Old nightmares still haunt some people.

February 26, 2009

Dear Lum,

Some of us remember the torment that was pre-trammies UO for you. You got killed, ganked, decapitated, harassed, etc. People called you fat, and a picture of you ‘leaked’ out and was the source of entertainment for many. Basically wtfman.com would ridicule your futile attempts to play UO on a daily basis. We understand; UO was really hard for you. But you need to move on; you need to let the wounds heal. After all, bitching daily on your site about all those mean PKs got you a job at Mythic for a bit, plus that NCSoft game, right?

So while Darkfall launching might bring back all those awful memories for you, not all of us have had all that pent up anger festering in us. Most of us grew up, moved on, and are now looking forward to reliving some good times with old friends, even if that means picking on the next easy target whiny fat kid. Who knows, maybe by ganking him, he will grow up to be an indie designer as well.


Well I screwed something up…

February 25, 2009

While editing the CSS for this blog, I changed… something… to make the header image disappear. Anyone have any idea wtf I could have changed to do this? The only change I made was editing the sidebar color. Is this something that happens when you edit CSS for the first time, or some known wordpress problem?

edit: Checking my media/images section on wordpress, it seems the old header is now gone… The file location is still there, but no image is actually showing up. So odd…

edit2: Deleting the old header (the blank), and re-uploading the image does nothing. Under appearance -> Custom Header wordpress is still showing the correct image, but on the actual blog itself its just the default blue color.

edit3: Well got the image back, but now the tagline is stuck in gray color (although I’m ok with that). Changing that one color was totally not worth it.


Congress: QQ more noobz

February 25, 2009

“We have legislation here now with the money to do something about the schools, do something about water and sewage along that corridor in these 12 counties. And now the governor says, ‘I don’t want to accept the money.’ That’s why I called this an insult, that’s why I said this is a slap in the face, because a majority of those counties are, in fact, inhabited by African-Americans,” (South Carolina Rep. James) Clyburn said on CNN’s Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.

Well now, clearly someone has been reading MMO class forums. Maybe Clyburn plays a Witch Elf and was thinking about the 1.2 patch when he was on with Wolf… I wonder if ‘slap in the face’ gets the same reaction in Congress that it does on forums. Think anyone showed him an ascii Picard?


The highs and lows of RvR, a worthwhile tradeoff

February 23, 2009

WAR RvR is one frustrating bastard, and I’m not talking about city PQs, scenarios, or why the layout of T4 zones sucks/rocks. It’s frustrating because when everything aligns and you get the right (not even) number of Destruction and Order players in one area, with good leadership and coordination fighting it out, it’s amazing. I mean ‘best MMO experience out’ amazing. It’s only then that you start to notice the details put into the layout of each RvR area (no, they are not all basically the same), the balance between the classes (not as bad as some of the QQ you read), and just overall how well the engine handles everything (up to a certain number of players, but that upper cap is incredibly high all things considered).

The problem is, the stars are not aligned every single time you log on, which makes NOT having that experience more painful because of how quality it really is. Sometimes one side greatly outnumbers the other, and when that happens no amount of terrain layout or class balance is going to change the fact that the zerg is going to roll you. Other times the sides are so evenly matched it’s a stalemate, and the usual objective flipping and keep ignoring sets in, with the campaign not progressing past the current zone. And sometimes (depending on your servers population), there is just nothing really going on, and the RvR areas give off a seriously empty feeling.

Mythic has an incredible challenge ahead of them, and that’s getting all those factors listed above aligning more often, and creating that ‘perfect RvR’ feeling more frequently. It’s a tough task, considering so many of those factors are near-random due to player involvement. If you over-incentive players to look one way, they will in turn ignore everything else (the now-fixed scenario problem), but if you don’t provide SOME incentives, players tend to get lost and wander without goals. The balance is key, and will often swing on its own based on player/server maturity. What works on one server will be disastrous on another.

It’s this never-ending balancing act that makes WAR a bit tougher to stick with than a more traditional MMOs for many players. When you log into EQ2/WoW/LotRO, the content is sitting there waiting for you. Sure it’s just a script that always plays out in the same way, but at least it’s available. It’s the choice between poor/great or constantly decent, and it’s easy to focus on the poor if you tend to dwell on the negative. As someone who has been a fan of PvP since the early days of MMOs, I’ve developed somewhat of a tougher skin, accepting that the tradeoff for those high points is a string of low points. For me, I’ll take that over the day-to-day mediocrity that is the norm in more traditional games now. But I guess that makes me part of the niche crowd now.


