Archive for July, 2007|Monthly archive page

Guild Wars-Style MMO: Could It Work?

I’ll preface this by saying that I don’t consider Guild Wars to be an MMO. While there are many thousands of players online at the same time, everything including the towns are instanced. When you run out of a town, you will find no other players except those you grouped with. Even though many people do consider this to fall into the MMO category, I just don’t buy it, but anyways, on to my idea.

So would it be plausible to import this style of play into a more standard MMO? Give players the option to jump straight to max level? By this I mean a far greater focus on PvE, instead of PvP (although it’s still very much included.) So this could mean both instancing/raiding as well as perhaps some world PvP or instanced PvP. Here’s how I think it could work.

You could be given a base set of armor and attributes/skills for both PvE and PvP. As you progress with your maxed level character through “end-game” content or complete PvP objectives, you could gain boosts to either your armor or stats. Perhaps your standard PvE character could gain rewards throughout their progression that could boost attributes and unlock skills, while progression through PvP could earn you an armor boost/upgrade. Obviously which benefits which could be switched around, but this seems pretty solid.

One problem that I can see with this is if you want to be a hardcore raider or harcore PvPer and don’t want to do the other content, how do you progress without participating in the other? I’m not quite sure about this yet, but I’m sure there are a multitude of possibilities to get around this.

Another problem with this is that if you decide to jump right into PvE content with your maxed character, what’s to stop you from burning out? The answer is give it more randomness like PvP. An arena would be a great way to do this, which randomly generated mobs or increased mobs depending on the size of the group. I believe Anarchy Online had a mission generator that could either be geared towards loot or xp, and difficulties could also be set (not 100% sure on this, but I think I remember hearing about it.) *This could be applied to ANY MMO out there today, not just in this setting.* This is a great way to ensure varied content, even if a lot of the environments get recycled (a la CoH/CoV), as long as the layout and the location/type of mobs changes each time, then it will be much more exciting that running *insert raid instance here* every week.

One major difference between Guild Wars and most other MMO’s out there now is that PvE is certainly put on the back-burner, with it’s only true purpose being to obtain runes to boost your PvP abilities. Could this work in a game that takes three to six months to reach max level and unlock everything for your other characters? I’m not really sure myself, let alone whether I would be interested in this system myself. I haven’t really taken too much time to develop this in great detail, but this is what I’ve got so far.

~Kanthalos

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Alternatives to XP-Based Leveling

Damianov saw a concept for leveling that involved ranking quests by difficulty and then advancing based on completing so many quests of a certain rank. He admits that there are some flaws with the system. There is definitely some great potential as well, though. I’ll look at both.

The main flaw with a system like this is that everything in the game would have to be quest based. Even if everything wasn’t stuck in a city, I think this would give the game a very strong “DDO” feel. No one is going to want to fight their way through a bunch of mobs that give no reward in order to get to the content that they can progress with, so it would be all of these encounters spread out across the land. I guess one solution to this would be to have random mobs strewn about that provide gear or other materials, while the quests are how you advance, but again, I don’t think people would want to spend half their time advancing their character and half their time finding gear, with no common ground.

Another problem with this system is the conflict of instancing vs. camping. If everything was instanced, this would obviously prevent camping but instances are horrible immersion-breakers. There’s nothing like climbing up to a “griffon’s nest” (example used by Damianov) when a load screen pops up and everyone else disappears. I just don’t think I could do this personally. That said, I also don’t enjoy the thought of a riotous mob of players waiting 45 minutes for their shot to steal the egg when it respawns.

So what is a possible solution to this? Have enough quests that they can simply do another one. This means an enormous number of quests, and by quests, I don’t me “kill 10 rats” or “deliver this to Bob, standing six feet away from me.” I mean true, meaningful quests. The whole idea behind this system is that you feel like your quests matter, otherwise why would they be your only source of advancement? This is good and bad. This means that quest designers actually have to put their thinking caps on and create some intriguing quests that really challenge and entertain the players. This also means though, that they have to come up with an incredible amount of these.

