The MMO Grinder 2013 Year In Review
WARNING: DESPITE MMO GRINDER BEING A SHOW THAT DABBLES MOSTLY IN OBJECTIVE REPRESENTATIONS OF THE GAMES REVIEWED, THIS ENTIRE LIST FEATURES THE HOST’S OPINIONS AND SHOULD BE TREATED AS SUCH (I.E. “WORTHLESS”). READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED, AND STOP BEING STUPID. I’M ALLOWED TO LIKE AND HATE THINGS.
It’s that time again, time for my totally subjective list in no particular order, where I’ll be listing several of the games I’ve reviewed and events of the year, along with arbitrary “awards” that have no meaning other than a reason for me to talk about them more. Remember all games looked at BEFORE January of 2013 will not be counted, and Maple Story is STILL my highest viewed video. Click the “more” tag below, to start, and thus begin the new rage.
Biggest Surprise: Age of Wushu
I was NOT expecting to like this game… at all. As I said before, its almost everything I hate in MMOs rolled into one. The PK system, the shoddy translation, directionless gameplay, and overall confusing experience should have made me write off the game the minute I played it… but I found it an oddly calming experience. It’s a game I could just enjoy the atmosphere of, and almost feel relaxed when playing…as long as a gank wasn’t imminent. Even then, it as always comforting to know that jerks could be sent right to prison where they’d remain out of my hair for a good while. It’s also where a lot of this community formed from, and even though not many, if any, of us play it anymore, it was a pretty solid run for a game I’d practically written off before even playing it. It spawned plenty of community memes as well (DokiDesuChan, our transformation of the game’s title into an adjective, referring to bug ridden games as being “very Wushu”) so there’s plenty I have to thank about this interesting, and occasionally hilarious experience.
“Sorry. I am a spy.”
Biggest Disappointment: Firefall
Oh, Firefall. This dishonor could have easily gone to Neverwinter, but when I thought about it, and realized NW would get a few more mentions, I remembered my disappointment with Neverwinter wasn’t based mostly on the gameplay. In fact, the time I reviewed Firefall, it had finally convinced me it could be something great… and one patch after the review, it took that all away, and kept getting worse and worse. Red 5 has apparently never heard of the philosophy “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” perhaps even going one step further by thinking, “If it ain’t broke, fix it til’ it is.” System’s entire core mechanics would be completely overhauled… during random parts of the OPEN beta. Playing the game from one patch to the next was a crap shoot. Server stability would go from flawless to worthless in a matter of days. The game’s original entire POINT of being balanced PvP was completely abandoned in order to focus on the part it originally was shoehorning in, just because it wasn’t as popular as they wanted it to be right out of the gate.
Recently, the CEO Mark Kern was let go, or quit, or whatever, with absolutely NO mention on the Firefall home page of something that a LOT of people might find rather significant. Instead, all we get is a weird ranty open letter from Mark himself, on another website he writes for, filled with vague speech and more forced nerdy references than a recent WoW expansion. Hell, I’m inclined to think it wasn’t a very mutual decision. When Channel Awesome fired someone way back in 2009, despite not even remotely doing so on good terms, they STILL gave him a civil sendoff. This guy is in charge of the company, and not a word of his departure? That’s really suspicious. So either the terrible decisions were all his doing, and he’s been outvoted and ousted for it, or he left because correcting those terrible decisions were far out of his control anymore. Red 5 just comes across as a company with all of the ideas and none of the execution. Wish I could say it was the only one.
As mad as I can get at Neverwinter, I don’t once regret spending money on it. Firefall is seriously the only game I’ve ever experienced buyer’s remorse after spending money on it, and I spent money on Fantasy Tennis and DarkBlood, FFS.
Biggest Controversy: Scarlet Blade, and the Elin Rant
I know what you’re thinking. “The Elin Rant? Again?! That spells “TERA” you clever bastard.” No, you’re more likely thinking I’ve already covered my feelings on Scarlet Blade and the Elin previously. Well you’re right, so the links are there, and I’ll just go over this quickly.
Scarlet Blade is not a game I find offensive as I do utterly laughable and ridiculous. It’s a perfectly COMPETENT game that refuses to take itself seriously in any form, and for that I can almost appreciate it. I get why people would be upset by it, and I honestly think that anger is better placed toward the shameful marketing of Wartune and the like. Scarlet Blade is, at least, pretty damned upfront about its shamefulness and its target audience.
Again, I have to clarify, I have no problem with players who choose to play an Elin. You do realize that footage of the Elin I showed was a character I created, right? Sure, I made her look like a sheep version of Jay Leno, (Lenolin! God damn it, that’s hilarious.) but the point is you can play as the character and not be a creeper. That doesn’t mean that many other people who play as Elin aren’t doing it to be creepers though, and when they take such vehement disdain at things like the replacement of a visually 8 year olds thong, there’s clearly an agenda that’s far beyond simply wanting to play as a “cute” character. Some of the search terms that have lead to this site have definitely reflected this. I’ve made fun of the abundance of sexualized underage characters in MMOs plenty of times before. Only NOW is it somehow not ok? Sod off.
