MMO: It’s not a game

May 27, 2010

First, it must be really fun to be this good at DarkFall. Quality stuff as always Umberto. Oh and don’t mind the creepy girl right at the beginning, this is an actual DF PvP vid of high quality.

Personal jealousy aside, today’s topic is in response to my last post proclaiming SW:TOR as DOA. What I was getting at is TOR sounds like it will be a terrible MMO, not that it will be a terrible game. Those are two very, very different things. I would no be at all surprised if TOR is a very enjoyable game, with good graphics, sound, gameplay, all of that. It’s just going to suck terribly as an MMO.

Consider this: if you got 40 hours of entertainment out of a game before you were ‘done’, would you be satisfied? If I’m talking about a single player game like Dragon Age, hell yes. If I’m talking about an MMO, I’m likely just getting out of the ‘noobie’ phase and getting myself settled.

Perhaps a better way of putting it is like this: how many single player games have you played for 100+ hours, let alone 500+? Now how many MMOs have you played 500+, or even 1000+? How many times have you loaded up a single player game just to farm one mob/area for a few hours? How many WEEKS have you spent in the same instance/zone/spawn camp in an MMO?

My point being, MMOs are very different from all other games in how people play them. In a single player game, I can start as a street beggar and save the world in 40 hours. In an MMO, I might finally be able to fight something other than a boar after 40 hours (and most likely, I’ve upgraded to an angry, evil, hairy, or giant boar). One is not more ‘right’ than the other, but it’s a totally different set of expectations.

People are drawn to an MMO for the permanence, the character growth, and the sense of ‘making progress’ as related to the world and others (even if ultimately that progress has as much lasting impact as a single player game: zero). None of this exists in a single player game, at least not on the scale it does in an MMO. That’s why killing boars for an hour in a single player game seems god-awful, while in an MMO its par for the course. It’s why a single player game needs to have a combat system that is accessible and entertaining for 40 hours, while an MMO combat system has to be interesting for 1000, even at the expense of it taking 40 or so hours to really ‘get’ it.

And no, you can’t have both. You can’t be saving the world every 40 hours AND get 1000+ hours of gameplay out of a title. It’s simply impossible to create that much content, and even if it WAS possible, it would not be all that much fun. I mean saving the world is epic once or twice, but after the tenth time? Here comes YASTWQ (Yet another save the world quest), and unless it has a ‘best in slot’ reward, I’m not doing it. And remember how easy to pick up and play that combat system was in the last single player game you played? How much fun are you having with it after the 500th hour? That sweet combo or neat trick is not nearly as sweet or neat after you have pulled it off for the 1000th time, and that’s EXACTLY what happens in an MMO.

Now it’s entirely possible SW:TOR is aiming for a different set of players than those who enjoy MMOs, and perhaps the whole point is to get you in for 40 hours and have you step away, only to come back once more (RMT fueled) content has been added. Maybe.

Problem is, since BioWare tagged the game as an MMO, it’s going to be covered by just about every single MMO blog, and those blogs are written by MMO players. We don’t take kindly to running out of content after 40 hours, no matter how much fun we had in that short initial timespan (well most of us, some will no doubt gush for a week or so about how SW:TOR is the new jesus, but a month later we will still be reading the follow-up ragequit post). This won’t stop SW:TOR from selling 1million+ copies, but hype alone can do that (WAR, AoC). What’s very likely to happen however is that after a month or so, the overall feeling towards SW:TOR is going to be rather negative, and not to give all of us too much credit, but I do believe blogs and forums DO influence potential customers enough to ultimately matter, and I think this, along with disappointing the MMO crowd, is what SW:TOR is going to be remembered for most.

Character progression: Why SW:TOR is DOA

May 25, 2010

The style and impact of character progression is an issue that every MMO must consider, and it’s an issue that far too often is misunderstood by many players (and devs for that matter). The concept of ‘the grind’ is heavily related here, and while many have negative feelings towards it, it remains a vital need for any MMO looking to not only survive, but to growth and prosper long-term.

