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Review: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

Game: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
Recommended price: Debatable ($5)
Metacritic Score: 81
Completion Time: ~45 hours
Buy If You Like: Single-player MMOs, Action RPGs

Graphics aren't half bad.

Graphics aren’t half bad.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (hereafter Reckoning) is a 3rd-person, over-the-shoulder action RPG that comes the closest I have ever seen to any game perfectly emulating an MMO experience. After being resurrected and freed from the constraints of a setting bound by Fate, you set out into the world to stop the various forces that want to make your death stick this time. Along the way, you will kill many enemies, destroy a lot of boxes, explore many caves, and complete quests until you get so utterly sick of them that you swear you will never accept another quest in any game, ever. Then you will complete some more.

As mentioned, Reckoning is for all intents and purposes a single-player MMO. About the only thing missing is the ability to zoom out the camera (an issue that becomes rather annoying after a while) and the ability to jump. Other than those two, you will doing a lot of the same things in exactly the same ways. Each new town will have a half dozen or more NPCs offering quests, there is a quest-tracker of sorts, monsters can randomly drop rare/epic/legendary loot. As you level up, you can put skill points into three different skill trees that correspond with Fighter, Mage, and Thief. Depending on how many points you slot into each tree, you can choose certain Fate cards that are basically “classes” which give you certain passive bonuses. While the bonuses are generally worth specialization, it’s also entirely possible to cherry-pick some of the better abilities in the early trees.

In terms of general gameplay, I would say Reckoning is alright. Your main attacks are bound to left-click and right-click, with some of them requiring aim via the mouse. There is some element of timing to your attacks rather than just spamming the buttons, although it’s possible to do that too. Part of the game schtick is “Reckoning Mode,” which is really a re-skinned Limit Break from FF7 – kill enemies until the Reckoning meter fills up, then unleash a ludicrously powerful attack. And by ludicrously powerful, I mean forcing all enemies into slow-mo, killing normal mobs in two hits, and otherwise cheesing 100% of every boss fight in the entire game. Oh, and did I mention that your final attack against whatever target will trigger a Quick Time Event that lets you spam a button to get increased XP for all the dudes you just murdered? Yeah.

That's right, he's going to be impaled on that spike.

That’s right, he’s going to be impaled on that spike.

Beyond what I have already talked about, there were two main issues I had with the game. The first is a nitpick of sorts, and an unfortunate one at that. Basically this game came out three months after Skyrim. There is nothing at all this game does better than Skyrim and a whole lot that it does worse. Is it a fair comparison? Nope. But having played Skyrim first, you just can’t help but feel every little thing they have in common – such as picking herbs out in the world, questing, exploring, etc – is simply worse-Skyrim. If you are sensitive to that sort of thing, playing Reckoning will be an issue.

The second thing is that Crafting is broken. Like most of these sort of games, Reckoning allows you to put points into Blacksmithing and whatnot to craft your own gear. And like many games in which you can do this, the designers – either on purpose or accident – allow you to very easily craft gear so far beyond the scope of any possible random drop that loot itself loses all meaning. I understand that there is always a tension of sorts between crafted loot and random drops, in that if random drops are better, then the crafting system becomes a bit useless in comparison. But, seriously, come on:

The crafted weapons are just as ridiculous.

The crafted weapons are just as ridiculous.

Just so we have it in text form, my equipped gear was 82 Armor, +12% crit damage, and +3% crit chance. Meanwhile, my crafted gear is 122 Armor, +12% crit damage, +28% Health, +17% Damage Resistance, +10% Physical Resistance, and +15% Damage. I don’t even remember at which level I crafted that piece of armor, but I basically never equipped anything else until the end of the game. Which meant 100% of the armor drops I received from then until the end were vendor trash. Which meant my motivation for actually completing these quests and/or acquiring more gold dropped to zero.

Overall, it is sort of hard to recommend Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. The game isn’t terrible, even if it cannot really stand up to its peers. If you enjoy the combat and the questing, there is a ton of content that will keep you busy far beyond the ~47 hours it took me to beat it. In fact, that is sort of what happened with me: I was on a mission to complete ever single quest I came across, up until I got burned out and just did all the storyline quests until the end. Then there is the sort of mystique that comes from playing the game from the imploded studio and getting a feeling for what the Amalur MMO might have looked like.

But if you are strictly interested in compelling games to play, well, I might recommend taking even that $5 somewhere else. Reckoning is probably worth $5 in a vacuum, but that same $5 can buy so much more these days.

Making Gold in Wildstar

If there is one thing that I hate in MMO websites, it is when people allude to the fact that they are making gold (etc) but never explaining how. What’s the point? Bragging rights? In fact, that frustration was my part of my impetus for creating Player Vs Auction House way back in the day (which later morphed into this site).

Preamble aside, allow me the great pleasure of presenting one bulletproof gold-making method in Wildstar and two more that depend on the obliviousness of AH shoppers:

No assembly (usually) required.

No assembly (usually) required.

“But I’m not an Architect!” “The AH is flooded with these things!”

No, my friend. Sell them to… the vendors.

Bulletproof Method: Challenges

[Edit]: Carbine has since nerfed the vendor prices for many decor items, including the ones listed below, to about 60% of their prior value. The strategy still works, but not as quickly.

Extremely early on while leveling, I noticed that some of the Challenge options were awarding Decor. It’s kinda hard to get a handle on how valuable the Decor would be on the AH without seeing what it looks like, but there was one language I understood immediately: vendor price.

I’m going to be presenting you an Algoroc map to give you a few chances to nab the Chua-Tech Loading Arm (1.31g 79s) and the Shardspire Canyon FABkit (1.23g 74.1s). The following farming route is for Exiles only; I’m going to assume that a similar route exists for Dominion, but I have no such characters. Here it is:

Money Run #1

Money Run #1

In text form:

  1. Swiftpaw Slayer: Kill the wolves. Since this is a fairly early-level quest, you might actually have a hard time finding enough mobs depending on the number of other players.
  2. Skug Egg Destroyer: Kill the spider-looking eggs that alert/explode when you get nearby. You can typically dodge all the normal mobs in here and just kill eggs, which only have a few hundred HP.
  3. Scrap Yard: Pick up items off ground. It is highly recommended that you finish area story first. Once finished, 90% of the mobs in the area go neutral, which makes it considerably easier to pick up the scrap. Don’t bother with trying for gold-level; just click the “x” once you hit silver.
  4. Skittering Slaughter: Kill the spiders. The lone spider mobs seem to count for more, but I’m not sure. As before, don’t bother going higher than silver medal. There’s technically another easy Challenge in here to run through eggs, but it’s only worth about ~24s.

There you go. The exact odds are unknown, but silver medals give you a 4x higher chance of getting the decor. Nab all four, and you’ll walk away with over 5g 3g in vendor loot for something that likely took you less than 10 minutes (assuming mount, already completed area). Challenges can be repeated every 30 minutes. The one downside of this reset period is that time only counts down while you are online.

