Thursday, September 25, 2008

To WAR!!!

Today, Jo Bildo touched on the very reason why Warhammer is so compelling when many recent MMOs have not been as successful. And the reason is: WAR.

That's also why I like the game. From the moment you log in, to any area, you hear the pounding of cannons, and see the (NPC) enemy battling it out. The NPCs taunt you with the power of the Raven Host and other hated enemies. And if you tire of fighting NPCs, you can immediately jump into the fray by joining an RVR scenario if you feel like it, from the very beginning.

In WOW, well, the first thing I saw were wolves and rats and the usual backstory about someone dropping their wallet. Then you fight some bandits, but those aren't "THE" enemy, just "an" enemy. Then you go fight Murloks with their annoying noises. Because someone else dropped their wallet over there. And so on and so on. Forever, I'm fetching wallets for random people from random places, and it was rare that I ever saw a Horde (in the newbie areas) because few ventured so deep. By the time I did encounter one, I forgot why I cared, if I ever did.

In EverQuest II, we were promised a cold war between the two cities. A couple false starts when the game first came out let us sabotage the enemy, but without a compelling reason to bother, most of us just gave up and started adventuring side by side with them instead.

But in Warhammer, war is the backbone of the story from the very beginning; each racial conflict is the driving force of the whole game. Sure, you're still running 10 places and clicking on 10 things, but its FOR THE WAR. And that really makes all the difference.

Vault 13 is Opening...

Interplay is opening a new office in Orange County to develop their new MMO, code-named "Project V13." V13, as in Vault 13? Fallout is one of my favorite game franchises and I think it would be a lot of fun to see a post-apocalyptic setting as an MMORPG. A good one that doesn't involve cars healing each other.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bone Chips By Server

As found on

Unrest = 60% good 20% evil
Mistmoore = 30% good 10% evil
Runneyeye = 30% good 10% evil
Antonia Bayle = 100% good 30% evil
Nagafen = 20% good 10% evil
Butcherblock = 80% good 20% evil
Permafrost = 80% good 20% evil
Crushbone = 70% good 10% evil
Lucan d'Lere = 70% good 30% evil
Najena = 60% good 10% evil
Valor = 30% good 10% evil
Splitpaw = 50% good 10% evil
Nektulos = 30% good 20% evil
Blackburrow = 50% good 10% evil
Befallen = 100% good 20% evil
Bazaar = 50% good 10% evil
Guk = 60% good 10% evil
Venekor = 10% good 10% evil
Kithicor = 100% good 10% evil
Oasis = 100% good 10% evil
Innovation = 40% good 10% evil
Storms 40% good 10% evil
Everfrost 70% good 10% evil

In this case, evil will NOT triumph, because good is dumb... enough to grind this silly server-wide quest.

This quest and the Guild Hall Constructor harvesting quests work similarly: you get the quest, you go to some location, grab X items (in the case of the harvesting quests, apparently, the items on the broker weren't good enough), and then return. And then repeat, if desired. I personally hate the way these types of quests are designed; it's nice that they are repeatable, but its really annoying when you want to do it several times because you end up spending more time just running back and forth (even considering how easy travel is these days) than you actually do doing the quest: fighting the monsters that get in the way of the harvestables.

I think these types of quests should be changed to let you turn in arbitrary numbers of the harvestables. I'd rather get the quest, and then go harvest as few or as many items as I want and then drag and drop it into a little window that pops up when I finally decide to return to the quest giver. The reward should be scaled to the number of items that I give them. Its more or less the same thing without all the extra running back and forth (they can even expect more items for the same reward; that's fine by me -- I'd rather gather 100 items in one go then make five trips for ten items each... even with travel as easy as it is now, its just irritating and unnecessary drudgery.) It would let us spend more time actually doing the quest and less time mindlessly travelling back and forth to get the same damn quest again and again.

But maybe it's just me...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Shhhh... Chaos Might Hear Us Thinking

I'm starting to notice that there's something missing from the (non-guild) Warhammer groups I've joined. In other games, people actually TALK. This was more frequent in games like Final Fantasy XI where fights were followed by lengthy downtimes. But even in EQ2, groups chatted far more often than they do in WAR.

