Archive for the ‘WAR’ Category

Thoughts on the Success of WAR

I was reading Thallian’s most recent posts about what people can expect to find in WAR and how long they can expect to play the game. While I think WAR warrants a slightly better outlook that Thallian is willing to suggest, I do think there is one key element that WAR needs more than any other in order to be truly successful. Tobold has hit on this subject, too, and it only really hit me how important it is recently, which is getting the average PvE player to get involved in the RvR conflict WAR is centering itself around. Yes, there is going to be PvE content that has been freshened up and I have no doubt that it will be enjoyable, but (thankfully) they aren’t making yet another game that focuses almost entirely on raiding and PvE content at the level cap. They are expecting players to get involved in the conflict presented to them. I am like many other players in that I primarily enjoy playing my MMOs with a heavy PvE slant, choosing to participate in PvP only when I’m bored or when it offers the best method of character progression. I don’t want this to be true anymore. I think players deserve more than that now. I think that without having a true sense of loyalty and a desire to protect what’s yours, then a game will never feel like more than just another game. If you can get the players to have a sense of pride in defending their cities, allies, and homeland, then you’ve created a far richer and more fulfilling world for the players to be a part of. This, more than anything else, is what will keep players invested in a game.

While I still want to enjoy all of the PvE content WAR is going to offer, I want to feel like when I compete in RvR battles I am actually making a difference. I know there are going to be instanced battles in WAR, and that’s fine, but what I really want is open-world RvR with tangible consequences, not a battlefield that is wiped clean every 15 minutes. I know there are hundreds of other factors that will determine whether this game will be a success, but in terms of longevity, this is the main key. As for bugs, questing, grouping, instancing, balance, etc., they will need to be up to snuff, too. I really, really hope that Mythic is up to the task, because I don’t think they can comprehend just how many hearts they are going to break if their game fails.

~Kanthalos

Thoughts on Grouping

Syncaine just wrote a post regarding his hope that WAR, through it’s open group and public quest system, will make grouping a more viable and enjoyable form of leveling. He states that WoW has created a mentality within players that has made us jaded when it comes to PuGs, and I certainly believe this to be true. There is simply too much that can go wrong when it comes to PuGs that make players extremely weary to try. I’m going to focus on two inter-connected problems with PuGs that I believe make up their biggest flaws.

Risk vs. Reward

I’m using the term risk here very loosely. The risk I’m speaking of is mostly referring to the potential for wasted time. Say you find three other people looking to run Slave Pens. All you need is a healer, so you tell them you’ll wait until they find a healer and then head to Coilfang Reservoir. “Sweet, we just found a healer!” they tell you. You make your way over there from killing eels for a quest. Just as you resurface inside, you ask the question you hope the leader has already asked, yet secretly know they haven’t. “(insert name here), you can heal for us, right?” Several seconds pass before he says, “I’m prot specced, but I’ll be able to heal fine.” Now is where it gets interesting, because there are so many potential options and outcomes. I won’t bore you with all of them because I’m sure you’ve been down this road like I have dozens of times. The point is, almost without exception, you will end up wasting an unnecessary amount of time and likely get nothing to show for it, or you’ll cut your losses and head back to the eels. With so much potential for failure and the possibility that you won’t get any gear and only a fraction of the xp for soloing, is it really worth taking the chance?

Rewards of soloing vs. grouping

Whether it’s in an instance or just working on a quest, many games today offer no xp boost for grouping. In Asheron’s Call, eight players in a group could earn 33% of the total xp which created a huge incentive to group. While leveling was a bit stale in AC and xp wouldn’t need to be that high in games today (due to their quest-based nature,) there still should be some increase when grouping is involved. It’s almost as if developers see grouping for additional xp as an exploit. While I can understand the prevention of power-leveling by reducing the xp earned by much lower level character, why should even-level players be penalized for playing together? This just doesn’t seem right to me. When I’m grouping I don’t want to have to think about whether they are a burden or not. I’d much rather focus on enjoying my time with them and playing the game. With that said, If I can solo a quest with ease, why should I cut out some of my xp by bringing another player along? I truly wish this was not the case, though.

