Reloading Wildstar and My MMO End-Game Musings

I gave Wildstar another chance recently, now that it’s F2P on Steam, and I’m actually really enjoying it. Some things are making more sense, and the leveling experience seems a bit better. Here’s my three current characters on Wildstar, with Cael being my main. I’m even sort of creating a bit of backstory for them all.

Cael and Aruvia are husband and wife, and have been happily married for a few years before coming to Nexus. About 6 years before Nexus, they had a child… But their son, Christopher, was killed in an attack on their peaceful colony by the Dominion when the colony rejected membership in the Dominion. Tavinalis Thrawn lead the ground assault and killed Cale and Aruvia’s baby after pretty much defeating Cael in combat. Cael fought valiantly, but he was a construction labourer who helped build and maintain the settlements, not trained in combat. The couple were imprisoned and separated for a little over 4 years.

Aruvia’s Esper talents began to manifest during her captivity, and after months of practice and strengthening help from an elderly Aurin woman she was imprisoned with, she freed herself and Cael along with a couple dozen other prisoners. They fled and joined the Exiles, deciding to try making a fresh start and try to re-start their family on Nexus. They had thought their trials were finally over… Until the Dominion showed up in orbit of Nexus. Cael has no doubt that Tavinalis is among the Dominion troops, and Tavinalis knows that Cael and Aruvia are among the Exile escapees on Nexus. It’s only a matter of time before their old rivalry comes face to face, when Cael and Aruvia will have their revenge on the metal beast who murdered their child.

I am really hoping to find people to group with in-game, but I had a thought about people I’ve tried playing MMORPGs with – when they get to end-game and the whole dynamic of the gameplay changes, they have zero interest in dealing with leveling again so are massively reluctant to actually bother helping other players level their characters, and their own alts are more a passtime when bored and their other end-game friends aren’t online. I think I’m one of the few that actually really does enjoy helping other people level after I’ve hit end-game. Sure, a lot of people say they do, but very few make a consistent effort to do that; usually they’ll help occasionally here and there.

It also doesn’t help that I personally tend to get bored with end-game a bit easily, because the story’s ended while the game keeps going. It’s the stories that are my addiction and my stress-release. It’s why I can lose myself for hours in video games, books, movies, TV series, comics, etc. Few MMORPGs offer concrete and easy to use ways for players to create their own stories; Cryptic’s Foundry (Star Trek Online, Neverwinter) is a good attempt, but too limited and clunky to wield for average users. There’s also no UCG engines that allow for custom voice work to be added; I’d love to see an MMO with a UCG engine that not only was simple to use and intuitive, but allowed for players to add voice acting etc. to characters, and had a good way to balance player rewards without becoming an exploit.

I’ll keep playing through Wildstar and see where it takes me, but I’m starting to see the main flaw in my love of MMOs. I’d love to see many more single player games of Mass Effect’s caliber add co-op to their story campaigns; I’m thinking of delving into past attempts at co-op games (namely the Army of Two series) and seeing what they did right vs. what failed. Perhaps I can design a co-op game that might succeed better?

The Problem with STO Lockboxes

Star Trek Online has, in my admittedly biased opinion, gone downhill in several ways. The stories are wonderful, the characters and familiar voices induce geekgasms, and in many ways it’s a wonderful game; but there’s a lot that, in recent years, leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The foremost has to be the way that Cryptic has set up lockboxes.

lockbox_blog_020712Lockboxes are currently randomly dropped from destroying enemies in STO’s missions, both space and ground. They often have wonderful prizes inside, from some simple consumables to weapons to even ships. The ships are often the most coveted, exclusive to that type of lockbox only, and hardest to get. Thing is, every time you open a lockbox, it’s random what you’ll get; you could open one or two and find that awesome super-rare ship you’ve been hunting for, or you could open a hundred and never get a ship at all. It’s all determined by an RNG. Some items, like the special Lobi crystals currency, are guaranteed to be in them, but how many crystals is random. The ships, though, and the higher rarity items, are not guaranteed to even drop at all from a lockbox.

