Saturday, 29 December 2012

One Step Forward...

It's the end of the year and everyone's cracking out the crystal ball or counting the cost. We never celebrated this particular holiday in our house when I was growing up and while I did my best to help drink in the New Year as a student and for a fair few years after, it must be getting on for two decades since I last made any special effort to mark the turning of the calendar's last page.

No predictions from me, then, and no looking back. Oh, well, maybe just a glance both ways as we cross the road into the future.

It's Behind You!


I want my beta hat back !
2012 was the year of Guild Wars 2. Beta weekends dominated the spring with the early ones marking particular high spots. I think the first two beta weekends still stand as my own personal high-water mark with the game. The overwhelming sense of a huge, unexplored world just over the horizon was at its peak then and my attempt to reach Lion's Arch on foot from Black Citadel lives on in my memory as vividly as my first attempt to reach Qeynos from Freeport a dozen years ago.

After four months of intense Live play, that particular journey is about as exciting as going to the garage for a pint of milk but much, very much indeed, of the fascinating world of Tyria remains mysterious and unexplored. I still haven't passed 50% map completion on any of my eight characters and in my opinion the points of interest marked on most of the maps don't even send you to the most interesting places you could be exploring, let alone show you all of them.

I'm in a golem. I said I'M IN A GOLEM!
I expected to spend a lot of time exploring Tyria but I never expected largely to abandon my travels in favor of upholding the pride of the realm. Server! I mean Server! WvW has set a deep hook even to the point of creating a spurious sense of responsibility, so that when I'm not out there defending our keeps or pushing into enemy territory I feel a mild sense of unease, as though I'm not quite where I should be. I'm by no means sure this is a good thing, but the sense of camaraderie as I storm around the battlegrounds in the midst of a crowd of familiar names is undeniably addictive.

GW2 is very far from perfect and I have a post in mind about it's faults. For all that's wrong with it, however, It looks set to last me well into the coming year and probably far beyond that.

Yes it looks nice enough but think of the property values
It certainly pushed Rift out of the running. Despite owning Storm Legion and being paid up to play until next November I've barely set foot in Telara. I did get as far as re-doing my Soul Trees for the umpteenth time (that gets so old - if I have one wish for MMOs for the future it would be that they stop resetting talent trees. Seriously, it's now at the point where that alone is enough to make me stop playing a game I'd otherwise keep faith with). I liked what I saw of the new continents but obviously not enough to get me exploring them. As for gameplay, Rift seems really, really dry after GW2. Staid and ponderous in fact.

Is that sun rising or setting?
The other big success of the year, from my perspective if not from it's producer's, was The Secret World. Again, the beta weekends were first-rate and indeed they sold me on the game, which I hadn't really been following and wasn't expecting to buy. I did buy it and played it exclusively during that short window of opportunity before GW2 launched. Perhaps the launch was badly-timed, since many said they were using TSW as a stop-gap before GW2, but to be honest the relentless grimdark of The Secret World had about worn me down after a couple of months and I would have needed to take a break about then anyway.

It's all in the details
Enough has been said, not least by me, about the top-notch quality of the story, voice acting and writing in TSW. I also very much enjoyed both the combat and the skill system, which weren't as universally popular. The new buy-to-pay model is, I think, the right one and the one Funcom should have started with. Since I have already bought the game it's now just down to me to find time to play it.

And that's the perennial problem to which I have no solution. Too many very good MMOs, too little time: the theme of 2012 and set to continue. Much talk about MMO implosions and the retraction and retrenchment of the genre continues but interested as I am in those trends and speculations on an academic level it remains personally irrelevant when there are literally dozens of MMOs I want to play but don't have time for. A huge winnowing that reduced the number of existing MMOs to a tenth of it's current number would still leave me looking at a choice of far more than I could hope to experience in reasonable depth, so why should I worry? Clear out the deadwood and I'll climb the highest tree left in the forest and see what I can see from up there.

I liked the old sign
The other two games I played most in 2012 were EQ2, from which I am on hiatus but to which I intend to return, if briefly, this very weekend and City of Steam. For all my lauding of the beta experience in general and the new black of beta weekends in particular, CoS is the exception. Oi! You! Mechanist Games! Will you just get on and launch already? I want a permanent character! I want to just get on and play! Your game was more polished in Alpha than most MMOs are six months after launch. If you polish it any more you'll rub a hole in it.

Shapes Of Things To Come


Apart from City of Steam the MMO I'm most looking forward to in 2013 has to be Neverwinter. It takes place in a setting I know and like, it's traditional fantasy with which I am so not done yet and almost certainly never will be, and best of all it offers authorship options. That's the good part; the bad part is, no-one seems very confident about when it will actually appear.

Same story for WildStar, second on my list of anticipated releases. Lots of PR, little hard information. I wouldn't be that surprised to be sitting here this time next year with neither of these even in beta yet.

No such fears for FFXIV's relaunch, which has a very solid timetable for beta. I still would like to play this, although I can't imagine paying a subscription. I'll be signing up for the beta when they begin taking applications and at the very least there's a two-week open beta at the end of the process offering a guaranteed taster before any money changes hands. I'll be there for that.

And I haven't forgotten about The Missing Ink.  I'm just hoping RedBedlam make good on their promise to bring it to Android. It would be just perfect on a tablet.

My MMO Resolution 


Get more variety into my MMO diet. Play more titles, play shorter sessions, spread myself about. I'm happier overall when I'm spending no more than two-thirds of my time in one MMO, making meaningful progress in three or four others and footling around in five or ten more around the edges. Gives me a lot more to write about, too.

My MMO Predictions for 2013


Yes, yes. You're going to live on a farm. A lovely farm! All of you...
  • Buy-to Play will become the new Free-To-Play but F2P itself is here to stay. Oh, and Subs aren't dead. Think that about covers it...
  • Real MMOs will begin to appear, or at least be announced, for the Tablet market. Arcane Heroes was a good start but much more can and will be done.
  • There will be retrenchment in the PC MMO market and some well-known titles will disappear. Not any really well-known ones, though. The strong will get stronger as the herd is culled.
  • No matter what happens it will be reported as the End of Days and after the dust settles we will all carry on as if nothing had happened. Like we always do.

2 comments:

  1. I too enjoyed TSW a ton. Still do. I like it's combat also, and so when I also did the "re-sub for a yar, get the expansion too" thing for Rift, the combat in Telara felt slow and ponderous by comparison for a couple of days until I got used to it again.

    But then after I got used to being in Telara again, it's sucked most of my gaming oxygen up and I've only logged into TSW a time or 2 a week since then and for shorter time periods. I'm sure once I have a character or 2 to 60 then I won't feel quite as much drive to play Rift but.... it's got its hooks in me pretty good right now.

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    1. When it comes to gameplay, a lot does come down to familiarity. That's a major reason why I don't like getting too stuck in one MMO. When I'm swapping between several regularly it's much easier to re-acclimatize each time.

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