In games that are built around social interaction, why would developers make it more lucrative to play by yourself than with other people? I think it’s a case of players wanting more solo content because grouping was too forced before, but now developers have gone so far to the other end of the spectrum that they’ve actually taken nearly all of the incentive out of grouping, even penalizing it. If you want to group anyway, you just have to understand that you are going to be penalized for it a good deal of the time because developers are afraid you will level too fast with extra xp from grouping. Yes, instances require that you have other players to help you, but when the chance is so great (I’d go so far as to say that 30-50% of all PuGs are failures in some form or another) that you won’t get the gear (which I addressed here) you want and you won’t get hardly any xp (when compared to soloing,) why not simply put grouping off until it is absolutely necessary? I know I do, and I think it sucks.

While I certainly hope that WAR will help to change this mentality, I think it will be hard to unlearn everything that WoW and other MMOs have taught us about grouping. If the rewards don’t balance with the potential for wasted or unpleasant time spent with others, then nothing will have changed. Since player skill level and maturity are things that can be as different as night and day, it’s tough to always know whether a raid/mission/quest/instance are going to be successful before it starts, so players are naturally going to be skeptical. Only time will tell whether grouping, and more specifically pugging, will once again be revitalized as the chosen method of leveling as opposed to that dreaded thing we all must face at one point or another.

~Kanthalos

P.S. WAR open beta in just over a week, I can’t wait!!

WotLK Release Date Prediction = Faux

While I can understand that my WotLK release date post has become by far my most popular, it actually turned out to be untrue. Mike Morhaime recently said that we can expect a Q4 release. This means that technically it could be October, but this is extremely unlikely for two very obvious reasons. First is the fact that WAR is set somewhere between September 15-25th, and I don’t even think Blizzard wants to compete so directly with WAR, which is quite possibly the most anticipated MMO ever. The second reason I doubt it will be October is Blizzard’s notoriety for continuously pushing release dates back.

I think it’s pretty safe to give this a release date between late November and early December. By releasing post-WAR, they really have nothing to lose at this point by waiting an extra couple months to clean things up and expand/enhance the new features (which are few in my opinion.) It goes without saying, however, that they would have been in a much healthier position releasing before WAR, but Blizzard is never going to rush something out the door until they are motivated to work faster via a drop in subscription numbers. Regardless of the fact that WoW has millions more subscribers than any other AAA MMO, they still don’t want to see those numbers fall. Only time will tell if Blizzard’s “it’s ready when it’s ready” mentality can still satisfy 11 million subscribers. For the sake of the entire MMO industry, I hope it can’t.

~Kanthalos

WAR Shutting Down Beta Until December

Here’s something I found a little bit ago:

Warhammer Beta Update
By: James Nichols
08 Oct 2007 18:40:47 EST
Greetings all!

Recently, all WAR Beta participants received a letter stating our plan to end this phase of the closed beta test this Wednesday, October 10th. We periodically close Beta, our last closure being in March of this year, to focus on major improvements and polish. The next phase of Beta will reopen in early December with plenty of new and improved content, art and systems for our beta-testers.

We are very proud to have reached this point in development. Beta has been going very well and the testing community is extremely active. Excitement around the game continues to grow and the team is looking forward to enhancing many features already in the game as well as continuing to add new features to an already great game.

Based on player feedback, our own observations and our current schedule, we have set the following major development goals:

* Improve open field skirmishes and battlefield objectives with major enhancements.
* Provide players with even more options to customize their character both through their abilities and visual appearance.
* Continue to enhance Public Quests and the PQ System.
* Prepare the elves for their release into the world!

When the beta reopens, we look forward to welcoming back all of our current testers, as well as many new faces. Shortly after re-opening the doors, we will be inviting the first wave of guilds into the beta to really get things rolling.

Thank you!
– The Warhammer: Age of Reckoning Team

 

I think this is exactly what they and any other company in their situation needs to do for two reasons. First, there is no sense in wasting bandwidth letting players run around when what they find won’t even be taken into account anyways. The developers have made their decisions on what they want to focus on that’s all they should concern themselves with for the time being and see how that changes things once they’ve implemented them. The second reason is that you don’t have to string the players along, letting them hope for a patch every day giving them no indication on when to expect one for months on end while you make a massive number of changes to your game (yes, I’m referring to another beta, perhaps you know which one.) Then they won’t have to check the forums every single day to find dead boards and no sign of a patch.

Anyways, props to you, EA Mythic. You did the right thing, and hopefully others will follow your lead in the future. While I’ve never really shown any signs of excitement for this game it’s been building slowly, and it’s release can’t come soon enough đŸ™‚

~Kanthalos

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.

~Kanthalos

Alternatives to XP-Based Leveling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Kanthalos