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BadSpock's Logical Conclusions.

My random thoughts about MMORPGs. A bit of critique, suggestion, debate, and insanity. Enjoy.

Author: BadSpock

True Stealth

Posted by BadSpock Thursday January 24 2008 at 1:21PM
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I believe it's about time we see a MMO with "next generation" stealth.

In a MMO, there is no way you could do stealth like Splinter Cell or Riddick... you simply can't have that level of lighting technology in a MMO at this point. At least, from what I understand, it is way to intensive of an operation for the engine/lighting system to work in a MMO environment.

But you CAN control the distance at which the game client renders near by objects into a player view. In many/most MMOs, controlling the distance at which the game client renders near by objects is a graphical option.. used to give better performance or visual quality.

But what if it could be used to create a realistic stealth system for a MMO? How?

Let me explain my idea.

Make a stealth system where your character's skill/level of stealthiness determines the distance at which the game client renders that player to others. Make this affected by the day/night cycle (distance is much shorter at night and much longer during the day)

Make it so moving increases the range in which you are rendered to others, the faster you are moving the more likely to be detected.

Make it so if you are in the frontal 180 degree arc of another player the rendering distance goes up, and of course if you are in the rear 180 degree arc of another player the rendering distance drops off very sharply.

If the stealther has already been targetting/spotted, you have no magical vanishing back into thin air.

Make a "Vanish" ability work realistically. You throw a small bit of flash powder at the ground, blinding your opponents to your presence for a few seconds. I.E. 2-3 seconds where no one can see you, where no nearby player's game client renders your character as part of the scene...  after that time is up, you reappear... just enough time to start running away, maybe dash around a corner, jump off a ledge.. etc. but NOT disappear completely.

True stealth.

Give stealth characters the ability to "gather" material from their environment to construct a camo suit (much like real life snipers do, but I can't remember what they call it) Make this camo suit effect the distance at which the game client renders them to others. If the player moves while in the suit, this as an effect on their render distance as well. If they stay low and move slowly, their chance to be detected is much lower.

True camouflage.

This way, a stealthy player can hide and lie in waiting much easier, and would also be very useful for scouting.. but sneaking up and ambushing another player/NPC would be difficult to do and require a great deal of skill and luck on the part of the player.

No magic stealth. Realistic stealth.

Like the camouflage system, a player who dresses in very dark clothing at night has a lower chance of being detected....

You have to think outside the box a bit.

I'm not talking about turning invisible. You'd NEVER turn invisable to the naked eye. It's just that through a combination of these factors, the distance at which the other player's game client rendered your character on their screen would change. From far away to not at all.

For NPC's and mob's it'd be much easier. Instead of changing the rendering distance, it changes the aggro distance.

If you are running full speed wearing shiny silver plate mail directly at an NPC in broad daylight and the NPC is looking directly at you, the aggro distance will be very, very large.

If you are slowly crawling along the grass wearing a camo suit made of leaves and grass and trees from local vegatation and doing so approaching the NPC/mob from behind at night time... the aggro distance will be so small they won't aggro you until your blade is already in them.

What do you think?

1. Is it possible to control rendering / aggro distance in that way?

2. If it IS possible, would you like to see a stealth system like this?

The casual hardcore gamer

Posted by BadSpock Tuesday January 22 2008 at 9:29AM
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Something I thought I'd share with ya'll here at MMORPG.com

This is from Loading... a blog over at TenTonHammer.com by John "Boomjak" Hoskin.

All credit goes to Mr. Boomjak of course, but I thought it spoke such truth I needed to share it on MMORPG.com in case ya'll missed today's Loading...

Enjoy, I'll highlight the key parts:

"So there I was, reading through the 50 or so websites that I peruse on a daily basis in my neverending attempt to know what is going on, when I noticed that even some of the people who should understand the casual versus hardcore "issue" really don’t get it. The bottom line is that casual doesn’t mean ‘easy’ and hardcore doesn’t mean ‘difficult’. How did many players get stuck on this notion?

You need look no further than World of Warcraft to see that a game most MMOG players define as casual friendly has a deep hardcore foundation. It simply flows well from one gameplay type to another. The vocal group out there who claims that WoW is for ‘noobs’ probably hasn’t played it or they tried it and left because they weren’t as adept as most of the other players.

