Archive for the ‘World of Warcraft’ Category

Thoughts on Gear Progression, Raiding, and WotLK

So it’s been forever since I’ve posted, and I’m going to take it slowly for now.  I actually have a lot to write about that I’ll get to soon enough, but something small (with the potential for vast expansion later if I choose to.)

So I was just reading Tobold’s post and the comments, which got me thinking about character progression and raiding in WoW.  What I realized is that the only real need to have really good raiding gear is to continue to push for more raid content.  On a related note, you only need to have really good PvP gear to push to become more dominant in PvP.  Shouldn’t there be other venues to put the gear that you’ve obtained to use?  Sure you can go run heroic instances with it, but you already have better gear than you are going to be able to get from there if you have really good raiding gear.  I really don’t even know what I’m looking for exactly, maybe entire zones that are more challenging/rewarding (but can potentially be ran through solo) or 1-man instances that really put your skills and gear to the test.  Who knows, I just know that I’m frustrating with the role that gear plays in WoW.

Am I alone in thinking this way?  Am I the only one who wishes there were more ways to put your raiding gear to use other than to continue raiding?  This is ultimately why I will not be purchasing WotLK.  In that vein, if you don’t like the direction Blizzard is taking their game, then this is the only way they are going to listen. Just like voting, one person doesn’t necessarily matter, but if enough people participate, then it will.  I was tempted to buy WotLK just for the 70-80 content, but then I realized that I’m paying for much more than that, and I don’t want any of the other stuff.  I also know exactly where I’m going to end six months from now if I start playing again, which is exactly where I was six months ago when I stopped, and that is debating whether raiding is worth the time and effort, and the answer for me is no.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy the game if you know you’ll enjoy it, I just know that with Blizzard being the leader of the MMO industry, I am going to do what I can to get them off their asses and start thinking the way they did when they first built World of Warcraft, instead of thinking about how they can simply retain their customer base, because that’s honestly all I see them doing right now.  

Hopefully that made sense.  Whether you agree or disagree with me is your opinion, I just know that I expect more from Blizzard and I’m not going to pay them if I’m not happy with their product.


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.


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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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 🙂


“Just stick it out, it’ll be better in a few levels.”

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this, but it’s something that has been around basically since MMO’s were born. Most MMO’s tend to have a rough patch at some point or another where leveling seems much more like a chore than a pleasure. Some, like EvE, seem to be right out of the get-go. If you make it through the first few days or so in EvE (levels are a relative term in EvE since it’s more skill-based than anything) and you enjoy the mechanics and the overall feel of the game without feeling overwhelmed or what have you, then you’re pretty much good to go. Other games like LotRO seem to face this at about the 35th level mark. You get a good feel for the game and what it’s all about by the time you reach this point, but wonder whether it’s worth that extra push it requires to make it through some of those stale levels. Granted, they have added zones like Evendim to help alleviate this issue, but has this solved the issue completely? I’ll get back to this later.

While some games are better than others, and there are a wide range of issues that can determine whether you are affected by these troublesome levels, should you ever feel like you have to “stick it out” to get to more enjoyable content? Is it simply inevitable that these will find their way into MMO’s at some point or another due to the immense scale of these games, or should the developers be doing everything they can to make sure that they avoid these areas?

Now I’m going to get to the heart of this issue (at least for me.) When I got my champion to level 35 in LotRO, I immediately began to feel stuck. My quest log was littered with fellowship quests or quests that were too high for me to complete on my own. I have no problem with fellowship quests, and I actually enjoy them quite a bit, but when I struggled for several days to put a group together, I began to get rather frustrated. If I couldn’t complete these quests that I needed a fellowship for, this left me with only one option: grinding. Most of us know that mob xp in LotRO is meager at best, even with rest xp. Leveling is all about questing, which really causes problems for those who want (or feel to need) to grind a few levels out. I actually wouldn’t have minded this either, as I can enjoy a nice grinding session on occasion. So there I was, unable to find a fellowship, unable to grind, and unable to complete solo quests (due to a lack of them for my level.) With this weighing heavily on me during my time spent in game, along with the subscription ending in a few days, I chose not to push on. I did make it to 36 before I quit, but at that point, I didn’t have the urge to bust all the way through to 38 or so. That’s not to say I never will again, but I didn’t feel like I should have to force myself to make it through 2-3 levels just so that I could get to more rewarding and enjoyable content.