And why the hell not, here are two more in Celestion that can award the same items:

Bonus Round.

Money Run #2

In text form:

  1. Dancing with Data: Perform a DDR-esque mini-game. If it’s your first time here, you’ll need to complete the quest at the same console to unlock the challenge. I recommend using the default Ctrl-F1-F3 buttons rather than trying to mouse-click them.
  2. Licking Lolli-Lopps: Click the mushrooms. This is actually a bit harder than it sounds, as you receive a low-gravity buff and have a tendency to lose all forward momentum when running around. There are some mushrooms higher up in the trees, but they’re tricky. High chance of out-right failure if there are other people doing this one.

Nab both, walk away with 2.5g. Nab all six, and you’re looking at possibly 7.5g 4.5g every 30 minutes until you can’t stand it any more. There’s always a chance the dice roll against you, but it sure beats whatever the hell else you were doing to make gold.

…or maybe not:

Vendoring the AH

That’s right, my friends. Despite the fact that most items default to their vendor price when you list them, somehow the AH gets stocked up with below vendor priced goods. While I fully expect things to be fixed soon – either with a patch or an add-on that will vacuum all these deals automatically – for now just keep in mind to check the vendor price when looking at items. For example:

Three-way profit.

Three-way profit.

There are actually three ways to profit here.

  1. Straight-up buy items to vendor. I don’t recommend vendoring mats (see below), but if you’re looking for quick cash, this is literally free money.
  2. Check Bid prices to see if they’re beneath vendor. This FABkit, for example, had a bid price of 1g and yet vendors for 1.79g. The guy was actually trying to sell it at 5g or whatever with his Buyout Price, so technically you could try and flip it if that’s your style. For now, I’ll take 79s profit for tying up 1g for ~24 hours or so. Also, keep in mind that just bidding for shit is a good way to nab normally expensive things.
  3. Create Buy Orders for less than vendor. This one is a bit trickier, because there is a minimum charge of 5s for Buy Orders; in other words, you’ll definitely want to put in a large order and otherwise do the math to make sure you’re coming out ahead. In my case, I basically put in an order for 100 of these items (it really doesn’t matter what they are) and each one I get is +1s to me. Low-margin, sure, but the overall principal can scale to whatever size you please.

Here’s a third-level method to making gold, and the one I assume many “I can’t tell you” players are doing:

Crafting the AH

One again, we’re focusing on ultimately selling things to vendors. But instead of looking at mats to vendor, we’re looking at mats to craft into vendor bait. Example:

Something like this, but better.

Something like this, but better.

The above isn’t actually the best example, as the margin is (relatively) razor-thin here; mats cost 15.93s  (2.6*3 + 8.13) and final product vendors for 24.87s, for a net profit of 8.94s. Will you churn through the crafting interface for almost 9s a cycle? Maybe. There’s crafting XP in it for whomever would rather do this than find a tree that drops Ironbark wood. Due to the nature of crafting, you might be able to toss a few copper towards additives that can morph the final product into a slightly more valuable vendor good.

The other professions should work the same in principal, although I don’t currently have a non-beginner Weaponsmith (etc) to try it out. Just keep in mind that all of the various components (Power Cores, etc) have their own costs, and also the vendor price seems to be a function of the overall stats of the item. For example, I “over-charged” a weapon (adding more stat points at the cost of chance of failure) and it increased the vendor price by 2s. Might not sound like much, but these margins can become important later.


In any case, there you go: three methods of making gold in Wildstar. Needless to say, I highly recommend Challenge farming. It is profession agnostic, simple, and relies on nothing more than Carbine not nerfing anything. I have identified six Challenges worth more than a gold apiece, right in the starter zone for Exiles – now that you know about them, you can keep an eye out for similar payout in future Challenges for yourself.

Hearthstone P2W?

Gevlon had a post up last Friday about Hearthstone that claimed the following:

My problem isn’t that you must pay to be anything but a punching bag. I’ve played 5 years of World of Warcraft, paying 720 euros in the process. My EVE accounts are over 1000 Euros, luckily they’ve been paid by bad EVE players. It’s obvious that you have to pay to use a product and can only get a sample for free. However – unlike in subscription games – there is no fixed cost. If I pay the subscription, I can play EVE or WoW fully. If I pay even $1000 on Heartstone, there is absolutely no guarantee that I’ll be competitive against someone who paid $2000. Even worse, there is no guarantee that my wins are mine, and I’m not just stomping on better players with smaller wallets.

So no thanks, I keep away from Heartstone and the rest of the pay-to-win games.

It is worth noting at the start here that the math is off: on average, you’ll have every Hearthstone card after opening 512 packs, or spending roughly $640. Or it could be as few as 215 packs, for $213. Or you could end up like me, who has just about every card I could conceivably want (not a full set) after having spent 3+ months and $50.

Gevlon countered that there will be more expansions and thus cards later on, but I don’t find that particularly relevant because a dude named Reynard took a 5-day old account and navigated a completely F2P warrior deck to the Legendary Rank, all on Twitch. This wasn’t a guy who spammed Arena games 20 hours a day for every card in the game – this is a guy put us all to shame with his brass balls, mad skillz, and a deck with six Rares (no Epics, no Legendaries). Granted, he is about a pro-CCG player as a person can get. “Results not typical” and all that. But how much money or cards it takes “to be competitive” is not quite as descriptive or damning a statement as it sounds. Is it possible to prop one’s lack of skill with more powerful cards? Sure, probably. Where exactly are those goalposts though?

The larger question of whether Hearthstone is P2W obviously depends on your definition of the term. Is having more/better cards an advantage you can purchase your way into? Yes. However, you can also earn your way to those same rewards using in-game currency. In fact, the whole Dust and Crafting mechanic is something about Hearthstone that has significantly moved my original opinion of its apparent P2W tendencies.

See, I do consider card games like Magic to be P2W for a few specific reasons. First, the power level of the cards heavily and unapologetically skews towards the higher rarities. While there are some very nice Legendaries in Hearthstone, the vast majority of even the top tier decks consist of Basic class cards and Commons/Rares. Second, and more importantly, you have zero control over acquiring any specific card in games like Magic. Yes, you can absolutely buy cards off of other players, but that’s exactly where the P2W part comes in. Or, actually, it comes in at the very beginning, wherein you have zero cards in your collection and have to purchase some to play at all.

Crafting in Hearthstone, along with your ability to complete daily quests and purchase packs with in-game currency, shifts the focus away from paying for advantage to paying for time. Given time, you will have all the cards you could ever want, with zero dollars spent. Is paying for XP boosts in other games considered P2W? Not likely.

