Archive for May, 2008|Monthly archive page

Mythos Info

Last night at some point the overworld went live, but shortly after went back down for some fixes. Hopefully whatever they needed to fix will be done shortly, at which point I can get in and check it out. Whenever this happens, you can be sure that I will be letting you all know what I think of it. Keep checking in throughout the day, as I’ll be modifying this post once it’s back up.

~Kanthalos

XBox 360 and Long Weekend

As it is a holiday weekend and we just bought an XBox 360, your regularly scheduled posting will recommence on Tuesday. Kthxbye.

-Mrs. Kanthalos

Daily Quest #2

Well, some of the commenters on my Daily Quest #1 thought I should spice up my quests a little more, so that’s what I’ll try to do with today’s quests. I hope they satisfy. I actually wrote this first one about a year ago for another post I wrote about questing in general. Since I’m sort of re-using this one, I’m also including a second quest. Hopefully you’ll find them to be a bit more exciting.

Game: Any MMO with a fantasy setting.

Questgiver: N/A

Questgiver location: N/A

Quest Destination: N/A

Quest text: “Hero, please help me! The other day while I was out in the forest rummaging for mushrooms a band of goblins took me by surprise. I barely escaped with my skin, but that’s the least of my concerns. I had a ring inside a lockbox that I desperately need back.

I believe the goblins are hiding out in an old tower not too far into the forest. There were some big stones out behind the tower. If you are sneaky enough, you could trap them inside the tower by placing a stone in the front of the doorway. I have this explosive device here that I found a while back, but it’s of no use to me. Perhaps you can use it to burn that tower down and find my ring. I don’t have much to offer you for your services, but I can give you some of my best mushrooms. Will you help me?

Concise Instructions: Find the old tower to the east within the forest. Use the stones out back to trap the goblins inside before tossing the explosive up top to burn it to cinders. Depending on how well the stone protects the door, goblins may escape, and they won’t be happy. Be prepared!

How it works:

you find a dilapidated tower in the middle of the woods has been taken over by some goblins. Occasionally a patrol walks around the tower but eventually go back inside. If the patrol spots you, they would shout to the others and they would all charge you, forcing you to flee or fight. If things go well though, this won’t happen. A pile of hefty stones is laying at the back of the tower, which you can pick up and place in front of the door once the patrol walks back inside. You could then toss an explosive to the top of the tower, burning the goblins alive. If you don’t secure the door well enough they could burst through enraged and attack you dealing twice as much damage with only a quarter of their health, but if you secure it tightly, you can watch them jump from the top of the burning tower falling to their death. Once the tower burns down, you enter to find a lockbox containing the ring. Here’s where a dilemma enters. Either you can return the ring to its owner, keep it for yourself, or simply sell it. You could gain faction for killing the goblins, a nice ring to wear or sell, faction and an xp reward should you return the ring, and you’d get to watch a tower burn to the ground while goblins are falling from the sky! This shouldn’t even be that difficult to code either. LotRO has the ability to pick up, carry, and drop things as does Guild Wars so it’s already in games. Then you would just have to determine whether the stone adequately secured the door or not then they would break out or jump out accordingly. If you had more than one person, you could put multiple stones at the door to secure it better.

Reward: This depends on your choice. Either a ring, money for selling the ring, or a faction and xp reward from the owner.

This seems incredibly fun and interesting to me. You have an interactive quest where the better you perform the required action, the easier and more enjoyable the quest becomes. You also have a choice involved with three options, all of which could be equally appealing.
Here’s the second quest for the day.

Game: World of Warcraft

Questgiver: N/A

Questgiver location: Arathi Highlands

Quest Destination: Arathi Highlands

Quest text: “The dark iron dwarves has taken up residence on an outcropping near the Thandol Span. They are posing a problem to passing travelers, and we need to do something to stop them. Their choice for their camp site was poor, however, and it plays perfectly into our hands. I’m going to need you to destroy that bridge so they can never leave that place again! Your method of destruction is up to you. Should you not have a powerful ranged attack, I have this incendiary bomb that you can use to ignite the bridge. Let’s be rid of those dwarves once and for all! Should you feel the desire, you can destroy them at a distance once the bridge has collapsed.”

How it works: It’s pretty self-explanatory. You use a ranged attack of some sort to blow the bridge up so that they can’t use it to escape. Now my memory of this location is not crystal clear and I’m not currently subscribed to WoW, so I can’t check, but if I remember correctly, this location has no other means of escape but the bridge, which is the way I wanted it. Obviously, the bridge would need to reappear after so long so that the quest could be done again, as well as in the event that a player was out there when the bridge was destroyed. I think it would be pretty fun to blow up a bridge and trap a bunch of no-good dwarves. What do you think?

Obviously, this is going under the assumption that no other quests are tied to this location, which there are. A way to remedy this would be to re-word the quest text and make this the last quest in the chain, which wouldn’t be too tough.

So there are a couple more quests I’ve come up with that hopefully you’ll find to be a bit more interactive and unique. Let me know whether you like them or not.

