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Category Archives: News and Updates

Off-Week Update (04/05/2014)

Well, it’s closer this time, at least… Yeah, it’s been a LONG while since I’ve done a full episode, but rest assured there’s work being done on the new one… and not all of it is by me. The overabundance of Sidequest and mini-sodes isn’t about to cease, though. Until then, let’s look at what’s new.

Sidequest: Tales Runner
There’s always something nice about seeing a once dead MMO make a comeback, even if you’re not personally a fan of it. (Don’t let that be inferred as me stating I don’t like it. I know how ya’ll be.) Tales Runner wins hands down in the uniqueness factor as I’ve not played a single game that controls or plays like it (“Mario Kart clone” is a bit of a stretch when you actually give it a hands-on shot. Trust me.)
The biggest issue I see forthcoming is the community. This game is attracting the painfully annoying crowd that feels you must play a certain way, mocks new players for not knowing maneuvers that aren’t covered in the tutorial, or prefer playing in the “no fun allowed, guys” modes and tracks, disabling item usage and playing on tracks that have little to no traps or obstacles. Those were honestly the most frustratingly boring matches I was in, as the minute someone gets ahead they STAY ahead, and there is physically no possible way to catch up to them if they don’t hit an obstacle themselves. While there was few instances of the Brick-Forcian “GOGOGOGOGOGOGO” crowd, evidence was there as most players entering a room would leave within several seconds if the match didn’t start.
It’s unquestionably attracting the infamous Rumble Fighter crowd, and this could potentially explode out of control as Rumble Fighter will be shutting down on May 23rd. Of course, maybe that means they’ll ALL be going away, but I really don’t see it happening like that. Friends-Lock this game if you don’t want a headache.

Sidequest: Landmark
World Builders, Minecraft clones, what have you, are becoming increasingly popular and common nowadays, and this is probably the first instance of this kind of game not being utilized entirely by the indie scene. Instead with SoE at the helm, we might actually get the first true intended hybrid of an MMO and a World-Builder. (Because the combat system in Minecraft is absolutely terrible, and every mod built around using it, subsequently so.) As of now, it’s pretty much a very slow creative mode sandbox… but with some serious creativity potential.
The main debate is how this game ties into Everquest… if at all. As I mentioned before, this game was called “Everquest Next: Landmark” before dropping the EQ title. It is technically part of the Everquest Series, but as explained by the devs,  the freedom to create would break immersion faster than a lack of fall damage when your human decked out in fantasy gear walks past a mech station and a McDonalds. Still, the talk of how Landmark will, if at all, tie into EQN is a bigger topic for debate than whether or not Elsword has anything to do with Grand Chase.
I think there was some confusion when it came to what I was saying when I asked about interest in revisiting the title. In more than one place I got comments similar to “I don’t watch videos of other people playing video games” or “I love those Minecraft LPs!” which I’m guessing means they outright assumed I’d be turning Landmark into some sort of ongoing “LP” series. I would not. I honestly not even remotely sure how people could jump to such a bold conclusion, when the exact quote asked if people would want to “see more videos through additional Sidequests with every major update.” That’s all I mean. Combat system gets implemented? New Sidequest. Progression system revamped? New Sidequest. TBH, I don’t understand how people can just watch focusless videos of people playing Minecraft either.

(April Fools) Browser-Based: FlapMMO
LOL. Yes. This is a real thing and I put it together in about an hour. It was actually a backup plan, as my original few plans, once again didn’t go the way I wanted them to. I’d known about the game for a while, but it was suggested I do it as an April Fools joke. I figured it wouldn’t be all that hard to do. I’d tell you my alternate ideas, but that would spoil potential things for next year.
I also make it my personal rule not to make AFD jokes blatant trickery (At least two other Channel Producers had titles and titlecards for things that their audiences desperately wanted to see them review, to instead bait-and-switch with something else.) I piss off enough people just doing this show, and I’d rather make people laugh on AFD, than get their hopes up and shatter them. Maybe I’m doing it wrong…
Yes, there was a lot of truth and personal feelings in that rather harsh ending to the video. I guess, unlike fad memes of the past, this one directly annoys me due to the fact that it was simply a big ball of nothing made out to be the greatest game in the world. I do not find Flappy Bird to be addicting, fun, or even worthy of more than a passing glance. It’s an endless runner, a boring one at that, that just got lucky to be exploiting three of humanity’s worst traits. Celebrity recognition, “Just one more” addiction, and “Forbidden Fruit” syndrome when, as stated, the creator’s own crippling fear of success caused him to pull the title from the market. It’s not hard; it’s based entirely on rhythmic button presses, timing, and endurance. The only challenge comes from how long you can play it before you want to stab yourself in the eye. All that bragging about Flappy Bird high scores is going to feel as silly as telling people you they were in a Harlem Shake video, naming their guild “Gangnam Style”, or asking people what the fox says in about a few months time.
Saddest thing? When looking for an image for that video’s title card, you know what one of the first results said? “FlapMMO Hacks”
Really? Really?! WHY?! For WHAT?!

My Patreon Page
So this is finally a thing I’ve been battling with myself to put up, due to the endless stigma behind this kind of thing. However, I’ve felt it a slight necessity for quite a while now. Instability is a huge part of all of this. I’m at the whim of whatever CPM and ad campaign is running, whatever totalitarian system Youtube is unleashing upon its users that week, whether or not Blip wants to get bought out by yet another company and break its servers for the 15th time that month. I’ve also had plenty of people ask me if I accept donations, due to the fact they prefer to run adblock. Patreon seemed like the best compromise.
Hopefully those willing to contribute find the goals clear and concise, and if you have any questions on how it works, feel free to let me know. However, if you don’t wish to, or cannot, one thing I don’t need to hear is “Sorry, I can’t donate because…” Honestly, I really don’t need to know that. If you can’t, or even don’t want to, it’s your prerogative. At no point do I want people to feel they have to do this, so you don’t owe me anything. Not even an apology. This is merely an option for those who wish to do this. Nothing more.
One of my major goals with this? Getting the community much more involved and far more rewarded. Not every MMO should be solo’d after all.

