Monday, August 23, 2021

Thirty-Six Hours

Thirty-six hours. That's how long Steam tells me I've spent playing Bless Unleashed so far. Three dozen hours gets you a level 22 and a bank mule. That's what it got me, anyway.

I know this moment. This is where I start to feel I might be hanging around for a while. I almost never do.

A few mmorpgs from the top of my mind where that happened, in no order:

  • Twin Saga
  • Black Desert Online 
  • Archeage
  • Riders of Icarus
  • Blade and Soul

All games I wrote about in a tone and with an enthusiasm that suggested I was digging in. All of them faded, all for different reasons. 

Twin Saga got too hard. That was a surprise. I played one character into the fifties. Experience began to crawl. I had quests I couldn't do. I died too much. It got tough. It stopped being fun. I walked away. I came back occasionaly to see if anything had gotten easier. It hadn't. Then the game closed down.

Black Desert Online began in a rush, turned into a game where it took too long to get nothing done. I got into the thirties on one character, had a couple of other characters in single figures, stopped. I came back when the Shai arrived, got into the twenties, stopped again.  Playing properly was a full-time job, playing casually was a riding sim. Even at the start the complexity was numbing and I could feel it getting bigger and deeper around me. I go back now and again but only as a tourist.

ArcheAge was strange. A very straightforward theme-park mmorpg if you played it a certain way, the way I played it. It was before all the shenanigans that damaged its rep. I was making good progress on a single character. I forget how far I got. The twenties at least, maybe thirties. I was having fun, nothing was wrong, then one day I wasn't playing any more. I forget why. It wasn't a decision. I imagine something happened, a holiday, another game, something broke my routine was all it took. All it ever takes, really. I thought about trying again, several times, but the moment has passed.


Riders of Icarus I enjoyed for a summer. It was familiar and a little unusual, too. There was a lot of fighting in the air on flying mounts, which took some getting used to but was at least semi-original. And they gave you stuff just for logging in that was actually good - better than stuff I've gotten for playing other games properly. I had (have) one character, I think in the twenties now. I didn't mean to stop playing but the company changed hands and they fluffed the transition and I couldn't log in for months. I can now but I don't, mostly.

Blade and Soul, more of a success story. I think I've only ever had one character. She's I don't know what level, mid-something. Half way to whatever it is. I want to say forties? I drove through the story at the start, got invested, then began to find the gameplay a little challenging. Too much finger-twiddling. Mine, not the character's. I drifted away but when I came back I found it easier, somehow. Recently I was playing most days until Bless Unleashed appeared.

That's just a smattering of similar, familiar stories. I play a lot of mmorpgs. I like most of them. I never met an mmorpg I didn't like, that's the saying, isn't it? Not entirely true but close. 

They take a long time, though, and they go on. They keep going on. It's not like the games you download from Steam, with a beginning and an end and if you're lucky something inbetween. Much as I'd like to keep playing all these good, great and just perfectly fine mmorpgs it's not remotely possible. 

I often used to say I preferred the low levels to the high, the levelling process to the end game. Sometimes I wonder if it's true or whether it's post hoc rationalization justifying extant reality. I have to like the starting game to the mid-levels because it's all I ever see.

Not strictly true, of course. There are games that stick, where I hit the cap and don't stop. EverQuest, EverQuest II, Rift, Vanguard, Guild Wars 2. Probably a few more. Others where I might not have capped but got close, maybe with several characters. Close enough to see the finish line and know what comes after. Dark Age of Camelot, Wizard 101, Lord of the Rings Online, The Secret World, World of Warcraft.


But mostly, with all but four or five in twenty years, I bailed at the top. Not for me, I could see that. With exceptions, sure, but on the whole that expressed preference for the early/mid game holds up.

So, Bless Unleashed. Where does the future lie? Almost certainly with all the other games I left behind even while I was supposedly invested and involved. I get so far and then I stop and sometimes I couldn't even tell you why. 

All of which is a lead-up to explain why I think it is I might be feeling the need to keep justifying my time spent playing, to qualify my enthusiasm, to make it clear that, yes, I'm having a lot of fun (really a lot) but that's not any kind of endorsement or recommendation because tomorrow or next week I might drop Bless Unleahed and not mention it again for a year.

It's a heavy responsibilty, having a blog. No, it's not. Of course it's not. But it could be if you let it get to you that way. 

In the particular case of Bless Unleashed, though, there is something else going on. The game has a history that means it has more to prove than most. I forget the unhappy details but the original Bless crashed and burned in some fashion still remembered with anger and resentment by people with better memories than mine.

Other mmorpgs have had to re-launch or reinvent themselves, most famously Final Fantasy XIV  but also the aforementioned ArcheAge. It can go either way. 


The connection between Bless and Bless Unleashed is something I have not researched and don't intend to but I've picked up a little. It's the same setting, I think. Looking at my posts from the first game I'd say it uses some of the same art assets. It might have the same lore. I can't remember anything about the story in the old version so I wouldn't know.

Other than that it seems like a completely different game. The controls are different, the systems and mechanics are new, the zones, the cities, the world - nothing about any of it rings any bells with me. It's also heaving with players in a way I definitely don't remember about the original. Everywhere feels bustling, busy, alive.

Or does it? At twenty-two I'm just about in the bubble, I think, albeit bumping along. Most of the people I see around me are in the mid-twenties to mid-thirties and there are plenty of them. 

They lounge around the soul fires, soaking up the health-restoring heat, snarfing down the shared food. They cluster around the marketplace and the warehouse so thickly it's hard to see the NPCs. Every quest I take ends up with me fighting mobs with other people doing the same, a very good thing for all of us.


It gives the strong impression of a vibrant, successful game and by the standards of most mmorpg launches I think it probably is, but...