~Kanthalos

Gambling in MMO’s: Why Isn’t There More of it?

Thinking back on Asheron’s Call yesterday, one of the things that came to mind was the casino. I won’t really go into the details of how it worked, because it was actually somewhat monotonous, however, it did make me wonder why gambling has played such a small part in MMO’s as of now. I think it would be a wonderful thing to implement into a game, as it provides a different sort of interaction, and allows the player to win some money or lose some money.

Granted, there are some reasons that immediately come to mind for why a developer might be reluctant to add gambling to their game. First of all, it could be seen as an unhealthy way of promoting addictive and gambling natures with people, especially younger kids. I hate to sound callous, but there many, many resources available to children on the net that do a much better job (not that this is necessarily a good thing) of this than an MMO could. Also, this is following the same argument that because you play GTA 4 you are going to go out and shoot the next person walking down the street. Yes, this is a slight risk, but it doesn’t mean that everyone shouldn’t be able to enjoy themselves at the expense of the very few. Perhaps parents could put a lock on their children’s account so they can’t participate. This might help to alleviate some of those concerns.

The next thing that could cause problems would be that the games were rigged in favor of the developers to try to take more money out of the economy or to keep from shelling out more money into the economy. This is the way gambling works, folks; The house always wins. They might have a lot of small and a few very large payouts every once in a while, but they are always going to end up ahead. Does that mean that we are going to refuse to gamble? Hardly, and why should we? As long as you only gamble with what you can afford to lose, then it can be a lot of fun.

How often are you sitting around in town either waiting for a group to form or just chatting with your friends? I’m guessing fairly often. Wouldn’t it be fun if you could run over to the bar and play a few games, and possibly come out a few gold richer? This is a great time-filler for when players are feeling a bit bored, need to pass the time for a while, or simply have some gold burning through their pocket.

Now for a few ideas that I would really love to see implemented in a few MMO’s. One of the things that really irked me in WoW was the fact that you couldn’t bet on the races in Shimmering Flats! Not exactly a game-breaker, I know, but I still think it would have been great. This was such a great feature to implement into the game, but they could have done much better. These are the kinds of things that make the world feel alive, but why not take them as far as you can go? Make it so there are seven or eight machines racing, all with different odds, but they all have at least some chance of winning. After all, those bleachers aren’t really getting any use right now so why not fill them up?

Also, what about an arena? This is actually sort of a two-fold issue for me. I would really love for players to be able to fight randomly generated monsters with each wave getting tougher and tougher than the last. On the other hand, how freakin’ awesome would it be to bet on a murloc fight? I hate those little things, let them kill each other! DIE DIE DIE!! *breathes* So I really don’t like murlocs… I don’t think I’m the only one. Plus, if I can make some coin in the process, this would be the best thing ever.

So some gambling elements that I would like to see are races, arenas, and luck games. Are there any other games or events that you guys would like to see, or simply mini-games you would like to play in your favorite MMO? Are there any problems with gambling that I haven’t considered? Let me know.

~Kanthalos

Daily Quest #1

I am constantly considering quests and missions of all sorts, thinking up new and interesting quests that I would love to see implemented into a wide variety of MMO’s. After all, this is ultimately what I want to do as a career, so shouldn’t I be thinking about this stuff? In that vein, I decided that I would come up with a new quest of some sort each day (hopefully) for either a specific game or one that would fit any number of MMO’s out. Obviously, without knowing the inner-workings of these games, some of the details might have to be shifted a bit, but they provide a general idea of what would happen. I also know nothing about the format these would be written in, so bear with me. So for the first day, I’ll create two. Since I’ve been playing Mythos mostly, I figured I’d use it for my quests today.

Game: Mythos

Quest Title: Helping Raskin

Setting: Instanced

Quest Giver: Raskin

Quest Giver Location: Stonehill

Quest Destination: Stonehill Valley

Quest Text: “Greetings <player>! It is truly an honor to meet you. Stories of your valour have reached even my little ears, which is saying something. Adventurers such as yourself do much to ease the fears of the villagers here in Stonehill, and we can never truly thank you for that. However, there is a task I would very much like your assistance with. Though it doesn’t involve slaying any great beasts, it is something that I fear I cannot do myself. You see, I am in need of some wood to fix several holes in my home, but no one in town seems willing to share any with me, so I need to go find some. I know of an old windmill that no longer works that would likely have some wood that I could use. I don’t think it would be missed since the valley is swarming with beasts, anyway. If you could go destroy it and bring back five of the best pieces, I would reward you for your efforts.

Reward: Unknown

How It Works: The windmill spawns in a random location with X hit points. After dealing X damage, the windmill explodes, splintering into a mass of pieces. The pieces worthy of retrieving are labelled as such, and once enough are collected, “‘Helping Raskin’ complete, return for your reward.” flashes briefly across the screen.

Obviously this wouldn’t need to be instanced, it would just need to be set to respawn on a regular basis so it could be completed by more than one person.

