My first experience with the idea of a Public Quest (PQ) was with Warhammer Online. Mythic hailed it as innovative and new. The idea was interesting. An area where players can visit, jump in an event, contribute as much or as else as they wish and be rewarded accordingly.
To Mythic's credit, the concept has taken off. Champions Online has Open Missions. DC Universe coined their PQ areas as Live Events. Guild Wars 2 is featuring a Dynamic quest.
What all these have in common is easy. A location where an event is occurring. Players are usually notified what stage the event is at, what the objective is and a timer is counting down.
On the plus side, these are relatively new to the MMO formula. Up until recent years, most of MMO content was guided by tasks/ missions/ instances/ raids and PvP. It is a fresh change to just do something without the inherent "work" of finding a group, organizing a raid, repeating the same action over and over again. It promoted relationships that MMOs yearn for. A common goal for players to coalasce around. It also did not demand hours and hours of commitment for players. You only had 15 minutes for lunch, you can pop in and help out.
From what we learned in WAR, a lot of things had to be ironed out. Contribution to an event is a relative term. Does a healer contribute more to the event than a dps based toon? What about someone who spams abilities just to generate high contribution scores for the best loot? What about the tank player who is a master at keeping the end bosses attention, but because of poor dps skills had little to contribute up until the end boss? And what about the random rolling involved? Someone who comes for 5 minutes, but rolls a great loot roll gets the rare gear while someone there from minute one gets nothing?
How will these upcoming games address these issues?
How will upcoming MMOs who really like the idea of a dynamic area keep that area interesting? Is it still a grind if the same event resets and runs every hour? Will beginning areas become ghost towns because there is better loot to be had in another area or simple repeatable mission reward- essentially making the PQ a waste of time?
To me, it would be a step in right direction if :
- PQs had a reason for all levels to participate. Keep the stages of the PQ intact. Low levels bear the burden of overcoming beginning phases (and their respective "end boss/ challenges"), the mid range players have their stage to deal with and veterans have to deal with the final event objectives. This keeps an area interesting and often gives an opportunity for veterans to meet newer players and form relationships, give buffs, and recruit.
- Mix up the threats. instead of the same threat being cycled over and over perhaps have a comparable threat randomly generated in the event. So instead of cycle of centaurs raiding a village, the threat overcome. Next have a raid of hobgoblins give it a whirl. Maybe followed after some recovery time a raid of orks, lizard men, and finally an undead mix of all the previous fallen. THEN go back to Centaurs. Keep the rewards on random loot table as well.
- City of Heroes/ Villians had Booty Bay and similar pvp zones where the game alerted everyone of Hot spots of activity. What a game can determine if a big pvp fight is going on (say 1-2 full groups flagged for pvp are engaged) and execute a dynamic mission in that area?
- Another aspect of open missions occurs if the level of the open mission becomes too difficult for the players involved. in WAR, if we started a PQ, but could not finish it, we would have to wait til the mission failed and it reset to grind for the influence reward. What if the game offers an alternate set of objectives for those situations. Lets say the PQ area detects you have gotten involved in the PQ, but your contribution is stuck at a certain value for 10 minutes. The game then offers you an alternative objective. It may be constructing a war machine, or supporting an NPC, or thwarting an enemy alternate objective. The idea here is while the main event cannot be overcome, the event can still be completed with you assisting the NPCs complete the objective for you.
- As a former facebook junkie, I played a lot of those mindless games. One game was Castle Age. What intrigued me about this game was that epic bosses could either be taken down by brute force of player power, or a set of objectives could be met (set up a mega ballista, summon angels, summon a spell, etc). Sometimes all you needed was to ask someone to contribute one click for your objective to advance to the next stage. This could be a means to do these alternative objectives. If a group has been whittled down to a few players to get to a final stage. Maybe there could be a mechanism where friends can contribute a consumable item from a marketplace or donate energy to bolster the group in need. The "favors" would enable to small team to complete big objectives to take down difficult challenges.
