Category Archives: MMOs
One of the things I enjoy about Sword Art Online is that so much is left to the imagination. The setting of Aincrad and the 100-floor realm with literal permadeath basically begs to be expanded upon in various ways, mostly in terms of world-building, character depth, and psychological analysis.
One of the major disappointments of Sword Art Online as a piece of media, both as a light novel series and as an anime adaptation based on the light novels, is that there’s not enough story to go around.
Not to spoil the series, but Sword Art Online is comprised on nine or ten light novels. Aincrad, which we are introduced to as the Sword Art Online VRMMORPG, is completed by the end of the first novel, which is less than 200 pages in length (light novels tend to not go over 120 pages). Additional background and sidestories were added in the second SAO light novel, but that means that the potential of the Sword Art Online arc feels like it’s watered down because the first novel is essentially a time-skip of two years (By a third of the novel, this is already the case), with gaps in story filled in by novel number two.
Does this diminish the enjoyment of Sword Art Online? Somewhat. But at the same time, because much is left to the imagination, much is also given in recompense to the reader with the overactive imagination.
The funny thing about SAO is that because I’m a MMO game hopper, the the idea that the SAO light novel series is about multiple VRMMORPGs doesn’t seem so far-fetched, and may actually be a good thing, depending on how the author crafts the story. I shall read the novels and watch the anime closely and enjoy each step as it happens.
I made mention of Sword Art Online on Twitter a few days ago, but it’s taken me a while to really formulate my thoughts regarding this topic. While my write-up will probably be incomplete, it’s good to at least start the process of discussing this rather intriguing light novel and anime series.
To discuss Sword Art Online as an anime or written work to a group of MMORPG players is difficult, mostly because I get the feeling that some people aren’t particularly interested in the intersection of what is virtual and real and because direct comparisons to other media that discuss MMORPGs will enter the fray. To discuss Sword Art Online to a group of literary critics is also difficult, because the Japanese light novel structure, publishing format, and demographic is vastly different from that of reading other works (I defer to the Wikipedia page on Light Novels for a description of the differences between novels and light novels).
That said, I think the only way I can really discuss Sword Art Online (henceforth termed SAO in this piece) is if I discuss its premise and how reading and watching SAO makes me feel.
The story of SAO begins at 1:00 p.m. of November 6, 2022, when the world’s first completely immersive virtual reality MMORPG goes live in Japan. Only 10,000 copies are available for this game, and in the morning of the game’s release, all 10,000 copies are purchased.
To create the immersive experience of SAO, Akihiko Kayaba, the creator of SAO, also developed a device known as NerveGear. The Nervegear is a VR helmet that works by rerouting signals from your brain into the game, such that you can perform actions in the world by thinking them, and your body would remain immobile because the NerveGear bypasses your ability to move.
At the story’s beginning, we are introduced to Kirito, who served as one of the 1000 beta testers in the game, and Cline, another player who befriends Kirito. Kirito teaches Cline the basics of SAO’s world, Aincrad. In SAO, aside from magical crystals that heal and teleport, there is no magic that can be cast in the game. Instead, players rely on weapon skills that are trained and leveled up in order to acquire new skills, in addition to allocating statistics that increase dexterity or strength. Aside from fighting skills, crafting and gathering skills also apparently exist in the game, such as smithing, item appraisal, and fishing.
Four hours and twenty five minutes after the launch of SAO, Cline attempts to log out to pick up a pizza, only to discover that the log out button has been greyed out and cannot be used.
At 5:30 p.m, all the players of the game are teleported back to the starting city. By 5:40 p.m. of November 6, 2012, all hell will have broken loose.
Between 5:30 and 5:40 p.m. the sunset-lit sky is tinged blood red, and blood drips from the sky. A faceless man, clad in dark robes, coalesces from the blood: an monolithic figure who simply says, “Attention players, welcome to my world.”
The faceless man is none other than Akihiko Kayaba, and he continues his speech by saying that the inability to log out of the game is not a bug, but a feature of SAO.
He continues, “You cannot log out of SAO yourselves, and no one on the outside can shut down or remove your NerveGear. Should this be attempted, the transmitter inside the NerveGear will act like a powerful microwave, destroying your brain, ending your life.”
To stress the futility of the attempt, he adds that several players’ friends and families have already attempted to remove the NerveGear from the heads of 213 players, resulting in their removal from the game as well as their deaths. The news media has already picked up on the story, and save for officials transferring players to hospitals by temporarily disconnecting the NerveGear from a power source and letting it run on its internal battery, it is expected that no further attempts to remove NerveGears will be made.