The core issue here is that while we all love playing massive, MULTIPLAYER, online games, what drives most of us to log in day after day is PERSONAL progression; that feeling that you are getting stronger, that you are able to do more, and that you are better off at the end of the week then you were at the beginning. In short, we are always chasing the ‘ding’, be it the traditional leveling ding, an item upgrade, or reaching a certain skill level. The importance of this can’t be stressed enough, and the simple fact that many MMO players will move on from a game shortly after they have ‘maxed out’ is clear evidence of this.

Raiding guilds don’t move on from an instance once they feel they have seen the content enough to be satisfied, they move on once they no longer need the ‘ding’ of the item upgrades it offers. If that happens to be the final raiding instance (aka, the best items), the guild goes into hibernation.

WoW of course is the perfect example of this, and one glance at the actual content being run and its gameplay quality (vs the items it drops) should be evidence enough to anyone still thinking it’s the content itself that drives player action. Given the choice between a boring raid with good loot and a great raid that features no upgrades, the raiding guild will see the great raid once (maybe), and then spend weeks/months farming the boring raid. Consider the MMO you are playing today and I’m sure you will see a similar pattern.

Now I’m not saying that the ‘ding’ is ALL you need in an MMO, that would be silly. You DO need great, balanced, engaging, bug-free content to entertain your players, but the fact remains that no matter how great your content is, if it does not further character progression, it won’t be effective (effective being content that keeps MMO players entertained (paying) for the months and months we go between updates).

The second piece of the puzzle is power creep. You simply can’t have your current playerbase continually getting more powerful if you expect new players to be able to come in and get into the action, be it PvE or PvP.

Most PvE games handle this by simply starting over. Raise the level cap a few levels and all those months/years of ‘gearing up’ at the old cap is reset, and everyone is back to square one. While this is not very MMO-like in terms of a persistent world and continual progression, it’s the easiest way to balance things, and most players today seem to accept it.

The funny evolution of exclusion also plays into this. ‘Back in the day’ you would be excluded from a group based on your level, while today you are excluded based on your gearscore. Same basic concept, same character progression basis, just a different name for the ‘ding’; perception is king.

PvP-based MMOs on the other hand can’t be so easily reset. For one, games like EVE or DarkFall feature more persistent worlds than a game like WoW, and so a reset would cause more havoc than simply wiping all gearscore totals. The other issue is that those games feature more direct player interaction (PvP) than something a bit more insulated. In a raiding guild you are only competing with other members of your guild for a raid spot, while in a PvP game you need to keep up with all players who could potentially be an enemy. It’s this competition that also makes the need to progress more important, as you want to reach the level of being ‘viable’ as soon as possible. Just like a raider would never walk into an instance without his gear, a PvP’er never likes to face someone who beats him simply on the basis of character progression.

So while vertical progression with a reset is acceptable (though I would argue far from ideal) in a PvE setting, quick viability and endless horizontal progression is key to a more PvP-focused MMO. The difficult part comes in pulling this off, and I feel EVE has done the best job in this area so far. Pilots are able to quickly jump in and actually contribute early on, while as time goes on they are simply expanding their options rather than growing more powerful in any one area. DarkFall is making progress in this regard as well, with the current (incomplete) specialization system and hopefully ultimately with the addition of prestige classes. Short-term fixes like the rebalancing of the hitpoint formula and the increased gains to ‘core’ functionality are solid (if unfortunately late) steps as well.

Regardless of the system in place, one thing is for certain; we play MMOs to progress, and we leave MMOs when progression is no longer possible (or deemed worthwhile). Short of the server being down and the game constantly crashing, all other issues are secondary to this core fundamental issue, and the better an MMO is able to solve it, the brighter its future.

Which is why, IMO, SW:TOR is DOA. One-time content and story are not what you build a long-term viable MMO on, no matter how compelling that content becomes. Players will see it once, love it, and then look around, see no further progression possible, and go back to grinding X or chasing shiny Y. It’s what we do.

Just another DarkFall weekend

May 24, 2010

For a ‘dead’ PvP area, Ruby sure does see a lot of action. From getting attacked while farming, attacking others already farming, and solo and group raids on Ghana, it’s tough to go for an extended amount of time without something interrupting whatever you are doing. Not that this is a complaint of course, PvP is always good, but it does make one wonder just how little the more vocal members of ForumFall must actually play the game itself when they go on and on about how there is no PvP going on in parts of the world.