Game: Mythos

Quest Giver: Unknown

Quest Giver Location: Stonehill

Quest Destination: Stonehill Valley

Quest Text: “<player>, as I’m sure you know, Stonehill Valley is teeming with monsters of all kinds, but there is one kind that is truly a nuisance: the Lazarus Beetle. They have the power to resurrect their fallen allies, and they must be stopped.

This is not all, however. Their wings have powerful magical properties. If you could bring me 15 of their wings, this would provide me with plenty of material to experiment with as well as craft you a fine cape. This cape can also be imbued with other properties, depending on what you need. If you desire to be stronger, a wolf’s frayed hide would be required. Should you seek great intelligence, the eye of a hollow would serve well. Greater dexterity could be achieved with the use of an imp claw. Bring me the wings and the reagent of your choice, and the cape will be yours.

Reward: 1,500 xp and:
“Lustrous cape of [modifier]” Stats: 8 armor, +5 to all attributes, with a +3 bonus based on the reagent.

How it works: It’s pretty self-explanatory. The creatures could of course be switched, and the drops could be things that they already drop, so they wouldn’t necessarily need to be a unique item used just for this quest, but the general idea is there.

I think the idea that you can alter your quest reward is one that hasn’t really been used enough. Yes, there are currently reward choices, but wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to alter the stats to suit you better? Obviously they could simply offer more items, but I think this is better because something that you do (acquiring the reagent) has an effect on your reward.

So there are a few quests I thought up. More than anything, this is a way for me to get some of my thoughts out. I just figured they might be worth putting up here. Let me know what you think. I tried to make them pretty simple so they wouldn’t be all that tough to implement. Obviously, the windmill explosion would have to be created, but barrels and crates can explode, so the ability to do this is already there.

~Kanthalos

Is World of Warcraft Reaching Its Potential?

I suppose some context is in order, seeing as World of Warcraft has entirely dwarfed any other MMO (especially in the non-asian markets) with around 10 million subscribers. Yes, Blizzard is incredibly sucessful and WoW has already turned massive profits after 3 1/2 years on the market. However, I am quite sure of one thing: If they had released as many expansions as EverQuest 2 has and in the same fashion (not just end-game content) they would likely have 2-3 million MORE people playing than they do now. Even with Wrath of the Lich King, there is STILL no fresh mid level content. Sure they added a couple new 1-20 areas with Burning Crusade, but what about the part of the game that many players by now dread, the 20-60 areas? Heck, after level 30 or so, even the Alliance and Horde players are funnelled through the same content. I for one have made six characters that I have gotten to level 25 or higher, but only three of those have reached and will ever reach level 70 or higher unless content is added for level 20-60 characters. Don’t get me wrong, I really want to spend more time with these characters, but I can’t keep running through the same zones over and over again.

This is something that EverQuest2 has continuously added to their game, along with many other improvements and additions. They have released four expansions already with a fifth on the way. Holy cow. Granted, a much smaller percentage of their population is max level so they need to focus on the lower and mid-level content, but the sheer volume of content that they release is staggering. Granted, it’s not all going to be as picture perfect as what Blizzard releases, but seriously, four full-blown expansions to one. That’s tough to justify in my book. In any case, I can understand Blizzard wanting to focus more on higher level characters because that’s where a lot of their players are, but not all of them max-level, either.

Seriously Blizzard, how long do you expect people to keep running through the same content before they get tired of the game? A rather small percentage of your customers are raiders, which means that the leveling process is all the rest of the players really have, and after a while (if it hasn’t already happened) they are going to get sick of re-rolling characters that have to run through the same content every single time. The raiders might do it because that’s how badly they want another level 70, but it’s probably not going to be because they enjoy the leveling process, and if the non-raiders have nothing else to look forward to, then they probably won’t do it at all. WAR is supposedly going to have six entirely different paths to max level. SIX. Whether they are going to pull this off, or whether you actually need six at release is uncertain, but it’s much better than having unique content for all races up to about level 25 or 30 and then having them all go through the same set of zones and more or less the same set of quests from that point on.

How many hours of non-raiding content will Wrath of the Lich King offer? It’s tough to say exactly, but you can be sure that it’s not 18-20 months which appears to by WoW’s expansion time-frame. It’s likely half that, so come next September-December, when there are 6-8 new quality MMO’s out, as well as WAR and AoC which have both had time to dust themselves off after a few months, where is that going to leave WoW? Seemingly with more raiding, more upper-level content, and no (significant) improvements or addition to their mid-to low level content. After three or four re-rolls with no new content along the way, there is only one place they are going to find what they are looking for, which is at the end, and that content can only hold their interest for so long, especially with all the new competition on the horizon.

~Kanthalos

Mythos Item Drops… Sheesh!

