UO Forever: Death by dragonfire

January 22, 2013

While Aventurine continues to uphold the DF:UW NDA, and :stuff:, I’ve decided to entertain myself with a bit of UO:F, joining up with Keen and his crew. So far it’s been very enjoyable overall, and also leads to one amusing story.

Just north of Britain there is the ever-popular dungeon Despise. It’s a good spot to farm some gold and the odd magic item, and it’s where I’ve spent the majority of my time in-game so far. The ettins and trolls found on floors 2 and 3 are very doable solo and drop a nice amount of gold, while killing deep earth elementals in a duo lands you a very nice 600-700 gold.

It was in this duo setup that a rather… amusing thing happened. Deep inside the third level there is a glowing portal. I had seen it before, but did not enter. With my friend along, I figured now would be a good time. My character is not ‘done’, but he has a few skills to 100, with other in the 60s or 80s, and I was wearing full plate while wielding a magic hally.

As soon as I entered the portal I knew I was in trouble. For starters, you are in agro range of not only a dragon, but a special ‘boss mob’ dragon as well. In addition, this portal was a one-way trip. Needless to say, I lasted for all of a few seconds before the welcome embrace of black-screen death took me, and I was standing inside a new dungeon as a ghost.

Just to provide further proof of my silly actions, as I made my way out of the dungeon in ghost form, I passed multiple dragons and other major creatures; all which would have surely seen to my end had the original two mobs not been so quick.

And because this is UO, all of my items were left on my corpse; a corpse that would not be recovered. Furthermore, instead of an instant portal to some graveyard, I was left to find my way out in ghost form. And when I finally did get a rez from a wandering healer, I was quickly dispatched a few minutes later by some random mob. Back in ghost form, I finally made my way to a town, got rezzed again, and spent about 30 minutes and 3000 gold to get myself back into fighting form.

All of this happened while my friend was laughing at my misfortune on vent. He was smart enough to wait for my initial reaction rather than jump right into the portal, and lived. And during my stumble back to town in ghost form, we talked about how quickly such an experience would be ‘fixed’ in modern MMOs. How someone would be quick to point out how ‘unfun’ such a trap is, and how during their ‘casual’ playtime, they can’t afford to not make progress. How such a ‘harsh’ experience has no place among the masses.

And it’s probably true. Far too many players are absolutely risk-averse, can’t deal with setbacks, and will only sign up if they are promised rainbows and lollipops just for showing up. It’s also here where having a strong dev team with solid vision comes into play, because while I do believe most players don’t believe they want this kind of experience, I am fully convinced such experiences are what make an MMO great, and make you stick with a game. They are memorable, make you work harder, and give you something to come back to and hopefully get your revenge. And if they do/did cause you to rage-quit, you would have anyway over something else. Knowing who is NOT your target audience is just as important as knowing who is when it comes to designing an MMO.


MMO housing IS gameplay

January 17, 2013

And yes, I’ve heard the Ultima Online house analogy. But until I can plant a flower box outside my POS, I don’t buy it. EVE ain’t Minecraft.

Going to pick on Jester a bit in this post. I say pick on because while Jester is extremely knowledgeable about EVE (and writes the best blog about it), his overall MMO experience is somewhat limited, and I’m 99% sure he did not play UO and experience its housing.

So with that said, flowers did not make UO housing. Not even a little bit. And ‘flowers’ would not be what would make EVE’s POS revamp. ‘Flower’ housing systems, like what LotRO has, suck. They are pointless, vapid wastes of instances space. That type of housing has zero gameplay. But that’s not what UO had.

The reason housing in UO was amazing gameplay was because it centralized you in a huge world. Without a house, you lived out of an NPC city, and those cities were not ‘yours’. As soon as you had a house, that was YOUR spot. Everything around you was important, because it was connected to YOUR spot in the world. That alone is perhaps the biggest retention ‘hook’ in the genre.

But housing in UO went further than just claiming land. It also opened up options such as running a vendor, or a crafting station near a mine, or just being a guild house for everyone to store items in and work out of. Each of those avenues further branched out. Once you start running a vendor, you care a lot more about the economy, and what items are worth. Or you go into crafting to ensure supply. Or you make connections to a crafting guild to work out a deal.