One such PvP encounter happened this weekend while we were working on the Fire Dragon as about 10 enemies attacked our spot on a small island. Of course I missed the entire fight thanks to the Fire Dragon nuking me down just moments before, but from what I heard on vent it was a good throwdown with the enemies eventually taking everyone down. Thanks to Ghana being so close, we quickly regeared and headed back out. As expected, the group that just wiped us was trying to finish the dragon, who was at 15% or so at this point, and again another fight broke out. This time we pushed into them quickly, and after a short exchange they tried to flee across the water. A few went down while diving underwater (I’m specced aquashot and was able to deal some nice damage with my bow here), and a few more were killed on the shore as the rest mounted up and fled.

Having regained some of our lost loot (I believe they piled the best stuff on one character and had him recall home), we once again picked up our bows and finished the dragon, getting 80k plus an infernal chest for our efforts. In a continued string of luck, I’m now two for two when rolling for loot and got another rank 60 greatsword made by the clan.

And that r60 helps stem the loss we took a little later, when we got a group together to do some PvP around our hamlet of Bladethorp and headed north to Albertworth. You know things are not going to turn out well when the scout you send into the city dies before he can even take a step back to retreat. Our group of five got chased out by 10 or more, and after crossing some water and getting two others to join us, we engaged and had a little brawl. Things were looking up initially, and I was able to somehow sneak behind them on a mount and deliver some nice frost axe backshots. Sadly the surprise only lasted for a moment, because soon I had someone take the horse out from under me and I found myself in the middle of a few enemies. With greatsword swinging, I temporarily cut my way back to our group and was able to start regaining my stats, but at this point people on vent were reporting going down and before I knew it I had a guy chopping at my head from his mount. I was able to dodge him, duck behind some trees and rocks, and just as I spawned my battlehorn to ride back into the fight, the world starts spinning and I’m insta-killed. The saddest part? The killer is a ‘lizard’, one of the weak little mobs that spawns in the area we were fighting in. Of all the luck…

Not being ones to take a beating lightly, we regrouped in Bladethorpe, got our group up to 11 people, and went back into Albertworth. Our initial push was solid, and we forced the enemies who survived into their keep. It was in the keep that things got bogged down, as a deathly choke point developed on the stairs leading up. Being unable to finish off the geared enemies, we never took full control of the city and slowly we started to get picked apart. Making a hasty retreat out of the keep, and with a sliver of health remaining, I was able to get on a horse and make my way out of the city with a few enemies in pursuit. Luckily they did not chase very far, and I made it to Bladethorpe in one piece. Most of the raiding party was not so lucky.

Good thing the server is dead though, otherwise I’d never be able to farm up more gear in peace.

(DarkFall-related post disclaimer/reminder. If you click the image link near the top-right of this page and buy a DarkFall account, I get paid 20% of the client cost. If you believe this taints my views and reporting on DarkFall, your opinion is wrong.)

Defining dynamic

May 21, 2010

Talk about dynamic events has been somewhat constant since ArenaNet shared information about the idea, with KTR posting some new comments, Tobold and Keen putting posts up, and on this blog I put my own thoughts down on the subject as well. I’m still not sure this won’t be more than PQ2.0, but rather than continue down that path today I instead want to talk about what dynamic means to me in an MMO.

When I think of dynamic events I think of a developer setting up some random variables and letting them loose on a virtual world. The interesting and yet dangerous thing here is that since the developers don’t fully know the results, much less the players, the event could go horribly wrong for a number of reasons.

Let’s say the event in question is an undead horde rising up to attack an empire. The devs identify locations the horde could arise from, what mobs have a chance of spawning, and what their behavior will be (hold, attack, retreat, etc). Other random factors could include the appearance of special mobs such as necromancers to speed up the growth process, vampires to act as champions, or human cultists to infiltrate cities and act from within. But all of this is randomized, so one location in the world might only see a few skeletons protecting a graveyard while another might get 3-4 necromancers that overnight create a city-crushing horde.