In WAR, people join randomly, do their own thing, and drop out when they feel like it. Of course, this varies from group to group: I've joined friendlier groups that did talk a little, but the majority of them are silent. Its worse than silence. Most of the groups were unorganized and everyone acted as individuals; even though we were "grouped" from the game mechanic's perspective, we were still playing on our own. Even if someone tried to talk the group into utilizing a strategy, maybe by helpfully suggesting that someone (not me) pull (because I'm a Bright Wizard and fall apart in one hit) and that we pull maybe at most one monster at a time and focus on it instead of everyone running around pulling all fifteen champions all at once which might be a bad idea because we have no freaking healers or if we do they haven't found the heal button yet , people went about things their own way with no reply and no acknowledgement that they had even the slightest understanding of basic English.

It goes beyond just having quiet groups; the whole world is quiet. I guess that's because there don't appear to be world chat channels? Do people think that is a good thing? I know a lot of people discuss rather stupid things in world chat sometimes; but -- especially when I'm soloing PVE -- I like the distraction. And if the groups I join aren't talking, with world chat, at least there's another channel somewhere that is. Even when I don't feel like taking part in it, I like listening in.

Maybe its just me (nope, I guess not) - but Warhammer feels really, really quiet compared to other MMOs... Anyone have an idea why? Could the lack of downtime inherent in the games 'community building' Open Grouping/Public Quest model actually has the opposite effect?

(If everyone else's game sessions have been going like mine, it may be because we're all so distraught from being constantly slaughtered by Chaos that we're cradling ourselves in a corner, crying, and telling ourselves it will all be alright..... it will all be alright...... it will all be alright.......)

Friday, September 19, 2008

MMO Wish List: Kudos

In my last post, I thought it would be nice if MMORPGs had an account-wide point system that rewarded players for mentoring newbies. But, instead, how about an account-wide point system that rewards players for simply building the community in any way? Point systems like these are frequently encountered in social networking sites and blogging communities, but are mysteriously absent in MMORPGs.

The game system could automatically reward players for mentoring, and for helping people progress in quests (not just completing them, but for every ding that updates the quest progress). The point system would be account-wide because we are rewarding the player, not the character; that means if I need to bring my Healer, I will still be rewarded, even though I might prefer to work on my Fighter. I would simply earn the points on my Healer and claim the rewards on my Fighter.

We should also be able to transfer social XP to other players as well. This would be used similar to the kudos system on Myspace, or similar systems on other social networking sites, where you give out positive encouragement for people who do something you appreciate. You could reward other players for helping you out, or even simply for entertaining you -- to reward role-players who take time out to act in game.

The way I imagine it is: if a troupe of role players in game act out a skit that entertains people, we could "tip" them by giving them social XP which they could then cash in on exclusive fluff role-play appearance gear, or a new painting, or whatever. If someone goes out of their way to help me out, they get social XP automatically from the game for every quest update I get, and I can even give them a little bit more on top of that. This positive encouragement for making the world livelier and friendlier can be cashed in on non-game-breaking items of the recipient's choice.

What would they spend the points on? It would depend on the game, but the type of things EverQuest II offers as loot cards and veteran rewards would probably be appropriate. People could buy XP potions to help level alts, or fluff gear, or house items.

MMORPGs are virtual worlds with virtual communities; they could benefit by taking a look at the kinds of tools used by social networking sites to build community.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I Think I Have Enough Experience Already

In GU49, EverQuest II is going to dramatically lower the experience curve required to level. Right now, apparently, it takes an average of 260 hours to get to level 80. However, most people consider the end game to be the only true part of the game. After all, that's where everyone else is, and the most fun parts of an MMO are the parts where you can play with other people in tactically interesting scenarios. Levels 1-79 becomes sort of a really long drawn out tutorial. Granted, we need to take some time to learn our characters, but do we really need a 260 hour long tutorial? Every time they raise the level cap, that tutorial effectively increases in length (fortunately, SOE decided not to increase the level cap for The Shadow Odyssey), making things worse.

There are two problems with the wide level disparity:
1) high level players who simply want to try out the end game with a different class (or race) but don't want to grind through the same old content all over again
2) new players who find the world empty because all the veterans are playing the end game

Sony's decision to decrease the time it takes to get from level 20-70 (by about 64 hours!) is a pretty bold move. The proposed change to GU50 that allows each level 80 to give the player a +10% XP bonus to all their other characters is a great idea as well, allowing us to reroll our characters, and still take a decent amount of time to learn then, so that leveling an alt doesn't become a chore.