I’ve been thinking about Mythos and the item drops for some time now on multiple levels. Right now I’m talking about the amount of items that drop that fill up your screen with tags to pick up. There can frequently be hundreds of potions, jewelry pieces, armor pieces, weapons, and crafting materials/recipes covering the screen. This alone wouldn’t be a problem, but it goes deeper than that. As I’m sure many of you know, Diablo 2 had both an option to show all of the tags for dropped items as well as the fact that none of the tags overlapped. This made it extremely easy to see every drop and whether it was worth picking up or not.

In Mythos, you either need to decide whether that orange “superior” you see is attached to “dwarven cannon” (excellent) or “goblin flyswatter” (not so excellent.) Unless you want to pick up all the other items that are covering the tag, you’re pretty much left to guess what it is. Frequently in these situations I won’t even bother. Given the extremely poor chance that it will be something worthwhile (I’ve already described how terrible my “luck” has been finding new gear, even with a very high luck rating,) I usually just forget about it and keep moving. Who knows, there may have been a few really nice items that I’ve left behind, but on the same hand, if I stopped to figure out what each of these items was I would be level 30 instead of level 49. So what all can be done to fix this?

1) Increase the chance that items will be worth picking up. If none (or very few) of the drops are going to be good, then what’s the point of having drops anyway?

2) Decrease (drastically) the amount of potion and crafting drops. As far as I know, noone collects the high-end potions (that you can’t currently purchase.) It takes far too long to collect a healthy sum of them, and you burn through them very quickly. Once crafting is in full swing, crafters will be able to make these better potions, but until then there really isn’t any value to them. In fact, I really don’t pick up any potions at all, except for the occasional luck potion, but even that is rare. I going to be bold enough to say that I don’t think any potions (except luck potions) need to be dropped at all. That’s not to say that they should be removed, but I think their worth is extremely small. Picking up one or two extra potions isn’t going to do anybody any good, because if they need more potions, they likely need 10 or more, which means a trip to the vendor.

The group potions had good intentions, but Mythos is so fast-paced that using a health or mana potion that will benefit everybody is tough. I think the two exceptions to this are the luck and antidote potions. These can be used anytime, and can actually help the group out quite a bit, but the health and mana potions don’t really belong. Plus, more than anything, these additional potions mean more buttons that you have to manage on your skillbar, which can be more hassle than it’s worth.

As for crafting materials, limit this to only the materials that you can’t purchase from vendors. They are incredibly cheap to start with, and they do nothing but clutter up the screen. They don’t need to be there. Crafting recipes? You currently can’t find any recipes that can’t also be purchased from a vendor. Again, remove these drops until they can be replaced with unique recipes.

3) This is the heart of what I am getting at in this post. First and foremost, item tags should not overlap at all. If they literally need to cover the screen it would be better than having them all clumped together. When this does get implemented there needs to be some filtering abilities, because only having a way to see every item at once is pretty archaic. Here is a list of all the filters that I think should be included: crafting materials, armor, weapons, jewelry, and magical items (which show all items that have magical properties.) One way that I think this could be done very well is with the mousewheel. Say you hit tab to display every drop, then you rotate the mousewheel up and down to then filter through each of these groups. This would leave one hand on the mouse in case you needed to stop to fight some more, while also being really slick and offering a lot of functionality. If for whatever reason you can’t use a mousewheel, they could simply be mapped to Tab+1, Tab+2, etc.. You should be able to hit one through five while also holding tab with the same hand, but if not, you can use both hands if necessary.

There is a new patch coming to Mythos very shortly. While it is primarily related to the Overworld aspect, it will be interesting to see if any changes are made to the drops as well.

~Kanthalos

Good to Go!

Rather than write up a new post, I figured I’d just revise this one. Obviously, the new domain is up and running, and the everything along with it (RSS feed/sitemeter) should also be functioning properly. w00t! Go ahead and re-subscribe (or subscribe for the first time) to the feed now if you’d like. In any case, I’m glad it’s finally taken care of, and you can expect me to get back to my typical posts tomorrow, which will likely be Mythos-related again.

~Kanthalos

Little Update

Ok, so rather than decide where to put things on one domain, I found out that I could just have two domains. Since my Dad is hosting it, and he has some extra spots, I can host them both for the same price. In any case, I’ll be switching this over very soon to its new home, at which point I’ll need anyone to resubscribe to the rss feed if you haven’t done so already.

I do have a couple more questions, though. What exactly is the difference between exporting your blog to another site, and transferring the whole thing to a new domain? Thanks in advance.

I’m headed out for a couple hours, but I’m gonna do everything I can to get the blog switched over tonight, so you can expect it by tomorrow at the latest.

~Kanthalos

Getting my own domain: A few questions (Please help!)

Ok, so I just bought a domain, and I’m trying to decide what to do with it exactly. I have hosting already, and but I need a little advice. I want to have both my blog and a personal page connected with it, but I’m not sure which I should use as my homepage. I could either make the blog mmoreinsight.com, or mmoreinsight.com/blog or whatever, but I’m not sure which I should do. Can anyone think of a reason why having one or the other as the main page would work better?

