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An Earthbound Perspective

Practical perspective on MMO play and practice.

Author: Dengar

SWTOR: Easier to claim someone else's account than unlock my own

Posted by Dengar Wednesday August 21 2013 at 7:07AM
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To be clear, I didn't steal an account, but it was an awkward situation. Let me give you some back story.*

In March 2012, Ilum world pvp was still relevant. I was on The Bastion, the biggest PvP server on the west coast, and despite the fact that world pvp wasn't nearly as good for getting gear as simply running Ilum dailies and doing warfronts till your eyes bled, I was still leading Ilum ops groups for several hours a day. One day, one of my guild mates popped into Mumble while I was doing some work (I mean, the kind of work you get paid for). "Um, dude? I know you're busy, but you may want to log in. Someone wants to give you her account." Money's nice and all, but the person my guildy named was fairly decked out, and a good player at that. On the one hand, it sucked that one of my favorite healers was leaving the game, but on the other... a free account!

I knew account sharing was problematic, and so did this person. I also knew that people tended to change their minds when they quit games (see 95% of the people who say, "I'm quitting World of Warcraft"). So, before I accepted the account, we did a few things:

1. I told them I'd use the account only with trusted guild mates- people who had been with us for awhile and had gone above and beyond what a regular guild mate would do (like people who went to raids and hadn't needed a thing for months or that one guy that no matter what level you were, if you were being camped, he would avenge you all night long if need be).

2. I told them to delete their credit card information. I didn't want to risk them losing money if the account was compromised.

3. We'd change most of the account information to weird, geeky things, even the security questions (not a real example, but something like saying Superman was the first name of the account holder's first girlfriend). This was only between me and the former account owner. However, the e-mail address would remain the former owner's so they could reclaim the account at any time with little hassle.

I knew this would make things sufficiently odd and difficult for me to fully take control of it... or so I thought.

 

Fast forward to August 2013. I had quit SWTOR for over a year and had since moved to Japan. I had been playing for about a month when I got a strange e-mail from the healer's e-mail address that made it seem like they had had their account hacked. Long story short, they no longer had control of their e-mail address, and couldn't get it restored. They also had no interest in the SWTOR account or dealing with customer service to get the e-mail address changed. 

For those who don't know, Bioware's customer support is not friendly to those of us in Japan. Not only does Bioware refuse to deal with account problems in game, but most e-mail inquiries tell you to call them, even if you're in game and have sent them multiple e-mails to them (even to the secret e-mail addresses their phone customer service will give you but aren't posted on the website except when someone on the forums complains enough to attract a GM's attention). We do not have a specific number to call. As well, seeing as the people I care about know about things like "Skype" and "Mumble," I don't have a complex phone program. However, I'm going to also mention I'm not too tech savvy (unless you compare me to the average Japanese commercial high school student; in that case, I'm a god, please bring me sushi). I had tried e-mailing them to let them know what my particular situation was because with my phone plan, it was impossible to make foreign phone calls, and most of the people I knew said it would cost them about 70 cents a minute for a foreign call. Every inquiry I sent, no matter how detailed, sent in game or via e-mail, always came up with the same response about how I needed to call. The VOIP options made me nervous, especially when some of them (which were cheap per minute) would cost me the same price as a monthly SWOTR subscription fee for the smallest batch of minutes, which I only needed to fix this one problem. 

Then something happened: my main account got locked. No e-mail, no night of swearing at a stranger, not even a "Well, I guess I shouldn't have used a penis joke for my latest alt's name." I was told there was an e-mail that would tell me how to unlock my account, but there wasn't, not even in the spam folder. I tried logging into the SWTOR website, but that would fail. It didn't say anything failed, but it took me to the home page without logging me in, which is pretty much a fail. When I tried to log into the forums though, I was told my account was suspended. Again, there was supposed to be an e-mail explaining this, but I got nothing.

Fast forward some major complaining and my smart, beautiful, skilled gamer girlfriend who also is an awesome baker and should quit her day job to and bake full time called the SWTOR hotline to try to get my account restored. After being on hold for about 7 or 8 minutes (refreshingly short!), she was given yet another e-mail address, one I hadn't heard of before. After e-mailing the address, I told, once again, I had to call to get the situation fixed.

Now, before I continue, I have to admit I had another account problem, but not with Bioware. I forgot some log in information with NC Soft and I had done something "cute" with one of my security questions (it asked me what my father's middle name was; he comes from a culture with no middle names). I described the situation to NC soft and solved the problem 100% via e-mail in a matter of hours, having taken hours only because I sent the complaint before I went to bed.

Back in SWTOR customer service hell, I tried to call CS using Viber first. It advertises itself as being "free" except for the cost of bandwidth, so I figured I could handle that, especially because the SWTOR website specifically mentions that program for international callers. Sadly, after trying all the English numbers provided on the website, it seems Bioware doesn't have a Viber account. A quick google search showed that I wasn't the only one who noticed this. Luckily, someone much better than me at using the internet informed me that I could actually use Skype to call the US 855 number (supposedly without having any extra fees, but I'll be watching my bills to be sure of that).

So on Skype, the guy I get asks me what my problem is. I tell him I can't log in. He says why. I tell him that's actually why I called. 14 hours after first learning that I have an account problem, after sending 3 e-mails to customer support and getting 1 back that simply told me to call them, I still do not know why my account is not accessible. The man runs me through the usual customer support questions, several of which he literally just asked (you asked for my name and account at the very start- why does CS's recovery tool make them fill that in again?). At one point, I'm told to wait for an e-mail from him (which arrives while he's explaining this) and to send a copy of my ID or passport as an image attachment. Never, in my 14 years of MMO gaming, has a company ever asked me for picture ID. Of course, I also have never been referred to an e-mail address, then a phone number, then an e-mail, then the same phone number again while playing an English MMO while I'm overseas, so I figured it must be part of their process. However, I'm given a reference number and told to call back after I send it, even though by the time he'd finished speaking I had already sent it. He did ask me if there was anything else he could help me with so I figured what the heck: "Can you help me change the e-mail address on my second account?"

When he said yes, the first thing I thought was, "Here comes the headache." I started pulling up all the documents, the e-mails, everything I could use to prove that this person had legitimately given me their account and didn't care about it. I realized I didn't have their birthdate or phone number, which tends to be pretty important for customer service people. Apparently, it wasn't a problem. They didn't even ask for them. Even when the real name on the account was very much not my name, and when I bluntly said I do not have access to the e-mail address the account was currently attached to, they only got a little suspicious and just quickly asked something to another CS representative near them. When they asked me what e-mail address I wanted to use, after asking only 2 security questions (remember, these answers were weird and nerdy, and any sane person would think this was a huge joke), I was in shock. The first e-mail account I could think of was a dummy account I usually use for spam mail, and oddly enough, that account was blocked too. While on the phone, I told CS I had to unlock my other e-mail account. The guy was getting impatient, but he didn't really sound like he was worried about the fact that I might be stealing someone's account, which at this point, is exactly what it felt like. Once I said I got the confirmation e-mail and had verified the account, I sat there waiting for the next step. I literally sat there for 3 minutes before the CS rep asked if I was still on the line. Apparently, that was it. All I needed was the real name of the account, the e-mail address, and two security questions while talking to someone on the phone. However, I still had to call back to get my own account restored.