This wouldn’t be so bad… If not for the fact that the only way to open a lockbox is with a special key, which costs 100 Zen in the cash shop or can sell for hundreds of millions of Energy Credits in the exchange. Sure, you can just buy zen for Dilithium, but the price for Zen in Dilithium fluctuates based on the player made market. And even when you have a few keys, the lockbox rewards are still determined by an RNG. So it doesn’t matter how much time, Dilithium, or Zen you spend.

lockboxThis, to me defeats the purpose of the dilithium exchange and the whole concept that Cryptic was pushing that players who want to get things through spending time playing instead of spending real money would get fairly rewarded. No one’s being rewarded fairly; it’s just an overglorified slot machine. I understand wanting to give players rewards in lockboxes, but lockboxes in their current incarnation basically make a lot of things in the game unbalanced and unfair.

b018ec67214c8de420ab42f945980eb31359050634A F2P player will have to spend weeks upon weeks of grinding for dilithium, for several hours per day, to farm enough dilithium to get enough keys to have a decent chance at getting the item they wanted in particular, with no guarantee of ever even getting it. A player spending money can buy keys relatively cheaply, but because it’s an RNG, there’s no guarantee fo how much he’ll need to spend to get that one ship he really wants.

The only “legitimate” way to bypass the whole lockbox system is with the Exchange that uses Energy Credits (EC) instead of both Dilithium and Zen. Buy a key from the C-Store, then sell it on the exchange for several million EC. Then use that EC to buy the ship you want from someone else who’s selling their duplicate on the Exchange. Personally, I consider this entire method a waste of time, because if the lockboxes were well balanced and worth using as they are, this bypass wouldn’t even exist.

Now, remember my mentioning Lobi Crystals? They’re a special currency only available in lockboxes, and which can only be spent at the Lobi Store on items that are also exclusive to the Lobi Store. All lockboxes will drop some, the only thing that’s random is the number of Lobi Crystals you’ll get. Personally, I think that having these rare ships only as completely random drops out of lockboxes isn’t working. It makes more sense to make them also as purchases in the Lobi Store; that way even if the ship you want does not drop from the lockbox, you aren’t totally SOL and can still work your way to the one you wanted. I’m okay with there being some randomness to getting these ships, but not when that randomness is all there is and it alone determines whether you get those ships or not.

I get the need to have a cash shop. I get the idea behind lockboxes. I think both can be fun and useful, if done right. But right now, the lockbox system is hugely unfair and  just an unbalanced mess.

Where are all the other storyteller gamers?

I’ve been doing a lot of personal development over the last couple of years, and I’m finding a lot of it even delves into the kind of gamer I am and how I view games, the game industry, and other gamers. I’ve recently came to a thought: I don’t like playing multiplayer games with most men and with women who share a specific kind of attitude as those men.

I’m a storyteller gamer. Sure, I pay attention to the stats of my gear, the gameplay mechanics I like, the co-op and multiplayer strategies people use, the changes devs do to the game (such as the changes in the upcoming 2.0 patch for Destiny); but  those just are the tools and framework for having fun experiences together that turn into great stories we can tell. I’m in it for the stories, not for becoming the best of the best on the leaderboard or in having the best speedrun times. This is why I tend to not bother with certain games (or at least the multiplayer aspects of certain games); games like the various incarnations of Halo, Battlefield, Call of Duty, etc. I jsut find most of the players care more about their K/D ratio than about actually having fun with friends, and they use gameplay skill as measuring sticks to be elitist and exclude others from their group.

On average, I’ve found that most guys I come across who are gamers have this elitist attitude. It’s rare for me to find a male gamer who is into gaming for the story even close to as much as I am, and even rarer for those people to share the same enjoyment of the specific games I enjoy. When it comes to story, I’ve found many women who share my passion for stories, though few that are into video games; most prefer TV series, movies, and books to video games. It’s one of the reasons I adore PnP tabletop RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons, to be honest. It’s also why I find I actually prefer to play those PnP games with women more than men, because the women are more able to keep from metagaming and actually invest in their characters as well as the narratives. Most of the guys I’ve gamed with are more interested in beefing up their characters, playing tired old stereotypes, creating the most freakish character builds they can, or having big, drawn out battles and gathering as much XP as  they can.

Not all guys are like this, and I’ve come across loads of women players who also care more about K/D ratios and are elitists. That doesn’t change that this kind of attitude is almost an exact opposite to the kind of gamer I am. This has definitely made it very tough for me to find people to game with regularly in pretty much every game I play, and also why it’s hard for me to find a guild I get along with.

