You are not special.

December 31, 2007

A few days ago I made the comment that current MMO players are ‘soft’ compared to those that played UO/EQ and such. Instead of using the word ‘soft’, I think I prefer spoiled. Spoiled by todays crop of games into thinking we are more important than we really are in an MMO world. The very idea of an MMO is that you are but one player in a giant, living world, out to make your mark on it in any way you can. Somewhere along the way, this changed to ‘you are the hero, and everything revolves around you’.

I’m not exactly sure when this happened, and I don’t think you can blame any one single game out for the shift in thinking, but comparing the MMOs of today to the originals and it’s very clear to me that this has happened. The old joke of doing multiple ‘kill rats’ quests reflects this, in that back in the day players often did seemingly un-heroic deeds to get by, while in todays games everything you do is wrapped around earth-shattering lore and conclusions. Instead of killing a few bears to feed a farmer, you now raid a food stockpile to save an entire continent from starvation.

The problem is that everyone is saving that same continent from starvation, only I did it in my instance, and you did it in yours. And somehow we both came out with the same exact epic sword as a reward. And since everyone has done this epic quest, it’s now just ‘quest x’ along the way to maxing out, so we can get together with x number of people and raid the pantry of evil to save the world; all for a far more epic looking sword, the same one you saw in town being used by twenty other characters.

In reality today’s MMOs share more with a single players RPG than they do with anything ‘worldly’. Somehow developers tricked us into paying $15 a month to log into a single players game, where we jump from instance to instance completing quests while gearing up. Oh well I guess we pay that $15 for a chat room of dubious quality and the ability to bring a few friends along on some quests, right?

To make matters worse, nothing you do can really impact the world you are in. No one outside of their server cares who the top raiding guild is, or who is the top PvP team. Hell even world firsts are forgotten as quickly as the forum post drops off the front page. Few of todays games give anyone the opportunity to be a Rainz or Istvaan Shogaatsu. Unless you have a hit youtube video, you are not likely to be the next Leeroy Jenkins.

Players today are tricked into thinking they are the hero, and in actuality any abilities to do something truly special has been stripped away. Instead of a PvP guild making its mark on the world by making certain regions dangerous to traverse, we now have repeatable ‘epic’ quests to open gates to instances, gates that will eventually open regardless of any one players actions. Instead of a famed smith producing rare items, we have an auction house packed with any ‘epic’ item a player could want.

This has also led to the trend of players expecting to get everything they want as quickly as possible. Anything that takes actual planning, patience, and yes work, is considered ‘unfun’. Far too often you read a forum and see a ‘I don’t play games to work, and I don’t want others interfering in my gaming’. Is this not what MMOs are about, are they not a living world that we INTERACT with, good or bad? If you truly want a safe ‘I’m the hero’ experience, should you not be playing a single player RPG?

Keeps return to WAR.

December 28, 2007

I told myself I would not focus on games ‘coming soon’, as nothing disappoints more than getting all hyped about a game that when released is simply ‘meh’, but with that said, I am very encouraged by the latest WAR podcast. Without breaking it all down, the part that I found most interesting was Mythic’s re-focus on open field PvP rather than instances. Now who (other than beta testers) really knows exactly what this ‘re-focus’ actually means, and instance PvP is still in the game, but at the very least it sounds like some form of open field PvP will be supported. From all my PvP experience over multiple games, the most memorable moments have always been the unexpected ones, and it’s rather difficult to have something unexpected happen in an enclosed, preset instance.

The open field PvP will also be highlighted by the return of Keeps, a key feature in Dark Age of Camelot, Mythic’s previous game. Keeps were generally the area where the major battles took place, and hopefully this continues in WAR. Rumors on forums before the close of the last beta indicated that capture points were too easy to tag, and were also somewhat pointless. It seems Mythic listened to a lot of that feedback and now intends to give open PvP some meaning.

I believe in aliens.

December 27, 2007

So my four year old computer died, a deadly combination of motherboard and CPU failure. Cost-wise it made no sense to replace both pieces, as the computer was already showing its age. So instead I went ahead and ordered a new Alienware. Weee.

Intel E6850 liquid cooled, Nvidia 8800GT, 4 gigs of DDR2 ram, X-Fi card, 10,000 RPM hard drive, oh and a hat. The hat really made it impossible not to order.