Point being, a house is the central point of the giant spiderweb we call sandbox content, and it’s a damn crime so many MMOs do it so poorly or don’t even do it at all.

Returning back to EVE, running a POS is painful. Really, really painful. No one likes it, very few tolerate it. Yet even in the sludge that is the current system, you have some interesting gameplay. Jester himself covers one example here.

Now imagine if CCP removed the sludge of the horrible UI you have to use to place POS guns, or the mishmash that is placing refineries and hangers. Designing a house/POS should be fun, like it is in UO. It should allow talented individuals to do something like the deathstar, but to the degree EVE lets you do things (think EVE market manipulation vs WoW kiddie pool economy).

And if newish players are given the chance to jump in and setup a small home, how many new players does that bring in? What kind of splash would a video showing the creation of a great looking and function POS make in the media? Hell, new players often struggle to define a ‘why’ in EVE; and building/growing your POS could be just the ticket. Reach a certain size, and the game should naturally encourage you to branch out, socialize, and work with others to continue on, much like UO subconsciously did way back in 1997. Again, the problem has been solved. The solution has simply been forgotten and drowned out in WoW-clone me-too trash design.


7 minutes in heaven, a month of hell

January 16, 2013

One point that I don’t think I made clear enough in my post about UO’s combat was that the slower pace and simplicity leads to longer retention, and so today I want to expand on that a bit (in horribly rambly fashion, sorry).

The hyper-dancing combat that so many MMOs have today is both tiring and limited. It’s tiring because mashmashmash, and limited because once you figure out/google/macro the ‘correct’ way, you are done, because short of pausing to perform a boss gimmick dance, your pattern works against just about anything (hence macros). With that out of the way, you are left to focus on the content itself, and MMO content is meh at best, and GW2 final encounter 222222 all too often. And it runs out, terribly fast no matter your budget.

A comment I see often and always get a laugh from is the EVE “shooting red crosses” complaint. That EVE is terrible and a spreadsheet because missions are blah and the combat is just target, F1, repeat. And yes, mission running is basically that, and yup, it’s boring as hell long-term or exclusively. Yet it’s also content still being run 10 years later, and very likely a good chunk of those running it have been doing it for years on and off. By the standard of MMO retention, EVE’s mission system is one of the greatest pieces of content in MMO history.

So why are players still running it? Because while not thrilling, it’s not draining and not quite as simple as macro-spamming (FFA PvP, efficiency, etc), plus you are doing it in the context of EVE, which matters. Place EVE’s mission running as a standalone game, and it would rival SW:TOR for biggest failure of all time.

How did we get from UO and its brilliantly simple combat to the one-and-done invuln-rolling of GW2?

Part of the problem is the misguided belief that more is better. If UO worked with basic attacks, then five ‘special moves’ is better. And if five works, 15 must surely be great. You know what looks more impressive than 15 on a bullet list? 40! Bam, EQ2 everyone.

Except of course it’s not, because you eventually get to Rift where the UI is flexible enough to create a single macro attached to one key to do your combat for you. Back to UO everyone! Oh, except instead of an interesting virtual world with stuff actually happening, you are doing yet another quest/dungeon against whatever for some soon-to-be-replaced item because…. Zzzzz, unsub, or play once a week because of the people more so than the content (and I think Rift is the best themepark out, btw).

It’s sadly comical if you think about it. GW2 boasted about how each class only had five or so skills because the combat was more tactical. More focused on what you are doing rather than a Googled pattern. That mobs would be different and have their special stuff and blablabla. Release comes and surprise, you are mashing five keys while plowing through some completely forgettable ‘personal’ story or zerg-herding in the equally meaningless WvW. And this from the game that ‘fixed’ the MMO formula for us. A wonder it even lasted a few weeks for so many.

Anet was right to simplify things, because having 40 character abilities is just dumb. And they almost got there with the other aspects too. Dodging attacks is good, for instance, but GW2 has invuln-dodging which is a joke. Aiming attacks is a natural evolution as hardware and connection speeds have allowed it; tab-targeting system with some aiming is a half-step failure. Beautiful and varied terrain is great, but completely wasted when it has zero impact on what you are actually doing (outside of one-off jumping puzzles).

