The Evolving Gamer: Time vs. Reward In MMO’s

I’ve really been thinking a lot over the past few days about what has changed for MMO players over the past few months that has really led to this slump in excitement for the games we love. While this hasn’t happened to everyone, there are still a great deal of gamers who can’t really seem to find that game that really gets their blood flowing. There are potentially dozens of reasons, but I want to take a closer look at one or two of the reasons here. Rather than look at the any events that have or haven’t taken place lately, I decided to look at the bigger picture. What has changed in the past ten or so years that has really caused our perceptions to shift and our desire to play our favorite genre less or with less enthusiasm?

I think one of the biggest changes that we have seen as gamers is actually not related to the games at all, but rather changes that have taken place in our lives. Many of our lives were radically different when we first started playing MMO’s compared to how they are now. Many of us were high school and college students when we first started playing MMO’s, but this isn’t the case anymore. We have graduated and moved into the work force with many starting families and buying homes. These things are all going to drastically change the way we play our games, both in terms of our perspective towards the game and also in terms of how much time we can realistically spend playing them. I want to focus most specifically on the element of time.

It should be pretty obvious that if we have less time to play MMO’s, we are going to try to do all we can to squeeze as much enjoyment and entertainment out of the time that we do have. I remember sitting in Fort Tethana in Asheron’s Call for hours during my summers in high school just going through vendors hoping to find good gear that people had sold. I would never consider doing this today. This then means that we aren’t going to want to spend several hours waiting for a group to form or grinding faction reputation or collecting crafting materials. We just don’t have the time for it. What this really does for me is create a system of importance. I see that I’m going to have to spend all of this relatively boring and uneventful time in game to advance my character in some way, and it causes me to question what I could be getting done away from the game. Even if it’s not something important, like watching a TV show or playing the XBox instead, it’s still is worth pondering.

While MMO’s are after all games and should be played under the assumption that they aren’t going to be filled to the brim with usefulness and importance, they are also quite different than console games in that you invest much, much more of your time and yourself into them through your character. If you have less and less time to spend gaming and you begin to see that your time isn’t going to be spent in a worthwhile fashion, are you going to be as likely to continue playing as opposed to spending time with your family or riding your bike? This is really becoming an issue for me, and I’m beginning to wonder whether it’s the fact that I don’t really have a game to get me to reconsider this philosophy or whether this is just a part of aging and re-evaluating priorities. I certainly hope that aging and gaming aren’t mutually exclusive and I don’t think they are, so I’m going to wait it out and hope that “option a” makes itself clear to me soon.

~Kanthalos

Blizzard’s Teaser Pic

Teaser Pic

So here is the newest Blizzard splash image. There are TWO new runes in this image and what I believe to be the beginnings of a face of… Arthas. Yeah, either that or his sword, Frostmourne. It’s looking to me like it’s simply a teaser pic for a WotLK promo pic. I could still be wrong, but it’s looking more and more like this, with the black and blue theme, with the ice and now the eyes. It was still fun trying to figure the whole thing out this week, but I must say, I’m slightly disappointed.

Sorry the sizing is so poor, but if you look to the top and south of east from there, you can find the two newest runes (one is in the side text a bit) but you can see the central part of the image, which is the most important.

~Kanthalos

Design Collaboration in MMO’s

I just read an excellent post on Moorgard’s blog about writing vs. storytelling.  If you haven’t gotten the chance to read it, I highly recommend it since it has some really compelling ideas.  As an English-major looking to head into this industry, I’m always looking for information regarding writing and storytelling in MMO’s, so thanks to Moorgard for writing this and getting me to consider it from this perspective.

Basically what he’s saying is that there is quite a difference between being a good novelist or a poet and being a good quest writer and storyteller for MMO’s.  He makes the point that most MMO players aren’t playing them to be bombarded by a vast amount of literature.  They are there to play the game and generally skip past all of the text when they can.  He then says that this what MMO writers need to do is create a story that can then be portrayed physically in the world rather than having everything simply be explained to  you.  I completely agree, and I realize that no matter how well a quest is written, only a very small percentage of players will actually read the text before going off to complete the objective.  The storyline that the player should be experiencing is where the experience needs to be enhanced.  I can understand how games work that drop you in with no real sense of purpose, but I would much rather feel as though there was some cosmic purpose to my character being in whatever given world he or she is in, which is where storytelling really comes into play.