Even WoW, a game that I think did an excellent job of filling content for all levels, would have me feeling stuck from time to time, particularly in the mid-to-high 50’s range. At least in WoW, the option to grind was there should you choose to take it. While it usually isn’t as effective as questing, it at least gives you the option to a) get out of a patch where you don’t seem to have enough quests or b) simply don’t want to do the quests that you have.

It’s all about having multiple options when it comes to leveling. For the most part, players aren’t going to want to do every single quest they are given, just like they don’t always want to quest at all. Some players prefer to instance, which can also be a great way to level while also allowing you to skipping through a bout of quests if that is the goal. Some players don’t like having a clear path all the time, or at all for that matter. Games like EvE are perfect for this style of player. That said, many MMO enthusiasts have tried at least once to get into EvE and simply couldn’t see the appeal before their confusion and frustration set in, and they gave up. One advantage EvE has in this area is that you can continue to gain skill points while you aren’t playing, which can be very beneficial as you are constantly advancing in one form or another.

So should we feel obligated to “stick it out” for a few levels (or skill points) to make it to a more enjoyable portion of the game? With the ever-increasing number of options we as MMO enthusiasts have, is it worth it for us to “waste our time” so that we can make it through the tunnel and back into the light (or deep space,) or should we simply move on and hope for better results with the next game?


Trash Mobs — What’s the Point?

With all the talk about raiding and gear ownership, it really got me thinking about instances as a whole. What about instances can really be changed or improved in some way? This immediately brought to mind trash mobs. Trash mobs are something that have really just bothered me ever since I started raiding (and instancing in general.) Since I didn’t play EverQuest (for more than a week or two) I don’t know whether they started there, or whether they were popularized by WoW, but they seem like one of those things that were implemented once for whatever reason, and from that point on were a fixture in raiding and instancing with little or no regard for their function. If they are there, they must be serving a purpose, right? Let’s consider what all trash mobs are good for:

1) They provide the potential for a random epic/rare drop (as well as small amounts of gold and vendor trash.)
2) They increase your reputation with a faction.
3) They fill space, and make the instance seem more alive.

That’s really all that I could come up with as to why they are included in instances. Some might consider them to be a sort of “gear/skill check” but in all honesty, they are far easier than any of the bosses that you’ll face, with very few if any exceptions. They take up everyone’s time for virtually no benefit, so here is a list of reason why they should be removed altogether as well as suggestions to deal with it.

1) The random epic drops that fall from trash mobs can simply be an addition to the gear that the bosses drop (with the possibility of two or even three items.) As for the gold, it’s never really been enough to matter anyway. No one goes to a 10 or 25-man with the idea that they are going to get gold. They go for gear, and more than likely expect to lose gold for repair bills. Increase the gold drops on the boss (to about 25g each in a 25-man,) or forget about it.
2) Reputation? Drastically increase the amount of the reputation you get for killing the bosses to scale with the trash mob rep. This makes more sense anyways because, after all, they are the reason all the trash mobs are there to begin with.
3)Think of all the time you would save by not having to deal with trash mobs. It would more than cut raiding and instancing times in half. Not only that, but it would prevent re-clears. If you’ve proven that you can kill the mobs once (which, again, aren’t nearly as tough as the bosses,) why force you to do it again, and kill all that much more time? The challenge is with the boss fights, not the trash mobs which keep players from heading straight to the bosses. 25-mans and heroics have timers in place already to keep people from killing the bosses over and over again, so it’s not as if players can kill the bosses, reset, and kill again for more loot anyway. All it would do is free up more time for the players (or allow them to have more time for attempts on bosses.)

The only real reason to keep trash mobs in an instance that I see is because they make it seem more alive, but then again, how “alive” is it if you walk into a room with 6 sets of mobs, and you can pull only one without the others barging in? Perhaps they could leave a few additional guards around each boss, but there is no reason to fight through 30 sets of mobs to get to a boss. Seriously. If you REALLY want to leave trash mob encounters, make them all similar to Gruul’s Lair, and nothing at all like Tempest Keep. Also, if you insist on forcing reputation grinds on players, give them other areas in the world (possibly right outside the instance) to farm rep, but don’t stick it in with the raid.