WoW is successful because it has a long learning curve with a gradual grade. Players are led from one puzzle to the next in such an intuitive way that the game just feels right. This is great design folks. This isn’t casual. Many of you are hardcore and you don’t even know it. Blizzard simply changed the way that developers move new players from being isolated ports in the storm to being part of a larger entity that is taking on more difficult content. That fact that most players didn’t even notice is a testament to how good the design really is.

Unlike most MMOGs that came before it, WoW was a game first and a world second. Did anyone really think that forcing a player to run up to every NPC in the world to see if they had a quest was fun? It’s like asking every person who walks by you if they can spare some change. We call those people beggers in real life. In EverQuest and even EverQuest 2 everyone was a quest begger, panhandling for quests like some handyman moocher. "I’ll take anything you got. You need Eel Eyes? I’ll get ‘em. You want me to smack 20 rats. No problem. Deliver this package to a guy in some other zone. I’m on it!"

Blizzard took the annoyances of real life out of their game and made it fun. Isn’t that what games are supposed to be?

Casual or hardcore? Can you define the difference? Has anyone delivered as much as Blizzard?"

So, so, so true people.

Yes, WoW is 'easy' at the early levels. It's suppose to be. You have to play for a while to find the real challenges. I agree fully that most of those who call WoW a "noob" game never got too far. They probably logged on, expected a tedius, poorly designed grind-fest so they could claim themselves "hardcore" and got bored because the game wasn't overly frustrating.

I've been around since old-school (pre-Trammel) UO. Pre-CU/NGE Star Wars Galaxies... I've dabbled in EVE, EQ, EQ2, LOTRO, TR, and just about everything else.

WoW is as successful as it is for a reason people. Yeah you might be burned out, yeah you may have "been there done that" and moved past WoW. But don't even try to say it's a bad game.

Why has no MMO before WoW been so successful? Why has no MMO since WoW been so successful? Pretty easy answers if you take your "hardcore" shades off and look at the game objectively.

So I define the WoW player, the "standard" WoW player (as I've seen them) who are at max level and still plays at least 10-15 hours a week as being the "casual hardcore."

We're hardcore about our game, we play daily or almost every day, we PvP and raid and farm... but we're casual players none the less. We don't like tedius, overly frustrating and complicated systems. We don't see these things as a sign of difficulty, we see them as a poorly designed systems. Make the challenge, the difficulty come from the content, not from the system.

I have enough challenge and tedium, frustration and complications in my real life. I want to play a game that is most importantly fun, but also easy to get into, forgiving, and laid-back.

A game that achieves these things, but also provides a challenge when I seek one is a well designed and well made game.

Sex sells

Posted by BadSpock Thursday January 17 2008 at 3:12PM
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Look at the number one and number two blogs on MMORPG.com

#1 AoC dev blog. Nothing sexier then straight-out-of-developer's-mouth information. Well, a LOT of things are sexier IRL, but on MMORPG.com it's #1 for a reason.

#2 cute asian girl blog - posts are irrelevant, terribly written, but still #2 blog in popularity because of cute asian girl pic

Ya'll are shallow, cheap, and bastards !

Yeah, I liked being the most popular blog around a lot of the time.

Yeah, I'm kind of jaded to be surpassed by a dev blog and cute girly blog.

Oh well, being #1 behind those two isn't so bad.

Anywho, have a nice weekend ya'll.

 

(this is a joke post btw that's designed to try and bump my blog back to the top popularity spot because most people only click on the newest blog postings on the MMORPG.com home page)

Cheers!

lol

We're Wrong

Posted by BadSpock Wednesday January 16 2008 at 3:25PM
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Just saw this, "You're Wrong" over at The Escapist Magazine by Dana Massey

Thanks to MMORPG.com user paulscott for linking this in the forums - *LINK*

A lot of people don't like to click on links, so I'll re-post the article here for ya'll to read, and please do read the whole thing!

"

"You're Wrong"

by Dana Massey, 21 Nov 2006 6:02 am

You're wrong and should be ignored, but don't worry, you're loved.

If you're reading this article, you're likely a hardcore videogame fan. You read message boards, and you're not afraid to tell developers what they're screwing up. I'm here to tell you that if you're a member of a specific videogame's community, your opinion should be ignored. Your thoughts must be digested - it's hard to ignore loud screaming - but discarded.

It sounds harsh and definitely won't be a popular opinion, but the most dangerous thing a developer can do is listen to his hardcore community.