If you want to have a game play experience that involves a great storyline, this means that you are going to need to have help from every designer working on the project or else you can’t really achieve your goal.  This lead me to my conclusion that there needs to be a more definitive collaboration between the different design teams in order to create a more cohesive game play experience, rather than each team working with what they’ve been given.  I have no doubt that it is there in some form, but I think it could definitely be improved.  This isn’t always the case, but it would seem as though one designer says “Wow, I have a great idea for a quest!” and another designer says “Wow, I have a great idea for a monster!” and another designer that says “Wow, I have a great idea for a landmark!”  At that point they decide how the three can work together, and generally they do so fairly well, but it could have been much more powerful, cohesive, and rewarding for the player if they had started the process together and really fleshed out a plan for all three that would make them feel connected and necessary.

Obviously, I don’t have any first-hand experience and I could be completely wrong here, but I doubt that I am entirely wrong.  If I were, I think we would have much more compelling quests and clear story lines woven into the frame of the game than we do in most MMO’s now.  I think one game that really breaks the mold here is LotRO with their chapter series and their instanced quests which really bring you into the story without forcing literature down your throat.  It makes the player feel important and in the action.  I think instances are a great way to do this.  Instancing is definitely a great way to do this because the world can be altered in the instance without it being permanent as well as giving players the opportunity to feel as though they are experiencing something for the first time that is really important.  That said, I don’t think this is the only effective way to achieve this result.

Again, I have no experience in the industry and I have no idea how the design and brainstorming process works in their creation and evolution, and if I am wrong, then I can at least say this with certainty:  I think it can and should be improved.  This is one of the areas that is truly lacking in MMO’s that console games have the upper edge on, which I don’t think should be the case.  MMO’s have the ability to constantly adapt and morph since they are being developed after their release, so the story of the world and the characters shouldn’t be put on the back-burner just because there are plenty of other things available to keep players occupied.  I think this should be at the head of the experience, constantly driving the player to learn about the world and how they fit in in whatever way they can, whether that means through questing or simply through making the world a deep and rich place in as many ways as possible.

~Kanthalos

Holy Cow…

Last night I spent several hours running around in EQ. For a while I was having fun and really enjoying myself, but the more time I ended up spending in game, the more frustrated I eventually became. The further I progressed, the more I began to understand just how “hardcore” this game really was. Since I never really gave it a shot back in its hay day, I don’t know how much more “hardcore” it was then since apparently there have been many improvements since then, but even now it seems pretty silly. I should say this, though: having the help of the Nostalgia guild to give me some pointers was really very beneficial and I would never have gotten as far as I am now without their help.

So there I was in Crescent Reach having just hit level 10 (woot!) A message popped up on my screen with the names of some people to go and see, which I for some dumb reason closed without giving much consideration. Having realized my folly, I asked around to see what it said. While I didn’t get any of the names, I did realize that I was supposed to go to the Planes of Knowledge. I searched for a few minutes in Crescent Reach before I gave up and decided to head back to the tutorial and be sent there by Arias, the revolt leader. After being told what to say to Arias, I said “I’m ready to leave” and he promptly teleported me to the Planes of Knowledge. Wow. I opened up my map and realized that it was a massive hub for most if not all of the zones in EQ. Unsure what to do next really, I went over to the armor quest giver and received a quest to go to Butcherblock Mountains and kill some mobs at the chessboard. At that point, I started looking at all of the portals and couldn’t seem to find one for Butcherblock Mountains, so I found out that I needed to go through the Kaladim portal. Once through, I opened up my map to try to figure out where the chessboard was. A completely empty map. I guess I just need to look around the zone and find some landmarks to fill in the map, I thought to myself. After about 10 minutes of running around, I realized that the map wasn’t changing at all. Huh? At that point I started asking around and found that originally in the game there were no maps at all. WHAT? I couldn’t believe it. I was then given a website to go to for zone maps, so I went and pulled up Butcherblock Mountains. Ok, here we go. I found the chessboard and headed that way. It was pretty tough as I had no map in game to help give me an idea where I was going so I stuck to the edge of the map and made my way around.

