WS – Housing

I reached level 14 (I kept going until 15) in WildStar – so I can get a house (level 14) and a mount (level 15)!

Actually I’m not all that excited about the house. The chief benefit for me is that certain housing items grant rest xp bonuses, but those cost money and I’m saving up for a mount. Thus, my housing is bare. I decorated with the handful of items that you get when you get a house.

Simple Granok House

Simple Granok House

Here I am admiring my simple Granok house and a crafting station I built on another plot.

The housing system is pretty fancy, with multiple plots available for building, and all the usual decorations. Each one can be rotated along 3 axes, linked to other items, etc. Compared to LoTRO’s rather simple housing where fixed sized items are hung on hooks, this one is super fancy.

But, I am not going to spend a ton of time fiddling with the housing. I placed a bed and rug for the slight rest xp bonus, and logged off in my housing plot.

Questing and combat is still pretty fun; the game has great graphics and combat effects:

Robot Combat

Robot Combat

There is one major problem I have with WildStar: I only get ~20 FPS. My card isn’t cutting edge – it is a GeForce GTX 650, latest drivers and all that – but 20 FPS?! That’s terrible. The game plays just a tad choppy but it is still reasonable enough for me to get by.

This framerate issue makes me want to measure the FPS in other games I play just for some comparisons. It could be WildStar has some optimization issues so before I go off and splurge on a newer card I’ll do some measuring and comparing. I upgraded to an SSD a few months ago so perhaps I can talk myself into another upgrade.

EVE – Missed Strat Op

We received email about a fleet forming up for the 3GD6-8 station defense, at 23:00 EVE time or 7pm Eastern.

StratOp email

StratOp email

Problem is, 23:00 EVE time is actually 6pm Eastern (standard time, currently), and I went off EST since that’s the timezone I live in. So when I showed up thinking I was 30 mins early, I was actually 30 mins late. Dammit. I was really looking forward to finally flying a doctrine EWAR frigate and joining in on some action for BRAVE. Defending our station – that’s cool!

Unfortunately, 30 mins in the fleets had already formed up, moved out, and were engaging the enemy, Pandemic Legion. I logged into Mumble and joined the Phi Main fleet channel, so I could listen in to what was happening.

It sounded interesting, a few players giving orders on what to do (interdictors – bubble target; warp out to bookmarks, stay at 300km, warp back in, etc; move away from PL’s Lokis and Proteuses (Proteii?); EWAR – disrupt a target; warp out to friendlies; dock up and repair; etc) and generally coordinating and managing the fleet/strat op.

I think, if I understood what was said on comms, that BRAVE was able to “win” by rolling over some kind of timer, meaning PL would have to restart their attack and wear down all the station’s regular defenses and do it again.

After listening for bit extra I decided to log off and do something else. It was interesting to listen to, but not that interesting to listen to over actually doing something.

Props to the folks that tirelessly guide what must be a herd of cats to pull major actions off. I hope to make it the next time and will pay more attention to the EVE time for fleet formation. I can’t really complain about the email sent out since it was probably just a typo and besides, 200 other players managed to fleet up at the actual time. I was in a small group of folks at GE-8JV asking about the fleet formation so I wasn’t the only one that missed it. ;)

WoW – Pandaria Achievements

The guild on Earthen Ring is awesome in that there is an active group that likes collecting achievements. This is ideal for me because that means going back to earlier content to finish of raid tiers, even though we are all over-leveled. It makes most fights quick but they are still fun. For me it is great because I haven’t seen about 98% of that content.

Sun evening we got a group of 10 together to visit Pandaria’s Heart of Fear and Throne of Thunder raids on heroic mode. Most fights were quick, and so were most bosses but some of the mechanics still tripped us up and we had to do a few fights more than once (i.e. we wiped). But that was rare, basically we had to make a few tries at the Dark Animus and Ra-den.