In the meantime before the next full episode, we’ve been running steadily in The Secret World, running SMITE Nights over on my stream and are planning for an upcoming 1v1 tournament. Details on that in the forums and an official post will be made soon.

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Off-Week Update (03-19-2014)

You know, for someone who enjoys the playstyle and aesthetic of Ice Magic, and genuinely enjoyed the movie “Frozen” I really can’t stand winter. Sure, it was fine when I was a chubby kid, but as a more selectively chubby adult, everything about it gets to me, and I tend to be a mental wreck around this time of the year. However, with Spring Forward finally in effect, I’m ready to burrow out of the ground, notice it’s snowing again in fucking MARCH and immediately retreat to my hole in the ground to offer you these long overdue updates. How far back to I have to go? January?! Aw, crap.

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Browser-Based: City of Steam
Talk about a bit of a SNAFU. I was once again hung up on the next episode I would be doing, and remembering my contact from Mechanist games, and the fact City of Steam exists, I decided to do that game as my next full episode…. Until I got to talking to previously said contact, and he unintentionally convinced me to ignore the game forever.
That was, until I was contacted by another publisher that was also publishing City of Steam. While both games are more or less identical, it was really the story behind Mechanist and what had happened to CoS that made me decide to at least give the Gamerocks version a shot. While it still suffers from the same issues, it’s better than what I expected, hearing all that I heard, but it’s not really much to hold anyone’s attention. Also Mechanist’s version is on Steam now. So there’s a thing.

Sidequest: Hearthstone
Hearthstone is certainly a thing. Pretty much a dumbed down Magic: the Gathering, yet here I am finding out that it literally IS a dumbed down Magic: the Gathering, taking a specific rule/cardset called “Vanguard” and painting WoW characters all over it. It’s still a fun, flashy game, not that I play it all that much as I seriously have some of the worst luck in the world, and any game where “random chance” is an element is destined to find some way to screw me over. Blizzard sure makes it’s clones, flashy though, huh? Now only to see how much flashy polish they are putting into their DotA clone…

Aura Kingdom (Episode 53)
SUPAH KAWAII! This was the community’s “go-to” game for a good while, but the nature of the “well, we should probably put more quests here, ah screw it, they can grind” gameplay of the later levels unfortunately had this game drop off or collective radars for a good while. Right now it seems to be in the same vein as “Dragon’s Prophet” as a game I “really want to play, but have other things I could be doing” title. They’ve since moved on to other things… you’ll see what those other things are sometime soonish.
If there was ever a missed joke opportunity, it would have been discovering the “Demon’s Heart” quest right after making the video, which would have been a HELL of a lot better thing to mention before doing the “demonic supah kawaii” cutaway joke than what I did use. Essentially, you’re sent into a mine to discover what happened to a child’s father. Upon entering the missions you quickly find out that everyone in the mine has been slaughtered, their ghosts not out to attack anyone they see, and you find out that the child’s father came across a gemstone that possessed him, causing him to kill his coworkers while they begged for their life, culminating with a final battle against the miner, who loses his original body and transforms into a demon you’re now forced to kill to later break the news to the child that you just murdered her father. So yeah. Supah kawaii. I wasn’t joking about this game being dark.

Loadout (Episode 54)
I figured this for another game that would be simple to complete, and yeah, it kinda was… just a bit annoyed that something calling itself “launch” is once again, so oddly incomplete. This was also another “flash in the pan” obsession for a lot of people, all willing to trumpet the amazingness of the game, and immediately stop talking about it by the next week. I fault that to the aforementioned incompleteness. This was the one time I WANTED multiple people to play alongside in game, only to find out there’s no custom matches or clan system. Seems really odd. I still enjoy the title, but I don’t play it much.

Sidequest: Strife
I always tend to look at MOBAs with a certain air of dread, knowing the idiotic self-important players it tends to attract, but I can’t say I wasn’t looking forward to trying out Strife, simply because the game’s overall aim was to remove the mechanics that would cause such… well… strife. They had to have chosen that name on purpose.
However, rest assured that douchery will be alive and well, as I don’t think S2 entirely understands what makes MOBA players act the way they do, and despite my having covered this in many a previous post, I can tell you right now it has NOTHING to do with specific gameplay mechanics. This game very much feels like “DotA… For Kids!” what with the cute pets, simplistic item system, colorful cast, and oddest of all, story focus. The playstyle isn’t all that far removed from the standard formula. There’s no “new map” in the vein of Dawngate, no “new perspective” in the vein of SMITE. Nothing feels all that different, so their ONLY hope to get this game to stick out from the others is to actually succeed in weeding out the toxicity. I just don’t foresee that happening. Still, I did find the game charming enough to want to keep playing it.
And before you ask, yes, I know about S2, Maliken, the HoN tirade, and all the other controversy surrounding them. No need for me to comment on here about it, save for the pure irony of it all.

