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Blade Wars Developer Blog

Thoughts from ChangYou's Blade Wars Dev. Team about publishing a F2P game in the West, living the gaming life and the industry in general. To find more info about Blade Wars, go to http://bw.us.changyou.com/en/

Author: ChangYou2

Maestro

Posted by ChangYou2 Thursday May 27 2010 at 8:42PM
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"Music is the universal language of mankind." - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Have you ever wanted to be in a band, but have no time for actual *lessons*? Do you not have enough room in your studio apartment for a full Rock Band setup? The Blade Wars "Maestro" system was *made* with you in mind!

 
The Blade Wars "Maestro" system allows players to perform solo or in a band using mouse movements. To be able to perform music, players need to purchase the "Performing" skill from Yale Shi located in Zither Terrace. Then, visit George Chang to purchase at least one of the over 30 starter Music Books and one of the 10 starter instruments. Each Music Book lists the name of the song,  the difficulty level, and the suggested instrument to use. Despite suggestions, you can choose to play songs with any instrument you choose.
 
Instruments may be equipped in the small amulet slots on the character's Equipment tab. Fair warning however, that once you equip an instrument it is bound to that character. The bound instruments cannot be discarded, but can be sold to vendors.
 
 
Ready to practice? Equip the desired instrument and then right-click on the song of choice. A grid of colored lines will appear on the screen, along with a sparkling star which moves about the grid. This sparkling star travels along a path with the music, as a guide for your mouse cursor to follow.
 
Moving the mouse horizontally will play the note, while moving the mouse vertically will change the pitch of the note.
 
 
Ready to form a band? Form a party with your desired band members, and make sure you are all within close proximity to each other. Each player should activate the Performance skill (under Skills/F6). Make sure everybody has an instrument equipped, and let one party member choose a song at a time.
 
Now you're ready to bring your band on the road! Perhaps you can perform at weddings?
 
If you do well, you can earn experience and D Stones to be used towards the next level of music skill or upgraded instruments. Experience will only gained while the Performance Skill is activated via the right mouse button slot.
 
Rock on, fellow music-lovers, and I'll see you in-game!
 
-EntropyInk
Blade Wars Assistant Producer

The Thrill is Gone...Open World PvP in Today's Market

Posted by ChangYou2 Wednesday May 12 2010 at 6:59PM
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I recently stumbled upon a blog entry here on MMORPG.com by “MikeB” which addressed the concept of instancing within a MMORPG.  He quoted many different players who all had different viewpoints on this mechanic which effectively can “section off” certain areas of a game and limit encounters.  The idea is simple and has some merit, but is this truly the way to go? 
 
 
I remember a time, back in the annuls of video gaming history, when the online RPG was about experiencing encounters out in a persistent world amongst your fellow players.  You had to fight for everything you wanted from grind spots to boss mobs.  Even resource gathering was contested and a struggle within these early realms.  This is what separated the game from the single player console RPG’s.  This is where the term “MMORPG” was born.
 
 
As readers of my past blog posts could attest to, my favorite online game to date is pre-trammel Ultima Online from way back in 1997.  This title introduced me to an online gaming style which incorporated one world and one instance for all.  The genre was still in its infancy, so everything was new and the waters were untested….We were the guinea pigs.  If you wanted that mining vein you had to take it.  If you wanted to farm for cash you needed to prepare to fight other farmers who all needed money as well.  In short, the players themselves were your best friends and worst enemies in this world with no instances.  PvP occurred at places that the players deemed important.  There were no pre-determined objectives or artificial zones where one had to go to find any enemies….They existed around every corner!  You could be attacked anywhere and at any time, even in the center of town in broad daylight!
 
 
Bigger games such as World of Warcraft feature world PvP as well, but due to “instancing” fighting outside of the battlegrounds has quickly fallen out of favor with its gaming community.  Long gone are the days of hanging around Blackrock Mountain with the intent of attacking unsuspecting foes that had the misfortune of wondering across your path.  I am not talking about killing low level players or jumping those who were in the middle of killing monsters, but referring to good old fashioned 1 on 1 combat.  Being a good character in a 1 v 1 World PvP setting required a much different skill set then being a good team mate within an instanced battleground.  There were no rules, no objectives, and no one to hear you scream.  The only goal that existed was to defeat your opponent by any means necessary, even if it meant mind controlling them into a group of angry mobs. 
 