I’d been checking most of the mobs I’d run by, finding that nearly all of them were grey, and weren’t attacking me. That is until I ran into two goblins, who was red. I didn’t even realize it until I stopped to try to find my bearings and see how close I was to the chessboard. I was promptly whacked twice for over half of my health before I took off running again like a madman. I realized that the two swords by my name indicated combat mode (I had the sound turned off so the combat music didn’t help me) so I kept running and running trying to get them to break while also not running into more aggressive mobs in the process. I was also trying to find some way to rotate the camera behind me to see how close they were, but this failed miserably. I also didn’t know what the autorun key was, so I couldn’t ask whether they would break or not. After about five or six minutes of running around, I realized that they weren’t ever going to break, so I gave up and they killed me. “So mobs never lose aggro?” I asked. “Never,” I got as a response. They added that you could leave the zone, but if you don’t know the zones at all, what good does this do you? I went back and tried to find my corpse for about 15 minutes before giving up and using the corpse summoner in the tutorial to retrieve it for me.

The last time I played I learned that death meant dropping every single thing that you were carrying, and that was shocking enough, but now that I know that most maps don’t even have maps and mobs never lose aggro are added to the list, making me wonder what other fun surprises are awaiting me further in. I understand that community is incredibly important in this game and that they are really willing to help (at least the Nostalgia group is,) but I really don’t feel like I should have to ask questions about every little problem I run into. I hate that I feel so lost and clueless all of the time, and I hate to bother other people with all of these issues. Not only that, but all of these major inconveniences keep making themselves apparent, so I can’t help but wonder whether it’s even worth it to keep going. Many of the players in the Nostalgia group leveled up together and had previous experience playing EQ, so they were at a huge advantage over me, who is alone and has no prior experience with what I feel is one of the most unguided games I’ve ever played. I’m not trying to play the pity card or ask for someone to come play with me. I’m simply saying that I should be able to figure these things out on my own and learn as I go, but I feel like if I don’t ask for help with everything, I’m going to really screw something up or miss out on important aspects of the game.

I’m not sure exactly what all of this means, but right now I really don’t know what to do, or whether I will continue to play or not. I mostly just wanted to vent some of my frustrations and see what you all had to say about it.

~Kanthalos

Vacation

Hey Everyone,

I’m going to be out of town until next Saturday on vacation.  Getting ready to go is part of the reason for the slow posts lately, but you can expect me to return in full force around the 23rd or so.  Hope you all enjoy yourselves while I’m gone.  Happy blogging.

~Kanthalos

Is EQ2 Worth Exploring?

As I’ve stated in the past, I’ve tried playing EQ2 several times and for whatever reason, I just can’t really get into it. I have a 25, a 24, and an 18, but I am really not enjoying myself when playing recently with the Living Legacy promotion. The last time I came back to play, I actually enjoyed myself for a few weeks, but this time it wasn’t the case. I jumped back in with my 25 wizard, got used to the skills again, and was once again feeling stuck because I don’t enjoy the zones I’m currently playing in (Thundering Steppes and Butcherblock Mountains) and the quests are too difficult or quite simply don’t sound fun. So there I am with my level 25 wizard at the Thundering Steppes dock wondering whether I should keep playing. Granted, I don’t have a guild and there isn’t a real sense of community for me, but this was never a problem with WoW. If I was guildless or just starting out on a new server, this didn’t prevent me from having fun or having a clear idea of where to go or what to do.

