CU: Starting to come around on Mark and what happened with WAR

December 19, 2014

For starters, head over to Keen and Graev for an interview with Mark, who also answers more questions in the comments.

My biggest issue with CU is that Mark made WAR, and for a long time I didn’t get the feeling that he understood and accepted why WAR wasn’t as good as it could have been (can’t call it a failure since it was profitable, but that just makes it a weird title that was profitable yet isn’t online anymore). He would always state it launched early as a major problem, but IMO that wasn’t really it. Even if the game didn’t have the technical issues it had with sieges crashing and massive lag in RvR, it was still flawed.

Once you hit the level cap, got your gear (not that difficult), and had seen a capital siege, you won WAR. There was nothing else to do. Not from a character progression standpoint, or a RvR perspective, or for a guild. That, IMO, was the critical and core flaw of WAR. And yes, I think its safe to say most players never hit that ‘win’ mark due to other issues, but ultimately if all of those were fixed, WAR still didn’t have the core design to keep it going.

That remains my primary concern with CU, but based on recent info and what Mark has said, I’m not as worried about it, and I know that if Mark and company are able to get that part right, CU is indeed going to be awesome.

Modern MMO design creates new barriers for grouping

December 16, 2014

Keen is talking about why people choose to solo instead of group, and all of his points are spot-on. Some are design mistakes (solo being more efficient/rewarding than grouping), others are social (people are mean), and for some the time needed for group content just doesn’t fit into their gaming time often enough to bother. I think all of this is true, and an area where MMO design has to evolve, but not devolve into sRPG games with global chat.

One thing an MMO needs to do is encourage grouping naturally. If I’m out in the world killing stuff, another player coming along should always be a bonus. This not only means that you form groups with random players and potentially make new friends, but it also means that when a guild mate logs on and joins you, that’s always a good thing.

Far too many MMOs today fail with the above. Back in the day quests were simple, one-off “kill a bunch of X” tasks. This simplicity meant that “I’m questing” didn’t instantly result in “I’m playing solo, you aren’t on that chain”. So yes, we got fancier, more involved sRPG-style questing with phasing and whatnot, but we lost the social aspects that got us interested in an MMO in the first place.

A lot of times you don’t even need official questing IMO; just give me a natural reason to kill a bunch of mobs (wealth progression), make killing them better/faster with more people, and allow me to determine how many people I want to bring and how long we want to keep killing. Again modern MMOs over-focus on holding your hand and always making sure you have a directed list of tasks, and all of that creates major barriers to playing with others, which is insane to think about in the MMO genre.

That said, it’s also important to acknowledge that times HAVE changed. People have more choices now, and not only that, but it feels like most people play more games at the same time than in days past. If we want to go way back, I remember having to play every Sega Genesis game to death because I only got one every few months, where now I can pay a few bucks and get half a dozen in a Humble Bundle. Factor in F2P titles, Steam sales, mobile gaming, and everything else, and suddenly expecting the average player to sit down and hammer away at your MMO for 3-5 hour blocks 3-5 times per week is simply asking too much. Even those of us who have that much gaming time aren’t likely to dedicate it to just one game for long periods of time.

Just because someone only has an hour to play, shouldn’t mean they can’t spend that hour in a group doing something fun in an MMO. Developers need to look at all of the barrier they have created of late and ask if it’s all worthwhile. Is everyone playing an sRPG really better for your game, or would enabling players to form social hooks in your title keep people playing/paying longer/more?

Looking back at 2014, looking forward into 2015

December 15, 2014

Time to review 2014 and make some 2015 predictions (I don’t get as fancy as some people and do two posts!)

Here are the 2014 predictions:

EQNL will have everyone loving it the first month of release. Shortly after just about everyone will be asking “now what?” and drift away.

Anyone want to comment this isn’t 100% accurate, other than the whole “release but its beta” scam?

EQN will continue to attempt to copy/paste from my design docs, and will continue to SOE them into failure.

Nope, but only because literally NOTHING happened with EQN, because SOE, so 50/50?

ESO will have a big launch, followed by a quick death (F2P). I’d like to pretend that THIS massive themepark failure will teach the industry to stop, but if SW:TOR didn’t, nothing will.

