EVE – One small step for EVE, one giant leap for MMO-kind

Over at TAGN, he has a post about the upcoming changes to moon mining. In short, the activity is going from a mostly automated process involving structures processing resources to one that requires a group effort to collect the rewards. I’m highly in favor of this change, both from a personal perspective (I’ll finally be able to collect those materials myself for production, making those products even more ‘free’) and also because its good for the game.

One of the key factors in EVE’s continued success in an overall declining genre is its consistent commitment to rewarding group content, without going so far as to make grouping required to progress. Similar to how going F2P is a short term gain at a long-term sacrifice vs using the subscription model, an MMO going more towards solo content is a short-term benefit at a long-term loss.

This is also another reason ESO isn’t clicking for my wife and I right now. It’s very obvious a huge chunk of the game is aimed to be played solo, and not only do you not benefit from bringing someone else, in many cases you are punished or annoyed. Aside from this making the game a pretty crappy game to play with others, it also means you now compare the content of ESO not to other MMOs, but to single-player RPGs, and ESO can’t hold a candle from a solo perspective to titles like Pillars of Eternity or Skyrim.

That comparison doesn’t apply to EVE. You can’t find a single-player game that gives you the type and depth of content that EVE does. Crafting in Skyrim is a joke compared to pursuing an industry career in EVE. Reaching the gold cap in any game not called EVE is cute, while being rich in EVE is an actual accomplishment that is difficult to achieve. Large-scale success in other games mostly doesn’t matter (congrats on ‘winning’ the current RvRvR match in GW2, wheee!), in EVE you get books written about it and literally get referenced as a god (praise BoB).

This in turns creates a certain culture, one that keeps people around, either directly in the game playing, or at least hovering around the game and returning when interest peaks. Goons have 40 thousand or so real people in the organization. Obviously not all, or even half, play EVE together at any one point, but most of that massive group circles in and out, while staying connected via the ongoing history of Goons in EVE, and outside via forums or by playing other Goon-sponsored games together. If EVE was a shallow, mostly solo experience, it wouldn’t provide the kind of setting needed to keep people interested in a group’s success long-term.

An MMO is all about retaining people, and the genre’s history has shown that the deeper a game can dig its social hooks into someone, the longer it can retain them. When you shift your focus away from providing meaningful and memorable social interactions, you give up what will keep you successful long-term. Is moon mining becoming a group activity the key to pushing EVE to a million+ subscribers? Of course not. But it won’t hurt, and will likely convert some solo miners into more social players, and such steps are how you build, piece by piece, an MMO that has not only survived, but thrived for well over a decade.

Not-a-real-edit: Credit where credit is due (to me), awesome blog title here.

Posted in crafting, EVE Online, Goons, MMO design, The Elder Scrolls Online, World of Warcraft | 1 Comment

ESO: Initial impressions, again

Since time has recently allowed it, Aria and I looked for a new game to play co-op. Previously we played and enjoyed FFXIV, but once we got too busy, I continued to level my character to finish up the original story, making returning to FFXIV a problem. I couldn’t think of a good non-MMO co-op game to try, so we settled on Elder Scrolls Online, in part because I already had accounts, and because I’ve heard it’s much improved since launch.

TLDR: ESO still isn’t a ton of fun so far.

The core gameplay of ESO remains, both good and bad. Combat doesn’t feel that different from launch, meaning it’s still not great but decent-enough. The graphics are OK, but no longer a standout or something to marvel at. Character faces still range from pretty good to monster-factory, for example.

What I really dislike is the One Tamrial system, where everything scales to you, meaning players from all level/gear ranges mix together in zones. One of the strengths of ESO was the world/setting and its immersion factor, and nothing breaks that faster than your fresh-off-the-boat character adventuring and fighting the same enemies as someone in end-game gear, with said enemy challenging both characters equally. It’s just dumb, and makes zero sense on any level other than a game needing more content but not wanting to create it.

This also applies to stats and items. A level one character has thousands of hit points, and gear has stat values in the hundreds, which is a jarring and confusing first impression for the game, and makes the already somewhat odd learning curve of ESO steeper. When early on in the game you somewhat stop caring about gear upgrades beyond the most obvious stats (dps, armor), that’s not good.

Then of course there is all the usual F2P garbage like in-game pop-up ads and in-game reminders that you don’t have access to everything because you haven’t paid, or haven’t paid enough. It feels second-class, because that’s what F2P is compared to a sub MMO.

We will continue in the hope its gets better, but so far ESO is off to a rough start.


Posted in MMO design, RMT, The Elder Scrolls Online | Leave a comment

Battle Brothers leaves EA, Wartile is deep in it, and Grim Dawn review update

Three quick items for today.