For example: Assume you have to complete 15 of these at each level, and there are 25 levels, that’s 375 quests, and you are probably going to want at the very least twice that many to leave some options including a mix of solo and group quests and long and short, that’s 750 quests. Furthermore, once you get the higher levels, like almost all games, quests are going to become much more intricate, difficult, and time-consuming. It’s going to to difficult to make quests that seem important that don’t take more than 20-30 minutes. If all your quests take an hour, that’s going to make questing very difficult for a lot of players, especially if you have to find a group to do them before you go. This balance can surely be found, but it will take a lot more planning and writing to find it.

This is highly ambitious, and would take a lot of work. If you don’t have enough content to keep the players interested long enough due to a lack of quests and/or make the leveling curve too easy, players are going to reach max level far too soon and be left with nothing to do and leave. There are other elements to keep them there, such as crafting or PvP, but that’s a different topic.

The last real problem I have with this is that even if quests are more fulfilling, I couldn’t help but feel like I was being lead around being told what to do. I think there needs to be some balance between player freedom and being sent from one spot to the next. I think this would also force developers to feel like they had to fill every inch of their world with quests since there would be nothing between them (mobs) and then it would feel more like an amusement park than an MMO.

I’m all for getting more interactive, challenging, and all around fun quests in MMO’s, but if they aren’t implemented well in this system, it will absolutely kill the game as it’s how you level. To date, I haven’t found a game that has quests that are more than tasks. Warhammer looks like its going to start to break this trend, but until we see more of it, I think this goal is too ambitious to build an entire game around. I’m barely scratching the surface of this concept (in a somewhat incoherent fashion,) but those are my initial thoughts, I’d love to know your opinions on it.

~Kanthalos

My EQ2 Weekend

Well, as you know, I’ve been trying to get into EQ2 for around a week, so finally Friday afternoon I got customer support to fix my problem, and I began patching… for 12 hours. Wishing that I would have just gone out and bought it at the store is an extreme understatement. Not only do I have to patch for 12 hours, but I had to sit at the computer and watch it patch for 12 hours. I’m guessing that 300 files got stuck while downloading, so I had to stop and restart the patching throughout the entire process. So I finally finish and my brother wants to make a character. He liked the Iksar, and I wanted to check out Neriak. He goes to start it up and is told that if he wants to do this, he’s going to have to download the content. How your patcher does not automatically include all of the content is beyond me. I could have just told him to start in Freeport, but decided I should just suck it up and get it all done. So after another 45 minutes of patching the game is actually done and entirely playable. Thank God. I shouldn’t really complain though I guess, since it only took eight days!

Ok, so there is the prelude. I had played the illusionist in the trial since I’d heard Brendon mention a few times on some Virgin Worlds (no link needed) podcasts that he enjoyed this class. I’d previously played a wizard that I enjoyed, but I wanted to give this a shot. I’m torn between which one I like more, but I really enjoy the personae I get with the illusionist so I’ll probably stick with that as their play styles are pretty similar (at least in the early levels.) So I’ve had about six or eight hours to play and I reached level 14. It’s been great so far, and I can’t see getting bored in less than a month like I did with LotRO. I’ll probably end up playing this until I find my next MMO, so I’m glad about that. Now I just need to track down Tipa and get to know some other players. Hopefully some of the stuff I put on the market will sell so I’ll have some money to buy some bigger bags and maybe some armor that I haven’t replaced through quests yet. So there you have it, my EQ2-filled weekend. There will be more to come on my adventures later, as I delve further into the game.

~ Kanthalos

P.S. On a side note, the sewage pipes in our house got plugged with sand getting in while building it, so everything inside started coming back up. FUN. This was at 11 p.m. on a Friday night no less. The emergency plumber that the builders use is half a state away, who manages to get there in about an hour thankfully. It took him about two hours to fix it, but since it was clearly not our fault, he didn’t charge us. The joys of a new house 🙂

Short #1

Ok, time for something new. I’m going to try to start writing a “flash fiction” piece (somewhere between 250-500 words) once a week for you guys to read. There’s no guarantees that I’ll get one out every week, but I figure it’s an opportunity for me to write some fantasy fiction which I enjoy, and give you a little something different when you come here. These won’t be heavily edited or revised, so they aren’t going to be masterpieces by any stretch. Some will focus more on setting, while others might focus on character development or description, etc.. So that’s all the intro I’m going to give this, let me know if you like it. If you do, then I might put some more effort into these to make them a bit more “polished.”

