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Bryan Harmon's blog

8:53 AM on 07.20.2014

Where most survival MMOs get it wrong

If you are a PC gamer with at least one eye open then you can't miss the trends in gaming over the last few years. Retro games, free-to-play games, voxels and the rise of the survival MMO game. I enjoy all of these genres, especially the survival MMOs. 

The concept is great. Put the player in an open world. Give them a few tasks to keep them busy and populate the world with dangerous mobs and even more dangerous players and let the community create the experience for the player through PvP and/or team co-op. When you add in perma-death the gameplay is tense and your actions always meaningful.

Two of the bigger dogs in this genre are DayZ and Rust. Two of the lesser known horses in the race are Nether and Unturned. There are also a few others like Stomping Land and Beasts of Prey but I have yet to try those games so let's stick with the first 4. 

Now, I can only play these games with friends. When I try and play these alone it is extremely boring compared to playing alongside a buddy. With a friend in tow the game turns into some of the most fun to be had in video games. Exploring the world together, tense PvP encounters, farming mobs and some of the funniest encounters with other players and items within the game I have had in the digital world. 

So why would the makers of DayZ and Rust, the two kings of this genre, make their games so difficult for players to team up with their friends? It completely ruins the whole experience and has me filing these games into the "finished" section of my Steam catalog. Meanwhile, games like Nether, which received an unjust 5.0 from IGN, has a system in place which lets friends easily log in and find each and yet gets none of the publicity that a game like DayZ gets. I don't get it. Let's take each game and break it down a little.

Somehow DayZ has remained atop the Steam sales list for what seems like forever. Really? As my friend put it, a nature walk with zombies. Not that DayZ doesn't have some really good things going for it. The atmosphere they have created is great. The graphics are superb. But let's take last night for instance. I got together with a guy from New Zealand to play DayZ. This guy knows the game and has been playing faithfully since the mod. 
The game used to spawn me by the coast which is how myself and another friend used to find each other, by both dieing. Now I spawn in the middle of the woods. I have no clue where I am and neither does the guy from New Zealand. He tells me that the current night sky in DayZ has the real stars above and one of his friends learn to navigate by the north star. Sounds cool but does me no good. After running through the woods trying to keep the moon ahead of me and hoping to find the coast I stumble upon a map. This is great! So I open the map. Turns out it is just one piece of the map. There is a lot of pieces left to be found but on my one piece I see how huge just that one section is. Nowhere on the map does it show where I am. I can not add friend from the players it lists on the map or see their location of join a team with them. The towns are so similar that one looks just like the next. That doesn't help. So I just keep running with the hopes to find the coast and then hopefully to find him. I never do. 1 hour of coordinating with him and we could never find each other and ended the game. 
I know some of you that play religiously will say you just need to do blah blah blah. I'm speaking from a casual players perspective. It sucks. The game has made mountains of cash on Steam and has been in Early Access for a while and there has yet to be a significant update. How about some Steam integration? A full map with player coordinates and the ability to form a team? Nope. So where is the money going? Not sure but I was suckered out of $20.

I had a lot of fun at first with Rust but the unforgiving game they have created alienates the single player and makes it next to impossible to make any sort of progress before getting KOS. I'm not just talking about KOS from another player while you are hunting and mining. I mean when you turn the game off and go to work your player is still in the game and can be robbed and killed while you are gone. So you come home to find your player back at square one. That sucks. Not to mention hackers have infested this game and ruined most populated servers. And then there is the inability to find your friends unless you play a modded server wit /tp function. Unfortunately those functions are so abused by hackers that the server owner has to shut it down. Rust is currently reinventing itself and the exp server looks really great. It is still on my radar but if they do not develop some sort of team function to find your friends, I'll pass.

Nether is my favorite of the bunch. Is it perfect? Heck no. Safezone sniper campers. Bad AI for the Nether, lack of team play for safe zone missions, hacker infested, I could go on. It suffers from a lot of the same things that the other survival MMOs do. But what they get correct outweighs the faults in my opinion. First off Nether is beautiful. An urban, decayed post apocalyptic world that would make Hollywood proud. Oh ya, it also has the option to log into a server with your friend and send a team request. Once accepted you can check your map, which everyone has a full map to start out with, and see exactly where your team members are and work your way to them. The game balances just enough distance after respawn that finding your friends is easy but also feels good and is a relief once there. For these reasons this is my go to survival MMO.

I just started playing Unturned with my son. I don't know much about it. but what I do no is, for cons, it's a survival mmo zombie game with minecraft-like graphics...ya, bout as unoriginal as they come. On the plus side the game is fun to play with friends. There are always items to find so exploring feels rewarding. Unturned has a very deep crafting system and the ability to get a map that shows a world very manageable if you are looking for a friend. It also has a sleeping bag you can craft so you and your friends can set up a base and respawn at the sleeping bag. I'd play this before DayZ and Rust at this point and this was made by one 16 year old kid.   read

1:18 PM on 07.07.2014

Black Gold Online

I'm currently knee deep in Black Gold Online. The game is an MMORPG that just hit open beta a few weeks ago. 

The game breaks down into two factions with two completely different worlds to play in based on which faction you choose. There is the steampunk faction which has dwarfs and operate mechs and there is the fantasy faction which has Avatar looking characters and controls beasts as mounts and such. 

I only have experience with the Erlandir (fantasy) faction. I'm currently a level 22 Geomancer (healer) and have yet to dip my toes into the Isenhorst (steampunk) faction so I have no opinion over there as of yet.

So why am I choosing to write about Black Gold Online? In short, I believe it is an excellent game that will drive many players away after their first taste of it. But if given a chance they will see a beautiful world that is fun to explore and a boatload of things to do other than questing.

Second question. Why are people driven away from the game initially? I, myself, had my finger on the uninstall button after first trying it. The opening seems pretty generic. The cut scenes were meh. The start felt a little uninspired and everything felt like Ok, I've done this a million other times before in other MMORPGs. But I did not uninstall and once I made it through the preliminary BS what I found was a fully realized Mayan/Aztec world mixed in with high fantasy. A fantastically realized map to explore with awesome looking creatures and the best mount combat I've experienced in MMORPG game and a great score to accompany your exploration. 

Is the questing boring? Sure, but isn't all MMORPG questing boring? There is a ton to do besides questing if you'd like. There are randomly spawned events marked on your map by a skull. There are Instances to conquers with a group of other players. Arena combat for 1vs1 PvP. While exploring you will happen upon outbreaks which are hidden dungeons that are very challenging as well as standard dungeons access solo or grouped but are very hard either way. For me, impossible solo. Adventures offer even more diversity with events like a racing Grand Prix and horde mode with waves of enemies. Secret NPCs roam around waiting for you to find them and attack and give special drops. And if you are feeling very warlike then jump into the Battlefield where your faction squares off against the opposing faction in all out warfare to claim the majority of 5 spots on the map. 

The game is "free to play" and if you want to spend money you can increase your mount attributes, find dungeons easier, re-charge things quicker, get more valor and treasure points, etc. This is Snail Games so if you were familiar with Wushu and how confusing they made it, this game is much easier to follow. Although the whole time vial thing confuses me and reminds me that Snail has to put some kind of confusion in there no matter what.

So give it a try past the first hour or 2 and see if you dig it as much as I do. With a low player base we hope we can drum up some more hype for this one. It deserves it.


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