But if accelerating the grinding process constitutes a win one pays for, that by definition should encompass most all MMOs, WoW and EVE included. Gevlon thinks dropping $1,000 on PLEX and walking away with a 100m Skill Point pilot inside a Titan as a Day 1 player “doesn’t count” because those were player-made, and thus there was no net increase in power in the EVE universe. But isn’t all power relative anyway? That new player in a Titan is at a significant advantage over all his/her Day 1 peers, not to mention anyone not flying around in a Titan-hunting band.

Besides, what actual difference is there between purchasing currency directly from CCP, and simply siphoning the currency generated from thin air by 1,000 players completing 1,000 missions? Or even completed ships built from ores from the ether? Rate of in-game inflation? If one is P2W, surely the other is as well.

In any case, my opinion right now is that Hearthstone is not P2W, even though it otherwise has most of the trappings of decidedly P2W CCGs. Your early games with the default card selection will suck. There are a number of strictly-better cards at the same mana cost, and they’re usually more rare. A Legendary card dropping at the other end of the table is liable to ruin your day.

That being said… it’s been proven that one can be competitive with a six-Rare deck. You will end up with all of the cards in the game if you keep playing (for free!) long enough. Hell, it’s not even one of those “you can technically get everything but it takes 10,000 hours” F2P payslopes. Other CCGs have allowed players to buy packs using in-game currency, but Blizzard’s willingness to allow Hearthstone players to craft the exact card they want should close the P2W debate once and for all.

At least, for now. We’ll see what the future brings with expansions.

Far Cry 3 #GameLogic

I recently started to play Far Cry 3, and have come to realize that it features a whole new level of bizarre #GameLogic. I mean, there is some nominal amount of disbelief suspension going on in every game, sure. How does sleeping in a tent regain health? Why can I get shot and regenerate by ducking behind cover, for that matter? Why do I have to pay hundreds of thousands of currency units to purchase weapons from a store that will cease to exist if I fail to kill the world-destroying evil guy?

Some invisible line felt crossed in Far Cry 3 though, about the time I realized I was hunting and skinning goats to increase my wallet size. I can buy a flamethrower from the corner drug store, but can’t buy a wallet with my (then maximum) $1000?

Step 1: Drive over there. Step 2: Skin some goats.

Step 1: Drive over there. Step 2: Skin some goats.

That goofiness aside, Far Cry 3 has been… interesting, thus far. The minute I realized that unlocking additional weapon slots and ammo storage was bound by killing/skinning animals and not level, was the minute I ignored the story altogether and went on a Buffalo Bill safari. You might think that the easy, beginning recipes would belong to animals populated around the beginning areas, but you would be wrong – I had to travel quite a distance across the map to find some goats to offer to Mammon, the dark deity of larger wallets.

Speaking of questionable design philosophies, Far Cry 3 is reminding me a bit about why Skill Trees are usually a dumb idea. Right now, most of the three trees are locked until I complete more story missions, but the “root” of one of the trees was, I kid you not, the ability to “cook” grenades. As in, I needed experience points and adding a tattoo to my arm to unlock the ability to pull the pin of the grenade and not immediately throw it. And you have to unlock this ability in order to choose anything else in that tree. This reminded me of TBC WoW, where Affliction warlocks had to put five (!) talent points in the 1st tier to lower Corruption’s casting speed down to instant-cast; I think the first talent point was a 0.2 second reduction, or something.

Character customization is great, don’t get me wrong. But, seriously, if you have that much filler in your talent trees, you are probably better off not having any at all.

MoP Thus Far

It has been weeks, and I just hit level 88 on the paladin.

I have established a pretty stable routine based on daily profession cooldowns, which is a good sign to anyone that wishes me to continue logging in everyday. Scribe, Tailor, and then JC/Alchemy. I mentioned before that the AH on Auchindoun-US is pretty garbage, and things have not especially improved since that first impression. Instead, I have adapted. Glyphs, for example, were a market I avoided previously because the value for my time just was not there with the botting and the undercut wars. Now? The competition is basically one baron with a 699g fallback that I undercut by 100-200g depending on my mood. In fact, since I’m just using Auctionator instead of a more robust addon, I simply order all glyphs by highest price and use that as my guide for production.

By the way, many virtual tears were shed when I realized how utterly useless my 50 stacks of banked Twilight Jasmine and hundreds of other Cataclysm herbs became. The two dozen stacks of Pyrite Ore got prospected into gems which turned into rings which turned into nicely priced Enchanting materials. Blackfallow Ink, though? Good for only a single glyph… and Mysterious Fortune Cards. Better than vendoring the herbs, I suppose. I hope.

Something I always find interesting is how much Blizzard changes the paradigms with each expansion. After two straight expansions of alt-friendliness, Mists is the most alt-unfriendly expansion I have ever seen. The whole Spirit of Harmony thing in particular is maddening as someone with alts of every profession. Specialized crafting components being BoP is nothing new (Frozen Orbs say hi), but what is somewhat new is how early in the process they are required for goods. Level 85 blue Blacksmithing weapons requiring 2 Spirits at skill level 545? Why?

Speaking of crafting, I don’t know how I feel about its present trajectory. Blizzard has been simplifying the process for years, of course, but my return after a 1.5-year break makes the culmination stand out. Specifically: do people really like random-stat crafted gear? Or how Ghost Iron is basically the de facto resource for all Blacksmithing? Or completely interchangeable Enchanting ingredients? Some historical aspects of crafting were becoming increasingly obtuse as the game aged – Enchanting rods come to mind – but there is something to be said about requiring more than two moving parts and/or working towards a specific item. Hell, I was immensely relieved when I saw the level 90 crafted JC rings/necklaces were specific things with concrete stats.

Anyway, my immediate goal is to get the paladin to 90 so that I can unlock the farm. While that sentence was a bit depressing to type, it is more painful to me knowing that while I make it a point to log in daily for the profession cooldowns, I am continuously missing all the easy Spirits of Harmony (etc) that I could be gaining while I putz around looking for a new main. I have not tanked on the paladin yet – part of me rebels against the necessity of memorizing yet more mob/boss abilities – but I am definitely not a real fan of the Retribution rotation/kit anymore. At least compared to how fun/fast I was mowing down mobs as the warrior anyway.

Although… well, I did have a bit of a giggle Bubble-Hearthing away from two separate gank attempts. Just like old (TBC)  times.

Systemic Concerns About the GW2 Economy

It may seem a bit premature to wonder about the Guild Wars 2 economy, considering the game has only be out for a week or so. But a comment by Chris K over on Syncaine’s GW2 Review post got me thinking about whether the game’s structure makes the economy unlikely to ever “recover” from its current bizzaro state:

“The trend [of crafting being pointless] will not persist. Currently people are levelling crafting only for the xp gains. It is, essentially, buying levels with gold. When the majority of these people hit the level cap then you’ll start seeing a decent economy forming.

