In Praise of Dominion Housing

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This “Cozy” Cassian House is huge!

You all know I’m an Exile at heart. I mean if you can’t be a space zombie, are you really living? Not that being a space zombie is exactly living in the technical sense, but you know what I mean. Anyway even though I’m a loyal Mordesh I do have a Dominion alt. I want to see how the story differs on the other side, and I especially wanted to be able to visit Dommie friends and check out their houses! Between visiting and poking around at my own house I came to a terrible realization: the Dommies have way better housing options, especially to start out with.

I'm not sure I want to live in something a Chua built.

I’m not sure I want to live in something a Chua built.

The cozy Draken house reminds me a lot of the Granok version. It has weird curvy wall and lots of vertical space to play with. The Chua one requires some planning to use most effectively, since it is basically just a tall cylinder. I found some great ones that made them into warm, inviting, multi-story libraries though!

The real gem is the Cozy Cassian House, pictured at the top of this post, which is far too roomy to be truly “cozy.” I spent several minutes trying to get a good screenshot of just how spacious this thing is on the inside, but nothing I did could truly do it justice. I suspect this starter house has more space to work with than some of the “Spacious” houses. Most notably, it is a normal house shape, without a lot of weird little nooks and crannies, so you can partition it off in tons of different ways. I have mine divided into 3 floors and they still feel very open. I suspect you could get as many as 5 stories out of this thing if you really wanted to. The spacious version is even bigger, but like all the spacious houses it is divided up into a few rooms by default, so you have a bit less control over how the finished space will look.

I know that if you could purchase the opposite faction’s houses from the cash shop when WildStar goes free to play this fall I would probably be eager and willing to fork over some cash to get access to these houses. And the default music is pretty great too!

As a postscript, I’d like to announce that I will be participating in this year’s Blaugust event. Prepare to be amazed as my posting goes from “lackadaisical” to “forced march” as I try to meet the challenge of a daily post for the month of August. Wish me luck!

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It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that Ding!

Ding!

Ding!

Today’s post is inspired by these recent posts from my friends Lonomonkey and Tamrielo about the concept of levels and feeling “left behind” in MMOs. I need to start by saying that I have a bit of an obsessive personality. When I start playing a new game, especially if I enjoy it, I tend to spend most of my free time playing and trying to progress. This can take a couple of forms. If the game is new or if few of my friends are playing, I will tend to do all of the possible quests and leveling activities, devouring all of the content on offer and trying to experience as much of the world as possible. When WildStar launched, I had purposefully avoided leveling much in the beta so that I could take this course and spend all my time enjoying the new sights, quests and lore. The other form of my obsession kicks in when I am starting out “behind,” either on a new server or in a new-to-me game where my friends are already established. In this case, I will level like a speed demon, ignoring anything extraneous to my goal of “catching up” with my friends. I did this when I started playing FFXIV, speeding through cutscenes and missing out on a huge amount of lore and side quests.

It seems like a level-free MMO where I could just jump in and start playing with my friends right away in that second scenario should be amazing, right? Well…I’m not so sure. The first issue I have is that even without levels, I’d hope that there would still be some form of progression, either through stats, skills, or gear. That means that even if you could technically play with your friends right away, you would still be behind them on that progression. The natural end state of this is getting carried through content until you catch up, which pretty much sounds like the same thing that can happen while leveling too. Let me tell you, dear readers, I would rather feel like I was behind and missing out on doing cool things with my friends than to be carried through content in a blur, feeling useless.

One great thing about most modern MMOs is that they’ve added rallying or level-syncing systems. I don’t have to level alone just because my friends have gotten ahead of me, and importantly, since we’re synced to the same level I will never feel like I’m just being carried. Sure, usually the higher-level character still has a power advantage, but if the system is good the low-level player still feels like they are pulling their own weight. The very best of these systems also give rewards that are useful to both the high and low level players for playing together this way.

The other issue I have is that the time I spend catching up is also time spent learning to play the game better. When FFXIV launched its recent expansion, I was a bit slow out of the gate. A couple friends got far ahead of me and I admit I got frustrated and cranky at being behind. It motivated me to start leveling faster to catch up. For me, this meant healing lots of dungeons. In the end, this was the best possible thing for me, since all that practice made a big difference as I was re-learning how to play my class with all the changes from the expansion. If I had just been able to jump in with my friends, I would have been a far crappier healer and they would have paid the price for it.

I know I’m a bit unusual in my speed leveling ways, but I am happy to keep enjoying leveling in MMOs. I would not avoid the leveling process if I could. It lets you make steady progress, learn your class, and is way clearer to a new player than most skill point or gear-based progression. Plus you get rewarded with fun level-up animations and that sweet sweet “DING!”

On Loot Explosions

Lookin' good Feelin' good

Lookin’ good Feelin’ good

Ok maybe not feeling 100% good, since my efforts at the Hero’s Journey fitness challenge mostly make me want to curl up on the floor, but I’m sticking with it!  Today I want to talk about something near and dear to the hearts of all MMO players: Loot.

The acquisition of more and greater loot has been on my mind a lot recently, since I’ve been dipping my toe into the waters of WildStar raiding as well as gearing up for raiding in Final Fantasy XIV. Gearing up to a raid-ready level in WildStar may have been a slightly unusual process for me since I was 50 for a very long time before I set foot in a raid. This meant I had bits and pieces of gear from questing, reputation vendors, and crafters, as well as a couple week’s worth of rewards from contracts. This got my power level to be “ok” for raiding, but if I had wanted to be optimal I would have had to run dungeons. At the raiding level, the gear is mainly random drops, with a few pieces available through the currency vendors. This system, combined with the attunement process, ensures that folks are spending a lot of time practicing with WildStar’s combat before they get enough gear to move on to the next stage of progression.