Twin Consorts

Twin Consorts

For a bit of variety I switched into Spirited Crane stance to do a little DPS while still being a healer, but I decided it was easier to just stay in Wise Serpent and throw an occasional Crackling Jade Lightning.

And after about 3 hours, we completed both and everybody Exalted in the guild could buy a Thundering Jade Cloud Serpent, which I think looks awesome:

Thundering Jade Cloud Serpent

Thundering Jade Cloud Serpent

The funny thing was I was 43 reputation points short of Exalted. Doh! But on the way through Stormwind I saw a Blingtron 5000 and clicked it. Completing that quest gave me 275 points which pushed me over into Exalted, so I could then buy my new serpent mount. :)

It turns out the guild does one of these achievement runs twice a month. That is great timing – not too much commitment overall – and I’m getting to see more content in WoW than I ever thought I would.

WS – Gallows Hub Questing

I hadn’t played Wildstar in a bit so I was eager to get back in and quest. I left off Summer standing in Gallows, an early outpost (quest level around level 10-12).

It took a few minutes to remember how to play – more specifically, that moving around and mobility is an important part of this game. Unlike others where you kind of just plant yourself, target the enemies, and fire off your skill rotation. You do that too here, but you can jump, dodge, and move out of the way of incoming attacks which makes it a nice break and fun for me.

Quest themes, for the Exiles at least, center around Wild West tropes but set in a sci-fi future. I rescued some miners from sentient rocks, sabotaged illegal distilleries (a feud between NPC factions), stole information for my allies, and advanced the storyline a quest or three.

Sizing up Agnes

Sizing up Agnes

I received some nice gear upgrades and most importantly, a coat that covers my buttocks. Looking back at some old screenshot it appears the gear I had for a few levels was basically a bikini bottom. Now I have a nice overcoat, much better. ;)

New Outfit

New Outfit

I figured out the Action Builder and AMP screen, the two screens where you customize your build by picking skills, their upgrade levels, and further percentage tweaks. I’m still fuzzy on crafting (cooking, gathering, processing) but I’ll get to that another time.

EVE – Travel to GE-8JV

I finally had some time to travel out to Catch and in particular, the GE-8JV system where Brave Newbies is HQ’ed.

Before leaving, a friend reminded me that perhaps I should make use of my jump clones to store my implants elsewhere. Since I would most likely be podded (eventually) and lose them. My implants weren’t the super fancy ones, just +3’s, but all the same they totaled ~50 million ISK when I bought them.

I had forgotten where my installed jump clones, but after a quick look at the character sheet “Jump Clones” tab I remembered. Alentene was 24 jumps back to Agil, Stetille was also 24, Torrinos was 29, and Zemalu was 26. Good lord I guess I didn’t spread out as well as I thought or Khanid Prime and Agil are on the edge of nowhere.

Dang it, this is the thing I like the least about EVE, it just takes so long to get ready to play the game.

In the end I chose to use my jump clone in Stetile since it was the closest to Uitra, where for whatever reason I left a whole bunch of misc stuff. Including rookie ships and some +1 implants that the tutorial missions gave. I figured I might as well use those instead of my better +3 ones.

So I clicked on “Jump”… and got an error message “cannot jump while a skill is training”. Grrr, I guess it makes sense since the implants slightly lower how fast you learn. After stopping my skill queue, I jumped again and got another error message “can’t be in a ship”.

You can tell I’ve never used my jump clones before. :)

OK, after leaving my ship I finally was able to jump.

The first thing I did was restart my training queue. I bet a lot of players forget to do that and lose a few hours!

Then I bought some cheap ship because I didn’t want to travel from Stetile to Uitra in a pod. Since I was in a pod, I sort of had to buy whatever was available in the station – I suppose a better plan would be to leave items where the jump clones are. Oh well.

Naturally, there were no ships at the station, but there were in the system so I had to undock and zip over.