So with that in mind, is the world of EQ2 worth exploring? Right now, this seems to be the only real reason to play EQ2. I could find a guild and hopefully this would make my experience more enjoyable, but I think the problem goes much deeper than that. I don’t really like the graphical style of EQ2 (It tries to be too photorealistic and without the right computer, fails miserably,) I don’t enjoy the zones I’ve been in so far, and I’m not particularly drawn to any of the classes I’ve played. So where does this leave me? As I’ve stated before, I don’t believe you should have to force yourself through a few levels or zones in an MMO to get to content that you WILL enjoy, however, I don’t even know that once I get to a new zone or a new level that I will start to really enjoy myself anyway. Maybe you all have some comments/suggestions/feedback to offer for this, but as of now, I’m beginning to think that Tobold was more correct than I originally gave him credit for: If players have some problem with a game and that doesn’t get changed in some way, the promotion will be meaningless because it won’t get used. I know this might not be true for other players, but for me, this is looking to be very much the case.

As for EQ1, I’m still playing it and I want to give this more of a chance, so we’ll see whether I can get SOME value out of this promotion.

~Kanthalos

Nine Years Later…

I finally set foot in EverQuest today. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did play for about thirty minutes around 2001, but I was still playing Asheron’s Call, and EverQuest confused me immensely when I first booted it up. That said, I never really gave it a fair shot. Now that it’s 2008, I realize I’m a bit late to the party and I won’t really get the full experience that I would have back when I first tried it, but I still want to check it out.

I finally got it up and running early this morning, so I made a wizard. I ran into a bit of a snag when I jumped into a pool of water and couldn’t seem to find my way out in Felwithe. I looked for close to 15 minutes before I finally gave up and made a new toon. I rolled a necromancer instead and logged in. I got to level four in the Mines of Gloomingdeep before I took a break. It was interesting getting used to some of the settings and differences in gameplay (for instance hailing NPC’s) but it wasn’t too bad and I’m definitely looking forward to playing some more later.

So there’s my beginning as of yet with my necromancer being my main. Have I made a good or bad decision? Is there a class that is much more fun or easy to progress with as my first character in EQ? Let me know what you think or give me any suggestions you have.

~Kanthalos

*I decided to try out a fighter class, so I just got a beserker to level 6. I’m not sure whether I like it or not, but I can’t find any skills to use other than my basic attack. Am I missing something? In any case, I would really love to get some advice before I continue because I don’t want to get invested in either of these characters and find out that I’m messed them up or that they really aren’t worth playing, so please let me know what you think if you have something to contribute.

Making MMO’s For the Long-Haul

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

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

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

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

~Kanthalos

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.

~Kanthalos

Slightly Bummed…

Well, apparently I misunderstood how the Living Legacy program worked. Since I didn’t have a subscription to the original EverQuest, I don’t qualify for the two free months. This bums me out quite a bit because I was looking forward to playing this game basically for the first time, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. I actually bought EverQuest long, long ago, but there is no way that I could ever remember my username and password to re-activate it. Guess it’s EQ2 for me.

~Kanthalos

*Great news! I actually did manage to recover my old account information! That said, I’m patching EQ currently and I should be up and running soon.

Living Legacy: Act of Desperation?

Tobold just wrote up a post regarding Living Legacy being an act of desperation to get players to come back. He states that if there haven’t been significant changes to the game, players aren’t going to have any reason to come back and stick around if the problem that caused them to leave in the first place wasn’t fixed. He also thinks that two months is too long to be effective. While the second statement has merit, I can’t agree with the first or the last. I don’t think that this has anything to do with desperation or that it is too long. Two months is really a perfect amount of time to give players to check out the game without making it too long. Honestly, if what he said about people leaving for a reason was true (which 99% of the time it is) then having two months to give it a try could possibly help with that. With all the players coming back in to give it a try, it could really increase the population for a couple months and liven up the community a bit.

MMO’s are constantly looking for more players and the competition is getting steeper, but I don’t think that EQ2 NEEDS players. I think they have enough to be profitable and to keep running, but they would definitely like more. I think the people that are playing now are happy, and the developers enjoy their jobs and want to keep EQ2 going while continuing to improve and expand upon it with an unparalleled expansion cycle. EQ and EQ2 are almost surely the two biggest and most content-heavy MMO’s out there (with the possible exception to vanguard in terms of sheer size, I don’t know) but if players are generally stopping at 20 or 25, or not playing EQ at all, they won’t ever get to see that anyways, so this is a big problem. As for EQ2, is it the leveling people don’t like? Is it the lack of guidance? Is it the community (or seeming lack thereof in the lower levels?) For me it’s the community, but I think it’s different things for different people.