Sadly, when I called back, I was told the people who deal with that issue were on break, so I'd need to call back in an hour. I left to do some shopping,  sweated all over myself thanks to the humid Japanese summer, ate some whale (whole other story, and boy was that weird), showered, and called back for the third time that night. I was told my initial picture was too big and that I had to resend another one, especially because someone had closed my case and marked it as resolved. I was told customer service would call me once they got the newest picture of my ID, but I had to remind them that, being in Japan, they wouldn't be calling me but using e-mail (which is what I had wanted to use from the start of this whole mess). I was told they were escalating my ticket but there was no ETA on when I would be able to play again. However, before they hung up on me, I asked for a specific reason why the account had been locked at all. Through all of this, I never got an answer. I never received an e-mail, not even an  "oops, seems it didn't send!" confirmation from CS that I had gotten a warning about why I was calling in the first place. Even though I've been playing in Japan for about two months, and never changed my billing name or other account information, I was told the reason it was locked and why I had to show picture ID was because Bioware thought that I wasn't the original owner of my own account. I was able to change the e-mail of an account I hadn't accessed in well over a year,  that had someone else's name and very suspicious security questions while playing half way across the world from the last known log in address, with very little fuss, but I am right now, 18 hours after this whole thing started, unable to log into my own account. Security at it's finest!

Update: 24 hours without receiving the first "missing" e-mail and still no resolution. Tried calling back and was told they just need to look at the picture I sent to resolve the issue, and was initially told that that could take 24-48 hours. That sounded pretty lame to me and the customer service rep (who I'm not sure knew that there's been an event going on which I'm missing because of this), so I was given a new reference number and linked directly to the team responsible for handling this. I was on hold so long the music actually stopped playing... and then the call was dropped. Called back and got my third reference number (hoping this doesn't turn into Pokemon where I'm trying to catch a ton of these) before being placed on hold again. Sadly, once again, the music stopped playing, this time after "only" 20 minutes on hold, before the call was dropped yet again.

Update 2: After a 30 minute wait, I was finally connected with the correct department. I was told the reason for all these account security gymnastics was because of the Cartel Coin system, even though this same customer support person noted that I had just reclaimed another account. The account is finally unlocked, but here's what I've taken away from all this.

Don't stop bothering CS. I didn't wait the suggested 24 hours from my last call. I waited about 8, and didn't receive any e-mails about... anything. Sorry, but you only get service if you complain enough.

Here's some feedback for you Bioware: streamline your system. On your website, when people search for how to resolve the issue, lay out the process with the correct contact information. If you want photo ID, make it consistent. I'm still amazed at how simple it was to change the e-mail on an account that wasn't my own, but I had to jump through a ton of hoops to get my own back. Also, your phone service is probably more of a disservice. I feel like I was more of a manager checking up on employees than a customer. If you have your people sending the information to people who can actually handle it, rather than what felt like constant second guessing, you can drop some of that phone support and *gasp* just get the work done!

 

 

*Some details have been changed or modified to help protect player and customer service identities.

Interview with Forge's Tim "Sojourner" Alvis, Co-Founder and CTO/COO of Dark Vale Games

Posted by Dengar Thursday July 26 2012 at 11:10AM
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So I got an interview with Forge's Tim "Sojourner" Alvis, Co-Founder and CTO/COO. For those who haven't heard about it, Forge is a lobby based PvP "MMO" that won't have a persistent world at launch but wants one later on. Think of it like Team Fortress 2 meets Guild Wars (1), but with quite an interesting art direction. The game doesn't plan to charge a monthly subscription fee, and is currently in alpha, though you can sign up for beta.

 

 

Q: I noticed there are five companions and five classes. Is it safe to assume that each class gets its own companion?

 

A: Yes, but they’re not running alongside the character all the time. In all but one gameplay mode, one we won’t have at launch, they appear only when their ability is called, perform the ability, and then unsummon.

 

Q: How do levels work? Do you earn experience points for levels that only stay with you per match, or do you keep your levels between games?

 

A: You earn experience points that stick with you forever. These experience points act like currency as well. Imagine you were say, level 3, and level 3 opened up two new abilities and a new set of armor. You could spend experience points you earn on those abilities and new set of armor rather than letting them accumulate to take you to level 4. This lets you decide whether or not you want to gain access to new options or unlock existing ones as you play. There will be armor and ability options that require a certain level to make use of, but no armor or ability is more powerful than another, and you’ll always only have access to 9 at a time. Since we give everyone a starting 9 abilities, there are no power gaps between new and veteran players based on ability selection or armor choices.

 

An example of two equally strong abilities could be: One ability slows an opponent by 50%, and another ability knocks an opponent back 5 meters. Which of these two are ‘better’ depends entirely on their cooldowns somewhat, but mostly on what situation you find yourself in.

 

Q: One of the big things about MMOs is their persistence. The game initially will only have lobby based combat without a persistent world. What exactly is the incentive for PvP? Are wins and losses tracked? Is there a rating system? Or is there something else?

 

A: The persistence element of an MMO is meaningful in two ways, one of which we’ll have at launch. The first and most important, is that your character’s progress and customization carry over from game to game. The second is that you’re able to exist in non-combat areas with other people. In a pure MMO, taking WoW as an example, the large open world isn’t really a big part of the experience for many. If you’re queuing up for battlegrounds or arenas, more than likely you’re sitting in Stormwind/Orgrimmar (or some other capital city) while in queue, checking out the auction house, or running around just in front of either of these cities dueling while you wait. Some people work through the daily quests as well, but those have nothing to do with PvP. Maybe fewer still go searching around quest areas looking for low level characters to maul, but that has even less to do with competitive PvP than daily quests. For the most part, you’re participating in combat in an instanced area with a set number of people when not hanging out in the capital or nearby it while dueling. Outside of the home city everyone waits in, there is little difference between our social interactions and those of an MMO, and we have plans to address the home city in the future as well.

 

As for the incentives, there’s the primary incentive that drives everyone to start playing: Multiplayer games, when done well, are fun. They get the heart pumping. We hope that our first incentive over other games is that we’re just simply more fun than they are.

 

We’re not going to rest only on that however. There will be tracking stats which will lead into a rating system, but the ratings and rankings aren’t something it appears we can support at launch, though they will follow shortly after. You’ll unlock new aesthetic options for both your armor and your abilities, as well as your companions. You’ll get new emotes, new taunts, and as time progresses unlock improvements to your own personal area. (That’s as detailed as I can get with that just now)

 

Q: I noticed that the game will only be launching with one faction, but you have plans for more. Can you tell us anything more about the role of factions?