Sidequest: The Elder Scrolls Online
Ah yes, the long awaited, mostly ignored TESO video. I couldn’t help but wonder about this game after hearing all the crap it went under, from the original days of it being a near literal “SWTOR” style WoW clone, to its complete overhaul (You are aware the game was supposed to launch LAST year, right), and of course the absurdly officious NDA (second only to Wildstar’s) that had players forcibly tight-lipped until only a couple months near its launch. TESO quickly went from being the MMO darling, to the “Oh? Who cares.” title in the upcoming release tide. Hell, at least Guild Wars 2 made it to LAUNCH before that happened.
Since I had no experience with the franchise, and henceforth, only real selling point to this game, I gave a key to MegaGWolf, and after finding out Nash was also in the beta, figured I’d ask him if he had anything to say… Boy did he.
This Sidequest, for those who may have missed it, is over 13 minutes long, the longest SQ to date, simply because I invited Nash and MegaGWolf to offer insight. I wasn’t expecting much more than a “conclusion” paragraph, similar to the tiny recap I give at the end of an MMO Grinder episode, but what Nash gave me was an over 5 minute, extremely well articulated stream of consciousness, many of which covered things I would have mentioned myself. You might notice the actual portion of me talking, about 6 minutes of the video, didn’t go into the standard SQ details I would normally cover, and that’s because after hearing Nash’s take, I definitely didn’t want to trample the points to death, so I inserted his audio, removing anything I would have said in repeat, and elaborating on things he didn’t cover. It’s worth a listen for that alone, even if you have no interest in the game, and it sums up the general consensus of a LOT of Elder Scrolls players, from what I’ve seen.

Browser-Based: Dino Storm
This was done entirely on a whim. We briefly touched upon it in the now defunct “MMO Underground” back when it was in an early beta, but it wasn’t until until checking to see if my Fiesta password still worked (now that it’s under control of Gamigo, not Outspark) which, by the way, it did, did I notice this game. Thinking to myself, “Oh, why the hell not?” I gave it a quick run and figured it was worth getting a video out for. City of Steam may be the “meatier” of the two Browser-Based titles I did this update, but there’s a lot more goofy imagination in Dino Storm (especially since the imagination of CoS got forcibly removed from its publishing deal.)

Sidequest: The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot
I don’t think anyone watched this as much as used it as a platform to complain about the game itself. Almost no comments about the game on this site, and half of TGWTG was people just complaining about the game in general. As I stated in reply to someone there, I get why people wouldn’t like this. This is the only game in recent memory since my seasonal mood change to force me to scream at my monitor. It’s ridiculiously frustrating the kind of “I WIN: bullshit combos that other players can force upon you, and knowing that, initially, there was a limit to the amount of traps and enemies you could place per room, makes we wonder what swayed the decision so damned much. This seems like a step backward. I can’t count the number of times I enter a castle, wander through empty rooms for about 30 seconds to a minute before stumbling across a trap generator tile and think to myself “Well, here we go”. I do this because I know my next move will involve me being flung via springboard into a pile of fire bomb traps, as I then get dogpiled by to 80+ enemies they’ve wedged into the final room. There’s no FUN in it. Sure, you’re castle defenses are pretty much rock solid, but you’ve created a miserable experience for every other player, and unfortunately, the game is pretty much LETTING you. In the grand scheme, your castle being raided is a pretty minor thing, as it depends more if they can get all three stars to do any real damage to your crowns and resources, and of course you get shielded for an absurdly long amount of time with each successful unshielded castle run. Kill an enemy with your castle? You’ll barely notice the life force bonus you get. It’s really not worth boosting up your castle to Fort Knox levels of defense, and even if that seems to be the entire point, it’s not very fun to play. Here’s to hoping someone comes to their senses about that.

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In addition to winter wreaking havoc on my mood and drive to do anything (this happens every year, trust me), as many of us in this circle of the internet might have heard, we lost someone fairly close to us near the end of January.
Justin “JewWario” Carmical has appear in more than a few occasions on this site. He was influential in getting this show off the ground, and anyone who was familiar with both his and my work would probably notice I adopted a lot of his style in my videos. (I’ll admit right now that Play, Pay, Pass is a near complete copy of his categorized conclusions at the end of each You Can Play This video)
While he didn’t come up with the name “MMO Grinder” he was more than influential in the decision (explained in the F.A.Q. section) and was unquestionably the biggest support I had when starting out.
His tips about the show’s length and pacing came prophetically true, informing me that the fifth episode of my show would set the pace for the rest of the series. (That video is 25 minutes long… the average length of an MMO Grinder episode.)
He listed my videos on his site when BT still had yet to pick me up. Introduced me to Angry Bananas as another place I could branch my audience out to, and was the first to congratulate me when I was finally taken aboard TGWTG.
He was a semi-regular in my Pangya streams, having a vested interest in the game due to his familiarity with the series as “Super Swing Golf”. Hell, it was his interest in the game that led to me meeting MegaGWolf.
I mention all these things because you’ll perhaps understand why I have yet to come to grips with the fact he took his own life. It doesn’t seem real to me. I still, in some manner, haven’t accepted this as a fact. It doesn’t make any sense. I can’t even get mad at every half-assed ignorant conspiracy theory concocted by the ever delusional anti-TGWTG fanbase, because the ridiculous shit they’ve said makes a hell of a lot more sense than the truth. But the truth is still the truth. He’s gone. Driven to suicide by something none of us saw.
Sure, our hindsight is 20/20. We can recall conversations we had and pick out “all the signs that were there”. The vacant expressions we swore we saw. The aloof nature of the conversations we held, and answers we received… but no. We didn’t see it coming, and we can’t pretend like we did… or could have done anything about it. I remember the last time I saw him, not two week prior, leaving that Peri-Peri chicken restaurant “Nando’s” during the last day of MAGfest as he stated to me “We’ll play Pangya sometime when we get back.” That day never came.
So yeah. It still hurts, and I’m still not fully accepting of this. It’s made my mood, my drive, and my motivation far more sour than winter usually brings to me. So if you hear me sound angrier than usual… if I become aloof during a conversation, and just seem angry at the world all the time… This is a big part of it. I swore I wasn’t going to make a big post about it here, that it would detract from the purpose of the site, and I couldn’t help but feel that so many of those posts being made about him were just “jumping on the bandwagon”… saying goodbye to someone they hardly knew or spoke to. But I forget that to a lot of people, Justin meant just as much, regardless of how “close” they were. Part of this reluctance to post anything was my inability to deal with the truth, and being completely unable to accept the reality… or compose my thoughts in a coherent manner. I still can’t. So instead, I’ll put it here in this nondescript update.
R.I.P Justin. You meant a lot more to this show and to me than you probably thought you did.