I undocked and fortunately there were no enemies in the system and I hopped over with no trouble. I bought a Griffin and departed for Uitra, manually navigating the entire way. After arriving at Uitra and plugging in a few +1 implants, I sold everything that I could. Might as well try to get rid of the junk I have spread around.

The trip back to Agil was uneventful. Even though I was low on time I decided to push my luck and try for GE-8JV. What the heck, I’ve got to get there eventually.

So I charted a new course, took a break (in the safety of the station), got a drink, and went to update my medical clone. It was set to Nourvukaiken which was kind of far away. I set it to GE-8JV so in case I got blown up on the way, I would reanimate there. I didn’t want to commit suicide in game and get the free trip – I wanted to fly out there and bring my Buzzard with me.

I undocked into multiple blinking red lines – enemies! Thank goodness I had practiced and setup the insta-undock bookmarks so just warped there immediately, and started the journey.

Danger in Agil

Danger in Agil

I arrived at the HED-GP jump gate and jumped through and saw tons of interdiction bubbles on the other side. I landed right in an unavoidable nest of them surrounding the next gate to SV5-8N. Good thing the other ships were allies.

Bubbles

Bubbles

Finally I approached GE-8JV; there was one corpmate sitting near the gate:

Final Jump

Final Jump

and I had my first view of corporate HQ.

Brave Newbies HQ

Brave Newbies HQ

It was a tense trip but I made it!

The next day, I logged in with the goal of answering a simple question: how do I get ships? I’m used to having stocked markets in hisec, or hauling everything I plan to use to a wormhole.

I searched the market and saw a lot of stuff for sale – awesome! – and around that time someone put links in chat for ship bundles: 3 frigates with associated fittings. That would be much nicer that having to buy every item individually. I bought one of the 3-packs, and then searched a bit more in the contracts section. I found even more ship bundles for sale, also 3-packs. Hovering over link didn’t reveal enough info about what was in the package (UI thing I’m sure others have complained about already) so I had to open a few. Eventually I found another 3-pack of a different ship type that I wanted to fly, and bought those as well.

Sorry about the vagueness but I’m not sure revealing the current doctrine ships and their fits is a good idea. Well, maybe the ship type since people can make some educated guesses; after all if a fleet brings EWAR frigates (for example) then there are 4 tech 1 choices, one for each race. The modules those ships are fit with might leak too much info so I won’t be going into that. Besides, I’m terrible at fitting ships – when I did solo stuff I would basically copy a fit from EVE University or some other place. There’s like a zillion modules and most require associated skills; it is just easier to work off a template with a few variations available.

Anyway, now I have my Buzzard in GE-8JV, 2 3-packs of ships to pilot, and voice comms authentication set up. I’m set to try out fleet maneuvers in EVE!

WoW – Garrison v2

Things are going faster with my new boosted char on Earthen Ring. No open world PvP crap to deal with, some familiarity with the quests, plus I learned from all the mistakes I made before. ;)

My new monk Glynneth (Glyneth was taken, argh) took Jewelcrafting and Alchemy as her two professions, so my first two small garrison buildings were the Gem Boutique and Alchemy Lab. I find those two professions to be a nice mix of usefulness and ease of gathering raw materials – basically everything I’ll make comes from resources I can gather in my own garrison.

After some experience with Suldrun on Gorgonnash, I realized that Herbalism is a waste – the garrison herb garden is usable without Herbalism so there isn’t any need to gather in zones. Having it will let you get more herbs faster, but the herb garden supplies me plenty for the volume of potions I craft. Characters can only have two professions and Herbalism doesn’t carry its weight.

Actually, I think that all gathering professions are a waste in WoD: herbalism, mining, skinning. Yes, skinning. How to gather leather? With a barn – is much much faster than via skinning! I had skinning for a while, using it on every skinnable mob I killed, collecting scraps. The conversion is 10 scraps to 1 hide, and 5 hides for a work order (e.g. 50 scraps for 1 work order) – so dozens of mobs for one lousy work order. Or, with a barn, trap one Clefthoof in Nagrand for a work order. It is literally 10+ times more work to skin for leather.