 

The role of factions won’t be apparent until we’re deeper into the persistent world and meta game. They will play a much larger role in the game as a part of the conquest of territory as an individual and/or a guild when those features role out. When playing inside a particular match for the launch gameplay modes, they’re a flavor choice, like a whole new theme of armor. As an example, if you looked at say, the differences between the armor style of the medieval European period versus the early Roman or even against the armor used in the Sengoku period of Japan. Very visually distinct.

 

Q: Will there be support for player organizations, such as guilds and clans, at launch?

 

A:Yes, but not at launch. This is another one of those features that are extremely important to us, but being Indie, we just didn’t have the bandwidth to do justice for launch. We made a decision early on to focus on doing a small number of things extremely well rather than many things poorly.

 

Q: In your news update about tanks and healers, you mentioned changing roles during the actual game. How does this work with a class based game with levels? Do your levels carry over to other classes? What about gear? 

 

A:We haven’t decided how this will translate to the progression system yet. Our working model has it such that the experience you earn on any character can be spent on any character. So if you want to level up a Warden, but your guild needs you to play Shaman or Pyromancer because of team composition, the experience you earn as the Shaman or Pyromancer you can spend on the Warden instead. Once spent however, it’s spent. There isn’t any taking it back. Gear is class specific, having only meaningful stats for that class. Since all gear has the same budget for stats, it’s a character customization choice rather than an increase in power.

 

Q: Appearance customization. Will this be like Team Fortress 2, where the character models all look the same for each class besides a few pieces of gear/hats, or will players actually get to create their own character?

 

A: All characters will look similar, but not at the same level of similarity as Team Fortress 2. We believe strongly that silhouettes help gameplay in a meaningful way (not that everything has to look identical of course, but that the general size, shape, and ‘feel’ of a character’s proportions are somewhat unique). We also believe that one of the most important features of a game like this is that the character is yours. You feel like it’s you, something unique to you, and we’re going to stretch further away from fixed shapes than Team Fortress 2 has for this reason. Should the game be the success we hope it is, you’ll have plenty of options to stand out in 2013.

 

Q: What is the source of loot in Forge? Are there any mobs that drop resources for crafting, or is gold earned and purchased from a shop, or something else entirely?

 

A:End of game rewards as part of extremely difficult to achieve medals, as well as purchasing them using experience points. Some will require a particular level to purchase and equip. We’ll also be introducing some to a ‘cash shop’. Again though, no power or stat increases, just customization.

 

Q: How are death and match losses treated? 

 

A:It depends on the gameplay mode. Most of the time, a death is going to result in a 30 second respawn timer. It’s unique to every person, so you won’t be appearing on field with 10 other people at once. We know and understand the reason why that method can be popular, to prevent people from running in one at a time like the ‘bad guys’ from a Kung Fu movie and having an endless cycle of death, but we feel that’s a little heavy handed as a method to prevent that and it can cause an equal number of problems for the team doing the killing. It’s frustrating to kill someone right as the rez timer is coming to an end and they appear 2 seconds later at full health. Other modes will be round based, where you have one life per mode.

 

Losses just start the next round/map. Much like Team Fortress 2.

 

Q: How many people can simultaneously play on a map?

 

A:Depends on the server equipment and equipment people are playing the game on. We’re looking at max game sizes of 32 people right now, 16 per team, but like the feel of games between 8v8 and 12v12. The engine itself can support more, but 16v16 is a pretty large number of people to have playing before things just become a somewhat random mashing together of two mobs.

 

Q: Leaving out a grind is something more games are trying to promote. For example, both Firefall and PlanetSide 2 are also utilizing lateral progression similar to Forge, in that you choose different options, rather than raw upgrades such as in games likeWorld of Warcraft. Besides the fact that Forge may be one of the only fantasy based games taking this approach at the moment, what do you think your game will offer that competitors don't?

 

A:Focus. Focus on having multiplayer, PvP fun rather than appealing only to the most hardcore of competitive players. I don’t want that to be misread by anyone, we certainly aren’t ignoring the elite players in the community. We’ve even gone so far as to enlist their help early on with the game to make sure that when stretched to its limits, it’s an amazing experience for them and balanced. However, our goal isn’t to build a game that only they and the other two thousand people able to play at their level that exist in the world are able to enjoy. That puts us away from some of the more commonly named competitors in this space.

 

One piece of what separates us from the other two you’ve mentioned is that we’re not building a huge, monolithic world and environment before the game is in your hands. We believe in starting small, seeing what you like, what people respond to, and building in that direction. We could assume, make educated guesses or base what we’re going to do on what others have done and build a massive game around those ideas, but that’s not what we believe is the route that will build the best game. I think interacting tightly with the community, building the game together with the community helping to guide it, will result in a much better product that more accurately reflects the tastes of those playing the game. That doesn’t mean we’ll do everything everyone asks or that we’ll blow directionless into whatever heading the current winds are blowing, but it does mean that you won’t have situations like “No one likes vehicles in this game, we shouldn’t have built so many gameplay modes with vehicles” or, “We thought everyone would love earning these types of items and we built six-hundred of them, but it turns out they would rather earn these types of items instead… 20/20 right?”. Aim small, miss small.

 

The other piece of separation is what you mentioned. For whatever reason, fantasy based games have been stuck in a rut for a while. It’s almost as though under every magician’s robe is a twelve sided dice and experience chart. In some cases, when you see artwork for a newly announced title, you can barely even tell what game it’s for before you look at the logo. One game looks much like another, and that’s true not for two or three games only, but many. Our setting, combined with our gameplay choices, just don’t exist anywhere else. As we’ve seen, there are pieces of it you can find that resemble something you’ve seen already, but it’s like describing an elephant blindfolded. It’s the whole of it that matters, the forest rather than the trees, and our forest is different from every other forest you can spend time in.

 

Hopefully, people will also come to recognize the level of passion and excitement we have for this game. We’re building what we want to play alongside you for a decade or more. We participate in the forums because it’s the right thing to do. We answer people’s questions honestly without any embarrassment. We know there are risks there, people will twist words later, but frankly we’d rather eat the fallout from those risks than to hold those people most important to the game’s success, those paying and playing with us, at arm’s length. We also don’t believe in dictating to you what you should find fun, though that seems to be a fashionable trend as of late. If you find some quirk that we didn’t expect and you like it, don’t look for that to get hammered until it’s not usable any more unless it really is damaging to the gameplay experience for everyone. Instead, look for us to build around it and make it fit meaningfully into the game somehow.

 

There’s the old story about how rocket jumping was originally an accident in Quake (don’t believe that’s true, it was around in other games before that, but let’s use it as an example anyway!). There are two routes a developer can take with an accident like that. They could say:

 

“We have built the maps and environments with typical player movement in mind, which we believe provides the most fun and rewarding experience. Because of this, rocket jumping has been disabled and a hotfix will be deployed at 3AM PST (Sorry Australia, kind of!)”