 
Why did instancing become so popular and World PvP fall out of favor with the masses?  There is no easy and clear cut answer, but I have a few theories.
 
 
For starters, let’s go over some of the issues that exist on the technical side of the spectrum.
 
 
Lag is always the first and foremost of a player’s complaints.  When something goes wrong, it’s because they lagged.  This excuse is common for all gamers from Super Street Fighter 4, to Counter Strike Source, to even Bomberman across the Sega Saturn network (which still works by the way), it's always about the lag.  Not even chess or spades online is free from this constaint complaint! 
 
 
What is the best way to fix this legendary issue, other then asking people to stop playing on a 28.8k modem?  The developer's solution came down to limiting the amount of interaction possible at one time by instancing off parts of the game.  Some games even took this to the extreme like Guild Wars and even instanced off parts of the world where there wasn’t even any fighting!  Will the issue of latency continue even after these changes?  The developers know they cannot please everyone, but instancing is about the extent of what can be done on their end.
 
 
You can still play with up to 10 people in a game of Bomberman with the Sega Saturn modem or on one television screen with 2 multitaps and 10 controllers!
 
 
Another attribute to decreased performance can be seen and best illustrated with a game like Age of Conan.  Their graphics are state of the art, but most players do not have a powerful enough computers to engage in large fights without seeing a drop in frame rates.  Every game has to deal with this issue in varying degrees depending on the engine (Anarchy Online was such a resource hog) and the year (Age of Conan is very recent), but instancing is once again the solution.  If a majority of people upgraded their systems this wouldn’t be such an problem, but not everyone can have a gaming rig that can run Crysis at 100 frames per second.  The explanation for this fix is very similar to that for lag.  If you limit the amount of characters that are on screen, you can prevent those players from losing too many frames.
 
 
The biggest factor I believe for the rise of instances, however, is more personal and severe then these convenient technical excuses.  Reasonable people can have differing views on what kind of system they enjoy within their MMO's, but the following opinion has been reached through experience and research into most of the MMO's that hit the market in recent history.
 
 
I feel most players have grown weary of the constant bloodbaths which characterized most early MMOs.  Most would rather be protected during their travels instead of the having an ever-present fear that death may be around every corner.  To put it bluntly, most players have grown “soft” when it comes to player versus player combat.  Old Ultima Online and other early MMORPG’s were so brutal and unforgiving during the dawn of this now mammoth genre.  If you came across an opponent and lost, much more than just your dignity was at stake.  UO had "full loot" deaths, so if you died in front of any other player he could help himself to your items!  Full loot as a concept has been abandoned almost entirely, including in Ultima Online itself, due to a growing frustration by players from losing their items...and many would say this is for the best.  Slowly making the game friendly to the casual gamer turned out to be a slippery slope, however, and that slop would begin to claim many more gaming mechanics before finally the act of "dying" itself in the world came up next to the chopping block.  It became inconvenient to run into players and end up having to fight instead of just easily passing through, saving the fights for pre-determined locations. 
 
 
World PvP was always spontaneous and unexpected.  It gave players a rush that can’t be experienced within any pre-determined encounter.  Battlegrounds provide predictability and repetition, while world PvP provides apprehensiveness and fear. 
 
 
 
What is my personal opinion on this subject?
 
 
World PvP provides an experience that cannot be duplicated or recreated.  Once your game decides to add instances and battlegrounds, you lose a large aspect of what set this genre apart from its inception…..from what originally drew me towards MMO's.  I, as a player, enjoy the fight no matter the medium.  On consoles I am drawn to competitive games like fighters and first person shooters.  There is an inherent skill to be worked on in order to improve, and without an active human opponent to test yourself against you no longer need to adapt your playstyle.  Without this unknown factor, games are reduced to memorization and recognition of patterns.    
 