They aren’t required and they serve very little purpose (other than to annoy,) so why should they be there?


Moving Characters Freely Between Servers; Possible or Not?

I found it hard to make the title of this post precise without using a full sentence, so hopefully this works. Basically what I’m wondering is how would it work if players weren’t tied to one particular server, moving freely between servers. Is it possible, or are there too many barriers to make it worthwhile? I’ll look at both sides of the issue.


  • First and foremost, you would be able to play with any character on any server! I can’t count the number of friends who play World of Warcraft that I was unable to play with because they were on one of the 200+ servers that I wasn’t on. As far as I know, EVE is the only game that can avoid this issue — kudos.
  • You would no longer have to pay for server transfers.
  • This would allow guilds from different servers to work together for things like raiding. This would greatly benefit smaller guilds who haven’t found a good guild to merge with that fits their playstyle.
  • Obviously, it would allow you to meet more people and (hopefully) make more friends that you can play with.

With those things said, the downsides I fear would outweigh the benefits.


  • A smaller issue, but one that would affect A LOT of players is the fact that you would undoubtedly run into naming issues. What happens if you want to hop onto a different server, but another player already has your name? Players aren’t going to want to change their names every time they switch a server. Not only this, but how would other players be able to track you if you were using a different name? They might start talking to a completely different character without knowing it. Along with character names, guild names would also conflict, which would be an even bigger problem to deal with than character names, as it would affect characters who could potentially be on a great deal of servers. How do you rename a guild for part of the group while retaining it as a whole for everyone else?
  • Say you decide to play on a different server with a few of your guildmates because you wanted to group up with a few real-world friends to help them out. How are your other guildmates going to get a hold of you if they need something? This means that not only would the game have to track potentially changing names of characters, but also which server they have gone to. This would also mean that chat would have to work between all servers, something that could potentially be a total mess. Things like Ventrilo could help with this, but not everyone uses these programs.
  • If a number of servers go down for whatever reason, players would have the ability to hop onto another server. I understand that everyone should have the right to play, but server outages are something that can’t be avoided. Ideally, the player base would spread out among the remaining servers so that it wouldn’t really matter, but they might cause issues on another server by overloading it, which noone wants. On the other hand, this could potentially be a way to relieve server overpopulation, but I don’t think it would end up working out that way.
  • I’m not sure exactly how this would work, but I know that it would have a big impact on gold farmers. Instead of having to obtain gold on every server, they would be able to find whichever server worked best for their farming methods and move to whichever server the character buying was on. It would only make their “jobs” easier.
  • How would a player’s mailbox and auction house use be handled? Would they be limited to only using one server’s auction house or recieve mail from players on the same server? If not, then mail would have to be usable on every server, and the ability to shop around for the best buy/sell on any server would create some interesting issues.

A lot of those points had multiple aspects because they were tied together and weren’t worth breaking apart. As you can see, though, the ramifications of attempting something of this nature would be potentially catastrophic (and I’m 100% sure I didn’t hit on all of the problems) and would take an unbelievable amount of testing to make sure everything worked. I’m sure they would much rather be spending on the game itself. I think this is one of those things where you either need to build your game around the idea of having one server for everyone, or you need to stick with multiple servers. There are simply too many issues for this to be a possibility, even though it would be an excellent feature.


WoW-Free and Still Breathing!

I know it’s been a while since I last posted — sorry about that. It’s been a couple weeks since moving, and we’re still getting things taken care of for now, but it’s slowing down now, so I have time to write to you guys! As the title indicates, I am done with WoW yet again. After moving and taking a week-long break from it, I realized that I was no longer interested in playing anymore. A lot of guild drama was still present (even after switching servers) and I wasn’t prepared to dedicate three or four nights a week to raiding with a new guild. I had also leveled four characters to level 70 either entirely on my own or in part. There was nothing new about the game, nothing exciting anymore so I decided it was time to move on.