At least I hope so…”

I have reported before that the GW2 devs made it a point of pride that the crafting system alone can get you to level 80, assuming you feed an alt enough mats. But Chris makes an astute observation that crafting, even when the market is vendor+1c, has a point: easy, scaled XP gains.

So think about it. Going 1-400 in one profession will net you 10 levels of XP at increasingly large costs (primarily in vendor mats, but also karma recipes, etc). Or you could simply go 1-40 (etc) in all eight crafting professions and net 8 levels’ worth of XP much more easily. Why wouldn’t you do this on all your alts? Or your main for that matter, considering that you continue earning Skill points for “leveling” past 80 to spend as Mystic Forge currency.

Changing crafting professions to a new one is a completely painless process with no upfront costs, and all your progress in a dropped profession is saved. Switching back to even a 400-level profession only sets you back 40s – not a completely trivial amount at current gem exchange rates, but way less than I expected. There are no profession bonuses that I know of, and even if there are BoP gear recipes, the lack of gear progression at endgame makes it a mostly moot point.

All of this + the global Trading Post + the existence of Buy/Sell Orders makes me think it unlikely that the Guild Wars 2 economy will ever meaningfully mature from its current state. I have every incentive to start all eight crafting professions on all five of my character slots, and so does everyone else. Doing exactly that will continue to put huge Demand pressure on low-level mats, even if gold inflation raises prices across the board. I can maybe see higher level gear selling for more than vendor+1c once fewer people are leveling crafting past 125 (etc), but the moment it does there will be ten thousand wannabe goblins squeezing into the margins.

Not that I am particularly complaining about the ease in which I can finance cash shop purchases here. I just think ArenaNet really screwed up in the incentive department, on the same level and scale as Blizzard did with Diablo 3. I never thought I would look back on WoW’s discrete Auction House markets and extreme Profession-hopping disincentives with nostalgia, but here we are.

If there is ever a Crafting system failure metric, the “vendor+1c” phenomenon is it.

Making Gold in Guild Wars 2

All you really need to know about making money in Guild Wars 2 is the following:

Pictured: the short version.

This was true before the Trading Post officially came online, and it is especially true afterwards. If you cannot afford your level 40 Trait book (i.e. 1g) at level 40, you are doing it wrong. And not only are you doing it wrong, you are literally throwing real cash money away too.

First, some perspective:

This sort of thing changes everything.

The 100 gem exchange rate has fluctuated up and down since release, but it has generally stayed between 34s and 24s pretty consistently. As of today, it is 25s 25c. Technically you can buy gems in increments as small as 1 gem, but I am using 100 gems as a convenient unit of measurement. As you might have noted, the cash exchange rate (in the US) is 800 per $10, or $1.25 per 100 gems. Useful things like extra character slots will set you back $10, extra bank space $7.5, and so on.

…or you can buy them for 2g 2s and 1g 51s 50c respectively. Which I am about to do as a level 25 character. Here are my main methods:

Step 0: Low-Hanging Fruit

Sell your Unidentified Dye.

At the time of this writing, this item is selling for 6s apiece and you likely have accumulated 5+ by the time you reach level 25. While you may actually be a person who likes tweaking the colors of your character, in my opinion using these items instead of selling them is a losing proposition. Dyes are character-specific NOT Account-Wide, the dye colors you get are random, and since they are selling for 6s apiece, you are paying almost $0.32 each time you double-click.

Many of the “good” colors like Black are going for 2g+ by themselves, but rolling that dice is like scratching lotto tickets. And besides, if you follow this Step and the others, you will likely accumulate enough money on your own to straight-out purchase the colors you want instead of getting yet another Key-Lime Green Dye.

Assuming, of course, you want to spend $10 to make your toon wear a darker shade of black in the first place.

By the way, the Transmog tokens are selling for ~50c as well, which is likely of much better use to you than making your sword look fancy for two levels or less when you get another upgrade.

Step 1: Stop Salvaging

The first instinct you should develop is a desire to VENDOR every non-upgrade piece of equipment you pick up instead of salvaging. Getting 25c for that sword may not sound like a lot of money, but four of them is 1s and that quickly starts to add up. When you salvage, what you are really doing is spending ~3.5c to destroy a 25c+ item into 1-3 crafting components which damn better be worth more than 9c apiece or you are literally throwing money in a hole.

Sometimes Salvaging will indeed net you a profit. Cloth armor below level 20 will typically salvage into Jute Scraps, which are selling for 24c or more. Some low-level heavy armor will similarly salvage into valuable 17c Copper Ore.

Another thing to keep in mind are the Runes/Insignias/etc in Green items – many are generic, but some sell for 1s or more by themselves. You will likely have gotten a few Black Lion Salvage Kits from 100%’ing zones or doing Story missions, so this is the situation in which to use them effectively.

Step 2: Stop Crafting

I can understand that this will be tough for people to internalize – even I’m having a hard time resisting – but between a globalized Trading Post and sanctioned RMT gold-buying, crafting simply makes no sense. Arguably, it never made sense in a game without endgame gear progression, and absolutely makes little sense in the asinine crafting model that ArenaNet is offering.

Just look at what is happening right now:

Good luck being a goblin in this environment.

If that picture isn’t clear, I am buying a massive amulet upgrade for 1 copper over its own vendor price.

A globalized Trading Post means the margins for any crafted good are always going to be razor-thin; it is not about competing with 1-2 Auction Barons, but all Auction Barons everywhere, including the ones willing to work for pennies a day. Supply for most goods is effectively unlimited, so there is no “cornering the market” without cornering ALL the markets. A few niche markets may develop along rare recipe drops (assuming they exist) or legendary materials, but again, they are “niche” across all servers… so not very niche at all.

Think about it for a second. Every weapon or piece of armor you could possibly craft can and will be crafted by somebody else. They will craft said piece multiple times because that is what they need to do to level up their skill, and they will need to sell that piece to pay for all the money they are sinking into the crafting system. Just like 200,000 other people.

When it comes to crafting gear, it is truly a Buyer’s Market.

If you want upgrades every 5 levels like you would get with crafting, simply buy the vendor+1c priced goods instead of effectively paying 10x that amount using mats that you could have sold. Prefer specific stat loadouts that are not represented very well for some reason? Look at the random odd-level gear, e.g. level 21-24 instead of level 25. It might be pricier, but you will have saved an enormous amount by selling your mats. Or, you know, pick up that +Healing +Vitality weapon with the higher DPS and stop trying to twink your very first character.

All of the above ties into the next step:

Step 3: Sell All Your Materials

Tiny Totems are 48c. Tiny Claws are 51c. Vial of Weak Blood is 41c. Jute Scraps are 24c. Copper Ore is 17c.

That last one means each Copper Ore Node is 51c, every five nodes is 2.55s, and every 397 nodes is an extra character slot. That is not counting any of the jeweler pieces you might pick up, or the heaps of other mats you will acquire from killing mobs inbetween nodes. And with GW2’s overall game structure, you can easily collect this amount on your way to 100% map completion in starter zones, no grinding required.