As for upcoming projects, understand my thoughts are still scrambled and in recovery, but there are things being worked on. Streams are still happening, I’m playing a hell of a lot more of The Secret World than I used to, the Raidcall and forum community are going strong, and SMITE NIGHT is still (usually) a weekly event (Sundays at 6pm-9pm EST). I did get somewhat sick this week to put another damper on my schedule, but looking to at least keep up appearances. I’m debating on setting up a Patreon and seeing on how I can modify my schedule to better serve and involve this site’s community, and offer up more side content. Keep an eye out for upcoming posts about that. Until then, you know where to find me.

Off-Week Update (01-21-2014)

I managed to survive MAGFest WITHOUT getting sick? How the HELL did that happen?!

Unfortunately with the polar vortex (yay buzzwords),  botched deliveries, and several dental appointments screwing up  my schedules, my output has been all over the place. Recaps first? Alright, on to the recaps.

Backtrack: Neverwinter
Yes the Backtrack Block episode that wasn’t in the Backtrack Block. This was due to, as I stated, the new class being launched all but a few days into December. I wanted to make sure I got that portion covered, because it’s one thing for a game to update after I do a Backtrack, and it’s another for them to update THAT MUCH. I am still very much saddened by the state of the community. I was figuring that it was going to be a 50/50 endless bickerfight between the roleplayers and the goofballs, but the server merger, lack of RP support from Cryptic, and game’s relative proactive disdain from D&D fans meant the jerks got a hold of this one out of the gate and never let it go. When I say this game has a worse community then Maple Story, I mean it. There are places for reprieve in Maple, but in NW, there is NO escape. Yes, muting the chat is a solution. The point is, IT SHOULDN’T HAVE TO BE ONE.

Sidequest: Dawngate
This was sprang up on me from a viewer (Tebble, to be specific) who told me he had a code for the game if I was willing to check it out. I was severely lacking in Sidequest material, considering TESO is STILL under NDA, and Wildstar is under “special snowflake” limited NDA exceptions, with me being unable to get an answer from Carbine’s press contacts. Regardless, Tebble claimed to have a code, but it wasn’t working, but I didn’t have much trouble applying for a key, and Waystone is giving them out like candy. It really wasn’t a tough MOBA to grasp, and everything I stated in the video applies: It’s competent, has interesting ideas, but it’s hardly groundbreaking. But again, there’s something REALLY weird about seeing wannabe “Major League Gamers” and meta-lovin’ min-maxers shouting at people in a freaking BETA-WEEKEND ONLY CLOSED BETA. For a game with NO TUTORIAL. A game that could completely change the way it plays in the very next patch.
I mentioned I had a theory as to why that is, and while I might eventually write a massive rant on it, it’s pretty much summed up thusly:
MOBA players are nerds being forced to be jocks.
What I mean by this, without everyone preemptively getting mad I used the term “nerds”, despite that being inevitable, is that we have a group of people who normally are not very socially adept, being placed into an activity that requires them to be so. Most “nerds” are introverts. Myself included. We expect things to work a certain way, and tend to rely on ourselves more than others.
In sports, you must play as a team. You must know your team, and your opponents, strengths and weakness, and communicate your strategy in a manner that best benefits everyone.
Us nerds tend to play games where we are the ONLY hero. Sure in MMOs, you have other who help you, but who are the NPCs generally speaking to? Who are they thanking for helping them? We’ve been playing single player games for so long that we are used to being the SOLE reason the world has been saved. If you lose, it’s failure. We’ve failed ourselves, and those who were depending on us to help them. We don’t want to lose. Losing means “the end”.
In sports, SOMEONE has to lose. It’s the nature of the games. There can not be “two winners” in every match. You can play to the best of your ability, do everything as you always do, and STILL end up losing. (Another reason I hate the concept of “the meta” but that’s a separate rant.)
I’ve seen sports coaches talk to their teams after a losing match. They (usually) don’t belittle their players. They understand the team that beat them was just better that day. They talk up all the good things they did, and identify what they did wrong so they improve themselves. They don’t mock a specific player claiming “it was all their fault”, they don’t call the other team names, and they sure as shit don’t get endlessly mocked by the winning team. Being a “sore winner” is just as looked down upon as being a “sore loser.”
Since nerds don’t understand this, they tend to see their teammates as “tools” or obstacles. Perhaps even NPCs. They are other people who must do everything they tell them to do. I understand that there needs to be a “team leader”, and someone to coordinate these moves and let their team know what should and should not be done. The “quarterback” if you will.
The biggest issue is that nearly EVERYONE on the team thinks they are the quarterback. The want to be in charge. They want the glory. They want the satisfaction, and if they don’t get it, well it’s clearly the fault of everyone BUT themselves.
You cannot ALL be the quarterback. For every touchdown pass thrown, there was someone to catch it. For every touchdown ran in by the QB, there were several people blocking others in order to keep his path clear.  Just like you were able to finish off that carry because the tank kept the assassin off of you for long enough, or the healer kept you at just high enough HP to outlast your opponent.
Team games require people to play roles, and not every role gets the glory. Supports and tanks don’t get to ride the top of the scoreboard, but without them, you’re not nearly as capable as you think you are. To quote the Rucks/Bastion announcer pack from DOTA2, “Nobody likes to play support, but everybody likes to win.”
Of course, losing is still something that’s going to happen, and it’s not always someone or something else’s fault. The character isn’t “OP”, “the lag” wasn’t messing up your game (or as often as it tends to get blamed), your team doesn’t “suck except for you”. Sometimes you are just bested. Accept that. Move on to the next match, and don’t be such a pile of shit over it.