This actually leads into another thought I had; that of all the guilds I’ve joined in MMO games, none had people who went out of their way to make new players feel welcomed and like they were part of the group. Sure, some were friendly, but I mean none went above and beyond to include new players as part of the team and get to know them better as people. I think that’s an important task for all online gaming guilds that gets all too often neglected, and one that reflects how certain parts of how all of society is becoming a little more antisocial and mistrusting. What really grinds my gears is that I can’t really blame people for being like that, due to the large amount of trolls and scammers who fester hidden within the gaming community.

So I’m not really sure what to do about it. For now, I guess I am going to try creating my own multi-game, multi-platform guild. I’m not sure what to call it, maybe “The Storyteller’s League” or something. I doubt I’ll get many members, but I want the main goal to be a place where people gather to find others who actually care about getting to know each other, who want to create amazing stories and memories through their gameplay together, and where no one gets left behind. We may talk about stats and gameplay, but they aren’t going to be our primary focus. They’re jsut tools, framework; it’s the people and the things we do that create the stories we’ll tell, the tales that could go down in legend.

Dreaming again of my dream Star Trek MMO

I’ve been thinking about it again. I would love to be able to create the ultimate Star Trek MMO game. Star Trek Online is great, but it’s not the ultimate. The ultimate doesn’t exist, except in my imagination. I’ve got great ideas, I think, but nowhere near the skill to create it by myself. Heck, STO took a huge team of at least 75 – 150 people to make, if I recall. But I can dream of some of the thing I’d do…

I’d love to be able to take the STO space combat and preserve most of it’s basic concepts as is, such as the 4 shield placements, weapon firing arcs, things like that; though I would do several important changes. For one thing, ships would have multiple hit-boxes; engines, shields, weapons, Primary Hull, Saucer, etc. I’d give all captains ability to either target the whole ship in general or target specific hitboxes, but it would have to be balanced against just targeting the ship as a whole. Targeting specific hitboxes would probably require a higher accuracy stat, and though it’d damage specific abilities or subsystems, would probably do less outright damage overall. I’d also make the effects of hitting those subsystems much more noticeable in combat; attacking weapons knocks out either phasers or torpedoes for a time, taking out engines greatly reduces mobility, etc.

I’d keep the three ship types of Escorts, Cruisers, and science ships, but the benefits, drawbacks, and uniqueness of each would be greatly changed up, and I might add additional ship types like Frigates and small craft/shuttles. I’m not sure I’d do the same kind of “modular” ship design for aesthetics that STO did, though the paint jobs was a great idea I’d expand further. I’ll get to interiors in a sec 😉

I’d make space PvP more about territory control and less random team matches in generic arena-style maps. Set up systems where players have to transport crew down to be able to capture a control point, then the ship has to defend enemy players from beaming down their own crew to defend, and give the faction that controls it most in a set timeframe faction-wide rewards. Rewards like missions for that faction’s players give bonus dilithium fora few days or they earn extra marks for a few days. Something to make PvP worth paying attention to.

Ground gameplay would be vastly different, though. I’d make the ground experience closer to things like Destiny, Mass Effect, or Skyrim. Anyone played the Star Trek game for console that came out just before Into Darkness? It was pretty bland, right? But it hit on a good concept with the tricorder gameplay. Just expand that even more, adding more uses for the tricorder than just repetitive mini-games. Make player skill choices affect tricorder use, and allow people to use tricorders to find non-combat solutions to problems, or even to find non-lethal solutions to combats. Award players in different ways for the different kinds of options this opens up to them.

Incorporate cover-shooter mechanics and multiple hit boxes for all characters, player & NPC alike. Allow first or third person view. Make headshots, and even limb shots, matter. Enhance melee combat, taking lessons from Skyrim, or even something like Tera or maybe DCUO.

Make it possible to fail missions, even if you allow a way for those missions to be re-played when failed. Make “stun” setting mean something and useful; for example – if your mission is to capture a Naussican criminal and bring him in for questioning, the player’s best option is to stun him or otherwise incapacitate him (perhaps utilizing the environment, such as knocking containers down onto him), and if the player accidentally kills him, they fail. Have options for diplomacy for missions more often.

The Foundry would be totally overhauled. No more making 3D maps with a 2D interface; make the interface 3D. For this, take lessons from the old Neverwinter Nights creation toolset; make snap-together tile pieces for interiors, and simple terrain tools for exteriors. Ship interiors would be customized this way as well; there would be default layouts, but players can go to Utopia Planitia (or their faction equivalent shipyards) to customize their ship interiors. They could even purchase additional decorations, texture sets, or tiles through the cash shop. ALL chairs, beds, benches, etc. would be functional and interactive. Also, in player-made foundry missions, allow authors to make branching mission paths, conditions for failing the mission, and Player class specific objectives (TAC, ENG, SCI), as well as options for non-combat objectives and placing mini-games. Give authors the tools to really be creative.

