Archive for June 2010

Altering MMO Gameplay Behavior – The Grind!

June 23, 2010

The last thing many MMO enthusiasts would like to hear coming from a developer, is that the pace of leveling in our game is slow as hell.  The slow leveling design theory is a dead mechanic to them.  What kind of purpose does killing 3 times more goblins, snakes, and tigers to level serve?  I want to take a look into this issue and show you how a simple change can alter players behavior and the way they play the game.

Lets use WOW as the test subject, whick has a fast paced and solo oriented leveling system.   You can easily knock out a level or two in a day even near the cap by playing causally, and grouping tends to bring some hassles along with it so players generally just set off on their own.  Players don’t worry about gear so much, because their only going to be a certain level for a breif amount of time.  The items that they get are likely going to be replaced within a couple days of play time, so there’s no point in taking the time to do a dungeon for blues.  The approach players take to leveling in WOW is plow through it as fast as possible.  I don’t care about loot, I don’t care about what the quest says, I don’t care about dungeons, or interacting with other I just want the xp bar to move.  Solo is the way to do it.

What if WOW’s leveling system was a bit slower?  How would it effect the way players play the game, or would it change at all?  Since you’re going to be that level for a longer period of time gear becomes a bigger factor.  Dungeons suddenly take priority over hunting in the open world.  Now grouping will be less of a hassle because you have a bigger pool of players running dungeons and your population is less fragmented.  Players only notice the immediate effects of the leveling pace and that is, it’s going to take me longer to do the same crap I just been doing.  What they don’t think about is how the mechanics may effect the behavior of players as a whole, which changes the whole perspective of the game.

MMO Power Ratings

June 18, 2010

You often see power ranking on the sport sites, and I would like to do something similar for MMO’s.  Before the football season even starts, you can gague how a team is going to do based on their stats on paper and how they did last season.  During the season things change though, some players get injured others perform unexpectedly well or bad that throw your predictions out of wack.  This is where power rankings come in to factor in all of these  circumstances and put up a more realistic ranking system.

I’m going to start the same thing but with MMO’s and not and ranking but rating system.  I’m going to focus on the biggest titles in development as well as main MMO”s relased.  Obviously that could include quite a lot, so I’m going to be selective to which games I feel have an inpact in the genre.  When deciding an MMO’s rating I focus mainly what’s going on at this present time, rather than what happened in the past.  Things like press realeases, public interest, videos, screenshots, and any type of information that can cause more excitement for their game can all effect the rating.   A 10 will be the highest rating.

Xor’s Power Ratings: MMO|Rating|Previous Rating|Comment

SWTOR: 9(8) – Solid E3 showing with trailer and good interviews.  armor, ships, and pvp info revealed.

Rift Planes of Telara: 9(7) – released interesting class system recently.  Awesome hands on gameplay video giving a taste of rifts and dungeons.  Rift Jumps up a couple notches in the ratings

FF14: 8(7) – new trailer released at E3 and graphics look amazing.  Still standing firm on 2010 release.   Rumors of a Bard class are starting to come out.

WOW: 8(9) – Still the popular game to play atm, but content is getting dried out.  A couple mechanics are getting cut out of cataclysm so drops down a notch.

Tera: 8(7) – Good E3 showing.  Interesting revelations on PVP, end game, the world, and combat mechanics.

38 Studios 7(8) – They have big names and a good team, but it was disappointing not seeing and info released for E3.  I think they just let their competitors have a head start.

Lotro 7(6) – Going free to play might bring some life back to the game.

Aion 6(6) – While it’s not in WOW’s league they did manage to find an ok number of subs.  Nice alternative to WOW if you need a break.

Community and Why Some People Just Don’t Get It.

June 13, 2010

One of the biggest rips on WOW is that their community is shit, and if you’re come from old school EQ to WOW I can understand that point of view.  However, not every WOW player comes from EQ.  When people try to explain the differences in EQ’s and WOW’s community, they end up being more confused or get the wrong impression.

When talking about EQ’s community, people tend to refer to the downtime causing more chit chat in groups.  If you had a decent group, you wouldn’t have much forced downtime because you would pull what you can handle.  There’s always more mobs to pull but players were often camping a specific named for it’s loot.  You wait for him to spawn if he dosen’t spawn, you just wait for the next spawn cycle.  The decision was completely up to the player.  You could crawl dungeons if you wanted or if a mob dropped some loot that you wanted you would camp him.  Sometimes it would take longer then you would like, but it gave the players more freedom.  Compare this mechanic to being locked out.  I wanted to bring this up because many people feel that the downtime was caused because there was nothing to do, which isn’t the case.