Furthermore, permadeath is instituted in SAO. If your HP drops to zero, the NerveGear will activate the microwave, killing players who fail to survive in the game.
To log out of the game, players must ascend the 100 levels of the floating realm Aincrad, defeating a floor boss on each level to gain entry into the next and ultimately defeat the final boss on the 100th floor. As a means of comparison, Kirito mentions earlier that beta testers spent two months attempting to reach the eighth floor.
As an added dagger to the back of every surviving player, Akihiko Kayaba presents each player with an in-game item, <<Mirror>>. Examination of the item forces every player remaining in the game to be represented by a scan of his real-life attributes, including height, weight, muscularity and facial features.
By 5:40 p.m., Kayaba’s speech ends, his robes and body revert to blood, fly back into the blood red sky, and disappear, revealing sunset once more.
These are the first 10 or so pages of the first book of Sword Art Online, and we’ll have more to talk about later on when I continue this post series. Till then, don’t die.
Over on Massively, they recently asked about our favorite fluff items.
This was supposed to be my response:
Well… if you had to ask me about a few of my favorite fluff things…
*music is cued*
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Pillows with chocobo feathers and string…
These are a few of my favorite fluff things!
Head of Onyxia and jump jet boot thrusters
Gygax Dice, Golems, and Tauren-made mustard
Golden guns, Furniture, Scepters of Kings
These are a few of my favorite fluff things!
When the dogs bite, when the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad…
I simply remember my favorite fluff things,
Then I don’t feel so bad!
As with any game, there are wonderful and not-so-wonderful things to think about when you’re playing it. The following are some of my issues with Final Fantasy XIV in its current state, as well as the plan the Square Enix Development Team has with that particular aspect of the game moving forward.
1. The same tilesets for the world you’re traversing, all jigsawed up.
Simply put, I dislike how the world was created using a handful of tilesets to represent an entire living, breathing continent of a world.
THE PLAN MOVING FORWARD: DESTROY THE WORLD. BWAHAHAHAHA. Then rebuild using more tilesets, presumably.
2. Levequests are your bread and butter means of gaining experience.
Levequests are essentially repeatable quests people can do to gain experience for their various fighting, gathering, or crafting classes.You gain back 4 levequest allowances every 12 hours, and can stack these allowances to 99 to power through levels as needed.
The game has quests, but those are few and level dependent, and while you can sometimes get a hefty stack of gil from them, as well as some gear, the levequests are the bread and butter means of gaining experience.
THE PLAN MOVING FORWARD: From what I’ve heard, the plan moving forward is to give people more quests and make levequesting a more optional experience for everyone. Options are good, and being able to do quests more for great stories appeals to me immensely.
3. The usable, but annoying-to-use User Interface
To leave your party in the game, you need to open up your menu, click on “Party,” go to “Party Details,” then click on “Leave.” It works if you’re using a controller, but as a keyboard + mouse guy, it’s a bit annoying to have to go through the same hoops.
Now, that same bit of logic runs through some other actions, like changing your gear. It is usable, but it’s not fun.
THE PLAN MOVING FORWARD: DESTROY THE WORLD, then make a newer UI that works with modern sensibilities but doesn’t sacrifice accessibility for console/PC controller gamers.
Right now, I’m playing Final Fantasy XIV and having quite a bit of fun. The old annoyances I had with the game that made me leave before have been mitigated significantly, and Square Enix’s team for the game is really working hard to show people that the Final Fantasy MMO is a force to be reckoned with.
Things I personally love about this game in its current state:
1. Structured Freeform Progression: This is the term I use to refer to how Final Fantasy’s leveling system allows you to be the kind of fighter, harvester, or crafter you want to be.
Changing the tool in my hands changes my class, and there’s a certain satisfaction in leveling up new crafting classes just to see LEVEL UP flash on the screen. Basically, it melds the structured leveling progression of most MMOs with the freedom to not be pegged as a particular class if you feel like switching.
2. Simplified Crafting
Originally, FFXIV’s crafting system damn near forced you to multilevel crafting classes if you wanted to be self-sufficient. To make something of a low level in a certain crafting field, you had to be a high level in a different field (or know who to talk to) to get his stuff you needed to make your own stuff.
