Someone at Funcom said something smart :hellfreeze:

August 31, 2012

It might very well all be PR BS, but I like what Tørnquist from Funcom said about The Secret World:

“We’re not going to play it safe,” Tørnquist assures players. “We won’t be introducing classes or levels, elves or dwarves, and regardless of the competition, we won’t back down from our original vision. We’re going to keep doing what we’re good at. We’ll continue to push the boundaries, and we’ll keep reinventing the wheel (quite literally). Five years ago, we set out to revolutionize the genre, and the revolution has just begun.”

Ok, that last bit is a little much, but the first part is something I wish everyone in the genre would do. It’s what CCP did back in 2003, and while things are not apple to apples between CCP then and Funcom today, the core design philosophy is correct.

The biggest problem for TSW has nothing to do with its content or systems (never played it, but those who do today seem very happy with it). It’s that Funcom designed a niche MMO on (maybe?) an AAA budget and expected AAA sales. 200k units sold is a very workable number if you plan for it. If you plan for 1m+, not so much.

GW2: Anet hard at work fixing overpopulation

August 31, 2012

Anet’s handling of the karma weapon bug they introduced is a joke. Keen has a post up about it, and in the comments you will find Anet’s stepping-back statement.

First, the ban makes zero sense. So anyone who ‘used’ the mistake that Anet made, but used it only once or 49 times, is OK, but anyone who ‘exploited’ it by using it 50+ times gets banned? And not temp-banned, but perma-banned (until Anet stepped back and asked everyone banned to jump through a few hoops). Now granted, this is a game where swearing in chat will also get you perma-banned, while botting is a 72 hour ban, so I guess up is down and down is up here. If I sent an Anet employee a death threat, I’d probably unlock an achievement or earn an in-game hat…

Second, you must first HAVE an economy before you can worry about it being ruined. Does GW2 have an economy? There is no auction house right now and even the ability to ‘trade’ items is not always available (since in GW2 characters apparently can’t hand items to each other, just to NPCs). Plus isn’t this the game of easy BiS gear and no end-game? How exactly will an economy work in that kind of setting?

The tinfoil hat part of this is the worst aspect though. Anet loses NOTHING from banning you, since the game does not have a sub cost. If anything, they might gain another box sale. In this light, it’s very easy to see why they are so quick to perma-ban you over looking at a mob the wrong way, and are also going out of their way to make getting un-banned difficult (deleting the items yourself, really Anet?).

At least they (a few days too late) learned a lesson from Aventurine and have stopped sales of the game to limit the overpopulation issues. Maybe this too was bugged, but I sat in the WvW queue for two hours last night and never got it. Granted, I’m sure the problem is just temporary with the initial rush, and once everyone hits 80 they will… oh wait. Nevermind.

GW2: Dead Centaurs

August 30, 2012

One of the nice things about being in the initial wave of WAR players was seeing all of the PQs played out more or less as intended. Only the newbie zone PQs were heavily zerged, and even then at least you got to see the three phases and see the ‘story’. This all broke down later of course, when the population was all at the level cap and Mythic forgot to include a third faction for RvR, but for the first few months, PQs worked and they worked well.

Long before even DAoC was a twinkle in Mythic’s eye, during the Ultima Online beta the game featured a living eco-system. The idea was that if players killed too many sheep, the local wolves would hunt players instead of said sheep. If the players killed the wolves, the local dragon would lack food and also attack players or venture further. This all famously broke down when players killed everything and complained about the lack of targets. Before release, the system was scrapped and replaced by the now traditional static spawn system. To this day I think the scrapping of the eco-system is one of the genres biggest regrets, but then again MMO history is littered with stories of players grinding the fun out of a game. We suck like that.

It seems Anet never took the above history lesson, as GW2 is repeating UO history now, and will likely repeat WAR’s history in a few months (the PQ part, they got the 3-faction thing already in place).

Currently in the starter and 20ish human zones, both ‘world’ ‘events’ (quest chains limited to just that zone, but I’m sure some GW2 apologist will explain how those quest chains are in fact world events) are in a permanent victory state, with the centaur ‘fight back’ event getting instantly crushed the minute it comes up. Having experienced the starter zone quest chain, I can say that current players are indeed missing out on some pretty neat content. I’m guessing the 20ish zone’s quest chain is also neat, but after two days of seeing “all points held, you win” on my screen, I can’t tell you. Maybe I can revisit and faceroll it once I hit 80…

The difference between UO’s eco-system and GW2’s quest chains is that in UO, how the local area reacted was both unique and interesting (until it totally broke down anyway). That local area was also not a 1-10 or 15-20 zone, but a ‘real’ location in a world you would visit or live in. The impact was unpredictable because the reaction was not scripted (chained or otherwise), but instead a formula that changed based on input factors (players). EVE’s Incursion system is somewhat similar as well, where if the players beat the MOM site, the Incursion ends and another starts in a different part of the world, bringing all of its benefits and penalties with it.