Also, I am wanting to upgrade so that I can modify the CSS and use another theme. How easy or difficult is this to do using another domain to host the page? Does anyone have any nice themes they would be willing to share with me? I would prefer one that is widget-ready with three columns that is manly, but doesn’t really have a theme (sports, computers, animals, etc..)

Right now I’m thinking it’s just a matter of preference as to which page I choose to put where on the site, but if there is anything that I might not be considering, please let me know.

Thanks in advance.

~Kanthalos

The Possibility of Short-Lived MMO’s

I was reading through the comments of VirginWorlds Podcast #117, and Scytale2 said, “Why not have MMOs which are fun but have less content, but attract lots and lots of players for limited timescales?” While I think it’s an interesting concept for sure, I don’t think this would work, at least not when thinking about MMO’s in the traditional sense. There are three major problems that I see here:

1) There are simply too many people and too many resources involved in MMO’s to expect them to live short-term. If he was speaking from the concept of “10 for $5m instead of 1 for $50m” and the employees can jump from one game to another once each project is complete, I doubt they would be willing to work on a project for six months and be done with it and have to go look for another job. If they did jump from one project to another, they would have to completely switch gears, flesh out a whole new concept and all of the minor details, put it together, and ship it out. If they didn’t switch, and the studio wanted to work simultaneously on all of these MMO’s, they are going to have to hire enough employees to build them all at the same time. Depending on how many people you have working on the game this could work, but the more employees you have working together, the faster it’s going to be ready and the more content/polish it’s going to have. That said, if you are in a time crunch and don’t have much time, you are going to have to fork over more money up front to hire more people, which means higher production costs. Plus, when they were done, they would simply be out of a job (or at least the vast majority of them.)

2) This is going under the assumption that the MMO’s that they build are going to be flawless when they come out, which everyone knows isn’t possible. They usually take about six months after launch before they really have everything smoothed out and they are on to other things like adding content. It sounds like Scytale2 was shooting for games that kept players going for about this length of time, which would mean that only by the time the game was dying would it truly be up to snuff.

3) The last time I checked, MMO’s made the vast majority of their money through subscriptions, not through “box sales.” You aren’t going to be able to charge $50 for an MMO that’s expected to last six months when games like World of Warcraft are charging the same price ($20 for original, $30 for Burning Crusade) and have the potential to be played for 2-5 years. So with that said, you would probably have to charge $20 or less, and if you charged say $6-$10 a month for a subscription (remember, less content, less money) that means that the most you are going to get out of a player is 50 to 80 dollars. If you are starting with a $5 million budget for the game, that means that you would have to sell 60-100k subscriptions just to break even. This is not an easy feat by any strech of the imagination.

Innovation has to come from somewhere, however, I don’t think that this is a viable way to do it. There are simply too many things pushing against this for it to work. MMO’s aren’t perfect at launch, so a short-lived version would be working against this in a horrible way. You either need to hire too many employees, or it’s going to take quite a long time for a smaller team to complete them. There a very strong reliance on subscription fees when it comes to profitability in MMO’s, so if you cut this out of the equation, your profit margins are minimized beyond feasibility.

I think if you do want to head this route and make an online game that is built to entertain for six months or so, you are either going to have to bend the conventions of the genre, or completely do away with it, and in so doing build something that wouldn’t even be considered an MMO in the first place. I think there is a place in the game industry for this type of game, I just think the traditional MMO can’t work like this.

~Kanthalos

More About Mythos: Blade Breaker and Meteor

Well, I told you that I would be back with information about these two builds when I had them leveled up a little bit. Soon after that post, I realized that my BB toon was already at 24, and I got my meteor toon to 20 tonight, so I figure I’ll give you all a little write up about what I think of them.

Blade Breaker:
This build is quite fun in my opinion. While it relies almost entirely on passive abilities (increased attack rating, crit rating, damage, etc.) to make it more powerful, it is extremely efficient and can really be a powerhouse. This is the epitome of a kiting class in Mythos since they generally are wearing strength gear (better “armor”) as well as a shield (at least in my case) so they can take a few more whacks than many other builds. I’ll frequently have 50-70 mobs behind me by the time I round on them and eliminate them all with one attack. Something this build and piercing barrage can do that meteor and tesla builds can’t do is speed through an instance. All you have to do in collect up all the mobs, kill the majority of the group, and keep heading to the bottom. This is particularly effective when you are doing random quests because the boss you need to kill is always in the final floor, so the faster you get there, the faster you get xp.

Well there is my brief overview of the blade breaker build. If you want a toon that’s beefy that really makes you feel powerful, this is a great choice.

Meteor:
While I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on this class now, I’m not quite sure what to think of it. It has a very large radius once it explodes, however, it frequently takes 3-4 attacks to kill everything in big groups. I had originally assumed that it would function much like Diablo 2’s frozen orb skill, but there are two big differences that affect it quite a bit. For a bit of reference, frozen orb would be sent into a great big group of mobs. It would explode when it struck your target and send out frozen shards from the explosion. An excellent shot would mean that every shard would strike a surrounding enemy. As I said though, there are two differences.