Another issue is designing for RIGHT NOW versus designing long-term. There is a believe that if you fail the RIGHT NOW test, long-term is a non-issue, which is why so much development time is spent on a starter area or making sure everything is roses for the first five minutes. That’s all well and good, but not at the expense of long-term if you are indeed interested in making an MMO in the traditional sense.

Plus I honestly don’t buy into the theory. If you are an MMO player, you don’t quit after the first hour, much less the first five minutes. Not when you understand that you are signing up for something that will, hopefully, entertain you for months/years. This is not a $.99 iPhone app we are talking about.

Not to say that the first 5 minutes can be painful, or the first hour totally worthless, but again, understand the target audience and plan accordingly. If I’m a current EVE player and bringing in a friend, is the first five minutes important, or the systems that provide content for the next 10 months? Hell, I’m not bringing that friend in if we are talking GW2 and the start/end cycle is measured in weeks, now am I?

To poorly wrap this up, my point is that the most important and repeatable part of your game (combat), has to last long-term, and has to be supported by long-term systems. Simplicity helps you achieve that, because it allows you to get what you do have perfect, and then apply that perfection in a large variety of ways. The all-flash zero-substance systems that dominate today lead to the very predictable pattern of high initial interest and then rapid boredom.

That problem was fixed a long time ago. Hopefully today’s devs do a little bit of research before setting out to create ‘the next big thing’.


Lessons from the past: MMO combat

January 14, 2013

Keen alerted me to a private version/server of Ultima Online, and due to extreme boredom I grabbed the client and messed around a bit. I have no intention of fully returning to UO, because to really get to the good stuff of UO I would have to invest more time than I want to, but even just spending a few hours with the game, it amazes me how far the genre has fallen. UO’s original version still, to this day, does so many things BETTER than many modern MMOs.

For this post I want to just focus on combat.

Combat in UO is very simple, especially melee. You move next to a mob, double-click to start swinging, and that’s it. Once the mob is low it tries to run away slowly, and you just follow it and keep whacking. Compared to the 60 abilities on a hotbar that some games have, it’s night and day. And yet I find combat in UO more satisfying than any themepark, including the most recent GW2 (invuln-roll faceroll, yay…).

First, the pace allows you to actually watch and enjoy what is happening, rather than watching your hotbar spin cooldowns. Now sure, UO is not exactly a looker, so what you are left watching is 2-3 animation frames of an attack and crude blood splatters, but yea, still better than a hotbar. And in UO, watching your surroundings is very important for many reasons.

And while 1-on-1 combat is simplistic, in all but the easiest examples, drawing agro correctly and getting a mob into the right spot is more than half the battle, and for that using the environment is critical. UO-does-it-better example two; the environments and their impact on combat.

In many/most themeparks, where you are fighting only matters in terms of the color pallet or other non-gameplay visuals. A ‘dungeon’ fight is the same as a fight in the forest or a cave, save for pre-scripting “hide behind the obvious pillar” gimmicks of a boss. In UO a tight corridor fight is 100% different than out in the open. A location with many mobs is very different than one with only a few, and again not in the pre-scripted “this is an obvious bring CC situation”.

The value of a farming spot has just as much to do with its actual location (the layout, proximity to other points of interest, player traffic) as it does with the mobs or the quality of the loot. How different would themepark raiding be if the decision of ‘where’ was based on ANYTHING other than “we need the purple shiny from X”? It’s just one factor of many that change a game from an on-rails journey to living in a virtual world, but these are the lessons that today’s MMO devs have almost all but forgotten, or don’t have the ability to recreate successfully.

Magic and ranged combat add some complexity to combat in UO, but even then it’s still nothing like hotbar spamming. Magic becomes a resource management game that is deeper than “spam until empty, wait a second, spam more”, while also adding in the cost of reagents. Just because you could take a mob down quickly with multiple flamestrikes does not mean you do it; if you spend almost as much gold on reagents to kill something, that’s not exactly efficient farming.

