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!

4 thoughts on “The month in games – July 2010

  1. Pingback: A Month in Gaming… « Makkaio

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