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Weekly Random Meaningful Blabber

A blog about anything MMO related. I suppose I could have confined it to more specific things...but I dislike losing my freedom!

Author: Gishgeron

Some thoughts about the MMO Guild struture

Posted by Gishgeron Thursday May 15 2008 at 1:53PM
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  Anytime I post on these forums, and find a position which strikes me as interesting, I feel the need to blog about it.  Now, normally, I repress this urge and just go about my way.  Most of it would not amount to much in the way of discussion or debate anyway, and I prefer that my blogs at least offer up something to consider when viewing them.  At least, thats what I want from my "non-review" blogs.

  So, to preface this whole matter, let me begin by saying that I've recently been active around here in discussions which made me really think about the way we view guilds in the MMO genre...and the effects this view has had on gameplay mechanics thus far.  I realize that my posts can be a little...aggressive...from time to time, and that I may not always present my thoughts in the best manner possible in a given thread.  Because of this, I actually decided to sit down with you all on this particular matter and actually blog it.  My hopes are to present this a little more maturely, and with a little more open-mindedness than I sometimes share in the actual forums.

  I'm not too proud to admit my own failings :P  On to the subject matter.

 

  We all understand the basics of the Guild structure in MMO's today.  Groups of people get together, and form a glorified friends list of players in which to organize and engage in larger content.  This system is controlled wholly by the players themselves...an identity crafted by them and only them, and even comes with its own literal system of reputation behind it.  I recently discovered that this system is actually causing problems in open-ended development in the genre, though, and I'd like to explain why.

  When you have a game which focuses all of its content development around these Guilds, you also take with that a very harsh form of gating that prevents the community from actually opening up.  It almost sounds ludicrous when you say it aloud at first, that a community FEATURE could actually be breaking a community down, but its true.  This focus for Guilds breaks the "massive" community down into segments, fragmented sections of players which form these Guilds.  These segments do not actually involve themselves with the rest of the world, because doing so is a distraction from the game design...which forces the guilds to constantly operate together for maximum effectiveness in progression. 

  This matter translates over to the player poorly, actually.  In one particular forum a poster brought up how open GTA IV was compared to the "open massive worlds" prescribed by MMO gaming culture.  The openness of it is centered around the freedom of the individual to do what he wants, and involve himself in whatever he wishes.  It presents a situation where the day to day goals of the player can change, and are even encouraged to do so.  Guild-Focused content can never be this way, and the structure of the progression forces the individual to remove any personal goals for the sake of becoming involved in the Guild goals.  Granted, its not just guild systems which present this issue...gear and level based progression also have their hand in it.  But if we are going to address one face of the monster, I feel we should address all of its many heads as well.

  I think that these games need to go back to their community roots.  Ideally, factional systems BACKED by player controlled guild formats would be the best incarnation...so long as the content is based solely on the individual and factional goals, and not the guild goals.  Guilds should form naturally as players of like mind meet and wish to combine their similar goals.  Instead, the monster we have now gives us only ONE option.  Its an insult even TO the Guilds of todays MMO's...because they have nothing to truly involve themselves in.  They have no options, no freedom, no anything really.  They are forced into one of two gaming options, and neither of those do anything to actually make proper use of the ability to bring like minded people together.  They are glorified carrot-stick situations, and a weak when compared to the plethora of wonderful ideals floating around between the many games available.

  I'd like to know how many of you feel the same way about this.  Is the current Guild-centric structure really damaging the potential of the genre as much as a I think?  Am I simply being exaggerated for the sake of making a point?  Does this market NEED to scrap its old ways and rethink the usage of a community better?

  Feel free to talk!  I would love to hear what many of you have to say on this.  If the debate warrants it, I may copy paste this into a forum for easier access and reading.

Wonderland, a review.

Posted by Gishgeron Thursday April 10 2008 at 3:08PM
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  Allow me to begin by saying that I am only level 6, and have only JUST played the game today...and only for about 4 hours.  I typically stay away from forming opinions without really delving into something, but this game warranted my immediate written opinion.

 

  Now that this issue is cleared up and you all can see where I'm writing from, lets begin.

 

  The guys making this need a well deserved hug.  I found almost every conceptual element to this game refreshing enough that I'll be playing it for a while.  First, it plays very casually and enjoyably.  The combat system is so terribly nice compared to the boredom I'm used to in this genre.  I like turn based battles, genuinely, and found this type of said method to be very well done.  Its slick, fast, and easy to grasp without reading a single word of instruction.  The games interface was quickly learned, and I was moving right along within moments.  I found out very quickly that other players could even jump into a battle you were engaged in...though I'm still not sure how to do so myself.  Before you begin to question my earlier comment about the interface...understand that I simply did not care enough to try.  I'll explain why next.

