Grab a torch and join the idiot mob.

November 26, 2008

I like the color blue.

Half the internet now thinks I hate the color red.

Seriously, that seems to be the way things work now. Mark Jacobs makes a post talking about NEW things coming to WAR in the near future, and half the readers glaze over it and feel it’s a (everyone’s favorite) ‘slap in the face’. “No mention of lag, clearly no solution to the lag is EVA coming!11!1!!one!1″

How informative would the post have been if all Mark said was “we have people working on improving client performance and server stability, enjoy”? Torches would have been lit and the idiot mob would be out demanding solutions to whatever their current problem is. We know they are working on improving the client; all MMO teams are constantly working on that. You have to be truly delusional to think a new game is going to have the same level of fixes and tweaks that an MMO out for 4-5 years has. It’s also delusional to think you can just drop everything, and get every single worker tweaking server performance. Joe the plumber won’t fix the lag, even if he spends all 250k+ of his plumber income on it. The best the art team can do is draw you a picture of a stable server, but somehow I don’t think that will really be all that helpful.

Reactions like this, and I know it’s not the first time in MMO history, remind me why most developers don’t like communicating with fans. No matter what you say, the idiot mob is going to find something to bitch about, no matter how off-topic it might be.


Breaking down Mark Jocob’s WAR update

November 25, 2008

Mark Jacobs gave the WAR community an update on Mythic’s future plans for Warhammer, specifically the continued focus on making open RvR WARs absolute main attraction. It encouraging to know Mythic recognizes what separates WAR from other MMOs, and will focus on oRvR over PvE and scenarios, two aspects of WAR that are good enough as is. This post will be in break-down fashion, as I think Mark talks about a lot of important changes, changes that are much needed and perhaps long overdue.

Folks,

Over the last few months I’ve spoken about our continued focus on improving our open RvR systems. While we have taken some major steps in the last month, we believe that there is much more we can do to encourage people to take part in oRvR throughout the entire evolution of their character(s). Over the next few months we have some very exciting changes and additions taking place. Please note that as always, this does not represent everything that either we are doing or thinking about doing, just what we, as of now, plan on adding to WAR.

Somewhat basic here, other than the fact that Mythic now acknowledges oRvR as the main focus of WAR, rather than a piece of the puzzle in addition to scenarios and PvE. Major step forward, as no one is playing WAR because of it’s amazing PvE, or because we were looking for an update to WoW BG system. Scenarios will improve with class balance changes, and PvE (imo of course) is good enough right now to fill in the gaps between oRvR. The lack of oRvR has placed too much attention on PvE, which is why it continues to come up as an issue.

We have a number of major initiatives planned for oRvR in WAR. Please keep in mind that these changes/systems apply to oRvR only and not to scenarios. This is not all we are working on but these do reflect the majority of oRvR additions that we are currently working on/planning for the next few months.

Interesting statement only if over analyzed, but since this is exactly that, here goes. Pointing out that the changes are being made to oRvR, and not scenarios, seems somewhat bold to me. Previously Mythic was afraid to alter the importance of scenarios, mainly because of how popular they were. It’s encouraging to see that they are moving away from this stance, and willing to downgrade the effect scenarios have on the overall focus of the game.

First, we have created an RvR Influence system. This system is designed to reward our oRvR players with lots of new stuff that you can only get through oRvR. This will be a complimentary system to our PQ Influence system. This system is already implemented in 1.1 and is scheduled to go LIVE along with that version in December.

Another huge addition to the very anticipated 1.1 patch (and overhyped? Can you overhype a patch?). This was something fans and bloggers have commentated on often, and Mythic has responded. How the influence system was not in oRvR from day one is a bit puzzling, but at least it’s being added in fairly quickly. As long as the itemization is in line with the rest of the game, this should be well received.

