• MMO/Gaming

    Horse Breeding Blues

    I haven’t been playing much lately due to a massive amount of work and also some odd problems with my hands. It may be carpal tunnel (what gamer doesn’t have a touch of carpal?), but it came on very suddenly a couple of weeks ago. Initially it felt like I’d sprained the ring and little fingers on each hand -possibly from the damned cover or vault action in The Division- but now I feel as though I have a pair of broken lumps for hands. Not great for an artist or a gamer.

    The Division has been irking me a bit because of the massive amount of cheaters and hackers in the Dark Zone. Seriously, what fun is that, either for the poor saps playing the game honestly, or the guy on God Mode who is teleporting and untouchable by anyone? Bah, no point until they address that.

    As a result I’ve been levelling horses in Black Desert. I’ve always wanted an MMO that allowed you to tame wild horses, train them, breed them and train and sell the foals…a bit like a grownup version of a horse game. I adore this. The RNG is horrific, as you kind of expect in an Asian MMO, and some of the colours are…well, see for yourself:

    Black Desert Horses

    My first attempt resulted in a blueberry mare with pink mane and white tail. My second attempt resulted in Greenbean, my green hulk horse. Meh. Phil (ever the lucky bastard in every game we play) bred his horses once and got a stunning golden palomino mare with white mane and tail and white feathers on the legs.

    Levelling horses for breeding actually takes a lot of work, albeit afk work as the horses autoloop for hours and days. I am working right now with the soporific sound of galloping hoofbeats in the background, tah-dum, tah-dum, tah-dum. I’ve learned to never just leave it running while I go elsewhere, as the horse will automagically die for some reason, even if on a loop that has been working safely for hours.

    So, I am currently playing a game by proxy by letting it afk loop. This is what we have come to. :)

  • MMO/Gaming

    Black Desert Closed Beta 1

    Black Desert

    I’ve been waiting for this MMO for a long time, even after the mess that ArcheAge eventually turned into. The graphics are stunning, the character creation is amazing (all the way down to tweaking individual sections of hair!) and it has horse taming. I’ve been waiting for a game to do this for ages…being able to tame horses from the wild, then breed them and train them. Awesome. :)

    So, in terms of feedback, I’ve broken it into 1) things that I like, 2) things that I don’t like that will not change, and 3) things that I think need to be fixed. I’m coming at this mainly from the perspective of a longtime MMO player and a UI/UX designer, so usability will be key.

    Things that I love:

    So pretty. As stated, the game is beautiful. Environment and lighting is gorgeous, characters are beautiful and the character creation tool is wonderful, one of the best that I’ve seen.

    Pets: the models are nice, they do things like loot for you, and they’ll interact with you. Cats and hawks will jump onto your shoulder when you are standing at rest. The cat will rub his face against yours, and sometimes your character will break into a smile. Lovely. :)

    Story and lore: Nothing groundbreaking here, but not bad. Some of the small stories were quite nice, along with a lot of “kill ten rats” quests, as you would expect.

    Server stability: From the moment that the servers opened, then game was stable for me. I have everything whacked up to ultra/high, and the game is running smoothly. I haven’t experienced any lag, although I’ve heard people in chat saying that they have. Overall a very good experience.

    Things that I hate that won’t change:

    Gender locked characters. I really, really hate games that do this. If you want to lock something to a certain race because of lore (similar to druids in Warcraft), then fine. But having all Warriors be male and all Sorcerers be female…really? In this day and age? Shame.

    Grind. To a point, I don’t mind grind. Sometimes after a hard day I just feel like aimlessly grinding mobs as I explore. But reaching those long stretches where you don’t have any quests left and all you can do is grind mobs? Not so fun.

    Lack of visual differences in equipment. In the starting areas you’ll hear people complaining about equipping new items and it not being reflected on their characters…it is, but the problem is that there are very few clothing models for each class. It’s a bit boring, but not a deal breaker, and you can dye them.

    Asian-style combat effects (BIFF! BANG! POW! SWOOSH!) Thank god there’s a slider upon creating a character that brings the silly fight animation effects, eyeblinding magic effects and vibration down. I’ve hated that in every gameplay video that I’ve seen.

    List of things that should be fixed:

    As I said, I’m coming at this from the perspective of a UI/UX designer, and I don’t believe in making the UI a challenge for the player. Everything should be intuitive, and where it isn’t you need good error messages and helpful tooltips.

    Loading screen: There needs to be a way to skip through the initial loading screen logos…Pearl Abyss sits there FOREVER.