Group farming has its own layer of complexity that I won’t cover here, save to say it’s not as simple as “more dps, faster kills, go go go”.

And of course all of these factors are in a mix that includes open world PvP. So being able to beat a mob but just barely is dangerous. Farming for a long time has added risks. Farming a popular or highly-efficient spot is not “the best choice” based solely on gold/hr like it is in PvE games.

But even with PvP removed from the equation, the simplistic combat in UO trumps more modern systems in the most important area for an MMO; replayability. The ‘burnout’ rate is much lower, because the point is not to simply master (Google) a skill rotation, or cap-out and get BiS gear, or ‘finish’ some personal story.

No, getting better at combat in UO is simply a tool; one that allows you to reach your next goal (a house, a PvP rep, control of an area) faster or more efficiently. And as you get better, the tiny details become clearer, and mastering those is truly an art, one that requires some serious buy-in.

Assuming, of course, you decide to focus on combat. In UO, and any good sandbox, that is but one path to success. And way back in 1997, UO got that path right.

Looking at it in the context of 2013 and the current state of the MMO genre and its combat, UO got it scary-right.


Ultima Online dynamic content in alpha

October 12, 2012

Another fun read about the early days of UO. I could read one of these every day forever.

Funny that UO in alpha had more dynamic content than the, um, ‘mass market’ MMOs of today. Strange lack of dynamic centaurs though, but that part of the MMO formula was only recently ‘fixed’.


Splitting the genre in two

September 27, 2012

Let’s move past why GW2 sucks and onto a bigger topic; why so many recent MMOs suck, shall we?

Chris thinks all MMOs are good for 3 months or less, and that’s just how things are today. Keen has a pretty solid counter, but it raises the question that will (hopefully) clear the air here: are you looking to play a game for a while, or not?

Because I think that really cuts to the root of the issue. In the ‘good old days’, I think the vast majority of MMO players WANTED to get sucked into something long-term (group 1). Much of the original hype behind an MMO was that it was an RPG that never ended, and that is EXACTLY what people wanted. New Ultima game but with unending content? Hell ya! Take my money!

Today not everyone is on the same page. There are a lot of players who DON’T want to get sucked into something long-term (group 2). They WANT a 3-monther or something to do for a month and move on, and nothing short of a miracle (WoW) is going to change that.

One group is not more right than another, and however you arrive at either group is an unrelated issue (got old, more money, kids, whatever).

What does matter is that the two groups are looking for very different experiences, yet are being lumped into one group (MMO players). Worse still, studios are designing games with the impression that they can design content for the short-term group, and expect long-term retention. SW:TOR is the latest poster-child for this, but it’s just one of many such failures. And make no mistake, these games ARE failures, because the target they are aiming at is WoW, which prints money not because it sold a ton of boxes, but because it RETAINED millions of players for years. EAWare expected SW:TOR to RETAIN at least 500k subs, and at one time the expectation was 1m+. They sold a ton of boxes because group 2 wanted something new. They failed because solo-story content does nothing for group 1, and even if it did, group 1 is just not that big.

Both markets, the short-term ‘MMO’, and the original model, are viable. EVE is an undeniable success, DESPITE the fact that it’s a niche within a niche product (non-IP Sci-Fi with no avatar). CCP is successful because they understand who their market is, and they design the game around the long-term retention of their core rather than the short-burst of group 2 (Incarna aside). Misleading talk aside, GW2, much like GW1, will likely do fine because the model is not around providing long-term entertainment, but rather just a short burst every now and then.

This also clears up the F2P vs sub aspect as well. F2P ‘works’ because a tiny subset of your entire base is willing to pay enough to subsidize everyone else. That’s why so much of the design around a F2P is aimed at catering to that tiny minority, or to convert some of the unpaying masses into cash cows. By contrast, the sub model is designed to provide enough content for the long-term majority, in the hopes that most people will stick around and play/pay.

And if you combine the intent of group 1 or 2 with the business model and content design around a game, you have your target.

Developers are doing a decent job catering to group 2. There are countless F2P titles that are good-enough to play for a month, and occasionally one will get some cash out of you. Those that don’t, shut down or get their support slashed, but even the most marginal titles end up surviving in one form of zombie mode or another.