The 3rd boss in FFXIV's new Alexander raid

A boss from FFXIV’s new Alexander raid

In contrast, FFXIV tends to funnel people into raid content fairly quickly once they reach the level cap. The currency you need to turn in for raid-ready gear could be easily farmed in a matter of days. One difference here is that in FFXIV, everything is locked behind the story quests, and the story forces you to experience almost all of the dungeons and “trials” (generally 8-person single-boss encounters). The designers of FFXIV can pretty much assume that if someone has reached level 60 they probably can handle early raid encounters, so they allow people to get to that content quickly. A change in the Heavensward expansion has also replaced loot in the first raid with tokens that can be redeemed for raid-level gear for any class.

Honestly I’m a fan of the token system. There is no feeling crappier than killing a difficult raid boss only to have it drop loot that nobody in your group has a use for. Tokens are less exciting, but mean that someone will be getting something useful almost every time you kill that boss. Still, even when random boss drops can feel frustrating or disappointing, WildStar has one thing that nobody else has. There is nothing I love more than seeing the loot explosion spray in beautiful purple (and sometimes orange) out of a dead boss for everyone to see!

Hero’s Journey!

This post is a bit about the Gracie behind the keyboard, so if you’re looking for WildStar fun you’ll have to stop by next week.

Still here? Great! This week Chestnut of Gamer Girl Confessions has been drumming up interest in doing the Hero’s Journey fitness challenge. Since she’s a fellow blogger, lover of WildStar and a member of my FFXIV free company I knew that she has excellent taste, so I decided to join with her. Since in real life there’s no way I could keep up with all the double jumping, telegraph dodging, and general running around that in-game Gracie does every day, I will be starting the challenge at the easiest setting. Hopefully by having a great group of friends going on this journey together I will be able to stay motivated and stick with it.

Are you interested in following along on the journey? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter! The more the merrier!

Raiding!

Remnants of Hope in Genetic Archives

Remnants of Hope in Genetic Archives. Please note my terrible hat.

After playing WildStar for a full year, I finally got myself attuned to the first raid, Genetic Archives. And by got myself attuned, I mean my loving guildies dragged me through the final few dungeons I needed to finish it. Before my hiatus, I had been moving ahead pretty quickly and trying to get into raiding as soon as I could. After I returned, though, I was much happier just doing dailies and contracts, and making some money. I felt rusty and slow, and didn’t want to need to be carried through things. As it turns out, those few weeks of going solo did help me ease back into the game enough to at least carry my own weight through the vet dungeons I needed. I had also jumped into a couple world boss groups, which meant as soon as I got to that point in the attunement chain I could immediately turn the quest back in. In short order I found myself around on a raid night with no excuses to keep me from being pulled into GA.

My first reaction was “this is very purple,” then “holy cow 20 people in a raid,” and “that’s a lot of telegraphs.” My raiding history has spanned several MMOs and raid sizes, but I always seem to prefer the smaller 8-10 person raids. As a healer it feels so much nicer to get to know the group and how they work together, and it feels like each player’s contribution matters more. For my first WildStar raid, however, I was extremely happy to be just one little DPS in a crowd. That way every time I got murdered it didn’t slow the group down too much! Logistically, recruiting and maintaining a 20+ person roster is much more of a nightmare for raid leading. I also think for a somewhat niche game like WildStar that asking guilds to maintain huge rosters to be able to raid is just not a great idea, which I guess is why they got rid of the 40-person size raids.

“But Gracie, we don’t care what you think about raid sizes, what were the encounters like?” Well, I was surprised at how…unsurprising they were. After getting to know the style of this game, and seeing the crazy vet dungeon encounters, I imagined all kinds of nightmarish possibilities for what the bosses would be like. Instead, the vet dungeons do a pretty great job of preparing you, and mechanics are similar to what you’d expect from any modern raid. There were definitely lots of telegraphs to dodge but everything seemed reasonable. I am certain it was helped by being in there with an established raid group that had cleared those bosses already.

I guess my assessment is: WildStar raiding is fun! If you are intimidated by the echos of “HARDCORE” and terrified of some sort of telegraph hell, don’t be! If you can make it through all the content for the attunement then you can definitely deal with what the first floor of GA will throw at you. What are you waiting for? Get to it cupcakes!

Zero to Hero

Every soul on Evindra helped kill this thing and then complained there was no loot.

Every soul on Evindra helped kill this thing and then loudly complained that there was no loot.

The past few weeks have been a bit of a WildStar whirlwind for me. I had been on a bit of a hiatus for the beginning of this year, playing some WoW and mainly Final Fantasy XIV instead. But like everyone else on my friends list, I heard the announcement that WildStar is headed to F2P this fall and came back to poke around again.

The timing of this was perfect since it matched up with the anniversary event. Hooray for free pets and toys and such! I even got to participate in the “special event,” pictured above. It was amazing to see so many players in one place together, but I will never be able to un-hear the sound of 500 medics all casting at once. I think my computer still has nightmares about it.

I’m really excited about the transition to F2P. From the look of it, Carbine is being pretty generous about what bits of the game will be “free.” Even though I haven’t been playing constantly, I have been subscribed via CREDD since launch, which means I hopefully have some extra goodies heading my way when the transition happens.

The best thing about the announcement is simply that it brought me back to this game that I love. I’m finally caught up on all the changes that were made while I was away, and invested in my character and the world again. I even got raid attuned, with a lot of help and peer pressure from my wonderful guild. I can’t wait to tell you all about what raiding is like in WildStar!