Archive for the ‘Asheron’s Call’ Category

Making MMO’s For the Long-Haul

Age of Conan was released about three weeks ago, and there are already people at max level…. Seriously? This just seems insane to me. This means that the somewhat-more-than-casual player will likely reach the level cap by the middle of July at the latest. I am completely baffled by this. I understand that players will eat through any content they are given, but an MMO should not have players reaching the level cap several weeks after it’s release.

Asheron’s Call took the first player over two years to reach the level cap, and a lot of that was done through serious grinding. Many of the players at that time (that were not in guilds built to gain xp and level faster) were around 80-90 if not lower with several more months before they were able to make it there. When AC was first released, there was no intention from the developers for players to reach the level cap righ away, which I think is evident by the arbitrary level cap of 126. I think they had it right for the most part, though. They started with a very large world with two big continents with probably 40 levels of content at release and through monthly content updates, they slowly filled in the landmasses with dungeons, landmarks, quests, leveling areas, and all sorts of new things to do. To me this makes much more sense than making content for 50 levels and jam-packing everything you need into 8-10 zones and then having to create new landmasses whenever you need to add content. Not only did this make players feel like their $10 a month was worth it due to the content updates, but it also allowed the developers to stay slightly ahead of the leveling curve so no one was left with nothing to do.

One thing that I would not really stand for which was considered the norm in AC was grinding. This was basically the only way to level, and while it was fun due to interaction with other players (8-man groups were the best way to maximize xp) it’s not something that I would want to do anymore. There were lots and lots of things to keep players busy outside of leveling, but there’s no doubt that leveling is where the progression happened. I don’t mind a good grinding session from time to time, but there is no way that I will play an MMO where this is the only means of progressing. The only way I would consider grinding through levels is with other players (grouping actually meant more xp than solo, go figure) who were literally pushing forward into a zone with some goal once we reached the end which would reward us with something other than just xp.

AC had something really good going here. The idea that it took two years for the first player to reach the level cap is brilliant. This means that you can’t even have an end-game really, at least not for many months in which you can prepare for it, or keep raising the level cap, so it’s barely reachable. I’m not saying that progression in these games should be agonizingly slow, but the rate of progression in AoC is pretty silly to me. If you put the max level pretty far out of reach, I think it will force players to take their time and really enjoy what they are doing. Obviously, this can go both ways and players can question why they are even playing if they can’t make it to the end, but as long as they are satisfied with content, I don’t think that will really matter.


Can We Get It Back?

If you read this blog, it’s pretty safe to assume that you have played an MMO before, and if you have, chances are you have very fond memories of your first. It will always hold a special place in your gaming heart, and you will never truly forget the places and the people you encountered in your time there. For me, this is Asheron’s Call, though for many others it’s EQ, Ultima Online, Dark Age of Camelot, WoW, AC2, or pretty much any MMO to date. For me, I’ve always been looking for something to replace the euphoria and obsessive behavior that accompanied my time spent running around Dereth, but I’ve never quite gotten there. I’ve played over a dozen MMO’s since Asheron’s Call, but nothing has really drawn me in the way it did. I suppose this is to be expected as the first time is usually the most memorable with many things, MMO’s included. That said, is it fair to say that we shouldn’t or couldn’t try to get as close to that feeling again as possible? I don’t think so. If this were the case, we should have stopped playing MMO’s after we tired of the first one we played. We don’t, however, because we understand that improvements are being made every day to MMO’s currently out and those being developed for the future.