  Groups:  Within mere moments of gameplay I had already acquired 3 NPC party members I could assign into my team whenever I wanted.  As a result, I had no need to "join" anyone because I was still to early into the game to really need an actual player behind the wheel when I can control the NPC's better than some players can control their own characters.  You can even "capture" enemies to use as pets (which is what the game calls any NPC team member) and level them as well.  You can ride pets too...and yes, this includes the humanoid NPC members I picked up lol.  I've been "riding" some straggler I picked up lying on the ground, unable to even speak the local language.  Humor entails, and I never leveled her. 

  Housing:  Immediately upon reaching the first village you can acquire a tent which will serve as your first player hosue.  So far as I know, wherever you place that thing is where it stays...so I'm hoping there is some way to pick it back up again.  The house also comes equipped with starter crafting tools in the form of a workbench.  I quickly set myself to build other starter level crafting expansions to this tool, and left it at that until I discover more about it.  Based on what I saw from what little reading I HAVE done (I prefer to dive into a game and learn as I go usually, its often a better indication of how good the UI is and how well designed the game is as a whole when you don't NEED a 120 page text document to explain everything) the crafting is pretty deep and I am actually eager to cut my teeth on it some more.  I suspect there is more to the housing thing, but I won't dwell on what I'm not sure of.

  Grind:  I felt NO grind as of yet, and I feel that I may never feel one.  Tragically, I think a lot of the grind problem games have is found in the dull combat that MMO's are built upon.  I'm having too much fun fighting things....even things ignorantly below my level trying to get crafting goods.  I never even look at my xp bar...I'm just not interested.  My goals aren't level based at the moment.

  Skills:  I have no ideal how deep this rabbit hole goes...but I do know that the element I chose offers me some 30-odd skills eventually.  Each skill gains levels based on its use...and each are tied into how the elements play on each other.  I chose water (I'm a Pisces,  and I wanted to make my avatar blue) so my initial ice-melee attack is "super-effective" against fire based foes (which I'm sure takes rocket science to deduce) dealing some 80 damage to them.  Against an earth foe...it may do 20. 

  Stats:  You assign stats, though I think the attributes stats effect actually go up each level as well.  I'm not sure, I only just now thought to check that because I hadn't placed any agility points in a level or so...but noticed my speed wasn't the same.  How the math plays out isn't important really...what is important is that you place your own stats.  I think we all kinda like that.

  Mobs:  I haven't seen anything overtly mature yet (the golems were pretty neat), but then...I'm fighting things on a tropical island too.  Since I actually enjoy vibrant colors and the act of killing wobbling piles of jello actually turns me on...I'm not complaining.  The fact that said jello then drops things I can craft with...well...is icing on my proverbial happy cake.  I've also had a few matches against some pirates, and I gotta say the fight animations are pretty hawt for a game which mimics old school console RPG combat stylings.

 

  Now for the bad

 

  Translation:  I could follow everything that was said, but its loose and kinda choppy.  No big deal for me, I've been around non-english speakers my whole life.  My current landlord is asian, and we are good friends.  I can accept that kind of thing, and generally ignore it.  It genuinely doesn't bother me, but I have to mention it because it DOES bother some of you.  If translation is going to ruin your fun (god save your gaming soul....) you may wanna try it first, but be expecting some hitches here and there.

  Population:  These newbie zones are crammed.  I need to break right now and explain something.  Combat occurs when you encounter a mob.  This happens in one of two ways.  You either click or collide with wandering mobs, or you get a random encounter in zones where you can be randomly encountered.  In random encounter zones...being crammed with players doesn't matter.  When the invisible dice say you fight, you fight.  In other places...it DOES matter.  There are also random chests that are strewn about the world which are NEVER going to be unopened because of this...but I didn't really care about that.  There is another form of encounter which comes at you in the form of scripted engagement that happens as the result of talking to certain people are following certain quests.

  Lastly...not everything is the game is super easy to figure out.  The company does have most of that information on their website, and I advise anyone interested in this to go there and read at least enough to be familiar with the site so that you can return later if you NEED to.  I still haven't figured out how to catch a pet, and am about to go learn now.