Second, we want to improve the visibility that players have into oRvR and make it easier for players to get involved in the action quickly and easily. We have a number of wide-ranging changes going into our map and travel systems to allow players to better understand the state of oRvR in our game and also allow them to get to the action faster. We have already taken one step with putting a Rally Master in each Warcamp but we will also add the ability for people to have a second bind point to make it even easier for players to move around the maps. We will also make it easily for players to see where players from their Realm are engaging in oRvR, a Campaign HUD for all tiers and other improvements We will also improve Tier-wide messaging about what is going on in Battlefield Objectives and Keeps. Other additions include changes to the UI, in-game manual improvements, map enhancements, and a few other changes.

I found this section interesting because it’s a large collection of little fixes, which I think could add up to a big change. WAR’s main problem is getting players together in oRvR, and each piece above is a tiny step towards that ultimate goal. WAR does not need an NGE-style change, but rather a collection of these small steps to help guide players into the best content. The great gameplay is there, Mythic just has to get the players to it now.

Third, we want to provide greater incentives to players to participate in oRvR. In order to accomplish this we will be adding additional layers to the questing system of oRvR including the addition of Keep Quests, “Daily Event Quests”, Chained RvR Missions, improve the initial Tome Unlocks and other oRvR-oriented Events. We will also improve our BO itemization. Our goal is to provide players with even more incentive for participating in oRvR than we have already.

Catering to the PvE crowd here, and I’m ok with that. I think more MMO fans would be PvP fans if it was presented in a shinier package, and the above seeks to do just that. Execution and itemization will be key for these changes, both to keep them in-line with the rest of the game, but also to make them attractive enough for players to bother with.

Fourth, we want to encourage guilds to take and control keeps, and we will continue our work on adding better rewards for Guilds who own Keeps as well as the addition of a system of Keep upgrades. This system will be added to the game in several stages beginning in the late winter.

Late winter is a long ways away, but this is a good change. Currently guilds have very little motivation to own a keep, and increasing that will also increase a guilds willingness to defend one. Adding significant benefits to keep ownership will also strengthen a players motivation to stick with a guild. Mark later made a post about focusing on improving the rewards for defending a keep, which is a major issue right now.

Finally, we will begin work on a global oRvR “Fame” system that will be tied directly to the Tome of Knowledge which will provide more rewards, titles, experience, etc. for participating and being successful in oRvR. This system will provide even more incentives for people to participate in oRvR than the current systems and one that fits nicely both with the ToK’s concept as “This is your life” as well as an additional advancement and reward system.

“Fame” system, interesting. Anything that tracks more day-by-day RvR progress would be good. Let me know which day I killed the most players, which day I captured the most keeps, when I won a gold bag, that kind of stuff.

Please keep in mind that these additions are subject to change and given the nature of these changes/improvements, they will not go LIVE until we have thoroughly tested them. However, these are crucial improvements to WAR and are being treated as such by the team.

So release them yesterday!

Finally, I want to close this out with a brief explanation about the role that we believe that oRvR should play in WAR. It’s really as simple as this, oRvR should be a major focus for leveling, item gain, etc. in WAR. Some of the systems are already in place and in Tier 4, oRvR is alive and well. On other Tiers, however, oRvR is not being engaged in as often as we had hoped when we launched WAR. Our goal is to ensure that oRvR is the place where players can level the fastest, get the best items and overall, have a great time while doing it. It is supposed to be riskier, more challenging but ultimately, more rewarding than any other place within WAR. What is outlined in this letter are some of the ways we plan on making this happen over the next few months and beyond.

Considering keeps were not even in the game in early beta, this is a significant change to the core of the game. Basically, Mythic should have made DAoC 2.0, and not some reinvention of RvR. Mistake made, now time to correct it. Luckily Mythic has shown a willingness to correct mistakes, and do some rather quickly. These changes need to happen before more players bleed out from WAR.

As always, we thank you for your patronage and support. We won’t let you down.