First, Battle Brothers has officially left Early Access and is now released, so we can add one more example to the list of successful uses of EA. I’ve written a ton about the game, and its good to see its on the second page of Steam’s top-seller list.

Second, I received a copy of Wartile, which is also in Early Access. The game is very, very early in development, and I have a lot of questions about how the final product might work (right now only 4 maps/missions are out, and in order to have a chance against the 3rd, you have to beat the first and second repeatedly to ‘level up’, which feels very grindy), but I can see how eventually, this might turn into a fun and interesting title.

My main concern is someone randomly buying this off Steam right now, without any knowledge about the game or how EA works, might feel ripped off or cheated. Right now Wartile is more tech demo than game, and while that can be the intent of EA, you also run the risk of driving too many people away too early, and having there negative experience spread to others and ultimately hurt you.

Third, my Grim Dawn review experiment was interesting to watch. It got the expected initial burst of votes (including one negative vote that gave me a chuckle), and since that moved the review into the top spot, it continues to have votes trickle in, which was more-or-less my expectation. Now I’m just curious about it’s staying power. Compared to a lot of the other reviews, its more in-depth and detailed (many are 2-3 lines long in total), so one would hope that results in actually being more helpful for people looking at reviews, and that leads to continued up-votes. We shall see.

Also someone hit the ‘funny’ checkbox, because if there is one certainty on the internet, its that if you give someone a joke option, regardless of the topic, some people are going to click the joke checkbox.

Posted in beta, Random, Review, Steam Stuff | Leave a comment

2v2 mode in Clash Royale is basically the best thing of all time

Can’t… stop… playing…

Well actually I can, because so many people are playing the new 2v2 mode in Clash Royale that I think the servers just died, letting me write this blog.

This not only needs to be a full-time feature, it needs its own ladder and all that. It’s insane how well CR works in 2v2 mode, and how fun it is. The combos, the coordination (or the hilarious lack-of), the shared feeling of victory/defeat. This has made an already really great mobile game so much better its silly.

After you play your first 2v2 game you immediately know how great it is, so I’m sure SuperCell knew this would be huge and where very excited. Congrats to them, I didn’t expect 2v2 mode to be as good as it is, or for CR to be able to evolve this dramatically so quickly. This update is, IMO, the Clan Wars update from Clash of Clans in terms of game impact and longevity.

Now if the servers would just start working again…

Posted in Clash Royale | 3 Comments

Steam experiment, help out

I copy/pasted yesterdays Grim Dawn review into Steam as a review. Could everyone here with Steam head over to the review and up-vote it? I want to test a theory related to reviews and ratings. Thanks.

Posted in Review, Site update, Steam Stuff, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Grim Dawn review

Since the release of Diablo 2, way back in the year 2000, basically every ARPG has been trying to be Diablo 3, yet none have truly succeeded, not even the actual Diablo 3. I’m not going to go so far as to say Grim Dawn is the ‘real’ Diablo 3, but its the closest an ARPG has come IMO.

For starters, Grim Dawn (GD) has just about everything you would expect. Multiple classes, the ability to mix classes, an additional alternate advancement system, lots and lots of loot in different color flavors, and hordes of various enemies and bosses to slay. You can play solo, or with up to 4 others, and you can even enable PvP if you so choose.

Perhaps its one outstanding difference is that the maps aren’t randomly generated (for the main campaign, you can play custom maps, though I haven’t explored that option), which initially felt odd until I just got over it and realized fully hand-crafted maps look better and are more logical than what even a good random generator can do. Will that hold up through multiple playthroughs? Not likely, but I’ve never been a huge fan of grinding an ARPG over and over again anyway.

The graphics are very serviceable. They won’t blow you away, but they also don’t feel cheap, and there are some nice lighting effects and the overall style is a slightly different take on the traditional fantasy doom world full of zombies and other creatures. Same for the sound, which includes a bit of voice acting; its not top-notch, but once you get into the game you find that it all fits and works well-enough. The game runs well and I’ve only seen it crash once (on my wife’s computers during multiplayer).

The pace is good, and main storyline so far has been interesting (mostly told through lore text items you find), and I’ve liked every area I’ve seen so far. And since the maps aren’t random, they all connect in a logical manner that gives the world of GD a more… worldly feel rather than just randomly connected zones. I think that last part is one of the major reasons I’m really like GD too; it has a better sense of progress as you uncover more of the world and the problems facing it.