Designing a solid title for group 1 is much harder, in part because it’s so different from the rest of gaming. Instead of just making sure the current content is fun once, the devs must consider how the content will play in a year, or for the 100th time, or when someone with 1000 hours plays alongside someone with 10. That’s hard. Just as EAWare, Mythic, Turbine, or any other studio that has tried and failed. Maybe the original big three were really lucky, or really good, or understood the market better than most do today. Regardless, it worked then, and it continues to work today.

The extreme example of success in group 1 is WoW, but that’s misleading if you buy into the fact that WoW’s success was as much good timing as it was solid design. Make no mistake, 2004 WoW was very well designed, but that’s not the entire story IMO.

Regardless, it’s unlikely that we will see another WoW-like success. Far more likely is someone hitting EVE-like numbers. And again, CCP is making very good money off EVE. But that’s happening because they understand the size of the market, in addition to how best to cater to it.

You can’t spend $300m today because you predict 1m+ subs. It’s not going to happen. Plan to get 100k with a solid title, figure out the budget to make that happen, and good luck. And let’s not kid ourselves, with 100k subs you can make a VERY solid game. Maybe you won’t have all your dialog voiced by professional actors, but you won’t be limited to Pong-like graphics either. Spend smart, spend S-mart!


UO turns 15

September 25, 2012

Good read from Raph about the early days of UO, which recently turned 15 years old. Which is likely older than the average age of today’s WoW players. Which is scary in many ways.


The MMO genre is a niche space, entry 25603

September 14, 2012

“TSW was not buggier than, say, GW2. Nor did it lack things to do.” – tithian

“Personally I found TSW to be sub-par in both combat and graphics, and far inferior to GW2 in game flow. In the beta the “things to do” mostly involved a lot of variations of very slowly killing grey zombies in a grey town / landscape.” – Tobold

“I think you’re proving lono’s point. If it doesn’t have vibrant fantasy settings with flashy combat, dragons and elves, the attention something gets is the fraction of MMO X that does deliver on that front. And guess what, your next MMO will also have a vibrant fantasy setting. And the next, and the next…” – thegaiaengines

Original post and more comments can be found here.

This somewhat reminds me of when Darkfall came out and certain people complained that looting was ‘broken’ or ‘poorly designed’ because you had to drag items off a corpse, or that the combat was unresponsive because there was a delay between drawing your weapon and swinging. That the world was ‘empty’ because not every corner had a pre-scripted purpose for existing, and that the only way to compete in PvP was to max out everything just to ‘catch up’.

On a larger scale, it reinforces the fact that the core of the MMO genre is very niche, but that because of WoW, we have a very large section of players who don’t like niche (or need to be brought into the niche with baby steps, because change is scary!) GW2 right now is stuck in an awkward mid-point, with some systems clearly designed for the masses (hotbar spam-to-win, guided progression, easy leveling) while others could be considered core (insane grind at 80 for gear, sPvP, advanced WvW tactics).

The biggest difference between Darkfall and The Secret World is not levels of polish or innovation, but in expectations. Aventurine understood they were making a niche MMO, and planned accordingly. They hit their target, profited, and because of that we are getting a sequel ‘soon’. Funcom being Funcom, they expected their niche MMO to retain a million subscribers, and because of this TSW is failing. Had the bar been correctly set at, say, 100k subs, TSW would be considered a hit. Feel free to blame Blizzard for this if it makes you feel better (it usually does for me).

Finally, let’s talk about this shall we:

“You are allowed to want both an innovative game AND fun game without it being hypocritical, just like you can want a cheap, good steak (or whatever).” – Azuriel

Az, do you walk into McDonalds looking for a good, cheap steak? How’s that workin’ out for ya? There is a reason a good steakhouse charges what it charges, while at the same time McD’s has served billions with $5 ‘steaks’.

