MMOnday: What am I subscribed to?

The MMO genre is filled with enticing free-to-pay games; enthusiasts these days don’t have to pay a cent to enjoy high quality titles. Even those releases that were originally subscription-based have instead become buy-to-play or completely F2P, such as WildStar which will be re-launching on September 29th as a game that can be enjoyed without opening your wallet. With so many free options, why opt to subscribe to anything at all? I’ll explain my current choices below:

EverQuest II: One of the reasons I thoroughly enjoy dabbling in EQII is the nostalgia factor. Not because I played the game when it was released in 2004 (I didn’t), but because the graphics and atmosphere capture a certain style which has fallen out of favor in modern games. It reminds me of classic fantasy games such as Morrowind and the robust game systems show the amount of love put in by developers.

It is also F2P now, but there are certain advantages to subscribing. When they released two brand new servers based on the original game (and perhaps the first couple of expansions) they also put a subscription requirement on them, which is completely fair. I wanted to try them out and get a taste of the grind life, so I was willing to lay down the $15 for a month in August. Unfortunately, I just don’t see myself having enough time to dedicate in order to justify paying each month to play those characters. They did get a second month out of me though; I just re-subscribed today to take advantage of the double XP on normal servers and I also needed to use the expanded character slots offered to subscribers in order to re-roll a new character.

World of Warcraft: Friends shouldn’t let friends play World of Warcraft (an expensive and time consuming habit if there ever was one), but my interest in WoW’s upcoming Legion expansion made me susceptible to re-subscribing and a friend returning to the game pushed me over the edge. Been enjoying leveling a new character with him, but I have not made up my mind on whether or not I’ll be playing for another month. Subscription games are the best deal when you have time to play every day (only 50 cents a day!), but if you’re only logging in a few times a month the cost is suddenly much harder to swallow. I’ll keep my ears open for information on Legion, but I’m leaning towards not renewing. Aforementioned friend is also planning to let his subscription lapse after being kicked out of a raid on the last boss in LFR (Looking for Raid).

What are you currently subscribed to and why?

MMOnday: How well will role-less raids work in Guild Wars 2?

Besides the announcement of the release date for Heart of Thorns (October 23), the expansion for Guild Wars 2, the game’s developer ArenaNet shared some exciting news about upcoming group content that would be introduced: raids. Unlike many other MMORPGs, Guild Wars 2 does not utilize the “holy trinity” system for classes which traditionally has gamers playing either a tank, healer or DPS (damage dealer) and instead has everyone doing damage while using self-healing spells and timing their dodges correctly to avoid damage. This difference plays heavily into how group content is approached, both by players and the developers.

Unfortunately, I never got into dungeons in Guild Wars 2. In other games if I were playing tank I’d enjoy keeping enemies on me so others could whittle down health, try keep allies alive as a healer or compare my damage output to party members as a DPS. You may notice that all of those roles include not just myself, but my teammates. I’m doing something for the group. In GW2 it never quite clicked, because I’d always feel like a single player with no way to see how much damage I was contributing and nothing as dramatic as constant taunts or heals to throw out to really influence the tide of battle on a regular basis.

Raids will now cater to parties of up to 10 people, but the mechanics won’t be substantially different than the current 5-man dungeons. Each character will still solely be responsible for damage, although some of the new class specializations may have more impact on the group such as stat-boosting buffs or heals.

I’m definitely willing to give the game’s group content a second look and anticipate the storytelling that will come along with it. I just hope dealing damage can feel more meaningful when 9 other players are doing the same thing next to you.

If you haven’t tried the game, it is now free-to-play (but don’t call it F2P)! So go enjoy it and think about whether or not it’s worth buying the expansion.

MMOnday: Are gender-locked classes acceptable in 2015?

Trion has announced a new free-to-play Action RPG-MMORPG (a la Diabo) called Devilian Online, but one thing has sorely tempered my expectations for the title: gender-locked classes. While gender diversity for players may not be expected in established franchises, games which allow a player to create their own characters are generally expected to have a range of customization options; the choice between a male and female character is important for many MMO fans. I should know, I spent a semester studying gender expression in World of Warcraft during college and spent a lot of time interviewing both male and female players on why they chose their character gender and what it meant to them.

There was a great variance in preference, with some players choosing their own gender to play as in-game because they could identify with their characters more and some choosing the opposite gender so that they could enjoy the form of the opposite sex (this was mostly straight males). Some female players who played as male avatars also expressed a desire to avoid unwanted attention from men while playing.

In MMOs there are no right or wrong choice when it comes to gender, except for when there isn’t a choice. Devilian Online will not ask you whether or not you want to be a girl or a boy when you start the game; each class has a predefined gender. If you choose to be a Beserker or Shadowhunter you’re going to be a guy, conversely Cannoneer and Elementalist will have you playing as a female.

The game is not new in Asia, with it being announced in 2012 and released last year in Korea after extensive testing, but it does raise questions about how comfortable gender locked games should feel in today’s market. Does gender matter when you’re playing MMOs? Or are you alright with the lack of customization?

How you’ll be able to spend money in Blade & Soul

blade-soul-wuxia-1Blade & Soul, an Eastern martial arts MMORPG from NCsoft, was announced for Western audiences as a free-to-pay title, but what exactly that would entail was left ambiguous. The official blog has now shed a little light on what gamers can expect from this highly anticipated title; Blade & Soul will use the same NCoin for its cash shop that the publisher’s other F2P titles utilize (Aion, Lineage II and the upcoming addition of Wildstar). What may set it apart from other games is a separate in-game currency that can be earned by players and used to buy many of the same items that the cash shop offers (such as potions, account upgrades and costumes).

blade-soul-wuxia-2A premium 30-day membership will also be available to make life easier for players willing to lay down some cash. It includes new movement animations and a variety of perks which will increase as you spend more money. The developers also offered another reassurance that their goal is to offer items which don’t impact power, “the benefits of membership are specifically developed for Blade & Soul West and will keep in line with our philosophy – no power boosts here”.

What do you think? Sound reasonable enough?

MMOnday: Why should we pre-order?

 

Dear Gaming Companies,

Why do we need to pay for your games before they’re ready to be delivered? Are you not confident that your product’s quality will speak for itself upon release and that people getting their hands on your content may kill hype for your title? Why is it fair for you to start accepting our cash when you can’t even give us a release date… or a time when your game will be out of “beta testing”?

Sincerely,

Retry Level

Guild Wars 2 brought a lot of attention to a dire situation in gaming today: the pre-order plague. MMOs are perhaps even more egregious offenders in some cases; some free-to-pay titles have priced pre-launch access bundles at $200 (we’re looking at your ArcheAge). Since companies are out to make a profit and the more money they can secure the better, this isn’t a trend that’s likely to stop. Telling people to forgo pre-ordering and them listening would be nice, but not likely to happen.

Instead it would be great if at least a few companies decide to take the higher road. Being able to pre-order for a head start on launch day is easy to forgive, but taking money for expansions that have no firm launch date is ridiculous. Not to mention those awful retailer-specific bonuses which cause gamers to lose out on content because they refuse to buy multiple copies of the same game at different stores.

What are your thoughts?