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Tales from the Neighborhood: A Disappointing Week

By Jessica Cook on April 22, 2015 | Columns | Comments

A Disappointing Week

As any fan knows, part of loving video games is also being disappointed in them every now and then. Sometimes we just don’t understand why Studio X made that development decision. Maybe we miss the old days of MMOs, or in some cases we can get so excited about future games that we feel less impressed by what we’re playing now. Being a fan sometimes means acknowledging when things went wrong or can improve.

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This week on Tales from the Neighborhood, we’re looking at four disappointed blog posts about Neverwinter, World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy Record Keeper, and MMO communities in general. None of these posts are mean or sensational, but they all express ways in which a game or its players didn’t live up to the blogger’s expectations.

Even if it is fair and reasonable, no one wants to read negativity all the time. We’ve also included one success story from the last week that had bloggers thrilled and excited for the future. (Congrats on being the happy story this week, RIFT!)

Let’s get on to the blog posts!

Pete from the blog Dragonchasers is playing Neverwinter, and he’s enjoying it except for one big problem: the game’s constant stream of gambling systems. In his post “Neverwinter, the Free-to-play-the-slot-machines MMO” Pete acknowledges that as a free-to-play title Neverwinter has to encourage players to part with their money.  But his inner completionist gets frustrated with constantly having to ignore lockboxes and other gambling systems. There are Enchanted Lockboxes, loot chests, Gifts from the Gods, and a random component to crafting that requires Astral Diamonds, Neverwinter’s version of money. While all of these random chance systems can be ignored, Pete makes the point that it’s exhausting to the player to be constantly avoiding elements of a game. RNG can be fun in small doses, but not when it makes you feel like “Neverwinter is a casino and the house always wins”.

In happier free-to-play stories, RIFT released a new wardrobe system last week as part of Update 3.2 and judging by the blogosphere response they’ve created something great. Both Syp at Bio Break and Belghast at Tales of the Aggronaut took the time to write about how impressed they are with the wardrobe upgrade. Both feel that the system is now arguably the best cosmetic wardrobe feature in MMOs today. The big difference is that the wardrobe saves models as you find them, which means players no longer have to keep their bags stuffed full of possible future costume pieces. Most importantly, creating, saving, and switch costumes can be done with few limits and no microtransaction fees. To quote Syp’s post: “The ball’s in your court now, other MMOs.”

RIFT wasn’t the only game to release details about a new system this week: a little title called World of Warcraft announced their new Timewalk feature. Timewalk is a new event that allows high-level characters to sync their gear and abilities to match low-level dungeons, creating an additional challenge and the opportunity to obtain neat cosmetic gear. Unfortunately, player response to the new system is mixed, as typified by lonomonkey’s post “Timewalking: a missed opportunity” on his blog Screaming Monkeys. lono points out that Timewalking as initially outlined seems designed entirely for max-level characters and doesn’t promote interaction between high levels and newbies. Additionally the new Timewalking feature will be available for a limited time on particular weekends only which makes it frustrating for busy players and not much of a draw for resubscribing. lono compares the new system with Final Fantasy 14’s level sync mechanics and finds WoW’s plans to be pretty lacking so far.

Meanwhile over at the blog Looking for Playtime, author Crow is asking “Is MMO Community an Oxymoron?”. For years core MMO players – particularly old school ones – have touted community as one of the fundamental features of an MMO. Crow hypothesizes that most modern games discourage social interaction and create mechanics where it’s better for players, in the long run, to ignore their fellow human companions. Putting an emphasis on single-serving, structured content such as dungeons and raids results in players who are less likely to jump off the “gear treadmill” and enjoy virtual worlds with their friends. And even in games where social interaction is a priority, the current trend is to create silos of guilds, circles, or friend groups that ensure you never have to interact with a stranger. Crow remains hopeful about the future though, writing that he believes that one day a game can strike the perfect balance between accessibility and communication.

Further on the subject of mediocre game launches, Void from A Green Mushroom reports on his experience with Final Fantasy Record Keeper. FFRK is a new mobile title that takes players back to some of their favorite moments in the game franchise. It asks them to find characters, collect gear, earn new abilities, and level up in their quest to save the archived memories of Cloud, Titus, and friends. While the game sounds great, in theory, Void feels that it’s too shallow to keep people happy for long. Although the game has a very friendly free-to-play model that never punishes players, he reports that the production values are poor and the game itself is much too simple. Void thinks that “a better use of your time would be just to look [your favorite Final Fantasy scenes] up on YouTube.” In a year where Final Fantasy 14 is exceeding expectations and Final Fantasy 15 is winning accolades, Void finds it unfortunate that Square Enix has yet to produce a mobile title that has both a solid business model and quality content.

So there you have it: four disappointed blog posts and two very happy ones. The blogosphere is always a surprise! If you have a great post that you think should be featured here leave a link in the comments below or tweet me at @Liores.

Jessica Cook / Jessica "Liore" Cook is a longtime MMO blogger, fan, aficionado, and community goodwill ambassador. She hosts the MMO podcast Game On, and writes the weekly column: Tales from the Neighborhood. You can read more at www.lioreblog.com.