MORE VANITY PETS AND TROPHIES/COLLECTIBLES! Players should be able to customize their ready room and personal quarters with all sorts of things, such as wall trophies or vanity pets, and should be able to make their ship the equivalent of their own player housing.

Also, I’d like to have more “context sensitive” mission events; things that a player’s stats or BOff stats could enhance or open up options for, but that are unique to that specific mission and event. And they need to be more creative than “go to that console, read these numbers, then come back to me and select the multiple choice answer with the right numbers.” More custom cutscene events in missions with dialogue options, like in SWTOR or Mass Effect or Dragon Age 2.

Bridge Officers would be somewhat less customizable in physical appearance, but they’d be more varied as well, and skills would be just as re-trainable as they are now. Players can assign them to departments, and when they’ve gained enough “expertise” experience, can be promoted to department heads, giving them more options to specialize.

I’d give each “class” (science, tactical, engineering” 2 or 3 “specialization” sub-classes to choose from, for both players and NPCs. Specializations would work similar to SWTOR’s do. The current “kits” system is… interesting, but I’m not really finding that it works as well as intended, even with the recent changes. Ground abilities would be completely rebuilt from the ground up. Grenades would not be an ability, but instead would be an additional consumable slot. Instead, ground abilities would use Mass Effect for inspiration, improving and expanding on tricorder abilities that the recent Star Trek game for console barely touched on.

Voice Overs would be most definitely a standard. EVERY NPC would have a voice, especially for mission cutscenes, and players would have several options for their own character’s voice to use for dialogues. Additional full voice over sets could even be purchased in the cash shop. Mission intros would then use these voice-overs for “Captain’s Log” opening monologues, and player “alignment” could alter these slightly (see below).

Interstellar travel would be very different. Players would be spending more time in their ship’s interiors; when they want to go to a star system, they go to the bridge where they can access Conn commands. This would open up a Stellar cartography menu, where they can search by system name, manually wander the map to select a system, or there will be active mission destinations they can select. The ship would then set a course, and travel time would be more relative – “ships engine speeds” x “distance from current location” will determine travel time, but it should never be more than a few minutes in length, and there will be abilities or options to greatly shorten that time. There will also be things players can do inside their ship during these travel times; assign Duty Officer tasks, crafting, mini-events like random conversations with NPC crew and their Bridge Officers, etc.

Player character creation would be expanded, adding a backstory system similar to the Mass Effect games and Guild Wars 2. Bridge Officers (senior staff) would also be created using this system (although on a somewhat more limited scale than what players have access to), though the background choices would be randomly generated by the game upon acquisition. NPCs would also be much more interactive. Players could ask for recommendations from them when they are stuck, and have conversations during travel time etc.

I’d make the game interstellar travel map one single map, not multiple zones. Then I’d set up where unexplored space is compared to explored space. (Exploration gameplay is the one area that will be toughest to pull off and may not be able to be as in-depth as anyone wants, so I’m always open to ideas on this. It’s possible that it just might not be do-able in conjunction with all the other gameplay.) Exploration could actually be handled in ways not too dissimilar to what the game “No Man’s Sky” is doing, though not on nearly as grand a scale. It would be limited to directions not already occupied by a known species or faction (NPC or otherwise), but would be definitely doable to some extent. Besides, if the story missions and PvP are handled right, exploration wouldn’t likely need to happen quite as steadily, and there can be time limits or caps to community exploration areas that are discovered. There’s already a huge number of alien worlds in STO that missions can be done with, and players should be introduced to, and interact with, more of these. The previous exploration was poorly low quality for the Star Trek franchise, and I think players should be given more “distress calls” or “requests for assistance” type missions as well. Or, instead, have Foundry authors be the ones to create new worlds and species, and those become places all players can later explore.

Player “alignment” and crew moral would become an important part of the gameplay, and Ship’s Counsellor (or the other playable faction equivalent) would be how players check on those “stats.” Enemy faction reputation would be affected, which in turn will affect how different enemies react to you, from being kindly diplomatic to attacking on site. It would not be a matter of “good vs. evil” so much as “aggressive vs. diplomatic,” because Klingons aren’t evil but they are aggressive and they respect strength more than gentle kindness.