To wrap things up, I think this is an excellent marketing maneuver, not an act of desperation. I think that if this doesn’t work wonders to bring in more players, then it will be pretty clear that they won’t ever see a big jump in players again (without massive changes as you said) and that they should be satisfied with the player base they have now, but until it’s over, I think this was worth a shot. Players likely weren’t going to come back on their own, but this gives them that opportunity if they choose to use it. While they want to build their numbers before the competition gets any stiffer, I think EQ2 (and possible EQ) will still be around for a long time to come.

~Kanthalos

What Should I Do?

Now that I’m back in EQ2, I’m really left with a dilemma on several things. Basically, it’s two fold in that I don’t know whether I should keep playing one of the characters that I’ve already gotten to 18/24 (I have a 25 wizard too but on a server I have no interest in playing on) or whether I should start over. My 18 is on Befallen where Tipa is (as far as I know) with her guild Nostalgia the Guild, and my 24 is on Antonia Bayle. This is a popular server, but I don’t really know anyone playing on there right now. I’ve also started a character on Guk in case I want to hook up with Revelry and Honor which sounds like a lot of fun, too.

In terms of where I should start over or keep going, I really don’t want to start over unless it is with the toon on Guk that I just created. He’s a level 5 warlock and I don’t know whether I’ll like him or not, but I’d already played a wizard to 24 and 25, and an illusionist to 18. I like both of those classes a lot (as you can see, I prefer the caster classes in EQ2 for some reason) but I don’t want to start one over again for some reason. It’s sort of tough restarting with a mid-level toon, though, especially if you aren’t very familiar with the game. In WoW, it wouldn’t be a problem at all, but when your highest level character is the one you want to jump back in with, it’s tough to know what to do or where to go, especially if you quit because you didn’t like any of the zones you were currently playing in or were feeling stuck.

As for where to play, this is tough, too. One of my biggest problems with EQ2 the past two times that I’ve played it is that I really felt no sense of community. I didn’t have a good guild or group of friends to play around with. It felt more like a single player game with a really big world. I’m afraid that if this happens again, I’ll be done with EQ2 for good, so I really need to find a good group of players who would like to have me. I don’t want to be babied or have my hand held really, I just want to have a group of players to socialize with and help me out with advice or a quest from time to time, nothing more than a good guild SHOULD be.

I’m also not asking anyone to fight over me because, well, I’m not worth it 🙂 This is especially true in a game that I’m not familiar with and am struggling to enjoy. I’m just writing because I would like some advice from you all about what I should do or ways to make starting up again easier. That’s all for now, but let me know if you have anything to help make EQ2 home.

~Kanthalos

P.S. Tipa, I’ve never played EQ for more than 30 minutes, so I really have no idea how it works. If you’re interested in working with me to get up to speed and help me understand what’s going on (if you think that’s necessary) then I’d be willing to give it a shot. Send me an e-mail or just comment if you want.

Daily Quest #3

Sorry it’s been a while since I wrote up the last quest, but I’ve got a new one for today. Basically it’s a combination of a few elements that I think would be pretty interesting. It’s really not even a quest in the strictest sense of the word, but more of an opportunity for risk vs. reward.

With this talk of gambling both here and on the SUWT podcast, it got me thinking of a way to make this aspect of the game more fun. With that said, I’ll dive into the heart of it.

For the sake of this “opportunity,” I’m going to use the Shimmering Flats raceway in Thousand Needles, something that doesn’t actually involve gambling (though I wish it did.)

Game: World of Warcraft

Quest Location: Shimmering Flats Raceway

Quest Giver Location: Gadgetzan, Tanaris

Quest Dialogue: “Greetings, traveler. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind doing me a small favor. You see, this here shop hasn’t been paying the bills as well I’d like, so I’ve been using most of our earnings over at the Shimmering Flats Raceway. The returns have been… well, there haven’t been any returns, but I plan to change that with the next race. One of the mechanics told me he’s going to sabotage the other rockets, which means that the CX-250 is a shoe-in to win the race! I’d go and place the bet myself, but the wife’s been on me to fix a leak for too long, and I can’t take it anymore.

