Also, Ceilarene was hot on the trail of the thieves who stole the crown of Neverwinter. Or somewhat warm on the trail, at least. The crown in question isn’t a magical artifact, though, it’s just a crown. I think it’s just a mark of office, anyhow; it might be magical after all. Either way, it does confer a certain degree of status and it looks really neat, so presumably I should actually chase after the jerks who stole it. That means heading to another district of the city, the Blacklake District. If that sounds like a bad part of town… well, yes.
But it wasn’t. Made you look.
Far from being less than it had seemed when I tried out the demos, I quite enjoyed my first week of time spent in Neverwinter. Not that it’s going to tear me away from all other games forever, but it’s a fun experience with plenty of things to hook you into the gameplay quickly without forcing you to dive headfirst into lore in order to find your commitment to the story.
It may sound crazy, but a huge number of people who pour eyeball time and money into e-sports don’t even play the games they’re watching. That’s according to gaming analytics firm Newzoo, which last week broke down its stats on the major e-sports franchises and who exactly is watching them in the U.S., Canada, Germany, U.K., France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Sweden. Key takeaways?
- 70% of viewers stick to one game.
- 69% of gamers play only League of Legends, CS:GO, or DOTA 2 (the overlap of all three is 8%).
- 42% of e-sports watchers of the big three games do not play any of them
- 191 million people will tune in to e-sports “frequently” this year; an additional 194 million will do so “occasionally.”
Howsabout you? Do you watch, play, both, or neither?
See, I still remember first seeing Neverwinter in person at PAX East one of these years. (All of the PAX Easts kind of blur together in a mess of overcrowded convention halls, Boston weather, and occasional hotel stays.) I have more or less no attachment to the original games in the franchise, and frankly it looked like it was going to be pretty great. I was really looking forward to playing it myself.
Instead, I think I just played a lot of other games and never actually even installed it. I’m sure I had my reasons. I’m not sure they were good reasons, though.
On today’s podcast, Justin teased me for running a virtual yard sale as I attempt to clean out my house in Ultima Online. I’m not quitting the game, mind you, but I did feel the urge to purge my hoard a bit to give myself some options, since right now, I’m obligated to sub every few months to hang on to that digital house lest I lose everything in it. If I were going to leave for a longer period of time, as I’ve done before, I’d need to get rid of most of my loot in a hurry and figure out whom to bequeath my house — if anyone.
Totally coincidentally, this morning I ran across a post on the Marvel Heroes sub whose author says he’s quitting and was looking for a “tasteful” way of giving away all his stuff.
Both incidents prompted me to wonder what other people do — does it depend on the game? What do you do with your stuff when you quit an MMORPG?
Back when I mentioned that I was learning to like Black Desert a while back, I got this tweet from the game’s official account. That was awesome. I liked it immensely. And while I don’t think I ever actually learned to love you guys (sorry!), I definitely do have a degree of appreciation. It just never crossed over into actual love. (Not least because my heart is already sworn to another game. You all know it.)
I’ve kind of struggled to summarize my feelings about Black Desert in my mind. The trouble isn’t that they’re negative feelings; it’s just that, much like my feelings on The Elder Scrolls Online’s battlegrounds, it’s easy to take them as negative when that isn’t how they’re meant. I certainly didn’t dislike the game, and it’s definitely not bad; I kept feeling like I was brushing up against the same territory as I did with the aforementioned ESO. But where I walked away from that game thinking “this is a lot better than I remember, even if it’s still kind of tedious in places,” I’m walking away from Black Desert feeling as if the game keeps giving me tools to solve problems I don’t have.
This may sound weird and almost nonsensical, but additional context sheds some light on that statement. One of my repeated points which I harp on over and over is that I want systems to have complexity equal to the amount of time you’re expected to devote to them. If you want me to work hard at establishing trade routes, I want that system to be as complex as clearing out high-level dungeons or engaging in siege warfare.
In other words, it shouldn’t be something I can master or even do much more than brush against while I’m on a high-speed tour of the game and what it has to offer. And while I was a bit disappointed with the game’s gathering mechanics, the trading system seems to offer exactly what I wanted to see.
