WoW is gankbox, EVE is not

And the gankbox discussion continues. What I find most interesting about all of this is that it reveals just how little most people understand about MMO design, or even what they themselves want in an MMO.

Let’s talk about the root of the issue as it relates to EVE; that when you die, you lose your stuff. That kind of design is already fairly rare in MMOs, what with soulbound items being very common even in games that do allow some form of PvP. But not only do you lose stuff in EVE, the game takes 50% of what you lose and destroys it, with the other 50% being left behind to be potentially looted by someone else (or the wreck can be blown up for a 100% destruction result). Other than the brief time I pushed Aventurine to implement this system in Darkfall (lovingly called the ‘SynCaine tax’ by the community), I’m not aware of any MMO that has this kind of mechanic. In old-school UO, when you died, you dropped everything. In Asheron’s Call you dropped an item, but nothing was taken by the game. DAOC you lost nothing.

The game taking 50% of what should drop is a core sink in the economy, and given that EVE has not only the best economy in the genre, but no other MMO is even remotely close, and you would think more MMOs, especially sandbox ones, would have learned this from EVE’s tenure as the top sandbox over the last 10+ years. But here is where the lack of understanding kicks in.

For many, both players and designers, the economy in a game is only important to those who care about it, be they crafters or market watchers. That, of course, is terribly wrong thinking, as the economy impacts everyone, or at least should in a good sandbox MMO. A miner cares about the economy because without it, his efforts might be pointless (how many MMOs exist today where basic crafting inputs or outputs have basically zero value? That’s a game with a terrible economy.) A PvP’er cares about the economy, both because of how much it costs him to replace his ship, and also the value he is killing/destroying from someone else. Explorers that hunt rare sites for rare items can only continue to do so if those items remain rare, and that can’t be maintained without a properly balanced economy. I think you get the point. Without a solid economy, many core systems in an MMO collapse, and this problem is poorly ‘fixed’ by resetting everyone over and over (level increase, or expansion with more powerful items).

Then you have the definition of the term ‘gank’ itself, which originally meant a PvP encounter where one side has zero chance. PvP combat was defined by there being an actual fight, while a gank is a one-sided slaughter. Why the ganked occurred is secondary, and not really part of the definition. Easy examples of a gank are a high level WoW character killing a lower level one, or a gate camp in EVE catching a single pilot. That the gank in WoW accomplishes nothing but wasting someones time, while the EVE gate camp might be for strategic reasons doesn’t change the fact that both encounters are a gank rather than PvP combat.

Now lets bring back the Massively definition of a gankbox:

Gankboxes are sandboxes that place such an emphasis on unrestricted free-for-all PvP that ganking comes to dominate the entire game, to the detriment of the rest of the world design.

Does ganking dominate EVE? Not even close, considering the vast majority of ships destroyed are from PvP combat (fleet battles, low-sec roams, etc) rather than ganking. But even if we ignore that fact, ganking in EVE isn’t a detriment to the rest of the design, it a benefit. Without that sink in the economy, the game itself would collapse. I could easily argue that vanilla PvP WoW servers were far more of a gankbox than EVE has ever been, and this is easily supported by the fact that Blizzard made significant changes to the ruleset to ‘fix’ the problem (no killing of flight masters or quest givers, for example).

So if you have ever raged against an expansion or update resetting your progress, what you are really upset about is that your MMO of choice has a broken economy. Maybe ask the devs to allow some more ganking to fix it?

Now excuse me, I’ve got to get back to multiboxing my ratting carriers in ‘dying’ (with record profits) EVE, while watching CNN, the news networking ‘dying’ while having its highest ratings ever. Might also pre-order Albion, since they are offering an industry-first pre-order bonus. Oh how outrageous of them!

Posted in Asheron's Call, Combat Systems, Dark Age of Camelot, Darkfall Online, EVE Online, Mass Media, MMO design, PvP, Rant, Ultima Online, World of Warcraft | 8 Comments

EVE: Goons still winning

As reported by CCP and written about at TAGN, despite Goons being ‘defeated’ during WWB, we are by far the most active alliance/region in terms of both mining and ratting, and it’s not even close. Delve alone is more active than the next 5 regions combined, while if you combine Delve and Querious (another region we basically own), those two are more active than the next 8 regions combined.

This is especially important because unlike basically every other MMO, where making money is trivial because most people don’t care about money after a certain point, in EVE since day one having more ISK is always beneficial, both individually and at the Corp/Alliance level. Our leadership knows this, and in part thanks to WWB, has increased the focus on that area. The results are pretty clear to see.

Related to this, CCP identified an issue with the overall money supply, in that carrier and super carrier ratting was too efficient (it was/is). This was nerfed, along with another round of nerfs to Rorq mining. Many saw this as a Goon-focused nerf, since we are kings of those areas, but they were wrong. Sure, the nerfs hurt us, but they hurt everyone else more. Why? Because Goons are better at adapting to change than just about anyone else thanks to our leadership.