 

Or, they could say:

 

“Rocket jumping is #$@#@# amazing, let’s make sure the next few maps we build have places you can only get to using a rocket jump, and make sure we don’t break it with future patches. Maybe we should even remove splash damage? Let’s ask the players what they think.”

 

As a studio, we’re all about option 2. That can make all the difference.

Item Drop For Housing Planned for ArcheAge!

Posted by Dengar Friday December 2 2011 at 12:04AM
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Since MMORPG has dropped the ball on keeping everyone up to date on this, I figured I'd use my blog to help promote the game (plus I'm an admin at ArcheAge Portal, so it's not like this is a lot of extra work for me).

One of the site goers at ArcheAge Source did a nice, quick translation of part of an article from thisisgame.com (see source at the bottom for original links). In a nutshell, while players may not drop armor or weapons, processed material for housing and the land ownership token (the "akium") can be dropped on death or if you log out. This helps make sure that players need to work on protection and sea trading in order to build on the third continent. Here's the translation:

 

Compared to the 3rd closed beta testing, how much has the housing system been advanced?

Middle sized housing has been added as well as a large housing for guild. It is 2~3 floors and we didn't name it guild housing as an individual can own/build it. It's really expensive, so it perhaps it would last through the 80 days? (laugh)

The largest change is that the materials are carried, instead of being stored in inventory, to build the house. By doing so causes the need for sea trading and riding on the boat. The tree cut by the user goes into the inventory, but when refined in order to build a house it becomes a package. This does not go into the inventory and is carried on the back.

When a package is on the back, they cannot run so must travel in walking speed. When they ride on the horse, they can move a bit faster but the horse too will be walking. Boats and carriages do not have speed limit.

The special property of these packages is that when logged out or killed, it drops to the ground. So as it is not in the inventory there is a threat that its ownership may change anytime.

The existing continents will have housing area near city and thus less danger, but in the large third continent the distance is long so it is dangerous. Especially in order to cleanse the third continent and declare ownership of the land 'Akium' has to be carried on the back so until the very moment before the declaration of ownership is the danger. With the package on the back, it is impossible to teleport.

Meaning that another person can forcefully take it and declare the ownership of land. Since there has YET to be production system in the third continent, until then it must be refined and carried over by the boat. Pirates can steal these and use it.

Among the packages is old antiques and expensive items and may attach itself to the back of the character during hunting. The two original continent NPCs will give a lot of money for these items, but the user next to you may steal them. We think that this may add onto the excitement of the game. It's not just simply dropping an item but situation may differ according to user's choices.

Source: Pathosgray's post on ArcheAge Source.

World of Warcraft PvP Changes- Less Ladder, More Casual?

Posted by Dengar Monday November 21 2011 at 1:03PM
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World of Warcraft's developers just dropped a bit of a bombshell on the pvp community recently:

In patch 4.3 we’re changing the daily battleground (BG) to reward 100 conquest for a win (up from 25). In addition, every non-rated BG that you win will also give you 50 conquest. There is no limit to how many BGs you can run this way, up to the normal conquest cap.

What does this mean, exactly? That casual pvpers are closing the gap even faster. Currently, in order to get nearly the best pvp gear, players are forced to compete in WoW's ladder matches- arenas and rated battlegrounds. Very often, WoW players will see (or will be asking) in trade "LF arena partner, just for points, PST." The community at large is not one you'd expect to be interested in ladder matches. WoW players are usually described as the lowest of the low in terms of gamers since there's a stereo-type that those who play the game simply log in, roll their face across the key-board, and get good items. It's vaguely true, but slightly overblown- we've all met WoW players who fit the description, but many of us have, at the very least, tried WoW. It isn't a complete cake walk, but the ideas and mechanics, while interesting, are often nerfed into nothingness to allow a greater pool of people to experience the game's content, which makes sense from a business stand point (and it can be pretty fun, the first time you go through it).

However, WoW's pvp gameplay has been... problematic. The game's core audience finds raids difficult because movement isn't something they're usually used to (why else is it used to make most encounters difficult?), which is what PvP is all about- being in a better position than the enemy. Yes, being a living, breathing person helps a lot too, but unlike mobs, players are focusing on moving so that they are hitting their enemy while their opponent is not. Dealing with a player is far more difficult than beating a raid boss set-up (and eventually nerfed) to lose, and for the casual player base, they can't be bother with "tactics" or "strategies" that need to update on the fly. The only way to get WoW players to do something that requires skill or coordination has been giving more people rewards- gear, titles, and mounts. This was even Blizzard's solution when rated battlegrounds flopped: forced RBGs in order to get gear (arenas alone were not giving the full weekly currency), added titles, and added mounts.

But things have changed. WoW's trying to go with a broader audience, and part of that is allowing the casual players to get the gear, at least, more easily. This may also help bolster their plan at renewing world pvp:

 

At Blizzcon Tom Chilton mentioned possible incentives for raiding enemy towns to encourage world PVP in mists, can Greg or Cory elaborate on this at all?
5:07
Mumper: 
In regards to extra rewards for world pvp, we are contemplating the idea of increasing players' conquest point caps by an extra 10-15%.

Combined with this suggestion, casual players may have a way at getting the gear in a way on-par with the elites, save for their ability to get titles and mounts, which makes sense.

The problem I see is that the pvp as a whole isn't being addressed. World pvp today in WoW feels hollow, and if we've learned anything from Rift, which seems ahead of WoW these days, what the game needs is meaningful pvp. If one side dominates the other, players have to pay to change, unlike in Rift (and even then, when transfers were shut down, the problem started to reflect WoW's issue). There's no third faction to help keep the balance. The only reason to pvp is for gear. In other games, such as Darkfall, the same can be argued (you get a town because it gives you access to resources, which makes getting gear easier), but city owners in Darkfall also fight for their property. They're, literally, invested in the game world. WoW's change to help casuals is nice, but once again Blizzard fails to address the main point: the pvp doesn't matter. It's fun, but at the end of the day, there's little to lose or gain. It's good for the FPS crowd, who simply want to get in and get out with some quick, fun games, but don't we play MMOs for their persistent nature? If what I did last month doesn't mean much, why do it today?

Bolstering a weak faction on a themepark pvp server

Posted by Dengar Saturday October 29 2011 at 10:57AM
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Red is dead kills servers in themepark games.

Think about the mentality of your average themeparker. At their core, they tend to be casual- they want to log in and immediately do an activity that someone else has created, get a reward, and log out. They're not their so much for server politics but to build a character (which is why theme-park games constantly increase level caps and give increasingly powerful items rather than more interesting ones). Yes, there's the group of people who enjoy ladder matches, but they also tend to enjoy the gating mechanisms as well (that is, you have to "earn" the right to play a max level orc berserker and gear it before you can enter the ring, rather than just pick one up and learn it like in an FPS or RTS).