Mark

And if/when you do, fans will let you know. (see: ToA)

There are a few more comments by Mark in the thread, so go scroll through for the full details. And as always, everything above is just talk, and needs to actually be delivered. Events like The Witching Night and Heavy Metal show Mythic CAN react quickly to address issues, but mistakes like keep contribution, itemization, and scenario over-emphasis also show Mythic has a ways to go before they get WAR where it needs to be. Hurry up!


MMOs go through an awkward teenager phase too.

November 24, 2008

It dawned on me this weekend that MMO games suck for a while, and then find their spots and excel. Duh, I know, and it’s not exactly like this is the first time I’ve thought about this, but recent expansions and launched have made this more clear than ever for me. The exceptions to this are UO and WoW. Seriously though I have a point here, hopefully I can explain it adequately (ha, sad attempt to avoid the flame comments)

LoTRO had a great launch, in that the game actually worked. Yet while it worked, it really had no identity. I mean it was kind of like WoW, but not exactly, and the ‘not exactly’ parts were mostly negative. Unresponsive combat, massive hardware demands, gaps in content, etc. It was not until a few patches/months later that LoTRO really put itself together and became what it is today, a solid PvE game that’s not WoW for a lot of good reasons. It uses it’s IP as a strength, it has a very solid following, and it’s a very ‘relaxed’ MMO. It has found its place, it embraces that place, and it really delivers on its promises. It works for its ‘niche’, and I’m using niche as a compliment and not as a backhanded way of saying “you have a small subscriber base”.

Same goes for EQ2. EQ2 started without a real identity, other than the fact that it was EQ but not really. It was also devastated by the fact that WoW came out at the same time, and its level of quality back in 2004 was unheard of in MMO land, making EQ2 look like a relic in the first months of its release. But now EQ2 has a healthy player base, and continues to add content that is clearly appealing to that base. (at least according to Tipa, but Tipa really knows EQ2, so who am I to argue) It’s a PvE game that distinguishes itself from both WoW and LoTRO.

EVE was a disaster at launch. I mean it was an Anarchy Online-scale disaster. But CCP stuck with it, and today it’s the only older MMO that is still growing, and at a good clip at that. It has its market, caters to it, and rarely strays from its goals. It also continues to improve after all these years, with each patch and expansion really adding depth and options for players. It’s also the only really successful Sci-fi MMO, the only MMO were all players are on one giant server, the only MMO with an economy that is something more than pure grind vs inflation, and a host of other ‘unique’ traits to the MMO space.

I’m bias when I say UO got worse because of my utter hate for Trammel. It has been pointed out countless times, Trammies helped UO increase its player base bla bla bla. Tram changed UO, taking it away from a virtual world and into “it’s just a game” territory. We will never know if UO could have continued to grow like EVE had it stuck to its PvP roots, rather than trying to be an EQ-too game. EVE shows us that the theory that all MMO games peak and then decline is false, and it’s unfortunate that we will never know if UO could have followed a similar path. Much like EVE today, UO pre-tram had a lot going for it (crafting, economy, low item dependence, player determined territory control), and it was a lot more than just the sensationalized player-killing. (which similar to EVE, is often talked about, but rarely actually seen)

WoW in 2004 was a much different game than it is today, and not just from a technical standpoint. In 2004 the focus of the game was leveling and exploring Azeroth, with very strong connections to the lore established in previous Warcraft games. The pace was much slower, the races and factions were far more unique, and the world had a more ‘traditional’ fantasy MMO feel to it. It still had humor and all that, but it was not as ‘mainstream’ as WoW is today. It was not until Blizzard began to patch in only high-level content that it became rather clear what the true focus of the game was, and at around that time the feelings of “the real game starts at cap” started to creep up. Today this is painfully obvious with the completely forgotten 1-60 content, the speed leveling, and the overall focus of activity once a player hits the level cap. Clearly it works for many, but IMO it hurts WoW from what it was in 2004-5. WoW was not always an e-sport/purple chase.