    Common features that I expect in an MMO: There are a lot of best-practice features that just aren’t implemented, which is odd – the basics aren’t exactly rocket science. I totally didn’t realise that I had a mailbox full of mail and perks until I hit ESC and just tried the mail icon. Chat and whispers need to come up in the actual chat window. If you’re talking with friends, you need to press “N” to bring up a social window and then you can see an icon indicating that they’ve said something to you. Just put it in the main chat window in a different colour, like every other game. If you leave the social or chat window open so you can see new messages you end up going “wwwwwwwwwwwww” during combat or movement rather than what you indended. :D

    Extra steps: A lot of things seem to require extra steps – like looting, where you need to press R twice. Small things, but they could benefit from streamlining.

    Lack of explanation and tooltips: The dye system is a good example of this. In this beta we got a ton of dyes in the mail, which was great. They came in unopened packs, which you had to click multiple times to open, and which opened into undiscovered dyes (extra step). Each of these had to be clicked multiple times to discover them, and then they were still in your inventory. I couldn’t figure out how to dye anything, but Phil figured out that if you click the word “Pallet” [sic] at the bottom, then right-click each one, you can learn the dyes. There were no tooltips or anything to tell you that. The GW2 dye system is similar but much more streamlined and easy to understand…again, it’s desirable to study best practice in other games and implement anything that works well in yours. It’s like this throughout the game. I never actually saw any horses in the wild to tame, but I understand that the same problem applies there – needlessly hard, and no helpful tips when you start.

    Starting area tutorials: There is a bit of a tutorial in one of your first quests that went through keys for combat. What we could have really used instead was a short sequence of quests which acted as a quick introduction to various systems in the game, similar to what FFXIV does. Have new characters run around and find various characters in the first town such as profession trainers, send me to talk to a guy who says something about logging or skinning or whatever and then has me buy a tool from the merchant next to him. Don’t let me run around for ages (level 15 for my character) getting messages about not being able to loot wolves because I don’t have the right tool. I still haven’t stumbled across the right merchant for that tool. Grrr. Explain about the knowledge system and why certain people won’t talk to you yet, or give you quests. It’s infuriating in places. Phil came close to quitting over that one, as we didn’t know why I could talk to people and pick up quests and he couldn’t.

    Social features: As far as we could see, you can’t party up with anyone without meeting them face-to-face (which makes it difficult to actually find them). Block features work well, which is good. I started a clan, but again could only invite someone that I was standing next to. Normally you can do all of this at a distance in games, and it’s something that I expect.

    Finally, concerns:

    PvP and the karma system. I think that open world pvp is always a concern for a lot of people. Done right, I think that the majority of MMO players will enjoy at least a bit of pvp for a change, and some will do a lot of it. What they hate is being ganked. It’s not fun to not be able to fight back against a much higher-level character, or a zerg. If you log in to do a bit of farming or questing after a long and stressful day at work, the last thing you want is to be teabagged repeatedly by an adolescent douchebag. The karma system, as I understand it, can prevent that by having the aggressor incur a large karma penalty if they attack someone who isn’t flagged who doesn’t fight back.

    Of course, the vocal hardcore PvP minority are screaming about this on the forums, and many game devs will listen to these people…and in the end, you end up turning away the PvE crowd. I hate this, and so hopefully they’ll try to keep a proper balance in place where you can still have openworld pvp but being a real dick has a downside, making it less fun for PKers.

    Aside from these issues, it really is a beautiful game and I’m looking forward to launch.

  • MMO/Gaming

    Bringing Storytelling Back to the Game: Revival

    Revival is the rebirth of the player-driven, sandbox, fantasy role-playing world. Player agency, world persistence, and absolutely zero compromises are the cornerstones of our quest for a living, persistent, dark fantasy role-playing world. – Revival mission statement

    There is a lot of discussion in the MMO world about sandboxes versus themeparks and what each term means. To most people the phrase “themepark MMO” would be illustrated by by Warcraft, FFXIV or really any other MMO where your characters’ class, story and progression through the world are on rails with few (if any) choices that impact that world. A sandbox on the other hand usually denotes a less restricted world where you can create your own game experience. EVE Online would be one, and to a lesser extent games such as ArcheAge. Unfortunately to a lot of players that simply means that open PvP is allowed and one can run around low-level areas killing new players and generally being as big an asshat as possible.