Of course what happens next is where the real player-driven randomness kicks in. If a strong guild attacks the three necromancer spawn early, they might defeat all of them and that area will be safe. If you are not online or around when this happens, you miss out. If on the other hand the graveyard of skeletons is left unchecked, it might eventually get a vampire champion and a cult of humans, leading it to grow to such a size/power that the local players are unable to stop it, and in turn they lose a city or a questing area. If the player population continues to ignore the area, the horde continues to spread and its champions get stronger as time goes on. Since variables rather than a script are in control, nothing is to stop the area from getting a silly amount of necromancers and being swarmed, or a vampire champion growing to an unstoppable power level.

At some point the devs might have to step in if the players are unable to handle things, but this just presents an in-game lore-based opportunity for some NPC hero (maybe GM controlled?) to rise up and aid the players in pushing the evil back. Again however it’s entirely possible that without such aid, entire areas of the game world might become death zones, and while veterans will know to avoid such places for the time being, newer players might instead view this as the game being impossible and simply not fun. The randomness creates a lot of variety, but not all of it will be positive for everyone.

For any of this to happen you would need a fairly open-ended MMO with a dev team willing to take some significant risks, not to mention some impressive technology to correctly handle it all, but when the topic of dynamic content comes up, this ultimately is what I envision, and hence why what GW2 is pitching does not meet MY expectations.

An offer not even worth refusing

May 21, 2010

Dear internet advertising people,

Offering me $10 to advertise on my blog is not a very tempting proposition. You see, I’ve already earned more in the time it took me to read your email than what you are offering, and while tripling that amount sure sounds catchy, tripling next-to-nothing is just triple nothing. And no, I won’t email you back to discuss rates, because my guess is suggesting you move the decimal place two spots to the right and making this a monthly payment is just slightly, slightly out of your budget.

And don’t look at me like I’m being unreasonable here, I can’t even buy a goddamn mount for what you are offering!

The not-so-dynamic events in GW2

May 20, 2010

My original idea for today’s post was to take a pre-release description of Warhammer’s Public Quests, replace mentions of WAR with Guild Wars 2 and PQs with Dynamic Events. Then laziness kicked in, so you are just going to have to pretend that actually happened and you got totally fooled. Got you.

Point being, they would sound very, very similar. Which is not to say that DE will be exactly like PQs, my guess is they will be a bit more involved and progressive, but they won’t really leave an impact on the game world like I think some are imagining right now, nor will they be quite as ‘dynamic’ as they sound on paper.

Here is the root problem with DE leaving an impact: the setup is players vs AI, and so if the AI is ‘winning’, the players feel bad and the AI does not care. It’s the AI not caring that makes it perfect for raid bosses, because no matter how many times you kill a boss, he will never ragequit and take his toys with him. Kill a player even once and he might up and leave, and while that is also likely in a player vs player setup, at least in that situation the joy of victory is experienced by a paying customer rather than an emotionless script.

That’s why ogres smashing a village and disabling some player-functionality (trainers, flight point, shops, whatever) is not nearly as cool as it sounds, especially if the majority of the players around have no motivation to reclaim it and those who do can’t do it alone. I know the events will scale and all that, but are you really going to have an epic adventure if you alone can push back an invasion and ‘save’ a town? (The correct answer here is no. If you believe the answer is yes, gtfo of the MMO genre, please).

Another problem with DE that has been hinted at but not directly expressed is that they won’t be unique or have their outcomes be truly dynamic. They will ebb and flow between pre-set stages, and are built to repeat once certain conditions are met. This is ok initially, but once the min/maxers get done with things they will figure out the optimal DE cycle for maximum reward, and even if that cycle includes silly things like letting the ogres destroy a town so that the big town boss spawns so he can be killed to get the ‘good epics’, the players will go along with this. Anyone remember keep trading in WAR? Exactly. And once the cycle is figured out and the best rewards are being dished out, the time it will take for players to ‘max out’ on the event cycle will be far shorter than the devs originally intended it to be.

To prevent the above, the system would instead have to be a bunch of variables (number of ogres that spawn, their strength, their goal, ect) that are then let loose on the world, and however things play out is how they play out. If the ogres are not handled, they not only burn the closest town, they then move on to burn the next, and the next, until they are knocking on the door of the capital. Or they stay put and build a truly massive fortress to launch ever-increasing raids on everyone. Problem with this of course is that uncontrolled, the NPC ogres are in effect griefing the world, disables large sections of content and making a true mess of things. For some (myself included) that sounds like a lot of fun, for most (WoW players) that sounds terribly inconvenient and a good reason to go back to grinding daily quests in isolation. I don’t think ArenaNet is looking to attract my style of gaming, and so DE won’t have nearly the impact or free flow nature that some are already drooling about.