So why is it that our positive experiences don’t really seem to carry from our first MMO experience to all the others we’ve played since? The obvious response is that no two games are the same and expectations change as these games evolve. The reasons we loved our first might have been an afterthought or purposely minimized or not included at all in another game. No one with any common sense would ever implement Asheron’s Call melee combat system into a game now, and this is true for many of the systems that these games used. The problem is that by the time you change all of these systems to modernize them, the game that you loved so much is nothing more than a shadow. This is typically why sequels struggle so much. Just look at AC2 for evidence. Not only was it plagued by bugs on all levels, but they altered the game so drastically from the first that most of the AC1 players hated it. It’s reasonable to speculate that if the bugs hadn’t been there it would have had a much different result, but I think regardless, they would have been shooting for different market because the game was so incredibly different. The combat system was changed, the skill tree was added to replace the skill system that was used in AC1 (one that I truly miss and would love to see again in the future.) These two changes alone were enough to make it feel as though this wasn’t a sequel at all, so it made it very difficult for AC1 players to jump straight over, and instead many went on to other games completely.

Not only do we have to consider the game itself, but the way our lives have changed since then. Back in 1999, I was just entering high school with far less responsibilities than I have now. Granted, I am currently unemployed, but between looking for a job and taking care of other things, the time I have to play is much more limited than it was back then. I would literally spend 3-5 hours every night after school playing, and this is simply not feasible, or really desired, now. So since I have less time to play and less desire to spend that much time playing, does this mean that I can’t get as invested in a game, and therefore, won’t get as much out of it? I don’t think so. At least, I don’t think that should be the case. If I’m forced to spend 30-40 hours a week playing an MMO to fully enjoy it, then it’s not something that I’m going to be willing to do. If I WANT to play that much, it’s a completely different story (not that I actually would play that much) and I think it’s serving it’s purpose.

Taking into account that these games are constantly being upgraded and changed, can we really get back that experience that we long for? I really don’t think so personally, but I do think that when we find the game that suits us best that is a really good product, we will create a new set of memories and consider them to be equally valuable. Whether that means a fantasy-based game or not, I don’t know, but I do know that as long as I enjoy MMO’s, I will be looking for this type of experience again.


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.


RIP: XP Grinding

Let’s all think longingly back to the good old days of grinding in Asheron’s Call and EverQuest. Those were great times. Who didn’t thoroughly enjoy those hundreds of hours spent killing tuskers or olthoi (or whatever they were in EverQuest) ? Just kidding. Back then this was the only form of leveling. We didn’t know any better, and that’s all we knew so we accepted it, and yeah, we were pretty happy and satisfied with it. Sure there were quests, but they were few and far between, and certainly not the main form of leveling. Today this won’t fly. No one (or very few, rather) are going to willingly spend hours on end farming the same creature for xp to get to that next level. Every once in a while this can be somewhat relaxing when you want to watch some tv and not run or fly all over the place. That’s exactly what I was looking for tonight.

So there I was, fresh into level 66, sitting in Blade’s Edge Mountains when I realized that I really didn’t like (or felt the necessity to complete) any of the 12 or so quests that were currently in my quest log. That said, with 18 bars of rest xp to my name, I decided to go to my favorite gold grinding spot. In about five hours, I managed to gain about 500g worth of crafting mats and vendor trash, as well as 16 bars of xp. This certainly wasn’t shabby, and I probably would have gotten about the same amount of xp and 1/3 the gold questing. That was with rest xp, and most people don’t depend on this for leveling, so would I have done this without rest xp? Not a chance. It literally would have taken twice as long, which means that grinding through level 66 would take the average person about 12-16 hours, depending on class and skill.

While this seems horrible, Blizzard being their utilitarian selves realize that those who grind for xp are the great minority, and therefore cater extensively to the questing crowd. They don’t want their quests just sitting there, so they offer excellent xp and gear bonuses for completing them. Virtually every other game out there runs on the same concept now. Even Asheron’s Call is including far more quests and large xp bonuses for completing them to help compensate for all the grinding that is still more or less required. Some gamers are stuck with the mentality that since grinding is more hardcore that it is still the fastest way to level if you know what you’re doing, but why then is any leveling guide that’s decent using almost nothing but quests to level? Because times have changed, and while grinding definitely used to be the fastest form of leveling, its days are over.