The first big difference is that meteor explodes on the first solid object it comes into contact with, not the target you picked (in fact, it doesn’t require a target at all, but rather a click anywhere on the screen.) This means that you must be much more aware of your surroundings, understanding how obstacles or other mobs moving around could affect the way your meteor is going to work. More often than not, this simply means that it won’t be nearly as effective as if it exploded only upon impacting a mob that you target.

The second big difference is that the fragments that spread outward from the explosion seem to have a slight gap between where they originate and where the explosion itself occurs. Basically what this means is that grouping mobs tightly together, a tactic used with some other builds, could actually hurt your damage more than if you allow the mobs to stay spread out since those fragments will start out past the cluster and therefore be largely worthless (except for mobs that haven’t quite been collected up.) This really bothers me quite a bit, as it means that you are basically better off shooting blindly and hoping to strike as many mobs as possible than you are if you use tactics to bunch them all together to blow them away. It seems to me that using some skill, even if it is just kiting, should be rewarded rather than penalized.

In any case, I enjoy this build, but I think that it could use some tweaking. This is obviously just an opinion, and I haven’t asked anyone else whether they would prefer a definitive target and/or removing the gap between the fragments and the explosions, but I think they would bring a greater need for skill to the table. I will probably hop on this toon occasionally, but I much prefer the other three builds that I’ve been working with.

On a side note, I’m gradually starting to lose my awe for the tesla build. After switching from this toon to my blade breaker, I realized that I could wipe out a much larger group much faster with the blade breaker because he can kill multiple mobs with the same attack instead of having a limit on the number of mobs than could be attacked at once, which is four for tesla widgets. I still think that this is the most powerful build for epic maps, but seeing as I don’t run these very often, this doesn’t do me much good.

~Kanthalos

WotLK Raiding Changes: What do they mean?

By now I’m sure that everyone has heard that raid instances in Wrath of the Lich King will be built for both 10-man groups as well as 25-man groups. This is causing quite the commotion, most of it is positive, and I have feel the same way. I think many more players are seeing this as a positive than players seeing this as a negative. In fact, I can really only think of one group who wouldn’t like this: the hardest of hard-core raiders. The guilds with players like this. They don’t feel that every player should have the right to see the content that they busted their humps trying to get through. Well, my friends, you are quite wrong. Last time I checked, everyone was paying the same monthly fee, and that same monthly fee bought the same content for everyone, not just the people who have more time to raid or are part of a bigger guild than the rest of us. Now let’s take a look at just what this means.

On the positive side, smaller guilds will have the same access that bigger guilds have simply due to numbers. This can’t be understated, due to the sheer number of players who will be able to participate in more than one raiding instance, which is currently available to them now. Obviously, there is a difficulty factor to be considered, any getting any 10 players together will not necessarily mean that they will be able to get through the content. They will still need to be skilled players who know what they are doing.

On the negative side… well, whiny elitists will only get whinier because they aren’t so elite anymore, and everyone will see what they get to see. The one thing that I did see that made me side with them A LITTLE BIT was that they would have to run through these instances with 10 man groups and then again with 25 man groups. That said, I still think they just need to suck it up and deal with it. Why? Because there have been far too many instances in the history of WoW (MC, BWL, AQ40, Naxxramas, SSC, TK, BT, SP) that have been restricted to an incredibly small portion of all WoW players, and the rest have never (or barely) set foot in these places. The number of players who have been to Karazhan are infinitely higher, and do you want to know why? It’s because they require 10 players, not 25 or 40. Why wouldn’t you want to allow all of your players to see this content? It means that a great deal more players will have a lot more content that they will have access to, which means they will be happy players for much longer, which in turn means more money for Blizzard. Smart, huh? They have realized that money isn’t being made by keeping the hard-core raiders happy. It’s being made from the other 9.5 million players who deserve to have access to all content, regardless of guild size. If they can keep the hardcore raiders happy in the process, that’s great, but they are after all a very, very small percentage of the player base.

The other thing to consider is that gear will be better from the 25-man raids. Don’t even try to tell me that this isn’t the ultimate reason you are raiding in the first place, either. I really don’t think most people raiding Black Temple right now are doing it because it’s fun. After the fifth time or so you’ve run an instance, you’re primarily doing it for loot. Don’t get me wrong, the first time you set foot in a new instance and every time you slay a new boss, you are completely stoked. This can fade rather quickly, though. Let me tell you from experience; When you get into high-end guilds that run Black Temple and Sunwell Plateau, they aren’t doing it to socialize and hang out with friends. They are there to conquer and get “phat lewtz.”