The hardcore can and have led developers astray. Before a game undergoes production, developers write what's called a design document. Detailing various technical and operational aspects of a game, it functions as the team's battle plan, but it's hardly a static document. It is fluid, evolving as development progresses. It is on the strength or weakness of these documents that good or bad games are born.

Too often, though, perfectly good games get confused, turned around and bashed over the head by those who claim to love them most. It's tragic, really. They enter beta, with all their bright ideas and shiny new toys and then some 14-year-old screams, "This sucks!" At a company with strong leadership and vision, this is read, digested and considered, but rarely do they succumb to the mighty weight of one 14-year-old and a few of his buddies. At a not-so-steady company, a post or 10 like that can be fatal.

Welcome to a world of reactionary development. Every time the community screams, the developers shift focus and try to put out that fire. Suddenly, the game is no longer in development, but rather in commercial service, and this is wrong. Testing phases are for testing and there is no way to say with any idea of accuracy that something truly does suck until all the spices are in the pot.

Games are huge undertakings. Clever designers, like good cooks, need all the different ingredients to work together for the final result to be appetizing. Like cooking, you cannot just go "voila" and have the whole friggen game there. It takes time, it takes massaging, it takes patience.

You, my hardcore friends, lack patience.

The hardcore, for the most part, play games in beta the way they'd play any old game they got from Best Buy. They try to get better, they try to win. When they find something boring, they scream and yell. Yet, for some reason, those egocentric screams are fatal.

It is extremely hard to build a work of art while people piss and moan about how much they hate it. Imagine Leonardo da Vinci with a group of art critics in his studio as he painted the Mona Lisa. He'd end up with a brown canvas. When too many people are yelling contradictory opinions, and developers try to accommodate them all, they get a brown canvas; something that is entirely innocuous, but completely pointless. These are also known as unremarkable or - dare I say - bad games.

Yet it happens every day, and I blame the increased importance of online communities for the current dilution and sameness of so many games, especially in the MMOG genre.

So, the skeptic may point out that I am basically suggesting developers ignore the very people for whom their games are made. Not exactly.

I suggest only that game developers ignore their hardcore fans. By hardcore, I mean anyone who uses videogame-related message boards. Like it or not, the people posting are not a representative sample of your community. There's a reason no one believes that girls play videogames despite constant studies saying the opposite. They have better sense than to dive into the acid culture that exists on most videogame message boards. They'd most likely just get asked if they're "hawt." There goes half the audience from that sample so many game developers listen so intently to.

I am all for interaction between developers and their customers. The Vanguard development team implemented feedback forms in their beta test that asked people what they thought of what they just experienced. It's a snazzy little trick, right there in the client. That is good feedback. Kind of. The only problem there is this: Only the hardcore beta test. How many vaguely interested Wal-Mart shoppers camp forums waiting for a beta sign-up? Not many, I would wager, but it is these people that end up paying the bills and it is they that developers need to keep happy.

Videogame developers need to avoid the temptation of showing off their toys until they're totally painted. Bean counters won't like it, but beta tests should not exist until the game is nearly ready. They should not be about development, only polish. If studios want to know what prospective players think, they should learn some lessons from other industries and show it to representative focus groups once it's done.

The nefarious trick for videogame developers is to ignore their community without telling them. It's evil, it's underhanded, but if you can still fool the hardcore into buying into your brand, so much the better. In order to get them, they need to think they were only this far away from getting their names in the credits.

It can be done. The trick is to have smart community relations people. These are people who can rationally use a message board to talk to players. There, they post, they discuss and they explain. They let the community know they're reading and that they're not wasting their time.

In reality, though, the community better be wasting their time. Community management is public relations when it's at its best and cause for reactionary development when it's at its worst.

Developers must learn to stick to their guns and see their visions through. Half-finished products are always going to inspire hate, and no mater how much it stings, making drastic changes in response to community complaints invites disaster. When the hardcore yell that something "sucks," developers must learn to tell them how much they love them and tuck them in for the night.

"

So thank you Mr. Dana "Lepidus" Massey. Lead content Editor for MMORPG.com

So are you telling us that no dev should come to this site and listen to any of us? :)

I agree.

We're the mob. The loud, vocal minority.

Our arguments, our forum posts, and our blogs only matter to other MMORPG.com users who read them. Same goes in any official game forum.

ZOMG the genre is dying?!?!

Posted by BadSpock Friday January 11 2008 at 11:40AM
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I always LOL at these threads where people question whether or not the MMO genre/era is dying. That we are somehow in "low" times and is there no hope omg etc. etc.