So what does this mean? It means that you can grind if you choose, but you better have rest xp or kill creatures with excellent drops or you’re in for a fruitless, boring time. That said, you might just be looking for a little mindless grind like I wanted earlier, and you can certainly still do that, as long as you know that you aren’t maximizing your time. Then again, you are playing a game after all…


Are MMO’s Worth It?

I decided that for my creative non-fiction class this semeter my topic that I would pursue would be MMO’s since I’ve never really sat down and considered the near decade I’ve spent with this genre, and this was a perfect opportunity to do that. I’ve never really written any CNF before, so this is all new to me, but I think this piece is pretty decent so I decided I’d share it with you. It’s a little short due to requirements for the course, but I think it gets pretty much everything I want to say across, just maybe with slightly less detail. Anyways, here it is — hope you like it.

Are MMO’s Worth It?

A question I have often found myself asking is whether it has been worth it to play MMO’s over the past eight years, or whether I would have been better off entirely if I had never become involved with them. There are so many ways to go about answering this question, and yet there are also many things that are intangible – simply impossible to describe, though equally as valid as anything else. Things like that rush of adrenaline the first time I went on a 40-man raid, or the first time I fought against another player, or the relationships I built. I can’t put a price on these things, but I can wonder how different my life would have been if I had been reading a book or playing baseball instead.

Back in 1999, I had no idea what to expect when I picked up Asheron’s Call. How could I? I didn’t even realize it was anything other than an ordinary PC game. I had no idea that I would pour one tenth of my life throughout the past eight years into Asheron’s Call and World of Warcraft. If someone had told me that, I would have avoided them like the plague. That said, does that change the way I feel now about these amazing games? Not really. Can I still question what could have happened had I steered that passion in another direction? Of course I can. If you consider what you could do with a year of your time, the possibilities are endless. You could either teach yourself every intricacy of Photoshop, or how to build a car, or you could simply sit on your ass watching Law and Order marathons.

So what have I gained by spending all of this time in virtual worlds? Well, there are the relationships I have formed with players, both that I still maintain, being two, and those have faded over time, which are dozens. Stemming from that is the improvement in my social skills which I think is due in no small part to these games. I’ve also improved my leadership and teamwork skills as a direct result of MMO’s. Then there are the intangibles like the sense of accomplishment, the late nights spent goofing around in an instance with friends, the discovery of a new zone, and all those other things that can’t be measured.

I consciously made a choice, and that was to devote a good part of my life to this game genre. Whether I made the best choice or not, I would have a hard time giving up those memories and the friendships to be replaced by something else, even if it was more impressive or useful or honorable. Some might think of this as nothing more than another form of entertainment, but I disagree, and hopefully will continue to do so in the years to come.


MMOADD = Not Real

I was just reading through the comments on Cuppy’s page, and The Hiram Key thought that the reason lots of us bloggers constantly fall in and out of love with EQ2 was due to the fact that we all have MMOADD. Bildo countered this by saying that there was some intangible flaw with EQ2 that doesn’t quite grab us the way that WoW and other games might. I’m more inclined to side with Bildo here, not just for the relation to EQ2, but any MMO in which we find ourselves losing our desire to play. I believe that one of the most important things that makes an MMO what it is is this idea of loyalty. Every MMO out there is striving to gain your undivided time and money. They don’t want you jumping around spending half your time with one and half your time with another.

Remember when AC and EQ were THE MMO’s on the scene, and how loyal each gamer was to whichever they chose? You hardly ever saw one playing the other. The problem is that now that there are many different MMO’s to test, when we see flaws in the one we play, we try something else out to fill that void. Ultimately, if we found one we were content with, we would stick with that for a couple years or so before we moved on to something else, not flopping around like a fish out of water.

