Archive for the ‘Blizzard’ Category

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…

~Kanthalos

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

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

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

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

~Kanthalos

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

StarCraft 2 – The Clash of Two Gamers

So it is 99% clear that Blizzard’s next game will be based on StarCraft as a) They announced that within the decade (most assume of when the original was created) a new StarCraft game would be out and b) it would be nothing like WoW. Though I’m not quite sure what that means in every aspect I’m going to guess that this means it is going to have a far stronger FPS feel than we currently have with WoW, something similar to Tabula Rasa IMO.

This has some interesting potential to be sure. Almost every MOGer (there it is again đŸ™‚ ) is looking at games for questing, exploration, and skill systems. Of course there are other elements, but none of these elements involve twitch-based systems that require you to get someone locked in your crosshair and fire. What this means is that many of the Quake/Halo/Counter Strike/Other FPS fans are going to end up giving these MMO’s a try, which could be good and bad, but I believe it is going to mean a clash of two very different types of gamers, and both of these types of gamers are very set in their ways. FPS players want very fast-paced action oriented games with little downtime. They want to get in, get out, and get back in again. I have a feeling they aren’t going to be interesting in heavy questing that involves potentially waiting for other group members, or actually planning for fights before you dive head first around a corner and get fragged by a 6 year old on a cable modem who hasn’t even had time to register your character. On the other side, MOGers are also set in their ways and want to analyze their stats (on the most basic level), get quests, trade, craft, go exploring, etc. but the good majority like to take their time to some extent, and that’s the way most of these games are built. So in terms of PvE content this is going to be rather interesting watching these groups connect, and I’m not even going to touch on the console debate right now. Now for my PvP concerns.

FPS players (at least a good chunk of them) have really gotten good and the whole aiming and firing bit, since that’s what these games are. They are extremely talented, and while the games aren’t as deep as MMO’s, there is still something to be said about becoming a master of any game genre. That said, for the vast majority of these games (perhaps all) these players simply have to decide which weapons they want to use and fire. There aren’t really skills involved that go along with firing their weapons. Again this is a double-edged sword for an MMO incorporating FPS elements into their game. FPSers will come in wanting to get down and dirty and simply start firing, but they will be very confused when they find that there is a skill that gives a slight degree of autoaim, or triples your damage for the next six seconds, affecting the fight drastically. Will they be able to learn to balance their trigger-happy mouse finger with the number mashing of their other hand? Chances are yes, but would they rather just play Quake 4 where they don’t have to bother? Also, on the other hand, MMO players (have to balance it out before it catches on) will have a firm grasp on the use of skills at this point, but will they be able to compete with the accuracy that FPSers have honed over the years instead? My answer to this is probably a few, but the vast majority of MMO players are going to be at a great disadvantage in this department. Will this disadvantage, like the use of skills, drive them away from PvP combat in a FPS-based game, just like the use of skills for FPSers? Who knows, but it will be interesting to find out. I’ll probably hit on other topics about Blizzard’s new game in the days and weeks to come.

-Kanthalos

The WoW Expectation

As you know, I have been jumping around from MMO to MMO for the past month or so trying to keep myself busy and entertained, but as of now, I still haven’t found anything that captured me the way WoW did pre-70. I am of course excluding Asheron’s Call from this statement as I had a lot less real-life obligations and things to keep busy with out of the game, so for that reason I was much more immersed in Asheron’s Call than WoW or any other game, and probably any other game in the future. Anyways, getting back to my point, I believe that the main reason (not only) reason for this is the fact that WoW’s incredibly unparalleled polish makes me want every aspect of an MMO be flawless in its execution. Even if I find something new and revolutionary or just interesting in a new game I try, if there are flaws with it, then I have trouble getting really excited about it or delving into it for hours at a time and loving every minute of it. My brother used a great analogy of HD TV. WoW is like watching Office Space in HD, as opposed to the Matrix on a standard television. Office Space isn’t really known for looking or sounding really cool, but if its in HD, it will look really nice. Matrix would look amazing in HD, it even looks really good on a normal TV, but if it were in HD, it would blow Office Space out of the water. Hopefully you understood that, but I’ll follow it up by saying this; While WoW didn’t push the boundaries or take any serious risks with the initial creation of WoW, it worked for them simply because everything was implemented so well that no one had any problems with what they did do. This is both a bane and a boon for the rest of the MMO industry. It is good because it raised the expectation of games in terms of polish. Players have grown to expect it, especially if WoW is their first and only MMO. If they jump into Vanguard and their character gets bugged and loses xp, or doesn’t recieve an expensive item they just purchased, chances are that is the last they are going to play the game, even if Vanguard has lost of new features and a much larger, realistic world. This goes for everything from the newbie experience, to questing, to raiding, to exploring, and so on. Even though I understand this, it doesn’t mean that I can overlook certain flaws in other games, realizing that Blizzard is THE exception that is the definition of polish in MMO’s. I still find myself comparing it to WoW, which ends up being the bane. Perhaps Blizzard simply has far more manpower and money than the rest of the companies, and they can afford to spend an extra six months prepping a game for launch, or fixing a quest that doesn’t give the proper reward, unlike some other companies. Maybe these are the things that we just need to learn to live with and lower our expectations to pre-World of Warcraft.

-Kanthalos