The main issue, however, is that the theme-park player does this by doing in game content by developers. For example, in Darkfall, if a group of ultra-carebears somehow go through the game avoid all intentional pvp mechanics (like village assaults and that long trade route thing) and max out all their stats without fighting another person, they don't have a lot of options end game. They can build ships, but that's mainly for siege damage. Same with the war haulks. Build a city? You're asking for pvp and all it entails- enemies that actually hunt you, potential name calling, loss of assets. These are the things the themeparkers are trying to avoid. Anything that slows them down tends to drive them away. 

Still, there are pvp servers in these games. People can kill each other to try to slow down other people's progress, or they can even kill the opposition to have an area for their faction alone. And this is the heart of the problem: the factions.

When you create your character, you choose red or blue in most of these games. The developers don't allow you to choose a different side unless you want to reroll or, in some cases, pay. On paper, this sounds like a good idea, since it seems like it encourages faction loyalty. The problem, though, is that other mechanics don't reinforce this. The basic 2 faction model's failure has been previously discussed, so let's assume that the game just won't be moving towards something better.

The game mechanics reward the side for winning, as it should be. The problem comes from a few things:

1. Many MMOs on the market. You don't have to play the same game forever! If your side keeps losing, you can just play a new game!

2. When people leave the game or the faction, it makes the faction weaker in it's ability to zerg, the easiest tactic a random group of players can employ.

3. As one faction gets weaker, it becomes known more to the players base, first people on the server, and then to people on other servers, preventing that faction from growing.

Let's expand on 3 a bit. If you're in the blue team, and your side is weak, you may go to your game forums and say, "Come play on our side, we need more people!" I hate saying it, but this actually scares the majority of players away from your factin (problem 2). A best case scenario is you get a group of organized players looking for e-fame that are willing to work with your side. Sadly, you won't see a lot of this, and instead, new players will read your post and say, "Red team it is!" This also effects your ability to get help from people looking to play on a new server. If someone is on another server (or even the same server!) and blue team's losing, and they may decide to go to the red team. 

Don't forget the social aspects of being the winner! "Dude, why are you still on blue team? Delete/faction change to red team so we can play together and you can win!" 

The more unrelenting punishment the opposition takes, the more likely they are to lose more players. I know a lot of guilds want to attract players by showing server domination, but this further compounds the problem. The WoW server my guild is on is in this very situation- "We're horde, we show no mercy to the alliance!" The problem is, there's fewer and fewer alliance to not show mercy to. Instead, pvp is even further relegated to instanced areas of the game, which is not why we roll on a pvp server.

The "red is dead" policy doesn't work well in the long run on in theme park games with 2 factions. I know, it's carebear, and it sucks. The problem is, for you guild/raid/pvp leaders our there, is you have to lose.

Now, hear me out. This doesn't mean going out and just dying. Remember problem #2? It's also a problem when it's your only strategy. When you go out to pvp in groups, if you want to do "red is dead," do it in groups small than what you know the other team can field (at least at first). Use smaller numbers so your faction has to learn some real tactics, like Line of Sight use, focus fire, how to use CC, listen to the group leader or get kicked, etc. When the other side starts to win, they'll hopefully take things to the forums. Instead of "Come join blue team, we're weak!" You'll see people post, "Blue team spanks red team again!" Let'em think you're weak again. Get more rabbits for the hunt. Once you can see they can field even bigger numbers, start getting back up. Use your new group's better team work again to make yourselves appear like the skilled pvp guild on the server. 

That's not all though. As much as this may suck to hear, call periods of cease fire during population flare-ups, like after a new patch or expansion. Let the other side build up, progress a bit, hopefully become more aggressive. Again, play possum so the other side gets a taste for victory and tries to play better, rather than punishing them until they leave and change factions. You may even need to covertly give the other side information, such as upcoming attacks on their cities or questing areas, so they have time to prepare.

If all else fails (and I have experience with this), and the other side is so defeated that they won't attack you 3v1, you may need to join them. The feasibility of this varies based on the game you're playing. Your whole guild probably won't want to do this, but maybe a few will. If you can join both factions on the same server, this isn't a huge problem, but if you can't, it could lead to a lot of problems in your guild, so be careful. I don't advice to move your main character if that's an option, but rather spend some time leveling up, see what both the leveling and end game experience is like for that faction. Avoid instances! See what happens in the game world, since this is probably what you want to fix. When you get to the point where you are at end game, get good gear, not the best, and start making connections.

Now, so far, most of this assumes you're on the winning side. However, both sides need to make use of this final point: don't purely rely on any one person or guild to help rebuild a lesser faction. Get social. Talk to new server people, try to coordinate with established guilds. See who may already be working on something similar and team up. The idea is that you're changing the attitude of the server as a whole. If you see 10 of your "allies" running from 3 players, call them out instantly, in public (not on forums, but just to the immediate people in the vicinity). Some people will ignore you or try to fight you, but keep your responses public. Shame them into fighting. Those who don't aren't of any use to you (yet) anyway. Applaud people who fight back, and keep a list of them for future assaults. You need to instil a sense of passion in people so you don't always need to be around to hold their hands. 

What really helps is leading large zergs. Find people you can trust and ask them to invite some friends to a city raid or something similar. Try to give them a job: "Can I have people assist off of you for focus fire?" "Would you be the main tank? I need someone with confidence and skill to go first so the healers won't be the first targets but have a single player to focus on in the opening moments of the fight" etc. This will show that you can lead without you actually leading- you'll simply be coordinating, and emphasize that! If something goes well, give the other person that praise! You need to build a set of heroes people look to for pvp when you're not around. 

It's hard work, in case you can't tell. It'll probably take months before you'll see any results, but you will see them if you can find others to cooperate and work with. It sucks that the players need to do this to keep things even. If you don't care about that, no worries (and why are you reading this anyway? ;P ). If this helps you, great! But if you think this is a load of BS, that it's far too much work with little reward, try playing a game with a pvp core instead of a pve raid core. 

Blizzard Shows Extreme Favoritism With New Legendary

Posted by Dengar Wednesday September 28 2011 at 3:58PM
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Not all classes are even (in most games). While the player base may feel that developers have favorites, the people behind the game often do enough to deny such claims.

However, Blizzard's latest revelations about the Rogue only legendary leaves little to the imagination. Previously, legendaries seemed aimed at certain classes more than others, but not to this extreme. Let's review the weapon legendaries to date:

The first legendary was, in all honesty, a bit bland, but nearly any class could use it since it was based on weapon skills, not classes. It was pretty good, but famous mostly for its looks. For this reason, warriors, shaman, paladins, and even druids wanted it (though guilds that gave it to a druid were usually mocked), and while warriors usually made the best use of it, guilds could reward this to a wide range of worthy people.

Next, the trade chat spammer came. Aside from becoming terribly over-linked over the years, Thunderfury was, again, useable by several classes, though due to the generated threat, often given to tanks. Still, I remember seeing rogues and even a hunter with this item. I'm sure there are shaman out there who have it as well. Simply put, it was still flexible in terms of who could make use of it, since the sword proved popular with pvpers.

