Saturday, April 16, 2016

Too Much To Dream

April's proving to be a very busy month indeed, at least for the sadly-diminished number of MMOs I seem to be playing these days. How it's happened that my gaming diet has been pared down to just two regular titles I'm not entirely sure but I am sure that I don't like it and didn't intend for it to happen.

Whether I have the power to change it is another matter. It's a truism that you can only play one or two MMOs "seriously" for two, simple reasons: firstly, the genre is based primarily on extremely time-consuming activities and secondly, those activities never end.

A single-player RPG offering 60+ hours of gameplay would generally be considered good value. It might well be the only game a player booted up for a whole month of multi-hour sessions. After a while, though, people are done with single-player rpgs. They're finished. They move on. Where are all the posts in my Feedly now about Fallout 4? Gone to the same place all the posts about Skyrim, I imagine.

With MMOs the same process takes months or years, not weeks. Even in these days of game-hopping, when few new MMOs even scrape the three-month attention barrier, there seems to be some trauma involved in stopping playing any given MMO. When they decide to move from one game to another, people feel they have to make excuses, come up with a reason, explain themselves,

That tends not to happen when a player reaches the end of a single-player game. When you're done there, you're done and anyway it's no-one's business but your own. You either had fun or you didn't. It was money well spent or it was a poor purchasing decision but either way it's over. Off you go to the next one.
I admit it. I do sometimes log into TSW just to take screenshots of my character posing.

For the longest time I've been trying to hold the line on playing a lot of MMOs at the same time. I have around a couple of dozen installed on my various hard drives right now and a good few more on my notional radar. Here's a list I've come up with off the top of my head, without checking what I actually have on the desktop, of the MMOs I like to imagine I'm still playing in 2016:

Guild Wars 2
Black Desert
EverQuest 2
Blade and Soul
The Secret World
Warhammer Emu
Vanguard Emu
Project Gorgon
Dragon Nest: Oracle

Ok, Ninelives isn't actually an MMO. Indeed, it's so much not an MMO that the SmokymonkeyS team feel compelled to state "It will never be a MMO" at the end of their bullet point on the planned Multiplayer features. It might as well be an MMO, though.

That's a nice, round dozen, of which, quite clearly, I'm really only playing the first two and mostly only the first one. I would dearly love to be able to say I was actively and meaningfully playing a dozen MMORPGs. I've been trying to do that for years. I've been telling myself I was doing it and I very nearly made myself believe it, too, but let's face facts here.

At best I'm logging in to a dozen MMOs. Of the list above I think, again without checking, that I've fired up the client and taken a character into the world in nine of the above twelve games this calendar year.

Shamefully, I don't think I've logged into EQ since around November 2015. Changing my All Access account from the one with my highest level EQ character to the one with my highest level EQ2 character pretty much did for my active participation in the original game. That has to be, and will be, rectified. Not sure how...or when...
Remind me who Argenta is again?

The Secret World and Dragon Nest :Oracle are the other two I haven't touched at all in 2016. I love TSW in theory but I hit the wall of my ability to progress there a long time ago and since I'm not going to get any better it's a dead end. It's not a gear issue - my character is overgeared already for the content I can't beat. I just can't play the game well enough to get past certain fights in the storyline and since all new content is now, quite rationally, directed at the existing, skilled and highly-progressed community, its unlikely I'll ever return to do more than  potter around the places I've already seen.

Which is fine. I do that in a lot of MMOs. It's tourism and I am one hundred percent down with being a tourist in both real and virtual life. I can hardly claim it's the same as "actively playing" an MMO, though, can I?

Of the remainder of that list I did play Blade and Soul "properly" for several weeks. I would almost certainly be playing it now if Black Desert hadn't risen from the MMO ocean like a great leviathan and stolen every single minute of free time GW2 wasn't already using.

I will return to Blade and Soul. I was enjoying it, I can play it, I wanted to hit max level just to say I'd done it. Not right now, though. Similarly I will play Project Gorgon, just probably not until it settles down to some kind of quasi-released status and I will play Vanguard (again), when most of the gameplay is recovered from the void. And Dragon Nest; I will also get back to that one at some point, I'm sure.

But when? When is any of this going to happen? There's already a line forming for the games I am playing.
A leap into the content abyss.

On Tuesday the April Update for GW2 lands. What's in it? Your guess is as good as anyone's. ANet, now under Mike "Two Hats" O'Brien's complete control, has opted for a bizarre combination of openness and secrecy, in which Mo (as he confusingly styles himself these days) announces he is going to communicate more while simultaneously shelving some of the established communication channels we've all come to rely on.

