LoL Dominion follow-up, and Bioshock

October 10, 2011

League of Legend’s Dominion has been out for a bit now, and I’m still somewhat unsure about it. On the one hand, it’s a lot of fun and lets you play a bunch of different champions. On the other, I still don’t get that MOBA (read: DoTA) feel from it, and playing ranked Summoner’s Rift is still the ‘real’ game in my mind. With that said my day-to-day LoL time is one ranked game, and then a few Dominion games (replacing Normal SR games).

Dominion’s faster pace is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because in almost all games you will get enough gold to complete a core build, and the 10-20 minute timeframe means you can play far more games (and try far more things) than you could playing SR. It’s a curse because there are only a few ‘interesting choices’ to be made during a match. If you capture the top point, you hold it. If you don’t, you attack it. Rinse/repeat until the game ends. There is no counter-jungling, no lane ganking, no laning-to-teamfight-phase transitions, no ward/counter-ward gameplay, no adjusting of item builds based on how the game is going. It really is a simplified version of the game, and I question how successful this will be long-term. Dominion is entertaining now, but I could see it getting “more of the same” very quickly, something SR (because it’s DoTA) has avoided for years (long before LoL came out).

Balance continues to be somewhat of an issue as well. Champs like Ramus, Jax, and Akali are always banned, and for good reason, while champs like Vlad and Nasus are unplayable. This is not a huge issue right now, but when ranked play is available for Dominion, I’m expecting to see some silly, OP combinations played.

In totally unrelated news, I finished Bioshock 1. Great game, great story, got a little long towards the end IMO. The final 30 minutes or so were solid, but the two hours or so before that had a huge “here just to drag the game out” feel IMO. Playing Bioshock 2 now, and so far so good on that front. Considering I picked both games up for $5 on Steam, it’s hard to complain about the value here.


The sky is green, Rift is a WoW-killer, and other fun facts

October 7, 2011

A lot of laughable quotes from Trion here (the only MMO out five years ago was WoW? Really…), but can you really outright lie about how well you are doing these days? I know Xfire is not an exact science, but it’s not totally random either, and Rift is not just the 24th game on the list, it’s behind WoW, Aion, Vindictus, LotRO, and EVE for MMO titles.

If your idea of challenging WoW is having less than 5% of their US/EU* playerbase (based on hours played or total players reporting hours, take your pick) playing your game compared to WoW, um… way to challenge them champ!

*Xfire is clearly not picking up Asia, since Lineage 1 has 0 hours played, yet we know Lineage 1 is still MASSIVILY popular there.

Note: I have not looked at Xfire in a while, but man is LoL killing it.

Fun fact: The login queue last night for LoL had more players (20k+) than Darkfall most likely has in total. Not a bad “PvP hotspot” that queue…


The 5%

October 7, 2011

Note: If this post comes off as a little rambly, sorry. Lot of thoughts swirling in my head + a massive headache = not going to fully explain every last detail. Feel free to comment for clarifications.

I linked to a pretty harsh SW:TOR option piece yesterday, and Ravious over at KTR has a post + lots of comments about it as well. Tobold has a post up on this today as well, taking a slightly different take on the whole thing.

Ultimately all of this just further reinforces what most of us have expected all along; TOR is most likely going to be a pretty solid sRPG (especially if you are into the whole lightsabers thing), with the possibility that the sRPG is ruined by MMO concepts spoiling the fun. And for EA it makes sense to charge MMO prices for TOR, as a 200 hour sRPG is going to take people more than a month to finish, so you might as well charge more than just the box price (Especially when it cost you 300m or whatever to make said 200hr sRPG).

TOR to me is like Farmville when it comes to MMO discussions; both games have MMO aspects, neither game is actually an MMO, so the basics concepts and concerns just don’t apply.

What I do want to touch on today, which is somewhat related to the above (hopefully), is the 5% population of an MMO; the hardcore, the guild leaders/officers, the mod makers, the forum warriors, bloggers, etc.

The more virtual world your MMO is, the more important that 5% is. In a game like EVE these are the people starting the wars in 0.0. They are the ones organizing things in Empire. They are the ones on the CSM. They drive content. They make the game ‘work’. Remove them, and basically nothing happens, the world stops working, and people get bored/leave.