I played Asheron’s Call for four years, and it was my full intention to find another MMO after I tired of it that held me that long again. Granted, it was like the first time with everything, you are always seeking that same gratification, and you aren’t going to find it, but I always intended for MMO’s that followed to be long-term games that I played. I found that with WoW, which I have played on and off (mostly on) since release, but since then I simply haven’t found something I wanted to dive into with the same passion as the first two. Honestly, I don’t know that I will in the near future, with the possible exception of three games (Spellborn, Warhammer, and Stargate Worlds.)

I’m starting to get a little side-tracked, though. The point is that I, and I believe most other MMO gamers, have no intention to spread themselves out over three or four games (unless it is somewhat journalistic in nature) but would much rather be completely happy and content with one game that satisfied all of their wants and needs in an MMO.


Revamping Old MMO’s

I don’t necessarily want this to be a rant, but I really am started to get frustrated with all of the people who keep asking Turbine to rebuild Asheron’s Call with new graphics. Do people really not see the problem with this, or rather the wide variety of problems with this? Let’s think here for a couple minutes.


For those of us who played Asheron’s Call, let’s reminisce about the mind-numbingly HORRIBLE melee combat the game implemented. For those who don’t know it consisted of a slider for speed vs. power, as well as an ability to hit high, medium, or low. That’s it. Flash forward to today where you have dozens of skills to choose from for each encounter. I tried AC’s system for a few weeks a couple months ago, and let tell you…it get’s old FAST. Granted the magic system was much more in-depth and intricate, but that’s not good enough. No one would want to play them. “Why does this even matter?” some might ask, and I’ll tell you why. It’s because when you change a concept this important to an MMO, it effectively changes the game, enough so to make it very difficult to call it simply a better-looking AC.


Ahhh, let’s not forget about the wondrous time spent grinding innumerable tuskers and olthoi… hundreds of thousands if you make it to 126 and beyond. For those of you in a rush (myself included, as it took over two years for the first person to reach 126,) While you might have forged friendships in these dungeons, you can’t say it was a blast spending four hours every night camping the table room.

I’m sure you remember the xp chains, where you’d have to leave the guild you actually liked so that you would be forced to earn a certain amount of xp each day or get kicked. For some it was worth it, for some not. For others, they thought you sold out in a way if you joined one.

There are many other things missing from AC (such as auction houses, quest-based leveling, etc.) stuff that don’t make or break a game, but things that would fly in the face of the original. Granted, there are tons of things that AC did right, and as it’s my first MMO, and I spent four years playing it, I’ll never forget the awesome times I had playing it. That said, times have changed, and expectations are higher. People need to understand that it would be financially asenine to duplicate AC with nothing but a face-lift, and if they incorporated all the other innovations into the game, it would be pointless to even try to call it Asheron’s Call (aka Asheron’s Call 2 🙂 ). Let’s remember all the great times we had playing this game, and wait for something that will hopefully bring us the same level of enjoyment.


Why Penalize Players For Grouping?

Asheron’s Call (I’m assuming like EQ from what I’ve heard) was filled with grinding. LOTS of grinding. Back then, we didn’t care so much. We didn’t know any better and we grew to accept it. You went from one tusker dungeon to the next killing a black tusker instead of a red and black tusker (for those of you who don’t know, they are basically gorillas with big, well… tusks.) You got to know the people as you spent more and more time in the same dungeons with them. You’d join a fellowship with them (a group basically, with up to (nine?) people) and chat away with them as you mindlessly hacked away at whatever you were grinding on. If a fellowship was full when you got there, you waited in line for someone to leave and take their place.