After waiting a week, I finally caved and resubscribed to LotRO for the second time (I also played in beta.) While I was a little worried that I would (or still will) lose my desire to play within the first month, I have something that will make my chances of sticking around infinitely better — I DON’T WANT TO PLAY WOW AT ALL RIGHT NOW. Before when I played it, I was either playing WoW currently or I was in a rough patch though there was still lots of content for me to come back and see later. Now that I’ve exhausted virtually everything there is to see in WoW (except all of the raiding instances) I can think clearly and devote myself fully to this game and it feels great.

So based on the fact that in just under a week of played (and being unemployed 🙂 ) I have managed to get my champion to level 23! I just can’t get enough of it. Having read most of the the trilogy recently the lore of the game is really making itself apparent to me and it’s truly exciting. The first time I went to Tom Bombadil’s house I did a happy chair dance. Seeing little neeker-breekers running around and talking to Barliman Butterbur were the same way. When I ran the instance “Retake Weathertop” I was truly amazed at how epic it felt when we were fighting the troll at the end. The fighting seems to be far more in-your-face than that of WoW’s. That along with the amazing atmosphere and graphical beauty of this game have put me over the top. Also the community so far has been excellent. Everyone is extremely friendly and finding groups (or a second to knock out the solo quests) is never very difficult. While I have joined a guild and everyone is helpful and friendly, I don’t think they are going to work out as most of them are are in their mid-30’s or higher and I don’t seem to be connecting with the players the way I’d hoped to. I’d like to get into a leveling guild where I can do a lot of the same quests with players my level instead of getting someone to walk me through them.

I’ll probably dive more into the game soon, but there’s a brief overview of my third experience with LotRO, which I really hope won’t lose its appeal any time soon.

I’ve also been playing a lot of Mythos lately. While I haven’t quite made it to 50 yet with my Gadgeteer (almost 48!) I’m still having fun hopping on for short bursts every now and again. I’m going to try to do some crafting today and see how I like the new system. The only real problem I have right now is that there are tiers of crafting items and once you level above the creatures that drop the tier that you need, it can be extremely difficult getting those items yourself without begging a guildmate for them or buying them (without a marketplace which they are working on.) Again though, I’m still having fun hopping on for brief sessions, and will continue to use this game as my action-rpg of the present.

So there you have it. I will likely be talking to you more in the near future about LotRO, which I hope you’ll enjoy. I’m also going to try to start writing some pieces on MMO gaming in general or game design which I’ve gotten away from a little bit as of late. Anyway, I’ll be back soon.


Belated but big update

So… wow… here goes.

About three weeks ago, I grew to be very upset with the way things were going in my guild, and was on the downswing of my WoW stint, ready to quit. Progression had completely ceased and raid attendance was falling off dramatically, so I was done. That all changed however when a friend in the guild offered to transfer two of my characters as well as two of my wife’s characters to a server he’d recently been playing on with a friend. They were a part of a Karazhan guild who had everything cleared, but needed a few extra spots to fill. This was kind of a good thing for me in that it gave me a chance to play my resto druid which had been collecting dust, and it also gave my wife a few people to level her new shammy alongside (four characters all around her level) so she was excited. At first we were a little reluctant because we felt bad about someone else paying $100 to transfer four characters for us, but he kept insisting, and we finally caved and he transferred our characters over for us.

Now comes the truly interesting part. The day after we decided to transfer our characters, I logged on with another character on my old server who was in the guild to find a guild message of the day saying “******* is disbanding.” WHAT? Now I wasn’t happy in the guild, and I had called this several weeks earlier, but I didn’t think it would happen so soon or in such a fashion. The guild leader told noone (except his little clique of 6-8 players) prior to placing every character on probation so that they couldn’t speak to each other in guild chat or access the guild bank which he promptly transferred to his new guild which he’d formed and brought his clique into. Over the next few days he brought in a lot of the same players in as before, but instead of being up front with the players he didn’t want in the guild originally, he simply remade the guild and invited the players he wanted back. Several rejoined, but after talking with many of them, they understand how poorly the GM acted, and are seriously considering leaving, especially due to the fact that they don’t even have enough players to run 25-mans.