Then came Atiesh. A rather flexible legendary, Atiesh was the first caster legendary, but far from the last. The nice thing about this legendary (other than being an ulta-status symbol since Naxxramas was not accessible to most of the player-base and because the quest-line was taken out of the game before the launch of the third expansion) was that it had several forms. Again, Blizzard gave it some wiggle room so that no one class could claim it as their own. This was also the first legendary with an on-use effect, summoning a portal to the first raid of the upcoming expanion at the time. 

After that came Burning Crusade's Warglaives. At the time, only 2 classes could use these- the first time a legendary had been given to such a small potential audience. However, it wasn't a huge issue, since 25 man raids were king, and I had personally never heard of a group not having any warriors or rogues. 

Following this came the rather restrictive Thori'dal bow. Without a doubt, this bow was made for hunters, since hunters were (and still are) the only physical ranged class in the game. It also replaced a nearly-required item used by many hunters (the ammo pouch, since back then, you did not have unlimited ammo unless you had this bow). Still, I saw a warrior and a few rogues with it as well, since there was no class restriction on the item and was still pretty good (even for rogues who made macros to switch to a thrown weapon for deadly-throw). The infinite ammo still helped warriors and rogue since it saved them some back space, so none of the mechanics only helped hunters.

Then we got the healer hammer. Yes, some casters also wanted it since it gave them some good dps, but only healers could get it to proc. Since there were 4 classes that could make use of this legendary, it wasn't much of an issue for the most part, returning us to the Vanilla WoW days of flexible legendaries (I think a rogue or warrior could even euqip it if they got enough help making one).

I don't think many people were too surprised by the final Lich King legendary besides the fact that it had class restrictions on it. Hunters, for example, can use 2 handed axes, but Blizzard decided to make this for melee DPS only. Still, 3 classes could use it, and none could really argue that they deserved it much more than another, unlike Thori'dal.

Cata's first legendary, Dragonwrath, lacks class restrictions, but it more suitable for caster dps. Like the healer hammer, it can potentially be used by those who wouldn't get the most out of it (like a holy priest), but it still gives the ability to a wide range of classes. which is good, because this is also the first legendary to grant a buff to the user (in this case, turning them into a mount).

Now, getting back to the rogue legendary, we run into a few issues. The biggest problem is that, unlike any legendary previously available, the daggers grant a class specific abilities. DPS or healing procs are one thing, since several classes can take advantage of them, but "finishers" are a mechanic unique to rogues. The quest line also sounds like it will involve rogue-only mechanics, hinted at by the use of "stealth." Legendaries often have quests associated with them, but Blizzard's wording makes it sound more like a class-specific quest. Finally, keep in mind that WoW's raids have shrunk tremendously, and with classes looking more similar, there are many 10-man raid groups who do not have an active rogue to give this to. 

Now, some careful readers may argue that finishers and stealth are skills held by druids as well, but they are unable to dual wield. If pick-pocketing or disabling traps are involved (I'd assume that little part about being "clever" is indicating these), the quest itself will prevent druids from benefitting from the daggers even if the main hand grants the abilities and scales for druids.

Some of this is speculative, but as things stand, it seems like Blizzard's showing an awful amount of favoritism towards rogues. It's very hard to argue the flexibility of an item that grants class specific mechanics and constantly uses the classes' name in describing said item. Previous items/quests from raids that favored a class were removed in Cata, so I'm confused as to how and why Blizzard is going down this path.

Do we still need to level?

Posted by Dengar Saturday September 10 2011 at 8:07PM
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Leveling is a core mechanic of most MMOs. Sometimes they're baked into "skills," arbitrary numbers that represent how good you do something, such as in Darkfall Online, but for the most part, it's the same thing. We've got mechanics to increase level speed, to increase a low level character's power, to decrease a high level player's power, to cap level, increase levels... but what if we just get rid of the levels?

Let's think about it for a moment. Levels define what you can and can't do for the most part. It separates us from our friends and dicatates where we can and can't go. If we level too fast, a game with story feels awkward (we'll be seeing how that effects you, Star Wars: The Old Republic). If we don't have a story, or don't care about it, it's simply a mechanic that makes veterans automatically better than new players before taking player skill into the equation (like Darkfall).

The current system puts us in a rather obvious grind. Yes, TOR's trying to mask it better with story. Let's say that, in a worst case scenario, TOR only has story- the raiding is lame, the pvp is dull, the economy sucks. It's just a game with story. My question is, why do you need levels for that? 

Let's jump forward a bit more. Why do you need levels for pvp? FPS games and RTS games traditionally have no artificial levels and they allow for some rather interesting gameplay. What about raiding? We've all played with max level people who didn't know their class. 

At best, leveling provides time for people to learn their character and moves, right? It's an understandable excuse if games are very different or you're new to the genre, but when every game is called a clone of another, do we really need a glorified tutorial that lasts us months before we get access to the real game?

At worse, leveling is exactly what people dislike about RPGs- a game who's difficulty is judged purely based on increasing stats rather than player skill. In an MMO, this takes a turn for the worst when you're judged by these numbers rather than your ability to play the game. While being able to press a button at the right time does take some skill, the leveling process very rarely works to train players to function correctly. Quite literally, anyone can level.

Removing levels and the, in all honesty, rather dull content associated with them, gives developers the opportunity the focus on what really matters: tutorials for increasing player skill, creation of fun content, and a focus on creating conent that furthers the social nature of MMOs.

WoW's Cataclysm is a perfect example of a wasted opportunity. A large amount of effort was put into the leveling experience, rather than new game mechanics and social interaction. The game's "story," told through mainly "kill 10 rats, gather 6 mushrooms" types of "quests," is a massive waste of resources. Several of my guildies went through the content and were satisfied, but the end result was the same as when you finish a single player game: "Boy that was fun! Let's try a new game!"

Those who didn't level a new character or several alts tried the new "content" and were done in a month or two. Those of us still around mainly make our own content or, in some cases, raid, which is less about levels and more about player skill, but the main part is that we're around for each other, not necessarily the game. In essence, the leveling path in and of itself, unless a terrible grind, is a bit of a dead end. The multi-player aspects are what keep people hooked and paying monthly fees, not the leveling grind.

While 1000 variations of "kill 10 rats, gather 6 mushrooms" are easier to create than real content, it's also easier for competitors too. What this also allows for is creating games with more social mechanics. I personally love it when a game requires aiming, but when players are more equal in power, you can also make social skills, like the creation of alliances, a larger part of gameplay. This helps to eliminate some of the power play seen in purely skill based games (like many FPS and RTS games) that make others avoid those genres, and makes it so that the skilled players can contribute in other ways.

What do we get in exchange from our levels? Is there a benefit we're still getting? Or are games like Firefall and The Secret World onto something?

5 Pre-launch Planning Tips

Posted by Dengar Thursday September 8 2011 at 1:53AM
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With pre-launch tools and hype for upcomming MMOs like The Old Republic and The Secret World, developers are trying to rope in players and give them the tools to solidify the new game as a guild's new home. However, there's a few things to keep in mind when preparing for a new game.Most of these are for guild leaders, but also things to consider if you're looking at a guild yourself!

