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Gaming To Hell In A Handbasket

The trials, tribulations and musings of an MMO veteran trying to find the next holy grail.

Author: Strayfe

MMOWHY?!: A Veteran's Look Back

Posted by Strayfe Tuesday March 10 2009 at 3:44PM
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I can't hear you, Darkfall community. 

I have my fingers in my ears, pointedly ignoring every last obtuse argument originating from your camp of masochists.

"Playing such a great game like Darkfall is a privilege!  The scramble to get a copy makes sure that only hardcore players get in." (actual quote, *cough* *cough* *MMMRP*) <--- WTF.

Excuse Aventurine, they say, because they are an independent company.  Spread out and inform the masses that being this small, low budget company, entitles you to "release" a steaming pile of excrement, and then wall off the excrement so the inexplicable few that want to buy the damn thing can't get to it.

Call it revolutionary.  Call it a privilege.  Call it solid, diamond-encrused gold, sheathed in platinum. 

I call it inaccessible, poorly run garbage.  Take your pick.

Nevertheless, I didn't start up this post intending to rant about Darkfall again.  There are plenty of people with the intelligence to see that unmitigated disaster for what it is.  They just tend to be far less vocal than the "GRRBLAHGHHGHA PVP FULL LOOT HUUUUUUU" crowd, who continue to buy Tasos' steaming piles of... and there I go again... okay, calm down Strayfe, it's just a game... a terrible, terrible game, run by a terrible, terrible company... but still just a game.


What I would like to do in this particular blog is switch speeds a little bit.  I have been accused of being an impossible to please, negative, unforgiving critic, with standards so high that you'd need to ascend the Burj Dubai and stand on a chair to reach them.  The thing is, it hasn't always been that way.

I believe, perhaps, that I am finally outgrowing video games.

There, I said it.  Is it true?  ... well, I can't decide for sure.

It's a sign of something, however, when you own a copy of every major P2P MMO released in the last 3-4 years, and can't log into one for more than about an hour without wanting to take a long walk off a short cliff just to end the wretched pain.  I can't tell if it's me, or if these games are simply THAT bad, too similar to one another, too entrenched in the burnout factor, or something else entirely.

I've been cycling through F2P games recently, flipping through them like pages of a magazine... only all of them are ads, and so you keep flipping, hoping to find that one article that will hold your interest.  At times, I simply log out of whatever fictional world I happen to be in at the time, and stare at my desktop as if I could will a decent game into existence from the land of dreams. 

With this blog, I take a look at what I have played, how long I played it, why I quit, and what keeps me from going back or playing it again.  Perhaps the community can help to shed a light on my inability to stick with a game... and perhaps they will simply tell me that I have ADD.

Final Fantasy XI

How Long? - 3 years, give or take a couple months.

Why I Quit? - For those unfamiliar with this game, after a certain point, the time investment needed to upgrade your character any further becomes astronomical.  We're not talking days, or even weeks here, we're talking months of semi-hardcore play.  The game still has a solid community, but Square-Enix has taken it in the absolute wrong direction with recent expansions, and have basically run the game into the ground.  The Treasures of Aht Urhgan expansion is one of the big reasons I quit, due to the fact that it essentially turned the game into a shell of its former self, effectively ditching the story/mission-based gameplay, and solid, easily accessible endgame content, in favor of dull, mind-numbing grinds for various things, including XP, merits, assault points, gil, you name it.

Why Don't I Go Back? - The game no longer contains most of the reasons I played it.  It's a different game, with a different community.  Everyone is firmly entrenched in their respective grinds for various things.  There is nothing new to entice me to play it again, and I feel as though it would simply be a "been there, done that." type of an endeavor, only missing all the reasons that I was there in the first place.


World of Warcraft

How Long? - 3 years, with a couple breaks in the middle.

Why I Quit? - This is something of a mixed answer.  I don't really object to the game itself.  It's not incredibly fun, but it's not dull either.  My main gripe with this game is the fact that, every time Blizzard releases an expansion, all the work you have previously put into the game becomes 100% obsolete.  This sort of move just reeks of a cash grab, and leaves me with a rather bitter taste in my mouth.  Replacing epics with greens once when Burning Crusade was released... that was bad enough.  I recovered, I dealt with it, grinded out another ten levels to get to 70.  Raided in Burning Crusade for a little bit, had halfway decent gear and pvp gear.  Wrath of the Lich King reared its ugly head, and the prospect of losing everything I had worked for... AGAIN... and grinding out ANOTHER ten levels, only to do the exact SAME thing again... doesn't appeal to me.