All of this random rambling because of Warhammer Online, and it’s current state. I think Warhammer is going through the now traditional MMO cycle of trying to find itself, focusing on its strengths, and learning who the player base for it is. Like LoTRO, it had a solid launch, has its unique features, and still has a bit too much WoW-likeness to it. Even in the early months however, Mythic is moving WAR towards its (hopefully) inevitable place as DAoC 2.0, a mass market PvP game. Not quite EVE PvP, not quite WoW hand-holding, but some nice place in the middle. Too bad we can’t fast forward and skip the awkward growing pains. At least everyone playing now will be able to make a future “back in my WAR days, we walked uphill both ways to a Keep siege” blog post…


Warhammer’s major problem, the players.

November 20, 2008

Warhammer is plagued by some rather terrible flaws, flaws that should have been tested in beta. The flaws have nothing to do with coding errors or graphical problems, but rather center around player actions and motivation. Warhammer Online’s biggest problem is the players are simply not playing it correctly.

Now before you go and post a “don’t blame the players” comment, relax and keep reading. On paper, everything in WAR works. In execution, each piece also works on its own. Scenarios are a noticeable improvement over WoW battlegrounds, PQs are a clever new way to implement PvE, and RvR is a ton of fun when players are battling over keeps or objectives, and truly does separate WAR from other MMOs in that regard. The engine supports PvP above and beyond what previous MMOs have done, and the balance is remarkable for a new MMO with so many class options and abilities.

The problem occurs when you put everything together, and then let MMO players enter the world and decide what they do next. Who could have predicted that contrary to the massive Alliance/Horde imbalance, WAR would feature the exact opposite? What happened to everyone wanting to be the knight in shining armor? Who could have predicted that in a game that starts at level one, rather than at the cap, players would STILL race towards the end regardless of anything around them, and do so in the most grind-like manner? (one scenario per tier)

Mythic coded an amazing game. They nailed the look and feel of the Warhammer IP, they had a great launch, and they continue to support the game at a rapid pace. What Mythic failed to do is provide enough motivation to herd players in the right direction, to guide them towards the great content they have provided. In today’s MMO market, it’s no longer enough just to provide quality content; you also have to guide your players to it. Take for instance open groups. Open groups make finding players for PQs or RvR rather simple, yet many players still don’t know about the /join command, or that you can look at all the open groups around you by clicking an icon. The best way to gather players is still to advertise in regional chat, and this clearly shows the general lack of awareness by players. Lairs are another example of wasted content. Instead of being explored and discovered by players, lairs go largely ignore, not because they are not entertaining (they are), but because the players are not guided to them. (Which is the design point of lairs, to be found by explorers, but clearly catering to the explorer means you exclude the masses)

It’s safe to say Mythic is now aware of this rather dire problem, as the last two events have been a virtual hand-holding to guide players into content. The Witching Night brought RvR lakes to life, and now Heavy Metal directs players on a daily basis, be it towards a scenario, some PQs, or whatever else Mythic has planned. It’s a good first step, but it makes you wonder why it’s a step being taken a month after release, rather than something fleshed out and ready to go on day one. What would Mythic’s retention rate look like if more players have experienced a great keep battle before bolting towards more neon pastures?

Blizzard, masters of hand-holding, gave the MMO market an innovative step forward with daily instances (was Blizzard the first MMO to do this? It’s always dangerous saying Blizzard was the first to do anything…), but Mythic should ‘borrow’ the idea and take it a step further. As others have commented in the past, we need daily RvR lakes, or daily keeps, or even daily scenarios. Each day a new focus, something that drives the majority towards a single point. Fluff rewards are enough to drive players, so create an overall influence bar that runs for a month or so of time, and at each influence level hand out trophies, titles, whatever. Each month reset the bar, mix up the rewards, and continue to guide players. Save the major events for really game-changing stuff like new classes or major content updates.