Yesterday I had cause to go back to the first, big city and quest hub, Navarra. When I was last there you could barely get through the streets for people. Now it's empty. The wide boulevards and plazas bake in the sun but no-one's there to enjoy the sights and sounds of the city. Only the ever-present NPCs.

Okay, there were a few people on the streets. Half a dozen, maybe. It was nice, actually. Quiet. I could get to things without having to push. It does suggest the influx of new players has slowed to a trickle, though, if that. When I log in, instead of Crowded it says Average.

It's too soon for most players to be making alts, other than the necessary bank mules, I guess, and levelling content doesn't scale the way it does in some mmorpgs, so once you're through a region, you're done. There's rep, of course, and it's tied cleverly to appearance gear among other things, so there are reasons to come back around but it's early days for that for most people. 

There is another factor that could keep the lower-level regions in play. Bless Unleashed, like many imported mmorpgs that start out looking like PvE themeparks, turns into a PvP game later on. I'd say exactly when only there seems to be some confusion on the precise moment. I've read twenty and I've read thirty.


At twenty you can certainly opt in to killing other players. I got the pop up. I've been seeing characters with blood-red names all around me for a good while now. What I'm less clear on is when those of us who choose not to attack others become fair game to be attacked ourselves, regardless. 

All I can say with certainty is that so far no-one's attacked me and I haven't seen anyone else fighting each other either. I've been in a couple of contested zones but they both had mobs in the thirties so I came out again pretty quickly. Based on all that I'm going to say I think it's probably at thirty when I'll need to start watching my back. At the speed I'm levelling that's still a while off.

I could keep playing and avoid PvP altogether. In the uncontested areas it's not permitted. That leaves a fairly extensive sweep of country to explore and things like the rep vendors and a number of resources found there mean a peacable player could likely find satisfaction for quite a while, either playing alts or just mooching around gathering, fishing, killing world bosses.

For now, though, it feels as though all the interest for most players lies in the path ahead. I'm with them. I'm finding the storyline unexpectedly involving and the main quest does a great job of nudging me ever onwards. I've been meaning to post about the quality of the writing in Bless Unleashed for a while now. Maybe one of these days I'll finally get to it.


Or perhaps I'll wake up one day and I won't be playing any more. That's the thing. Based on what's become long experience I really couldn't say. Bless Unleashed might be the game to nudge GW2 off the rotation. It's already pushed EQII out of the daily queue. I haven't seen Norrath for a week, the first time that's happened this year.

If I was to make a prediction, though, it wouldn't be that. I'd put my money on BU dropping back into the pack of favored also-rans, the games I really like but never quite find the time or inclination to commit to playing beyond a certain level. The games where I drop in every few months in a flurry of enthusiasm, stay for a week or two then disappear again.

There's nothing wrong with that. It's an honorable position in my personal gaming pantheon. Minor deities and demi-gods with a statue in an alcove somewhere, the flowers on the last garland fading but not yet dead, to be refreshed one day when interest blooms anew.

I'll get back to it then, shall I? The levelling, the story, the entertainment. It's pretty good as these things go, I'll vouchsafe that much. Next time I talk about it I might even try to explain why.

Don't count on it, though.


  1. What's usually kept me logging in day after day on MMOs is being able to meet up and play with friends. Often times, it's friends I've made in the MMO, having never known them before.

    If it's just me playing by myself, where nobody will even notice if I log in the next day or ever again, I'm likely to stop playing the moment I find something new.

    1. I haven't regularly played with anyone I know since about 2012-2013. I started playing EverQuest on my own and played mainly solo for about a year, then went to DAOC, where I was in guilds for the first time and after that I was about 60-40 social/solo (that way round) until maybe 2011. I also played a lot of duo mmorpg stuff with Mrs Bhagpuss from DAOC until maybe just after Heart of Thorns, so about fifteen years, but in the last five years or so we've tended to do our own thing more even if we're both online at the same time.

      If I had to choose between playing mmorpgs alone or with people i know i'd go for alone. Even in my most highly social days I found other people to be a mixed blessing. I like to relax and do my own thing and other people tend to want to do their thing so more often than not i ended up at the end of a session feeling i could have used the time better on my own projects.

      I think my primary connection has always been to my characters. How much I play one game or another depends on how close to the character I'm playing I feel. That's the main reason I still play both EQ games and GW2. Bless unleashed has a problem in that I find my character there very bland. If anything leads me to drift away I think it will be that.

    2. I am pretty much a strict soloer as well (probably 90/10). I am a serious introvert that tends to spend a large hunk of my work days setting up meetings and in meetings. The absolute last thing I want to do at the end of that is socialize more. It's ironic then that games that don't have other players running around in them don't feel as "real" to me, and so I don't find them as immersive.

      More on topic, that game is very pretty. My dance card is pretty full right now, but I will have to keep it in mind. I am always down for a MMO with a good story.

  2. I've always liked your honesty about your attention span. It's been a refreshing contrast to all the people proclaiming that [insert new game here] is the best thing ever and will definitely be their new main game from now on... just for them to get bored with it a month later anyway. Though that has gotten better too. But there was a period a few years ago where a lot of people seemed to be like that.

    Also that you can move on from a game without hard feelings. Though I guess from the point of view of a dev or those who continue to play, the impact to them is the same whether players drop the game with a smile or a frown.

    1. The fact that I almost never pay any money for the games I play probably offsets any concerns devs have about me leaving. The F2P revolution was pretty made with me in mind.

      I rarely stop playing any mmorpg I've enjoyed with the intention of never going back. It's almost like they're albums - I play them a lot when they're new, then when the mood takes me or when I happen to think of them ever after. The weird thing is, I don't do it with single-player games, for which the analogy with albums is a lot tighter. I play them and then leave them. I almost never go back.


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