Allow options for player ships to be boarded during some kinds of PvP space combat, and allow players the option to board an enemy player’s ship. Don’t make it mandatory, but have it available for players who want to play this way. This makes targeting shields have more than one purpose, and give bonuses to players who board and successfully “capture” an enemy vessel. Perhaps make this a new 1v1 duel game type, rather than a mainstay in general PvP, with goals of first disabling the enemy vessel then boarding to capture Engineering and/or the bridge. If done right, both players could even sometimes board each other, then rase to capture each other player’s control points first. This also gives players options for defensive internal ships systems they could upgrade, like internal force fields, EMHs, and better trained NPC security crew members.

Crafting, equipment/consoles, and enemy drops would be vastly different than it is. First, I would remove all equipment and consol drops from combat that were higher than common quality. Leave mission rewards with higher quality stuff, though. Then add more crafting materials as item drops, and those can have various qualities. Then, give players the ability to “salvage” equipment and consoles, learning new “blueprints” for basic gear like different kinds of energy weapons or gun types, which would then each cost a small amount of EC to replicate. Then, crafting from there would be basically experimenting, unlocking recipes for higher quality gear which has better bonuses, resulting in higher quality gear. Allow a chance of failure in these experiments, though, and in the crafting of higher quality recipes. Make these items unbound as well, and make mission rewards character or maybe account bound, depending on the item. Ground item upgrades could perhaps also or instead be done by an upgrade system similar to SWTOR, where players can craft equipment/weapon modification parts which, for example, would slot into a weapon and give that weapon the desired bonuses; this could be done for anything from a slight bonus damage, to changing what energy damage type the weapon produces (Phaser, Tetryon, Antiproton, etc.) and can be done for weapons, shields, perhaps even enhancing tricorder functions (greater range, more power reserves, stealth detection, etc.).

For the gathering system that is currently in STO which randomly dotted around the maps, that has to go. I’d instead make certain scenery “prop” pieces each have a chance of having a specific thing be a gathering node; like a specific console or rock formation. Each specific object would have it’s own list of possible crafting materials it could hold. I’d then greatly expand how many “set pieces” are capable of being crafting nodes, and then each map would have an equation that took the number of possible nodes, made a certain percentage of them “inactive”, then setting the remaining nodes as “active” gathering nodes, and then producing the gathering items. Each node would have items based on the individual list for that “prop.” This would carry over into the Foundry player missions, though Foundry mission maps would have an even lower number of maximum available gathering nodes.

Fleet Holdings and Fleet Starbases would be designed to be much more accessible and much less of a grind to build up, and I’d give them more functionality than just shopping. They’d have basics like the tailor, exchange, etc. from the start. Though I’d do away with Fleet versions of starships entirely; I don’t agree with it and feel it creates an elitist barrier between players. However, allowing extra fleet decorative customization options, like paint jobs or ship hull materials, is still viable. The Dilithium Mine fleet holding would actually produce dilithium for the Fleet, and any Fleet Holdings projects that require dilithium would get it from the Fleet Dilithium Mine. Plus fleet members could go for their daily “mine dilithium” mission to the fleet dilithium mine instead of the main one currently near Bajor. Fleet Members might not get Dilithium themselves directly from the output of the fleet mine, but it’d make Fleet projects far less of a Dilithium sink. I’d want to make Fleet Starbases more desirable to visit, and that requires functionality; I’d like to set them up to be a social hub, but also not make the faction “home bases” (Quonos, ESD, Romulan Flotilla) obsolete. Also, Fleet Embassies would be expanded to more than just one on New Romulus. I’d want to give these locations more functionality and purpose, perhaps also producing items and commodities for various fleet projects. Currently, all Fleet Holdings are pretty much nothing more than a currency sink and grind; I want to give them actual purposes, and these need to be in line with the Star Trek mythos.

Romulans would be a full faction in their own right, with starbases and ships and equipment all their own. All 3 factions would be given the same development treatment; uniforms, playable races, all on par with each other. Each would have their own general theme and style, as well as their own stories. Federation focuses on diplomacy, Romulans on intelligence and subterfuge, Klingons on Honor and strength. In STO, the Federation faction has been getting favored by the devs, and as much as I love playing a fed, I don’t agree with the other two factions getting so little. Each faction should have the same level of options for gameplay and customizations, even if those options are unique in style and function to each faction. For every federation ship, there should be a Romulan and a Klingon ship. That doesn’t mean they have to all be identical, but they should have just as many options.