Who would have guessed that the biggest problem facing WAR would not be content, bugs, or stability, but rather player motivation? Clearly not Mythic, but now lets just hope they move quickly to provide that motivation, and get players into the great content they already created.

And just for the record, I myself have not really experience the majority of the problems listed above. I’ve never had an issue finding a group for a PQ, I’ve seen plenty of RvR, and I’ve never been at a lack for content or something new. That said, Monolith seems to be a very well balanced server, and playing with Forsaken and CoW really helps, so I understand that my situation is somewhat different from the majority. I also understand how /join works, but that’s just elitist old me…


MMO natural selection, and what it means to your game.

November 19, 2008

In the most recent SUWT podcast (always good stuff btw), the crew got off on a tangent when talking about the cultural differences between players of EVE Online and WoW. EVE players embrace scams, trickery, underhandedness, and generally resent any changes that would ‘dumb down’ EVE. In WoW that gets you quickly banned, and before that rivers swell from all the tears shed while players scream mommy.

The ‘why’ of the issue is of course multi-faceted. One major factor would be the game rules. EVE is harsh on day one, and stays that way. WoW holds your hand from 1-80, and makes sure you get a cookie regardless if you win or lose. EVE not only takes your cookie, but laughs at you for bringing one in the first place. Another factor is overall complexity. To really succeed in EVE, you have to know what you are doing and pay attention. You can’t just run a mod and become a market genius, watching the money flow in endlessly. You can read all the guides you can find, but more often than not you actually have to make a few costly mistakes before you learn something in EVE. The rewards are often more meaningful, but the path is also far more difficult.

The rules of any given MMO are, in many ways, a modified version of natural selection. EVE quickly breeds out the ‘weak’ MMO players, and only those who can survive in the ‘sandbox with mines’ stay around and thrive. On the other hand, with its super low barrier of entry, WoW is accessible to anyone with enough brain cells to double click an icon. When Blizzard marketed WotLK stating “Your definition of epic will be shattered”, they might be referring to the fact that even brain-dead monkeys will shortly be decked out in ‘epic’ gear. The definition has indeed been shattered, to an all-time low. The argument that “11 million gamers can’t be wrong” holds about as much water as stating that McDonalds is as good as it gets for food, since 1 billion customers can’t be wrong…

In most games, who else is playing is generally a non-factor. I’ll enjoy Fallout 3 regardless of who else picks it up, but this same rule does not apply in an MMO. We log on and interact with the world around us, and if everyone around us is an ignorant 13 year old who still thinks its cool to be an e-thug, that seriously impacts my enjoyment. PUG groups in WoW are a perfect example of this. Outside of WoW, pickup groups are an excepted and encouraged part of an MMO, yet in WoW they are avoided like the plague. To further complicate the matter, Blizzard’s solution was to remove almost any need for a PUG until the very end, brushing the problem under the rug rather than addressing it directly.

While listening to the discussion, it got me thinking about the direction Mythic can take with Warhammer. While it’s no EVE, WAR has yet to reach even 2004 WoW, let alone the 2008 version, in terms of challenge and player accountability. It will be interesting to see whether Mythic has the patience of CCP (the makers of EVE) to grow their vision and let their game mature naturally, or if they try to go for the quick sellout and dumb everything down, trying to appeal to the zombie masses. While making money is certainly the goal of any company, it’s not always the one and only goal. At some point pride in what you do factors in, and sometimes providing a higher level of service supersedes cutting every corner to chase every last penny. Hopefully Mythic caters to the fans they have, rather then excluding them for ones they don’t.


Quick Heavy Metal thoughts.

November 19, 2008

Heavy Metal, Warhammer’s second live event, when um… live yesterday. What that basically means is we have a new scenario to play, along with quick daily tasks to complete in order to gain early access to the two new tank classes coming out in December.