This will be my first Alienware, after ordering an ABS two times before. While happy with ABS, I wanted to give Alienware a try, plus the price (just under 3,000) was far more reasonable than what ABS was offering. The computer comes with Vista loaded, so we will see how that goes. Recent research shows a lot of the early issues seem to be getting resolved, and the lure of Crysis in DX10 glory is quite strong. That plus playing games like The Witcher and NWN2 MotB without framerate issues will be nice, and I’m looking forward to cranking EVE to max at 1900×1200.

Now we play the waiting game for it to ship…

And maybe still a bit harder…

December 26, 2007

More thoughts on PvP, bear with me.

Gear is important in an MMO, as it not only allows our characters to grow in power, but also gives us something to work towards and look forward to. This applies whether you have a PvE focused game or a PvP one. The degree of importance can vary, but it is always a factor; whether it’s something as simple as picking up a weapon in a FPS game or something as complex as an epic quest item in EQ; both are examples of items improving your character.

Now let’s say we have a PvP focused game, and each time you kill a character they drop an item. This method is one of the major ways to gain gear and is a prime focus of the player base. You have two choices with regards to the defeated player, they either lose an item or they don’t. In the game with player loss, the item you get off the corpse is that exact item the defeated player losses. In the other game, it’s a randomly generated item by the game based on level. How exactly would these two systems play out?

In game one, players would avoid death at all costs, since each death would cost them something of value. Clearly in this game item loss and gain would be fairly rapid, as you would be constantly losing and gaining new items based on your PvP performance. A good day would result in a positive gain, with you storing away excess items for later use. A bad day would mean you have to dip into your item bank, or worst case go farm new items to get back into PvP. Over time the better PvP players would build up a sizable collection of items, and could afford to use, and lose, top quality stuff. Factors like how skills your guild mates are would be of utmost importance, and crafters that could provide gear that would give you an edge would be highly valued.

In game two, death would mean you don’t gain an item, and so would be somewhat unfavorable as it would delay the process of getting more powerful. Any time you find an item less powerful than the one you own would be useless, as you would always use your best gear at all times. It would be entirely possible for weak players to gain access to the most powerful gear due to the randomness of the item on a corpse, and once acquired they would remain powerful until the game introduces new gear. Powerful guilds would only serve to speed up the process of gearing up, and once ‘maxed out’ players would have little reason beyond social to stay in any one guild. Crafting would only be valued if the item crafted was easier to acquire and more powerful than that which can be gained in PvP, anything less would be considered a waste of time.

Clearly the above is over-simplified, but I think it drives the point home as to why PvP can’t be positive sum. Players need more motivation to compete beyond the simple ‘its fun to win’. If you look at PvP as a risk vs reward formula, where the two must balance each other out, clearly the higher you make the risk the greater you make the reward. And perhaps more importantly, the lower you set the risk, the lower you can make the reward. Remove risk, and you basically remove reward. That’s the current state of BG’s in WoW, zero risk. Regardless if I watch TV and make my character twitch for 30 minutes, or if I go all out and play to the full extent of my abilities, at the end both methods will eventually get me enough points to purchase every single item I could want. Even worse is the fact that method two might only speed this process up by a marginal amount, depending on random factors I have no control over. With that as your reward system, it’s no wonder why so many WoW players could care less about BG performance, and why so many play a team based activity in a purely singular fashion. Even players that put the time and effort into building a twink generally don’t care about winning a BG as much as they care about scoring huge critical hits on lower level players, ignoring anything that might be going on around them.

If you need further proof, gather 15 people together, level yourself to say level 25, queue up as a group to AB, and see what happens. Unless you run into a pre-built team of twinks, you will likely dominate AB even against full teams of level 29 players. Half the opposition will likely run around at random, running into 3v1 situations and getting themselves murdered. You will easily be able to control the 3-4 players that actually seem to be trying to win. Level that same team to 29, get half decent gear, and you can 5 cap AB all day long, to the point that AB won’t even be fun for you anymore, simply because nothing you face is a challenge.

It’s a very sad state, and hopefully future games are learning this valuable lesson from WoW. Learning that perhaps giving everyone something may be a short term way of keeping people happy, but long term it destroys the system, and converts it into a mindless points grind.