Before they went south, Blizzard was famous for bringing out extremely polished titles, and talent aside, they were able to do this because their titles played it safe and at most took other’s ideas one small step forward. Good business if you can do it, but it only works if you also have other studios pushing the envelope and innovating. There would be no WoW without UO/EQ1, and a major reason WoW was so polished compared to EQ1 was due to that evolution vs revolution approach. The EQ1 devs had little to go off of (MUDs), while Blizzard was able to copy/paste/polish EQ1 to make WoW.

It’s all shades of gray of course. You can’t just put out the world’s most innovative title and expect success if it’s so buggy no one can load it (not at the mass-market level anyway), while at the same time JUST polishing is not enough. After all, while WoW was very much a EQ1 clone, Blizzard did bring a few new ideas to the table, and those few ideas were pretty solid at the time.

But the more you innovate, the further you step out of the known, the higher the chance of something not working as expected. The core MMO players will (generally) roll with it and expect a fix (or exploit the hell out of it until said fix arrives), but the mass-market gamers don’t have that kind of tolerance, patience, and overall investment to stick with a title as it grows.

But then, that’s why the MMO genre is a niche, with WoW being the awkward outlier.


EVE: A POS to call my home

September 10, 2012

Another Jester-lead post for today (GW2 thoughts are brewing, but I can’t quite place my finger on them just yet. Something-something themepark though), this time about the next EVE expansion, and expansions/patches in general.

Jester is worried that much like last year, EVE players are going to be slowly simmering (or perhaps raging) due to a lack of focus on spaceships. I’d have a hard time arguing with him given the current unknowns about the next release, and the potential for it to be little more than “hey Dust is here”. While significant from a tech perspective and good long-term (assuming Dust does well, which I believe it will), if all you care about are spaceships, it’s not a lot to write home about short-term.

But really, if you take a step back, what has the last year done for EVE? How game-changing were Crucible and Inferno? They both included a lot of nice updates and changes, but nothing to really get excited about like the addition of wormhole space or incursions. To me they represented CCP doing some long overdue housecleaning. It’s not glamorous work, but it’s something you need to do and once done, allows you to finally move on.

The problem now is that the ‘move on’ aspect seems to be focused mostly on Dust, and as stated above, core EVE players that only care about spaceships are not going to find that all too exciting. Furthermore, Dust connecting to EVE is also not a game-changer for someone not currently playing EVE and looking for a reason to sign up or return. What CCP needs now is… wait for it… a Jesus feature.

Or at least something major that gets current players excited to play with something new, and potential players to notice and go “hey, that sounds interesting, I need to go check it out”. Which is basically how I regard other MMO updates I read on Massively; unless it’s some major feature that sounds interesting, updates and tweaks don’t interests me at all and I move on. To grab my attention, you need something major. I’m sure I’m not alone on this.

The key to me is striking a balance between keeping your MMO current and in-shape, while also attracting new players or getting former players to return for another go. We have seen far too many MMO devs panic and give up on their current base to chase a mythical “other group”, and one of the major reasons CCP has been so successful with EVE for 9+ years is they have stayed true to the games core and allowed growth to be more natural rather than buying into feature X bringing in a totally new crowd (if we ignore Incarna anyway).

So what Jesus feature should CCP ‘add’?

Redo how Player Owned Structures (POSs) work, turning them from something everyone hates but tolerates into a major goal almost everyone strives for. Because let’s be honest, does anything strike the “pride of playing” cord stronger than owning MMO property in a virtual world? I loved my house in UO, loved owning property in Darkfall, and SWG players will gush about their player cities. Does any EVE player write lovingly about setting up a POS, or how they love hanging out in their high or lowsec POS ‘home’? Does anyone even call it that? Hell even in WH space, we identify more with the current WH we occupy than the POS we live out of.

Redo the feature so it functions more like the housing in UO, where a player can customize the look and function in a modular way (I believe CCP has hinted at this already, but they should be making a full-court push IMO), and make it so its intuitive and easy rather than a strong contestant for most painful activity in EVE (which is saying something).

Make it so owning a small POS, even in highsec, is an achievable goal even for newish players (6 months or so), and something Corporations can collaborate on to gain additional benefits or comforts. Make them look cool, provide something wanted, and perhaps even integrate them into a form of gameplay around avatars like Incarna should have.

Oh, and do it sooner than ‘soon’.


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.


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