Outer Worlds: Thoughts after finished the main quest

I beat Outer Worlds this weekend, finishing the main quest. I specifically state the main quest because I skipped all side quests from about the halfway point in the game. My character was level 24 at the end; the level cap is 30.

Overall Outer Worlds is a good to great RPG, though not without its flaws, and it says a lot about the game that I effectively rushed through the back end of it.

One observation I have is that Worlds might suffer a bit from The Witcher 3s “Red Baron” syndrome; in that the first area is really well done, but content after that is not nearly as entertaining. In Worlds, the first area, Emerald Vale, is incredibly tight in terms of theme and pacing. The big story points FEEL big, the side quests are mostly entertaining, and there are plenty of side secrets and areas that feel rewarding to discover. The enter area is also very well themed; everyone has an opinion on corporate ownership and control, and the whole setting of the game becomes clear.

After Emerald Vale, the tight corporate control theme is less obvious and exaggerated, which on Vale was a strength. It’s still there, and the main quest is (mostly) about that theme, but a lot of the side quests don’t factor into this theme at all, and the way some NPCs act you’d think the overbearing all-controlling corporations aren’t even a factor for them.

Difficulty was a problem almost the entire way through; the game on normal is just too easy, which makes caring about gear hard after about the mid-way point. I used the same assault rifle with the same mods for the last 50% of the game, and even when I did switch armor I honestly couldn’t tell the difference. That’s bad in a game so loaded with random loot, that has so many side quests and areas focused around gearing up. Another reason for my push to finish the game is I want to play it again on a higher difficulty, which hopefully fixes the issue of gear not being a focus. We will see.

Without spoiling the content of the main story, I will say I enjoyed it, and am very interested to see how it plays out if you pick ‘the other side’. There are some nice twists towards the end, and I’m sure I missed a lot of details by rushing to the finish.

Right now the high point of the game for me is the companion system. Not only did I enjoy all of the companions, but having two follow you around at all times results in a lot of fun interactions between them, and gives you two points of view at major moments.

Ultimately if you enjoy games like Fallout, Outer Worlds is worth your time.

Posted in Fallout 3, Random, Review | 3 Comments

The broken promise of the MMO genre

Could you imagine playing the same videogame for a decade? Ten years, one game?

If this question was asked in the 90s, it would seem silly. That would be at least two generations of consoles, and PC hardware was changing so fast back then that it just wouldn’t make sense.

Then in the late 90s Ultima Online came out, and with it the promise of a virtual world that was always changing, always expanding. UO wasn’t a game you picked up and played until you beat it, it was a service you signed up for and lived with. The promise was, in a nutshell, an RPG with a story that never ended.

Early on in MMO history, the late 90s and into the early 2000s, this promise was mostly upheld. UO was a virtual world, EQ1 was less so, but was ever-expanding. Asherons Call and Dark Age of Camelot came along and added new ideas, but were still ultimately true to that core concept of a ‘forever’ game.

At some point in the mid to late 2000s however, the MMO genre went from a service that provided ‘forever’ games, to titles you jumped into to complete the newest content, and then left once you consumed it. This doesn’t apply to every single game (Hi EVE), but that is generally the case, and especially in the bigger titles like WoW and FFXIV. In this regard, the MMO genre has failed or abandoned the promise of the ‘forever’ game.

To return to the original question of playing a single game for a decade, my answer is yes, yes I have. But those titles aren’t MMOs. I’ve been playing League of Legends for close to a decade now. It’s not an RPG, but it fulfills all of the core promises of being a forever game.

Most importantly, the core game that is LoL is the same today as it was ten years ago. You control a single champion on a team of five, in a PvP match vs another team, on the same map. The details have changed and been expanded, different side flavors have come and gone, but at the end of the day if you liked LoL back then, you can still play that game today. It’s why the eSports scene in LoL is so huge; because fans across a decade can relate to what they see. It’s like pro sports; the NBA or NFL tweak the rules, different players come and go, but the core game stays the same. If you liked the NFL 10 years ago, odds are pretty high you still like it today. As we have recently seen, if you liked WoW in 2005, you need to play Classic because Retail is a dramatically different game now.

Games like LoL, along with mobile games like Clash of Clans (close to 5 years for me), show that it is possible to entertain players for a long, long time, so long as you stay true to your core while providing quality updates to keep that core feeling fresh. The MMO genre got corrupted at some point :cough: WotLK :cough: into believing this wasn’t true, and that instead an MMO just needs to provide bursts of content rather than a sustained experience. This to me is the biggest reason for the decline of the genre, and is the root problem to solve to return MMOs to their original promise.

Players want and will support a ‘forever’ game, its just up to the devs to deliver and keep that promise.

