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Let me make an agreement with you, dear readers: this column about Final Fantasy XIV
will not talk about the housing situation in Shirogane at all. If you’re wondering “why wouldn’t you cover that,” the answer is that I already did and you can read the whole feature on that
. (You can also read the follow-up
.) So for the remainder of this column, we’re going to talk about all of the other features of this particular patch, which seems like a better use of our time anyway.
Heck, the whole stupid housing mess was only released with this patch, it’s not like the mechanics or anything are new.
And hey, there’s some good stuff going on with this patch, along with parts that are well worth discussing for where they don’t work as well. So let’s dive right in, starting with the obvious centerpiece of every patch, the continued expansion of the game’s storyline… as perfunctory as it may feel sometimes. Some mild spoilers are possible, so be fairly warned.
You’ve probably heard by now that EVE Online
is giving its free-to-play alpha clone characters a massive boost in power in December about a month after the launch of the Lifeblood
expansion. The news has been spreading through the gaming media
since it was announced last week at EVE Vegas 2017
and the reception online has been generally positive. Some existing players are worried that the change might even be too
generous, with fears that veteran players may let their subscriptions lapse and play for free, or that the new skills might be abused to create an endless army of ganking alts.
There’s no doubt that the changes will help to close the power gap between subscribers and free players and will open up new avenues of gameplay. Free players will finally be able to fly tech 1 battlecruisers and even battleships, and cross-training for multiple races will unlock multi-faction ships such as the Sisters of EVE exploration ships. Alpha clone players will also finally be able to use tech 2 weapons and fly many of the ship setups flown in massive nullsec wars, though the way that the new skill limit is being implemented may actually benefit old and returning players more than new ones.
In this edition of EVE Evolved, I dig into the free-to-play changes, briefly examine the power gap between free and subscribed players, and look at who will benefit most from the change.
After 50 episodes, the Battle Bards have made the brave decision to revisit the hallowed lands of Blade and Soul to look at two of the soundtrack expansions. The team combs through The World and Silverfrost Mountain albums to see what bounty can be harvested. It’s another lively episode with plenty of upbeat music, so what are you waiting for?
Battle Bards is a bi-weekly podcast that alternates between examining a single MMO’s soundtrack and exploring music tracks revolving around a theme. MOP’s Justin co-hosts with bloggers Steff and Syl. The cast is available on iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, and Player.FM.
Listen to Episode 107: Blade and Soul expansions (or download it) now:
As I level up my many jobs on my main in Final Fantasy XIV, I feel compelled to take on all of the sidequests meant for leveling from 60-70. This is not, strictly speaking, necessary. Heck, it’s entirely unnecessary at this point; I can just do Alliance Raid roulettes and Kojin quests. But I feel as if I should close out these quests, pick up these little extra bits of story along the way before they become perfunctory.
Some games reward completionist tendencies, of course; Guild Wars 2 maps are designed to be cleared out, to use an obvious example. But none of that changes the simple reality of whether you’re into it or not. So what about you, dear readers? Are you a completionist in MMOs? Are there things you feel compelled to clear out in your game of choice? Or do you take a strictly utilitarian approach and assume that any quests/objectives/whatever that you’ve outleveled can just remain forgotten?
This past weekend was not the first time I have attended a developer’s convention, but Frontier Expo 2017 was one of only a very few times when I have been able to attend the first one of its kind. Last weekend, I got to witness the birth of Frontier Developments’ fan convention, held in London, UK. At 1500 attendees, it may have been a relatively small gathering compared to conventions like PAX or other more established cons, but it was still great. In fact, it offered fans a few firsts of their own! Besides your classic meeting-and-greeting, game announcements with reveals, and after parties (including live entertainment by Jim Guthrie, the musician who created the Planet Coaster music), folks got to try their hand at the studio’s really old games on their original equipment in the Frontier Developments museum.
Even more than that, attendees got to meet and listen to world-renowned experts in the fields of paleontology and astrobiology. Not because these would sell the game, but just because they are subjects of interest to fans. How many studios have offered that?
Now there were understandably a few bumps and learning experiences in this first endeavor, but in all, I say the inaugural FX2017 was a resounding success! It was easily the most chill convention experience I have ever had, and I look forward to next year’s show (and hanging out with the space loach more!). Let’s dig in!
At the beginning of 2017, it seemed as though a mini-renaissance was brewing for Lord of the Rings Online
. Standing Stone Games broke away from the sinking ship that was Turbine and offered a fresh start of sorts for the long-running MMO. We were coming to a head with the game’s story and a return to large-scale expansions was confirmed with the news of Mordor
Reality and hopes don’t always get along, and while 2017 hasn’t always been the kindest to LOTRO, it hasn’t been a crushing disappointment either. The more I’ve been looking at the state of the game, reading the forums, playing it, and covering news, the more I’ve felt the need to grade how the game is doing in the right here and now.
So why not? It’s school season, so let’s embrace the academic spirit and assign some marks to LOTRO’s operation and state. Agree with these grades? Disagree? Get out your quill and scratch your own thoughts down there in the comments!
Let’s throw down today and have an all-out brawl in the comments, shall we? That should keep Bree busy for a few hours at least!
Today’s topic: dragons! No, not those adorable ones you tame, but the ones that you fight (usually with a whole posse of equally deranged adventurers). They’re a staple of MMORPGs and share top billing in D&D, but not all dragons can be the biggest, baddest, and bestest. One has to emerge as Top Dragon, and the question is… which one?
What is the best MMO dragon of all time? Which dragon has the fiercest of presences, the most diabolical of fight mechanics, the wickedest of looks, and the most iconic of personalities? If all MMO dragons entered an arena to go at it… which one would emerge triumphant?