1. Community projects don't usually pay off in terms of recruits.

I've seen this a few times. Someone thinks that making an interactive map, guild search tool, or constantly releasing articles will tranlate into recruitment advantages. Don't get me wrong, they're great, and very much appreciated, but it's a lot of work and usually thankless. I've been on both ends of this, and I can tell you that I've yet to meet anyone who joined a guild and became a long-term member because the guild did good things for the community. People just love to take advantage of free stuff.

How do you balance between the work and rewards? Take advantage of user submissions and upkeep. If you can allow users to make adjustments and simply act as an admin, you'll save yourself a lot of time while also creating a tool that your guild, at the very least, can be proud of. People will recognize your guild name and look at your other qualities a bit more than a random guild, so that even if you're not progress oriented, name familiarity may be enough to get someone to look at what you have to offer that others don't. If you place all the burden on yourself and drop the ball, the failure will stick to your guild more than the success would have added to your fame. 

 

2. Don't go in as a new guild.

New guilds rarely make it, and veteran players know it. Older guilds just have a lot of advantages for long term gamers that can't be grown at the drop of a hat, and with MMOs becoming more popular (and short term), stability means more to veteran MMOers.

The WoW crowd's still learning this though. You may be able to lure some skilled raiders in, but WoW has bred short attention spans and a sense of entitlement in some of the more casual raiders. 

TOR's pre-launch tool has been out since, mm, March 2010. About 5 months. In that amount of time you can build a guild in an existing guild with people looking at the new game and actually have some history before you try to recruit. Get pictures of events you host, note how you progress or rank, etc. A short history gives you a little something over the rest of the crowd though. People notice the difference between "we have" and "we will," and the past tense resonates a bit more.

 

3. Don't auto-recruit people interested in your guild when the game's first announced.

Sadly, some of the first people looking at the game will probably be some of the first who drop by the wayside. They're often too enthusiastic. They're looking for a grail of gaming, and any game that may be it will attract them until specifics come out. Fan boys are also part of it, and their judgement may be clouded. Finally, some folks are just going to forget about the game. Those who are interested, keep in contact with them. Try to play something else with'em. The ones that last at least till launch will do something for ya. The rest aren't great investments. They'll wanna join, they'll jump through hoops, but when push comes to shove, you'll find them missing come launch day.

 

4. Keep planning to a minimum until you've actually played the game.

Promising to allow members access to guild catapults only works if the game actually has catapults at launch. I've seen new guilds promise bounties to members but launch made it so that the leaders would have to pay this out of their own pockets, which they didn't want to do. Their members got pissed, thrashed the guild's name, and it died shortly after the game's launch. Don't be one of these guilds.

The other thing is that once the game launches, most people are going to be selfish. Even if you work together during the initial push to, say, buy a guild house, know that many newer members (and some veterans!) are going to do their own thing. How you handle that is up to you, but games are for fun, and people are going to put that ahead of the guild in any situation that they don't see themselves benefiting from.

5. Whatever you planned, stick to it as best as you can at launch.

Things are going to go wrong. People will join the wrong server, wrong faction, go to the wrong town, etc. However, if you do whatever you said you did (and have it in writing), you'll go much farther. Even better, the more people it effects, the more you should consider it. For example, if the plan is to go to the "Bloodmist" server on launch day as "Jimmy," but you find out that the name is taken on that server, don't go to a different server! Once people make their first character they won't want to restart most of the time. They'll keep as many materials as they can and power through the start of the game. That's a given. If you switch servers over a name, you're going to lose people, while if you stay on the server as "Jimmi," at least you can still eventually hunt down people who got the server correct! It may take some convincing that it's really you, but that's much easier than switching servers. 

 

I'm sure other folks have some tips, but after over a decade of dealing with this sort of thing, I find that these are some of the simpler things that people still forget during the planning phases. Those who keep these in mind will usually do better in the long run. Though there are exceptions, the vast majority of people who don't understand these tips will find that they don't last long once the gate's opened and the other, more solid gates come barreling in.

Rift: A Window Into the Future of MMOs

Posted by Dengar Friday September 2 2011 at 11:51AM
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Disclaimer: Rift is not the WoW Killer. Under no circumstances, no matter how many positive things I or anyone else may write, no one with an ounce of sanity claims that Rift will kill WoW. Put down the pitch forks and keep this statement in mind as you read.

Now that I've properly covered my ass from potential rabid WoWheads, let's jump into the real issue: Rift is catering to a very large audience. Larger than even WoW. I say this as a sandbox MMO vet who plays theme-parks these days due to social reasons. I want each and every theme-park MMO to fail and give rise to single server sandbox MMOs ala-EVE but not EVE (the name alone scares most MMO rookies who only hear about the constant griefing; I have a girlfriend I'm trying to slowly convert into a sandboxer, so I need to mask the potential for griefing). 

Despite my desire to return to using "raid" only in the context of a massive PvP war, and "quest" to mean a super special event that's for fun and not for grinding, I must admit that Rift's doing a lot to cater to me as a world pvp fan. Make no mistake, Rift is a theme park PvE game, but Trion does cater to other crowds: explorers via non-quest related puzzles, achievements for sight seeing, and collectable artifacts; raid casuals in the form of daily rift raids; and Asheron's Call fans who miss monthly updates (the game's six months old and we're about to have our fifth content patch, plus each patch has released a few new events/quests exclusive to that patch). At the moment, ladder match pvp fans are left out, and I'll tell you to suck a lemon and leave it in RTS and FPS games, but I know you'll come back later when Trion eventually adds arenas to Rift, just so you can squirt citric acid in my eye (that arena bit my guess, not anything I've read). Why do I say this? The next crowd Trion's aiming at is the casual, single player instance lovers.

Reread that for a moment. Massively Multiplayer game adding a single player element. Oh, hey Star Wars: The Old Republic. What's that? You have a single player Star Fox mini-game instead of massively multiplayer space combat? That's a damn shame! Still, at least it's there... for me. Just me. Not for my friends, which is the biggest reason I choose to play MMOs with $15 a month fees (keep those multi-month discounts to yourselves). I want to play with my friends in Colorado and Korea from the comfort of my California couch. However, it seems that the single player aspect is sneaking into our MMOs, and Trion's mini-dungeons will be arriving before TOR launches. That means we get a quick taste of what single player instanced content may do to the overall community. But that's not the only thing.

For those who haven't hit Rift or paid much attention to it, Rift offers weekly server transfers free of charge for both individual players and their guilds. Yes, it's great for finding an active server, but the end result is a "server of the month" habit. I recently made the jump to a new server when I came back to Rift. The sides were fairly balanced IMO. When I went for more world pvp dailies, I'd get stomped, so I'd call for back-up. Then they'd call for back up. Back and forth, kind of like the old days where a small squabble eventually exploded into an all out brawl across the zone. I'd win some, I'd lose some, but the thing is, I actually can't get that in most theme-park MMOs without setting it up. I literally have to play nice with my enemy and help recruit so I won't end up on a shitty server and choose between spending money switching sides/servers to find PvP or switching games (and I often choose the latter). However, not everyone's like me. Given the options, it seems the other faction on my server decided to go elsewhere so the fights would favor them much more. 