Why Don't I Go Back? - Short Answer: Wrath of the Lich King... Long Answer: The repetitive gear treadmill associated with every single content expansion, whether free or paid, always necessitating a reset of all effort and time spent on the game.  To put it succinctly, the game is a waste of time and effort because it lacks any sense of achievement, knowing that in a year or so, your character is going to be garbage again when the next expansion comes out, and the level cap is 90.


Vanguard: Saga of Heroes

How Long? - About 3-4 months

Why I Quit? - I had been having a lot of fun with this game when I was playing it.  Then one day, I logged in and I realized that nothing was going to change for the remainder of the game.  I was doing the same things at level 20 that I was doing at level 10, the same things at level 30 that I was doing at 20.  The difficulty curve never changed, there were no new features to look forward to except progressively harder monsters, progressively more powerful skills, and progressively longer levels.  At the same time, the luster of crafting and diplomacy, which I had originally found fun and engaging wore off entirely and Vanguard ceased to be anything other than a very nice looking grind.

Why Don't I Go Back? - This is one of the games I occasionally think about resubscribing to when I get bored of whatever I'm playing.  Then I stop and think to myself how empty and dull the world seemed, how little purpose is served by crafting when you have nobody to craft for, engaging in diplomacy when there's.. ultimately no point, and grinding to max level to... what?  Raid?  I can do that in World of Warcraft, and have more fun.  Yes, the game is beautiful.  Yes, I would walk around in wonder and be absolutely awed, and for the first month I was back, I'd swear that I was having the time of my life.  Deep in the back of my  mind, however, I realize that nothing has changed, and I would quickly become disinterested due to the lack of interaction or meaningful goals.


Lord of the Rings Online

How Long? - 6 months, with a break in the middle.

Why I Quit? - See Vanguard, only omit any mention of crafting (which I didn't try in LOTRO) and diplomacy (which doesn't exist, and has no counterpart system in LOTRO).  To this section, you can add the lack of character customization.  LOTRO admittedly has a lot going for it.  What originally drew me to the game was the storyline, since I, being a Tolkien fan, was curious to see how an MMO could play through and still work around the trilogy.  Again though, LOTRO has some of the same fundamental problems as Vanguard.  It's a beautiful world, it has a decent community, but ultimately you play for the same reason that you play World of warcraft, raiding.  If I wanted a game that only contained raiding, I'd play World of Warcraft.  I'm used to it.  I have friends there.  This is another game that was not fun to level in.  You'd think one day MMO developers would realize that a game should be fun all the way through, not ONLY at max level.

Why Don't I Go Back? - Turbine is now parroting WoW's raise-the-level-cap-make-you-useless-grind-ten-levels expansion model with Mines of Moria.  I couldn't even struggle through the monotony of 50 levels, and now they're telling me to get 60?  Sure, the main storyline quest might be engaging, but ultimately, a game has to be fun.  LOTRO can be fun at TIMES, but it's essentially a better looking World of Warcraft.  If I wanted to resub to WoW, that's exactly what I'd do.


Everquest II

How Long? - Not long... a couple weeks, maybe.

Why I Quit? - See the Vanguard and LOTRO reviews, and omit any mention of fun, positive attributes, or... really anything to draw me into the game.  I recall being so mind-numbingly bored while playing this that I couldn't even force myself through the first ten levels.  It was a slow-moving, clunky version of WoW, with worse graphics than LOTRO and Vanguard, slow response times, dull-looking characters, and a completely non-existent community.  Antonia Bayle was recommended to me as the most populated server.  I think I ran into two or three people the entire time I was playing.

Why Don't I Go Back? - Because I value my sanity.  I accept that I may have had some awful luck with this game, and it's possible that underneath the dull beginning is the greatest game ever created, but somehow I doubt it.  Everquest was always about raiding, and again, as I have said before, if I want to raid, I will play WoW.


Age of Conan

How Long? - One week.