Some discussion on MMO Nation referenced AGDC roundtable discussions that, among other ideas, proposed 'instacharacters' (like in Dark Age of Camelot /level command - or the Death Knight in World of Warhammer, which starts at level 55). That sounds good to some extent, except it only addresses the first problem. It would probably make things worse for new players or anyone who chose to level up from the beginning.

At least with Sony's solution, new players have a chance of running into someone leveling back through that 1-80, even if they might be doing so faster.

Maybe there could be other alternatives that help address both issues? Perhaps people could earn a new kind of point system, such as "social XP", when mentoring players, or assisting low level players with quests or defeating named monsters, in addition to whatever benefits they normally get (such as accelerated achievement XP). Maybe players who don't have a max-level character on their account would have the option to flag themselves as "newbies" to attract the attention of more experienced players who want to earn social XP?

Social XP could be an account-wide pool and be used to purchase accelerated leveling (or bypass levels) for other characters. Or even other bonuses, such as unlocks for exclusive new races or prestige classes. That would encourage players to use their existing characters to help new (or rerolling) players to power level their offline (or future) characters.

While skipping or accelerating through levels for veteran players is a great idea, it does have some impact on the rest of the game, and a healthy game needs to retain the ability to attract newer players. That isn't possible if everyone just auto-rerolls high level alts or rushes through the old content in the optimal fashion as quickly as possible.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Random Thoughts

Warhammer Online is a pretty fun game after you manage to get past the legal disclaimer grind. Yeah, they make you scroll down and accept TWO screens EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU TRY TO PLAY. How annoying.

I'm still playing EverQuest II. My guild broke up, after the guild leaders all decided to bail at once and join a raiding guild. This turns out to be a good thing as I've since joined the guild Via Solara, also on the Najena server, which is far more close knit and friendly than Explorers of Legend ever were. So, its nice how bad things can just work out for the best sometimes.

While I am enjoying Warhammer Online, I simply can't pull myself entirely away from EQ2. Even though the game was absolutely terrible upon launch, its really great now, and they just keep making it better. Heck, they even announced it will now have multi-core support in GU49 which means it might actually run well on my 3.2GHz Quad-Core QX9770 based rig!

I didn't like Spore at first, but it picks up later in the game. It still involves a little too many repetitive gameplay elements (I'm not sure how I can say that with a straight face given that I normally play MMORPGs, which are nothing but repetitive, but I am.) I guess the problem I have with it is that it plays like a bunch of isolated mini-games in sequence with little cohesiveness...

Anyway, I'm now in the space stage and my Flying Monkeys are trekking about the galaxy, and having fun exploring in their bright orange Space Trekker.

I actually got my wife to play a video game for once. She enjoyed the cell phase of Spore and she even played the entire stage. The last time I got her to play a video game, she ran my EverQuest II characters off the cliff in Butcherblock Mountains and then got them stuck on a wall because she couldn't figure out how to maneuver them back up the mountain, then got bored and left. That was about a year ago. Maybe this game can help me convert her into a gamer? Doubtful, but I'm gonna try. :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Like most people, I bought into the Spore hype. Considering that I had a "" addiction to previous Civilization style games, I was greatly looking forward to one that took you from the beginning of life to a galactic civilization.

But, quite frankly, so far, I'm rather bored. I have only played the first two levels, so we'll see how it picks up, but the first zone is basically the game flOw with more powerups. Its an entertaining toy but death is meaningless (you just respawn) and ultimately whatever powerups you choose don't matter once you move on to the next stage.

The second stage involves going around and either befriending or fighting other creatures. Befriending them involves doing a dance-off of sorts and fighting involves defeating your enemies. The one main carry-over from the previous stage is whether you are a herbivore or carnivore which impacts what you need to eat (fruit, or other creatures) and your special ability. Carnivores can roar to intimidate the enemy, for instance. But ultimately, there isn't much depth in the strategy, and the get missions to build up your creature ultimately amount to "charm X creatures" or "kill X creatures" over and over again. And over and over again. And its not very difficult to do it, so it doesn't stay interesting for long.

I'll try out the world domination phase next, which hopefully is more fun, but at the start of it, it again feels like my decisions in the previous stage don't matter. While the second stage determined the look of my guy (though at the last minute you can undo everything and rebuild your creature as something completely different!), aside from the cosmetic aspect, all that time playing amounted to setting one variable: how warlike my species is.

Anyway, this is by no means a complete assessment of the entire game, as I've only played a very short way through. But so far the game is spOREing..... [yawn].