Are you serious? Why?

1. More people play MMOs then ever before- Fact

2. More games are being released all the time - Fact

3. More variety and competition in the market - Fact (Yes, 95% are Fantasy, but at least Sci-Fi games, super hero games, and Pirate games exist now)

4. More games in development - Fact

5. More money spent on creating titles - Fact

6. More AAA devs/publishers creating MMOs - Fact

 

It's the BEST and GOLDEN time for the MMO era in my opinion.

You people just think that the genre is dying because you don't like the games that are out/coming out because you, personally, don't think they are good as the "old school" games we cut our teeth on.

Your opinion is your opinion, but the genre isn't dying. Fact. It's more alive now then ever before, and will only get better and better (hopefully.)

Just because you don't like the games doesn't mean the genre is dying.

Yes, there aren't any sandbox titles in development (yes I know about DF and I'm not getting into it) but does this mean that the genre is dying?

No. If you look at it from an economic perspective, MMOs are making more money, more are being made, and more people are playing them now then ever. Does this mean the genre is on it's way out? That it's dying? Only if you are a crazy person.

It's like saying "McDonalds is making 1,345% more profit per year then they did 10 years ago" and then coming back and saying "this must mean the era of McDonalds is coming to an end."

It's just crazy.

I just don't understand the logic behind these postings.

If you FEEL that the games aren't as good as they used to be, that is your opinion and you are entitled to it. But saying the genre is dying is just plain wrong. It's bigger and move alive then ever before.

MMO Virtual World or something else?

Posted by BadSpock Tuesday January 8 2008 at 12:08PM
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Been seeing people discussing whether or not MMOs are still "virtual worlds" or if they're something different.

A lot of people are making the "sandbox vs. linear" argument, but I think it goes a lot deeper then that.

To me, in order for a game to be a "world" it has to be an experience that draws you in.

You have to "feel" it.

You have to question, and worry, and analyze your actions.

You have to deal with the consequences of those actions.

In short, in order to "feel" like a world, you have to be able to effect that world. You have to feel included in the game world.

In a single player RPG, this is easy. It's only you, your actions direct what is happening. Best example? Mass Effect. I've never, and I mean never, felt I was really in a whole new world (galaxy) more then I have playing Mass Effect. I feel important, powerful, and I know my decisions make a difference. This is what makes Mass Effect such a good game, in my opinion.

They also nailed the immersion. To me, immersion is that you feel the world could actually exist. Mass Effect is full of an entire index of information on the worlds, the technologies, the species, the history... these things make me feel immersed, they make me feel this world (galaxy) could actually exist.

Combine these two, immersion and inlcusion, and in my mind you've created a "world" rather then simply a series of levels/events.

This is very hard to do in a MMORPG. Why? It's multiplayer. You can't have too much effect on the world, because that in turn effects how others experience the world. One player does something cool and changes the world to his liking, 3-4 players get left out and something changes that hurts them. You then keep one subscriber and lose 3-4. This is not the way for a successful MMO.

The only way around this is to capture the feeling of inclusion. You can't be the hero, the one savior, but you can be a part of the winning team. In order to "feel" like you are part of the team, you have to be immersed in the lore/character of that team.

So it comes back down to immersion and inclusion, but in a different way. You aren't the hero, but you are part of something greater then yourself. You aren't the defining point of the story and of the world, you are simply a player in the much larger scheme of things, but you have to "feel" that your player belongs. Hence, the immersion factor. If you play a ravaging orc, you have to "feel" like a ravaging orc.

I think of any current or upcoming MMO, Warhammer online will succeed because it will give players both inclusion and immersion on a MMO scale.

Your individual actions may not matter too much to the world, but your participation in the team, in the grand battle between Order and Destruction, will help to define the conflict. You personally may not "win" but your faction and your race can.

With 30 years of lore and fiction behind the IP, and (so far from what I've seen) the attention to detail EA Mythic is giving, I can imagine that Greenskins will "feel" like Greenskins, Dwarfs like Dwarfs, etc. The Tome of Knowledge looks to be a tool that will go a LONG way in upping the immersion factor.

So you have immersion and inclusion, the two steps that, to me, define the difference between a game being a true "world" and not just a series of levels/events.

So, to me, it doesn't matter that Warhammer will be a more linear and quest driven game, by no means a true sandbox. With the immersion and inclusion of their RvR campaigne and the decades of Warhammer lore (especially through the Tome of Knowledge) I believe that WAR will be the next great "world."