In most games today, grouping up while grinding is pretty much unheard of. Why? Because if you are a proficient “grinder” (mmm, tasty) and you group with someone who isn’t as skilled as your or their class isn’t well suited for it, you will get less xp than by yourself because most games have you split xp evenly. Asheron’s Call was different, though. If you were grouped with one other person, you each got 75% of the total xp, and with each additional person in the group, this dropped a little bit, so with a full fellowship (either eight or nine) every person got 33% of the xp. Think about that for a second… nine people each getting a third of the xp. I think more games could use a system like this. It encourages people to play together, and for those people who enjoy a good grind from time to time (myself included) this would be a great way to do that without feeling like you are actually earning less xp than questing. Obviously, the situation in AC was different. Questing was the exception, rather than grinding, so increasing xp in groups was a must, no doubt about it. Why, though, does this mean that games that have a quest-centric system don’t have to give bonus xp to groups? It doesn’t. It’s like the developers say “well, they are getting extra xp for doing the quest, so why give them even more xp for doing it with another person?” This just seems flawed in my opinion. An MMO’s greatest attribute is the fact that you are playing WITH OTHER PEOPLE. I know that sometimes you want to have some time to yourself, but if you do want to do a spend some time with a friend without a real goal in mind (or just for questing) you shouldn’t be penalized for it.


Player Run Events

Hello for the second time today. I decided that for this post I’d focus on player run events. This is something that I’ve noticed seems to be relatively nonexistent in the MMO’s I’ve played recently. Back when I was playing Asheron’s Call actively, these were constantly going on on my server. My guild would frequently host things like scavenger hunts that would lead people all over the world solving riddles and performing feats in which the winner would either receive gold or a rare item. I think this is an excellent way to get the community interacting with one another. We would group up with other guilds on occasion which was a great way to meet new players outside of your guild which lead to alliances for questing, grouping, or for PvP. Speaking of PvP, tournaments were also hosted which were a lot of fun, and while there are official tournaments that players and teams can compete in, I find it more fun when the players host the event and can receive a reward in game.

There are many ways in which players can host an event which can be mutually beneficial. Things like races, killing competitions, scavenger hunts and a multitude of other things can all be used which could charge a small fee (say 10g.) Say you get 20 competitors, that’s 200g, with the winner getting 75g and second place getting 30g. That’s a 95g profit for the host, a good prize for the two winners and even if you lose you have fun and only lose 10g. This is a great way for guilds to earn money for raiding supplies or for helping out lower level players. Furthermore, this is something that needs no interaction, regulation, or assistance from the developers. It is solely on the shoulders of the players. Of course, the host needs to be reputable enough that players know they won’t have their money stolen, but again, even if you lose the 10g, you aren’t going to be hurting that badly. I’m honestly surprised I haven’t seen more (or at all for that matter) of these kind of player run events in games recently. Perhaps this is the cause (or effect) of many players thinking communities today are immature, selfish, and just plain rude. It’s something to think about, and maybe work with your guild to host such an event.

Music and MMO’s

I was just listening to a Jason Mraz CD that I’ve got at work and I can’t help but think back to my time spent in EQ2 over a year ago when I was listening to the same CD. The same thing happens when I listen to Dream Theater and Un’Goro Crater, as well as Switchfoot and Asheron’s Call. Does anyone else have similar experiences? I’m curious to know 🙂


Uncanny Valley and MMO’s — Part 2 of 2

I described the Uncanny Valley hypothesis and how I related it to MMO’s in my last post, choosing to look at the technical aspects of whether or not players will one day be able to feel as though their avatars are an extension of themselves or whether in fact, they even desire this. For the second part of this, I’m going to focus on the emotional aspect of this idea. Social interaction with other players and NPC’s would play the greatest part of course, as well as character freedom. I will warn you I do get a bit side-tracked at times, but I think everything ultimately relates to the topic.