The ‘solution’ to not relying on that 5% is to have the game itself be the content driver. This is where solo questing/instances come in, where phasing shines, and where most ‘end-game’ somewhat dies. Simply put, the amount of ‘content’ the 5% can pump out will always dwarf the amount of content a dev team can put out, no matter how aggressively they patch.

Of course, months or years of ‘content’ is only important if your business plan relies on retaining players for that long. If your plan is to get people in and out over the course of a few months, you have no real need for that 5%, or for the content/tools they would require. I’d argue you quickly stop being an MMO when you go down that path, but the definition of MMO is pretty stretched these days.

Furthermore, it’s not a big surprise that the 5% consume content faster than the other 95%. I mean, the definition of casual is (partly) that they play less, right? So if you play less, you don’t need new content as often as someone who plays more. Is it really a coincidence that in 2004/2005, when WoW was booming, the majority of the additional content was focused on that 5%? If you retain/entertain that 5%, they in turn help to keep the other 95% coming back. If a guild leader stops organizing raids or guild events, guild members don’t have a reason to log on. If you can’t keep the hardcore crowd busy, who is going to design your UI with mods? Who is going to ‘beta test’ your new raiding content before the more casual crowd arrives?

This is not to say that ALL focus should go to the 5%, that would be silly, but I fully believe that in an MMO, losing the 5% costs you far more than just 5% of your total subscribers. The old “I’m quitting and taking my entire guild” joke does hold some truth to it. The ideal content addition would be aimed at the 5%, but would either trickle down (progressive raids, where the older raids get ‘easier’ due to better item access from higher raids or new 5-mans), or would act as a tool for the 5% to create ‘content’ for the rest (drawing a blank for an example here). And ‘content for all’ works as well (seasonal events or such), so long as you maintain a good balance. I feel that the AAA MMOs of late have completely lost that balance, and the damage caused from losing the 5% is not felt/seen immediately, especially if you offset this with (limited shelf life) solo content.


Pricey mod

October 6, 2011

Yesterday I made the comment that this might be the worst thing you can say about an MMO. If that’s true, is this the second worst?

What I cannot forgive, is the fact they have failed to recognise the fundamental flaws in the design (and wider genre) and have ploughed on with a game that plays more like a mod than an independent product.

Hundreds of millions to make a mod? Ouch.


It’s Friday somewhere

October 6, 2011

(Source)

After losing 20% of their players this year CCP apologized for having developed EVE in the wrong direction and promised to do better. (Actually the promise was to re-focus on FiS, which is a big deal to current EVE players that, you know, have been flying in space for 7+ years now) So what? (EVE players care, and so are excited that rather than abandon the game, CCP is going back to focusing on what worked?) Does anybody believe they will actually remove the monocles from the game? (Has anyone ever asked for it to be removed…?) They won’t (that’s a good thing), and all the other damage to the game is done as well. (Such as…? Ship spinning is coming back, a lighter version to load stations is coming back, and Incarna did not do any damage to 0.0 or PvP) Future development concentrating on what players have asked for is okay (just okay huh? I’d call giving players content they actually want as being more than just okay. I’d call it moving an MMO forward, allowing it to continue to grow rather than move towards retirement), but even there I’d be careful that this doesn’t end up developing the game specifically towards the needs of the Goons or any other vocal minority. (The vocal minority of EVE is the EVE community. It’s not like a Goon leader has come out and asked for changes that would actually hurt his Alliance for the betterment of the game or anything)

Syncaine is hoping for an apology from Blizzard for Cataclysm, (damn /sarcasm tags always being misplaced) but frankly I couldn’t care less whether they do that. (You seemed to care a whole lot back when the apology (BC to WotLK) suited your placestyle) First of all, Syncaine never played Cataclysm (nor Wrath. Syncaine is the Ed Zitron of the MMORPG blogosphere, he judges all games without playing them.) (Thank you for the compliment, considering the analysis coming up is exactly what I was saying pre-WotLK. I’m that good I guess), and wouldn’t play World of Warcraft regardless to what Blizzard changed to the game (I played Rift pre-1.2?), or said, or promised to do (I was excited for Rift in beta based on what Trion was saying?). Secondly even to players who did play Cataclysm, like me, an apology isn’t of any use. (But was pre-WotLK) We basically already got one, distributed over various Ghostcrawler posts. (So Ghost lies or can’t back up what he says due to funding/time/Bobby. Shocking?) But just like for EVE (what? Is Tobold in the future giving us feedback on the next EVE expansion?), all the promises we ever get for improvements are whatever the loudest vocal minority is shouting for (something tells me the vocal minotiry in WoW is a little… different from the vocal minority in EVE. Just a hunch), and then that gets badly implemented and doesn’t fix anything. (Reminder: Blizzard said 100v100 battles are technically impossible, while CCP is working to get battles bigger than 1000v1000 running smoothly. To be fair, Blizzard and CCP do have different resource pools, so it’s not exactly apples to oranges here (/sarcasm because I know someone is going to miss it))