Short #1

Pearls of sweat formed and fell from Lorian’s brow as he crouched, hidden behind an elder bush. His throbbing joints grew restless as he contemplated his next action. A pair of trolls had come upon his camp as he readied himself for sleep. Due only to their heavy footfalls and unintelligible grunts was he able to find cover and secure his short sword before being spotted. After lumbering into his camp, they spared no time before rummaging through Lorian’s possessions.
“Find him,” shouted the larger of the two, still sifting through the goods. The second began making his way out of the camp directly towards Lorian. He raised his blade, poised to strike. As the troll passed the bush, Lorian slashed with immense strength, slicing his left ankle clean through. A howl burst from the clambering giant as it toppled helplessly to the ground. Lifting the blade high overhead, he struck the troll’s throat before a counterattack was possible. Gurgles escaped the troll’s mouth before his head fell limp on the clay beneath it. Turning to face his remaining enemy, he managed to evade a sweeping blow from the troll’s club by inches. His roar of disappointment shook Lorian to the core. Sprinting back into the camp he scooped up his pack, desperately searching for something to defend himself with while maintaining his speed. His initial advantage gone, he knew the second would not fall so easily. As he removed a vial and dropped his pack, his body elevated. The troll had attained a mighty grip around his neck, showering it with saliva as a twisted laugh erupted from his lips. Facing the other way, Lorian was unable to see his captor as he thrust the vial back against the sinewy skin. The laughter ceased as he loosed his grip. As Lorian fell hard upon the ground, he shifted to see flames envelop the troll’s massive frame in quick order. Several seconds of aimless shuffling passed before it collapsed. After lying there for several minutes to catch his breath, he rose and made his way back to camp. Escaping with nothing more than a bruised throat, Lorian couldn’t help but count himself lucky as he lay once again on his cot.

~Kanthalos

The Meme’s roll on…

It appears that i’ve been sucked into the swirling vortex that is the meme by Tipa (thank you, btw.) My best tips have already been covered, hopefully mine is alright, though.

-Start Copy-

It’s very simple. When this is passed on to you, copy the whole thing, skim the list and put a * star beside those that you like. (Check out especially the * starred ones.)

Add the next number (1. 2. 3. 4. 5., etc.) and write your own blogging tip for other bloggers. Try to make your tip general.

After that, tag 10 other people. Link love some friends!

Just think- if 10 people start this, the 10 people pass it onto another 10 people, you have 100 links already!

1. Look, read, and learn. ***
http://www.neonscent.com

2. Be EXCELLENT to each other. *
http://www.bushmackel.com

3. Don’t let money change ya! *
http://www.therandomforest.info

4. Always reply to your comments. ****
http://chattiekat.com

5. Link liberally — it keeps you and your friends afloat in the Sea of Technorati. *
http://chipsquips.com

6. Don’t give up – persistance is fertile. ***
http://www.velcro-city.co.uk

7. Give link credit where credit is due. ****
http://www.sfsignal.com

8. Pictures say a thousand words and can usually add to any post.**
http://scifichick.com

9. Keep writing, no matter what, and the quality will follow. ***
http://www.critical-hits.com/

10. Stay out of your comfort zone. Take risks, don’t be afraid to look dumb.*
http://ambernight.org

11. Keep to a schedule. People return to blogs when they know they will find something new.*
http://westkarana.com

12. Don’t be afraid to talk about your personal life once in a while.
https://mmoreinsight.wordpress.com

-End Copy-

Hmmm, this should be fun. I choose Fred, DamianoV, Wilhelm, Cameron, Adele, Darren, Boon, Rick, Aaron, and Pixiestyx. Whether it’s from me or someone else, none of you could have avoided the meme train, so I’m just cutting to the quick. Chances are most of these blogs are in your favorites, but I enjoy reading every one of them, and want to give them some credit, so there you go 🙂