Oh, hey Guild Wars 2! What's that? You're also going to offer free transfers between worlds with little to no punishment? Lovely. We're getting a taste of it in Rift, and while the world pvp aspect has helped me find people within the server community worthy of my time (because lord knows most games these days have far too many trolls for my ignore list to contain), it also means that the community as a whole has people rotating out much more frequently than from game-jumpers alone. Granted, it does build the cross-server community, in that certain guild names have developed a reputation for cross-server recruiting and frequent jumping, which allows us to see what guilds are stable and which ones are not. It's not terrible, and it's fairly new, but I think most theme-park players still don't have a solid grasp on what it's like to look at a guild tag and have some actual meaning behind it (leaving out the top raiding guilds). There's a lot of shit guilds out there, and many rise and fall, but because of instancing, people rarely see or hear the actions of others. Transfering servers (along with name changes) has only exacerbated the issue.

Still, it's nice that Trion's trying. While Blizzard still struggles to appease world pvpers (TB is dead, and WoW players cry about pvp during their Molten Front dailies), Trion's actually attempted a compromise. They've put a reasonable amount of effort into making world events worth while for a range of player (both raids and pvp) , they also have the instances to compromise with those who just don't like having to actually form groups, work with others, be responsible for their actions... you know, community stuff.

Oh, hey TERA! What's that? You're linking instances with the ability to take over zones for guilds in an attempt to appeal to sandboxers and theme-park goers? Hey ArcheAge, I was just talking to TERA about.... What's that? You're also using instances among other things in an attempt to lure innocent theme-park MMOers into sandbox gameplay? How devious! Yes, I know. I've previously mentioned that instancing isn't all bad, such as in Animal Crossing to a certain extent. It can be a nice way to control things a bit, but it ultimately makes it very difficult to form a community. I hate saying it, but only after drama strikes do I feel I know who's really a winner and who's not worth my time. Much like real life, it can be hard to actually meet people in these heavily instanced MMOs where the game gives out loot based on dice rolls (or, as Rift and TOR are doing it, giving everyone their own share of the loot), people simply join and do rather than communicate, and at the end of a session, may disappear, never to be seen or heard from again). Instancing, like real world distances, seems to actually make it harder for you to meet new people and form a connection. You have, at best, a few hours with them, and only if someone's bad at playing the game, not because they're a bad person. It's like speed dating if part of the date involved getting a puzzle done in order to get the free food. It's not pretty.

I'm playing WoW and Rift at the same time lately, but I honestly feel that, at this point in time, Trion's offering me a much more current vision of a modern day MMO than Blizzard is, despite Blizz's much larger budget. I'm sick and tired of theme-park rides and eagerly wait the next batch of MMOs. However, until then, I feel like Rift's giving me a good way of preparing for the future so that, when the next MMOs hit, I'll already have some experience with the mechanics these games are betting on, allowing me to handle the community issues looming on the horizon.

Re-Rifted and Loving It!

Posted by Dengar Saturday August 27 2011 at 10:40AM
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With Rift's 1/2 Birthday here, I decided to give Trion a gift rather than receive one: resubscribing to Rift and bringing a few friends, at least for a month.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that Rift isn't my ideal game. They've added in a few things that went counter to what I wanted from a living, breathing world: constant grind updates for PvE and PvP, cross realm instant transport to dungeons, and (sort of) free weekly transfers off of shards. Still, I've played World of Warcraft for far too long. At this point, even breaks don't help, since the grind is very apparent. Much like a single player game, I tend to do things once in WoW and I'm done- no need to do it again on an alt. Not only that, but Trion does things better than Blizz these days.

First, updates are much faster in Rift, and bring a good chunk of changes. They can't compare to Asheron's Call 1 or 2's monthly updates or GM events, but they're not too bad. You at least get some new dailies (usually simple tasks you can do around town), plus content updates, which reminds me of sandbox games. For example, Rift has released increased security for player accounts, appearance tabs, world pvp dailies, and alternative war front (think BG) objectives from time to time- in 6 months. In that time, WoW's added... guild quests, something Rift launched with. WoWheads may say, "Hey, Blizz is adding appearance tabs, allow you to change your weapon, and will probably do wpvp dailies too!" This may be true, however, unlike Blizz, Trion gives players more freedom, and faster too. The appearance tabs (yes, plural- players can make up to 4 outfits without it taking up extra bag space) aren't restricted with some arbitrary "no silliness" rule. I've seen people running around looking like Mickey Mouse. If someone wants to do that, more power to them!

World PvP dailies and rifts are a lot like the world PvP events I have to try to organize in WoW on a weekly basis, and sometimes better when it's a rough month. The game puts objectives and a reward that is on-par with instanced content (maybe even better, since players seem to do their best to make sure they get done despite high ranks, something that WoW's "pvp zones" lack very much). This brings players from both factions into the hotspot, turning zones into something like the "glory days of Hillsbrad" (which was essentially zerg vs counter-zerg). The system especially shines when you add in the PvP Rifts- think capture the flag with multiple neutral flags. Even if you get zerged, you can form up with a few folks and intercept stragglers with "flags." It's a simple objective that adds a lot to gameplay, and since players summon them, it gives us some freedom to coordinate things. The best part is that the game announces the rifts to both factions, so everyone knows where they can find some good world pvp.

The "alternative objectives" for war fronts (like WoW BGs) changes the regular rule set when it's in place. A simple capture the flag map (think Warsong Gulch) becomes much more complicated: flags become neutral. Capturing a flag only puts it in your base, and the enemy can steal it and take it to their base to score. Oh, and after the first flag is captured, the game spawns two neutral flags. You can go from a 2-0 advatnage to 2-3 loss in minutes. The game's pace becomes much faster and the strategies can get pretty wild. This vastly beats out Blizzard's different maps with largely the same gameplay (I loved the new maps in Cata, don't get me wrong, but the gameplay only changed a little- Trion's method is vastly more noticeable and enjoyable).

And this is just the pvp stuff. Despite Rift being a theme park game with a largely pve oriented crowd, the developers actually pay attention to their PvP crowd. The changes that took place while I was assisting my guild in WoW's 4.2 make me much happier with a game I already would have stuck with if not for social purposes. Blizzard is trying to play catch up at the moment, and I don't feel like it's quite as strong, and certainly not as swift. Rift is still a theme park game, but by adding more world events, the game world feels much more organic, and I'm seeing familiar faces after only a few days of transfering to a new shard. Some may be gone in a few weeks if a large guild comes over after "dominating" their old shard, but for now, world pvp is alive and well. Game mechanics enforce a reliance on other people, unlike WoW's new "pvp zone" that gives people more of a reason to avoid their enemy than engage them.