Monday, December 1, 2008

Too Many Games, Too Little Time

Some fellow bloggers have given up trying to find the One True MMO and are now playing multiple. I don't blame them. I've been like that for some time, flitting about between multiple MMOs, with a handful of single player games thrown in the mix.

This weekend was a good weekend for gaming. Most everything my wife and I have on "The List" for this year have been completed, so we had little to do around the house. Which meant, for the first time in almost a year, I actually had a lot of time to play games. In fact, I had so much time to play, I didn't know what to play. It was weird. So I ended up playing a lot of different games this weekend:

Eve Online

I decided to try out Eve Online. Every time I complain about leveling games, people mention Eve Online as something I should check out. I spent a few more hours than Xfire shows because I learned early on that I'm spending more time watching the game than playing it. So I had Eve Online on one computer and the screen next to it had me shouting LFG in level chat for a mission in EverQuest II until I got bored of not doing anything and I shut down both games.

Hopefully Eve Online gets more interesting than this. I guess I have to join a Corp because so far I'm not seeing a whole lot in the game I like. The mission descriptions are confusing and one of the early tutorial missions seemed to send me against overpowered enemies who destroyed my ship in almost one shot. Unless those weren't the NPC enemies. Its hard to tell.

So I went and decided to do some mining. That went well. I guess. Mostly I click on a menu and find an asteroid. Then the screen turns into a pretty screensaver while I mine concentrated veldspar and refine it into Tritanium and dump on the market. Rinse, repeat, grind.

I'll give it some more time later, but it seems like it would take forever before I'm battle ready to try on factions or PVP. And a good Corp could help me out but I don't know if I can do that... Is that fair to them, given that I'm not even sure if I'm going to stick around?

Given that the gameplay felt like this (yes, I know its a screenshot, but that's what the gameplay felt like), I'm not sure I want to.

But maybe screenshots are more fun in groups?

STALKER: Shadow Of Chernobyl

This is an FPS game that I read good reviews for. Unfortunately, none of the reviews for that game warned me about the excessive head bobbing the game does, and I spent the first half hour getting seasick. Head bobbing is not that realistic people... Sure our heads go up and down and around as we walk, but our brain compensates.

So I spent more time looking on the Intertubes for a patch that would remove the stupid head bobbing than I did playing the game.

For an idea of what the gameplay felt like before this, print this screenshot out, hold it up in front of you, and then shake your arms madly like you're having a seizure:

After the patch, the game was more fun. I did a few quests and saved a few grateful people from bandits. The game has a lot of bugs. One time, when reloading a game, the bandits apparently lost the memo that told them they had been defeated as they started respawning like crazy. But a subsequent reload did not have the same problem. Quality.

It's fun now that it doesn't induce nausea. The headbobbing I mean. The number of bugs and the lack of polish is a little nauseating. Playing the game just makes me want to restart and replay Fallout 3. But I like the story so far, so I'll tough it out.

Warhammer Online

I jumped into Warhammer for a bit. I actually found a good, solid PQ group going on in Chapter 14 and managed to get the second bar filled for my Chapter Influence. It was a lot of fun and reminded me exactly what drew me into the game in the first place. You see, this is when a game doesn't feel like a grind: when you are having so much fun, you almost don't even notice that you gained a level -- because you would have done what you were doing anyway, even without the reward.

I also joined a few Scenarios, and actually had a good time there as well. One of the things I like best about Warhammer is the fact that I can just log in and instantly be doing something. Well, I can instantly be doing Scenarios. I guess the thing I don't like about Warhammer is that they still haven't made it easier to find instant action in RvR and that the PQs (this weekend notwithstanding) are usually dead.

Neverwinter Nights 2

I tried to play this but I encountered a bug early on where even though I found the quest item (a silver shard of some sort) that I needed, the game wouldn't trigger the cut scene and I couldn't continue. Even after running the autopatcher, the game still wouldn't work right. I ended up having to reinstall the game and run the autopatcher all over again, and now suddenly, magically, the stars have aligned, and I could finally continue with the quest.

I progressed a few baby steps further into the game and met the dwarven monk. I'm really early in the game, and I've owned this game for quite some time, but I never really played it. I think, this time, I'm going to give it a chance.

Guild Wars

I also hopped into Guild Wars to try to get a few quests completed. I had not played this game in over a year, but I decided to dust off my Dervish and see what happened.

