Monday, August 25, 2008

MMO Feature Wish List: Rebirth

I wish that instead of constantly increasing the level cap, MMORPGs would allow more opportunities for the more hardcore players to improve their characters that would also help improve the game for more casual players instead of getting people further spread out in level and gear.

One such mechanic that might help avoid that would be a rebirth mechanic that let the most powerful characters restart the game from level one of a different class. To make it interesting, it could be implemented such that you could keep one skill from any of your classes while playing another class. For example, if such a system were implemented in EverQuest II, perhaps after a player got to level 80 as a Guardian they could restart as a Monk, level that to 80 as well, and then perhaps while playing as a Guardian they would be allowed to use any one (and only one) Monk skill (such as Peel or Tsunami.) If they are reborn multiple times, they will have more alternate class skills to choose from to augment whatever character they play.

This shouldn't make it so unbalancing that hardcore players get too far ahead of the rest of the server, and it might actually improve the game for casual players, since it would get more people to go back through the lower-level content. While leveling an alternate class, the XP gain might also be slowed (since the character is technically still level 80, he wouldn't gain Vitality, and perhaps XP gain from quests and adventuring might be slowed even further.)

This would allow old content to be stay relevant in an aging game that doesn't attract as many new players. It also means that a lot of quest items (such as heritage quest rewards) have value even if you aren't currently playing a class that the reward is appropriate for. Because players would need new quest lines to help them advance (since they will most likely have done most of the existing quests already), the developers would have an incentive to revamp and add to old content (which could also help attract new players), instead of simply adding tier after tier to the end game.

Friday, August 22, 2008

First Steps in the World of Warhammer

I don't know how much I want to play before launch, but I definitely wanted to take a few steps into the game to see just how well it lives up to its hype. Well, I must say, I'm rather impressed so far.

At first, I was disappointed, as I logged into the newbie area and was inundated with the usual assortment of mindless kill X and fetch Y quests from the usual assortment of motionless people with glowing crap floating over their head. It involved a lot of running around and it wasn't very involving, like most quests in recent MMORPGS, such as World of Warcraft or Age of Conan.

But there are three standout features that changed my opinion drastically:

1) Public Quests: these really are the step forward that the industry needed. They are FUN. Sure, like any other feature, it can become a grind, but its a grind that involves community. But, unlike quests, they are always there, and everyone is always on the same step at the same time.

My problem with quest-driven gameplay has always been that it divides people up even further. Most MMORPGs restrict who you can play with by level, faction, zone, and needed classes already. But when you thrown in quests, it can be very difficult to find people who want to group with you, given that they get nothing out of it if they don't happen to be on the same quest.

Well, with public quests, there's always something going on in the zone where everyone is always on the same stage. It's ideal for the casual player; you can come in, play as long as you need and drop out. And they are fun because they involve more interesting scripts, that in most MMORPGs you don't see outside of raid instances.

2) Open Groups: I haven't played with so many different people since I played City of Heroes. Its nice to see groups in the area, sorted by distance and what they are working on, and be able to just pop in and join a group when I want. No more shouting LFG all the time... So far, most of the groups have been relatively short lived, as people join up for certain goals and move on, but at least we're playing with other people.

3) Instant Action RvR: I've never been a huge fan of PVP but their battleground feature was rather fun, and it was nice to be able to instantly jump into the fray without having to run halfway across a map to find the entrance to an instance or whatever.

Anyway, that's my first impression. Now to get back in game...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Another Casualty of WAR

So, apparently all the cool bloggers are joining the Casualties of WAR guild for the upcoming Warhammer Online. Somehow, I managed to sneak in.

I had not been very interested in Warhammer Online before, but the more I read about it now, the more I'm getting excited. It seems like it might have the kind of game design I've been looking for. The public quest system they mention sounds exactly like the kind of casual friendly game mechanic that encourages grouping and cooperative play I've been hoping for.

I've never been a huge fan of PVP, especially in games that have levels, where it seems whoever plays more wins instead of whoever plays smarter. But I'm willing to give it a shot. That sort of end game mechanic is probably better suited for me than grinding the same instances and raids ad nauseum, which is apparently the only kind of end game PVE game designers can come up with.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What's In A Name

For me, almost everything. I think long and hard about the names I pick. Even if it ends up sounding nonsensical to everyone else, the names I pick mean something to me. I usually end up trying names for hours before I even bother to figure out what a character looks like. So day one for most MMORPGs is rather boring for me, because I mostly sit staring at the "Enter your name here:" box, trying to think through different names until I find the one that captures my character PERFECTLY.

Perfectly, that is, until I have leveled the character up for a good while and realize that I don't like his name after all and have to reroll and by then a million other players have already logged on and nabbed everything pronouncable.

Granted, that problem goes away to some degree if the game determines character name uniquness from both the first AND last name, like in Guild Wars. I won't have to worry that the first name I want will be nabbed by someone, leveled to 3, and then parked, never to be played again. But, in a way, it also makes things harder, because now I have to figure out TWO good names that work together.

To get ready for Warhammer Online, I decided to do some research in advance so I would be ready to grab the cool names on day one before the only ones left are variants of "Xxxsephirothxxx".

I want to roll an Engineer so I found some ideas for appropriate dwarf names... though apparently any random smattering of consonants followed by something valuable (like silver, gold, or blood [yes, blood, you go and try losing a lot of it sometime and you'll quickly realize how valuable it is]) and a weapon works. Gnorbl Bloodhammer. Krildor Silverfist. Gildesh Muffinsmasher. (I like muffins.)

Orc and goblin names aren't that different than the dwarves. Its basically the same thing with fewer vowels and more misspellings. I found a few cute random name generators for orcs and goblins or both at the same time. The last one is the best since it actually shows you what the components that make up the name mean, for those that care. The other way to do this is to take Scrabble pieces and take everything except the R, G, Z, L, U, and O pieces out of it, then randomly draw whats left.

I don't know Warhammer lore that well, but I'm assuming the high elves in the game have the same kind of pansy names they have in Lord of the Rings Online, so the Lord of the Rings Online elf naming guide should work for my archmage or whatever.

For humans, well, that's a little easier... but here's a guide for Warhammer RPGs that has a good list of names.

I imagine a lot of the more "obvious" names will be used up quickly. For example, the name Aidan (which means "fire" or "fiery") would be appropriate for a Bright Wizard. And Kieran (which means "black") would work well for a solder for Chaos. Those will be gone within milliseconds of the servers coming up.

The Empire setting is Germanic, so the most appropriate names should be from that background. Granted, the world of Warhammer is bigger than just the Empire, so you could probably go for a Chinese or Arab themed name and simply roleplay that your character travelled to the Empire from Cathay or Araby... but some people won't take too kindly to that.

I usually resort to culture-appropriate baby name sites for my human characters, such as this one. I find a name that sounds good and has a meaning appropriate to the type of character I'm creating. For example, a names that mean "noble" isn't appropriate when I'm rolling up someone on the side of Destruction. Instead, I'll pick a name like "Fordon" (which means "destroyer", or so the website says) which seems more appropriate for those toons.

Got any good suggestions for coming up with names? As an altaholic, I probably spend more time coming up with new names than I do playing! OK, that's not true, but still, let me know. :)