Not that having better-working PQs is a bad thing, and they will most likely be entertaining content in their own right. I just don’t think they are going to live up to the hype coming with them, nor the elevated expectations that that hype has created.

Dragons, scarabs, and how to get the most out of DF PvE

May 19, 2010

Two DarkFall PvE comments for today, the first about the Fire Dragon and the second about solo vs group farming.

Blood, living out of Ghana, has easy access to the Ruby Fire Dragon and downs him often. So often in fact, that we have affectionately named him Player Auctions, in part as a tribute to our large ForumFall fanbase. Blood is able to down PA so often because instead of clan-whoring all of his loot, the leadership has set up a simple but effective system to reward people for participating, and the whole gather/kill/loot process is done as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The loot system is MMO 101 loot distribution: a leader picks a number between 1-100, everyone involved picks a number and enters it into chat at the same time, and loot is distributed based on the order of who is closest to the picked number. Prizes include crafted rank 60 and 50 weapons, as well as the items from the chest being distributed. The actual gold (which can get as high as 100k or so) goes to the clan.

PA takes a good 10+ people to down him in a reasonable (15min?) amount of time, so getting people motivated and excited to participate is key to farming such a huge source of clan income. In addition to the loot distribution system, Blood also provides crafted elemental bows, in part to help lower the cost of downing him, but also because an ice transmute bow speeds the whole process up immensely. It sounds simple, yet surprisingly few clans take these steps to not only provide entertainment for their members, but help themselves out as well.

On a related “good to farm” note, last night a buddy and I went out to farm some Tomb Scarabs that also spawn right outside of Ghana, and we were both blown away at how profitable the spawn can be if done correctly. For starters, Tomb Scarabs are somewhat unique in that they are practically immune to both magic and arrows, meaning they must be melee’ed down, but since they have 1000hp and hit deceptively hard, it would take a single character a few attempts just to down one, and that process might be dicey due to the nasty DoT they have a tendency to place on you.

If you bring two players however, one ready to melee in heavy armor and a decent weapon and the other ready to buff and heal, the Tomb Scarabs go down nice and easy, and at 300-1000 gold a pop, a spawn of three, and a quick respawn timer, the gold quickly adds up. Just last night we made a total of 10k in less than an hour just in gold alone, along with a sizable amount of gems, skinning materials, and black powder to go along with it. As a nice side bonus, since the Tomb Scarabs don’t have a ranged attack and stay in melee range once engaged, you don’t end up spending a lot of time chasing them down or getting into unfavorable situations. This is important for two reasons: one being that you are able to watch out for enemies much easier, and the other bonus being that you are able to take breaks and actually socialize while farming, making the whole thing far more enjoyable.

Our initial reaction as the gold was piling up was that Tomb Scrabs are a bit overpowered in terms of effort/gain, but on second thought they might not be. When you factor in how difficult they are to solo, that they only really drop gold and a few semi-useful enchanting mats, and that in order to down them effectively you have to not only bring out decent gear but also work well as a duo, the effort/gain ratio seems fine.

If anything, these two examples are exactly the PvE variety DF offers at times if you stop for a moment and analyze a spawn. Mobs that reward a well planned, well executed strategy by a set number of players. A third person at the scarabs would have been overkill, just like bringing 20+ to the Fire Dragon means a lower chance for loot at only a marginal increase in kill time, and since the dragon is on a long, long respawn timer, you really don’t gain much from the extra manpower. There should be optimal solo mobs (there are some), optimal duo spawns, and optimal larger group stuff. Combined with bringing the right gear, using the right utilities (buffs, debuffs), and having the player skill to pull it off (certainly not the high level you need for PvP, but not the faceroll that is typical MMO PvE), it all makes for a much more enjoyable and rewarding PvE experience, which then makes losing that gear in PvP a lot more bearable.

(DarkFall-related post disclaimer/reminder. If you click the image link near the top-right of this page and buy a DarkFall account, I get paid 20% of the client cost. If you believe this taints my views and reporting on DarkFall, your opinion is wrong.)