Heva Clonia (Episode 52)
I wanted to like this game more than I did. I was thinking it might be a World MMO with a more robust and involved pet system, as the trailer seemed to illustrate. Instead, it was a fairly no frills beat-em-up styled game with no real challenge. There’s amusement to be had, but it wears thin pretty fast. Scary that I’ve had more to talk about from my mini-sodes than my main ones.

Browser-Based: Kart Rider Dash
I was surprised this game was still around when I found it. It’s not exactly like it was as a client download, but still a fairly solid racer for what it is… This was also the last video of mine to appear on Blistered Thumbs (good thing since people were using the comment section of that video to complain about BT before the shutdown announcement), with the remainder, including this episode, to appear directly on TGWTG. While I know most people reading this tend to leave comments here, if they leave comments at all, I wouldn’t mind receiving comments on there as well, mostly to show there are people actually watching it on there. I have yet to put a full episode up there yet, so we’ll see how this goes.

Sidequest: Aerena
This game snuck up on me, brought to my attention my MegaGWolf, who asked me if I was interested in looking at the title. I tend to like turn-based strategy games, despite being pretty terrible at Advance Wars (Prefer Sami in AW, AW2, AW:DS, Lin in AW:DoR) and never properly finishing any of the Fire Emblem games. I have to say that the developers are very cool, as well. I streamed a few matches a while back, only to find out the player I was against (and unable to beat) was one of the developers, and we proceeded to chat for a while. Another developer commented on the video itself, offering up a way to obtain a key for those interested in trying the game out. If even remotely interested, I highly suggest checking it out.

Recaps over, time for some quick news.

I’ve been working more and more on forming a community, and the community board at mmogrinder.boards.net is taking off quite well. We are up to 100 members already (Far more than I was expecting for a board we originally made for Age of Wushu.) We are also getting more regular streams going, including SMITE NIGHT on Sundays, and some random Secret World excursions. Feel free to join up if you’re interested. There’s plans for other games going within the community as well, and SMITE is pretty active in the board and Raidcall.

My schedule is still in a bit of a shambles. After talking with a former developer of another game I was interested in doing, and finding out the direction it went in, I decided to downgrade it from full ep to Browser-based. It should come out sometime this week. As for the new full ep, I decided to upgrade something I was going to do as a Sidequest but as I mentioned elsewhere, Aeria’s idea of a Closed Beta last all of a week and is full access. Since the game in question is on open beta now, it qualifies. Hoping that gets done before the end of the month. If only I could stop making dental appointments.

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.

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2013 Viewership Survey results

Well, it’s time to finally report the results of this survey I set up back in June of this year. While I was hoping to get the results out MUCH sooner, certain hiccups with the company I was using kept me debating if I wanted to fork over the cash to get all of the results instead of just the first 100 responders. While many have said that 100 responses were a “good pool of results” I can’t help but wonder how this would have been affected had I had access to the nearly 1000 people who responded. Unfortunately, the pricing system for this survey company means I’d have to pay for an entire YEAR’S worth of subscription time to get the results from this one survey. That turns out to be 300 dollars for the BASIC features. The Secret World’s Lifetime Subscription costs less.

So without further ado, let’s work with what I got, and respond as to WHY I asked you these questions.
SurveyTitle
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The Backtrack Block is over… or is it?

When I decided to take my short “break” I didn’t realize how much of a “not actually a break” I’d be taking. With 6 Backtracks out for the whole of November, I was 2 under my desired goal, 2 over my bare minimum, and the schedule was… everywhere. For that I apologize.

For those of you who missed it, and yet for some reason are reading this, despite the videos being like… right underneath this post…

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Rise of the Phoenix (City of Titans, the successor of City of Heroes)

For those of you not in the know, (and judging by the amount of messages I get about this on Twitter, it’s a few) The project that went by many names, that had started with the Save City of Heroes petition, morphed into “Plan Z” when attempts to secure a City of Heroes private server fell through, (at least that’s what I believe happened judging by the amount of “city of heroes private server” searches that led to this site.) and finally was reborn as the Phoenix Project, a means of creating a new IP based heavily on the mechanics, playstyle, and environment of City of Heroes, dubbed “City of Titans.” Said project is now running full steam on Kickstarter.

(I’ve also found out that Plan Z and The Phoenix Project were two names for the same ideal that ended up splitting off into two different teams, Phoenix Project (Missing Worlds Media) becoming “City of Titans” and Plan Z becoming “Heroes and Villians”. No idea why there was a split between the community, but this article is about City of Titans. Those interested in the other game can check out the Heroes and Villains site by clicking here : heroes-and-villains.com)

I’m not here to tell you that you need to donate to “make City of Titans a reality” because that was covered within the first week. The game has met its initial goal, and is now fully ready to reach the market… but since reaching initial goal, donations had slowed incredibly, which is a pity now that we’ve got some stretch goals that make this far more interesting.

The team developing this title, affectionately dubbing themselves, “Missing Worlds Media”, have a lot of interesting ideas under their hat, and I’d love to see how they’re going to be fully developed, such as the idea to allow multiple approaches to “instance dungeons”, making instances more logical and realistic to navigate, offering individual storylines and much more. You can tell this is a game made by fans that are not only trying to rebirth the game they lost, but bring about fantastic and interesting ideas to light, and I have major respect to that.

I know a lot of people like to trumpet the supposed merits of games recently released, or soon to be released, despite those games being obvious IP-based WoW clone cash-ins. While I await their inevitable “3 month cycle” of eventual abandonment of, and disappointment in, those titles, City of Titans is a title seriously worth getting excited over… provided they can pull half these ideas off.

My concern?