I’ll start with social interactions. It’s clear that currently in MMO’s there is very little true social interaction, at least that actual involves your avatar. Sure you can click on an NPC to obtain a quest and type a message to another player on the keyboard, but your character simply sits there while you perform these actions. I think the first step in changing this involves voice communication, which we have recently seen an influx in with the use of software like Ventrilo and TeamSpeak. In fact, some games have already included systems built into the game that allow voice chat, either through a third party program or one they’ve created themselves. Dungeons and Dragons Online has a built in system, Lineage 2 uses MSN messenger, and EVE Online is currently implementing a system as well. Again, though, this is simply for players to communicate what they want or need from other players. Rarely is it used to role play, speaking as the character would. This is part of the problem that many players currently have in using voice chat. They feel that it breaks the illusion when a 13 year old middle-of-puberty boy starts talking in Ventrilo while playing a 300-pound dwarf. While I agree that this breaks the atmospheric feel of the game, I would argue that so does reading the text that people type into a box. You don’t see people walking around with a whiteboard and a dry erase marker writing everything they want to express (I hope,) so why is this any more realistic than a 54 year old man with emphysema talking for a night elf woman? Also, companies have started creating voice chat programs that will altar your voice such as MorphVOX Pro (Vivox is also working on a program as well) to whatever you want yourself to sound like. While they are far from perfect it’s a sign that things are changing and heading in this direction.

More than just talking to other players though, I think a large step towards realism in MMO’s is NPC’s actual talking to you. I know EverQuest 2 has started with this and some of the quests you obtain will actually have the NPC say it out loud to you. The biggest problem you run into with this is getting voice actors that are actually good. If they are poorly done, it’s worse than just reading it so you have to be careful when implementing something like this. Also, I think if you get good voice actors, people might be more interested in actually reading the quests more than they do now, usually just clicking the accept button and reading the objective later, but quests are another subject I’m going to tackle after this. Also bodily movements (expressions) and mouth movement are essential in this. No matter how good the voice actors are, if the NPC is a rock then it will just be awkward and simply won’t work.

True character freedom is also very important in creating a sense of realism in order to feel a part of your character. Characters will need to actually be able to have control of the way they move. While this might not be possible in combat yet, there needs to be some way of doing so when not in combat. Asheron’s Call uses a combat/peace mode system. Perhaps this would work for the proposed situation. This may not be possible with the current mouse and keyboard configuration, but is just one more step towards realism. The ability to push someone, pick up a rusty axe off the ground, hold someone’s hand, or even scratch our characters head (your imagination can come up with all sorts of other possibilities I’m sure) would be incredible addition to a game. While we do have e-motes, they just aren’t the same.

Well there you have it. These are the most essential things that I’ve come up with when it comes to having a more realistic take on our characters we play for hours on end. There are many more things involved in believability in MMO’s, but they involve gameplay which is a completely different subject in my opinion. So is truly connecting with your character something you even desire within a game? Clearly we desire our games to be based on our reality, but how much is too much? These are questions I would love to hear your responses to, so let me know what you think. I hope you enjoyed this, and I’ll be back soon to talk about questing and possible improvements that could be made.


Asheron’s Call — Not What I Hoped For

Well after play for about a month now between the beta and a paid month, I must say that I’m not as pleased as I was hoping to be. I think the main problem with this was the mentality that I went into the game with, or rather, how my mentality changed after I resubscribed. Since I was unable to regain my old account, I started from scratch and my original intention was to simply run around to all of my old stomping grounds for nostalic purposes. This meant getting to about level 60, so that I could at least survive while running through the nasty stuff. This changed a lot when I decided to resubscribe. While I did go out to some of the old places that I wanted to see like Aerlinthe, the Direlands, and just general exploring, I haven’t spent nearly any time at all on that stuff because I wanted to get leveled quick so that I could experience new content instead. While you can level extremely quickly in AC in comparison to how it used to be (my first level 66 character took 2 months in-game, as compared to being level 70 in two days in game…yeah) it still feels like a drag sitting in the same dungeon while you watch your xp bar go up in a fellowship. I chose a UA character and have my UA skill way up, but I’ve been trying to get my magic schools up to the point that I can cast level 7 spells for myself instead of relying on buffbots, but in that process, I have gotten rather burnt out quickly. My old friends have taken me through a few new quests that are fun, but I find that I’m having to force myself to get on to play, which flies in the face of everything an MMO is supposed to be. For this reason, I won’t be renewing my payment next month. I’m considering hitting up LotRO, so we’ll see how that goes.


