When more is less.

June 30, 2007

Let’s say you are sitting around a table in a game design studio. You are putting down ideas of what will make your MMO fun and enjoyable. Someone comes up with the idea of rewarding players with killing a said number of some mob, be it spiders, orcs, rats whatever. Everyone agrees, and you start talking about what exact number will be needed to keep the reward challenging, but still fun. Hardcore Billy wants it to be a thousand, and everyone laughs. Kid gloves Joe wants it to be ten, and everyone laughs. Finally the group decides that a hundred is a good number. Some will be killed as players complete quests, to get the player started, others will be killed as they agro the player. The rest will be killed with the intent of getting the reward. After some testing, it is determined that the hundred number works well and is challenging without being too tedious.


I’m guessing that was the general thinking at Turbine when they came up with the kill deeds in LoTRO. Deeds overall are a good idea. It’s not game-breaking, but a nice side bonus for players to collect and customize, adding a much needed layer of depth to an otherwise fairly simply setup.


Why then, do we go from the sane number of around a hundred, to the beyond stupid numbers needed to get the final deeds in the higher zones? Is it more “fun” to kill the same mob in the same zone three times as often as was needed earlier in the game? Or for that matter, is it more “fun” to collect four times as much ore/wood/whatever to advance to the next level of crafting?


Unless you put in three times as many interesting quests to kill those mobs, it’s not fun to sit around, going from spawn camp to spawn camp killing the same mob. What it DOES do, is give reviewers an easy opportunity to bash your game. You might as well put a bullet point on the back of the box stating “Reach level 40 and kill 500 rats, its FUN!”


Keeping the kill number equal across all zones would have been very simple. Find that magic “fun” number of kills, and stick with it. Don’t help reviewers and fans notice you don’t have level 40+ content yet by including such an obvious and stupid time sink. It’s an insult.

Ebolt anyone?

June 29, 2007

I considered a lot of different topics for my first blog post. I could talk about something current, like crafting or raiding or PvP. I thought about just doing a standard intro post about who I am, what I’m playing, etc.


Instead, I’m going to compare Ultima Online to World of Warcraft.


Ultima Online was really the first major graphical MMO (I know I know, but lets save that debate for another time, shall we?) and in a lot of ways, it was just an open world with basically no rules. You had no levels, no quests, no instances, just a bunch of forests and mountains with a few towns to explore and make of it what you would. Think about that. Imagine if WoW came out, and you went to the Barrens, and that was it. No quests, no instances, no connecting zone, just wide open with some mobs wandering about. Going out on a limb here, but my guess is people would not take too well to that. Oh and all that end game raiding? Yea none of that. No boss fights, no epic loot…. Actually no hard-coded grouping option at all. Nope, again, just more running around doing…. something.


But you know what? Those that played in 97-99, man did we love it. The whole idea of an open world populated with other live players was so new, so fresh, THAT was our content. Well… that and the random griefing and PK’ing that was so rampant in the early days. And no, I’m not talking about camping a quest mob, or ‘tagging’ a mob before someone else, or stealing a resource node. No no, I mean running up on some random player with three other Dreadlords to give them a little xbow/hally/ebolt combo. Insta-kill. Then you proceed to loot the body clean, lop off the head to put on your vendor, and move on.


Please try to picture that happening in WoW. You and your guild just downed Onyxia, and finally Deathbringer dropped, so you spend your DKP and actually win it. So you walk out of the cave, feeling great, finally you got your shiny new epic item. Out of the corner of the screen, four fireballs hit you. Before you can react, four more shots have been fired, and you die. As a ghost standing above your lifeless character, you watch as the PKs run over, open your corpse as if you are an npc mob, and proceed to loot you. Everything. Your tier 1 set, your fire resist set, your crafting materials, and yes, that nice new Deathbringer. All gone. Hope you have some more gear in the bank, because everything that you had on you is no more.


Somehow, I think that would create a few more forum posts than a slight nerf to skill x. The kids today man, they have it easy. BoE items, private instances, PvP zones. Taking a step back, it’s actually amazing just how ‘friendly’ MMOs are now. They give you clear quests, with rewards that are generally useful. They move you from zone to zone so you are never around anything that one shots you. They give you things like flight paths, conveniently located graveyards, fast respawns. And yet, we bitch more about things now then you ever saw back in UO.


As the saying went “damn carebears…”


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