Although, if I’m honest, dicking around Queensdale and other starting zones can be remarkably lucrative. Gear drops are scaled to your own level (e.g. level 25 gear), but the incidental drops like Tiny Totems, Vials of Weak Blood, and those loot bags all drop the same regardless of your higher level. It kinda make me worried in a way, since right now it appears that a level 80 character farming the starting zones might be the way to go given the remarkably low price on endgame ore/wood/etc. We will have to see how it pans out.

Step 4: Never Skip Events

Killing mobs = loot.
Killing lots of mobs = lots of loot.
Killing higher-level mobs = better loot.
Tagging hundreds of higher-level mobs with random AoE in a (badly) scaled Event = Loony Toons amount of loot.

In practice, I imagine there is some behind-the-scenes algorithm that stops Event mobs from dropping loot in the same proportion to random questing mobs. But every since I began to realize that each piece of gear is 10c-30c to a vendor, I will drop everything and run halfway across the zone to “participate” in every Event. What I am looking for are those seemingly endless, bag-filling trash waves where everyone is spamming their AoE buttons. Do the same as them, just spam your Loot key too.

When the boss rolls out though, feel free to tag it and bail. For some dumb reason, Veteran/Champion level mobs do not seem to drop better items (or often any items). So if you have seen this Event before and know there is no treasure chest at the end, there is not much point in sticking around.

Step 5: “Help” Your Neighbors

No doubt this will be controversial along with the boss tag-n-bail I suggested above, but it’s worth noting that you only have to deal 1 point of damage to a mob to get full looting rights when it dies. If you are cruising around the countryside and see a random stranger doing their thing, bust out an instant-damage ranged attack (if you have one) and send it at the mob they are fighting.

If you see some sparkles, congratulations, you win. If not, no worries, continue doing whatever you were doing before.

It might seem unfair, and it technically is from an effort vs reward perspective, but… well, in an absolute sense you did in fact help that stranger and subtracted nothing from them, e.g. their chance at loot remained the same. If this kind of social injustice concerns you, well: don’t blame the player, blame the game.

Step 6: Never Repair

Each time you die, a piece of your armor gets “damaged.” This does not, in fact, mean anything. As the tooltip for the ugly, puke-orange shield states, your items do not start losing effectiveness until they are ALL damaged. While death is a lot more common with the Dynamic Death Trap Events and such, the likelihood of you dying 6+ times in a row before getting an upgrade is actually pretty remote.

Ergo, save your 1s-5s+ repair fees and put it towards replacing said damaged gear with pristine upgrades. Or just pocket it entirely and wait for drops.

Step 7: Be Choosy with Waypoints

If you have not already noticed, the costs for Waypoints is based on your level and the distance traveled. Before too long, they will start costing more than 1s apiece. Needless to say, this starts adding up the wrong direction. The good news is there are a couple of ways to mitigate the sink.

First, instead of using a Waypoint to go from capital to capital, use the Heart of the Mists Express. Press H, go down to the PvP tab, click the Mists button, run into the Lion’s Arch gate, Waypoint your way to the gate area (assuming you have been here before), then take the gate that corresponds with the capital you want to go to. Bam! You just globe-trotted for free. The cool thing about the HotM Express is that you can use it to return to your own capital if you find yourself in some Queensdale cave and don’t want to pay the cover charge; just think of it like a Hearthstone with a 4-loading screen cast bar.

If you need to go from a capital out to the field, you can shave 5-10% off the total cost by simply walking outside the front gates of the capital before using the Waypoint. Since inter-city Waypoints cost nothing, there is really no good reason to not take the one closest to the front door, step outside, and pocket the change.

Finally, well… you may just want to walk sometimes. Some walks are more feasible than others, but all of them will get you out in the general location of resource nodes and profitable random Events. And, hey, I have heard people talk about this “exploration” thing, if you swing that way.

Bonus Step: Buy Some Cheap Food

Seriously folks, crafting is broken:


Whether you are out either adventuring or farming, you might want to stop by your local Black Lion Trading Company representative and browse their 1-Copper Menu. Although I am not level 35, I can still appreciate those noble Cooks who slave away making +18% Magic Find, +40 Power buff treats that last a full 30 minutes and then sell them at a tremendous loss for basically no reason. Know that 1 silver piece I saved you when you followed one of the seven steps? Feel free to purchase 100 of these delicious treats.

For those below level 35, there is still a wide, wide selection of 1 copper buffs, including more +Magic Find ones, if not exactly as high as the Cherry Tarts; you can browse the Wiki entry for their specific names. Some of the other cool ones are the most basic to craft, like Handful of Bjorn’s Rabbit Food (+20 Vitality for 1 hour, no level requirement) if a bit “pricier.” Honestly, when the cash shop is selling 50% XP boosters for 150 gems, getting a 10% XP boost for even 10c is truly a bargain at twice the price.


Considering how much of a Buyer’s Market GW2 has turned out to be (thus far), any concrete “do this to be rich” advice will probably come in the form of where chests respawn or the most lucrative Events are located. I know of at least one sort of “challenge chest” in the Norn area, but I am almost fearful that looting it even once every few days might constitute an exploit. Nevertheless, I will try and collect their various locations in a future post for your own perusal.

If you have your own gold tricks or locations and feel like sharing them in the comments below, by all means do so.

And on the Seventh Day…

“…He vowed: ‘Forsooth, verily shall ye never again take up an MMO at launch. So sayeth the LORD.'”
-Commonsensthians, 1:1

Given that I fancy myself a topical blogger now, and that my prepaid prepurchase of the prelaunch of Guild Wars 2 was predicated on previewing, this is yet another Commandment that I am probably going to break in the future. However! If you have been waiting to jump into GW2 for whatever reason, let me say that I envy you. The game will either be better, or you will know exactly how dumb it is/stayed.

Stream of consciousness-style:


I have made characters. Lots of characters.

  • Asura Elementalist, level 19
  • Sylvari Engineer, level 13
  • Norn Ranger, level 12
  • Human Guardian, level 6
  • [Deleted] Charr Warrior, level 3
  • [Deleted] Human Mesmer, level 3

I typically do not play MMOs this way, insofar as splitting my time amongst many alts right away, but GW2 in particular makes me worry that I picked the “wrong” class. You see, I actually enjoyed my Engineer quite a bit, but… well, once I unlock all of the weapon skills, most of these classes just fall apart in terms of interest.

The Engineer in particular gets hit hard because dual-pistols is the only rational weapon choice for leveling; which means pressing 2, 3, 4, backpedal a bit, mob dead. Over and over and over again. For 80 levels. Given the Engineer mechanics, you cannot swap weapons in combat, although you can spice things up by dropping turrets or swapping to a Flamethrower, Landmines, Grenades, etc. But none of those alternate weapons seem to work better than dual-pistols, unless people are accidentally tanking for you. In which case… nope, dual-pistols are still probably the strongest.

