Prepare to have your mind blown, especially if your mental capacity isn’t all that grand to begin with. I am going to defy the image that some have assigned to me — so if you’re a reader who is not a close friend of mine in game, you might be shocked. I am going to complain, and I am going to be critical. Of course, I have been critical of elements of releases in the past (go look, it’s true), and I have never said complaining is inappropriate, only that complaining about scenarios you’ve developed in your head with no link to any thing resembling fact is idiotic.
So! Let us begin on the positive. Imagination is awesome. As things shake out and we all get more chances to find the upgrade cards we want, the new system will work great. New players are in for a treat — I already took a level 1 into the game just to get a feel for what it’s like to be at ground level in this new system. I can’t speak for whether or not the initial new player experience has changed, however, as I did not create a fresh level 1. But the new system will be wonderul.
The conversion, however, is not so wonderful. The issues actually comes from a few things. First, some benefits from our skills have been transferred to iMG upgrades. This means that while a mining action has taken me exactly 4 seconds for months now, since around the time of the Unlaunch, it is now doubled. And so far, I have not managed to draw a single mining upgrade card of any kind — essentially making one of my primary in game activities, the activity that is the very reason I have the friends I have and that led to us creating a popular social group, is now impractical. And second, since the cards we draw come at random, it’s actually conceivable that months from now I still won’t have seen a single mining upgrade card. In the meantime, the miners of PBMS are going to have a lot of trouble working together in the mines. And that’s a serious blow to the reasons we’ve stuck around up to this point.
I like that it’s random. If we just saw every single card option, we’d inevitably end up with “min/maxers” and a good majority of the players running around with exactly identical upgrades and options. The element of chance is interesting, and it will not be as big a problem for new players. A new player will take a few months to learn the mining skills I have; in the meantime, they’ll have plenty of chances to draw new upgrade cards.
As vets, we were given some of our skill bonuses back as upgrades. There seems to be some bug with whether or not those are listed on our profile. I have a level 15 that showed 13 starting upgrades (or something very close to that), whereas my level 42 (where max level characters are now starting out) showed no starting upgrades but clearly has them, as he has come back to the game with more brain capacity, higher quoin multipliers, and more energy and mood available than the level 15, all things the level 15′s given upgrades were related to. It’s really bothering me to have to wonder which harvesting upgrades I don’t need to worry that I’m not seeing — I don’t know if I have them or not. I’m not really concerned here though — I’m betting this is a bug and will be ironed out.
In the grand scheme, Tiny Speck is the greatest online game company with a product on the market (or sort of on the market) — everyone that logged in to shock and anger after SWG’s NGE understands. All the Squeenix fans praying that FFXIV actually works someday understand too. I am not incapable of being critical — I just have an accurate perception of how Tiny Speck operates compared to other companies in the genre. The amount of “suck” possessed by Tiny Speck compared to most MMO game companies is like comparing a candle flame to a forest fire.
But right now, I find myself, for the first time ever, really not all that motivated to log back in. I told my friends I’d be back at new game day, and I had no plan to write this post instead of playing. But after 9 pm rolled around, I just kinda stared at the enter world button. If I go play with my friends, those who’ve been lucky enough to get the Mining upgrades will be cutting through rocks like cheese while I’m stuck struggling in the mud. It won’t feel effective or efficient. If I go play solo, I’m eliminating the reason I play the game. Both options suck, even if it’s just a candle flame of suck.
So let me emphasize: I do trust Tiny Speck, as they’ve asked in the FAQ, that random upgrades are not a bad thing. I think random is good in general: it’s going to be no trouble at all for new players, and it’s even okay for us vets to have to randomly receive many of these cards: the new benefits, the expanding energy pools, all those things are okay random. But not the benefits from the skills we’ve already had. My mining is back to October or November, and there’s no way for me to know if I will get back that ability when I log back in—as inevitably I will after publishing this—or if those upgrades won’t even show up as options for another six months. And that’s frustrating, and not fun, and generally no good at all.
ETA: After realizing there was no reason to be conservative in my spending, as character upgrades have a bigger effect on game play than the size of my . . . home, I feel a lot better about the conversion. I’m flying through upgrades and getting more of the ones I want as I go. And I’ve even started buying some of the learning related ones I didn’t really want to spend iMG on — but if they release skills in those categories later, I’d rather already have those upgrades then have to look for them.