I get the feeling that Blizzard might be not-so-subtly getting rid of gathering professions. I always thought it was lousy you had to take gathering professions when you could only have 2 overall – it would have been better to allow 2 production professions and 1 gathering profession. But with how WoD crafting recipes are craftable with a skill of 1 (thus not forcing everyone away to gather in low level areas) and the raw materials come right from your private garrison instance, why have them at all?

On the Earthen Ring garrison, my first medium building was the Lumber Mill, which lets me gather timber and produce garrison resources. Hence, my garrison grew faster than the one on Gorgonnash because I wasn’t blocked waiting for resources as much. When I finished the Gorgorond quest that awards the Outpost Building Assembly Notes, I used that to upgrade my Lumber Mill to level 2 in order to collect medium trees ASAP.

When I upgraded to a level 3 garrison, I built a Dwarven Bunker (to outfit followers and get a free Seal of Tempered Fate each week), a Barn (for leather/cloth and eventually savage blood), and a Tannery (create armor). Whenever possible, I assign followers to each building to boost output – one very important combo is a skinning follower at the Barn, and a leather working follower at the Tannery.

Questing

Questing even goes faster, although I haven’t timed it or anything. Many quests boil down to killing X number of mobs, so with a Brewmaster monk, I just put up my Black Ox statue and gather everything within a 30 yard radius and then pick them off one by one. Less moving for me! Although I have been guilty of poor placement and ahem… rounded up a few too many mobs once or twice. ;)

My favorite technique when fighting a boss with a bunch of adds: put up the statue, move to the side, then taunt the boss away while his underlings keep busy with the statue. It’s like surgically picking out the one mob that matters while distracting the rest. Win!

I like the BrewMaster spec, I might switch over Suldrun (on Gorgonnash) over to it to replace WindWalker.

Raiding

After hitting iLevel 630, Glynneth became eligible to join the guild for a real raid. Not that LFR easy-mode stuff. ;) I jest because as I mentioned earlier, I kinda like LFR and have plenty of fun in there.

The guild started out trying some heroic-mode fights, which I didn’t join for. But after that wound down, they opened up to more players so I squeezed in as an extra healer for Brackenspore and Ko’ragh.

I had done both via LFR but I knew the “real” fights would be tougher.

Brackenspore

Brackenspore

As it turned out, they were much tougher. We wiped once on Brackenspore but downed him the next time around. It was pretty hectic and I’m probably the lowest geared player in the raid, but I did have a lot of fun.

Even better, since everybody else was decently geared, I walked away with a nice upgrade: spaulders (shoulder armor) of item level 655! My item level jumped from 630 to 634 after that fight – awesome.

Now my lagging gear is just three pieces: helm, belt, boots. Since I have a Tannery at my garrison, if I also get a better necklace, ring, or cloak, I can swap out that item out and craft a replacement at the Tannery. Essentially I’ll be hoping for a helm, belt, or boots as a direct replacement; or a necklace, ring, or cloak as an indirect replacement (any of those items will replace one of my current crafted pieces – limit of 3 in WoD).

MMO subscription models

This blog is generally a summary of in-game activities, because that’s what I enjoy reading other blogs for (and writing about). It’s interesting to read what others think about various issues, but mostly I leave the State of the Genre (™) musings and other deep thoughts on the nature of MMO content to others.

There have been some interesting posts recently, from Syncaine, Jewel, and some else I cannot find in my browser history! Note: I found the gist of it in 2 other places so maybe I’m just shuffling that together in my mind. I’ll get to that.

TL;DR – my 2nd comment is a concise summary of my actual point: I think the F2P funding model will be even more prevalent in the future, for various reasons.