Being an upstart comes with a lot of ideas, and sudden realization those ideas aren’t as easily realized.
I read somewhere that MMOs are one of the hardest games to program, similar to playing Jenga. Take out one problem, and you potentially create a whole slew of new ones. Add some more content, and the balance shifts wildly potentially causing the whole thing to come crashing down. This is clearly a development team with a LOT of fascinating ideas, but sharing those ideas without being certain they can implement them will bring about Molyneuxian levels of hype, and a ton of players feeling betrayed because of “broken promises”. It’s probably best to illustrate your points as “Here’s what we WANT to do. Here’s what we CAN do, and here’s what we’ve already done.” Otherwise you’ll have a ton of media sources leaving out the important bits and talking about all the things your game will have to offer when you’re not entirely sure even a quarter of them will make it in. I’m not sure how far in development things are, but this would really be better served to remember the importance of “Show, don’t tell.” and especially “Entice, don’t promise.”

The game is looking to go the “buy-to-play” route, with a subscription option, and cash shop, which I honestly think is the smartest move in this market. I honestly think the sub-only market is dead, and despite people wanting to cling to games like FFXIV and WoW as “proof” the model is viable, it’s pretty much a death knell for an upstart title and developer. Look at everything that happened to “The Secret World” when it hit the market with an initial purchase, a subscription, AND a cash shop. People saw it as a company being “greedy” and not just someone trying to get an initial turn in their investment. (MMOs are NOT cheap. Look at EA’s constant whining about how much SWTOR cost them if you need proof.) With as many people that were happily subbed to City of Heroes, I don’t think City of Titans will have any trouble making back their investment. Time will tell.

While initial stretch goals were kinda…. pointless (basically 2 app ports of the avatar builder), a ton more have been recently added, and while much more enticing, like the addition of more skins, costumes, and powers available at the start, the money isn’t pouring in nearly as fast as it was to make initial goal. I really REALLY don’t see this reaching it’s ultimate stretch goal of 2 million, which would expand the game’s starting content by 10 levels, and add more starting zones, but one could hope.

If you want to get in on the ground floor, and see what perks are available to donors, or at the least go check out what’s in store for this new game based on an old classic, visit the Kickstarter by clicking here, or if you’re unable to click links for some reason, search Kickstarter for City of Titans, or “The Phoenix Project”, or visit the link here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/missingworldsmedia/the-phoenix-project-city-of-titans
It’s up for nearly another 2 weeks at the time of this post, and while I’m hardly a massive draw to anything, I’m hoping I can at least give this game a slight “signal boost.”

Just… if I end up reviewing this game when it’s released… could ya’ll maybe.. ya know… chill the hell out?

Off-Week Update (10-12-2013)

This is going to be another one of those updates where I forget to talk about something I would have wanted to go on about, so let’s get to forgetting.

The continued descent of FireFail:
I hate liking games so seemingly content on destroying themselves. Red 5 continues to toss out baffling decision after baffling decision, the current “bwuh” of the month being their decision to completely remove… REMOVE PvP from the game until they decide it’s time to focus on it.
One of my favorite quotes in the post is this:
“Our last big attempt was a pure PvP eSports mode, Jetball. While very fun, its a high skill game and doesn’t attract many of our players (less than 3% PvP in Firefall).”
So yes, rather than let their players warm up to the mode, or listen to player feedback about what they’d do to improve it, they decided to take their Jetball and go home. Considering, as I said in the video, the game was originally designed to be PvP ONLY, and this idea of an open-world co-op shooter was tacked on later, this is one of the most confusing decisions I’ve seen out of a developer yet.
Yet, of course, my initial mention of the instanced PvP got a small flood of comments telling me I was “wrong” because the game is “going to be” a purely open-world PvP system, which, mind you, would be the worst idea ever for this game. These comments also made sure to repeatedly insist on this fact, providing no links, references, or sources, but claiming they, of course, KNEW the truth. (Said comments were on Youtube mostly, because… you know.. where else?”)
Speaking of, there are a lot of people claiming I was off about the community, and they’ve never seen that side of people in the game. Maybe your server bracket is really lax, or perhaps you just don’t pay as much attention to it, but that doesn’t mean it’s NOT happening. I’m not the only one who felt this way about the people playing this. Would you rather I relay my most recent story about a player trolling the chat in Copacabana, claiming his frame/class to be better than another, then refusing to use the stock arsenal of that frame when dueling people, because he didn’t want to play on an even field? My theory is thus, if you don’t think there’s a problem with the general community, it’s because you don’t notice, don’t care, are extremely lucky, or… you are that side of the community. Do you honestly think that bullies realize they’re bullies? They’ve already made up dozens of excuses in their heads to justify their behavior, and they don’t see what they’re doing as “wrong.” You’d be surprised how often that same principle applies.
If Red 5 wanted to actively KILL their game, they’d make it an open world PvP shooter. There’s no factions, mind you, so this means that ANY person on the map could turn their gun on you can kill you, and when you consider that Snipers will almost always one-shot a player, and the sheer amount of immediately unreachable places you could hide, it’d be a griefer’s paradise, and no one would be able to play normally. Said people who insist they know the truth have recently switched to saying that it will have specific map areas where players would compete over rarer resources… ok… That’s still not “open-world” PvP, ya know.
Whatever the hell is going on over there, I hope they figure it out before I really feel like that Founder’s Pack was a complete waste of money. I guess what I’m really trying to say here is- Did you see that?… on SIN. Some kind of weather effect?