 

  My vote on this game:  7.5-7.8.   I want to really encourage developers to think outside the box...and to make a return to gaming elements that are based more on actual fun rather than bleeding my time and wallet.  The 2-D of the game is something I didn't even think to notice.  I was actually glad for it, because I needed something fresh after all my time in these stagnate 3-d worlds that offer nothing.  I won't swear I'll keep that score as I play on...or even once the game leaves beta.  But for now, for what I've just played, this is the score they deserve for making me as happy today as I have ever been in MMO's in all of my life.

The Gish take on sandbox ideals

Posted by Gishgeron Friday March 28 2008 at 12:55AM
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  I've talked a lot about these types of games...and what I think should go in them.  For once, I'm gonna compile some of those very basic concepts into this blog so some of you can read over it and MAYBE even enjoy it.  Hope you like it!

 

  First, lets tackle my game fundamentals.  PvP is going to be built around Factional combat.  I would have two zone types.  One is a normal zone, where PvP can only occur between people whom have assigned themselves to a guild (or faction...semantics really) .  I might allow FFA PvP, but in these zones I would place very harsh penalties for spree-killings.  In such a case, players are created with an "Innocent" tag.  Killing innocents grants the player a permanent flag which denies him access to any NPC function what-so-whoever, until which time he has done enough to revoke it. 

  The second zone is a typical "open" zone, where I will place the best resources and most ideal rewards for players to attain.  There shall be less landmass dedicated to these zones than normal ones.  Mostly, because I want the prime resources to be heavily controlled.  I also want these areas to be heavily contested.  Limiting the landspace for them ensures that more players actively seek them and are more likely to encounter each other for them.

  I will not have full loot PvP.  At least...not in the way we know it.  One ideal I have has simply to severely limit personal player inventory (to mimic actual reality), thus forcing players to use warehouses to store their things.  Warehouses would be a thing that only exist in player cities.  These are also locations which can be destroyed and looted.  What this serves is to place a form of player looting in the game which also encourages factional combat to claim these warehouses.  My other ideal was a kind of transitional thing...where killing the player merely removed item durability and returned it to the killer as the base resource used to make it.  The player still has his stuff...for awhile...and the killer is rewarded.

I will move on now, though I may tie PvP into other things.

  Crafting will be the name of the game.  Items WILL decay.  This decay will occur more rapidly as the item is used more.  Furthermore, resource nodes will have actual limits on them.  Once drained, they will remain empty until they reset...a thing I plan to make either weekly or monthly.  My plan is to make it so that basic use will make most items and building wear out enough over the week or month to use up the resources that exist.  These nodes will be placed in locations that never change.  If you find a mine that has 10,000 ore in it...that mine will always be where you found it.  This is crucial in creating territory for guilds to control....as placing cities near these nodes will be key in defending them. 

  All items will need to be crafted.  I do not want NPC vendors.  Players must run this game, in all of its elements.  I realize that a lack of crafters could cause an issue early on.  To correct this, the basic level crafting skills shall be available to everyone and allow production of bone and wood weapons.  I also hope to make the skill limits broad enough that most people can embrace a large area of character skills to allow for both combat, crafting, and some other just fun ones, like brewing.  Also....its important to note that I will not have massive power differences between qualities of gear.  I intend to locate most of the players "power" in the players skills.  Items are just to be extensions of that power with some very minor bonuses for quality. 

  I would also want my players to be able to decorate both their cities and themselves well.  Several crafting skills will exist for things like clothes and furniture and just basic decoration to bring color and life into the world.  Moving on now....

 

  Mini-games.  I want to take some of the more recreational (and sometimes gathering) type of activities and make them more fun.  Take fishing, I think that the current "cast and click" model is dumb.  Lets add some real fishing elements to it...make it play like you bought a fishing game for your PS3.  Heck, for giggles lets turn building construction into a tetris style mini-game.  I don't mean...lets make em OWN at that kind of game to make stuff...just throw some nice durability bonuses in there for those that really rock the tetris out.  Turn potion-making into a game of reflexes and timing (which REAL chemical mixing can be)  The options are endless, and if you make the mini-games load only for the client side until the completion results are done...it adds nothing to lag at all.  Picking herbs can't be something crazy...but being able to take the seeds and have some Harvest Moon style farming happen would rock for the planters of the world.

  I actually want to remove dull gathering from my game entirely.  I would have hire-able NPCs for people to use for mining and such.  I guess I could turn mining into a mingame.....how about bomberman?  Bah, who knows.  I'll TAKE suggestions for it.