Here’s 20 gold to go place the bet. If it wins, I’ll split the return with you, which isn’t bad with 4:1 odds. Come back when the race is over, and we’ll have a drink to our success!”

Quest Reward/How it works: This depends. This situation requires you to make the decision of whether to place the bet or not. Obviously, you can’t be certain whether the mechanic will sabotage the other rockets or not, and if he doesn’t, you the odds of winning aren’t really that great compared to the other rockets.

Here’s where some new game mechanics could be incorporated. If they were to be used, it would add some neat elements to the game, but they wouldn’t necessarily have to be used. Here are several scenarios that could come about from this:

1) You keep the money and never return to the shop-keeper.

2) You keep it and tell the shop-keeper that the rocket he bet on lost the race. There is a chance that he will discover that you lied, and all of the shop-keepers in town find out. If this happens, prices go up and money for selling goods goes down. He might not find out, though, and you could get 15 gold with no consequences.

3) You bet the money and lose. Obviously in this case, you get to go bet on a race but get nothing out of it.

4) You bet the money and win and go back to the quest giver to return his share. In this case you get 40 gold for yourself and you make a shop-keeper happy.

5) You be the money and win, but keep the money for yourself. Similar to the second scenario, you could avoid the shop-keeper and pretend it never happened, or lie and run the risk of negative effects if you get caught.

6)You bet the money and lose. You feel bad for the shop-keeper and decide to give him the gold that he would have won. This will cost you 60g basically, but if you can afford it, then you might consider doing this, as it would increase your favor with people in town and you recieve monetary and other benefits of some kind.

Obviously, the amount of gold here could be changed depending on the amount of gold you should have at that level and other circumstances. This was just a value that I picked randomly. Also, this quest could be simplified to just be a “quest” to go bet on a rocket and see if it wins. It could be taken to all different levels depending on how much effort and detail you want to put into it. I just thoguht this would be a neat way to incorporate both betting as well as an element of choice. Let me know what you think.

~Kanthalos

Heading Back Into Norrath

Well, I was pleased to read about this offer to re-up all former EQ and EQ2 players accounts through July 31st, as well as include EVERY expansion. This is excellent news, and an amazing marketing strategy for SOE by my thinking. For me, this means a $70 value for free if I only play EQ2 since I’ll be getting the RoK expansion for free as well as two months of free play. If I do decide to give EQ a shot (which I’m considering) then the value is probably in the $100+ range.

The only thing I am concerned about is that players who have already bought the most recent expansion might feel upset that they paid for the expansion when all of these returnees might not have. I personally don’t think I would care because they have been playing it since November (I believe) and have experienced all of this content already, and they will also potentially have an incredible amount of new players to meet and join up with.

I really can’t tell you how excited I am about this. Yes, I have played EQ2 twice and given up both times because something didn’t feel quite right, but the fact that I have two months to play without feeling pressured by a subscription fee to do so is wonderful. My goal is to get a character to 35 (or 50 or so if I start with one of my characters at 24 and 25.) I’m not sure that I’ll get there, but who knows, I could end up much further along than that even. The only online game that I’m seriously playing right now is Mythos, so this gives me another game to add to the mix, which is always nice.

Regardless of what I get out of this personally, I am really impressed that SOE went ahead with this. It must be incredibly hard “throwing away” all the money you would get from customers for the expansion(s) as well as two months of play, but on the other hand, if players were never going to come back in the first place, what have you really lost? Nothing. Hats off to you, SOE. I really hope this works out well for you for using such a bold strategy. Now if only I could patch in less than 16 hours… 😉

~Kanthalos

Overworld – Like It or Not…?

Well, as I said late last week, the new overworld patch for Mythos has been released. After they fixed one big problem, things have been pretty smooth, but how are people liking it? Most people are pretty glad to have it, and I’m in the same boat. With that said, I don’t feel that it made the game leaps and bounds better or made it seem like a completely different game. There are still a great deal of the same elements now as there were before, just with some modifications. I’ll dive in and hopefully you can follow along.

