Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Many Mansions: Villagers and Heroes

Tobold was was taken aback by Syp's plans to play at least nine MMOs this year. Tobold observes that "in one game 20 hours per week results in some sort of progress. Split over many games, nothing much is happening". I wouldn't agree.

Not only is it, arguably, an outdated view of how MMOs work these days, when so much content and so many systems are overtly designed to meet the needs of players who log in only for short sessions of thirty minutes to an hour at a time, but it's predicated on a belief that MMOs have to be played according to some sort of agreed scale of progression. That's something I would argue does not exist and never has existed outside of the self-imposed limitations of individual players.

To use an anecdotal example, I've mentioned before that we have a friend in our GW2 guild who has been playing since not all that long after launch. He only plays on Sundays, rarely for more than a couple of hours, and by no means every Sunday at that. He has just the one character, who hit level 70 only a couple of weeks ago. By the time Heart of Thorns is here he'll most likely have a single level 80 so you could say he's paced it exactly right.

Grass is greener, sky is bluer

People play at the pace they prefer. I have plenty of characters I'm still working on in many different MMOs and some go back months, some years, some more than a decade. Every so often I'll log one in and chip away a little at the mountain. I'm making progress on all of them. It's slow, it may never be complete, but something is definitely happening.

All the same I would never claim it isn't a challenge to keep all these plates spinning. And mostly they don't. A lot of them wobble and fall and lie there, forgotten. Stargrace has been pondering why we often just stop playing one MMO while we'll carry on with another. She comes up with several reasons that ring very true with me but the most common explanation of all is simply that there are too many good MMOs out there to have any hope of playing even a fraction of them regularly.

So I guess Tobold isn't so far off the mark after all. Sure, we can do a lot better than just playing one or two MMORPGs concurrently but in the end, however many we manage, it will only be a scratch on the surface of the genre.

One sheep doesn't make a flock

For a good while I wasn't happy with the variety in my MMO diet but things have improved of late. This week saw a small rollback in that improvement, thanks to GW2's giant patch, which didn't leave much time for other MMOs, but that should settle down soon enough.

I hope so, anyway, because when you concentrate exclusively on one MMO you do inevitably miss out. Because I couldn't, or wouldn't, stop playing GW2 at every available opportunity, I failed to get my Necromancer to level 10 so he wasn't able to vote in Daybreak Games' "should we break our own rules at the first sign of difficulty?" poll on Ragefire. Neither have I done my weeklies in EQ2, let alone put any more levels on my channeler. Dragon Nest has gone unplayed since I came back from holiday.

I would like to get all those back into some kind of loose, weekly schedule, at least. Then there's the upcoming Anniversary in The Secret World, which is a great bun fight for tokens to spend on gear that I'd prefer not to miss. I'd also dearly like to finish the main story in City of Steam before I wake up one day to read they've shut the servers down. And on it goes.

These crazy steampunk glasses turned up early on as a gift of some sort. I love them!

If there's one MMO I really want make more time for right now, though, it's Villagers and Heroes. I was having a great time playing before the Lion's Arch patch dropped and I felt I was making solid progress too.

The bug that was roadblocking the main quest turned out not to be a bug at all. I went to the forums and, following the advice I found there, I was able to resolve the problem without taking up the very generous offer from V&H developer Cameron England, which he made in the comments to my last V&H post here, to look into it for me. That's certainly going above and beyond the call of duty!

I'm guessing I should have heard of this place...

With that out of the way I somehow ended up down on the Lower Ethos docks again. On a whim I decided to go through the portal on the ship that was moored there just to see where it went, which was how I ended up owning my own house. And a sheep.

That was a surprise. I'm not sure why but I'd somehow gotten the idea that you had to buy your house from the cash shop. Not so. You get the basic one free for the asking once you visit Donald's sister Dareen.

Donald, who appears to be a bit of a literalist as well as a shill for his sister's real estate business, suggested I limit my search to a village that had housing space available. Following that impeccable logic (not that I actually saw any villages with the "No Vacancies" signs up but thanks anyway, Donald) I went to the portal and scrolled through a very long list of choices until the name of one caught my fancy: Autumn Woods Village.

It was night when I arrived there. Night in V&H is an odd duck. Sometimes it gets really quite dark. Other times things just seem to go a bit fuzzy around the edges. Occasionally both happen at once.

Seen by moonlight Autumn Woods looked delightful. I wandered around looking for a good plot. There was plenty of choice. In the end I chose a charming spot overlooking the lake.

Seriously, who goes house-hunting at midnight? Witches?

The villages, which are instanced, remind me a little of LotRO's housing but with much more visual appeal. There seems to be a wealth of facilities for crafting and gathering within the village itself. I'm guessing the bulk of the "Villager" gameplay takes place there. A large noticeboard lists a raft of communal activities with which villagers can join in and which, if completed, add to the available amenities. That reminded me of Horizons, which is really going back some, although I believe I've seen similar mechanics elsewhere too.

Building my house was a simple click of the mouse. No messing around acquiring building materials here. There's a fairly large range of styles on offer but for my starter home I had the choice of just two. One seems to be the basic model while the other, I think, has something to do with a choice I made at character creation.

It's got a door but don't get your hopes up.

I was happy enough with my little cottage although I was momentarily puzzled to discover I couldn't go inside. It turns out that "housing" in V&H equates to storage not accommodation. It's not what I'd call housing but on the other hand it's by far the fanciest personal bank I've ever had in an MMO and it comes with a garden, so who's complaining?.

When my "house"  popped into existence so did a sheep pen and a vegetable garden. They're round the back. What's more the pen comes with a sheep already installed. Just the one. On my stroll around earlier I'd noticed some battery farms reminiscent of ArcheAge, where players had jammed a dozen assorted farmyard animals into a space barely fit for a couple of rabbits. Efficiency over empathy is par for the course in MMO animal husbandry it seems.

Ok, sheep. If you had to choose between, oh, I don't know, a Blue drinking bowl shaped like a racing car or a Pink drinking bowl shaped like, erm....a princess, which one would you go for?

I played with my sheep for a while and he (she?) asked me for a green apple. Talking sheep. Well, they talk in pictograms but its pretty clear what they're trying to say. It reminded me of ArcheAge again but even more so the much-missed pet training job in Free Realms.

And that's where I had to leave it to go exploring in Lion's Arch. I hope my sheep's still okay. He (she? I'll have to check...) had plenty of grass but no water. The picket fence is pretty low, though. I'm sure any self-respecting sheep could jump it and we're right by a lake...

...oh dash it all, now I really need to go check he (she?) isn't lying there, gasping his (her?) last or floating feet up in the lake. I'm not sure I'm cut out for this degree of responsibility.


  1. Is Heart of "Thrones" a typo or a zinger?

    1. Lol! Thanks for pointing that out. Wish I could claim it was some subtle pun but no, it's just poor proof-reading.

  2. Your sheep is fine! You don't have to worry, they never die from neglect. Feeding them only makes it so they grow their fleece faster. Same for the garden. Once planted, the veg's will grow. When they are ready, they will wait for you to return. I love this aspect of V&H so much!


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