~Kanthalos

SOE Customer Support = FTL

Ok, so I was five minutes from Best Buy last Friday afternoon while out doing some stuff and I just about went over there to pick up a copy of Echoes of Faydwer, but decided that since I was done shopping I’d just head home and use the digital download. I had made a second account to use the trial and make sure that I could get the game looking pretty which I could. I decided that since I wasn’t going to use the character I had played before because he was on the wrong server that I would just get the expansion for the trial account and save $15 on the first month, but after buying it, I realized that for the DD you had to have a copy of the original game. How stupid is that? I already was up to date on patches and such with the trial and I had a copy of the game for my other account, not to mention if you go to the store to buy it, it comes with the original and all three expansions anyway. So I get on chat support and they tell me they can switch them and it will take two days. I realize this means four because they are closed on the weekends. So Wednesday afternoon rolls around with no change in sight, so I hop on chat support again. “This issue will be resolved in 2 hours” I’m told. You guessed it, they lied. So five hours AFTER that two hours I get on again and they tell me that it’s been bumped up and should be resolved quickly. Three hours after they open the next day (yesterday) I get on once more and say,

“Look, I’ve been waiting six days to play this when I could have just gone to the store and bought it, either fix this quickly or please give me a rufund.”

“I can assure you it’s in my supervisor’s ticket box and will be fixed very shortly,” he replies.

“So this will be fixed today?”

“Correct.”

Let me tell you what folks, they had six hours after this chat before they closed and it’s still not fixed. If they haven’t done anything about it before 3 p.m. Pacific Time today, they aren’t going to want to listen to my fifth enquiry, I can assure you. And it won’t be with chat support, it’s going to be over the phone. All that said, I will still play this game because it’s a quality product, I just wish I had taken the extra five minutes to get a hard copy and been playing a week ago.

~Kanthalos

Third Party Apps: Bane or Boon?

I’m sure all of you know what it’s like every time a patch or an expansion rolls around and you have to wait for third party app developers to rewrite the code in order to make it compatible with the newest version. I’m sure a lot of you also know that this can bring guilds to a stand-still in terms of raiding. This just doesn’t seem right to me. If you can’t run a raid without the help of additional sofware alongside you, that should tell you that something is fundamentally wrong with the way the system has been built. Of course, once players get experienced enough at running certain instances, they can compensate and know what is going on anyways, but learning how to do it correctly with third party programs just seems like “hacks” to me. There are tons of applications out there that are simply convenient and don’t affect your ultimate success in a game, but what about those that do? I remember plenty of times after patches when my guild that could normally clear MC to Rag would lose our apps, and we couldn’t hardly kill Lucy. Pallies and mages couldn’t get people decursed fast enough and no one could manage threat effectively. Of course there were far more skilled guilds out there, but I don’t think that the difference between having and not having these programs should be this great.

This leads me to wonder whether third party applications are ultimately good for the game or whether they take out an aspect of the difficulty that should be there. Don’t get me wrong, instances are still mighty difficult with these applications, but does that mean they should be adjusted so that they are more doable without them? Are the developers simply relying on the players to create these since they didn’t have enough time or money to build them? My guess is the latter since a lot of these features were eventually built into WoW, but this could also be due to the fact that they didn’t think of them before the players and after seeing their effectiveness, built them in. Are third party applications going to continue in popularity or is UI going to up the stakes and be more prepared with what the players want and need? Difficult to know, but one thing is for sure… They will always be around.

~Kanthalos

Hopping on the GuildCafe Bandwagon

Well after multiple recommendations, I decided to make my way over to GuildCafe and fill out my profile.  It’s under Kanthalos so invite me if you’d like.  It looks pretty cool, I’ll have to peek around and see if I can find any of my old friends on there.  There were a lot of people I’d probably remember from my four years on Leafcull (AC).  Well that’s all for now.  I’m working on getting back into EQ2, but I’m waiting for support to fix my problem, which should be today.  Hopefully I’ll be playing after work 🙂  I think I might join Tipa on Befallen if that offer is still out there unless I get some competition from anyone else 🙂

 ~Kanthalos

P.S. Deathly Hallows was everything I could have expected.  An excellent conclusion to an excellent series. Thank you, J.K..