You might say that this would still be the case for 10-mans. Players will just get bored with those eventually, too. This isn’t quite the case with Karazhan however, because it’s not quite as intense as some of the higher end raids (once you get used to it.) Once you get a solid group of players, it can become a social event. That said, I don’t know how the difficulty of 10-mans will change (if at all) with the expansion, but even if they do get harder, smaller guilds will still have the option of attempting these instances, rather than simply wishing they could. Then, if they struggle and can’t complete the content that the hardcore raiders can, they can stick it in their face, but anyone should at least have the chance to have a go at it.

The other option that this leaves players is to leave their 25-man guilds to form smaller, more tight-knit guilds with their friends, and still be able to enjoy the same content as the guild they just left. Granted, they won’t get the same gear as before, but at least they can still experience the same things. Having smaller guilds oftentimes (not always) means less drama. For one thing, you don’t need to organize nearly as many players to get through a raid. The chance of players getting at each others throats for one reason or another is much smaller, as there are less players in general. Small guilds aren’t perfect, however, and there are still a lot of benefits to being part of a bigger guild.

I can see one problem forming already, and it affects the larger guilds. It’s the same problem that players faced with Burning Crusade. When everyone first starts getting to 70 and players are looking to raid, I can tell you who’s going to be filling those raid slots in the 10-mans… officers. It will be interesting to see how this gets dealt with.

Well, I could probably keep going for hours on this, but I have somewhere I need to be, and I really wanted to get this up before I left. Hopefully it’s coherent enough to follow in any case. Let me know what you think.

~Kanthalos

Third-Party Websites: Do Developers Like Them or Not?

This is a question that I really started pondering while writing the last piece, as guidance and third-party website are basically synonymous. If the MMO you are currently playing doesn’t make a solution to your problem (whether it be a quest, a location, an NPC) readily apparent, where is the first place you are going to turn? Well, occasionally the answer to this will be other players. There are many occasions where looking it up on a website is going to be much more expedient and accurate than asking a friend, though. I can usually figure out anything that I need to know within 30-45 seconds of alt-tabbing out of the game I’m playing to find the solution to whatever’s troubling me, so why would I sit around and bug other players until I come up with an answer that may or may not even be right?

Knowing full-well how valuable these tools are, I wonder whether developers feel a certain dependency on these websites or whether they feel that they are making things too easy. To help keep things organized, I’ll break it up into four sections:

Pro’s for developers:

  • It allows them to keep some of the excess information out of the game that might bog it down unnecessarily.
  • It allows for mistakes or poor directions. If they screw something up, the players will find it and post it on these sites, which means other players will be able to easily avoid these problems and make their gameplay smoother.

Con’s for developers:

  • It prevents the use of a lot of quest and gaming functions in general. Things like scavenger hunt quests are completely worthless because the coordinates will be posted in minutes and many players will simply look up exactly where they need to go.
  • Not everything players look up on these sites is due to the fault of the developers. In many cases it’s due to the fact that players are lazy and they want the fastest way to the best reward possible. It can make things too easy for players, which could mean that a great deal of time and hard work was for nothing because players skip around certain content to save time and effort.

Pro’s for players:

  • They can always find information that they need, whether they should be looking it up or not. As stated earlier, it means that they don’t have to suffer quite so much for errors that the developers make because other players can explain what they need to do.
  • They can find all sorts of guides/hints/tips that the developers don’t have the time and/or resources to provide. Knowing what skills to choose or which class would fit you best can be wonderful things, and they don’t really hurt the way you the game should be played, they just help players make better decisions that will only increase the enjoyment they get.

Con’s for players:

  • While it’s completely subjective, having all of this extra information at your fingertips can make many aspects of the game far easier than they should be, and quite possibly less rewarding in the process. Finding the coordinates to the hidden cave means you are running around aimlessly looking for it, however, you likely won’t get the satisfaction you would stumbling across it after an hour-long search.

Though these don’t necessarily cover every point around this issue, it does provide a strong foundation for determining whether or not these sites are a bane or a boon to developers. I believe that without them, many aspects of these games would be unbelievably irritating and far too time-consuming, but I also think that they make things too easy and take some of the fun out of the game. They aren’t going to go away because the demand for them is so great, so what needs to change? Does anything need to change in the first place? Are developers thankful for these sites, or do they feel that they damage the game in some way? I have to lean towards thankful. There is only so much information and guidance that developers can build into their games, so if other players are going to pick up the slack and make things more manageable, I can’t imagine that they would shun that. Granted, there are some limitations placed on design because secrets won’t remain secrets very long, and players can skip through content that they perhaps shouldn’t, but I think the pro’s on both sides are strong enough that developers are willing to deal the the downsides in order to make their game better with the use of third-party websites.

~Kanthalos

Hand-Holding in MMO’s: Do We Want It?

After not having internet access for the past three days because our provider has some serious issues, it’s finally back up and running (for now.)  Having said that, I didn’t get the chance to write up a post that I had been brewing over for a couple days; In fact, I’d left a draft open with the title to this post so that I wouldn’t forget about it.  After doing some surfing around the blogosphere to catch up on a weekend’s worth of posts, I saw that Tobold had already touched on the topic briefly.  Now that he’s gotten the ball rolling, I’ll delve a little deeper.