Since my friends are now in the mid-20 range, I have been focusing on the Elementalist, which is honestly what I should have been doing all along. I stick in Fire mode 99% of the time, but unlike dual-pistols with the Engineer, it somehow feels different. I think the main thing is how one of the “rotation” buttons requires ground targeting, which necessarily changes from mob to mob, spicing things up (dual-pistols is all straight tab targeting with inherent AoE).

I deleted the Warrior and Mesmer so early for a few reasons. First, the whole Mesmer mechanic of summoning and sacking phantasms/clones did not seem like something especially fun. In PvP? Probably pretty fun, or annoying to the opposing team, which is another way of saying “fun.” The warrior was deleted for much simpler reasons: I died at one of the newbie Events right past the tutorial. Remember how I warned everyone that if you were melee, popular Events would kill you practically instantly? Yeah. If you want to be stuck as a Longbow-Rifle warrior, go right ahead, but I was not looking forward to 80 levels of getting owned in Events when I could be dropping meteors and volcanoes and having fun.

Before deleting either class though, I did take them to the PvP lobby to take a look at their Traits lines (aka Talents) and later Skills. The warrior was pretty straight-forward and boring to me. The Mesmer had some pretty cool ones that got the PvP juices flowing though. For example, how about a wall of crazy magic that automatically turns all your teammates invisible when they pass through it? I was imagining dropping that when storming the bases in Warsong Gulch… until I remembered that this was a whole different game, the invisibility lasts 4 seconds, and this would take a coordinated team effort that isn’t likely to happen unless I am in some PvP guild running premades. Which is too bad, because the Mesmer can also make a portal entrance/exit that can be used by anyone to zip you between the two locations instantly as well.

Auction House Trading Post

As of today, still down.

It does periodically come up from time to time, and I make oodles of coin in that brief window. However, I do recognize that actually making money from the Trading Post will not be a particularly long-term endeavor. Crafted goods were generally selling at 1 copper above their vendor price, which is actually selling at a loss considering the obscene ArenaNet 15% cut. Mats are where it is likely to be at, so to speak, but once the Trading Post opens for real, it will be a race to the bottom against botters and their crippling 72 bans.

Where I made my money this past week was selling the Unidentified Dyes for in the neighborhood of 10 silver apiece, which is pretty astounding. It might not sound like a lot of money in any typical MMO, but keep this in mind:

Pictured: You being jealous.

At the time of this writing, I have accumulated 400 gems in this fashion, all for less than 34 silver per 100. The real money exchange rate works out to $1.25 per 100 gems, so I’ve made a cool $5 selling roughly 1g 20s on one character. In case you need reminded, my highest toon is level 19. Incidentally, that is more than I have made in Diablo 3 for the entire 2-3 months I played.

So when I tell you I am very annoyed about the Trading Post being down for the vast majority of the prior week, that is not “entitlement” speaking. This is SRS BSNS. God only knows what the exchange rate for in-game currency is going to be a month from now.

Hint: not likely 30s per 100.

Dynamic (Death Trap) Events

While I will admit that some of these Events have been interesting gameplay experiences – taking out bandits before they set up poison traps for Skritts, or disabling the traps before the Skritt trigger them is probably not something a traditional MMO quest can do – the vast majority of the ones I played are simply trash farming. Which is great for making money (see above), but does not deviate much from the “zerg ALL the things” stereotype I had from the betas.

And then I started running into Events that are either poorly designed, poorly tuned, or (Badly) Working As Intended.

Pictured: my life, in a nutshell.

Let me unpack that collage of failure for you.

First, I was originally questing in the area to fill up a level 15 Renown Heart. Suddenly – or should I say “dynamically”? – the entire complex was filled with level 16 mobs. I died pretty much instantly. After respawning, I came back inside to see if I could chip away at the Renown Heart still, and perhaps see if there were more players around to take down the Event proper. But then I got confused. The Event says it is level 14. All the mobs are level 16, pat around in groups, and even the ones by themselves were generally chained to another mob 20 feet away. I did eventually find a group of 5-6 players, but I was never able to tell whether they were on the premises the whole time (which might explain the higher-level mobs) or if they came in once the Event popped on the radar.

The very next area North of here was the 15-25 zone, and immediately featured two more Dynamic Death Traps. Remember people telling you to complete Events and then follow the NPC when they run back home? Sometimes it results in some exposition dialog, or even another Event. And sometimes it results in instant death.

Surprise! Boss-level Event after you collected 10 lightning bug asses.

There was zero warning that the very next step was going to be [Group] level boss Event. None. Again, it is possible that there were “enough” people in the general area (that I could not see) that would make a level 16 Champion spawning from a collection quest make sense. I saw one dude, who died with me, twice.

By the way, at the current exchange rate, each death costs me $0.0125.

After respawning and heading in the other direction, I encounter this lovely Renown Quest:

It will be fun, they said.

What exactly a level 21 mob is doing in the level 17 Renown Quest area, I have no idea. But, you know, I am a total pro and (slowly) take these fools out. Heart completed, I notice a Dynamic Event spawn nearby. Given my prior experience getting nickle and dimed to death, I said to myself “fuck that noise” and started heading back to the Renown guy to check for upgrades. I make it about ten feet before this happened:

Not pictured: wireless keyboard sailing through the room.

What a swarm of eight level 20 mobs are doing heading towards a level 17 Event is a secondary concern to why they have to…

…you know, what? Whose mind do I imagine I’m changing here? You are either already drinking the Kool-Aid or you are not, and I am fine waiting for the first bodies to hit the floor.

And it is not as though there isn’t other things I could be doing, like…


Just kidding, perma-queues.

I will say that I am impressed by ArenaNet having free server transfers open during this time when ~70% of all available American servers are Full, even at 4am. I have talked a bit with my friends as to whether we want to bail from Northern Shiverpeaks and go down to a Low pop server, but the downside to that would be lack of people in the world for Dynamic Death Trap Events, grouping in general, and so on. Given the PvP guilds located on this server though, it is quite possible that no one else will ever be able to zone in. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.


By the way, I hate the crafting system thus far.

Hmm… maybe “hate” is too strong a word. It’s boring. You only make items in 5-level increments, e.g. level 5, level 10, level 15, etc. Every recipe is Piece A + Piece B + X, where X is either a mob drop, or a token you create from a mob drop. It creates an illusion of “hundreds of different recipes to discover!” when the reality is that a pair of boots with +Condition Damage on it is not really different from another pair of boots with +Power. Yes, if you were stacking Condition damage or something, it matters.

But do you understand what I’m saying? Within 30 seconds of crafting two different boots, I implicitly knew the recipes for (possibly?) every pair of boots in the game. Six different mob drops –>  six different tokens + six different super-tokens = 12 variations of each item * six levels of the base material (Jute, Wool, Cotton, etc). Looking at the Wiki for Tailoring, it looks like there are 14 token variations instead of 12 at higher levels, but come on.