War Thunder (Episode 48):
Out of the frying pan and into the… “that was an episode?” I can’t wait until the inevitable “Why don’t you review War Thunder” comments I usually get with low fan-fare eps. Not too much was really said about this one across the board, which to be honest does NOT surprise me when I get one of those “bubbles” of MMO fervor. People burn themselves out of these games way too easily… it’s all “OMG OMG PLAY THIS IT’S THE BEST GAME YOU HAVE TO TRY IT!” and two weeks later its, “Oh, that game. I don’t play that anymore… BUT HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THIS OTHER GAME OMG BEST GAME I EVER PLAYED YOU HAVE TO TRY IT”. This is pretty much why I’ve stopped looking at the Suggested MMO List, and I’m still debating the validity of the thing. Let’s just say I seriously had NO idea how vast this market was when I asked people for these suggestions…. Still had a general idea of how psychotic, though…
As for War Thunder itself? Solid title. Use my referral link so I can get me some more Golden Eagles if you want to sign up. Whether you’ll see me in it is another story… mostly because…

Dragon’s Prophet (Episode 49):
God I love broken games. There’s a charm about any title that does something wholly idiotic to amusing effect that makes you want to pat it on the head and say, “There, there, Wushu. At least you tried.” Even when it does something less cute, I can’t get overly enraged at it. “No, Dragon’s Prophet. No! Don’t crash on me… stop locking up my inventory slots! Look what you did! …aww, I can’t stay mad at you.” The key being in the last sentence, for the first puppy/child analogy, “At least you tried.” I stand by the fact that I can wholly respect a game that’s at least trying to be different. People look at DP at face value and immediately go, “Oh, such a WoW clone. Oh, they took that from TERA.” and while I honestly CAN’T figure out where these people are coming from, I at least GET it. DP has a pretty generic setting overall. It’s fantasy. It has dragons, wizards, goblins… zombies? Well, undead is a common staple. It what it’s doing with all of these that brings it to a more interesting light.
Yeah, it’s a fantasy setting, but you can ride, train, battle with, and collect dragons of various “dragon-ness” throughout the land. Half the fun of exploring is discovering what dragons are available and what skills they possess. Any game that grants you a flying mount nearly out of the gate is something worth notice at the least.
Yeah, it’s an action combat system, but it combines the systems of TERA, DCUO, Vindictus and others to create an experience all it’s own. It’s a game that makes you go, “Holy crap, I didn’t know I could do THAT” at nearly every step of the journey, and just when you feel you have a “rotation” down, the game tosses new enemies and new skills that make you rethink how you’re going to approach the fight.
Yeah, it’s full of impractical/shameless outfits and Escher-women you can create with the aid of 5-7 breast focused sliders, but again, just because you can make a woman with gravity defying, torpedo-shaped 44H cups wearing a leather battle bikini doesn’t mean you HAVE to. With the right tweaking you can make your female Guardian a lithe, muscular warrior, or your Sorcerer a waifish, petite spellcaster…. or vice versa, It’s entirely your call. Outfits aren’t all horribly impractical, and even if you’ll find more than a fair share of “Long Pants” that are anything but, you can convert your favorite pieces to costume outfits, and have up to ten switchable sets of them. It’s not nearly as deep as Aion, but whether you want to make your character, male or female, a model or a monstrosity, it’s entirely your prerogative.
Yeah, it’s a buggy mess, and it’s got issues that are still in need of repair, but it’s a fun title, I’ve actively playing and thoroughly enjoy.
We have a guild… it’s a … FEW people from the Wushu guild, and at least far more active than Wushu is currently at the moment. The game is far more casual. If you want to join, keep an eye out, for Grindstone on the Lysaia server. We are already Guild level three, and getting more points every day. Main rule of Grindstone, “Don’t be a dick.”

Upcoming Events:
I’ll be getting episode 50 done fairly soon, but I’m expecting a serious backlash, considering it’s one of those “barely scratched the surface” titles, that’s going to have me missing a lot of detail. I’ll have to invoke the “newbie show/guide” clause again that everyone seems to miss/ignore. After that is the Halloween ep, which will be an official episode this year (like Hellgate was the first year). That’s all I’m saying about that. Hopefully I’ll have the time to finish before/on Halloween.
Following that, I have nothing slated, but I’ll probably taking a bit of a break with what I’m calling the “Backtrack Block” where I’ll try to toss out a BUNCH of Backtrack videos with a week or two. While I have a few slated to look at, suggestions on what you’d like to see wouldn’t be entirely unwelcome. Just don’t… you know… do that thing.

Finally, if you haven’t checked it out yet, I HIGHLY encourage you to take a look at the “Phoenix Project” on Kickstarter for their fan-made spiritual sequel/remake of City of Heroes titled, “City of Titans”. They’ve already hit goal, and have a bunch of plans for the future, so take a look if you’re interested, and I’ll probably write up a full blown post about it sometime before the project finishes its KS run. Stay tuned.

Off-Week Update (09-05-2013)

Yeah, it was a slow past month. I have my reasons. None of them are interesting. Let’s get to recaps.

Sidequest: Infinite Crisis:
It’s a MOBA made for DC comic fans. I should just stop talking, since there’s really nothing more to say. I’ll say something anyway. You know when you play games like SMITE, or other MOBAs, and you play the game, “Which LoL champ/DotA hero is this character cloned from?” It’s a pretty petty argument to make, and a lot of the times, especially in games like SMITE, where people tend to grasp at straws. (Anyone trying to say SMITE’s Freya is a copy of LoL’s Kayle has never really played both characters. I’ll give you “Pulse” being similar to “Righteous Fury” but that’s IT.) I understand there are general established MOBA playstyles that work, and sometimes you want your own version of that playstyle and character. However, it’s MUCH easier to play that game with IC. You’d think with the rich history and cavalcade of existing characters the DC universe has, they’d be a bit more inventive. Instead, I could tell a Poison Ivy player that she’s “Zyra” and a Zatanna player that she’s “Lulu” and LoL players will know exactly what to do. The Turbine style re-branding is in full force with that Gotham Heights map, too. Towers in the same place, weird force fields act exactly the same as the “brush”. To be fair, I do hear there’s a second map now live, but the only thing that scares me more than MOBA fanatics are comic fanatics… and one other obnoxious group of fans…