  Next up:  Set amounts of gold.  There is a predetermined amount of currency in the game.  If you pay Bob the toolman for something, he always has that cash until someone else gets it.  Even NPCs.  This amount would scale based on accounts with players on a server.  Not by much...a few basic units per player.  Point is, its limited...bad.  No goldfarmers here....ain't nothing to farm.  You won't find them at resource nodes either...because THOSE are gonna be constantly contested and protected by their guilds.

  Chugging right along....FACTIONS!  TO begin, I want to have lots of stuff for factions to do.  Starting with factional leaders.  I want them to have a nearly RTS/Sim like control when adjusting cities.  I want factional leaders to be able to place their own NPCS...and even build their own quests.  I want a fluid and functional UI for them to use to actively communicate with other members, and even other divisions of leadership inside the faction.  I even want them to have reputation meters.  Yup, leaders can set up reputation increases with their NPCs and even grant rep to players on their own.  This information is a simplified way for faction members to visually see their place in the faction...and to perceive others whom are friendly to it.  Leaders can even set up increased city quest rewards based on rep.

  But there is MORE.  I want to have a statistical representation of a factions unity...so when using skills near a faction city or capital...I will have bonuses granted to the player.  That means better crafted goods...better combat performance, ect.  One could even suggest tying rep into this...by offering lower bonuses to those whom have good rep with you...but not actually members of your faction.  This supports the more diplomatic side to factional interaction.  Not everything has to be about war, after all.  Sometimes it might be good to have a buddy faction...just for the skill buffs.

  I'll add more to this in my next blog maybe.  I'm tired...and just ran out of steam for the night...sorry :(  Work sucks, its iron-fisted control of my life and its time demands are the very bane of my existence.  Tell me what you think, good or bad.  I DO have more...I just can't think at the moment.  I should have wrote this crap down better....let that be a lesson to me.  NEVER rely on my memory 100%.

The great disconnect.

Posted by Gishgeron Friday March 21 2008 at 11:10AM
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  Hello all, and welcome to what I hope will be a weekly installment of my new blog.  Before I begin, let me start by saying that I will try very hard to keep up with any and all replies and will do my very best to create a solid environment for good discussion.

 

  Now, on to the show.

 

  Lately, I've taken special note at the amazing amount of drama that has been plaguing this genre between the people who make and run the games....and those whom play them.  I've seen countless threads about WHY this happens, and how to fix it.  Today, I'm going to address what I feel is really behind this disconnect.  Its something I feel hasn't been really considered well when really approaching the subject.

 

  For me, I honestly think that this separation is not so much between developers and players....but between the ideal and structure of a one-time purchase versus a constant online fee.  I believe that the game developers still have not truly moved their mindset away from those single-buy games....which involve a very different customer/creator relationship.  In those games, all that needs to occur is that the creator tell us what he is making, and make exactly that.  There is no need to be firmly invested in your fans or community...because the structure of the purchase is based around ONLY the CD sale.  So, for the ones making games, they still take a mostly hands-off approach to their community and how THEY apply to the very structure of their dream game.

 

  That isn't to say these companies are stupid.  No, they DO employ PR people to deal with the MMO communities.  The issue is, it shouldn't be about "dealing" with us....or even controlling us.  Realistically, it should be the goal of each MMO team to fully use the flowering community to strengthen their games.  An MMO is very much like a food chain, they both survive by winning over new customers and ensuring their return business.  The MMO is not just about its own name, and the public response to it, but also the name of the company which made it.  This serves as a brand name for the whole team...and the good and bad effects of the community falls on IT. 

 

  So, much like the food chains, I think its time these MMO guys really sit down and devote the time they need to in order to make sure they create great communities.  Not just some PR suits either...the whole team needs to get in on it.  I've noticed that Blizzard already does this on their own forums (which are ALSO not overly moderated).  The MMO team needs a relaxed atmosphere in-house about interacting with the community as well....there needs to be less iron-fist control over them about what they can and cannot do.  Once we get the whole team involved....then its important they treat us as any respectable business would in such a situation.   They should treat us like our unified voice is king over their lands...because it is.   There needs to be an understanding that an MMO is not a normal PC or console game....it is a community game.  That means that sometimes....you sacrifice your ideal of the game to bring it more in line with what your fans ideal of the game is.

 

  MMO"s are not pretty art projects that we all view in a museum and discuss.  They are public hotspots, and need to be catered to their public.  That does NOT mean making every game like WoW either.  That means making more, and more interesting, types of hotspots to cater to more diverse crowds.  Most of all...those crowds need to have SOME input in what happens in their hotspot.  This isn't Fable you are making guys....you NEED the return consumer in this field.  Lets make these games more about the players than some dev dream.

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