Consequently we have no clear idea what's going to be in the update, other than whatever you can read from the runes of this terrible promo video. The worst promo video I have seen for... well, possibly ever. Whatever the update brings, I imagine it will manage to occupy my attention at least until April 28, when the mother of all free updates drops in EQ2.

Contrary to ANet's approach, DBG have been pulling out all the stops to provide full disclosure on what to expect and, on paper at least, it looks awesome. Seriously, this deserves hyperbole. They could be selling this as an expansion and I doubt they'd be getting much more in the way of complaints than they always get.

Feldon has been covering the DBG infodump, which is far too extensive to detail here. The highlights for me are the new open-world zone, the Experience Vial system (which I expect to use heavily if it turns out to be as great an idea in play as it reads on the screen) and the Collects they revealed today. There's a lot more to the update than that, though. If this is what they're giving out for free (well, to Subscribers as part of their Subscription, to be strictly accurate) then I really want to know what they have planned for this year's actual expansion.
If they make that fox race playable then all bets are off.

And finally, just focusing on the triumvirate of MMOs I can get away with saying I am "actively playing", while keeping a straight face, there's Black Desert. Apparently throwing in an entire "expansion" unannounced earlier in the month wasn't enough for Daum. They're sweetening the pot further on April 20th with two new classes, the controversially-named Musa and Maehwa (better than "Plum" and "Blader" as the translated versions had it, that's for sure).

I rolled my third BDO character, a Witch, the other night. I already had a Berserker, who I don't get on with, and my Tamer, who is great. I like the Witch a lot so far. I haven't even had a chance to consider the two new ones although I still have one character slot free and anyway that Berserker is hanging on by his fingernails - he could fall onto the Delete button any time.

He's probably safe for now, though, because the thing is this: there just isn't time to be starting new characters. I need to buckle down and get on with the things I have in hand already.

The dream of really "playing" many MMOs at once is just that: a dream. It's a good dream though and I'm going to keep on dreaming. Who want to wake up to reality anyway?


  1. Absolutely agree with the sentiment of this post. There are *so* many good games to play, it's hard not to want to juggle them all! How is alt play in BDO? I would normally try a few characters before settling in a game but BDO seems like a game that wants commitment.

    1. Unsurprisingly, alts in BDO are different! There's a kind of compromise between account-based and character-based functions, so all your alts share the same resource pools and even get the same quest journal (which confused me for a while) but they get to spend the resources separately. I don't claim to understand the implications fully yet but the general feeling seems to be that you should fill all your character slots asap to take advantage of the synergies.

      As for gameplay, I've only tried the Tamer and the Witch so far (the Berserker didn't count) but they feel fairly different. They ought to, since the Tamer has literally no ranged attaks at all while the Witch throws massive fireballs from a hundred meters. My guess is that, if you learn all the intricacies of the combat, which I definitely won't be doing, all the classes will feel quite different to play, so in that sense alts will be viable. Other than that, though, I think it's a bit of a gestalt, with all your characters (they are all in a "Family") acting as a team.

  2. On TSW: which fights are blocking you? For some of them, it's not a solo instance, so somebody (e.g. me) could come along to lend a hand.

    1. Thanks for the offer - its very kind! Unfortunately it's a solo instance, step 25 of the main quest, the fight with Mara. If it was groupable I'd have hung around the entrance and paired up with someone but sadly it's not.

      I read several guides on it and I understand the fight. I simply can't dodge or maneuver well enough in confined spaces to avoid the red circles she throws everywhere. I have the same problem in another closed-room fight that I can't recall the details of right now and I eventually had to give up on that one too.

      If the fights were in the open I could probably do them but the restricted movement is more than I can handle - and the incredibly tedious and long-winded "gather parts from zombies" pre-req that you have to do every time you re-try the quest puts me off even bothering to give it another go.

  3. I know the feeling. I have kind of accepted that I only have time for one MMO. EQ2 is still my main game. I would love to be able to spend more time in EQ. I would not mind trying out BDO or seeing the new content in SWTOR. I usually just bounce back from my main MMO and a few console games. I barely have time for that these days too lol.

  4. I really enjoyed this post. I have been going through something similar, but I think I finally decided to buckle down on 2 MMOs and then maybe give myself a day to dabble. Hopefully, I can get to a place in those MMOs where I can hit pause temporarily and make my through some other games that I always mean to get to.

    Wishing you luck on being able to play all the games.


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