Posted in Asheron's Call, Clash of Clans, Dark Age of Camelot, EQ2, EVE Online, Final Fantasy XIV, iPhone, League of Legends, Lord of the Rings Online, MMO design, Ultima Online, World of Warcraft | 7 Comments

Old Blizzard teaching New Blizzard the same old tricks

There are two ways to take the news that New Blizzard is finally learning from Old Blizzard about how to make an MMO.

On the one hand, maybe it gives you hope that New Blizzard can turn Retail around and make it into something worth playing for MMO players.

On the other hand, its infuriating to see New Blizzard be this dense about MMO design, to the point where only AFTER millions of players show them why Vanilla worked that they wake up and go “gee, maybe faceroll easy everything with autogrouping isn’t the solution for everything?”

Also, considering who the audience is that plays Retail today, I could see this design pivot backfiring; current Retail players WANT an sRPG that is faceroll easy and occasionally auto-groups them with silent bots that happen to actually be controlled by real people. That’s what they are paying/playing today, and while most of the overall playerbase has quit WoW due to this direction, the CURRENT playerbase presumably likes what the game is today. They don’t want Vanilla and all that it brings, as we saw when those sRPG players tried Classic and still went back to Retail for whatever reasons.

Of course the biggest mistake in all of this now is spending time/effort on Retail over Classic, but Shadowlands was already far-enough along that Blizzard might as well finish it and push it out the door. Hopefully it wraps up the amazing and cohesive plot of Retail, that version goes into maintenance mode, and Blizzard can focus on the real breadwinner of the franchise. (s/ but not really…)

Posted in MMO design, Rant, World of Warcraft | 8 Comments

The Outer Worlds: A few more thoughts

A few more thoughts on Outer Worlds as I continue to play it:

To start, I’m still very much enjoying it overall. It’s not flawless, but has far more good than bad, and even the bad isn’t ‘oh god this is terrible’ bad.

Dialog and voice acting are fantastic, for example. I truly enjoy talking to new characters, and the game has some of the best companions I’ve seen in a long time from a personality perspective. The way companions interact is also great, and may be one of the main drivers to play the game again, just to see how different companions react to different situations/choices.

Quests and their objectives are generally above-average, and some truly stand out. No spoilers, but so far most quests have been pretty logical, with some nice surprises worked in. Also so far everything has ‘fit’, without anything seeming to exist simply to be a quest objective. If you dig into the details of an area, most things are explained in a way that makes sense (for the setting).

The big downside so far has been the difficulty; the game is REALLY easy on normal. So easy that it feels like weapon/armor selection doesn’t matter, which stinks because weapon and armor customization options are very high. But if a less effective weapon still gets the job done, it doesn’t feel rewarding or smart to tinker with things and make sure you are playing optimally. I wonder if things would feel more ‘right’ on the hard setting. The highest setting changes a lot of the rules (the usual ‘survival’ stuff like needing to sleep and eat), and I’m not interested in that, but maybe just on hard things would feel a little more challenging.

Back to the good, I’ve yet to run into any technical issues such as crashing or broken quests. Considering the state a game like Fallout or Elder Scrolls ships in, that’s a big plus. To be fair Outer Worlds is far less… worldly than those games, but still.

Still baffled that you can play this game for a dollar via Game Pass, but it’s a hell of a value at that price!

Posted in Random | 7 Comments

Blizzard and J Allen Brack reverse course on the Hong Kong situation

Blizzard, and more importantly, J Allen Brack, have publicly apologized for incorrectly handling the Hong Kong / Blitzchung situation. If we are being 100% honest, this is about as much as Blizzard could have done at the very opening of Blizzcon. To lead off your biggest event with an apology is a big deal.

Also important was the acknowledgement that actions mean more than words, and Brack strongly insisted that players were free to protest and demonstrate at Blizzcon. This is exactly what they punished Blitzchung for, so their ACTION here is a complete reversal of that original decision. Short of outright telling China to go F itself, I don’t know what more they could have done to show they are correcting the mistake. That someone is being allowed to walk in as Winnie the Pooh is, in fact, that direct F You to China.

For my part I’ll resub to WoW Classic when that comes around (assuming Blizzard doesn’t screw it up by then, but that’s an issue for another day/post). This also means I’ll go back to blogging about the game. Hopefully the gaggle of children I lead in-game will now have their faith restored that daddy won’t abandon them and resume more actively playing as well.

Finally, for everyone who was doubtful that players protesting Blizzard over this incident wouldn’t matter, suck it. Some part of Brack saying sorry was due to a financial hit related to this incident, whether direct via cancelled subs or indirect in bad PR. Here the protesters and players won, and China lost. That’s a good thing, that goes far beyond just silly videogames.