We all have different needs, and MMO’s are no different.  Some of us prefer lots of guidance with someone or something constantly leading the way, providing clues and answers to all of our questions.  Others prefer to have a general path to follow before being sent on their way to discover things for themselves.  Still others would rather be dropped in the middle of nowhere with absolutely no sense of direction to go where they please and do what they please.  These are all valid points of view, and all provide different levels of satisfaction and comfort.  Knowing this means understanding that it can pose a difficult problem to solve for MMO developers, though.  Players from all sorts of backgrounds with all sorts of preferences and expectations are bound to try certain games, and the developers want to keep all of them happy and entertained, but how can they cater to such a wide assortment of potential customers, and yet keep them all satisfied… or can they? This is a question that has never been more prevalent than now, with an ever-increasing number of MMO’s headed our way.  I’ll take a look at three games that help show the two extremes as well as the mid-point.

EvE Online:
On one end of the spectrum there is EvE Online, which is known well for its “throw you to the dogs” approach.  They have made changes recently to try to break or at least shift this stereotype to help bring in more casual players, but it’s still by far the toughest MMO to break into.  Some people thrive in these situations, and they wouldn’t want it any other way.  Others simply can’t do it.  They get too overwhelmed and confused, and quit.  To be perfectly honest, this is the way I felt when I tried EvE about a year ago. I understand that this is the way many players prefer for things to work, and greatly enjoy it, however that’s not the way I prefer things to be, so I didn’t pursue this game.  Can a game with this style work?  Of course, or EvE wouldn’t be the success that it is.  Does that mean that it would hurt to make their game a bit more casual-friendly?  I’ll get to this later.

EverQuest2:
This is a good middle-of-the-road MMO in terms of guidance from the game itself.  You are provided with a somewhat brief tutorial for many aspects of the game, but the average gamer (or non-gamer) whose first MMO is EverQuest 2 is likely going to struggle quite a bit trying to learn everything as they go. Even MMO veterans have had problems understanding everything within this game as they get started with it.  SOE has made progress in leaps and bounds towards improving this, but has it been enough?  Without the assistance of other players or websites to help guide the way, players can easily be turned off before they have even had the chance to truly judge the game.  With that in mind, there are players who get much more satisfaction out of figuring out the nuances of the game on their own than if they had been provided everything they needed.  There are a great deal of these people, and they deserve to have a playstyle that fits them, but can you make a game successfully that caters solely to this audience?  Well, yes, but it’s not going to be as successful as if you catered to others as well.

World of Warcraft:
World of Warcraft is known for being the most casual-friendly MMO around (which seems evident based on its subscription numbers alone.)  it does an excellent job of leading players along while not making them feel dumb in the process.  They let players know what they are supposed to do without suffocating them or making them feel like a puppet.   If you’re on your third or fourth character and don’t care to read all the tips they provide or complete the starter areas, you can skip ahead if you like and jump into the heart of the game right way.  Even yet, there are still plenty of times when, as Tobold pointed out, players will find themselves using third-party resources to determine what to do or where to go next.  Does Blizzard provide players with enough information to get along, or do they need to include more at the risk of bombarding players with a great deal of unnecessary information?  It’s definitely a tough balance to find.

WoW certainly appears to be the game that got the most things right.  They provide the players with enough guidance (leading you around with quests, providing information through NPC’s, etc.) that players generally understand what they should be doing, but it doesn’t seem to be forced.  The guidance is there for the taking, but no one is making you use it.

No game has found the perfect solution, which is of course to cater equally to all sets of players.  Can this really be done, though?  Can you really make a game that provides for the most hard-core players who’ve spent ten years playing MMO’s who just want to dive right in, yet also provides everything necessary for an MMO virgin?  More importantly, can it be done without sacrificing the integrity and the vision of the game?  With an MMO like EvE, if the player base feels like they’ve been betrayed and their game has gone to the casual carebears, then they could lose a good chunk of their valued customers in the process. If they can maintain the feel it currently posesses while providing more casual players with a way in, however, they could dramatically increase their subscriptions.  It’s all a matter of what the players want and what the developers are trying to (and are able to) deliver.

I suppose a big portion of this question falls to the use of third party websites.  Pretty much anything can be found out on these sites, and can make gaming a great deal easier.  Does this mean that developers have the right to depend on these sites for players to find all of their information they need, or is it their responsibility to put this information into the game to reduce the number of times players need to use them?  How do you know what the right amount of information is enough and how much is too much?  I think it depends on the game that’s being built and what the players expect along with that.  It’s certainly not a “one size fits all” situation, which means that finding the right balance is always going to be difficult.

So where do you fit?  How much guidance do you prefer to have along with your MMO’s?  Are you an explorer who wants to run around freely and still progress, or do you prefer a very linear path that gets you  (literally or figuratively) from point a to point b?  Do you prefer to get all answers on “thottbot,” or would you like to have them right in the game?  Let me know 🙂

~Kanthalos