 
Instanced PvP has its appeal, especially within battlegrounds that are timed with a clear objective.  BG's provide an organized set up and give certain players the incentive they need to actually participate in a little friendly competiton.  If you have a team that is willing to work together, you can have alot of fun and success within these instances.  After the initial novelty of the fighting in these battlegrounds has worn off, however, these scripted encounters begin to move away from satisfying and dynamic experiences slowly, becoming more and more like a dungeon. 
 
 
Think about it.  Go back to the last battleground you have participated in.  What was your first thought?
 
 
Generally mine would involve moving from point A to B to complete some sort of objective.  Where is the unexpected?  Where is the anticipation?  Where is the fear?  All of these emotions are lost.  Players are not in these instances to fight, but usually there simply to grind out “points” or “gear”….you might as well just be fighting against NPCs.  As BB King would put it, “The Thrill is Gone” when it comes to PvP these days.
 
 
What do you all think?  Make sure to leave your thoughts if you agree or disagree with some of the points I have brought up in this article.  As always, I enjoy the responses and hope we can get a dialogue going over world PvP.
 
 
This has been another installment in the Blade Wars Development Blog, and hopefully you have enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it.
 
 
PS - Closed Beta for Blade Wars begins on May 13th at 4pm PST.  Make sure to check it out :)
 
 
Josh Forester (Jaynestown)
-Community Manager, Changyou.com

Attacking from the Shadows.....Now presenting, the Assassin!

Posted by ChangYou2 Friday May 7 2010 at 8:02PM
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It’s time for our next installment in the Blade Wars Development blog!  Today we’ll be taking a look at our next class, the Assassin.
 
 
While similar to the Ninjas of legend, the Assassin is quite a different character then you might expect
 
 
While the Knight may boast above average mobility, the Assassin just exists on another tier in terms of quickness.  No class can come close to their quick hits and their critical strikes.  This speed also comes with a downside however, for their physical attack rating is the lowest as well.  Your individual hits will never come close to what a warrior can dish out, but you make up for this with many more hits and combo damage bonus’s.  On every 7th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 27th, 35th, and 42nd hit a character receives a damage bonus, so the Assassin will be better equipped to reach these milestones arguably than any other class.
 
 
Let’s take a look at some screenshots of the Assassin in action!
 
 
Female:
 
 
 
 
Male:
 
 
 
 
Assassins specialize in using Twin Blades and Twin Rings, with the Blades bringing more physical damage while the Rings are more adept at adding poison and other elements to their strikes.  Their skills are dazzling and mesmerizing to behold, but they excel more at one on one combat with less AOE power then the other classes.  Attacks like Mirror Phantom and Shadow Moon are very deceptive, designed to confuse and intimidate their enemies.  The Assassin also has different combat stances called “Poses” which adjust your fighting rhythm and cause existing skills to behave differently.  Mastering these poses effectively increases the amount of options at your disposal and will always be able to keep your opponents off balance.  These poses can work inside of combos too, so don’t hesitate to throw them in!
 
 
As with every class, you can acquire a mount at level 10 which will increase your speed covered on the ground by 20%!
 
 
 
The “Leap Chick” will not only allow you to travel faster, but increase the amount of experience you can gain by reducing your down time between quests.
 
 
At Level 30, the Assassin can also get an upgraded mount for 30,000 Gold in game.  This level 30 mount will increase your movement speed by 50%!
 
 
The “Snowy Raksya”, a War Hound that is as silent and deadly as the Assassin himself!
 
At Level 50, the next mount becomes available to the Assassin for 25 mount orders and 1,500,000 coins!  You can acquire these mount orders by completing the "Princess of the Iron Fan" event!
 
 
 
The “Hunting Eagle” will allow the Assassin to survey their victims from above!
 
 
Every class also gets a selection of “Ultimate Skills”, each of which requires Rage in order to use.  These differ from class to class, so make sure to consider these differences when deciding on which class you wish to play!
 
Here is a look at the Assassin’s Ultimate Skills:
 
 
Rage Blast
 
 
 
 
Speedy Phantom
 
 
 
 
Shadow Sweep
 
 
 
 
Have we piqued your interest in Blade Wars?  Tune in next time for more interesting insight and information from the developers of this unique title!
 