Apparently I own a Guild Hall all to myself now that (*ahem* almost) everyone had quit the guild I was in. Somewhere along the way I was made leader and there were two people left when I logged in. *Click*. Make that one person left: me. (They hadn't logged in for over two years, I don't think they'll mind.)

I'm trying the Nightfall campaign, and my character is stuck at level 7, and the main quest doesn't progress until I get to level 11 or earn some points. It seems to me like they took shortcuts in the Nightfall campaign, as I don't recall any point in Prophecies where I was basically forced to take a break to run the more mundane non-story-based quests until I got to a certain level.

Guild Wars, during the Prophecies campaign, was for me the ultimate example of a game without the grind, but with Nightfall I'm actually feeling like I'm forced to grind out those levels just to do what I want: follow the story.

EverQuest II

I like the new expansion pack: The Shadow Odyssey. It's a lot of fun. When you can find a group. Hopefully its just because of the holiday weekend, but I must have spammed level chat LFG all weekend without a single bite.

I did join a pick up raid in Protector's Realm that went really well until we tried to take on Doomcoil. The way PR works, there are four named mobs you have to fight earlier and each one drops a charm item in a random raid member's inventory. Then we need to trade them to one person who can then trade them to an NPC to trigger the next fight. Only three people could find the shards in their inventory (even though we killed all four skeletons.) Apparently someone in the raid had poor inventory management skills... or we were bugged perhaps... but we couldn't continue without the fourth shard, so we called it a night.

The rest of the time was spent spamming LFG and duo boxing the soloable quests in Moors. Unfortunately, I'm very tired of quests, and really want to do more missions and instance runs. That's the kind of game play I enjoy the most.

I Can't Be Satisfied

So that was my weekend. I also spent a little time in LittleBigPlanet (on the PS3), Blue Dragon (on the Xbox), and the Wii Fit (I had to make sure I was at least a little active.) And I still had time in there to meet real life friends out on the town for drinks and dinner.

Going forward though, I'm not sure what I will continue playing.

EverQuest II has been my main game since it launched because it has more group oriented activities; it has more raids and more group instances than "the competition." That's what I enjoyed about the game, and they are a blast when you find a group. But that hasn't been the case lately.

EverQuest II is also a much more time consuming game. And it also has a habit of having multi-stage quests that are partially soloable up to a point, and somewhere in the middle of the quest there will be one step that requires rounding up a group of people, dragging them to the middle of nowhere, and killing a heroic that doesn't reward them. I've always thought that was really bad design, and its commonplace in EQ2's signature and heritage quests.

So there are going to be plenty of times when I EQ2 frustrates me (usually when I can't find a group) and I need a break. Or times when I only have 15 minutes to spare. And I'm searching for a game to fill that gap.

For a while that was Warhammer Online. When I started out in it, it was easy to get into the action instantly and play with other people. But as I mentioned in previous posts, I'm getting tired of that game. While I had a great weekend, good times like that are increasingly rare. Its harder to find those people, even after all the server merges going on. On the new server, Scenarios pop quickly, but the PQs where I'm at remains dead.

I know some members of my guild have moved from Warhammer Online to World of Warcraft. I would follow them (most of what makes an MMO fun is the group you play with), but I simply can't get into WoW. Every time I've tried to play it, I think "this is ALMOST a good game... its ALMOST like EverQuest II."

I thought I'd try out Eve Online, but that's not winning me over.

I guess its time to play a few more single player games. (I guess I sound like Openedge1 right now... :) ) I've collected a few over the last few years that I simply haven't played, since I spend so much time in EQ2. But I think I'm going to try to finish off Neverwinter Nights 2, Blue Dragon, and STALKER.

And maybe on the MMO front, I might pop back into Guild Wars. I never did try the PVP in that game when I played it. But now that WAR has given me a taste for PVP I never had before, it might be worth seeking out elsewhere. I also want to try to finish off the Nightfall campaign for good this time. At least in Guild Wars, with the Heroes and henchmen features, I can do tasks that require a group by myself if I can't find one. This is a feature I think more MMOs should have.

One of the things I'm afraid Guild Wars 2 will do that will ruin it is removing the henchmen from the game, forcing people to group. I love to group, and I prefer to group, but one of the nice things about the current Guild Wars is that you have the choice to do either.

Another thing I love about Guild Wars is that it has an ongoing story with its mission system. I guess that's a large part of why I'm frustrated with being stuck having to level up before I can go on. I like to follow the story and having to run around doing mundane quests to level up ruins the experience for me.

Too many games, too little time...