Shocker, MMO questing sucks.

February 23, 2009

Having gone back (again) to TES Oblivion, its once again painful how bad questing is in MMOs. When you compare the best quests from your favorite MMO, and you look at some of the better quests in a game like Oblivion, it’s not even remotely close.

Oblivion has a bunch of ‘random’ dungeons and ruins to explore, non-quest stuff you enter to skill up and gain loot. These are entirely optional, the difficulty, length, and rewards vary (more so with one of the mods that tweaks the games auto-level feature), and you can go in/out at will. These locations are generally the equivalent of most MMO quest content, and in some cases far better. But Oblivion never pretends that these dungeons are its main content, or its focus, and that’s something MMOs have yet to learn.

MMOs try to hide simple tasks behind the word ‘quest’, and spend a lot of time putting filler around that task to make it seem special. That needs to stop. The reason most people skip flavor text is because there is too much of it and the good gets lost in the bla. If the game wants me to kill ten rats, just have an NPC tell me “go kill ten rats and I’ll give you gold”. Don’t pretend the rat kill task is something epic because the poor static NPC’s family is starving due to the rats getting into his grain bla bla bla. I don’t care, I’m killing rats in order to move my xp bar along, not because I want to save the static NPCs family (which I can’t anyway, and we all know that going into it)

If an MMO was up front with its tasks, the actual quests would in turn stand out, and players would have a better understanding on when they are working on something more epic, and when they are logging on for an hour to move their xp bar along. Just like we don’t like quests with simple tasks, we also don’t ALWAYS want to be working on something epic, sometimes we just want to log on and grind out some mindless content, as that can be relaxing and non-committal.

Labeling the simpler activities as tasks also allows the developer to drop the other unnecessary quest trappings like flavor text, repeatability, and a set reward. What if every task had a somewhat random reward, with a 90% chance to get just gold, and a 10% chance to get something random, be it gear or bonus gold or an xp boost. Nothing too major, just something to spice up the act of turning in the task a bit. Leave the major loot for the actual quests, and make sure players know exactly what they are working towards from the start.

The other major fault of current questing in an MMO is its static nature. If you ‘save’ a village, you have just repeated what the past 1000 players have done before you, and the next 1000 will do after. The logic behind this is that if the first player saves the town, and it no longer needs saving, the other 999 players miss out on that content. However if we limit such events to a select group of actual quests, the developers would have a few options to make this work. One would be to create a chain reaction system, where the completion of one quest opens up other choices for future players, and eventually the chain goes back to square one (hopefully long after the first player has moved on). While not a true change, it would at least give a zone some life based on the players. Another option would be a tug-of-war style system, where a player picks a side to quest for, and those quests would put the players directly in competition against each other, each completed step pushing that side further towards victory, changing objectives and available quests. As different players enter the level range of the zone, they too would pick sides and continue the system.

It’s scary that actual questing has changed so little in the MMO space, especially with some many PvE-focused games. Playing it safe is certainly the current trend, but how many elaborately written rat kill quests can we stomach?


The iPhone app store = the MMO space?

February 20, 2009

I found this article about iPhone apps interesting, especially from an MMO fans perspective, as I believe the study is a good reflection of society as a whole right now. In short, lots of initial interest followed by near immediate decline, in this case 50% or so. Sound like a recent trend we are familiar with?

Granted it’s not a straight up apples to apples comparison, as the app store has a bunch of unique factors associated with it, but I think there are some correlations. The trend of ‘new shiny’ applies, as people jump on what looks interesting with limited knowledge of the product. Instead of long magazine previews and reviews, you have a short developer description and user reviews that at times resemble the WoW general forum in usefulness. You more or less sell an app based on its icon and a single screen shot, which makes it very difficult to sift through the clutter and find the few solid apps. Sounds a bit like the F2P MMO market, does it not?


Great Darkfall preview

February 19, 2009

I guess it’s not vaporware after all :)

I found this to be the best Darkfall write-up to date, as it’s written by someone with clear UO/AC experience, and that’s really the core audience DF is aiming for. While I’ve yet to personally play DF, I’ve been following it a bit lately and generally think it’s going to be an interesting game. To echo the preview, it certainly won’t be a game for 99% of all WoW-like players, and the ‘I quit’ posts will certainly dominate the first few months of the games release.

To borrow a phrase from an Alliance member in WAR, “Your QQ tears taste delicious”.


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