Over the weekend in DarkFall I purchased a large amount of iron ingots and q1 hearts to finally get my bloodcrafting skill to 60+, which allows me to make bloodcrafted plate chests and helms. Now in addition to the skill requirements and the usual materials needed to craft a plate helm, you also need three hag heart and two beastman teeth. Farming up the hag hearts is rather painless, as they are easy mobs and there is a fast-spawning 5 spawn of them not too far from Bladethorpe.
Getting the beastman teeth is a little harder. While there is a great double-spawn of beastman just south of Jeradan (ally hamlet), they are far trickier to take down than the hags solo. The real issue is that with my current character in decent gear, I can soften them up with magic and then finish one off with melee, but this usually leaves me below 50% HP if things go well, and at times near 10% if they don’t. The beastmen are dangerous because not only do they hit rather hard in melee, but they also have access to some powerful magic that, if they decide to spam you with it, can spike the damage quickly.
Now it’s not that dying itself is catastrophic, as usually it just means another short trip from Jeradan back to a tombstone, but it does cut into farming efficiency, and of course there is always the chance that either someone catches you while farming, or just happens to come across your tombstone while you are running back.
So on Monday I went at that spot solo for a few hours and everything went well. I collected a decent amount of teeth, got some gold, got some skill-ups, all good. And that got me thinking about how I spend some of my time in-game; like what I do and why. Here is a quick breakdown of the gains from those hours of farming and what I really gained from doing it. I’m out there for the teeth, which I need to make the bloodcrafted helms, which give a nice 8-9hp boost over a normal plate helm. Now the helm starts with about 50 durability at my current level of wisdom and trueforge armor, which is not bad. The helms will soon be enchanted with a q3-4 feather enchantment that reduces encumbrance, and then (hopefully) used in PvE until they are at about 10 durability, at which point I will transition them into PvP bags. It’s highly probable that the PvP bag, with the helm included, will be lost in the first 2-3 PvP engagements it’s involved in. Odds are very high that the 8-9hp gained from the bloodcrafting will not be the difference between victory and defeat.
In other words, I was out happily farming mobs primarily for what will, at best, give me a slight edge in PvP at some point, while giving me a non-essential PvE boost before that. A ton of ‘work’ for a very minor gain: that’s basically the MMO formula in a nutshell.
Which gets me to my overall point for today (hey only five paragraphs in!), talking once again about SW:TOR and why all this talk about story and just fun gameplay is a bit off when talking about an MMO, because that’s just not how it works. MMOs work like what I wrote above, with you slowly working towards something rather than always being ‘in the moment’.
Another example: While I loved both Dragon Age and Fallout 3, and think both games are amazing, towards the end of both I was basically playing them just to see the endings and officially finish them. What was highly entertaining content and combat in the first 30-40 hours was now a barrier between me and the final conclusion to a story I wanted to wrap up. I was ‘burnt out’ on their versions of character progression, gear acquisition, and chasing the little side pieces of content they included. If I was not as odd about ‘finishing’ a game as I am, I most likely would have stepped away somewhere just after 40 hours, and this from two of the RPG genre’s best offerings. Needless to say I was never very temped by the DLC either title offers, and certainly not at the price-point they offer it at.
My point though is that always being in the moment and always being at the heart of the ‘fun’ content is just not sustainable for hundreds of hours. I fully believe any game designed to be played for hundreds if not thousands of hours needs a healthy amount of ‘work’ content included with the ‘fun’ content. It’s that ‘work’ content that highlights the ‘fun’ bits and makes actually accomplishing something feel actually rewarding rather than just being told, yet again, what an amazing hero you are by some AI script. Hearing it the first time, hey great, but after the 100th, most of us simply no longer place any value in that AI script cheering us on (and so we skip quest dialog).
One major key difference between a successful MMO and one that ultimately fails is not how ‘epic’ your highpoints are, or how great special feature X is, but how enjoyable the ‘work’ aspect of your game is. This is where Blizzard nailed it with WoW, because the most very basic aspect of the game, combat, is incredibly smooth, responsive, and just plain fun (until you start drooling on your keyboard and your drool hitting the keys is enough input to overcome the final boss of a dungeon, but I think I’ve covered that topic here a few times already). DarkFall also has great (best in class IMO) combat at it’s core, which is what makes killing the same mob for a few hours in one day, and dozens upon dozens yearly, enjoyable, while making the highlight moments (PvP) feel so rewarding.
I’ve not heard much about how refined the combat is in SW:TOR, or how much focus has been spent on getting that aspect down to a razor-sharp point before fleshing everything else out. I mean I still (I’m weird) remember pre-release WoW interviews from Blizzard talking about spending a huge amount of time working on tiny little ‘feel’ details with the combat, making sure the hotbar responds exactly how you would expect, that the amount of input from moving forward ‘feels’ right with that happens on the screen; tiny stuff like that.
I again come to the conclusion that SW:TOR is going to end up playing, and ‘feeling’ a whole lot more like Dragon Age of Fallout 3 than WoW/DF, which will ultimately make it a great $60 purchase, but not something I’ll be playing after the first month or so. Like I’ve said before, that makes for a great game, but a terrible MMO. Now excuse me, I’ve got a .01% damage increase to chase after.