Big launch; check. Quick death; nope. Game isn’t F2P (yet?), and I wouldn’t be totally surprised to hear it has more subs than we expect (not a ‘huge success’ amount, but not skeleton-crew numbers).

WildStar won’t suck. Just throwing a dart here, as WildStar doesn’t interest me personally, but what little I know about the dev team, I like. If they stick to their ideas/goals post-release, I can see WildStar being a solid ‘niche’ MMO. We might even be calling it “themepark done right”.

Mostly wrong here, other than I think WildStar clearly is a niche MMO, although I don’t think the plan was for it to be SO niche.

The GW2 train will continue to roll, although with less steam and more heavy-handedness towards the cash shop. Such is F2P life.

I guess? So little gets posted about GW2 its really hard to follow, but I’m assuming Anet is doing something with the game?

LotRO will continue to provide us with amusing stories, perhaps selling you a character 3/4th of the way into the game, or something equally dumb. 50/50 on being able to play Sauron. 75% chance you will be able to buy the One Ring in the shop.

Guess 3/4th of the way into the game was giving Turbine too much credit. My mistake.

CCP will go bankru… haha just kidding. Best MMO out will continue to play chess while the genre learns checkers. 450k subs in 2014. Edit: Since we are at 500K already and this isn’t WoW, raising this to 600k.

600k didn’t happen, so nope. On the other hand so far CCP is showing what they can do with quicker releases, which is basically more than anyone else, and I think they are in a good spot going forward to once again return to growth after a stagnant 2014.

WoW will bounce back with the next expansion and have a strong 2014. Now that the interns are back to being interns, and the real devs are back from failing to make anything with Titan, WoW will prosper. It will also help that 2014 won’t offer it much real competition (Unless WildStar draws away a significant portion of the raiding crowd, which is a possibility). WoW will end with more subs in 2014.

Other than the WildStar bit, rather accurate.

2015 predictions:

DF:UW will shut down. The population is at an all-time low, AV is completely lost with the title, and Forumfall continues to stick daggers into the one game even trying to give that crowd something to do. I don’t see how the game survives 2015 short of a miracle turnaround or wipe/DF3 plan.

WoW will lose subs. Yea, going for easy points here. I think the WoD bounce will fade, and I’m not sure New Blizzard is capable of really fixing the game to return it to growth.

FFXIV will gain subs. More easy points. With an expansion coming, a solid foundation, and a studio not called SOE or Trion supporting it, I think 2015 will be an even better year than 2014 was for this gem.

EVE will gain subs. Again more ‘in the right direction’ thinking here, although less confident in this predication than I am in FFXIV, especially if Star Citizen launches (it won’t) and isn’t completely horrible.

LoL will continue to sit atop the gaming world. I don’t see Riot slipping in 2015, I don’t see any game challenging its popularity, and the MOBA genre has a long-established history of longevity. The eSport side of the game will also continue to grow and dominate that segment.

CoC isn’t budging either. Similar story to LoL; solid developer, solid foundation, no serious challengers, CoC will finish 2015 as the top mobile game, just like it finished 2014.

Hearthstone will continue as Blizzard’s least-successful title. A weak foundation, core design flaws, and a complete lack of long-term hook will continue to see the title float between unknown mobile titles on the revenue list, while occasionally getting a jump when new cards are released and the whale famewhores dive in, only to drop back down shortly after. Won’t be much of a factor in the 2015 eSports scene either.

ArcheAge will continue to be comically mismanaged by Trion, giving us as least half a dozen “Trion being Trion” moments in 2015.

EQN won’t release. Nor will Landmark move out from under it’s ‘beta’ tag.

The rest of the ‘that’s still online huh’ F2P junk titles like LotRO, SW:TOR, EQ2, etc will float on in who-cares-land. None will be put out of their misery, but none will move up either.

I think game funding via Kickstarter will see an uptick as more Kickstarter-funded games launch and are well received. Pillars of Eternity is the one that has my eye (and money), and the continued positive development of MMOs like Camelot Unchained will show people that the platform, when used correctly, does work.

I honestly don’t see any MMO in 2015 shocking us and restoring faith in the genre. It will be more of the same, with some good (FFXIV), some bad (pick a F2P MMO), and most being meh.