Anyone remember Spidersilk Boots? I do. Seeing that recipe for a blue item was the precise moment in WoW that I became keenly interested in crafting and doing things with the AH. Contrast that with what I described above; simply rearranging stats around is a Diablo 3-esque crafting system, not an inspiring one. Maybe all the cool crafting stuff happens at higher levels, or at the Mystic Forge. Maybe there are super-secret recipes no one knows about.

Regardless, right now GW2’s crafting system feels like it has been designed by an accountant.


One final (positive!) thing I want to talk about today is actually an area where Guild Wars 2 nails down a quality I did not fully understand: immersion.

A lot of people pretend that immersion is some kind of objective term, that the things that pull them into or eject them out of a game are universal Truths. Those people are wrong. Sense of immersion is a personal thing, which should be immediately obvious to anyone who is into fantasy or sci-fi novels but thinks Twilight (etc) is dumb. Different people look for different forms of escapism. Suspension of disbelief is a voluntary action, or at least is informed by your own tastes.

What GW2 has taught me thus far is that I (hitherto subconsciously) place a heavy emphasis on a sense of existing in a 3D space for immersion. It might be easier to show you what I mean:

This impressed me to an almost embarrassing degree.

This fence is Real to me, as it exists in a 3D space and I can interact with it. Namely, by standing on it. You probably do not know this about me, but one of the first things I do in an MMO is find a fence and try and stand on it. Why? Because it tells you a lot about the “depth” game. If the fence is simply a 2D texture papered over an invisible wall, you know there is not likely to be many “real” objects in the game. God forbid if you cannot jump at all.

And I apparently have a thing for fences. Don’t judge me.

While it is also impressive how our feet can actually appear to stand at the correct levels of the fence, I understand that that is more of a “trick” compared to the 3D object itself. A good trick, for sure, but a trick nonetheless.

If I get vertigo in your game, you win.

The above is another one of my favorite screenshots. It looks better in motion, but it feels even better inside my head. GW2 evokes the sense that these floating islands actually exist, that the character I control is not just an elaborate 2D model but an actual set piece moving in 3D space. Immersion success. Indeed, I usually find myself frustrated when I come across a hill in-game that I cannot find some way of climbing straight up, as opposed to going around the “right way.” The hill exists, therefore I keep trying to find that slightly less sloped polygon so I can shimmy my way up to the top. It does not cross my mind that there might be an invisible wall around the hill edge, because invisible walls are for fake-3D games.

And the weird thing is that I’m not even that into platformers.


With all of that off my chest, in the next GW2 post I might spend some time handing out gameplay tips in the same vein as the Quickstart guide. Because while the things I complain about do legitimately annoy me, GW2 has subsumed the entirety of my gaming time since the head start. Which, if I’m honest, is not something that happens very often.

And The Rest

Let’s go ahead and wrap up the rest of my Guild Wars 2 impressions.

Point 10: Making Bank

Guild Wars 2 has, by far, the best inventory management system I have seen in a videogame. And it was a feature I only discovered accidentally in my final few hours of playtime.

This needs to be in all games, ASAP.

It is called the Collectible Tab and it is to my eternal shame that I did not take a screenshot.

Essentially, the Collectible Tab is hundreds of organized, square silhouettes that represents all of the trade and crafting goods in Guild Wars 2 (and maybe more besides). Instead of you needing to waste precious bank space with your stacks of Jute scraps (e.g. Linen Cloth), you merely drag it to the Collectible tab and it automatically gets sorted and contained in its own little square. Or, you know, you can simply right-click the item and select the “Deposit Collectible” option. From anywhere. And by “anywhere” I mean, literally, anywhere you can open the Inventory screen. Farming bandits and find your bags are overflowing with the pilfered trophies from corpses of men you murdered in cold blood? Two clicks and you are done.

I did not think to check whether there is an upper-limit to the stack size of items stored in the Collectible Tab. All I know is that I no longer will need to do my OCD WoW bank routine wherein I manually alphabetize herbs by expansion, rarity, and the aesthetic qualities of the icon. Simply put, the banking system in Guild Wars 2 is built out of win.

Point 11: The AH on the other hand…

There is a very specific thing that happened to the AH, for a very specific reason, and it has soured my experience with it somewhat. What happened was this:

Oh, RMT. Is there ever a bridge too far?

Basically, ArenaNet took the ability of players to retrieve their successful auctions from anywhere, limited it to the Trading Post NPCs, and then are selling consumables in the cash shop to allow you to pick up your items anywhere… for 5 minutes. Considering you can teleport to within 30 yards of the Trading Post NPCs at any time from any where, this might come across as a tad… nitpicky. Entitled, even.

But let us be clear what is going on here. You can sell, buy, and browse the AH from anywhere in the game world at any time. And during the first beta weekend, you could also pick up your successful auctions (money and items both) from anywhere as well. Now you cannot, and there is consumable cash shop item that temporarily restores the functionality. Granted, the Trading Post NPCs did not have much of a purpose before, but that is a design problem with an easy solution, e.g. remove them. Or leave them as reminders to those who forgot you can access the AH from anywhere by pressing “O.”

I can recognize the cognitive dissonance between my accepting as intuitive the fact that you cannot withdraw from your bank from anywhere, and the obviously analogous Trading Post situation. Maybe this is only an issue with my seeing the monetizing team in action – had this been in the first beta weekend, it might be that I wouldn’t have thought any different. Nevertheless, I seen what they did last summer, and I had/have a problem with this change.

Everything else about the AH is fantastic, although I must admit that Buy/Sell orders somewhat diminishes the thoroughly soothing gameplay I find in searching for AH bargains.

Point 12: Guilded

I did not actually join a guild, but I thought this was a good idea:

Kinda like a Background Check.

When you click on a Guild invitation, it takes you to a screen that allows you to actually look at said Guild’s roster before joining. This is another of those common sense features that you wonder why are not in more games. The only thing missing is a Cover Letter and perhaps a list of three things the Guild is bad at.

Point 13: Minecrafting

This is 100% a personal preference thing, but I’m not a huge fan of the crafting system in Guild Wars 2. There are a number of surprisingly complicated base recipes – when was the last time you saw a game that requires you to construct a wristguard strap and wristguard padding before combining the both with a 3rd ingredient to make a pair of gloves? – but the vast majority of recipes comes from the “Discovery” system, aka the Trial & Error system.

Oh, good.

Or, perhaps most likely, the “Just look at the damn Wiki” system.