 
This is Josh Forester (Jaynestown) again signing off :)
-Community Manager, Changyou.com
 
http://twitter.com/JoshForester
http://twitter.com/BladeWars_US
http://www.facebook.com/BladeWarsGame
 

Free to Play Vs Subscription Based MMORPGs

Posted by ChangYou2 Tuesday May 4 2010 at 9:56PM
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There are many opinions when it comes to the discussion of F2P games versus subscription-based titles for MMOs available today.  When choosing which game is right for you, there are many things you should consider.  In this article I will explore these differences and do my best to analyze the pros and cons of each for any normal player. 
 
Monetary Requirements:
 
Subscription based games began with the release of Ultima Online in 1997.  While other titles such as The Realm Online and Meridian 59 did come first, UO is believed to be responsible for the popularity of MMORPGs we see today.  UO  was a subscription-based game, and based on this example many companies began to charge people for their right to play.  A person has no choice but to surrender 10 to 15 dollars per month in order to continue playing, with the penalty of losing their character as well as their initial investment if they miss any payments.  That’s right, in addition to these monthly fees a player must also pay for their initial client, usually running anywhere from 40 to 50 dollars brand new in the store.  If for some reason you don’t like the game or perhaps become too busy to keep on playing regularly, this money often ends up wasted :(.
 
 
The Infamous death of Lord British in Ultima Online, showcasing the first ever glitch to be publically documented.
 
As with most games that exist in a persistent world, eventually updates and expansions will be released in order to keep the game fresh and evolving.  With a subscription based title, every player must purchase this expansion for nearly the same price as a new game.  If you look at Everquest, that’s 16 expansions!  If you purchased the game and each expansion when it was new, then that is nearly 700 dollars just to be able to keep up with the content!  That is a huge investment, and with a subscription based game you must pay that price up front without even getting a chance to see what the content or any updates made have to offer.
 
Gameplay:
 
Aside from the monetary aspect, there are still plenty of differences that we can explore.  Differences between game play have to be taken on a game to game basis for the best analysis, for a lot of the free to play games are somewhat similar to even the biggest titles like World of Warcraft.  Many feature customizable attributes, talents, crafting skills, and even battlegrounds for PvP.  A lot of the innovations touted by these conglomerates are neither new nor unique to the gaming industry.  Based on this, you can’t really say subscription based games have better game play then their F2P counterparts.  Tabula Rasa, Star Wars Galaxies, and even Age of Conan can attest that subscription based titles are subject to design limitations that may lead to drastic underperformance.  These titles had millions of dollars invested in their content, yet it was not enough to outlast even the likes of Runescape, which was made for a mere fraction of that cost.  So for those who try to say that subscription-based titles are in fact superior, I would encourage and challenge any player to experience the game before coming to any such judgment.  F2P games do not require you to purchase their client, so experiencing what the title has to offer is easy and painless without requiring any type of investment other then the time it takes to download the client.  You have nothing to lose, but the potential is astronomical!
 
 
Don’t be fooled!  A lot of these bigger games are just money traps!
 
Another difference in game play and innovation that you might notice between these two categories of games can be related to the companies themselves who develop the titles.  Subscription-based games are usually developed by bigger companies who have more money invested in marketing and profit.  Because there is no room for error in the stakeholders eyes, this also usually translates to no room for innovation.  The most popular subscription-based games that exist today did not and cannot take any risks that could lead them to possibly losing subscribers.  These developers have to stick with what has worked in the past and continue to rehash this model and release the same type of game over and over again.  Every so often this mold is broken and we do see more differences, but often times the executives overseeing the projects do not want any risk.  I almost see the state of subscription-based MMO’s as being very similar to the video game crash of 1983.  Back then, there were so many consoles and titles in the market that people just became sick of video gaming in general.  A glut of games simply got new packaging and re-released for 50 dollars a pop to the unknowing consumer.
 
 
This game, along with many similar titles, almost single handedly killed the video game industry.
 