Syncaine ranted about the State of the Genre 2015, which is a great post in which he splits up the genre into 4 time slots: birth, WoW/EVE, clones, F2P. In case you somehow missed it from all previous posts, Syncaine is not enamored with the F2P revenue model; a game moving to it is a failure. Except of course, for the handful of “successful” games, which are defined as “subscription games with a large population of players”. By this definition, all F2P games are failures because they cannot also be “subscription games with a large population of players.” And the Asian ones which have large successful long running examples. But they don’t count either for reasons.

There are of course exceptions to the exceptions – by some measure, various players will tell you EVE is really subscription optional because real players PLEX all their accounts through their awesome spaceship mining and market ninja skills. When you subscribe to EVE, you are really merely a temporarily embarrassed market guru, or just too lazy to mine Mercoxit for the big ISK payoff.

GW2 is also a notable failure, because ANet is forced to release an expansion 3 years after launch, because “they” never mentioned that in the original vision. O RLY? Now I was there at the start of GW2, largely because I was a rabid fan of GW, and I don’t recall anybody associated with ArenaNet ever saying “we will never charge for expansions”. I mean, they did exactly that in the previous game, for Cantha, Elona, and EoTN. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t pre-emptively cut their options off but hey, maybe my memory is shot so some sort of source link would be nice, if it exists. “Buy the box, play forever” doesn’t guarantee access to new content – going off the previous example by the same studio, if I never bought Factions, I never get to make a Ritualist or Assassin. But I still get to roam freely and unrestricted in the Prophecies campaign.

But, WoW is NOT a failure for charging for expansions – after all, Blizzard probably never said they would never release an expansion! See how that works??

ArenaNet also changed their game delivery, since I also don’t recall promising biweekly content updates at the start. Those updates surely cost money to produce, so perhaps the expansion will fund future updates in a more reliable fashion. But this is a catch-22 since Syncaine could claim that as a sign of failure as well. It’s beautiful logic really – charging for an expansion is failure, cash shops are failure (except for WoW and EVE which have an approved exemption), developing new content and wanting to charge for it is also failure; unless it is all done via subscription in which it is the correct way to succeed.

There is some disagreement over revenue models, and when I point that out I am accused of going “full retard” (i.e. I disagree or point out some inconsistencies in his definitions). Yes, B2P is terrible… except that’s how games were sold for I dunno, 30+ years? And are still sold right now? Yeah, clearly there is no possibility of that working, it was all just an illusion. I don’t remember buying “Wizardry: Providing Grounds of the Mad Overlord” for a monthly fee but maybe I just can’t recall as well as Syncaine can. Anyway, music to my ears, from the guy that drops unsourced guesswork into his posts, which all clearly demonstrate GW2 failed. After all, it cost 100x as much as EVE, isn’t profitable, and is apparently in death throes.

Another sure sign of GW2 failure is the cash shop – but that one must have been implemented on opposite day by ArenaNet because the same cash shop functionality in WoW and EVE aren’t ever mentioned as steps towards their imminent failure. It is truly difficult to follow the consistent logic and requirements of the Syncaine-approved stamp of MMO success.

Basically it seems to boil down to a certain forgiveness a sins, as if success (i.e. subscription) grants a retroactive stamp of “correct” on all decisions. If Turbine announces a $50 hobby horse, but never actually puts it in the game, that is an example of a screwup. But CCP can put a $60 monocle up for actual sale, and that is viewed as an opportunity to show how CCP listens to feedback when they remove it. Same mistake, actually bigger since the hobby horse was never actually for sale, vastly different response. Same thing with WoW’s space pony for $25. Basically, a money grubbing game that charges a subscription – ah that’s OK. A money grubbing game that partly exists on a cash store – worst thing ever.

Anyway, under the ever-shifting definition of “successful MMO” landed some interesting reading, from Forbes and Gamasutra. They basically say that for various reasons, things have changed since 2009 (the year Syncaine appears to be stuck ranting in) and perhaps in current times, F2P is actually part of the business plan.