(Snip: WoW analysis you read here pre-WotLK, now repeated over at Tobold’s blog)

But somebody at Blizzard decided that this still was too low, and somehow came to the absurd conclusion that the retention rate was linked to the leveling game being too hard. (Wait accessible is now absurd? If only someone had said that before…) The second game of World of Warcraft starts at the level cap, and is, and always was, much, much harder than the leveling game. (Not really. In vanilla myself and nine others were dragging 30 terribads/casuals through MC/BWL/AQ40, arguably easier content than UBRS or DM. Glad that ‘problem’ got fixed) But Blizzard listened to the vocal minority of veterans having spent thousands of hours in the game, who wanted the leveling game to be faster (because they basically didn’t want to play it at all) (What leveling game is a raider (max level character) playing?), and the end game to be harder (because they had become so good at it through thousands of hours of training). (Harder then what? Harder than Nax40? I don’t remember that. Harder than Illidan? Still don’t remember that. Harder than ‘accessible’ WotLK? Wait I thought we covered that already…) Then of course it turned out that besides a handful of hardcore players (And the 30 casuals they bring along), the WoW end game wasn’t of much use to anybody (yet it’s so accessible), and Blizzard nerfed it (now even MORE accessible!), managing to please no-one in the process. (Wait I thought the proven formula was accessible = good = millions of subs? So confusing…)

I do not think that World of Warcraft at this point can be fixed with an apology or giving in to any player demands. (What about bringing back the A team and, oh I don’t know, cataclysming the game for real? I’m sure Blizzard could find the cash for that in their office couch) The game simply has broken apart. (Yet become so accessible!) The majority of players, even the very casual, find the leveling game too easy now. (Too accessible? Now? But WoW subs stagnated after BC, yet Tobold was telling us that WotLK difficulty was ‘just right’. Hmmm) And the gap between leveling to the cap and being prepared for what is coming after has grown to a chasm that can’t be bridged any more. (Guess that’s what happens when you remove my ability to create content and carry casuals to the shinies, huh? Someone should create an MMO where you can have 1000v1000 battles, and only about 5 people REALLY need to focus and dedicate themselves to making it happen, while everyone else can just kinda show up and enjoy the ride. That game would do really well. Hell I bet you could even make the gameplay similar to working in Excel and people would still sign up)

Nerfing the end game is a crutch (Noooo. Really?), and not a very good one at that. (So now accessible is bad. Make up your mind…) An overwhelming majority of players of World of Warcraft does not raid, and never will. (Yet when the game was growing by the millions, casuals did see raids thanks to the hardcore bringing them along. Just a coincidence, I’m sure) Raiding is just a completely different game (Now. In vanilla 5-mans were pretty similar to raiding in terms of how you played your class. But again, coincidence), and what links still exist between raiding and the rest of World of Warcraft only serve to make both games less good. Nobody ever listened to the needs of the silent majority (how do you listen to something that makes no sound…), who actually liked leveling (in vanilla, when it was not so ‘accessible’), and would have liked the expansions to lengthen their leveling fun, and make it more challenging (so now not only is accessible not good, but you want to make leveling LESS accessible? That will never work! Or are we talking more challenging than WotLK, but not as hard as vanilla? Whatever happy middle fits Tobold, right?). Instead World of Warcraft managed the unlikely feat to get shorter with every expansion. (has anyone ever written a blog post about how accessibility shortens content in an MMO? They should, I bet it would be a really interesting read) These days you enter a new zone, you cough once, and that causes enough mobs to drop dead that you already outleveled that zone (So WoW is like playing Farmville now? One click and you win? But Farmville is super-accessible, and has millions of ‘players’. I’m not seeing the problem…). Where is the fun in that? (Millions can’t be wrong!) The casual players never asked for the leveling game to be nerfed (bhahahahahahaha. Yes, removing elite mobs/quests, dumbing down 5-mans, welfare epics and all the rest were not driven by the casuals), and the end game players would have been better served with a “create level-capped character” functionality. (Or more of the same from vanilla. You know, that odd time period in WoW’s life when millions were signing up rather than leaving.)