Does anyone use the Ryzom Ring?

Lately, I’ve noticed that a few people in the blogosphere have recently given Ryzom another shot which got me to thinking;  Does anyone actually use the Ryzom Ring?  I know that it’s there, and when I gave Ryzom a shot, I played with it a little bit, but when I looked to see if there were any scenarios, there never were.  Perhaps I was just unlucky when I looked, but this lead me to believe that the greatest player-based content creation tool out there wasn’t even being used.  Am I missing something?  Has this changed in the three or so months that I haven’t played?  Is there a reason people don’t use it?  Maybe some of you can fill me in on this, I’d love to know.

~Kanthalos

Time Travel in MMO’s

Something that Lars and Fred have been talking about is a time travel MMO.  While there are a lot of pitfalls that need to be a avoided, I think the possibilities are endless.  I don’t have a lot to say about this yet as I’m still mulling over some ideas,  but here is something to check out if you are interested in this stuff at all.  It’s the Grandfather Paradox.  The basic premise is used in Back to the Future, but its an interesting read, so go look through it.  I might be back today, not sure yet 🙂  If not, then definitely tomorrow.

~Kanthalos

The Anticipation Builds…

As you all surely know Curt Schilling founded an MMO Studio earlier this year, bringing in some serious star power such as R.A. Salvatore (Drizz’t) and Todd McFarlane(Spawn) to help bring his vision to life.  Something you MAY not know is that they plan on announcing their new game later this week at Comic-Con.  I for one am pretty excited to see what they’ve got in the works.  Between Blizzard’s looming MMO announcement and Areae’s impending announcement as well, it’s going to be exciting to see how they stack up against the current list of upcoming titles. 

~Kanthalos

The Double-Edged Sword of Expectations, Brought to You by Blizzard

So I’m not going to even link Richard Bartle’s post, but I will link to Darren because he’s the one that ultimately spurred this thought. Here goes.

Blizzard Entertainment clearly raised the bar on expectations of MMO’s mainly in terms of polish. Their game was so crisp and clean upon its arrival that MOGers are no longer going to accept a game that doesn’t award xp for a quest or has 7 f/p/s in towns or 30 seconds of rubberbanding with three mobs on you. People just aren’t going to give it a fair chance. One of the main arguments against WoW though is that “It’s a very polished game that did a lot of things right, but it doesn’t offer anything new.” Do you know what this means? Well, this leaves the all those other MMO companies scratching their heads, trying to figure out how they are going to find $50 million in funding for a game as polished as WoW which also incorporates new elements into their game that players find interesting, but still upholds that level of Blizzard polish. It’s simply too much for the vast majority of these companies to live up to. No matter how much “cool stuff” they put in the game, if it doesn’t look nearly perfect, then players call it quits, and we all know how tough it is for a game to recover from a poor launch…

It’s very easy to say “take some risks, push the boundaries, open new doors” but its a whole different story when you have the publisher funding you telling you that they want WoW numbers (most likely without providing anywhere near WoW-type funding numbers) and are willing to pull funding if they don’t like what they see. So then when the game releases, promises from the dev’s are broken, the hype dies within a couple weeks, and it’s deemed another “not-as-good WoW clone.” While I enjoyed two years of WoW and I think its a very well done game, I’m also frustrated that it’s not allowing these companies to spend money on creativity, but rather on what’s been done already and making it look just as good. That said, it’s also not fair to bash Blizzard because of their immense pocketbooks that they created a quality product with. So this begs the question what is it going to take to break out of this train of thought? Is it going to be the next Blizzard MMO, or will one of the new games on the way (WAR, AoC, Spellborn, PotBS, Tabula Rasa, etc.) figure out a way to break out of this funk? I don’t know that we can say for sure until they are all out. I really hope that the term “WoW clone” will be firmly behind us within the next twelve months, though.