As the old saying goes, the scoreboard doesn’t lie, and right now Goons are winning EVE. We recruit a lot of people, we retain those people, and those people becoming productive little bees faster than other pilots in other alliances. As I said at TAGN, right now I don’t think another WWB event is even possible in Delve. Between all of the citadels, and our now massive super/titan fleet, I don’t think the rest of EVE would be up to entering the meat grinder that is current-day Delve. The old issues with the alliance prior to WWB have been fixed (thanks Lenny), and we are stronger/better off today.

And when CCP fixes the balance issues around attacking/defending space, our war machine will be ready. Good times ahead!

Posted in EVE Online, Goons, Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Dying Light review

And now, we move on to a game I bought during the Steam sale that I am fully enjoying; Dying Light. It’s an action-combat parkour zombie sandboxy game, so super original and exciting! Kidding aside, Dying Light really is fantastic, and not because it brings something super fresh to the table, but because it does all the basics really, really well.

Let me start with the zombies. I love the traditional zombie; slow, dumb fodder that’s only a problem when you are cornered or face a horde of them. Those are the basic and most common zombies in DL, and it just works perfectly. You run around the huge map, and zombies are everywhere, but most of the time you can run right past them because they are slow and dumb. They also can’t climb, so that is also an easy escape most of the time. They can be a problem when you need to pick a locked door on the ground floor and they just keep coming, or when you fight another human, the fight makes too much noise, and suddenly you are both surrounded and the situation is a mess. That whole interaction is a huge core principle to a good zombie game, and DL has it down.

Which is not to say all of the zombies are dumb or the same. You do have faster zombies (recently turned humans) that can climb, zombies that spit toxin at you, exploding zombies, bigger tougher zombies, etc. The variety is really nice and ups the challenge, but those special zombies never replace the core zombie in terms of what you mostly see and deal with.

I generally dislike parkour in games, because more often than not it’s a tacked-on gimmick. In a lot of games, you can only run/jump/slide in special spots, the ‘now we do the parkour level’ spots. That’s not the case in DL; almost the opposite really. In DL you can jump and climb almost anything, and the game gives you a lot of leeway in those areas as well in terms of jumping/grabbing accuracy. Also the spots that you can’t climb are obvious, such as fences with barb wire at the top or smooth walls that clearly don’t have a spot to grab onto.

Parkour so also a tool in DL rather than a focused feature. It helps you get around and escape zombies, or climb to search for loot, but aside from some side challenges, the main focus/point isn’t around how neat the parkour is, which I appreciate. The game having passive health regen is also an important factor, because it allows you to run around with less concern over a slightly too far drop that damages you a bit, or when you run past some zombies and they nick you. If health didn’t regen, all of those things would be more noticeable and annoying.

Combat is very similar to games like Dead Island, where it’s mostly melee and pretty over-the-top (You bash zombie brains with pipes that have saw blades attached, or electrified baseball bats), though in DL you can’t endlessly kill everything like in other games due to weapon durability and the general concept of eventually being overwhelmed. It feels good though, and the weapon selection is impressive, as are the modification options. Facing the special zombies is also generally a challenge, especially when the environment is limited. For example, there is one encounter that places you in a small, closed-in area facing a large brute of a zombie, meaning you can’t just run away at will to regen or recover.

Production value is very high in the game. The graphics are great, the game supports ultra-wide 3440×1900 resolution, and it runs smoothly maxed out on my machine. The voice acting is top-notch IMO, and the story so far has been surprisingly engaging. Sound plays a huge role in situational awareness, from hearing zombies coming to detecting which special zombie is around based on what sound they make. Zero complaints at all in those areas.

The only negative so far is that the game is a console port, and while it’s not nearly the worst, it still suffers from things like nested menus in the UI and the checkpoint save system. For the most part the in-game controls are good, but more mouse-based interaction would have been nice too.

Overall DL has been a blast so far, really surprising me in how engaging it is and how well everything works together. Even if you are tired of ‘yet another zombie game’, I’d still recommend it, because even a tired idea is enjoyable when executed perfectly.

Posted in Random, Review, Steam Stuff | 3 Comments

Rocket League is as boring as soccer

Can someone explain to me why Rocket League is fun? I picked the game up via Steam sale, but I can’t figure out where the fun is, so I need some help here.

I find soccer cripplingly boring, both to play and to watch, and I think Rocket League does a pitch-perfect (zing) job of emulating soccer with cars. You run (drive) around the field, chasing the ball, and after enough bouncing and chasing, the ball goes in the goal. Rinse repeat forever? Because that’s literally all Rocket League is. Drive, run into ball, move ball to goal, the end. There are some gamey aspects like car customization unlocks and different arenas, but the core gameplay is shockingly simple.