Stats and traits need to be refined and simplified, both for space and for ground. There honestly are too many stats to keep track of right now, and they all interact in far too many ways. Ground stats especially, but space stats too. Also, stat boosts by equipment need to be also simplified. I think starship traits should be more exclusively come from either equipment or Bridge Officers, not from player characters; Player Characters should have a “leadership” stat which enhances the space abilities of her/his Bridge Officers. And I think that traits should give more options for active and passive abilities, rather than simply stat boosts. I want to see more focus on player skill and less on buying equipment bonuses.

This is not even all the ideas I’ve had. Don’t get me wrong, STO is an amazing game, but sadly what ended up happening is Cryptic got shafted and were forced to slap together something barely playable, and ever since, they’ve been trying to just tweak and add onto a flawed system as best they can. They’ve done amazing things with the limitations, but sadly the features I’ve outlined here just aren’t within the capabilities of that system, and may never be. For the MMO game that could truly capture the spirit of Star Trek, I am beginning to think Star Trek Online would have to be rebuilt from the ground up.

What do you guys think? Do you think my ideas would work well? Let me know in the comments.

EDIT: One thing that grinds my gears over the past year about STO is how they have been giving enemy faction ships (Dominion, Cardassian, Undine, etc.) to players. I’m sorry, but that annoys me. I can see where collecting them would be fun, but honestly, I think it’s silly and breaks immersion so much that I get annoyed when I am at ESD and see an undine warship fly past me swerving like they’re drunk. I’d make them available for “hollodeck replays” of past missions, where you can try playing through those missions you’ve finished using a ship you normally couldn’t with abilities you normally don’t get access to, but that’s honestly pushing my limit of “canon” and “gameplay.”

Non-Player Cards on Kickstarter – SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!!!

Okay, I made this blog to write about video games, but I’m going to go off-topic a little and talk about these beauties right here. As a DM, these are something I’ve kind of made my own version of at home, using percentiles and charts. I’d much rather have these. They’re a fantastic idea!

Some hardcore old-school DMs would tell me it’s silly, because a good DM just has their own list they make up in their own time. Well, you’re wrong. A good GM puts as much time into crafting a fun experience for their players as possible, and with how busy life can be these days, this means a little less time with prep and more time doing other more important things – like getting the cheetos and mountain dew, or attacking the darkness with your magic missile.

This would be right at home with my critical hit deck and my critical fumble deck. It makes planning out NPCs beforehand much less time-consuming, and fleshing out new NPCs on the fly means I’m much better prepared for giving the players more freedom in roleplaying their game. Anything that makes my job as a GM easier while still allowing me to deliver an engaging, fun, and interesting game is definitely a worthwhile investment in my book.

It’s things like this which are why I’m going back to university and fighting for a better career. I’d gladly throw down a few hundred dollars to a project like this if I had the money to spare. It’s this kind of simple yet intuitive innovation we need more of, and that we need to support much more often.

Returning to Guild Wars 2

guildwars2racesandclass1920x1080-BI admit, after a few weeks of playing Guild Wars 2 at launch, I kind of got bored with it. The gameplay was great, for the most part, but there were some mild annoyances that just made it get… overly repetitive or disjointed. By the time I hit level 53 and found once more that though the Personal Story quest gave a sense of urgency of getting to the next part of it, the game told me I had to first gain another 2 levels before I was the level needed for the next leg of the journey. And it told me both by giving me a little red level requirement by the mission tracker on my HUD, and by handing my ass to me royally seven times before I gave up and decided I had to do as it said. But by then I was burnt out, most of my guild mates were rarely ever on, and when they were on they were 20 levels higher than me and too busy to help me catch up. I just got tired of soloing, and you can read my previous entries about why I don’t do PUGs. So I just stopped playing.

Going back now almost a year or so since I put the game aside, and there’s some nice changes. I remember why I loved the game, and some of those little annoyances have been addressed nicely, though some issues still persist. 

2014-07-12_00001-croppedOne new feature I am loving is the wardrobe collection feature. I am an MMO clothes whore, I admit; I love having different outfits, and love being able to make my character look however I want rather than being stuck with a look I hate just because the stats are what I need. The one thing I don’t like about the new wardrobe collections is that in order to change the appearance, you have to spend transmogrification shards, and those come as extremely rare rewards or are purchased in the gem store. I admit, I understand why they did this; as a F2P MMO, they need to make a steady income somehow, and gems can be bought with either real money or in-game gold; doesn’t mean I have to like it.