Bringing EVE’s Empire space to DarkFall

May 18, 2010

The phrase “Play to Crush” from ShadowBane has an ironic history behind it. Before SB’s release, it was a rallying cry for the PvP ‘hardcore’, a declaration that all of those ‘soft’ features from other MMOs need not apply here. During SB’s lifetime, “Play to Crush” was a style of play, where one side would literally crush the other until nothing was left. Once SB finally shut down (after being on F2P life support for a bit), “Play to Crush” stands as an example of why catering ONLY to the PvP ‘hardcore’ is not sound business strategy. Or to put it another way, the ‘best’ players of SB were so good, they literally crushed the game itself. Congrats on your overwhelming victory.

Yesterday I asked EVE players why they believe alliances last so long, and how in a brutal environment like 0.0, EVE is able to both retain and attract enough players to continue growing well into its sixth year. The overwhelming answer was Empire space, that lovely section in the middle of the universe that’s safer (but not 100% safe) than any other. So what exactly makes Empire space in EVE tick, and how could that concept be applied to DarkFall?

Empire space is certainly not Trammel, the no-PvP side of Ultima Online that is the bane of all PvP-minded players. The differences are many, but the two key points are that Empire is not 100% safe, and that areas outside of Empire space provide significant advantages to those who venture out and lay claim to them. As many noted, what Empire does, among other things, is provide a place for defeated alliances and corporations to regain their footing, to resupply, refocus, and most importantly, to prevent being crushed out of the game entirely. In DarkFall’s early history we certainly saw plenty of “Play to Crush” examples, and not a single one of them is a positive for the game.

But beyond aiding PvPers, Empire is also a breeding ground for future PvP players. EVE statistics show that a large group of EVE players only play in Empire space, never heading out into 0.0 to actively engage in combat PvP (econ PvP is a totally different topic). What those statistics don’t show is how many current PvP players started out as Empire-only pilots only to later be lured to 0.0 for one reason or another. Without Empire, they might never have gotten their feet under them, or never got themselves invested enough into EVE to finally make that jump. And even if a pilot never heads out to 0.0 during his entire career, he is still paying a monthly subscription to fund future development, so even in that roundabout way he too is ‘contributing’ to the progression and improvement of EVE PvP. Point being, the more players you have, whether they PvP or not, the better off the PvP will be in the long run (assuming the devs don’t give up on their original focus and shift direction, which is a different and legitimate fear PvP players have).

So what can Aventurine do to ‘Empire-up’ Agon? For one, living under a certain level of protection (NPC zap tower functionality) should be more viable. Currently once you leave the immediate surrounds of a starter town, you are playing under the same FFA PvP rules as the most die-hard PvPers. That might sound ‘hardcore’, but it’s not going to impress, and more importantly, retain, a newer player just trying to get started. Nor does it really lead to any worthwhile PvP anyway, as anyone going to a starter area to gank goblin-hunting noobs is really not there to find true PvP. The recently added newbie protection was a good first step, but it does not do nearly enough as it only covers truly new players and only for a limited amount of time.

My suggestion would be to slightly revamp the areas right around the starter towns to include only lower-yield mob spawns and resource nodes, but offer up zap tower protection to not just the towns themselves, but the whole local area. Image each races starter region under single zap tower protection (the lore explanation could be that the zap comes from that races patron god protecting his kind), with the border identified by an easily crossed but highly visible wall (each race could have its own unique ‘skull and crossbones’ style warning barrier). The same rules for zap towers still apply, so clans at war can still fight it out and breaking the law under zap tower protection still does not mean instant death. If you see a rich-looking player target, you can still try to kill him before the zap tower kills you and have your buddy loot him (aka Empire suicide ganking). Obviously no player cities/hamlets could be within this area, nor would you want it to include any real ‘worthwhile’ mobs. Plus the resource nodes should have a higher rate of gathering failure and a lower overall capacity. Again think EVE empire mining vs 0.0 mining.