Now, I get that once you get better, you are able to manipulate the ball better with your car, predict the bounces better, hold better positioning, ect. I’m not saying Rocket League is easy, or that there isn’t a learning curve that goes far beyond knowing the controls. I’m just saying that the whole thing is terribly boring. After 2-3 games I was done, but stuck with it for a few more to see if maybe something would click. It didn’t, which leaves me wondering; is Rocket League only fun for soccer fans?

Posted in Random, Rant, Steam Stuff | 9 Comments

Convoy Review

I picked up Convoy during the Steam summer sale, because a game you have had your eye on dropping to $3 is kinda hard to pass up. I always see Convoy compared to Faster Than Light (FTL), but for me they feel very different, and not always in a good way.

For starters, Convoy gets massive negative points for its locked resolution, which on my ultra-wide screen, makes the playing window about the size of my iPad, resulting in about 75% of my total screen real-estate being black. I get that pixel graphics don’t scale up as easily (or at all) as more modern 3D stuff, but come on, at least a few options here?

Another issue I have is for a rogue-like, Convoy is pretty shallow on the randomness and replay value. After you beat the game once, or even get pretty far to the end, the next game will feel like a big repeat. Events will mostly be the same, the core quest IS the same, and the number of weapons and vehicles is limited-enough that things never get too crazy. It’s also a shame that most of the better vehicles are rewards for successful events, so when you find that event (and in most playthroughs, you will), you are going to want to try and complete it in such a way that you get that reward, ignoring the other options.

That said, Convoy is fun for that initial burst, and at such a low price, it’s worth it even for the short-term. The combat, where you must position and move your vehicles to take advantage of weapon reach and LoS blocking, is really fun. Pushing a tough enemy off a cliff or into a building is a great feeling, and many of the boss encounters are pretty unique. The weapons, though a bit limited in selection, do function differently and greatly impact your strategy. Your main vehicle being immobile and having a different set of weapons is also a nice touch IMO.

As mentioned at the top, to me Convoy doesn’t feel like a ground-based FTL, because to me FTL had a lot of replay options, and its main quest forced you to move forward. In Convoy, you can drive around completing all of the side quests at basically your leisure, and tackle the main quest when ready.

Finally, Convoy has a lot of its starting options (your main vehicle, your starting companion vehicles) locked, and you must beat the game many times to unlock things, often times in somewhat silly ways (don’t shoot the final boss, don’t use weapons at all, etc). It’s a lot of grinding and back-bending to open up more replayability, and I think this also hurts the game. Give me most of the options after I beat the game once or twice, and I’ll be able to experience more of the game in a non-painful way.

Convoy is worth grabbing due to its low cost and initial (5-8hrs) burst of fun. If it really clicks for you, you will get more time out of it. If it does, well hey, 5-8hrs for $3 is pretty good, right?

Posted in Random, Review, Steam Stuff | 2 Comments

Today I am officially old

No, it’s not my birthday, thanks for asking.

This article at Polygon has the top 10 influential gamers list, and I’ve heard of exactly zero of them. The comments on the article echo my feelings; its a generational gap thing, where younger people spend a ton of time watching Youtube ‘personalities’ play games or do whatever it is they do. I don’t know, again, I’m now officially old.

What I do find a bit odd however is that while there is certainly a gap in who watches these people, and in turn is influenced by them, there isn’t a gap in what I prefer in gaming (or at least am aware of), and what actually sells, at least on the PC. I know most of the top games on Steam, and I like a good number of them. So are these Youtube people also enjoying these games? They must be right? I’d look to find out, but… yea no thanks.

Anyway, get off my lawn kids!

Posted in Rant | 12 Comments

Revisiting Beholder

I’ve started playing Beholder again, a title I last blogged about in Nov of 2016. I liked a lot of what the game did back then, but found it a little too brutal. Surprise, (note: not a surprise at all if you have been following this blog for a while) since that review a lower difficulty has been added that basically makes the game less punishing and easier to advance in.

The key to the easier difficulty is that things cost less, and you get more money for most tasks. This is very important because rather than having to go down the 100% optimal path, you can now make mistakes, get a little bit less money, but still have enough to avoid the hard stops the game will occasionally force on you. For the min/max crowd the original mode still exists as well.

At the lower difficulty setting, Beholder really is far more enjoyable, and playing through the game (about 6-8 hours) to the end is very worthwhile, because what starts as a slightly oppressive government soon goes full crazy-town on you, and the decisions you have to make get really, really tough.

I’m sure the game will be part of the upcoming Steam sale, and I’d recommend picking it up to try something a bit different. Even if it doesn’t fully click for you, at it’s low cost, a few hours to experience something unique is worth it IMO.

Note: The game also has one piece of DLC, which I’m likely going to grab during the sale, but can’t comment on right now.

Posted in Random, Steam Stuff