    What I’ve always dreamed of is a proper sandbox environment that can be used to tell your character’s unique story. You want to open a shop, or raise cows? Go for it. You could be a courtesan, a spy, an assassin or a mercenary bodyguard protecting vulnerable travellers from robbers. The world is defined only by the limits of your imagination.

    This is what I’d hoped for with World of Darkness, and why I’ll always see that as being a massive missed opportunity for a truly unique game. Although I’m generally not a vindictive person I will forever and always hold CCP responsible for this; they took WoD, treated it like a redheaded stepchild, ignored and starved it, and then abandoned it in the woods for the wolves. You bastards.:D


    Revival just might be the new hope for a something really different: if they do even a fraction of what they’re promising, if the game actually launches in anything like the form that they are hoping for. They have such big plans, and everything that I read ticks those sandboxy, RP-based, story-centric boxes for me.

    Although the website suffers from tiny grey text on dark backgrounds, making the wall-o-text blog posts painful to read, there are a lot of Big Dreams therein, such as their description of the concepts around building a living world:

    “Revival’s Theleston is a world that both responds directly to the players and evolves over time, both naturally and through direct player action. We accomplish this with the following features:

    • The game world changes organically over time
    • Changes are caused by the actions of the denizens of the world
    • Powers of the world, including players, attempt to advance their agendas, further driving change
    • The Karma system interacts with agendas, influencing and being influenced by the gods and great old ones
    • The live storytellers act as agents of the gods and major powers, adding content to the game in response to player actions and playing key roles on gold servers for maximum impact”


    Intriguing. I know that I have a tendency to get excited waay too early over games, but I’m so feeling this one.

    Other elements of real life will be reflected, such as the ability to have sex. Interesting…possibly. There will be a real death penalty, the consequences of I’m still not sure I understand, except that players may spend time as a ghost in the spirit world, where you may or may not be interacted with by other players. There is (fingers crossed, ERMAHGERD!!!) taming and training animals. Ships and naval combat.

    All of this gets my tired old RPer’s heart aflutter…and I am thinking of characters and their stories. I bought a tenement, which I can’t do much with at this time. I’m actually wishing I’d invested in a larger house. And I have my fingers crossed so hard that all of these dreams come true. :)


  • MMO/Gaming

    Together Heavensward


    Heavensward has been a lot of fun, a lot of it due to the fact that Phil came back to the game and has played through with me. He was the one that introduced me to MMOS back in the early days of vanilla WoW, and I am always happiest when we can play the same game together.

    I admit that I did leave him behind a bit because I made the decision to level my Summoner while he started a new Dark Knight tank, but really…he couldn’t take any time off for the expansion and it was more than I could bear to wait for him to get home so we could play.

    Yep, I am a bad person.

    I would have to say that overall FFXIV is the best, deepest, most polished MMO out there today. Blizzard has alienated a lot of longtime players with recent expansions, GW2 just doesn’t feel like home (although it is undeniably beautiful), Wildstar made the fatal mistake of placing all their eggs in the basket of hardcore raiding, and I personally hated ESO. FFXIV is a very complex game in that it takes time to learn (and is difficult to come back and try to pick up where you left off), but in some respects I think that is a good thing. You won’t be bored by it. I love the instance design, and although normal questing is very kill-ten-rats the main story quests are wonderful. Heartbreaking at times, but still wonderful.

    Currently I have just reached the ilvl needed for Alexander access, and Phil is getting there. For the first time in years I’m pugging instances every night and looking forward to actual raiding, something which I swore I would never do after Warcraft. I love it.

  • MMO/Gaming

    Heavensward: Smooth Sailing

    FFXIV Ravana

    I really have to hand it to Squenix, they pulled off an extremely smooth headstart with Heavensward. There have been some of the usually weird lobby errors, but overall this headstard has been as problem-free as possible. I’m currently almost 56 on my Summoner (waylaid a bit because I’ve been watching every cut scene and doing every side quest before I move on). I’ve really, truly been enjoying the new content.

    Juvenile moment during one of the early fates: butt


    I am currently the proud owner of a gorgeous new flying machine which I shall post pictures of as soon as I go back to one of the earlier areas where I can actually fly. The area that I’m currently in (Dravanian Forelands, I think?) is so infuriating to try to navigate. I spent an hour running all over the map trying to find objectives, being thwarted over and over again by areas that I seemingly couldn’t reach. I was in quite a frosty mood by the time I logged off. :)

    Instances so far have been fun and relatively straight forward so far. I ran Aery last night, and we had a wipe at the end. The only person who had done it before, the DRK tank, had a hissy fit over it: “I’m doing this as a low-level roulette (really?) for some quick XP and you people are ruining it for me!” This is the type of thing that I’d hoped to avoid by pushing through the content as fast as possible: all the entitled jerks in Duty Finder who have no patience for people who haven’t seen the encounter before. Most of these don’t have guides yet, although they’re starting to pop up here and there. We haven’t even seen actual launch yet, and he’s speed-running instances? I’d like to introduce you to the aforementioned Alaimbert’s butt.