Posted in Inquisition Clan, Mass Media, Site update, World of Warcraft | 19 Comments

Early Impressions: The Outer Worlds

I’ve started play The Outer Worlds via Microsoft Game Pass, because paying $1 to play a new release that I’m interested in seems like a decent deal. So decent, in fact, that I fully don’t understand how the economics of this works. I would have paid full price on Steam for Outer Worlds, but since the game is EGS exclusive for a year, that didn’t happen, and instead I paid Microsoft a buck, of which I’m guessing Obsidian (Outer World devs) get very little of. I’m sure they got some money from EGS to be exclusive, and I’m also guessing they got money from Microsoft to be on Game Pass, but are those two sources of revenue greater than actual sales of the game?

Note, even with the Game Pass option, I still would have bought Outer Worlds on Steam, as I’m guessing DLC is coming at some point, and perhaps it’s a game I want to replay at a later date. Plus I do value the tracking aspect of my Steam account, and I like seeing all my games in one place, enough so that I’ll ‘overpay’ when given the option. But here I didn’t have that option thanks to EGS, so a buck it is. Sorry but not Obsidian.

As for the game itself, I’m not very far in, but have seen enough to talk a bit about it.

First off performance of the game was initially odd. It defaulted to near-ultra on my PC, with a frame rate of around 80-90 according to Fraps (not being on Steam meant no FPS indicator via Steam, yay…), but the game felt like it was running below 30 FPS when moving about and in some combat situations. It was just sluggish and off. But then I capped the FPS to 60 in the game, turned everything up to Ultra, and it feels much better. I haven’t looked into whether G-sync was an issue here or just not having the framerate fluctuate solved my problem, but either way it was an odd first impression in terms of graphics/performance. That said on Ultra at 3440×1440 the game is gorgeous, and finally we have a Fallout game with good-looking character models!

And make no mistake, this is a Fallout game just without the IP and the setting (more on that shortly). The gun play, the overall gameplay style, the character progression; its all Fallout. And that’s a good thing! With Bethesda busying wasting the Fallout IP on F76, it’s nice of Obsidian to come along and give us Fallout: Alien Planet.

That said, I am a bit confused as to how to approach this setting from a roleplay perspective. You play someone who was in cryosleep for 70 years, in a setting where corporations own everything, including people. Is my character familiar with corporations having this much power? Am I supposed to play someone with the morality of a 2020 non-Trump human, or someone who understands but maybe doesn’t accept the setting of Outer Worlds? Early dialog options give you the chance to be unaware of how the setting works, but you can also pick options that show you do, so which is it? Maybe this clears up a bit further into the game, but right now it has me confused, especially because the first follower you get is also a bit ‘grey’ in this regard, while seemingly everyone else in town is 100% aware of how things are.

More later I’m sure as I dig deeper.

Posted in Fallout 3 | 6 Comments

WoW Classic: New Blizzard removes layers with New Blizzard execution

My motivation to blog about Classic is obviously down thanks to the whole Bliz/China issue, which sucks on multiple levels that I’ve already written about. Blogging today because New Blizzard continues to screw up Classic, which at this point is really just incredible when you think about it. We aren’t talking balance decisions, or game design, or anything else that might be ‘hard’ to do with an MMO. Nope. We are talking about maybe don’t bend the knee to China, and hey, could you manage to open the right number of servers in a way that doesn’t clusterfuck the whole thing? New Blizzard says ‘nope’ to both of those questions.

The latest development is that they are turning off layers on most servers. For those unaware, Classic servers today can hold many times more players than Vanilla back in 2004, and since we all have more powerful PCs today than in 2004, we can handle more characters on the screen. The game however isn’t designed to have 100 people in a zone, and you run into issues with mob spawns and all that. Layering was the quick fix for this; it created a copy of an area, so you were still on your server, but it felt like far fewer people were competing for the same mob/resource. Great right?

I’m not one of those people who feel layers bastardize the Classic experience. Yes the tech wasn’t around back in 2004, but for the most part having layers doesn’t change the gameplay feel of Classic. I say for the most part because it DOES impact things like world boss spawns, which were designed to only spawn once and only weekly. If you still have layers, you can kill the same world boss multiple times across multiple layers. That’s bad.

So in order for Blizzard to launch phase 2, which adds world bosses, all server must be down to a single layer. Well last night, Blizzard turned off the layers on Benediction, and not only was the server queue back, but the zones were absolutely swamped with people. We were trying to quest in Tanaris and it was a complete shitshow, with mobs being tagged the instant they spawned, and large roaming groups ganking because of the overloaded population. It was barely playable, and extremely unfun. From some reddit browsing, it seems that even more populated servers had it worse, with multi-hour queues and silly numbers of people in the capitals.

All of these issues are self-inflicted wounds by Blizzard. They did a terrible job initially with server counts, and then responded horribly after that, opening servers and enabling transfers too slow/late. Now they stack removing layers too early on top of it, with no notice or plan beyond “hopefully you are annoyed enough to transfer or quit”. It really is a clownshow.

Posted in MMO design, Rant, World of Warcraft | 7 Comments