I also like that you aren’t bombarded with abilities. Or rather, you have that option, as its very easy to focus-in on a few abilities that sound interesting and skip others during the leveling process. You can go so far as to only unlock and upgrade your auto-attack and passives/buffs, which means less button pushing but without gimping yourself. Again perhaps more min/maxing is needed at the highest difficulty, but for an initial run, that flexibility is there.

GD is also pretty flexible in other areas too. You can undo spent skill points for a small cost, and many skills aren’t exclusive to one type of weapon. So for example an auto-attack modifier will work whether you are using a 1h melee weapon or a 2h ranged weapon. That’s nice and lets you switch up what gear you are using pretty easily as you find new and better drops. A constant flow of upgrades is a huge key to ARPG enjoyment, and GD nails this.

Finally, the game is very co-op friendly. It will auto-party you if you select that option, and loot can also be personal until you drop it, making ‘sharing’ loot much easier. Simply scoop up all the stuff you see drop, and if you find something you think might be good for your buddy, drop it and they can grab it. Easy, quick, and painless. Quests also update for everyone in the party, so it doesn’t matter who landed the last hit or who talked to an NPC. It basically feels like playing the single-player in terms of pace and function, only you also have a buddy running and killing along side you.

If you enjoy ARPGs, Grim Dawn really is a must-play.

Posted in Random, Review | 6 Comments

Gaming is pretty great right now

The “Gaming is in a great spot right now” trend continues, at least outside the MMO space (and in that too, if you happen to be flying a spaceship), so lets talk about a few of the items.

Overall if you care about this hobby, you have to be happy with the top games and what they represent. For a moment a few years back it looked like all of gaming was going to be overtaken by ultra-casual gaming garbage, be it mobile titles like Farmville or post-Cata ‘pug raiding’ WoW. In recent years however higher quality, more ‘core gamer’ titles have taken over, games where if you put in the time, and have the ability, you will progress, but it isn’t simply handed to you for showing up.

League of Legends sits at the top, and not only is it a competitive PvP title, but it also has one of the best implementations of the F2P model, one where only fluff can be bought, and whether you spend or not has zero impact on what happens in-game. It caters to very casual players down in Silver, while also showcasing masters of the game in the pro circuit, all while being managed by Riot, who have established themselves as some of the best and brightest devs in the industry.

DoTA 2 is also very popular, and has many similarities to LoL, both in-game and in who manages it (Valve). The whole MOBA genre is really in a good place, with other niche titles offering different takes or styles, but from the titles I’m aware of, they follow the F2P model Riot has set, which is excellent.

Looking at the top steam chart, you also see titles like CS:Go (another skill-based, competitive PvP title) GTA V, (open-world, adult-focused game with decent complexity), Team Fortress 2 (hats!), and ARK/Rust (open-world PvP). I don’t understand why H1Z1 is also near the top, but not everything can be positive I guess?

And outside of the most popular titles, more niche stuff like Darkest Dungeon or Battle Brothers are able to succeed because of Steam, which even just 10 years ago wasn’t the case.

In the mobile space both Clash of Clans and Clash Royale are always near the top, if not at the top spot itself. Again these are two PvP-based games with depth, longevity, and managed by a solid development team in SuperCell.

CR had a rough start in spots, but has really hit its stride with the last update that finally brought purpose to ranking higher than simply the highest arena. Now winning above 4k trophies has value because you earn higher monthly rewards. With special events being more frequent, cards coming out in a more logical way, and the clan chest, there is a lot to do in CR beyond just playing ladder games. The upcoming 2v2 mode should also be very interesting. The CR clan I run does a purge of inactives after every clan chest, though right after a purge we get bombarded with applications so the spots tend to fill quickly (its almost like being in an active clan that always hits 10/10 for the clan chest is something people want, go figure).

CoC is also going strong, and our clan is currently on a nice 6 win streak. We seem to have hit our stride with our top players all being very solid, and our newer recruits coming along nicely as well. The recent addition of cheaper event troops has mixed farming up a little, and a big update is expected to be announced soonish. There are a couple spots in that clan still open, so if you are interested in joining us there (or coming back), apply mentioning the blog.

In the MMO space EVE of course is still the same game it has been for over a decade, and it looks like Crowfall might finally make it out of alpha, and I should be able to test the housing aspect with my kickstarter pledge stuff. I also know Camelot Unchained is moving along, with a few people keeping me updated on that, so maybe 2017 might also finally be a recovery year for the MMO genre. If not, we have the rest of gaming being pretty awesome right now to keep us challenged and entertained.

Posted in Clash of Clans, Clash Royale, Crowfall, DoTA, EVE Online, Inquisition Clan, iPhone, League of Legends, MMO design, Random, Steam Stuff, World of Warcraft | Leave a comment