Saturday, September 20, 2014

Let's Keep Dancing : GW2 et al

When I log in to GW2 of an evening first I like to get my dailies done. They're easy and satisfying and they serve as a nice wind-down after work. When they were introduced, way back when, dailies were the same every day and I got into the habit of doing them all in Plains of Ashford. After a while they changed things up so that every day's five permed from ever so many and I moved my base of operations to Wayfarer Foothills.

On a good day there you can do the entire daily in fifteen minutes without going more than a few hundred meters from Krennak's Lodge. The Frozen Maw, the World Boss event that runs every two hours, is often good for the full five. Post Megaserver, with a guaranteed zerg, the Maw offers some of the least challenging content imaginable but it's also among the most profitable.

If I never see another wurm egg omelet...

I was estimating the other day that I must have done the Maw event well over two thousand times by now. I do it twice a day, minimum, every day without fail; once on each account. Most days I do it three times and on a Saturday or Sunday I might stretch that to half a dozen. I therefore have a lot of data to draw on.

Excuse me! You there! Charr! Can you see my Rares?
Oh why did they have to make this chest so darned big?.
I began to notice the Shaman's unusual generosity sometime around last November. I started watching my drops very carefully after that and in almost a year I have never, not once, failed to receive at least one Rare in the big chest on the ground. As far as I can ascertain Frozen Maw is the only scheduled "World Boss" event that gives a Rare quality item every single time. Often it coughs up two or three.Why this is, whether it's intended or a favorable bug, I have no idea. I just enjoy nature's bounty while it's there.

The Maw has been through many changes, its popularity swinging wildly. There was a time when it generated its own single-server zerg and for a while, just before the arrival of Megaservers, it had fallen so out of fashion that I often found myself doing the event with just two or three other diehards. It even failed on occasion. Try telling the young 'uns that now. They'll laugh in your face.

I preferred it that way if I'm honest; kiting the Shaman round and around, sending in bears to hold him steady so he wouldn't tether and reset. There was risk then and reward. Now there's just reward. Still, better that than the other way around.

I'm off to the Mists. Want to come?

Anyway, that's by-the-by. Tonight I chose not to do my Daily in Wayfarers but to go to WvW where, in a decent KTrain or just following a commander who knows what he's about, you can knock off the daily in ten or fifteen mindless minutes. Other than the current compulsive, competitive frenzy of a WvW Season or the first couple of days after a Living Story episode, or when I'm leveling up a new character and occasionally need to pay attention, this is mostly what GW2 has become - a repetitive pleasure that often bears more resemblance to chanting a mantra than playing a game.

I'm not complaining. If I wasn't enjoying myself I'd stop. After two years, though, it's really no longer enough to hold my attention full-time. My mind tends to wander. I tab out. I blog. I comment. I browse Amazon. I check the weather. Sometimes I even I dither around in other MMOs.
In-jokes are so funny, aren't they?

That's how it came about a few days ago that I logged into DinoStorm for the first time in a while. The game seems to have been doing just fine without me. It's still busy, still getting updates. It's amazing how many MMOs seem to manage to struggle along, somehow, even without the attention of bloggers and news sites. It's almost as if there were other people out there, enjoying this hobby, about whom we know nothing. Crazy talk!

These last couple of days I've returned to City of Steam too, an MMO that once, indeed several times, gained significant traction in this corner of the Blogosphere, only to lose momentum and slip out of sight. Well, that one's still going too. Also still busy and getting updates. This month they even added a new European server. Another MMO that doesn't seem to care that we stopped paying attention.

In fact it's beginning to look as though just because no-one reading this writes about an MMO any more doesn't mean it fell off a cliff after all. There are hundreds of MMO(RP)Gs out there but we, the iterative subset of bloggers that feature in blog rolls and rss feeds of  blogs that feature in blog rolls and rss feeds, focus on a mere handful. WoW, GW2, ArcheAge, EVE, EQ/EQ2, LotRO, WildStar, SW:ToR, TESO, TSW ... if I listed the entire roster of MMOs regularly discussed in this part of the forest would it amount to more than a couple of dozen? I doubt it.

Oh yes, they're positively hysterical.

There trouble is, there are more MMOs out there than most of us will ever hear about, far less play. Few of us can be Beau Hindman, bravely, forlornly, attempting to play every single MMO ever made. Based on his recorded experience, few of us would want to. It sounds like a grim life.

Even among the MMOS we do get around to trying most don't stick. They slip out of our grasp somehow. The list of MMOs I have "played" is long. Over a hundred. I wrote something about that once, come to think of it. I must get around to Part Two sometime... The list of MMOs I'm still playing, even as infrequently and sporadically as DinoStorm or City of Steam, is much, much shorter.

Yesterday Syp posted a great summation of why The Secret World should have been huge. I've been hankering after some TSW for a while now and Syp's piece was enough to make me patch it up. The download was over 2GB. Shows how long it must have been. Syp and several other bloggers I follow may still play the game and I may be itching to give it another run but TSW, the unpleasant fact remains, was not huge. Whether it was the gameplay, the payment model, the timing... who can say? Whatever it was, TSW did not turn the genre on its head, more's the pity.

And yet anyone who's played the game might think it should have done. The quests are
Half of them are people who won't quit it with the in-jokes.
Whoever named the Shaman "Fred", I'm looking at you...
exemplary and so is the world-building. If you're willing to allow voice-acting in MMOs then TSW is the gold standard and then some. In so many ways there just aren't any better MMOs than TSW and yet it failed to find an audience large enough to match its ambitions. I didn't help. I didn't even manage the statutory three months.

Thinking of MMOs I admire but don't play as often as I ought brought me to Project: Gorgon. I patched that too and checked on the progress of its Kickstarter. There's good news and there's bad news.

The good news is that P:G has updated five times this month alone. Following on from yesterday's patch-note-oriented post I'm pleased to report that Eric Heimburg's notes are comprehensive and amusing. More importantly they confirm that this is an MMO that's undergoing a degree of continual development that many big budget games could only envy. *cough* Landmark *cough*.

The bad news is that, with just a week to go, the Project: Gorgon Kickstarter has yet to hit 20% of its target. I encourage everyone reading this to go pledge because solidarity is a good thing but it looks as if there is simply no way this KS will fund. That's bad news for Eric and his team but, if it means the end of development for the project, it may be even worse news for us, the audience.

Damn! This is mini-Maw again, isn't it?

Project: Gorgon is a Vision Game. The people behind it, like the people behind Ever, Jane, Camelot Unchained or Fallen London are making the games they want to play, not games they think will make the most money or satisfy the demands of the most focus groups. That is what creative artists and writers do. There are no good reasons major studios can't do the same. Art does, on occasion, emerge from global, corporate publishers, record companies and film studios. It can be done.

Mostly, though, it isn't and until we see some evidence that the big gaming houses are willing to step up to that mark we had better learn to cherish the little guys who do. It may be too late, again, for Project: Gorgon the KickStarter but I really hope it's not too late for Project: Gorgon the game.

Build it, Eric, and they will come. There may not be many of them but it might just be enough. Keep the faith as Stan Lee used to say. There's an audience out there for just about anything if you can only find it.

After all, if DinoStorm can do it, anyone can.

1 comment:

  1. If you're making a list, I'm also making the game I want to play: I've been working at it for almost 5 years and next week its finally going to go to a few family and friends to start outside testing. It's a tough road.


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