Biggest Annoyance: The FFXIV Relaunch
Two years ago, a game came out with such lofty expectations, it was crushed under the weight of its own hype, performed poorly to the standards of the players and company that launched it, and caused a large amount of people to get fired during the ordeal. Then this year it comes back, and everyone welcomes it with open arms. I’m sorry, what?
Yes, I know that they changed it from its original incarnation, but when you come right down to it, a game that scorned so many players returns, and not a single person can give me any legit reason why they like it, despite constantly touting it as “best MMO evar” and bombarding me with constant “OMG WHEN ARE U GOING 2 REVIEW DIS?!!?”
Short answer, never. Long answer, it’s not free, and even if it were to become free, I have no intention giving any attention to a title nigh universally played by Squeenix Sycophants. The sheer amount of ridiculous fanservice I saw from even a few minutes of gameplay when I watched a stream of it made me facepalm, in a simultaneous revelation of embarrassment and understanding. It’s a game Square made to ride the damned Final Fantasy popularity wave, reflecting a time when the titles weren’t a complete mess of nonsensical plots wrapped in over-crafted CGI cutscenes. A time only a few fans refuse to admit is long past.
I wasn’t able to get anywhere with those trying to convince me to look at this game, as again, I’m done paying subscriptions for anything, I didn’t like Square’s first FF MMO, and I still could never get an answer for why players liked it beyond the ever worthless “The graphics are good!” and “They improved the combat!” (again, not explaining how, why, or how it even worked in the first place.) In fact an innocuous comment that still gets inferred as inflammatory by the irrational that I left on Twitter (“Can’t wait until next month when everyone will stop talking about FFXIV”) got me such a swarm of staunch defenders spouting rage, and personal attacks, that I was actually forced to block two people for once. (Those people, by the way, have stopped talking about FFXIV.)
I thought we went over “New MMO Syndrome” and “First MMO Syndrome” before.
Game on the cusp of arrival; hype train builds steam.
Game is released; massive glowing gushing rants on social media.
Game has time to gel in their mind; people start to see the flaws and leave.
Lather, rinse, and bloody REPEAT.
To avoid offending those with delicate sensibilities, who are probably already off writing enraged comments at me, if you enjoy the game, great. I’m glad.
I’m not here telling you to hate it, but you shouldn’t be needing me to tell you I like it, in order to continue enjoying it. I’m not here to rationalize your purchases. I’m here to bring light to free to play games that normally aren’t at the top of the “OMG U HAV 2 PLAY DIS” list.
My most backlashed review: Dungeons and Dragons Online
Backlashed is a relative term here. But in the grand scheme of the year, the first review I’d done was the one that got the most flak. Again, it’s mostly due to the things I’ve mentioned about older MMOs. The set-in-stone playerbase doesn’t want to admit their game isn’t perfect, because in their minds, they are, and all critiques are inferred as indictments. Funnily enough, a lot of the things people were mad at, were things Skitch had said, or informed me about, who is an avid, long time player of this game, and was the reason I was even doing the review as soon as I was. However, I kept in mind two things: One, it was at least well enough received to be highlighted on a dedicated DDO podcast (where most of the raging fanboys game from, of course), and even a member of Turbine, the freaking DEVELOPER stopped by to comment on the video with praise, and I called their cash shop “an ugly mess”. As far as I’m concerned, I couldn’t care less what a bunch of sycophants feel about my review when the people who MADE it have no problem with it.
My most well-received review: RIFT
I place this here just so I’m not repeating titles too much, but otherwise, it’s because I was honestly the most worried about this review. RIFT was newly F2P, and had a pretty dedicated fanbase, and of course, the most worrying of all, it was one of the cases where making “WoW Clone” references was absolutely inevitable. This game was, and still is the definitive WoW clone MMO, and luckily, even the community was like, “Yeah, he’s right.” Maybe it’s because I avoided using phrases like “rip-off” (which is used all too commonly in gamer lingo) and made mention that despite using so many of WoW’s tropes, it refined them to a point that the game still felt like it’s own, and that’s honestly what’s more important. And just like WoW, it’s a game I’m too afraid to play for fear of it consuming my life again.
My most watched review (of this year): Neverwinter
This one JUST edged out DDO for the top spot, and I’m honestly not sure how. It’s certainly the most discussed review on this site, found its way to a few forums (*shudder*), but overall I didn’t think it’d be as popular as it was. Perhaps chalk it up to timing and interest, and even the Caturday fiasco probably had a few more people coming back to check it out. Regardless, I’ll have more to say about this in a few.
