want to go back to that kind of crafting — and then I will. In the meantime, I’m (mostly) unshackled from monthly subscription fees and that, too, is quite a relief.

Long month, long post

And then there’s my self-challenge to post daily on this blog for the month of July, which I’ve mostly managed to do. I did give myself weekends off, partly for the sake of my sanity and partly because nobody reads weekend posts anyway — and while I do write mostly for myself, I guess I’m not entirely immune to what Rivs calls being an attention whore. Though I prefer to think of myself as an attention high-class-escort, thank you very much.

I shall make no promises for August, that’s for sure!

Playing with the hoi polloi

This is where a bunch of you can say “I told you so!”

I don’t think I’m an MMO-snob, but for some reason I’ve never played a free to play MMO for any length of time. It’s not that I automatically think subscription-based games are better… or is it? If not automatically, then at least subconsciously?

There does seem to be a part of me that equates “paying” with “quality” which, as has been amply demonstrated by many sub-based games in the last few years, is in fact not as neat an equation as one might think. Or maybe I equate “not paying” with “lack of quality” — I’ve certainly spent a few years equating “not paying” with “being fleeced in different, micro-transaction ways, sometimes to the detriment of my gameplay”.

Which is a semi-valid point. But the fact remains that there are plenty of free or semi-free games out there that are a) as good as some of the AAA-sub-every-month-or-we-kill-your-lower-level-alts-cough-Conan-cough-cough and b) not entirely driven by the need to suck the financial marrow from your bones.

Then there was the n’Armadillo’s review of Runes of Magic, and the constant screaming pressure!! by a bunch people I know telling me to “try Guild Wars! You’ll like it!” for the last year or so. You know who you are.

All of which has led me to download RoM — though I haven’t tried it yet — and the trial version of Guild Wars. For some reason a year or so ago I couldn’t get RoM to install properly: I kept getting a corrupted download and after 2 or 3 tries I gave it a hearty “sod that” and moved on. This time around the download and install went fine.

Guild Wars was easy to install and I was playing very shortly thereafter — though anyone intending to do the trial should note that the background downloading causes a crapton of lag in some places. Another thing that bothers me a bit is that while the trial supposedly lasts 2 weeks, you only get 10 hours of play, and 10 hours can go pretty fast. Something to be aware of so that you don’t sit around AFK while you read up on classes and the like.

I managed a couple of hours of GW yesterday, and it sure is a pretty game. The graphics are old-fashioned in some way I can’t quite pin down, mostly the character models, but they’re perfectly acceptable, and the landscapes are pretty.

As for the gameplay and feel of it — this may sound weird, but it felt like a single-player RPG I just happened to be playing with other people around. It reminded me a bit of Dungeon Siege, which is not a bad thing. I haven’t experienced enough content to give any sort of review yet, but it certainly wasn’t un-fun. I’m already considering buying the game, which is the only investment I’ll have to make if I intend to keep playing.

Which is where these F2P or mostly-F2P games are suddenly more interesting to me than they were. I’m in a fickle-bitch phase but I don’t want to keep up a bunch of subs to games I’m going to play a few hours a month. In that respect, knowing that I can jump into whatever F2P game I want, play a bit, then not log in again for weeks is a real relief from thinking I need to wring every last cent of value from my subs-based games.

It’s not that I lack the disposable income — though we’re watching our budget like pretty much everyone else these days — it’s that I don’t like paying for something I’m not using, even if it doesn’t cost a lot.

So yeah — I may be late to the free-games party, but I’m here now. Get down with your bad selves!

Ysharros Shadowkeep the (what else) ranger. Rar!

Things do come to pass

Almost a year ago I was wondering whether people would pay less for a game if it meant they got less playtime — rather than paying $15 a month for unlimited access. This is one such post, and here’s another, though there were others and I’m just too lazy to go look for them.

Well anyway, it’s happened. I just got this in the mail from the Everquest II team:

It’s not perfect, because it’s not X amount of time over a 30 day period, but rather 3 consecutive days, but it’s a first step. I know tons of people who’d make use of something like this — pay your 5 bucks, get a weekend’s worth of being able to check in on a game, hook up with old friends, and see what’s new.

It’s also not a bad way of trying before you buy back in.

If more games start offering this kind of thing, I can actually see myself playing more than one game. I don’t want to buy a whole sub to EVE because I don’t think I’d play it enough — granted, $15 a month really isn’t much but when it’s $15 a month for 4 games it does start to add up. 5$ a month for 4 games, on the other hand, is only a little more than one monthly sub and should provide plenty of game time.

Like I said, the only downside I can see to this is that the days have to be consecutive. I expect it’s probably easier to keep track of (start now, expire now +3 days) but it’s not like it’s hard to keep track of playtime either. I’m sure it wouldn’t buy you 72 hours of playtime (yeesh! I’d be all over that!), but they could have done $5 buys you 5, 10, or 15 hours.

Still, it’s a start. Thumbs up to the EQ2 peeps!

Pricing Models: pay what you want

Rock, Paper, Shotgun reports that Crayon Physics Deluxe has gone “Pay What You Want” which has apparently already worked relatively well for one of last year’s Gooey games and, of course, has been more famously done by big bands and big author names. (Note: this is a time-limited sale, not a permanent pricing model.)

The problem is, apparently, that most people only pay enough to stop making them feel guilty, or enough to get them a look at  the thing. Or nothing at all, if they can get away with it.

I’ve noticed this in MMOs when crafting: what I think something is worth is not what most customers think it’s worth. Many customers, in fact, think it should be free. In SWG I head this argument more times than I can count: “It’s not real stuff, why should I pay for it?” Well, for starters, it’s not real money either, so pony up you little shit.