Vanilla World of Warcraft was justly hailed as a great game, because it was ONE game, with some sort of cohesion from start to finish. (I though people who like leveling never raid, and yet now we are talking about vanilla being one game? Make up your mind…) By concentrating on “player demands” and constantly fiddling (accessibility) with the end game, that cohesion has been lost. Cataclysm was a chance to fix the gaps and get the game together into a seamless whole again, but that chance has been squandered. (So because the Blizzard C team sucks at making MMOs, all future updates to all MMOs going forward won’t work or matter. Makes sense) And no apology is going to help that. I don’t want Blizzard to apologize or promise yet another fix. Apologies don’t improve games. (And neither does accessibility, it seems) I want them to learn from the experience and make Titan a cohesive game with no gap between leveling game and end game. (So just so everyone is on the same page, Tobold hopes Titan is like 2004 WoW. What a totally odd request, huh? I wish someone wrote a blog post about how creating 2004 WoW in 2011 would be an awesome idea. I would totally play that game (until 1.2, aka WotLK) and call it MMO 3.0 in some future pretend-world blog post.)

Edit: Sorry it’s not Friday. Blame Tobold.

Double-edit: Blog wars are for fun and entertainment. We are all internet-friends here, spending a silly amount of time talking about virtual worlds, making a ‘big deal’ out of pixels.


Blizzard apologizes for Cataclysm, intends to fix WoW

October 5, 2011

Finally.

Once again setting the standard for all others to follow.

(Sorry/your-welcome for the post spam today?)


Rift is a fun game, but you don’t really want to live there

October 5, 2011

-Warsyde on Syp’s post about Rift.

Is it just me or is that the absolute worst thing you could say about an MMO?

 


It is you

October 5, 2011

Yes, it is you Zubon. Or anyone else playing with the dregs of (online) society.

Copy/paste of my comment over at KTR: Getting better not only means you play better, but you play with better players that care more. The higher you go, the less likely you are going to run into someone that cares so little they will afk/leave. This basically applies to everything, not just gaming.

The unfortunate side-effect of being ‘casual’ is you play with other casuals. That works fine for skill levels, as everyone is ‘bad’. It’s not so great for game quality. Casuals have 10 kids, three wives, and close to 100 cats, so it’s not reasonable to expect them to stay focused for an entire 30 minutes. This leads to afk’ing (to feed the kids/wives/cats), disconnecting (kids/wives/cats tripping over the cord), or rage-feeding (the kids/wives/cats are pissing them off).

Listen, they are casuals, and their game time is more precious than yours, so if they want to log in and troll to blow off some steam, it’s their god-given right to do so! It’s just a game!

The more casual your game, the more likely the casuals get in. The more a game caters to casuals, the more likely they are to stick around. At low ELOs, League of Legends is a very casual game, and the numbers reflect this. Only 10% of the player base in season one was above 1300 ELO, and LoL is played by more people than WoW. That’s a lot of people-with-cats.

If you’re in Zubon’s boat, where you would like your games to stay 5v5 for the entire time and not contain a troll/feeder/mouthbreather, you have basically one option; get better. And I’m not talking “start min/maxing your ass off and playing 40+ hours a week” stuff either.

Getting above 1200 ELO can be accomplished by simply understanding a few champs (jungle, tank, AP/AD, support), knowing the basics of the other champs, understanding the basics of the game (when dragon/baron spawns, last hitting, placing wards), and not rolling your face across the keyboard. Honestly, that’s it. 1200+ is not ‘hard’, even by octo-mom standards. You don’t need to play like HotshotGG to get yourself to a level where idiots are rare*.

