So I recently finished the PC release of Final Fantasy X (nerdgasm) and since I would rather shove a dirty toilet brush down my throat than start on Final Fantasy X-2 I went hunting on Steam for my next fix.
Enter Ark – Survival Evolved. I have been circling this game like a hungry but highly picky vulture for quite some time. As it is it can be quite hard to get a proper impression of what the game is like from reading the description and – to the games benefit – I think this is simply because it doesn’t really fit in any other category. It is a survival game for sure (a popular and relatively new genre ranging from Minecraft to Fallout to the thousand of zombie games) but as I see it it falls in somewhere between Minecraft and Eve – a spectacular mix to be sure.
After my recent rant on how Neverwinter is a horrible excuse for a game and a blatant attempt to grab some fast money from the nerds (why do we let the brands we love do this to us?) I thought I’d look more into the issue. Some games actually do manage to use the microtransactions quite well. While I would still rather pay a subscription or the full price of a complete game maybe it’s possible to find some common ground between the two.
World of Warcraft: In world of Warcraft you pay a monthly subscription fee to play and you can spend money on vanity items. That means items which are cool and/or funny but these items can not affect the game itself. You can’t buy yourself an advantage. You have to earn all the cool gear by actually playing the game.
League of Legends: LoL is free to download and play. In the game you choose one of many champions – each with different abilities – to control. As you play you earn Influence Points with which you can unlock new champions to play and purchase runes that will customize your champions. You can also spend money getting Riot Points which will unlock new champions as well as vanity skins – alternate visual themes – for your unlocked champions. It should be noted that all the champions are of equal power – each with their own force and weakness – their cost is dictated by how new they are.
Pox Nora: This game is played by collecting “runes”. A rune will be a warrior or an effect you can put into play. You gather them into a custom collection and match it against your opponents. In Pox Nora you can play the game to earn gold which will buy you runes from all but the newest releases. You can pay money for the newest runes (even though you only have a random chance to get the rarest ones) or you can trade other players for them.
Star Wars – The Old Republic: Truly a hybrid – SWTOR is free to play you can spend money to buy a lot of different items which will make your character more powerful, level up faster and have more unique looks. Also certain aspects of the game requires that you “unlock” them using the in-game currency or real money. As an alternative you can choose to be a subscriber and have a lot of these benefits just handed to you as well as a monthly “allowance” to spend on the boost and vanity items.
Neverwinter: I think I have already said my piece on Neverwinter. Long story short it is free to play except everything in the game and it’s mother is for sale. Which it will advertise loudly and obnoxiously if you try to have fun without paying. Woups – couldn’t keep it in.
EVE: As always doing it’s own thing. In EVE a PLEX is worth a month of game time. You can buy a PLEX for the game currency (ISK) and cash it in to renew your subscription or you can use your real money to buy yourself a PLEX and cash it in for ISK. So while it is possible to boost yourself with more money – wealth in EVE is a fickle thing ad you might end up losing it all over again. It’s hard to compare EVE with other games.
I very much like how League of Legends has solved the problem of payment vs being free to play and based on how well the game is doing it seems like that business model is quite viable. That said LoL doesn’t strike me as a game that took the same level of development as a major MMO.
I’m very curious about how the coming Elder Scrolls Online will work and how future games will adapt. I think the “basic” subscription model is a bit outdated but as seen with Neverwinter all out “F2P” games will not capture anyone’s attention for long.
Yesterday I found myself using a browser with no Adblock Plus. As such Faceboook started telling me about all the cool things I’m missing out on. Including this:
While my account is resting for now I keep up to date with what is happening in EVE and I still consider it a game I care for. EVE is – of course – a game all about econmy and as such I am offended that there are actually ads for services which are not only strictly forbidden but also incredibly damaging to the people actually playing the game.
Foo! I say. Foo to you – Bot People!
The window in her quarters were framed with Gallentean faux bois, an organic shape pleasing to the eye and yet utterly inhuman. Real wood would have never been able to bend and twist as it did and even if it could no human hands would have been able to make such delicate carvings. It was in every way an artificial creation. An imitation of a craft long since obsolete and mimicry of a material that had no place in deep space.