Recipes have been streamlined to require fewer components from other fields or at least need specific items from a different, equally or lesser leveled tradeskill. Old recipes still exist though, and those recipes have a “dated” prefix to refer to them being part of the old echelon. You can still try and make those items for XP if you wanted, actually.
3. There’s finally an explanation for seemingly random shit.
There are two resources that seem to be very useful now, and they are http://ffxiv.mozk-tabetai.com/ and http://mooglebox.com. One is a great item, loot, and recipe compendium, and the other has a gathering tool that explains what you have to do in the gathering minigames to net specific items from gathering more readily.
4. The Future and its Story
The game is gearing up for a reboot called A Realm Reborn. They will pretty much wipe the whole damned planet out and literally shut down the servers prior to launch to move all the characters onto new servers for the reboot.
The best thing about this for me is that they have a freaking story explanation for the entire event, where (if memory serves) someone teleports every person on the planet to the end of time and then throws them back into the future of the world after a meteor crashes onto the world. Something like that. Basically… you get a cool lore entry about the sundering of Eorzea as a private reward for sticking by the game.
Anyway, if you feel like playing the game before the reboot, sign up and join my character Victor Stillwater on the Masamune Server. Cheers!
I’ve been in quite a haze really. The past few days have had me seeing more anxiety about a job application than normal, and it’s led me to not want to play anything, not even The Secret World.
I missed out on a bunch of Funcom points as a result which makes me feel bad because, I mean… hello? Free stuff.
Anyway, it’s also a bit detrimental for me, as I’ve been looking for inspiration for my second MMORPG.com TSW article… and thankfully, Ambermist of Tastes Like Battle Chicken had an excellent post that I wanted to delve into further with some research.
Here’s to hoping my upcoming article turns out well.
For reference, please sing these lyrics to Susan Boyle’s version.
I dreamed a dream of subs gone by
When hope was high and life worth living
That Old Republic wouldn’t die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving…
I once was young and unafraid
And subs were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
For content done. Now whines are wasted…
But the Earnings Call’s in sight
Investor voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hopes apart
And they turn your dreams to shame!
And I’d still I’d dream of subs, you see
That TOR would live the years in splendor…
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather.
I had a dream TOR’s life would be
So different from this hell it’s living
So different from what it seemed
Bad choices killed a dream I dreamed….
So… Pet Battles Online.
In other news, I’ve got a new article up on MMORPG.com discussing themes in Lovecraftian horror and how it relates to and influences The Secret World. Have a look via this link. Just note that I can’t currently read pages on MMORPG.com due to an ISP system issue, so if any readers here have questions over there they’d like answered, I can answer them here or you can put a note there and message me through MMORPG.com’s system and wait a bit.
My previous post mentions that I’ve basically been hopping from game to game to find enjoyment, but I think it’s time I learned to do a bit of game juggling.
Currently, I have a six-month subscription to EVE on a new account, and at the same time, I will be enjoying Gulid Wars 2 and The Secret World and what they have to offer, slowly but surely. I don’t want to make any of them a main game (unless I think all three are my main game), but all of them provide something different and appealing for me.
EVE: Internet Spaceships and Sandbox goodness
The Secret World: The lore and mythos is intriguing, and Investigation missions are boss.
GW2: Free-to-play fantasy with action combat and potential longevity.
I’ve never really tried to multitask gaming before, so if you folks have any ideas on how to best juggle games, let me know!
On another note, I’ve been dealing with some frustration regarding my connection to the Internet recently. I had trouble patching and playing certain games, and more recently, certain sites, like MMORPG.com (my workplace, basically) and Steam’s Store pages (Missed the last few days of the Steam Sale as a result) do not load properly, making it difficult to actually read or click anything.
I’ve been managing the frustration by focusing on other activities, but I’d just really like for my connection to be stable so my browsing and gaming can go back to normal again.
I don’t ever remember stepping into a quantum accelerator, but I do remember sitting in front of a computer, writing this blog post, mostly because I’m doing it right now.
It seems that I’ve become the epitome of a quantum game leaper. Or hopper. Or Hip-hopper.
The point is this: I spent a month and a half in LOTRO and currently have a three month sub there. I switched to RIFT for five days, then moved to The Secret World for two weeks, then Star Trek Online for one week, and now I’m contemplating going to EVE Online to round out the pre-GW2 time.
At the same time, I want to maintain a sub to The Secret World, mostly because I want to see what Ragnar and Funcom do with their commitment to monthly updates. So… we’ll see what happens.
For now, I’ll keep leaping, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each leap will be the leap home.