*Note: This does not help in terms of avoiding ethugs, try-hards, know-it-alls, type. like. this. kids. and anyone else you would safely put in the “social mutant” category. But at least they don’t afk.

Also watch this video about Dominion. It covers the basics and is well done. I’ll also second Colbycheeze that Dominion is indeed great for playing with your ‘bad’ friends, as overall the game is more basic and one ‘feeder’ is not nearly as noticeable. Plus the more friends you play with, the lower the chance of running into a leaver (unless your friend is a casual…)


Mount and Blade: Stumbling to the finish

October 4, 2011

I’m now past day 650 in my Mount and Blade PoP game, and I’ve basically won. I control over half the map, only two factions remain, and I have enough lords on my side to dominate. To officially end the game I just have to clean up the other two factions, and the only factor holding me back is time; there is absolutely no chance I can be defeated now.

And it’s pretty boring to be honest.

I’ve reach the point in a sandbox where I’ve become too powerful, and due to the design of M&B, there are no controls in place to curb my power and create a new challenge. Part of me wants to finish the game just for the sake of finishing it, but knowing how long that will actually take (herding lords together for a campaign takes forever, as does keeping the bastards happy-enough to follow me), I doubt it’s going to happen.

I can think of a few ‘quick fixes’ to this problem, such as the remaining factions banding together to fight you, a minor faction taking over a holding and becoming a new power, or simply having the remaining enemies acknowledge your power and accepting defeat, but none of these fix some of the core flaws with the game.

The major issue is how your lords behave and what must be done to keep them happy. For instance, if a lord gets defeated, that’s -1 relation automatically. If you help a lord in combat, that’s +1 relation automatically. But if you fight with a lord in a siege, you only get the +1 relation if you talk to him after, and if you go on a second siege without talking, you still only get +1 when you finally talk. With one lord, it’s not that big a deal, but when you have 5-10 lords per siege, that’s a lot of click-lord-talk-exit-click-lord-talk-exit-etc. Making just this automatic would be very helpful.

Then there is the issue of lords becoming really angry with you (-50 or so), where even if you help them in combat, you don’t get the +1 relation boost. There is basically no way to improve your status, and eventually that lord is going to leave. Not a huge issue by itself when you have dozens of lords, but with dozens of lords you are likely to have multiple -50+ lords, and more and more of them as time goes on.

In my game right now I only have 7-8 lords with high positive relation, and surprise surprise, those are the only lords that show up for campaigns or feasts (both of which help to further raise relations). Basically it’s a downward spiral, and while not game-breaking, does almost defeat the purpose of getting a huge kingdom with lots of lords.

The really ‘game-breaking’ issue is assigning cities/castles/villages to lords. Whenever you do so, you get +10 relations with that lord, and minus 1-5 relation with basically everyone else. The more lords you have, the more crippling it becomes to assign property, yet without property lords can’t fund troops and get better armies. Plus if you hold the holding yourself, you have to garrison the castles/cities and pay for the troops, which after a certain point becomes almost impossible. It makes taking over new territory more of a pain than a bonus eventually, which just feels very backwards. Right now I have 10+ villages without an owner, simply because assigning them to someone would be way too costly in terms of relations. I could see keeping a relations penalty for rival lords, but to have EVERYONE be upset that you are giving holdings out is a little extreme.

I’m hoping PoP 4.0 fixes some of these issues, but this really is a Mount and Blade problem carried over into PoP rather than being native to PoP itself. If lord relations were less harsh, the end-game ‘clean-up’ would be much faster, and ending the game would be far more enjoyable.

 


Just “more of the same” coming to EVE

October 3, 2011

I can see the bullet list on the back of the (digital) box now:

  • More quests!
  • New playable race!
  • All new epic mounts!
  • 30 minute solo dungeons!
  • Enabling lag-free 1000+ vs 1000+ battles with the use of time-warp-future-magic!

Yea no big deal, just time-warp-future-magic.

Pretty much the same stuff every other MMO is doing. One company is pushing the genre ‘forward’ with phasing, another with time dilation, yet another with solo dungeons. Getting really hard to keep who is who straight around here. Wish someone would do something different already. Push some boundaries, advance the genre, don’t just accept the norms, stop feeding players bullshit about 50v50 battles being technically impossible, etc.

You know, crazy stuff like that.


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