Many people say or claim that this is making the game much more like WoW, but this is actually pretty far from the truth. Yes, there is now an actually world that you can run around in, but this alone doesn’t make it a “WoW clone.” For one thing, WoW has the vast majority of its content outside, and a great deal of quests and activities to do outdoors as well. This really isn’t the case in Mythos, even with the new overworld. Almost all of the quests are still based around the randomly generated maps that you enter. I understand that the big emphasis was on getting this implemented smoothly and also that it is just a beta product, but what is the point in making this new improvement if you aren’t really going to take full advantage of it by implementing quests outdoors?

Also, the world is rather small which I don’t understand. To go from corner to corner of the map takes about 6-8 minutes, which should give you a rough idea of how big it is. Also, there are seven anchor shrines littered throughout the zone which you can teleport to and from, which means that you can be anywhere you need to be within 2-3 minutes of running from one of these anchor shrines. With that in mind, why not have things spread further apart with a bigger map? If transportation is still relatively fast and easy, why not make it so that getting from point a to point b take five minutes instead of two or three and have a much bigger map full of things to do? I guess this wouldn’t be so much of an issue for me if I knew that there were going to be 6-8 of these zones at release, but they’ve already said that they weren’t planning on adding more than three. Also, by the time they do have three zones implemented, my mind could completely change, but right now, I feel like Greenreach should have been bigger and more spread out.

Combat in the overworld is for the most part not necessary. The mobs are too spread out and there aren’t really enough of them to make grinding viable, so this basically means they are there almost solely for atmospheric purposes. However, there is the occasional champion running around that is worth killing to hopefully find a nice piece of gear. There aren’t an unique mobs or quests that can only be done in the overworld right now, though.

The map could use some more detail. The static dungeons that are there for quests don’t show up on the overall map unless you have a quest there, so unless you know where it is or happen to run by it and see it on your mini-map, then it can be tough finding certain locations. It’s not a big deal, as most of the time when you finish the quest there, you don’t need to go back, but if they are going to remain available for players to enter, why not have them show up on the map to find them?

Rune stones and rune gates are the new equivalent to random regular and epic maps. The major difference is that they don’t disappear if you or your party members all leave. You need to run back to the rune gate, but the last one opened will always be available to you. Once you are finished with one of these and want to use another rune stone, you simply click on the gateway and select which stone you want to use. There are four rune gates of different colors and likewise four sets of rune stones. The color seems to be an indicator of the level the stone is good for. Blue seems to be the lowest (1-6) with yellow and green (1-6, 3-16) in the middle and red (3-16, 14-26) being the highest. This leads me to believe that the effective cap for the game right now is about 30, not that this is all that important, but worth mentioning I think.

Combat is basically the same. They’ve made some alterations to pyromancer and bloodletter I believe, but I haven’t really checked them out. I went with my old blade breaker build for now, which I’ve gotten to level 17. No real changes there.

Stonehill is pretty neat now. It’s the only part of the world that has it’s own instance (other than the dungeons, obviously.)

I haven’t really gotten a chance to do any crafting other than a few of the quests. I hear it got a bit of an overhaul so I’ll have to give it a look later. I’ve been having enough trouble getting enough money to buy potions and charms that I don’t really have the money to buy materials for crafting right now, but I’m finally starting to save some of the gold that I’m getting along the way.

So there was an extremely choppy rundown of what I think of the overworld so far. Basically, I enjoy it, and I think it makes the world seem a little more visible and not so divided and chopped up. That said, I think there is a lot that needs to be done to make it more appealing and worthwhile. For instance, the zone should be quite a bit bigger, as it feels smaller than a WoW zone and there is only one right now. Also, the developers said that they created the world themselves, so why not put it to use? Why not add some quests and unique mobs and such to make it worth exploring? If these two things are done (especially the second) then I will be very happy with this change, but right now I’m pretty “meh” about it.

As I figure more things out about the changes, I’ll either write up new posts or mark them with a *.

~Kanthalos