In a game like EVE, yes, it's also very possible to become immersed in the world and become included in it. Probably more so then any other game currently released. Problem is that these positions are only available for a small portion of the population. The largest and most powerful corporations only. Everyone else is simply a witness to these grand events, not a participant. I think Warhammer will beat out EVE in the immersion/inclusion factor because everyone will be part of the fight, everyone will help to make a difference.

Warcraft fails at being a true "world" because you the player has no effect on it, really. Sometimes, you have a small effect. Killing bosses that gave your faction a buff, controlling PvP areas to give your faction a buff... but it's just not enough nor all too important to make you feel like you are really included in the world. I think the immersion factor is there, lots of great lore and ficiton behind Warcraft name, but the inclusion just isn't there. The fact that both PvP and PvE help the RvR effort in WAR, I think the inclusion aspect of being "part" of something greater then one's self.

For AoC, the guild control of keeps will be a nice inclusion factor, and the Conan IP definetly has the lore and amount of fiction neccessary for the immersion factor, but I think the guild keep control will be limited to a small portion of the population, so like in EVE, most will simply be observers rather then participants. In WAR, everyone will be part of the fight, not just the top guilds who take turns controlling the keeps. 

LOTRO definetly has the immersion factor, tons of lore and a feeling of importance through the epic questing and cutscenes, etc. but very little, if any at all, on the inclusion side. As a player you know that you can't go and stop the forces of evil, that's Frodo and the fellowships job, so what impact on the world do you actually have? It's already set in stone what happens, when it happens, and how it happens. No chance for inclusion there unless you get to play as Fellowship members, but obviously it's a MMO so you can't do it.

Just my thoughts.

So to me, it's not about sandbox vs. linear. It's about "feeling" like you are part of it. I think if you combine immersion and inclusion, it doesn't matter if it's a linear quest based game or a sandbox title. You can create a "true" virtual world as long as you get those two factors right.

What do ya'll think?

If *I* were to make a Mass Effect MMO

Posted by BadSpock Monday January 7 2008 at 10:51AM
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Disclosure - I love Mass Effect. I'm currently playing through three different characters at the same time in order to unlock the most achievements (it makes sense in my mind) and I've already beaten it twice. 

I still haven't completed the "majority" of the game. There are soooo many side quests and missions.

Disclosure #2 - I really don't think they'll ever make a Mass Effect MMO. ME is suppose to be part 1 of a 3 part RPG series. That's going to keep BioWare very busy in the ME world. I think their MMO is going to be one of their other IPs or something new.

 

But if there were to be a Mass Effect MMO, this is how I'd see it, and how I'd hope it was done.

 

Let's start first with characters. You have a few good options for races. Humans, Turians, Quarians, Krogan, Asari, Sallarian. We know the Asari are only "female" so I'd say make the Krogan male only. There is some talk of Krogan females, but with the whole genophage thing, better to keep them out as playable.

The six classes they have in ME would be great. Three schools, combat, tech, and biotic. Three combo classes, tech+biotic, biotic+combat, tech+combat. They would probably have to add more powers and abilities.

It'd be safe to say some class/race combos would be restricted. All Asari would have to either be total biotics, biotic + combat, or biotic + tech. No pure biotic Krogan. All Quarians would have to be either total tech, biotic + tech, or combat +tech. That kind of thing.

Combat could be exactly the same, but without the pause feature obviously. In truth, it'd be very, very similar to Tabula Rasa, but perhaps with less aiming assistance and more FPS aiming like ME has. I've never PvP'd in Tabula Rasa, don't know how it'd work in a ME world, with all the biotics and tech abilities + weapons... it'd sure be interesting.

You'd have to control a single character, not a whole party. You want to encourage grouping but not force it. I know before getting the Unity ability my squad mates would die a lot (veteran difficulty) and I'd be alone anyway. Actually somewhat easier, the friendly AI isn't too great in combat.

Instanced quest progression to tell the "main story" with alingment choices that effect the outcome and your characters growth. Just like the current ME, but with the option of bringing a player filled party.

Rest of the galaxy very open and "sandbox" like. Hundreds (if not more) of worlds to explore. Pirate camps and Geth outposts and resources to be surveyed etc. Rewards for exploration and surveying, and of course combat.

You could do thousands of typical-MMO-type quests this way too, of course.