But even away from the utterly stupid arguments and closer to the realm of the somewhat reasonable, I was often offended by people who’d say things like “You didn’t have to fight anything for it. It’s only crafting. Anyone can do it.” — all of which boils down to “MY time is more valuable than YOUR time, for which I can’t be arsed to pay you, so hand over the product and stop being a whiny gouging crafter.” To which I would invariably reply, “Then do it. Happy grinding to Master Weaponsmith. Byeeee!”

I’ve also noticed that when other people charge, it’s gouging. When it’s oneself doing the charging, it’s what the market will fairly bear.

Ah, humans. Hate em, can’t get rid of ’em.

So anyway. Crayon Physics isn’t an MMO and presumably doesn’t require staff to keep stuff going, make up new stuff, put out new stuff, and deal with whiny customers. But even so. Consider for a moment what you might pay for a PWYW MMO. Say DDO, which is already free, decides to go PWYW. Would you pay anything?

The problem is, of course, that people will want to know what they get for their money. For the one-time purchase of a game it’s easy: cash = game. But for an ongoing MMO, what do you get if you pay $3 a month that you don’t get if you’re not paying that money? And what do you get if you pay $10, or $20? Should you get anything special at all?

We’ve become conditioned to thinking that if we pay for something, we should get more than if we don’t pay for something, and if we pay more then we should also get more. Of whatever it is.

Consider the radical notion that it doesn’t actually have to be that way. You could pay $5 a month because you think the game is worth it and it makes you feel good to contribute to paying game staff salaries. Does that really require you to get an in-game noncombat flatworm pet? You could pay $25 a month for the same reasons and because you’re a rich bastard with a bit of a conscience.

The upside of all this would be, if you’re enjoying the game, you pay. If you’re not, you can stop paying.

The downside, of course, would be that most people are lying, self-interested shits and wouldn’t pay anything, or would only pay a pittance. And that this is not a very predictable or secure revenue model for a game with monthly expenses on the creation side.

Still, it’s nice to be idealistic once in a while.

(In the interest of full disclosure I should add that I’m currently reading Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, which may be influencing my views on fat capitalist bastards.)

What have you paid for me lately?

paypal_logoThe Great MMO Payment Model Debate smoulders on across the blogosphere (and it should, it’s an important question), and something occurred to me I hoped one of you guys might know. I’ll check into it when I get a chance, anyway.

Are there any “pay what you think we’re worth” games out there? There’s plenty of software like that — game mods come to mind — where you don’t have to pay but you’re encouraged to pay something. As for me in that model… sometimes I do, many times I don’t. I’m old enough to remember the good old days of paying for shareware I really used and not having to pay for shareware I thought was crap (as opposed to the “try a really cut-down version you can’t do anything with” way crippleware shareware is sold today) — and I actually did pay for my shareware. If someone makes the effort to create something I find useful, it’s only fair to pay them for the product. But as far as I can tell, shareware’s more or less dead and probably doesn’t apply to MMOs anyway.

I just wonder if it’s even possible to run an MMO under the “pay if you like it” model — and more, “pay WHAT you like,” though you could probably have a minimum amount in there, say $5. Presumably that’s just way too unpredictable (or, to be more cynical, totally predictable in failure) to actually plan around, and would only work for something that didn’t really need funding to begin with. Or something that had alternate sources of funding, like advertising or game-item transactions or whatever.

I’m not even saying it would be a good model — though it’s an alternative, even if it’s not a particularly attractive one. I tend to be a little too idealistic (underneath my glamour of cynicism) and assume more people would pay for something than actually would; and in all honesty, looking at my own current budget, I’d only pay if I felt I could afford it, and our sense of what we can afford these days has shrunk pretty dramatically.

Of all the discussions I’ve read lately, one suggestion stuck in my mind. I think it was Tesh’s — apologies if it’s misattributed, I’m only on my first cup of Joe — that proposes paying (in advance) for time played. Not for a certain number of days, which is effectively what the current subscription model is, but for a certain in-game amount of time. Let me buy 10 in-game hours at a time, or however much I think I’ll need. Hell, copy many other entertainment companies (like paintball, f’rinstance) and give me a certain amount of time per monthly fee — $5 buys me 10 hours, and if I want to be online more, I’ll need to buy more. If I don’t use them all up, consider rolling them over. Pay-as-you-play, so to speak.

I can tell you one thing for certain: if I were paying somewhere around $5 a month for a “limited” access time (as opposed to potentially 24/7), I’d be subscribed to a lot more games, which would please me a lot more. As others have said, we’re becoming game-hoppers, and there’s nothing wrong with that, apart from the current price tag. I’d probably end up paying about as much as I am now, but I’d be “hosted” in 5-6 games instead of in 2-3 — and the way my gaming acquaintances and friends have spread out in the last few years, that could only be a good thing.

That shiny new smell

On the one hand, Dragonchasers writes that after a few days “off” games, it’s hard to remember why they’re so addictive and why you should log into GameOfTheMonth instead of, say, reading a good book. (Very true — personally, I’d pick a good book any day.) On the other, you have Syp explaining why he’s happy to play “slowly but steadily” — I think Syp is the extreme opposite of a content-locust, and that his playstyle is the only sane one to adopt to avoid total burnout.

And on the third hand, there’s the heady joy of the “new-game smell” you get when you start something new, or even — as I’ve discovered — when you go back to a game you hadn’t played in years. I find myself really wishing there were payment models other  than the subscription one (for games I like, that is), so I could maintain more than a couple of subs; not necessarily as a matter of budget (though right now, it is), but mostly because paying $15 a month for a game I may only play for a couple of hours just isn’t something I’d consider justifiable.

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