Thursday, June 3, 2021

Summer Fever

There's a lot going on at the moment, isn't there? I can barely keep up. 

Only yesterday I got an invite to the alpha of Elteria Adventures, a new game I'd forgotten I'd signed up for. I've seen enough already to know it's a game I'll be following as it develops, one I might well enjoy playing regularly, when it reaches something approaching a persistent state.

Less than a week ago I was made aware of Swords of Legends Online, an mmorpg currently in the final stages of beta as it heads towards a summer launch. I haven't yet had the chance to try it out but from a distance it looks eminently playable.

A couple of weeks before that I was running around in the final closed beta for Bless Unleashed, already available on console and now very close to a PC release. I liked that one quite a lot and since it's both free to play and available via Steam I can think of no good reason not to play it.

Today Crowfall finally confirmed a release date: July 6. It's a game I've been paying vague attention to for many years as it's been making its slow but unsteady progress from successful Kickstarter campaign to finished product. I've never been convinced it's a game I'd want to play for long but it's certainly interesting enough to deserve a dabble.

As far as I can remember, the original payment model was going to be an odd hybrid. The full game was either going to be Buy to Play or might even have needed a subscription but the non-combat housing and crafting segment, the Eternal Kingdom, was going to be freely available to anyone. 

That's now changed. It's plain Buy to Play with a box price of $50. I doubt I'm going to want to put my hand in my pocket for that much but I'm not ruling it out. I might. 

Luckily, I don't have to guess. Crowfall is currently in what might as well be Open Beta. MassivelyOP has an infinitely useable access code (MOPCROWCODE) that will get you into the beta, guaranteed, but I think you can pretty much get in for the asking anyway. 

An hour ago, I filled out the request form and used MOP's code and as you can see from the screenshots I've made a character and had a little run around. I have actually played in one or two of Crowfall's earlier open-access tests although I couldn't find any trace of an existing account. I do remember there not being much to do when I tried it last time but it was ages ago.

The beta runs for almost three weeks before it closes down in preparation for launch. That's plenty of time to find out if I want to pay $50 for it. 

Of course, even if I don't, history suggests I'll be able to get it for a lot less, quite possibly nothing, in a few months' time. What was the last AAA mmo not to end up either going fully Free to Play or at least adding some kind of endless free trial? Is there one?

I'm not going to say anything about Crowfall just yet. It might make for a nice First Impressions post for tomorrow or Saturday. Also I should probably check if there's any kind of NDA. I can't imagine there is but it pays to be cautious. As I found yesterday, not for the first time, you never know who's reading!

As well as Crowfall's release date I read some other intriguing news at MassivelyOP today. Notice of yet another in-development AAA mmorpg, this time from a team of ex-Blizzard and Riot devs. It's called Palia and you can sign up for pre-alpha right now. Which I have. It looks quite interesting and very pretty, so why not?

Should my application bear fruit that's another game I'd have to fit into the schedule over the next few months. As the MOP article says, "While we don’t have a launch date, we do know the pre-alpha is set to begin this summer".

A game with similar intentions to Palia although with a very different art style, Book of Travels, is also supposedly set to arrive on Steam very soon. The Steam page actually says "Quarter 2 2021". 

I have very mixed feelings about the unfortunately-accronymed BoT, which for reasons I can't easily explain feels quite creepy to me. That doesn't mean I don't want to try it. I would like at least to be able to dislike it from personal experience rather than some irrational phobia I can't even define.

That's already a lot of new, high-quality mmorpgs, all due to become available in some form or other over the next two or three months. But it's not just new games.

The big mmorpg news this week, of course, was the opening of the Dark Portal in Azeroth, signalling the arrival of Burning Crusade Classic. I did consider, momentarily, resubbing for that. A day one scrum is always fun. Burning Crusade might well be my least-favorite World of Warcraft expansion, though, so it would seem unlikely I'd make much use of it after that opening day. You never know, though. If people start blogging about what a great time they're having I might crack.

More on point for me is the possible late-summer release of Guild Wars 2's End of Dragons. The big
reveal for that is due at the end of July and if I was forced to bet on a date I'd still pick sometime in September. Even if the expansion itself comes later than that we're bound to get some kind of beta weekends. ANet have form on those.

Meanwhile, the inexorable weekly schedule of Living Story re-releases grinds mercilessly on. I seem to have set my foot on the conveyor belt and I'm not sure I know how to step off. I've already done the first of this week's pair, something that took me several hours. It must be years since I played this much structured PvE in GW2. I'm surprised at how much I'm enjoying it.

That's already a fearsome amount of new (or recycled) content. Considerably more than I feel able to consume. I haven't even considered making a new character on one of the new EverQuest Random Loot servers, something I would probably have done in quieter times and as for the plans I had for Genshin Impact and Dragon Nest Origins...

I'm not complaining. Well, not much. It's great to see so much activity in the genre. I'm certain I've left out lots of other impending releases. We seem to be undergoing a bit of a quiet renaissance right now. It's getting hard to keep it all straight in my head. Most refreshing after all the doom and gloom of the last few years. I think we can put the "mmorpgs are dead" meme to rest for a while.

I do wish everyone wouldn't pile on to the summer release window, though. I get that it's the best for commercial reasons and I understand the historical basis in education cycles but it's not ideal for the older player. 

Summer is the time I feel I have to do all those things around the house and garden I was happily able to ignore when it was dark by five in the evening and raining every day. When the sun's shining in my eyes and the room's too warm for comfort, a nice walk in the woods or a picnic by the old iron-age barrow (oddly specific...) seems more appropriate than an afternoon spent over a hot keyboard.

I'll manage somehow. It's a nice problem to have. So nice, in fact, I'm open to suggestions if anyone knows of anything else that's happening. I wouldn't want to miss anything. 

I mean, let's be realistic. Think about where I live. It's probably going to rain most of the summer anyway. I'll probably be glad of something to do indoors.

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