What else could Open missions have to make them better?
Its been a long time since I watched the movie Ghost, but a rerun made me think about death penalties in games.
What if the death state had a similar element of risk? Suppose your avatar dies in an unfortunate event. Ok, do you respawn fully geared and some debuff like most games today? Rinse and repeat?
As many discussed already, this makes death an incoveinence at best. How many of us zerged a target to finally accomplish your mission. You didn't zerg it because it was fun. It was a means to an end and it gets old quickly.
Many games used a spirit concept when you die. WoW being the most glaring example. However, it was a means to an end. Get to your corpse.
What if your afterlife meant more? Would be more interesting if there was entities of the afterlife that wants your spirit? If you were of naughty persuasion you have to evade demons from hell from grabbing your spirit and drag it down to oblivion. If you were a good guy - the pull of everlasting bliss would be calling you from above - leaving your unfinished business behind.
Imagine your toon doesn't get to his body in time. You are a foul person, and the denziens of hell grab you and you are hurled into "gamers hell". You are carried via a mosh pit of vile demons to some Taskmaster Demon. He assigns you tedious tasks to buy your freedom. (Or enter in a Cash shop to buy your freedom lol). you cannot resurrect by yourself (others can rez you of course).
The thought process here is a sense of urgency. Evade captors!
Now on the good side of things, you may want to go to heaven, but the game will then let your corpse be lootable by others. After all, you don't need all that stuff in heaven, yes? So what you are evading is the game ending for the player. If the player succumbs to the call of God, the game offers the player a second chance (either via cash shop) or if someone does a Deity Sacrifice/ prayer/ ritual. This should be something no one wants to do routinely because it should take up time, money and teamwork.
OR you can to the idea of Legend of the Seeker TV series and get assigned a task you must complete daily or die again (The Keeper's deal - kill one person a day).
Ok, the aged question how do you deal with internet connection loss? If the game can detect inactivity or a loss of activity in a given fight, maybe a GM can be privy to these things too. So , GM could be petitioned and decide if the player can be rezzed where he/she was last known to be located.
make death interesting!
Given al lthe interest in F2P models recently I thought perhaps a big company who has invested a lot of money in making an AAA title may transition or at least provide incentive to attract the F2P players with game rebates.
The benefits of a rebate are (and I am sure there are more to this because I am no MMO businessman):
- The game can be marketed as free to play. You give me money now, and a few weeks (read : months) of processing will go by and I will send you a rebate for the box.
- Loyalty builder (sort of) - If you have my money I am more likely to get my money's worth. Therefore the game exposure to the player is improved. It may be harder to shelve the game after three days because the player didn't like the tutorial levels/ experience.
- Cash Flow. Many businesses have a money market account of similar where cash can be moved in and out yet generates some interest. Inflate that account with initial payments may build some interest which the company can keep.
- Compliance : It is a fact of life. Some people are just not driven enough to fill out or send in a rebate coupon.
- Flexible in terms. A rebate on the game? A rebate in subscriptions? A rebate in the MMO Shop Credit? Lots of angles are open to make a game "free to play".
Deadly Creatures – the first step to a interesting world - Insect Online
Ever see those movies like “Honey, I shrank the Kids”?, “Bee Movie”, “Antz”, “Bully”?
These movies did spark interest. Numerous single player games about playing a bug are also out there. Maybe they were not blockbusters but this game stimulated some neurons.
Deadly Creatures appears to be a game where we can enjoy an environment where your world is not in a far away place, but in our backyard. Its scenery is not of mountains, lakes, river and vistas. The points of interest include a closet, a soda can or giant shovel. The hazards of insect life are challenging. Survive other insects, predatory reptiles, and a human shoe or (insert rolled up hand held tool here).
Insect Online would be a interesting reach into our MMO genre. You can put a twist on things so the game is not too foreign to us. Change is scary.