A Return to Asheron’s Call

So yes, it is going to happen. After playing for around a week, I’ve decided that I am going to give it another go. Sure the combat system (for melee classes) is a bit rudimentary and the engine is a bit dated, but there is still a lot to offer, especially since I haven’t played in nearly 3 years and Turbine puts out monthly content updates and there is a whole new expansion to discover. There is still a decent sized community on my server Leafcull (about 300 accounts active each night) and the three things that mean the most to me in this game (besides the combat system) are community, exploration, and the skill-based system. When I say skill-based system I don’t mean the skill you have to play your character, but rather the idea that all the experience you get can be put into whatever skill you choose, rather than improving your attributes through leveling and gear. To me this is something that other MMO’s need to implement, as it gives you much more control over your character, and makes you feel as though your character is YOU, and not a replica of nOObPWNr.

My character maxed out at 126 when I was still playing and the current level cap is 275, so that should say something about how much new stuff there is to do. Even the graphics have gotten a huge update, and while they are limited by the engine, they are very crisp and greatly improved since I last played. While it is difficult to determine just how long I will stay, I’m quite sure that I will not be bored within the first month of play.

Given all of the hate that I’ve dropped on Vanguard, it is still calling out to me, and I will probably give it a shot after three or four more updates, and I for one don’t see any problem with teleportation devices if it means easier grouping and the like. Also, who cares if SOE takes total control over it? I agree with Cuppycake in that SOE probably has a larger role in the game than we know, and likely has the ultimate decision on what goes into the game anyway, so what does it matter?

Oh, and by the way, I am officially done with WoW for good. I just came to the conclusion that while there are new instances, gear and creatures, that is all they are. Nothing innovative was given to the players with the Burning Crusade, just more of the same, and I for one am not going to pay to spend four hours four nights a week playing the same instances I have played for the past year. The climb was fun once, but I don’t want to do it more than that. Change end-game, and I might change my mind, but we won’t see another expansion for 1.5-2 years in my estimation, so that won’t be for a while.


A Return to Asheron’s Call…?

As you know, I have been going crazy trying to find my place in MMO space that continues to grow and improve. I saw recently a 14-day free trial of Asheron’s Call: Throne of Destiny. Seeing as it’s been over three years since I last set foot in the world of Dereth, I decided I’d give it a go. Starting fresh, I created a character on my old server, Leafcull. I was shocked to find that two of my best friends from the game are still playing. I reconnected with them and they were thrilled to see me, urging me to resubscribe. There are a few reasons that I’m not quite sure that I want to do this yet, and here they are.

1) Starting up the free trial, my initial goal was simply to get high enough level to go check out all of my old stomping grounds, explore, and reconnect with my friends if they still played. I still find myself recalling some of the landscapes from AC, thinking about how awesome they looked, even though the graphics are/were sub-par at best, there are still some amazing vistas to be found within the game. I also wanted to remember some of the critters that I’d forgotten, and get a chance to whack at them one more time. To wrap this point up, I was going for a nostalgic conclusion and finally put this game to bed.

2) I’m not sure if I want to open up this can of worms. I spent FAR TOO MUCH time playing this game during high school when I could have been doing hundreds of other things. While I looks back with pleasure on my time spent playing, I can’t help but wonder what more I could have done during that part of my life. Expanding on that, coming to the end of my college career, classes are becoming extremely difficult and time-consuming, so between balancing classwork, a social life, and a gaming habit, I almost don’t even want to risk opening that border-line obsessive play. I have gone slightly overboard playing WoW (and occasionally in EQ2) but it was nothing like it was during AC’s hayday.

3) After becoming spoiled by more modern game-play (mainly combat systems and questing) as well as improved graphics, I’m afraid that after several weeks, I will find myself bored to tears, wondering why I ever resubscribed in the first place. While AC has an absolutely immense amount of content (due in large part to their monthly updates, that I believe other games should include) I’m worried that I will find it all too similar and won’t have the drive to see the content that they have added since I last quit.