On the Morrowind subreddit a few days ago, a player was recounting a particular roleplay-slash-griefing episode on a hardcore-roleplay Ultima Online emulator. The player explains that he spent months roleplaying as a bartender serving drinks to the adventurers he befriended. But he was actually planning something far more nefarious:
“For over a year I roleplayed with these people as a simple barman, pretended to be their friend and confidant, and then during a harvest festival where every player on our server was in attendance and I was [paid] to provide the food and drink… I poisoned every last morsel of food, every drop of drink, and after the [regent] delivered his speech and all of these fools raised their goblets for the toast and took that deadly sip, I stepped onto the stage and revealed what had happened. They [were] all going to die, and die they did. Now this was a permanent death server (hardcore RPers, mind you), and some had been playing those characters for 8 years, and there they all were, collapsed and dying. Soon they were all unconscious, as you could only die if you went unconscious three times in one day or if a certain psychotic bartender came and cut off your head… which I did to every player in our group of 38. They were all there, and unfortunately so was I.”
SuperData released a report this week arguing that the video gaming video content business is booming, even “outpacing earnings from some traditional sports leagues.” The whole paper is a mere $2,499 if you want to read it all, but the summary includes everything from Twitch to YouTube and intriguingly suggests that the viewing audience is almost half female.
“Additionally, gaming live streams are replacing primetime TV viewing with 27% of live stream viewers watching most often during weekday evenings. The Gaming Video Content audience on YouTube and Amazon’s Twitch, 517 million and 185 million people in 2016 respectively, surpasses mainstream channels like ESPN and HBO, further shaking up the traditional media landscape.”
E-sports and stream viewers, the analysts claim, “watch more than four hours of content per week,” while almost half of US gaming video content viewers are hooked to “walkthroughs, trailers and humor videos,” meaning that both the casual and hardcore audiences are being served.
Are you among them? That’s what today’s Leaderboard means to find out.
Let me talk to you, my friends, about grinding. Specifically, about how it gets a bad reputation that it doesn’t altogether deserve.
How does this connect to this week’s adventures in Black Desert? Well, because I wound up doing a fair bit of grinding. It wasn’t intentional or anything, since my designated goal this week was to just trek about and see the sights for a bit. But if you give me a camp full of goblins just sitting in my path, and you have me, a player who’s more than willing to give these things a shot on the basis that the worst possible outcome is that I die… well, I’m going to fight those goblins. I’m going to fight them a bunch.
And, I think, this was ultimately a good thing. Because while the game still has all of the problems that I’ve seen to bother me up to this point, the grinding of goblins was a notable island of things feeling fresh, crisp, and responsive. It’s almost as if I enjoy the game more when I’m away from the things of man.
When World of Warcraft was in beta and I first gave it a go, I remember being absolutely captivated by questing. It wasn’t as if no MMORPGs before hadn’t included quests. Most of them had, in some way or another, be they Ultima Online’s escort quests, EverQuest’s epics, or Star Wars Galaxies’ missions. The thing that made all the games prior to Blizzard’s 2004 spectacle so different was that questing wasn’t the primary thing to do to advance your character to the cap — it wasn’t the core gameplay element at all. So those of us who were tired of grinding out mobs to level up welcomed a different paradigm, not quite realizing that we were seeing a huge shift in the way MMORPGs were going to be designed from then on out in terms of what players were expected to do — and what we would no longer be able to do at all.
Fast-forward to today: Now when an MMORPG is announced and looks to be primarily quest-driven, at least to the cap, players moan and groan about boring and tedious quest grinds. Just another themepark, people say. I’d rather log out than do one more pointless quest.
Are you also sick of MMORPG questing?
This coincides nicely with starting to appreciate the game a little bit more. The first week felt rather unclear, but now that I’ve spent a bit more time with the game I’m starting to grasp what it’s trying to do. I’m still not entirely sure if I like all of it, of course, but at least I feel that I’m able to determine that based on the actual game rather than my confusion over what the game wants from me.
I was chatting with my mom this morning when I was surprised to hear her say that she was impressed with how good my five-year-old son has gotten with video games. I wasn’t surprised because it’s not true; he’s phenomenal, and letting him play games, including MMOs (in moderation and under supervision!), has improved his reading skills, focus, coordination, and puzzle-solving. I’ve watched it happen!
What surprised me is that I wouldn’t have imagined adults saying that when I was a teenager, never mind when I was a kindergartner. Oh sure, we had a few consoles growing up, but PC gaming, especially the online sort, got side-eyes. Now I have a nephew whose tech-savvy parents send him to video game design camp. It’s a different world now!
Or is it? For today’s Leaderboard, I want to hear from you: How much did your family support or enable gaming as a hobby when you were growing up?