Why I Quit? - "a clock interrupt was not received from a secondary processor within the allotted time, your computer will now cease to function for the remainder of the day."  I couldn't stay logged in for more than a few minutes at a time.  I think I experienced 3-4 different blue-screen errors.  For comparison, I have never had another game cause a BSOD on my computer, ever.  What I did see when I was logged in LOOKED good, but I recall the combat being clunky, and several instances of becoming stuck in the world geometry.

Why Don't I Go Back? - To be honest, this is a game I'd like to give another chance.  Hopefully, nearly a year later, most of the bugs have been worked out, and content added.  I say hopefully, because most developers never recover from buggy launches.  See: Vanguard, and the soon-to-be Darkfall.


Warhammer Online

How Long? - 3 months

Why I Quit? - This one is a bit different.  Warhammer was marketed everywhere as being a PvP-centered game, with the tagline, "War is Everywhere".  Unfortunately, Mythic failed to deliver on that promise, in that war was only in scenarios and small parts of whatever tier the highest leveled players happened to be on at any given time.  There is so much squandered potential in this game.  PvP and siege battles were actually quite fun, but there was absolutely no incentive for anyone to defend their keeps.  Defenders received no reward from defending, other than a minute renown bonus, while attackers had the potential for experience, massive renown gains, and a chance at epic loot.  Basically, this encouraged a giant game of musical keeps, where players avoid fighting with each other and go around behind the other faction, snatching up their keeps when nobody is around.

Nothing like a PvP game that encourages you NOT to PvP.  In addition, the community on my server was waning.  Toward the end of my time there, right after I got max level, some of the bigger destruction guilds on the server moved to another, more active server, leaving mine a wasteland.

The game also suffered/suffers from lag issues and poor performance, even on high-end computers.  WIth the graphics quality in Warhammer (well below that of Vanguard, LOTRO and Age of Conan), I should not be getting less than 10 FPS with a Quad Core Q6800 Extreme @3.2ghz, 4GB of RAM and SLI'd Geforce 8800GTXs, under any circumstances.


Free Games - Atlantica Online, Mabinogi, Perfect World, ROSE Online

Four of, supposedly, the higher quality free games.

Atlantica Online

This game was fun, really fun for awhile.  I enjoyed the game immensely for about 2-3 months.  Until I got level 95, and the biggest grind I have EVER experienced set in.  The turn-based system is quite unique, and the different mercenaries allow for many different strategies, which, unfortunately, have been poked and prodded by the meta-gamers, until there's more or less only 2 or 3 viable lineups for pvp.  PvE is fun at first, but it quickly becomes redundant, and what passes for raids in end-game are three dungeons whose sole existence is to facilitate the acquiring of 3 separate mercenaries, all of which have been recently nerfed into a pile of goo.  I still play this to PvP every now and then, but I won't be leveling anymore.  The time invested vs. reward is just too unbalanced now.


For more on this game, see my recent full review.  I still play this, though it's losing its charm.  The difficulty is getting to be bothersome, and the community, what little there is, is awesome and helpful, and surprisingly mature for a game with cartoonish anime graphics.  The problem is, you can go an entire day without ever needing to see, talk to, or interact with another person.  I play MMORPGs partly for the social factor.  If I wanted a single player game, I'd just fire up my PS3.

Perfect World

Hands down, far and away, the best character customization of any MMO, subscription-based or free to play.  Yes, that includes CoX, which my friend has, and which I've played a few times.  You can make your character look, literally, however you want it to.  Unfortunately, this is the only aspect of this game done properly.  The rest of the game degenerates into a carbon copy of WoW with awful controls, and a grind that puts Vanguard's and LOTRO's to shame.  I still log in occasionally, but I'm more addicted to the character creation than the game itself, as none of my characters have even made it past level 20, and I don't expect they will.

ROSE Online

ROSE was a tremendous joke.  The characters looked like half-naked little children, slapping little plants with Q-tips.  I couldn't force myself to struggle through more than a few hours of that mess, and wouldn't touch it again with a ten foot pole.  Harsh?  Yes, but that's my middle name.


There it is, then.  A look at what I've played, what I'm still playing, and possibly what I might play in the future.  Yes, perhaps my standards are too high, but then again... perhaps they're just right, and MMO companies are falling a bit short of their goals recently.  Or maybe a bit of both.

Who knows?