Think a Steam sale is coming?

December 15, 2014

Yikes what a lineup!

Steam: Very confused by this auction thing

December 13, 2014

Steam is running a new promo thing, where you can basically trade in steam cards for gems, and then use those gems to bid on games. Pretty simple right? Why not convert a few of your extra cards and see if you can’t get a game or two for them.

One problem; the bids are OUTRAGEOUS already. 30k gems for one game? 250k gems for a profile border? Oh and how many gems do you get per card? Unless I’m missing something, it would seem to be between 10-30 gems. Lets say the average is 20; 30k / 20 = 1500. 1500 cards turned into gems to win the bid on one game? Let’s say you can sell the average card for 10 cents; that would mean you are effectively paying $150 for a $25 game. That can’t be right. The world is full of math-tax failures, but this bad?


Final Fantasy XIV: 2.5m subs now?

December 9, 2014

First off, if I buy the $40 wedding in-game item for the wife as a Xmas gift, think that will go over well? 50/50 right? Either way huge missed opportunity for Square Enix here, the top package should be 30k or something to make it a bit more realistic, but ah well.

Now did I miss the official announcement, or did they just sneak in that 2.5m players at the end there? Wasn’t the last official news from them that they had 2m subs? Really itching to get back into this after the holidays, as we were having a great time with it until RL happened and caused our break.

CoC: Things you learn from a tie

December 8, 2014

If you have been keeping up with our clan war update posts, (and who wouldn’t be following the statistical breakdown for a game they may not be playing or a clan they aren’t in!), you noticed that our last war resulted in a tie, a first for our clan. The tie highlights a few pretty critical design highlights about the game, and also serves as amazing motivation for everyone to progress and also improve.

I think the most important design highlight is that unlike many team-based games, in CoC success isn’t based on the weakness of our lowest player, but instead on the cumulative strength of our whole clan.

A weak player in CoC might not earn a single star, and give up 3 on the first attack against their base. That’s not good, but it doesn’t “wipe the raid” to compare things to another popular team-based activity. In the war we tied, all based outside the top 15 were 3-starred, so one weak player isn’t a huge issue. Now, they do matter, because a tougher base might have required more than one attack, which in turn means fewer attempts at other bases. Just like had they scored a solid attack, it would have freed up someone else to hit a different base. But the important thing is that at the end of the war, you can’t look at any one weaker player and really say “we lost because of person X”, like you can should someone wander into the whelp pit or fail to run away from the raid while being the bomb.

On the other hand, there were a lot of opportunities for hero plays. As the war was winding down, each attack was a nail-bitter in terms of the attacker being able to pull things off. A lot of times its someone hitting a really tough base, so failing is the expected result, and success is an awesome surprise. The same applies to base design; not giving up three stars against an attack that perhaps should 3-star you is an awesome feeling, while failing to do so might inspire some base design tweaks or a total overhaul.

The tie also highlights the depth of the game. In a blowout war (our current for example, where we knew we were going to win after the first dozen or so attacks), if you fail to 3-star someone you should, or your base isn’t as great as it could be, you might not notice because we won anyway. There isn’t that pressure, that motivation to improve. The same applies in a blowout loss; bases being crushed by overwhelming force isn’t teaching you much, nor is throwing troops into a meatgrinder of a base.

A close war shows that depth, and CoC has depth in spades. I think just from this war we had a lot of people notice the little details of really pulling off a great dragon attack vs just a decent one, or the difference between using three lighting vs heal/rage depending on the base layout. Our top-end guys saw the importance of securing down at least two stars, and how critical that might be. On the lower end I hope people were motivated to progress to at least these levels, where the game really opens up (though I would argue a TH6 attacking a good TH6 base is very interesting in terms of tactics and strategy).

What I’m most excited about is when our clan overall ‘grows up’ and wars focus more on TH9+ bases, as things then switch from trying to 3-star bases to pulling off 2-star attacks, and tactics expand from “probably dragons” to include golems, pekkas, hogs, loons, witches, etc, and army composition starts to really matter vs “all dragons, go!” Just watching some war review videos from clans made up mostly of TH9 and TH10 bases has me very excited for our future.



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