So there you have it. I still have 12 days to decide whether I’m going to give this game another try, but my gut is telling me that I will likely enjoy this time, get e-mail addresses from my old friends, and move on.


A Newbie’s Review of Saga of Ryzom

Sorry I have been absent for a while, but after returning from spring break, I have had a lot of things to deal with that have taken most of my free time, and the rest of my free time has been spent playing MMO’s, in this case, Saga of Ryzom. When I got back, I was feeling very fed up with WoW, so I figured I would try the 14-day free trial of Ryzom. I was intrigued by the fact that it was skill-based, which I have always enjoyed more than gear-based games like WoW. I just think its more of a “get out what you put in” kind of thing, where you don’t necessarily get punished because you have a small guild or can’t raid for 6 hours at a time, and can still progress effectively. Anyways, more about the game. I used the trial for two days, and found that the community, graphics, and skill-based systems were all excellent, so I purchased the full version for one month. Everyone is very mature extremely helpful with questions or missions, which is a point of the game that I feel is not so great. I was lucky enough to talk to a few really good people about the “mainland” who informed me that the missions were nothing like those found on the trial island, which were put there to learn the mechanics of the game.

The missions found in the main part of the game are, for lack of a better word, “bitchwork.” Even the developers say the missions are put in place because the NPC’s don’t want to do it themselves. I think this is a horrible approach to missions, and a lazy one at that. It’s as though they wanted to put the content in and work some missions around this as easily as possible. While the game is very open-ended and you are free to do what you want, I don’t think this should give you the right to put in junk for missions. That said, there are some great elements to this game.

The landscape graphics are excellent, and quite frankly, the most interesting and beautiful of any game that I’ve played. In the zone that I went to begin on the mainland, the ground is lush with swaying plants and trees that really bring it to life. I was a bit disappointed with the creature models, which are rather boring, but I believe this is to cut down on lag when huge battles take place for real-time events, which from what I’ve read occur somewhat frequently.

Another aspect of this game that I really enjoy is the Ryzom Ring that they have recently implemented. While it doesn’t look like it’s even close to it’s potential, the idea behind it is that players can create their own scenario’s, using any type of landscape in the game (desert, forest, jungle, etc.) and implant creatures and NPC’s as they see fit, and allow other players to access these. This is the first type of player-generated content that I have seen in any MMO, so for that I give the developer’s props, but as of now it’s not a very big part of the game, so it will be interesting to see how that develops.

Crafting and harvesting are also very big parts of this game. While I haven’t tried crafting yet, it sounds like every piece of armor or weaponry is crafted, which really helps the economy as money is constantly going to players, rather than just giving it back to the game itself, and really gives players a lot of power. As for the harvesting, I have tried this. It is a very elaborate system, in which materials might blow up in your face as you try to harvest them, and if you harvest too much in a specific area, you may be attacked, which is an excellent way of preventing farming. As you get better, you find ways to harvest more of a material from a source, or to help prevent it from exploding, or to find more a source in an area. This is very well done, so good job on that.

One last area I want to touch on is the community, which is far and away the best I have seen in my MMO experience, which spans eight years and nearly a dozen games now, with the possible exception of Asheron’s Call. Within a day of joining, I had joined a guild who had probably answered 50 questions of varying importance, given me a whole set of new armor, 3000 of these things called catalysts which double your experience earned, and who I just chatted with about totally random things as well. I am looking forward to getting to know these people better, as well as other people on my server (Arispotle I believe).

So there you have my very loose and by no means official review of Ryzom. In a general statement, I am certain that I am going to give this game at least a full month of attention, and make my final decision then as to whether I will keep playing it. In the meantime, I’m also being distracted by Titan Quest, which I recently purchased and have enjoyed playing.

Be back soon.