In EQ reputation mattered.  You didn’t have to act like Mr happy fun guy, but you wanted to treat people with respect.  If you were a ninja looter, whiner, purposely trained people, or did other dumb shit others would know and blacklist you.  A player’s guild tag would tell you something about that person.  There was always a leveling path that the majority of players would follow on each continent so if you went lfg in one of these leveling zones there was a pretty good chance you would find a group.  If you had a quest or some loot that strayed away from these zones, you were either on your own or you would have to rely on your friends which is why you want a good rep.  There was some pick up raids, but nothing like you see in WOW.  You really can’t accomplish much alone in EQ.

The little things made the game challenging.  pace of leveling, trains, death penalty, group centric, etc combine all this stuff together gives you one hellish adventure.  People often talk about trains as if people always do them on purpose to act like an asshole, but most of the time they happened in dungeons because players were running to the safety of the zone line.  The death penalty wasn’t a matter of turning into a ghost and running to your corpse, it wasn’t that easy.  Just like in real life if you went through some hard times you would always friends there for you to help you through.  I know it sounds a bit cheesy but people knew the shit you have to go through to accomplish stuff in EQ, so I think that these challenging mechanics causes people to lend a helping hand more often.

I know people are getting tired of hearing WOW hate so am I.  WOW has done a lot of things well, and I have given them credit for them in previous posts.  Community isn’t something easy to create and it’s best to expierce how it is yourself rather than reading about it.  When all the small game mechanics come together to form a community the differences between WOW and EQ are like night and Day.  EQ has the real adventure that you expect in an RPG, WOW is just a superficial game on easy mode.

I Guess the F2P Model Does Work Under Some Circumstances

June 12, 2010

If you need any evidence that the F2P model might just be better than the $15 a month model, all you have to do is look at turbine.  D&D went F2P a while ago, and I would say that this move wasn’t a huge surprise considering the age of the game and number of subscribers.  The main thing the F2P allows these companies to do is shift the focus over to their stores.  All the companies have their stores, but when you also have a monthly sub to the game you’re asking quite a lot from players pay rate wise.  It’s better to just focus on one.

At some point your game will eventually reach the twilight of it’s life span, and the game just no longer appeals to new players.  There are a couple things to do to counter this, you can release an expansion, or in turbine’s case turn to the F2P model to help revitalize your game.  I was a bit surprised to hear LOTRO is going F2P, it was a moderately successful subscription based game, this move certainly speaks volumes for their new model.

I think the key here for Turbine is the lack of new players getting hooked on their game, the F2P gives them that hook and at some point develops a purchase out of their consumer in the shop.  This doesn’t mean every game should follow this model because it’s better.  In WOW’s case, or any other AAA game in development, they should stick with the sub base model because your going to have a ton of gamers wanting to test out your game.  If you feel your game is at the downfall of it’s life cycle F2P is a model you should consider.  That is the main message to get though this.

They have me interested in it.  I’m downloading the free trial right now, and decided to put my WOW account on hold till Cataclysm comes out.  I wonder how Turbine’s model stacks up against SOE’s all access model.

Do We Really Need to Know This?

June 9, 2010

I understand MMO sites want to post what’s going on in the MMO world, but do we really need to know that there’s a Spongebob Squarepants MMO in development.  Maybe it’s a slow news day or just a post for some laughs, but it’s hardly something the real MMO community would want to keep updated on.  Better yet Lego Universe gets a whole forum dedicated to it on MMORPG.com.  Rather than doing some lame google searches on anything that’s remotely resembles an MMO, why don’t these companies think of better ideas to spend their resources on.

I know companies are tight lipped when it comes to information on the games they are developing, but maybe do some flashbacks with designers of the old games that we have fond memories of like EQ and give some behind the scenes insights in the development of it.  Something like that would be more in the realm of what your audience is looking for.

Reaching My Final Goal in WOW – Tanking

June 6, 2010

I got my preist geared, my Warlock’s doing some nice DPS, and finally I got my DK geared enough to do some heroics as a tanked.  I feel like I’ve done it all now, and my DK even successfully tanked HOR.

After playing every role you can, I would say healing is my favorite and tanking is my least.  I have new found respect for tanks after playing a bit in their shoes.  DPS is easy most of the time your just casting Aoe’s.  As a healer most heroics I just toss my shield up and just dps, some LK dungeons keep you on your toes though.  Tanks don’t get a break though, they always have to stay on top of the aggro list, and there’s always some dumb dps not assisting and going insane on a mob.

You have your typical energy, combo pooints, rage, mana, but The DK rune system is an excellent system, that is definetly hard to master.  You have to give WOW devs credit for their class design with all their different builds.  Leveling, dps, pvp, tanking, healing other games have tried to mimic WOW’s talent system, but don’t even come close to WOW’s master of the design.