One thing that I think would be interesting, would be a faction type system. At first, you are doing everything to advance your position within your race, your reputation with them, and not only that but help your race build further reputation with the Citadel Council. Once you've done enough to "prove" your worth to your race and to the Council, you could then become a Spectre. Once you become a Spectre, you'd get your own ship (no ship to ship combat) so you'd no longer have to use public transportation. It's kind of like getting your first Mount in other MMOs. 

Once you become a Spectre the alignment game really heats up. You can become a Paragon for good and justice in the galaxy, helping others and helping the Citadel/your home race. Or become a Renegade and do whatever it takes to accomplish whatever goals you set for yourself.

I mean, it's pretty much the exact same as the current offline Mass Effect, but on an even larger scale.

Only problem I see is with "end game." Not sure how'd you could do PvP for end game, unless you have total Paragon vs. Renagade Spectre wars... like some sort of Civil War that errupts within the Citadel species....

Couldn't really raid, the combat is hectic and chaotic enough in ME with a 3 person party, I could never imagine 10+ at once.

So what would end game be? Yeah, you'd have lots of planets to explore and a galaxy full of Pirates and Geth to combat.... but you'd have to have something more. Maybe a full blown war between the Citadel species and the Terminus systems... but that'd be for PvE end game. Could you then still have the PvP civil war between rival Spectre factions?

What are your thoughts? Obviously, you probably have to have played Mass Effect to know what I'm talking about. But I've put some thought into this, and was wondering what ya'll thought? 

Thanks, please comment!

Linear questing games are easier to make? Really?

Posted by BadSpock Thursday January 3 2008 at 10:17AM
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Linear quest-based games are easier to make? Are you serious?

I've heard many people try to use this argument on various forum topics. They like to use this little gem when arguing for the creation of more sandbox games, that the developers don't have the skill or effort required to make a true sandbox game, because linear games are so much "easier" to make every does them.

Are you kidding me?

Let's think about it.

Sandbox game - everything is player created / run. So you DON'T need quests and storylines. The player makes their own quests and stories.

You have to create the UI, the monster AI, the combat system, then advancement system, the crafting, the trading, the social systems, etc. etc. everything else every MMO ever made has had.

Which means you don't have to design and implement thousands of quests. No questing XP rewards to figure out and balance, no quest reward loot tables to create and balance, no quest event triggers to code and test, no quest log text to write and edit, etc.

A quest based game has everything that a sandbox game has. It just ALSO has tons and tons of quests.

It's pretty easy actually. Imagine playing WoW, but never doing a quest, ever. You'd kill stuff, socialize with people, gather resources, craft, kill some more stuff... etc. 

You could play WoW as a sandbox game easily if you chose to never do a quest and just wander around making your own content like you do in a sandbox game. 

Everything that makes a "sandbox' game is there. You may say that the different zones are designed to only allow people of a certain level in WoW. Are sandbox games any different? Monsters still have different relative strengths. In a sandbox game you still go to area X when you are a noob and area Z is only for vets.

"Yeah but in WoW you always go to the same zones at around the same level, you have no freedom!"

In every sandbox MMO I played, it's the exact same way. Certain areas are off limits to noobs, the same stratification exists, it's just that in more linear games, it tells you "mob ten levels higher then you = instant death" where as in a sandbox game, you just go get one shotted quick and remember "ok, that guy pwns me." I'd rather have a little bit of direction from the game to not waste a death on my ignorance, thanks.

They add thousands of quests to make the game more interesting and help you level up a bit faster. So, how is a linear game easier to make again? "They have more work to do, so it's easier for them." Really? Serious?

If you're talking about class vs. skill based advancement, they are really about the same in terms of how "easy" to make. How do I know this? Because I've played plenty of both types, both have imbalances and constant patching/nerfing of different skills/classes/abilities etc. 

No class based game is perfectly balanced, nor is any skill based game. Are the devs stupid for not being able to balance the game? No, you're stupid for assuming you are smarter and better at balancing a game that you didn't create. A smart person would think, "They made the game, they coded it, if anyone can balance it, it'll be them." So why aren't games balanced? Becuase MMOs are so frick'n huge and so many system interact with each other in so many different ways, our heads would explode if we were forced to deal with it on a daily basis. We're lucky we have such hard working and intelligent devs behind our favorite games.... (obviously the previous sentence does not apply to SWG and the NGE or Sigil's Vanguard)

I'd like clarification if you would please, I just simply don't understand where you people are coming from when you say that linear games are easier to make.  

Little help?