In GW2 the starter zone is content on demand, and once you have seen it, you move on much like any other themepark. Novelty aside, a level 80 would never just find themselves stumbling through a starter zone they had already finished, unlike in UO where 7x GM would hang out in and around Yew for various reasons. Because of this, if the biggest, most impressive piece of content, ‘world’ ‘events’, are unavailable, you miss out. And not only do you miss out, you can’t do a thing about it. In UO players could organize to fix the problem (the birth of anti-PKs, for instance), while in GW2 all you can hope for is the masses move on and letting the quest chain reset itself. I can’t rise up and become the great defender of the centaurs. Instead all I can do is look at the giant centaur-looking spire, filled with friendly NPC guards, and imagine what it must have been like to take down whatever big-bad was ultimately at the end of the chain.

GW2: Scalefail

August 29, 2012

Anet is selling that once you hit 80, you can still go back to all areas of the game and enjoy the content as intended because you scale down to it. I’m not buying that.

For starters you have more skills and abilities as an 80 downscaled than you do when playing the content at the ‘correct’ level. That would not be a major issue if having more skills/abilities did not make you directly more powerful, but in GW2 it does. The fact that your gear will also be better tuned (no toughness stats on an lvl 80 caster for example) will make an impact.

But all of the above would not be a huge factor if the game tuned you down to the average level of the content. Sadly it does not. It puts you at the max level, which makes things rather easy. This is great for those who are looking to steamroll their way to 80, or for those who enjoy faceroll content in general, but if I’m expected to play the content for the content itself, not for progression/advancement reasons, faceroll is a bad difficulty setting.

The saddest part is that, at level, the content in GW2 is not insultingly easy like in most themeparks (from what I’ve seen so far anyway). It’s not ‘hard’, but it will keep you awake and occasionally make you think about what skills you are mashing. I’ve actually managed to die a few times (of course there is basically no death penalty, but baby steps).

It would be nice if you could select the level you scale down to, so those who want to faceroll could always run around at the max for that area, while others could elect to drop to the average, or even a level or two below that. Hey, maybe they could sell me that in the item shop…

GW2: Entertain me once, get $60. Entertain me twice, get $15

August 28, 2012

Lack of progression is the second biggest killer of MMOs (progression you can’t be bothered with being number one), which is why I’ve always maintained that GW2 will live or die by how successful WvW is (and to a lesser extend the arena stuff). Consider everything you currently find fun in GW2, remove the progression, and ask yourself if you would still do it? Now ask yourself if you would do it more than once.

Most ‘dynamic’ events are dressed up “kill X” quests, and while the dressing is often times very nice (more on that in a bit), the point remains that if killing boars or whatever did not lead to something, most would not spend hours killing boars for the ‘gameplay’ factor. That’s why people still mine Veld in EVE 10 years later, and no one is going to be fighting back the centaurs in a month (more on that later as well). Has GW2 improved MMO combat and exploration from the generic themepark model? Yes. Is it improved to the point that you would play it just for that, repeatedly? No.

And because the answer is indeed no, you need the MMO secret sauce, progression, to keep you going. Take a look at player behavior around a ‘dynamic’ event that triggers shortly after it just finished. Notice how many people can’t be bothered to care the second time around. If the gameplay itself was that good, they would, but for most events, it’s just more of the same and the window dressing has been seen, so you ignore it and keep going.

The sheer volume of content will keep people busy for some time, and that along with its quality justifies the $60 buy in. And for many that’s all that matters, which is fine. But for those who play MMOs for the community and the continuity that goes with these games, the lack of progression, and ultimately purpose (outside of PvP), is something to keep in mind.

Now about that nice dressing: Anet has put in a lot of detail into GW2 content, and most players are going to miss a whole lot of it because WoW has trained them to be leveling monkeys rather than engaging with an active world. And because GW2 is not a ‘real’ world, you could be forgiven for not caring about the actions of NPC X, because we all know they are going to reset sooner rather than later, and tomorrow nothing you did will matter.

Still, the detail is there, and it’s pretty cool. One little example was an NPC that is collecting chocobos (or whatever GW2 calls them) in the human lands. Once you herd them into a pen, you can watch a little animation play out, and then trigger the escort quest. Once the NPC makes it to town, they again have some animation play out before turning into a vendor that sells baby chocobos. Out of curiosity, I stood around and watched this NPC, wondering how they are going to reset back to the first phase of the event. I was fully expecting the NPC to just go poof after a minute or so, but in a great show of detail, they actually walk into a nearby building and only go poof when they reach a door you can’t open. Minor? Very. But still pretty cool. Once.