So try harder…

December 26, 2007

More PvP talky talk, only a bit more ranty this time!

Tobold made a post today talking about Raph’s PvP post, to which I responded to back here. Yes, confusing blog interlinking at its best here folks.

Tobold for some time now has taken the stance of ‘positive sum’ for PvP, meaning everyone involved has to come out ahead, winner and loser. His reasoning is that no one wants to pay $15 a month to be kicked around daily. He backs this up by quoting a fellow guild mate who was complaining about the recent changes to honor gain in Alterac Valley in WoW; the change being the loser gets far less honor then they did previously, in an effort to emphasize winning.

This made me wonder, at which point did we all get so soft that we can’t accept defeat, that we all expect a cookie for effort regardless of the outcome. This reminds me of the parents who want to put a scoring limit on high school sports, or who want to give every team a trophy at the end of the season regardless of the win/loss record. Hugs all around. Good thing the real world works like that too right, otherwise we might be setting our kids up for a harsh dose of reality whenever we finally expose them to it. Good luck with that speech when little Tommy gets cut from the team, even though you have been telling him he is a winner all along.

The sad result of carebearing PvP is that people stop caring. The reason people AFK in WoW PvP is that it works. You still get a cookie, so why put the effort in? It’s the same reason you see level 20 players queue up for the 20-29 battleground. Sure they can’t do a thing in the match, and more than likely lead to their sides defeat, but since they get points anyway, why not? You can be the biggest asshat in the world, and WoW will still reward you. You will eventually get your easy-mode epics just like everyone else, even if you have never actually won a single round of PvP, or ever bothered to work as a team, or learn actual strategy.

With EVE still growing, clearly there is a market for PvP that actually matters, where being an asshat has consequences. EVE has negative sum PvP, but it’s only negative to those that refuse to pay attention, or stop to think once in a while. If you fly out in your new battleship to low-sec, without scouting or knowing what you are doing, you should learn a pricy lesson. The next time you buy that expensive ship, maybe you will be a bit more careful, and actually respect the world around you. It’s an MMO, sorry, you are not the hero. If the only thing you can handle in a game is to be the center of attention at all times, I suggest a single player game.

And before anyone leaves the comment of ‘it’s a game, I play for fun’, I’ll counter with so does everyone else. If I queue up to PvP in WoW, it’s because I want to have fun and PvP. It’s not fun to finally get in only to see your side is half full with AFK and lowbie players. You know you are going to get rolled, and the only question left is whether the other side is going to farm you in the middle for a bit, or just run up and down the field to end the battle quickly. Give WoW a harsher penalty for death, and all of a sudden the afk and lowbie farmers are gone, and what is left is people that actually enjoy PvP for the competition, people that have half a clue to what they are doing. All of a sudden Tommy asshat either learns to play nice, or continues to get kicked around until he does.

I hope that Warhammer online does not take the ‘hugs all around’ approach to PvP. Not only would that bastardize the lore of Warhammer, but it would lead to the laughable PvP we see in WoW. Tobold wonders why players would bother to defend Keeps if they don’t get some personal reward for doing so, even in a losing effort. I wonder if that thought ever crossed the minds of DAoC players when they defended Keeps or raided for relics, or if EVE players ever bothered to consider some new shiny when they go out and risk a kitted ship in a PvP tourney…

Maelstrom Podcast

December 26, 2007

Posting this a bit late, but go check out the newest Maelstrom Podcast here. I was lucky enough to jump on Skype and join in on the round table. Enjoy everyone!

My comp is dead.

December 21, 2007

So I wake up this morning, go to turn on my 3+ year old computer, and I get ‘beep….beep….beep’. No image on the screen, fans spinning, keyboard and mouse lights go on, and the beep.

The computer was on when I went to sleep, and everything is plugged in still, so I know it’s not a “check your cables” type of deal. The monitor power light is fine.

Some quick research points me towards the BIOS having an issue, either the BIOS battery, or something worse. Not really sure what to do at this point… anyone?

Mythos patch quick thoughts.