One of the points of the polls and discussions for Guild Wars 2
the other week was that while I could focus on either map antics or storyline progression, I wouldn’t be doing just one or the other. Some of this is just practicality – if a story mission is bringing me close to a waypoint anyway, it would be silly for me to just shrug and not pick it up, and it’s kind of important that I use whatever means available to me to pick up more Hero points. But some of it was the fact that the game has, in many ways, an organic flow.
The game’s story doesn’t always bring you to the important places, but it usually at least strives to push players into spaces where they’re going to brush up against points of interest. (By which I mean “all the various map icons” rather than the game-specific definition of “point of interest.”) The intent, then, is not that you spend all of your time doing one thing or the other; you spend your time doing both, running through story instances and then hopping back out as it becomes relevant.
We’ve been complaining about lockboxes a lot lately as an unwelcome psychological trick in gaming, so this morning, I wanted to talk about a welcome one. To do so, let me invoke the wisdom of blog The Psychology of Video Games. Author Jamie Madigan discusses “automatic helping behaviors” that studios can take advantage of to combat toxicity; he notes that researchers have found your attitude doesn’t always control your actions – you can often be tricked into an attitude based on your actions.
So if a game like Guild Wars 2 finds a way to incentivize you into resurrecting other players and helping them in combat, you begin to perceive yourself as the kind of person who helps – and you might just begin reflexively helping elsewhere, even when you don’t have to. That leads to situations, at least in GW2, where people will actually stop fighting to rush over to res a stranger, perpetuating that warm fuzzy feeling.
In a game like Overwatch, it’s even more automatic, as your character fires off compliments when characters nearby perform well. See and hear “yourself” do that enough and suddenly, that’s the kind of player you are.
Are you a fan of MMOs that employ this “trick” to encourage cooperation and community building? Where else have you seen it used to good effect?
MOP reader Sally Bowls is on a roll with the good questions lately! She lobbed us one this past weekend that seems a good follow-up to a comment thread discussion about the problems inherent in unregulated three-way factional PvP/RvR (and how a game like Camelot Unchained will regulate it). By way of example, she noted that a certain MMO griefer famously argued in favor of strategy that basically made the opponent not want to log in, using tactics like creating timesinks and hassles in a sandbox. “Should the dominant faction on a RvRvR server ‘camp’ the smallest to try to drive them off?” she wondered.
“If it’s about fair PvP, then that is anathema. But if you see the game as being about your faction being at war with other factions, then not doing your utmost to win that war is incompetence. Neither is bad design per se, just a conflict in understanding of the goals. And will Camelot Unchained really be RvR, doing everything legal for your realm to win? Or will it be about PvP battles, with the RvR rhetoric being more marketing fluff than von Clausewitz and Machiavelli? If camping a mine hurts your kill/death ratio but makes the opponent weaker due to hassles or crafting, is that winning or losing? Is an RvR game really about realms vs. realms or is it just another BG?”
I’ve pitched Sally’s comments to the team for consideration in this week’s Massively Overthinking. Is RvR just a more carebear-friendly way to market FFA PvP? Do you play RvR or factional PvP to win or to have fun, and how does that differ from a more open FFA sandbox? How would you design three-way factional PvP to keep people from quitting and stop griefing before it starts?
Last week, MOP’s Justin (friend to man and beast alike) posted his list of MMOs he would recommend people play. It was a pretty good list! It wasn’t the list I would have written, but that’s why we’re separate people and not a single fused mass pulling ourselves along on withered, inhuman appendages. That would cause lots of problems in our respective marriages, for one thing. Also, it’d probably render us ineligible to collect multiple paychecks.
One thing I did not ask, however, was why he didn’t include World of Warcraft as a game he would recommend, even though some of our readers wondered it aloud. I would think that the reason for that would be pretty obvious, given that it was a list of Justin’s recommendations. But because I do love being contrary, there’s a good list of reasons why no one, ever, should recommend World of Warcraft as a game to be tried. Under any circumstances. Let’s even make it a nice round dozen reasons… but then subtract two, for no good reason.
Here’s a non-surprise that came out of a discussion between Bree and me: We totally grade MMO studios on a curve. That curve is determined by giving a damn. All else being equal, we tend to be a bit more forgiving of studios that give the impression of at least caring about what they’re doing, even if it’s care in horribly misguided directions or in service of awful design choices.
It makes a lot of sense to me; a lot of my own fondness for Funcom comes from a sense that even while the studio was struggling and/or making awful decisions, it’s still a team of people who care about what they’re doing. By contrast, there are companies that really don’t seem to give a toss about anything beyond the current big ticket. Part of my own uncomfortable feelings about World of Warcraft come from the sense that Blizzard has long since stopped giving a damn.
That doesn’t mean that we’re unwilling to be harsh when studios we like screw up badly; it just means that the sense of effort and genuine care gets a bit more leeway. What about you, dear readers? Do you grade MMO studios on a curve, and if so, what determines the adjustment?
I feel like making a bold statement today, so here it goes: Destiny 2’s soundtrack is far and away better than its predecessor — and I include any of the DLC’s music as well.
Oh, I didn’t dislike Destiny’s OST overall, but aside from a handful of noteworthy pieces, it wasn’t much more than sound and fury to me. Destiny 2, on the other hand, boasts meticulously crafted tunes that span an emotional spectrum of excitement, contentment, uncertainty, struggle, defeat, and victory across its rather expansive album. It was a delight to listen through the 44 tracks that make up the launch album and a struggle to choose just six of my favorite pieces to share.
The score was handled by a team of composers, including Michael Salvatori, Skye Lewin, Rotem Moav, Pieter Schlosser, and C. Paul Johnson. I truly hope that the game’s popularity spurs players to pick it up and hear some excellent video game music on its own. Let’s listen through a sample of what this OST has to offer!