Yes, part of the plan all along. Basically like how airplanes and car makers charge more for better seats and models, MMO studios charge a subscription to recoup a portion of their initial investment, then switch to F2P for steady-state activity. Price discrimination at its finest.

But doesn’t that line up with Syncaine’s disdain for F2P – the studio already planned failmode from the start? How can that be??

Well… businesses don’t actually care how Syncaine buckets their product, they are more interested in revenue, since that’s what actually pays the bills, not the thumbs up of approval from various bloggers.

And along those lines was a post that caught my eye, about how much revenue games are pulling in. It summarizes other information from Superdata Research “digital good measurement” which are all interesting.

However the most interesting thing is according to Superdata, SW:TOR and LoTRO are raking in over $100 million a year (in revenue, so not sure how much is left after paying the bills), which I would think is not too shabby. These games might also have expenses higher than that, but I would think a moderately well run gaming business can survive on $100 million a year in sales. It isn’t like they depend on wildly fluctuating prices on the world commodity market. Somehow regular non-MMO games get by without subscription revenue, with occasional releases every few years, so surely some MBA can figure out how to keep the lights on.

If player’s wallet voting is what matters, as Syncaine says in the comments of his post, then.. oops wait a minute, some of these F2P games are higher revenue some subscription games? That is unpossible! They must be subscription games in disguise playing an inscrutable long game. Or they didn’t get the memo that the top revenue spots are reserved for subscription games.

I’ve rambled a lot so far, but there is more – yes there is!

J3w3l at Healing the Masses wrote a funny post which highlights that not one, but TWO of those mobile F2P games advertised during the Superbowl. Yes, the most costliest ad slots in all of TV, USD $4.5 million for 30 seconds (this year), and Clash of Clans and Game of War felt it was worth the money. Why would they do that and what does it mean?

I was thinking about that and realized it was the final piece that makes everything fit together.

I think F2P will be the dominant model for MMOs going forward. Despite what Syncaine thinks, what matters to businesses is paying their bills and there is ample proof that enough money comes in via this model. For example, the app market in general (more on that coming up). Yes there are failures, just like subscription MMOs folded and disappeared before an F2P conversion was even imagined. Unless there is some secret charity funding MMOs, enough are F2P and continuing to run despite being left for dead years ago, that they can’t all be attributed to isolated situations.

The sea-change reason why is hinted at in the Superbowl ads, or the fact two game studios felt it was worthwhile to advertise. For one thing, the barrier to acquiring the game is so low that seeing an ad might prompt an impulse purchase – because they are cheap/free and plan to make money elsewhere that doesn’t involve a recurring charge…

Wait, that sounds eerily familiar, I don’t know why…

But a larger point is that an entire generation of gamers is being brought up on that model – the one with low cost/no cost initial purchase, expansion or in-game/in-app purchases that is basically centered around the F2P model, and perhaps more casual gameplay (i.e. not playing the game as effectively part-time job) too.

This model gained primacy through the release of the iPhone and its Appstore in 2007. By 2009 is was clearly a success and in 2011, which Syncaine lists as the split between cloning and f2p-ing, finance-types were busy figuring out monetization models for their products. And all of them basically said that F2P was a model that worked from mobile to desktop, shooters to strategy, single and multi player; so bake that in from the get-go. Because if we have a viable business from F2P revenue, then a subscription period that lasts longer then planned is extra gravy on top of the whipped cream.

So I can see a future where the vast majority of the customer base has grown up playing CoC – ironically Syncaine enjoys a match now and then – and other similar games, expecting a low-cost buy in, no subscription, and various tchotchkes for sale in game, to where they cannot imagine paying a subscription because that is a relic of a bygone era.

I think it is interesting that WoW and EVE are already 10+ years old, and Blizzard and Square Enix wrote games for decades before entering the MMO scene, with great success. In some ways, they are already relics of an earlier age.