December 20, 2007

With the recent Mythos patch, I decided to log in and check out the changes. I logged in with my level 14 Bloodletter and started looking around. The first very noticeable things are guild names and icons above most characters. It’s nothing major, but also nothing obnoxious, which is good. I have used the free respect the patch provided, putting points in a PBAOE ability that seems very effective so far. In addition to some solid damage, it also summons a tornado of sorts, slowing all enemies around it. I’ve only run a few quests so far, but everything still seems sharp and attractive. Mythos is one of those games that’s fun to just load up and play around with for an hour or so, and each patch continues to improve it in very meaningful ways.

People in general chat seem to be excited about hardcore mode (you die your character is gone) and elite mode (hard mode basically). I have yet to try either out, but I know in Diablo 2 hardcore mode certainly added a sense of desperation to major fights, so I might give it a try in Mythos as well. The patch notes also mention something called “Zivia’s Puzzle Box”, which is hopefully a horodric cube-like item to transform gems into more useful versions. My bank is overflowing with chipped gems of all sorts. Guess I’ll have to do a quick search about that soon.

If anyone is looking for a Diablo-like game, I highly recommend signing up for the beta. The game is very stable and a good time even in this unfinished state.

Re-tooling raiding content; let the casuals play too.

December 19, 2007

Damion over at Zen of Design made a great post about why Blizzard continues to make raiding content. It’s a well though out article backed up by some good data about raider numbers and exactly why level 70s need content and not 30s.

While I agree with his premise, I think both he and Blizzard are missing one major feature they could implement to silence the ‘no more raiding content’ crowd; tweak former raiding zones for group content. When you roll out a new raid, also roll out the lowest raid as a group instance. So for instance when you rolled out AQ40, convert MC from 40 man to 5 or 10 man. Nax comes out, BWL becomes a 5-10 man instance, and so on. Same with the current raiding content in Outland, downgrade it once higher tier stuff is released.

Outside of a few encounters in each zone, the tweak should not be all that difficult. Most raid trash is difficult simply because they hit hard and have a huge amount of HP, both easily tuned down. For the few bosses that really require more people, perhaps one or two abilities would have to be removed, or altered, but again the basics would be similar. Adjust the items to be in line with the difficulty and the current state of itemization, which usually would mean actually increasing their power.

The benefits of such a program would be many. For one, casuals would know that if a new raid was announced, sometime down the line they would also have access to it. No more ‘I’ll never see Illidan, and that was the highlight of TBC for me’ posts on the forums. This would also keep those instances useful far beyond their original intent; the bleeding edge of content. All that time designing the encounters, the lore, the art, all of it would not go to waste once you raise the level cap or release the next top end raid. And unlike creating all those new assets, re-tooling former raids would require far fewer resources. Plus all the usual bugs with new content have already been ironed out by your test dummies… err I mean raiders.

Converting these former raids to smaller group stuff would also server another purpose; exposing casuals to raid-like conditions. Things like removing debuffs, agro management, mana efficiency, positioning, etc. Even on a smaller scale, these things would remain in the former raid zones. Just because you are attempting Onyxia with 10 people rather than 40 does not mean you can have your priest stand by her tail, or in front to eat fire. Yes she won’t hit as hard, or require as much fire resist gear, or release the same amount of whelps, but the basics of the encounter could remain the same. The tank would still need to hold agro, meaning the dps won’t be able to go all out. The healers would still need to be efficient, as the fight would still be a marathon and not a sprint. And everyone would need to mind their positioning to avoid running into the whelp eggs, getting tail swiped, or eating fire.

With these ‘intro to raid’ conditions, perhaps more players would realize they might enjoy raiding. Perhaps it would not be bleeding edge raiding scoring world firsts, but to join a more ‘casual’ raiding guild attempting 2-3 encounters a week. With their experience in the former raiding zones under their belt, it would be less frustrating for raiding guilds to bring these new players in, without having to teach them all the basics. Win win, for both the players and the raiding guilds looking to beef up their numbers.

But something tells me it’s not as easy as it sounds, or that I must be missing something major here. Otherwise, why would EQ1 not have done this with their endless amount of unused raiding content, let alone the empty instances in WoW now…?

Emails, Weather, and Gnomeregan.

December 18, 2007

4 hours to delete 117,000 emails. Super cool.

Oh, and it was 9 degrees this morning.

Gnomeregan tonight, interested to see how it goes since the 2.3 changes. Anything major change?


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