The intent is to give both new and newly defeated players somewhere to go to stock up and get ready to return to the FFA PvP lands. Perhaps with further changes and additions, these areas could also serve a Jita-like role as centralized areas for economic activity. One major difference, and if done right, benefit DarkFall has over EVE is the tight ability to control access to a region. In EVE a corp/alliance can gatecamp and keep everyone out, while this is much more difficult in DF. The benefit to this is that PvE-minded players would have an easier time venturing out of Agon-empire to gather resources or hunt tougher and more profitable mobs. This would give them short, controlled bursts of life on the ‘hardcore’ side, with the hope that eventually they would learn how to deal with the tough breaks and enjoy what that style of MMO gaming brings.

A silly carebear today might turn into a deadly PvPer tomorrow, but if you crush him out of the game before he has time to establish himself, in the end the only one crushed is the ‘winner’, left to go play yet another WoW clone.

Community differences and evolution in a PvP world

May 17, 2010

One major contrast I see between the player base in EVE and the one in DarkFall is permanence, alliance loyalty, and the ability to recover and continue the fight. As I was reading the 0.0 activity report in EON, I was surprised and amazed at how many of the alliance names I recognized despite the fact that I have not been following the game for a few years now. In addition to this, I was also surprised to read the different approach to each conflict, and that even in major battles the conflict was between a set group of enemies rather than everyone showing up like in DarkFall. Now some of these changes can easily be explained by differences in game design, but I certainly don’t believe this is the only contributing factor, and this leaves me wondering why the territory conquest game is so different in the two games.

The first set of questions I have is whether EVE has always been like this, or was it closer to what DF is today in its early years? Did clans/corps and alliances raise and fall as quickly? Did key figures come and go as they do in DF? Was CCP still figuring out exactly how they want 0.0 to play out like Aventurine has in their first year of patching? And overall, is the stability and longevity of EVE’s major players more a tribute to the game design itself, or due to an environment where worthy foes are always around, always trying to one-up each other?

I ask this because I believe such stability and permanence is key to keeping a negative-sum PvP game going, and while DF has exceeded the expectations of many, it’s certainly still very much a niche game even when compared to subscription-based MMOs not called WoW. Tough defeats happen in both games, but I think what EVE has going for it right now that DF lacks in many ways is a solid community to retain those who end up defeated. In DF right now, when your clan or alliance gets crushed, there is not much to fall back on to regroup, and many times those defeats are both absolute (in terms of holdings) and swift, which I think leads many to quit. Obviously for the long-term health of any MMO, finding a way to retain those players is key, and in EVE I believe the community itself, rather than some CCP-lead development, is that difference.

What I’m left wondering is if Aventurine needs to do something major to help grow such a solid community, or if this is something that naturally happens in this style of MMO?

Seeing red

May 17, 2010

In a move that took a little longer than we initially planned, myself and two close friends left the VAMP alliance and joined Blood, following in the footsteps of three others who about a month ago made a similar move. The decision was solidified for us when the initial three spoke so highly of Blood and how the clan/alliance was run, not to mention our general discontent with VAMP and how the alliance functioned. It’s telling however when all three of us, after just one night in Blood, independently came to the conclusion that this change is going to make DarkFall a lot more enjoyable for us, and motivate us to really get involved and into the mix of things.

The differences are many, but can be summed up that Blood is there for the benefit of its members, while VAMP uses its members to further the name. Differences in how city resources are handled, how organized PvE trips work, and the approach to PvP trips is all evidence of this. And it’s not as simple as “Well Blood is more casual/relaxed”, because it’s not. The PvP is tightly run, people are responsible for their roles, and the goals are, if anything, even bigger. But it’s how those goals get accomplished, and how Blood prepares its members that is the key difference, evident even on the first day.

Which brings up a larger point overall about MMOs, and especially ones of the sandbox variety: without a single line of code changing, our enjoyment of DF increased significantly because we took action and made a change. We very well could have remained in VAMP and, most likely, eventually gotten so worn down and bored that we would have quit, or been left waiting for Aventurine to add something to ‘fix the game’. I think many players fall into similar traps, unwilling to act on their own to fix a situation. Even for us, without the initial three making the move, we might never have left. Leaving something established, even if it’s not exactly working out, is never an easy move to make.

But I’m glad we made it, and I’m more excited about the game now than I have been for quite some time. With this move, and what looks like a rather on-point June expansion, things should get very interesting shortly.


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