The screen set inside this abomination was currently displaying space as seen from the surface of the asteroid. There was just one camera publicly available and as such she was only able to see the battered spacecraft for about nine percent of it’s elliptic orbit. Soon it would appear in the counterfeit casement again marking the completion of it’s thirty-fourth orbit. Having long since run out of notes to review, inventories to double check and processes to monitor remotely, Kinachi was beginning to feel impatient.
Faded markings identified the spacecraft’s name as “Maris” and once again it had reached the apogee of its orbit around the barren asteroid. The thrusters kicked in to compensate for a slight movement of the fix point and another cycle began. In twenty-three minutes the sun would set over the rim of the tiny asteroid and the shields would power up to protect the scarred hull. This time exposure would be minimal since the systems lone planet, a gargantuan sphere of black rock, would eclipse the ailing star soon after. The shields would power down yet again and there would be silence until the computer would state that the frigates position relative to the tiny installation on the asteroids surface was optimal for docking. Jaan tried to reassure himself that this time he would initiate the procedure.
Roughly half of the little lights indicating the fastest route to an evacuation centre were working. Their luminescence barely enough to let someone walk through the hallway without stumbling over piles of scrap leaning haphazardly against the walls.
The complex clinging to the barren asteroid had been built a long time ago as a storage facility for the felsic magma tapped from the once volcanically active planet drifting through this system in a lazy orbit. As the sun cooled so had the planet and the silicon rich substance had ceased to flow. Now the structure was manned by a crew fit for an installation one tenth of its size and most of the gigantic storage complexes dug into the rock beneath were sealed off. The dimly lit derelict hallway led to one such storage facility only this one was not as abandoned as the station reports would have you believe.
Thanks to her ocular filter the darkness was less than an inconvenience to Sophia. Her hiding place was quite another story though and while it allowed her to monitor both the elevator door and the entrance at the other end of the hallway it required her to maintain her vigil awkwardly pressed against the dusty floor.
While the main generator was shut down to avoid long range detection the ship was far from dormant. Even the mirage effect extended by the cloak generator could not completely obscure the multitude of impacts against the ships outer plating. A swarm of repair robots scurried across the hull tearing tiny chunks of rock from the armor and sealing off every dent.
Maintaining a position so close to the planet was hazardous at best since the dead world was breaking apart. The irony of describing a process that hurled splinters of black rock into space at sickening velocities as “slow” was not lost on the men and women crewing the obfuscated vessel. However perilous the position it was true that the sheer mass of the crumbling giant made their stealth complete. Checking again that his orbit placed the sad remnants of the volcanic globe directly between himself and the asteroid mounted station, Murash breathed a prayer of gratitude. He was completely certain that no one was aware of his presence and soon his patience would pay off. He would eliminate a pilot who had slaughtered faithful warriors by the numbers and given rise to a region wide legend.
Sophia twitched slightly in her cramped hideaway as the mechanism operating the lift broke the hour long silence. At the same time the door to her right opened and for a second she was staring at a reflection of herself in the surface of a highly polished knee-high boot before her quarry proceeded down the corridor. She forced herself to breathe slowly, ignoring the urge to seize the woman here and now. She needed photo evidence as well as solid data of an actual transaction before she could act.
She had spent years collecting material on the former Caldari Navy pilot who had made a career of building advanced ship for anyone who would pay. Pirates and megacorporations, capsuleers and empires. While it didn’t seem to matter to the reclusive mechanic, the amount of advanced weaponry making it’s way into dangerous hands did matter to Sophie’s superiors. She had been given the seemingly impossible task of detaining a capsuleer with an otherwise flawless security standing, connections with both the Caldari Navy, Ishukone and possibly several dangerous nullsec residents. Sophie had welcomed the challenge. She had never failed to bring a mark in.
Just when she had been contemplating welding a tractor beam onto her shuttle a raspy voice on the intercom informed her that her client had finally initiated docking procedures. She had worn the jade green finish covering the fingernail on her left thumb completely off but otherwise her appearance was up to standards. She adjusted the clip holding her hair in place and set off down the corridor to meet the man whose ship was her next project.
Multiple nuclear reactor units were being brought online in the workshop below. The fernite carbide composite armor plate, a cluster of plasma thrusters and a multitude of advanced electronic components was waiting in their containers.