~Kanthalos

P.S. One good sign is that other genres are quickly expanding, but will the gameplay (quests/missions, grouping, raiding, skills, UI) be virtually the same even outside of the fantasy genre?

Little Weekend Update

Well, I apologize for the several day break in blogging, you can blame that on J.K. Rowling.  As of 11:30 last night I’m on page 475 (give or take 5 pages) but overall its been what I expected.  On the gaming front, I had a little bit of a scuffle with the SOE customer service (just kidding, they were really helpful) but I did buy the digital download of EoF for the wrong account and they said they would switch it for me, which will probably be switched today.  Honestly though, it won’t get played until I read the last 300 pages of Deathly Hallows.  I am looking forward to getting back into EQ2 again though.  Now I’m going to make a real post that I’ve been minimally brewing over during the weekend.

P.S. PLEASE don’t spoil the book for me…

Relieving Vanguard Woes

While I don’t have anything real definite or concrete, I did see a post on the mmorpg.com forums that said that a few old vanguard subscribers recieved a 2 month pass and all 3 expansions for EQ2, seemingly as a way to keep its old players entertained and with SOE until they have a little bit more time to work out all the kinks (an article at mmorpg.com said that in the first 1 1/2 weeks, they fixed 1200 bugs, wow!) So anyways, if you have subscribed to Vanguard at any point, you might check your e-mail or just go check and see if you fit the bill for a free two months and expansions.

(Edit) I just found this, here is a little more proof .  It looks like you need to have subscribed to both games in order to get the promo, so if you did, then you should qualify.

P.S. A little shoutout to my fiancee, Anaktoria, its her birthday today, so… HAPPY BIRTHDAY :). I’m working on her to start writing with me again, but she’s been busy with her new job and wedding plans, so she hasn’t really had the chance. Once we start playing another game together you’ll probably hear a little more from her.

~Kanthalos

Possible New Payment Options?

I’ve been thinking about this for quite awhile after reading a post over at MMO Explorer regarding payment options, which was inspired by Moorguard which was inspired by Adele (we really have to get that system going that Cameron discussed last week…ok, seriously I’m done.) Anyways, I was thinking about some alternative payment options for MMO’s that would be a little more fair. While I don’t think we will ever get away from paying for the initial game for the AA/AAA titles, I think there are some ways to making payments more reasonable for more casual players or those looking for different games.

Rather than charging a flat $15 monthly rate, they could go with a $1/hour rate, capping out at $15, which means 15 hours of gameplay. Most serious gamers who really enjoy the game they are playing will play a game for at least 15 hours a month, which is about 30 minutes a day, meaning that the majority of your customers will pay the full price anyways. I think this is a pretty reasonable option, unless the game companies are “banking” on the fact that many players will play for less than 15/20 hours a month, and in that case, they are making a greater profit. That said, I think a lot more players would pop into a game for several hours a month, in which case they could gain $6 more from one player, and $8 from another player who normally would not have played that month because they were too busy to justify $15 or simply wanted try out the new patch or whatever else.

Another option I came up with is a four-tier system that’s like this:

(After some reconsideration and feedback, I think this might be a bit steep so I altered the prices a bit, but its more about the idea than the specific prices. I’ll leave the pricing to those money people, hehe)

Two-day Pass: $2.99

Week Pass: $5.99

Two-Week Pass: $8.99

Month Pass: $14.99

This gives you a bit more freedom to play within an allotted amount of time, while still being cheaper than a monthly subscription. (Removed a sentence about video game rentals that after price changes was irrelevent) If you find that you have a free weekend in the midst of a hectic month, you can pop in for those couple days and enjoy yourself and spend a fifth of the monthly fee, and again giving the company $3 that it wouldn’t have had otherwise. Same goes for the week and two week. While I think they would be used less than the two-day pass, they are still options that could be used depending on the amount of free time you have and the amount of money you are willing to pay.

Anyways, there are a couple options that I have come up with that I think should be considered more by MMO companies. There might lose a few customers willing to spend $15 who don’t get their money’s worth, but they would get a lot more who want to give it another shot or can’t justify a full months payment.

~Kanthalos