Episode 46: Ragnarok 2:
You know, I’m not entirely sure WHY I did this game. It must have been a whim or something, but yeah, no game has defined the term “nothing special” more than Rag 2, even if i did… SOMEWHAT enjoy it. I didn’t have too much of an issue logging in to play, and with the class change looming overhead, promising a radical change in gameplay, and not even remotely delivering upon it, I was pretty much done. Pretty sure this will be an easy sacrifice when it comes time to clear out space for the hard drive… ah hell, I’ll just do it now. There we go.
In essence Rag 2 was a “popular” episode, but my theory was correct. Most people who played it, played it because they liked the first game, and this wasn’t similar enough to keep their interest, so they just went back to playing that. This is really the ultimate proof of the lack of necessity when it comes to “MMO Sequels” MMOS… don’t work that way. The game is supposed to EVOLVE, not get a reboot in a decade’s time. Guild Wars fans generally don’t like Guild Wars 2. Everquest fans didn’t take to Everquest 2 (to the point the original stayed sub-based longer than the SEQUEL did!).
Yet, all the hype was on Ragnarok 2 when it was new. People would not shut up about how fantastic it was, and then pretty much all simultaneously vanished. They were wowed by the nostalgia, the pretty graphics, and the cute settings, and as soon as the blandness of the gameplay and general lack of innovation burrowed out of their subconscious, they realized it wasn’t worth their time, and just left. Gee, I wonder if that exact same thing is going to happen again with something else… I could probably write an article about this concept alone.

Episode 47: Firefall:
Ah, Firefall. The more things change the more you screw them up. While I am FAR more interested in the game than I was when I first played it… and definitely more than when I second played it, it’s still a pretty hard sell as it’s painfully easy to burn through everything there is to do within a week. I literally just completed the game’s ultimate challenge today (Baneclaw, a summonable raid boss that requires more far more materials then sense to summon.) had earned my own Blackwater Anomaly key within a day, and have nearly maxed out 2 frames. To say the game is getting somewhat boring again is an understatement. Red 5 is just full of baffling decisions as the game goes on. Each patch makes the game run worse than the previous. My server shard has been unable to keep Thump Dump from being invaded due to absurd lagging issues since the Omnicon patch. The new tornado system (which in all technical sense, isn’t different from how I SAID they work in the game, but are different from when I reviewed it) causes the tornadoes that spawn near mountains, nearly impossible to actually impossible to shoot the required shard, and even worse, may spawn the portal in an impossible to reach area if it finally DOES get destroyed, in what the players have affectionately dubbed “Trollnadoes”. To say Firefall has problems is an understatement, and to those who counter with , “yeah but BETA”… it’s an OPEN Beta. DRAGON’S PROPHET was an “open beta” and it’s Alpha level screwups and bugs got that game derided to hell. When you list yourself as an OPEN beta, you’re basically saying to the public “We’re just about ready to go, just help us stress test this game, and iron out the last few bugs, and we’re set to launch.”
The reason I allow Open Beta’s as full episodes is:
A.) They are fully accessible to the public. No different than the game being officially released.
B.) The game will (most often) not change enough to warrant anything I said obsolete, as for the fact I previously stated.
OB’s are stress tests and “last looks” to those of you who also watch “Face Off” on Syfy. You don’t go messing with the core mechanics of the game when you’re in open beta. You’re not supposed to release patches that make the game worse for WEEKS before ever addressing them, even in a statement. A simple “Yo. This patch made some stuff worse. Sorry. We’re working on it.” is all we ask. Otherwise, we’re going to assume that’s the way you want it to work… and we’re going to leave.
I still enjoy Firefall… with others. It’s a game where I want to see these proposed mass events take place, (provided they don’t lag the server to death anymore), but I can’t help but feel Red 5 is making too many odd decisions, and playing too much with how the game works at it’s core. Speaking of other people, my “FYGM” army filled up almost immediately, and before you think that’s a testament to my “popularity” I should tell you that in another pointlessly baffling move, Firefall limits Army size to 20 people. TWENTY. That’s 4 squads! Are you even kidding me right now?
It’s almost to the point I feel hiring Orson Scott Card to do the story was the lesser of the controversial moves they’ve done. (And that’s why I didn’t mention the writer’s name in the video, and if you still don’t know why… use fucking GOOGLE people.)

So, a few other things:
The dreaded RL has all but completely obliterated my Age of Wushu guild, which members heading back to school and college, getting summer/fall/full-time jobs, other just burnt out on the game in one way or another. It’s sad, but it was a good run while it lasted. I haven’t completely lost hope, but I doubt we’ll reach the heyday of… God, that was only last month…. Scary how this all hits at once. The server merger of my server, Black Tortoise into “White Tiger” did go off without a hitch, but it’s understandable how it might be hard to get new players into a PvP game’s server when it’s populated by 5 month veterans on both sides. I still have a FEW codes available to those who play the game (You don’t need to be in my guild or server to get one, BTW.) but I don’t have the time to play beyond my daily spying missions and the occasional School War. I play. I’m AROUND, but it’s not going to be a thrill a minute chat-a-thon that it was last month.

With that in mind, I AM willing to open up our Guild Forum and Raidcall channel to general MMO Grinder viewers in the event we ever want to get a massive group going in a game that would allow it (Firefall, Wushu, Defiance, RIFT, or… Guild Wars 2 maybe? Something that doesn’t limit play to party size.) I would basically have to be pretty selective though, but I think the Wushu privacy is no longer… required.

Finally, I should be good to get the next video out on time but don’t quote me, as I’m debating if I have enough playtime. Things have slowed due to my own personal RL “grind” I’ve been working on, and it’s almost as painful to play as Infinite Crisis.

Off-Week Update (08-03-2013)

I call these Off Week Updates out of tradition now, I’m sure of it.

So coming off of a draft that’s been sitting in my draft folder since June 25th, let’s begin.

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