During her long wait there had been plenty of opportunity to examine the ship that was pulling into the docking perimeter. It was a mess. It was junk. But she would fix that. She felt a rush of excitement at the thought. It would not be her first work on a Minmatar ship but it didn’t matter to her. This kind of task never became routine. Once the transaction was completed she would pull the old Rifter apart and the pilot would leave this station in an impressive Wolf class frigate.
The docking procedure was initiated and Murash was slowly beginning to run projections of how to best cut off his prey when it was to leave the station. A warp scrambler and several advanced drones capable of all but halting a ship in space was standing by. His acolytes were waiting at every gate out of the system. He was going to let the Minmatar scum perform the planned upgrade of his precious ship. It did not matter. Murash would tear open his adversary’s pod and use the sophisticated sensors on his ship to trace the signal back to Jaan’s clone bank. No matter who was providing shelter for this criminal, they would pay the price. Just as the female had when she had intervened in Jaan and Murash’s first clash many years ago. There were scores to settle here and Murash was going to make sure he collected every due. Deep inside his pod the Paladin smiled as he urged his Redeemer class ship into action.
Letting the station computer guide his ship towards the designated hangar Jaan accessed the internal cameras. Even though the life support system was running around the clock, even when he wasn’t piloting the ship, it had been years since anyone had been in the passenger section. He took the view of the different rooms in and for once allowed his memories to take hold of him. The chamber and the uncomfortable cot they had shared. The bench she had preferred over it’s four identical siblings. He hesitated for a second before calling up an image of the main cargo hold. There, behind the shuttle pad, their initials carved into a part of the exposed exoskeleton. He knew he was going to ask if it was possible to leave just that part of the hull intact.
The station and the asteroid continued to grow in size as the Rifter made it’s approach. The last flight of the Maris. On autopilot.
I have always prided myself on my hearing. Indeed my oldest friends have caught on to my fascination with complex sound patterns long ago. Music does not interest me. It is the resonance of a shield generator, the steady beat of a pulsar and the hum of machinery that pleases my ear. I did not, however, expect to find such exaltation in the cacophony caused by thousands and thousands of gargantuan armor components being stacked, moved and handled by my mechanical henchmen.
My workshop is now considered a section of the station in itself and I was pleased to discover that my Ishukone hosts has installed and equipped a considerable complex that can house not only the workers I employ but also the crew of my ships. I had not noticed how many human beings are now in my employ and it is rather daunting to learn that many of them live here with their families. I can, however, live with the idea of children roaming the corridors of a sealed off complex half a kilometer away as long as the kitchen continues to deliver my food directly to my office. It is peculiar how that the boy who makes deliveries to me seemed surprised when he saw me eat. It is only when I’m strapped into my pod that I do not require traditional nourishment. This little anecdote does illustrate the power of the capsuleer myth though. To them I really am an immortal.
Incarna makes your character more “real”. For the first time in the history of EVE you can see and move your character around (though lmited to your quarters on the space station you’re visiting). I’m actually kindof liking the new, more dynamic, backdrop. My character lounges on a couch while I have my windows open and play the game like I always have.
I’m not a fan of the idea behind Incarna. It seems to me that it mostly serves to streamline a game whose main feature is being different. I am a fan of the vast amount of small interface fixes and upgrades Incarna has brought with it though. Taking the time to improve my search options in the market tab is an investment of time and energy I appreciate. Claiming to make the game feel more real and then forgetting to give the avatar of my capsuleer the trademark socket at the base of her skull, is not.
I can’t say I’m all that fussed about the “first leg of Incarna”. As an immersionist I should be having a hard time getting my arms down over this but fact is: I’ve never missed immersion in EVE. I’ve always felt very connected to the idea of my clone self. The cold world of the capsule. The data interface I see on the screen. In my optics it’s a mistake to confuse “avatars” with immersion. I think a lot of people are missing the point that the screen you see in front of you is NOT the game interface. It’s the interface your character sees as she/he is connected to the system of his capsule. The view of space is through the eyes of drones. Every window you call up is how it actually looks. When I see my character walking around in a first person view that’s when it gets unrealistic for me. Is a camera drone following me around? Why do I need to see the world like this and not just through my own eyes? That is when the immersion is broken and EVE becomes just like the other games.