2014-06-20_00011The new Journal changes are also greatly appreciated; I missed out on playing the living world story when it first happened, and being able to go back and replay what I missed is awesome. I just hope it turns out to be better written than a lot of the Personal Story quests that take players to max level. I dunno, maybe I expect too much of writers these days? I find myself similarly disappointed with many TV shows and movies that are pretty popular, too. Perhaps I just have too high a standard? I dunno. There were some great parts to the Personal Story that I loved, but other parts just seemed half-assed, and there’s a couple moments where I just don’t understand what’s going on. Like why did one NPC offer me condolences on Tibalt? I don’t recall anything telling me he’d died permanently. If he is, I’ll be pissed; as silly as his character was, he was one of my favorite parts of the personal story.

2014-07-12_00002-StorageThere’s still things I’d like to see improved; the crafting storage, for one. There’s many items that are craftable which are either crafting materials themselves, or can be used as either consumables or as crafting materials in other recipes. These items don’t have any space in the crafting collections storage, though, and I’d like to see that changed. I think they should have their own collection storage, though I’d insist that players have to manually right-click to deposit these items. I don’t want to craft a food item that I decide to use as a consumable rather than just as a crafting material, jsut to have the system automatically dump it into the collections when I deposit all collectibles.

And one thing I never really liked was that there’s not really any places to buy or find most crafting recipes; they are pretty much just found by discovery, unless you use a third-party database outside the game. I don’t mind discovery, but I’m not a fan of when it’s mandatory, and I’m also not a fan of it being mandatory with so many crafting materials either taking up basic inventory/bank space or gathering nodes being as sparse as they are. I want to see either gathering node spawns doubled in number and/or frequency of respawn rate (this will allow me to be using crafting materials up more often and not having half-finished parts of things taking up my inventory spaces as much), or I want more space for storing items that are both consumables and crafting materials.

The one thing I’m still looking for is a decent guild that matches my playstyle, though even describing what my playstyle is can be kind of hard for me. At the least, I’m looking for a PvE guild that likes to RP, explore, gather, craft, and do story missions. If you can suggest a good GW2 guild for me, please do; I don’t know id what server world I’m on matters still, but if it does, i’m on Fort Aspenwood as when the game first launched it was planned to be an RP server.

No Man’s Sky – The only sandbox I could love

Okay, I will be up-front: I am not a fan of sandbox games.

Don’t get me wrong; I think they are amazing games. Minecraft blew my mind, and I love the idea of SOE’s Landmark. They let people do things we could only dream of. They’re better than Lego, in many ways. (I know, probably sacrilege to say that, but it’s true.) But honestly, even Lego was never really my thing. To me, sandbox games like this are like being a sculptor or a painter; you’re given a blank canvas and allowed to create. But I’ve always been more like an engineer than a painter. I like taking bits and pieces that already exist, given a problem to solve, then find new and interesting ways to solve the problem. I guess that’s why gameplay design fascinates me so much.

No Man’s Sky, though, is a sandbox I can get behind. It’s not so much like Mincraft where you’re given a bunch of things and told, “make something cool;” the game literally is players being given a whole galaxy and told, “go see what’s out there.” That would be a dream come true for me. Even though each player starts off on their own unique planet alone, the fact that the planet itself is relatively unexplored fills me with a sense of adventure, and knowing that getting a ship made spaceworthy then flying off into the vast unknown is only the first step of a greater journey of exploration just… -sigh- I’d be in heaven. It’s a Star Trek fan’s dream.

I’d love to see Cryptic license this tech and find a way to incorporate even just the world creation and sharing tech into either Star Trek Online or into a new Star Trek Online 2. I’m not really sure they’d do that, but imagine being able to explore whole new worlds as a Starfleet Officer that would then be permanently available for any other players to come and explore. 

The team at Hello Games is literally revolutionizing the whole gaming industry with the tech they’ve created, and I am very hopeful that they are able to deliver on their promises. They’ve said their game is not an MMO and they don’t plan to have too much in the way of real multiplayer, but I’d love to see this technology brought into the realm of an MMORPG. The possibilities are endless, and I am eagerly awaiting a release date to get my hands on this slice of heaven.