Oh and about those centaurs. As expected, they are currently on the endangered species list as the hordes plow through the zone, meaning that ‘world’ event is always locked in its final victory phase. By the time Wilhelm gets around to playing GW2, you can bet the centaur will be fully in charge, and the final ‘defeat’ event will be waiting for him. Should he and his gang decide to ‘impact the world’, they can have a nice bit of content progressing through the phases, until they ‘win’ and move on, allowing the centaurs to again reset things.

Is the above better than 100% static quest hubs? Yes. Is it the virtual world dynamic that UO had in beta with its ecology system? No. So yay for progress, but let’s not cheer and celebrate until we actually get there, eh?

GW2: Posting this from the overflow blogging server

August 27, 2012

Having re-subbed to WoW this weekend… no wait.

GW2! Best game ever! Yay!

Wait wait… GW2, still worth the $60, I guess. Much better.

Talking about the hours after a major launch is always subjective. My first hour with GW2 was an unplayable mess of lag and disconnecting. If I had logged off during that time, I could easily write a post today calling the GW2 launch yet another disaster in the storied history of MMO launches being disasters.

Of course, being a true MMO gamer, I took the game being unplayable as a challenge and soldiered on, and things improved. Others on vent reported similar issues, although others did not. I did not have an issue with the login server, but again others did. I was able to log right into Jade Quarry, but others reported it being full and had to later transfer.

Again, from what I’ve personally experienced and heard from others, overall the GW2 launch might be the best in MMO history (pending the ‘true’ release, but at this point I’d be shocked if come Tuesday the game has launch issues), so congrats to Anet for that. Maybe now going forward the question of “will the MMO be playable on day one” won’t be such a one-sided ordeal.

Gameplay wise the game is what it is. Some will tell you it’s solved all MMO woes (and be serious…), which amazingly was STILL happening in-game. One must wonder when that blind fanaticism will die down, because it truly is quickly becoming the worst aspect of GW2. My guess is the day those ‘dynamic’ events follow the path of WAR’s PQs (and they will) and becoming ghost-towns, but even then I’m not convinced.

The biggest grip I have right now is the overflow situation. I tried to play with my wife twice and both times the game made that impossible. Some have said the overflows are better than queues, and while I agree if you are playing solo, I’m not convinced from a multiplayer perspective. Again I’m guessing this will only be a short-term issue, because otherwise it’s going to be a MAJOR pain considering how often you zone in/out of areas.

I’m also curious how WvW queuing is going to work, as reportedly Jade Quarry had a permanent queue the entire time, and I could easily see Anet having trouble balancing population demands between servers. If Jade Quarry is all PvP players, and server X is carebear land where hardly anyone enters WvW, how is Anet going to balance total server population? If you limit it based on Jade Quarry, server X will have 10 people in WvW and get stomped. If you balance based on server X, Jade Quarry will forever have an insane queue for WvW. Something to keep an eye on as time goes by, and more people hit 80 and finishing leveling.

Overall though a good start for Anet and GW2, even with that stupid baseball cap they gave out to everyone that instantly kicks immersion in the nuts.

The death of Guild Wars 2

August 24, 2012

Tonight Guild Wars 2: The Dream dies, to be replaced by Guild Wars 2: The Reality, and for many the best MMO ever will cease to exist. Fear not, the cycle of life in MMO land will go on, and the next ‘savior’ should be with us in a month or two.

Not since Warhammer Online have we seen a game get this much hype pre-release (Tortanic was 90% corporate hype, as all but a few (paid?) fans believe it was going to work. Rift was very 50/50 pre-release), and the similarities are interesting. Both games came from trusted studios with MMO experience, with well-known brands, and very positive beta feedback. Both games share a familiar themepark base, but claim to mix it up significantly thanks to X and Y (PQs/Events, RvR/WvW, hotbar+ combat). Both games provide plenty of PvE content, but are ultimately relying on PvP for the ‘real’ ‘endgame’.

And while I don’t believe GW2 will share a fate similar to WAR, where the bubble burst fairly quickly and crushing flaws never get fixed, I don’t believe it’s totally out of the realm of possibility. It’s easy now to look back on WAR and say ‘broken’, but even deep into beta everything seemed to be working like a charm and people were LOVING the game. ‘White shades’ is what people today remember about WAR hype, but look back to 2009 and you will realize the hype was just as loud from fans in beta as it was from a guy lying about bears.

And even if GW2 does deliver, and it is a solid game, it will still disappoint some. There are plenty of people who have been ‘playing’ GW2: The Dream for 3-4 years, yet how many of them are going to be playing GW2: The Reality for that long? How many of them will have MORE fun actually playing than they did ‘playing’ with others on forums/blogs/podcasts/etc, dreaming about what might be? Going ‘all in’ on the MMO hype cycle can itself be all-consuming, and what does the software actually have to deliver to justify those years of waiting, reading, analyzing, and hoping? Are those people going to be satisfied just having fun playing 2-4 months after waiting 2-4 years?


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