The bow in the above picture is a lame example, of course, but I otherwise find zero entertainment in such “just try it!” crafting systems. My brain simply doesn’t work that way; I am too damn methodical. Do you know the first thing I did when I built a crafting table in Minecraft? I put a piece of wood in the first empty square. Then I put another piece of wood in another square beside the first. And then I moved the second piece of wood over one square. And then moved it again, in sequence, around the remaining empty squares. Then I added a third piece of wood, and repeated the process. If you asked me to crack the combination code to a briefcase, I would start with 0-0-1 and end with 9-9-9, X number of hours later… if I did not simply throw the briefcase out the window beforehand.

Don’t get me started on Word Finds, or that Doodle God app.

I saw the following quote during the first beta, but I forgot to specifically notate it:

Originally posted by Linsey Murdock

Cooking is considered our advanced craft. It will cost you more money, karma, and time traveling the world than any other crafting discipline.

Pro Tip: Every cooking recipe in Guild Wars 2 is a real recipe for real food in real life (or a basic approximation). If you think you are close to figuring out one of the combinations, google a recipe for the food you suspect it might be, and odds are, you can find a bunch of recipes for things like that to try out.

If you like this sort of thing, you will like Guild Wars 2 crafting quite a bit. If you don’t, you will probably be Alt-Tabbing to the Wiki like myself.

Incidentally, this is also true of the crafting system:

Originally posted by Linsey Murdock

The way leveling XP gain works in crafting is this: For leveling a discipline from 0-400, you will gain 10 levels along the way. By maxing out all 8 disciplines, you will gain 80 levels. That means you could dedicate a character to crafting, feed it all the mats you get on other characters and level it all the way to 80 without ever needing to kill a thing. As hardcore crafters, we think that is pretty cool.



That about sums up my impressions of this second beta weekend. If/when the third beta weekend comes along, my tentative goals will be the following:

  1. Test the Norn/Charr areas more thoroughly to see if I run into the same pacing issues I experienced in Queensdale.
  2. Verify whether it was user-error in Queensdale after all.
  3. Level a character high enough to see how the “trinity-less” dungeons work.
  4. Sell my gems on the AH so I’ll have more than 10 silver to rub together.
  5. Continue being angry at puppies, rainbows, and the laughter of small children.

So look forward to that. I know I am.

Skyrim is a Bad MMO

Skyrim, of course, is not intended to be an MMO.

That said, as I sailed past 100 hours played and started finally running out of the “named quests,” I started thinking back to when a lot of bloggers were musing on a hypothetical Skyrim Online and how great that would be. As it turns out, there is not much imagination necessary: Skyrim really already emulates a lot of the standard sort of MMO tropes. And, perhaps ironically, some of Skyrim’s other qualities sort of demonstrate why such mechanics generally do not really work in MMOs.


Quests range from “Talk to this guy,” to “Collect 20 Nirnroot,” to “Kill the Bandit Leader in a nation with an inexplicable 10,000:1 bandit to honest citizen ratio.” While there are no exclamation points over peoples’ heads, each city is so densely packed with quest-givers that your minimap – if such thing existed – would be lit up like a Christmas tree. And just like with every quest in an MMO, you never get a sense that you are actually solving anything. Give the Blacksmith 10 Fire Salts to reheat his forge? He may greet you a little differently, but his “secret technique” results in no higher quality merchandise, no larger gold cap, no discounts.

Sidequests are sidequests, though, right? Well, to an extent. The problem is when there are more sidequests than main quests, or when the main quest is boring. At some point, you give the player enough freedom to hang themselves… and they do.

See, I have completely lost the Skyrim narrative. “What am I doing? Why do I care?” Helping a dude steal a horse is supposed to enrich the game world’s verisimilitude, I guess? If that is the case, it failed. The quests are so disjointed and arbitrary that I end up feeling like a dyslexic, ADD-addled coke-fiend with Tourettes, sputtering along countryside with an ever-increasing laundry list of chores. The situation really makes me appreciate all those otherwise lame zones in WoW, insofar as the quests actually lead somewhere or enriched the background of the zone.


I have heard a lot of people lament the state of player crafting in MMOs, but again, Skyrim is a good case-in-point about where strong player crafting can lead to. Basically, I have not upgraded a single piece of gear in the last 40 hours of gameplay. Considering there is no such thing as quest XP, and I have more gold than I could ever possibly spend, the lack of possible gear upgrades essentially boils questing down to its base narrative components. Some hold up, most do not.

Short of the sandbox-esque nuclear option of destroying gear and/or permanent durability loss, I do not see a worthy payout for the costs of strong player crafting. I just completed a long questline to reconstruct a 1,000+ year old amulet whose power started a war and led to it being split into three parts and sealed away; the names of amulet keepers were to be forgotten under the pain of death. After finally reforging it, I held it in my hands and… oh, +30 to Health/Mana/Stamina? I created an amulet with +67 to Health and +40% extra Bow damage nearly 50 hours ago.


While some of this can be mitigated in MMOs by making recipes rare, requiring special crafting materials from higher-level content (which is different than normal loot… how?), and so on, strong player crafting still seems to boil down to reducing or eliminating much of the incentive to quest. Perhaps that is indeed the entire point, eh? Moving away from designer quests and into “Spam Trade chat for an hour” player quests? That is fine to do, with the assumption that the game itself is either going full quest-less, or the quests that do exist are so ridiculously fun and exciting that they are intrinsically worth doing.


Although this is not a formal review, if I had to sum up all of my problems with Skyrim in a single word, it would be “pacing.” There simply isn’t any. Even if the game revolves around doing what you want, pacing is important. I am level 51 and I can 2-shot dragons with my bow from stealth – the game is essentially over for me. And yet the main questline is not remotely near complete, nevermind the handful of other quests remaining. Yes, “I did this to myself.” If EVE gave every new player a Titan for completing the tutorial, those players would also be “doing it to themselves” for (ab)using it too.

Point being, it is the designers’ jobs to craft a well-paced game. I don’t care how sandbox your design is, I shouldn’t be allowed to break the game for myself. One of the great strengths of the themepark experience is exactly the derided “on rails” component: it will take you X days of Y quests to get Z gear. The bosses you face tomorrow will be stronger than the ones faced today. There will be a quantifiable reason to collect 10 bear asses.

After 100 hours of gameplay, clearly Skyrim is doing some things right. I have never taken more screenshots in my entire life, for example. Despite my character being completely broken, I still treat the world seriously (sneaking around when I could simply kill things straight-up) because it projects seriousness in most every scenario. But instead of making me pine for Skyrim Online, it does the opposite. I miss the strong narratives of Fallout 3 and New Vegas. I hated having to level through Burning Crusade content in WoW, but I hate tracking down 20 Nirnroots more.

Pacing is something to keep in mind when constructing your hypothetical sandbox or Impossible MMO. More options, more things to do, can actually result in less meaningful gameplay. Skyrim deserves its accolades, but it makes for a pretty bad MMO. And the changes necessary for Skyrim to be ported into the MMO world would, in fact, make it resemble nothing like its present state.