Now I’m shifting back to my new guild and server. For the first two weeks things were going pretty well, but now we are starting to have some issues with raid attendance in this guild as well as having a lot of members that we really don’t want to be associated with, not to mention an inactive GM, so we’ve made our own guild and taken the best members from the old guild as well. The problem now arises in that we need 3-4 consistent healers, which is what every other guild on the server is trying to recruit. We (the 6 players who left our old server for this one) have all been offered a spot in an really nice guild with excellent progression. I am currently in the process of moving, however, and am not sure I would be able to devote myself fully to a new guild, though. They told us to take our time and that there wasn’t any rush, so this is looking like a pretty appealing option.

So that’s the majority of what’s been going on with me in World of Warcraft. I have also been playing quite a bit of Mythos, patiently awating the addition of Zone 3, which offers a new zone, crafting, and PvP. I’ve also been itching to hop back into LotRO, but I’m putting that off because I have these two games as well as another beta to keep me busy. I will undoubtedly succumb to my wishes and experience gaming overload (I’ve also got Super Smash Brothers Brawl and Super Mario Galaxies to play on the Wii!)


Gear Upgrades in WotLK

As Robert pointed out in his comment on the release date on WotLK, the gear that millions of players spent countless hours obtaining prior to the Burning Crusade became obsolete by the time most players hit 63-64. Sure, there was some gear that you could keep until 67-68, but it likely wasn’t any better than the green items you recieved from quests.

I think this was a feeling shared by a great deal of players, and almost unquestionably amongst raiders. if you were decked out in tiered gear, be it 1, 2, or 3, it was tough to destroy that gear for a quest item less than halfway through the expansion.

While I understand that they wanted to even the playing field for those players who hadn’t had the chance or the desire to raid before the expansion, they should have done a better job of scaling the tiered gear to last longer into the expansion. Until you hit level 70, and started to run the toughest 5-mans, there should have been no reason to upgrade from tier 2 or 3 gear. Yes, tier 1 could have been upgraded as it wasn’t entirely difficult to get, but the others were a different story.

With that said, I think WotLK won’t follow this path. I think (or hope rather) that Blizzard will fix the mistake they made with the first expansion and make higher end gear last longer (something like 78-80.) If they do end up with a similar situation to Burning Crusade, I will likely play my way to 80, though I would have serious issues ever raiding again in WoW.


Wrath of the Lich King Release Date Thoughts

I just got a chance to read Cameron’s post about this, and I got to thinking everything through a little bit. Here are a few things that have helped me through my prediction, which I will get to later:

Patch 2.4
I am assuming that patch 2.4 is going to be released in 3-4 weeks, which means mid-to-late March. I am going to further assume that it will take about a month for each server to fully unlock everything on Sunwell Isle, meaning mid-to-late April. Add another three months or so for all of the players to satisfy themselves on the new content, and allow at least the top 1,000 guilds or so a good shot at Kil’Jaeden. This leaves us at the Blizzard Invitational held in Paris in late June, where a playable version of WotLK will be available.

AoC and WAR
Both of these games are set to have a release date which will likely come between May and June. Both games are experiencing much hype from potential players. Blizzard isn’t likely to release their product soon after these games have been released, which means that they will either want to release prior to these games launching or they will do so several months after.

Blizzard has stated that they are unsure whether they will require a closed beta for this expansion, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t think they do. I think they know enough about their game and aren’t making enough changes that it would require a beta to take place. This will cut down significantly on the development time.

With all of this said, it all depends on a couple of things. How far along are they in the process now? If they are touting a playable version of the expansion in late June, does this mean that they will have a finished product, and they are pulling a PR stunt to make it sound like it will be “closed to finished” or does that mean it will be close enough to show players while still taking several months to work out the kinks and give players time to try out AoC and WAR, only to decide they would rather play the expansion come September or October? These thoughts coupled with Blizzard’s notorious track record of pushing back the release dates on their products makes it all a shot in the dark, but if I had to make a prediction, I’d have to say… September.


*Obviously WAR’s release date got pushed back. So far back, in fact, that I don’t think it changes anything about this prediction other than the fact that WotLK will be released sooner than WAR.