Development / Marketing:
 
This is another area where F2PP games can shine.  Their developers are not shackled to these big executives who only seek to line their pockets, but are given the freedom that those who created the original titles in the 90s had.  Blade Wars has a combo system that no other game I have come across had possessed, but many of the top executives from bigger companies would have never allowed it for any of their subscription based games.  Will they be successful?  Only time will tell, but the games that boast some of the largest CCU in the market today are F2P (Runescape, Earth Eternal).  More would boast higher numbers as well if they just received the exposure that some of these larger companies can generate just through sheer marketing alone.  It’s hard to compete when other companies can outspend you by millions of dollars per month, but good games with solid systems can last and continue to grow once word of their title spreads.
 
 
Blade Wars and their combo system at work!
 
Community:
 
Finally, we come to perhaps one of the most unique and drastically different aspects when comparing a Subscription based game with a F2P game.  This aspect is of course, its community.  While larger companies are content with just releasing a title and treating all players as if they are just numbers, F2P developers take a different approach.  Instead of focusing relentlessly on just getting new players, the focus is more on keeping those that they have and making them happy with their experience.  These companies are then usually more transparent with their work and their updates to the game.  It is commonplace for popular opinion to be able to sway these Devs quickly and get many features implemented that might be too risky or over the top to be considered otherwise.
 
The GMs and producers also have a closer tie to the community and their role in F2P games.  While not every company has the same policy when it comes to this, most of the companies I had experience with allowed the GMs a lot of leeway for not only player interactions, but events and prize giveaways as well.  Many in game events like Game Master monster spawns also can populate these titles, making the players feel closer to the people responsible for running their game.  They are not disembodied overlords, but real life people who are concerned for the players well-being and gaming experience.  In short, you are more than just another player, but a valuable member of the community.  A lot of times player problems could be solved on the spot with a GMs help, so more personalized support can be counted on from these smaller companies. 
 
Subscription titles view everyone for their 15 dollars as opposed to their standing within a personalized community.  If you want to receive any kind of help, it will usually come in the form of canned responses designed to try and just get rid of you and your issue one way or another.  I have seen how many of the bigger companies treat their players and frankly, it is quite alarming how poorly it is handled.  The simplest issues usually would require a few minutes work to solve, but policy and quota dictate the service received.
 
Summary:
 
In conclusion, the choice you make between a Subscription based game vs a F2P title does come down to a personal choice and also to the enjoyment of the game in general.  While both have their + and –‘s, a F2P game will give you the freedom to experience their content before ever being forced with an option to dedicate any cash towards the experience.  The community will be somewhat smaller and more tight- knit, and the developers and Game Masters will all be more readily available for personalized and expedient service.  F2P games are also bound to have more innovative and unique combat and talent systems and take more risks then their larger corporate counterparts.
 
As you can probably tell by the preceding article, my taste lies more in the realm of the F2P than with that of the subscription-based titles.  Subscription games always sound better than they actually are due to the hype machine and the marketing dollars that can be dedicated from these larger companies.  Age of Conan had some huge marketing behind its release, but due to their desire to just make a few bucks before the World of Warcraft expansion was released, they launched a good 6+ months early with an unfinished product.  The content was not there, the classes were unbalanced and even the skill trees themselves were bugged and malfunctioning.   A player couldn’t even use certain basic skills because they were not even implemented yet.  Money would have been better spent on development of the game rather than just trying to rope in the players. 
 
Make sure to be careful what you spend your money on when sizing up the next MMO.  F2P gives you the flexibility to find your game without making you waste part of your paycheck.  Closed Beta for Blade Wars is just around the corner, if you are looking for a unique experience that doesn’t have to cost you a dime!  Make sure to check it out :).
 
Here are the linkes to the Blade Wars Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/BladeWarsGame
 
Twitter - http://twitter.com/BladeWars_US
 
and even Communty Manager Jaynestown's Twitter :) -  http://twitter.com/JoshForester
 
Thank you all again for your support, and make sure to tune in next time for more from the Blade Wars Developers Blog!
 
-Josh Forester (Jaynestown)
--Community Manager, Changyou.com

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