    So, a very enjoyable few days so far, and here’s hoping that there isn’t too much of an influx when the servers go up today for actual launch!

  • MMO/Gaming

    Waiting On Heavensward



    Although I didn’t achieve everything that I wanted to in FFXIV: ARR, I’m still ready for Heavensward. My bags are clean (which took a relentless slash-and-burn on crafting materials) and I have a set of armor waiting for my Astrologian. The servers are now down and I’m hoping that we can download the patch for the new client soon.

    Part of the preparation involved an upgrade on my aging graphics card to a new Nvidia GTX 970 card which brought my benchmark score from 7584 to 14,117. With everything maxed the benchmark client looks incredible.

    One of the things I wasn’t able to do was to find a really good guild. The one that Phil and I are in has a small core of people who work their asses off to be welcoming and helpful (which is absolutely wonderful), a large group of people who play completely silently and have very little to do with the rest (not so wonderful) and no use of forums, no planning of events (which is horrible). I always find it really weird and uncomfortable when  guild doesn’t use forums, as it is then almost impossible to plan anything and it feels much more difficult to get to know people. It’s nice to check in on the forums during the middle of a work day and banter a bit. So, still looking for a good guild. I would love to find a good EU-based guild that spans multiple games and has a large, active player base.

    I’m still rethinking which job I’m going to want to level. I’d originally planned to switch to Astrologian, but the RNG element to healing makes me nervous. I may just level either Summoner or Bard and treat the new healer spec as an alt class until I decide. Either way, I am really looking forward to a proper gaming marathon again. Bring it on!

  • MMO/Gaming

    FFXIV: Ready for Heavensward

    Just a side note: I finally completed the storyline in FFXIV in preparation for Heavensward! Thank goodness for the nerfing of Steps of Faith, which was an incredibly stupid cockblock to place in a main storyline, preventing anyone who hasn’t completed it from playing the expansion content. I don’t believe in nerfing endgame content, but main storyline stuff really needs to be accessible for all players: casual players, non-raiders, crafters, people who just like to dink around doing quests and exploring rather than doing instances. So stupid.

    But anyway, I finally did it. I also levelled Bard on my main character and yesterday hit 50, which is my fifth level 50 and my second Bard. Yep, did it on another character not realising what a huge PITA it was going to be to go through all of the instances and so on at the end, so I did it all over again on my WHM/Summoner/Scholar. /sigh

    I’m totally addicted to the game at the moment, although I don’t get a chance to play as much as I would like. I don’t think I’ve been as addicted to an MMO since my Warcraft days. Really looking forward to Machinist. Or Astrologian. Probably not an Au Ra, as below – I like my sassy girl too much.




  • MMO/Gaming

    FFXIV: Noob Moments



    Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve updated this blog. I’ve been struggling with health issues and also a metric ass-ton of work. So, yeah…poor neglected blog!

    I have been playing a lot of Final Fantasy when I can find the time, and I must say that for a game which was virtually unplayable when first launched, it is now a really stupendously great game. Maybe a “forever” MMO, as Warcraft has been for me.

    I have, however, made some really stupid mistakes.

    I know that Squenix really wants you to do all jobs on one character. Although they allow you to create alts, with all of the cross-class skills it’s kind of obvious that they want you to level all the jobs on one character. However, that means grinding fates and so on, so I thought “Hey, it would make ever so much sense to do all of the Disciple of Magic classes on one character, and the War classes on a second one, so I can do quests on both.” Amiright? Not so much, as it seems: I had a level 50 White Mage, 50 Scholar and Summoner and 40 Black Mage on one character. The alt had a level 50 Bard, 40 Paladin, etc. And then (as I started through the post-50 quests on the first character) I realised that I’d hit a Giant Wall O’Suck. I was never, ever going to want to do that grind on my Bard as well.

    Now, I quite like playing Bard and was considering making that my main class. But levelling it up by grinding fates on my main character? It makes me lose the will to live.