My initial thought was ‘weee, a scenario…’, but Reikland Factory is actually very impressive. It has a close quarters feel while allowing for a multitude of attack points and travel routes. It plays very fast, matches lasting between 5-10 minutes, and the two sides colliding early and often. The scoring system is also interesting, in that the center control point grants more points when it is captured, but less points over time, making it a good target to attack, but not something you can just hold and win. Early strategy seems to involve controlling the outer points while fighting skirmishes over the middle. Also of interest is that one of the outer points is placed very close to both sides spawn point, making it a hotspot for combat.

The event works well for me, since I’m trying to catch my renown rank up, and scenarios are a great way to do that, so I’ll be seeing Reikland early and often.


Tales from the MMO bandwagon

November 18, 2008

MMOG Nation today has a post with some pre and post WAR launch reactions, which as expected go from unrealistic hype to ‘worst game eva’ faster than Usain Bolt. It’s entertaining to watch, but nothing new for an MMO launch. People overhyped EQ1, played for a month, and bitch that it too sucked compared to UO. The only difference today is the bandwagon holds far more people thanks to WoW.

PvP in an MMO is an idea that a lot of people like the sound of. PvP is also something a lot of MMO fans don’t actually like to play when you get down to it. PvP is harder than PvE, it’s less ‘fair’, and when you lose repeatedly it’s a direct reflection on you, rather than being able to lay blame on some code and a script. If you are on the short end of the stick in PvP consistently, at some point it’s more a reflection on you than it is anything the game itself is doing, and that’s a tough pill to swallow for a lot of people. They don’t want to log in and be reminded that someone out there is just better then they are. We all want to be the one true hero, right? That’s why PvE is so easy; the NPCs never pack up and leave because your class is overpowered, they fight you repeatedly even if you zerg them, and they are even nice enough to wait around for you in the same exact spot each time. It’s easy to be the hero when the villain lets you win.

To me what separates PvP fans is we understand the limits of PvE, the downfalls of PvP, and in the end the benefits of PvP outweigh the convenience of PvE. Which is not to say PvE sucks and you suck if you like it, that’s not the point. The point is for a certain percentage of the MMO fan base, we would rather trade in the safety of PvE for the ever-changing aspects of PvP, good and bad. While we are annoyed with zergs, item imbalance, ganking, and all the other negative aspects of PvP, they don’t annoy us ENOUGH to outweigh the rush from a quality PvP encounter. Just like pure PvE annoys us with its predictability, safety, and ultimately carbon-copy nature. Killing Illidan might make you feel like a hero for a moment, but you are just following the motions of thousands of players before you, and nothing you did makes you a unique snowflake. You simply repeated the scripted steps necessary for the loot piñata to pop. And again, for a lot of people, popping that piñata is exactly what they want out of an MMO, they want to log on and know the piñata is back up, waiting for its beating. The idea that the piñata might fight back, or bring its candy-filled friends to gank you are not something that is ultimately appealing.

So with all that said, is WAR doomed to follow in the revered footsteps of PvP MMO games like ShadowBane and Fury, bleeding angry subscribers until it folds? Of course not, and if anything, WAR is on a good pace to accomplish exactly what Mythic set out to do, become the #2 subscription based MMO in North America and the EU. Only the truly delusional are surprise that the bandwagon is emptying and people are scurrying back to WoW and its 10 new levels of neon. Everyone knew this would happen, just like we all know in 3-4 months, when the neon starts to dim, the hype will again begin to swell for the next MMO baby jesus to come save us all. And while the bandwagon jumpers will forever chase after the hype of the ‘next’ MMO, fans of each game remain and continue to enjoy themselves, be it LoTRO, EVE, EQ2, WoW, or WAR. And as long as each company caters to that fan base, everything will work itself out just fine. We will continue to get the content we enjoy, while being able to watch and enjoy the show that is the MMO dreamer bandwagon.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 167 other followers