Best Community: Everquest 2
For once, a game centered around older MMO tropes, and filled with those types of players, wasn’t hell bent about being exclusionary for once. Questions got answered, and players did what they could to assist when available. Rarely did I see an argument beyond the few foolish enough to fall for obvious chat trolling, and it was an overall good community experience. Just too bad it was nigh impossible to talk to most of them. Of course, an out of game community sane enough to understand that I’m a newbie’s show is always welcome.
Worst Community: Neverwinter
I… wanted to like you Neverwinter. I was so expecting to like you. I polished off the Age of Wushu review with great anticipation and excitement for the next title I was playing… and my hopes were dashed upon the rocks. Yes, I predicted there would be strife between the two types of players this game would attract, but I didn’t expect it to be this bad, and given up upon so damned soon. NW’s mechanics are fun for a short while, until they become merely bearable, so when you’re accosted by several hundred chat screamers, offensive names, node thieves, PvP abandoners, and dungeon quitters, the tolerance levels for the game’s flaws plummet into nothingness. My Backtrack only served to remind just how absolutely unsalvageable this community is, and it’s disheartening to the point of madness. Yes, you can shut off chat channels and player names, but the asshattery doesn’t even remotely stop there. I’m still rather interested in starting a guild in this, and getting a group of regulars to play, but there’s no way I’m looking to the game’s general populace to accomplish anything, and I advise the exact same of others, unless of course, you happen to be as terrible as they are.
Runaway Success: Scarlet Blade April Fools Video
I was NOT expecting this reception for this video. Despite a decently strong showing on April Fools, the game’s audience hat a second massive wave (on Youtube) when the Tumblr blog “Escher Girls” (which showcases and mocks the ridiculous and overly sexualized proportions of women in various media) blogged the video, netting it a ton of reblogs.
Of course, my biggest complaint from people in that video was the “snobbish” voice I did throughout it, often complaining it was annoying. Yeah, that’s was the point. The game deserved nothing more than an endless mocking tone. Did they expect me to just stop doing the voice after a few lines? When I commit to horribleness, I freakin’ COMMIT.
On the down side, my consistent talking about Scarlet Blade ended up making it the most common result for those searching for info about the game… terrible, terrible info. You people are horrifying sometimes. I should compile a list of the search terms and place them on Tumblr sometime. They’ll go great there.
Best F2P conversion (for a former subscription game): TERA
“But, Jon, you hate TERA.” Yes, but for completely different reasons, and I give credit where credit is due. Just like NCSoft’s Aion, (which people are so convinced is where TERA jacked half of it’s ideas, the other portions being “Lineage” and “Blade and Soul”) TERA managed to gut it’s former subscription glory without sacrificing anything that made the game playable. The only downside I’d have is the lack of character slots (which I heard might have been raised. It’s not like I’m going to go personally find out), as any class driven game thrives on being able to play multiple characters, and limiting it to two, and charging for more is as jerkish as a loot-based game giving you next to no bag slots.
Speaking of… no “Worst F2P conversion” this year, even if some might want to give that “honor” to RIFT for the above mentioned reason, nothing has come close to last year’s winner’s asshattery.
Favorite Overall: Dragon’s Prophet
This was a surprise. The game is almost a 20GB installable joke. My Sidequest mocked the game for its alpha level issues in “Open Beta”, and the review itself still mocked the audacity to call itself a launched title with CB level issues still plaguing every corner. The game’s women can be created to look absolutely ridiculously proportioned, and there’s plenty of shameless skimpy outfits to go around.
But god damn it, if this game isn’t fun as shit.
I adore the combo system, which felt a lot more fleshed out from the “Open Beta”. It’s exactly the kind of system I was hoping TERA would be, but knew it wasn’t.
The classes are pretty standard, save for the Oracle, but playing each one grants more interesting combat opportunities, and not having a healer class makes so no one is ever shoehorned into playing “healbot.”
And you can RIDE DRAGONS. Yes, the “dragons” take on some “interesting” forms at time, but as does one of my favorite movies “How to Train Your Dragon”, which this game is practically an online version of, and thankfully not horrendously chat restrictive as a game based on that franchise would probably have to be. (SoE and Runewaker, get on licensing me a tameable “Night Fury” plox kthx.)
While quests aren’t anything too interesting to behold, they are plentiful to the point that you’ll feel like you’re at least making progress (unfortunately that loses a lot of steam once you reach the second continent). Enemies are challenging without being overwhelming, meaning that as long as you stay on your toes, you’ll be able to handle even some of the more difficult challenges.
This game combines so many MMO systems and tropes in a manner that gives something to a lot of people who play it, and even though it’s a bug filled monstrosity, I love the hell out of it, and can’t wait to get some more time playing it again.
With that I draw this MMO Grinder “season” to a close, and should be back January, providing what strain of the Plague I catch at MAGfest this year. Wish all us congoers luck.