    Which brings me to something that I wanted to say about FFXIV: I understand about wanting players to play through the entire storyline before allowing them access to anything in the Heavensward expansion in June – fair enough. But why make it so damned hard? I would hazard a guess that casual players make up the bulk of the customer base for any MMO. They may not be a progression raider or an elite min-maxer; instead, they’re exploring and doing quests and crafting and just enjoying the ride. They really care about the story, where your elite types probably don’t bother much with story or lore. (I’m saying that based on the fact that I’ve had to skip every damned cutscene since I hit the post-50 content to avoid being kicked from groups. You speed-running bastards.) Why force those players to have to make it through hard modes and things like Steps of Faith? Why not make the storyline involve less hardcore instances? I’ll do them, of course…but I’m fully expecting it to be painful. It just seems like a very odd design choice.

    Oh, I almost forgot: my other noob moment? Dyeing my chocobo. I spent about a bazillion gil on the food to get soot black last night and fed them all to my bird per the advice on the color calculator. This morning? I have a parrot-green bird. Fracking hell. Now I have no idea how to actually get to black from there, and I’ve spent over 100k to do it. :(

    And yet…I love this game so damned much.


  • MMO/Gaming

    Farewell to WoD (For Now)

    I just decided to cancel my Warcraft subscription again. I fully admit that I am one of “those” players, the ones who come back for every expansion, play to level cap, and then eventually quit. I no longer raid, and there just isn’t enough to hold my interest without raiding.

    There are garrisons, to be sure, and they were a lot of fun in the beginning on the first character. Third alt in? Not so much fun, as it turns out, as well as being a massive timesink. Of course you don’t have to do anything with your garrison…but after you have them it seems a bit silly to not gather those resources.

    I miss professions. On my leatherworker I hate the daily wait to have someone else create mats for me. I like levelling professions, and in the past have spent hours happily grinding for leather and so on. This isn’t as much fun.

    It always makes me a bit sad to cancel as Warcraft has been a part of my life (on and off) for ten years. Who would have imagined spending so much time in a game? I’ve had marriages that have lasted less time than that. :D

  • MMO/Gaming

    Warlords of Draenor: First Weekend

    I was bad this weekend: I didn’t check email at all until Sunday, early evening, and then had a total panic. Aside from that it was a wonderful weekend of pure slackage, a jump back into a world that I have loved for ten years, and quite a lot of frustration.

    The frustration part had to do with the massive queues on Argent Dawn, my server of choice and the location of my main characters. I’d paid to move every single one there at great expense because I’ve always loved the community there. The server is highly populated, the focus of RP events for the EU, and generally a pretty nice place to call home. Come the expansion, however, and there were queues of 3k to 4k starting from midday until late…yep, three and four hour queues if you were lucky. Garrisons were also a bit shaky the first weekend and quite often you would get “stuck,” unable to actually play your character until things reset.

    So, I scrapped my plans to level my warlock main. Also my Horde warlock. Also my newly boosted monk. Instead, my hunter Kitsune and I got re-acquainted back on Aggramar and I levelled her instead. Not entirely a bad thing, as new pets to tame was a huge draw. A few thoughts about the weekend:

    • Garrisons are awesome.
    • Garrisons should have been beta-tested a bit better, as they were buggy as hell.
    • Instances are fun again. No iLevel epeen and being forced to group with the GoGoGo guy. No snarky comments because you didn’t happen to know the instance inside and out the first time you run it. Just pure fun and exploration. I actually had to crowd control again…I can’t tell you how many years it’s been since I needed to do that. No grabbing everything in the entire dungeon and AOEing it down, just having fun. Awesome.
    • Armor is still fugly. I’ve always hated Warcraft’s armor design.
    • Seeing timelost versions of familiar areas was fantastic. There were a lot of very emotional scenes, and the voice acting (for the most part) was well done.
    • Everything was a bit too easy – all mobs could have been tuned up a bit. If an encounter says that it needs three people, you shouldn’t be able to solo it without your health ever dipping, that’s just not a challenge.
    • There were still a few really stupid bottlenecks. Remember in MoP, the scroll that everyone had to click on in the panda starting area? Why on earth would you not learn from that? Bad, bad, lazy Blizzard. Shame on you.
    • Gorgeous. Everything is gorgeous.
    • I still haven’t gotten used to human female’s faces. The expression “surprise buttsex” comes to mind. You know what I’m talking about.
    • I thought that it would irritate me to not be able to fly…but so far it’s not.
    • Did I mention how much I love garrisons? :)

    Here are a few shots from the weekend:


    wod1 wod2 wod3 wod4 wod5 wod6 wod7