Insects have interesting “skills”. They have ranged weaponry, regeneration, armor, poison, flight, webs, light, etc and some even have professions. Insects have soldiers, hunters, assassins, queens, crafters (workers), etc.
So there is plenty of room to work with in an MMO game. Now how can a game go from Spiders vs Scorpions into a vast MMO system?
This is where we pull a little fantasy from the Pixar movies. We personalize our bugs with the option of humanizing our faces. We can throw in a small face like in Charlotte’s Web can’t we? Or if we don’t like a face, keep the natural look. Customization is a key to an MMO success, right?
But insects don’t have gear. This is MMO blasphemy! City of Heroes did not launch with permanent gear either, the game used enhancements. Electronic Arts hit game Spore offers evolutionary pieces to the creatures that can also act as gear.
Gear fanatics do not despair. Who says you have to look the same all the time? Why can’t that Praying Mantis avatar pick up a piece of bark and don it for additional protection? Why can’t a Wasp avatar snack on a meal laced with radiation for a freakish result? A clever Soldier ant comes across a bleb of Elmers glue and a sharp toothpick and voila! A weapon. Our avatars won’t be wielding Frostmourne, but they can have potent attacks with pincers, horns, venomous tails, dazzling light, bites, stingers, and so on. Loot would be enhancements to ones skills. Legendary items would be evolutionary breakthroughs.
Evolutinary breakthroughs are shape modifying, functional enhancements that are applicable to ones progeny.
Progeny is important is this game. Life is too difficult and too short. It is how the game handles death penalties. If you die, one of your offspring takes your place. An insect is immortal only through its offspring. You would be assigned a mate (and find better ones as you travel) and given your own lair (housing) from which your kids can emerge and prosper.
Our enemies are mighty and vast. Giants named Bobby and Jenny are always threatening with their feet, they wield foreign mauls of death marked with an arcane inscription by a wizard known as Playschool. Hazards like the Bladed Reaper that cleaves the forests must be avoided (Lawnmowers) and the Gas Lords from Orkin always mean certain genocide.
If that weren’t enough, PvP is on. Drop your enemy for enhancements or body parts. Be careful not to mess with those insects associated with a Hive, Colony or Collective (guilds).
Insect Online has potential.
My Honest Review – Great Potential, but still Potential
Sometimes I wonder how much a MMO developer can promise to the masses before it all blows up in their faces.
Marketing via Interviews of developers
We do have some examples of companies which incurred massive damage from interviews. Star Trek Online is a fair example. While they did not advertise it as "This game is not for Trekkies", the phrase from the interview got out quickly. It stung the fans more than any highly paid advertising campaign could deflect. So does this tell companies careful of who they put out for the public?
Vanguard is a similar example in using lots of interviews with online gaming sites to promote their game. Unfortunately it fell under the catergory "Overpromise and underdeliver". SoE has wisely picked up the pieces and patched it back together, but they did not have to incur the expense or accountability of its former owners marketing.
Darkfall may be the holy grail of MMOs someday, but what if it is a massive marketing test? What if it is to test us, as consumers of MMO games, to see how far we will tolerate promises? How long will we follow a game, click through its website and engage in its forums? How often does one need to create a video to keep people going to your website? How often should an employee put a blog out there so you can get comments from the community, which in turn can link to other gaming sites and generate more interest (more importantly, investors)?
While the only ad I see in Darkfall is a comic ad, how many ads on a website will a gamer tolerate?
I would have to say Paul Barnett is arguably one of the more famous faces in the MMO circles given the multi- year campaign of Warhammer Online. His humourous, yet informative videos have always been anticipated by fans and skeptics alike. I do not know the expense involved to utilize this method of game promotion, but Warhammer is a pretty well known game now, and it has no forums of its own. EA/ Mythic has to be one of the best PR companies in this category. The beauty of this method is that it is all scripted. It is hard to miscommunicate or misspeak. You can put forth your best face every time. Notice FunCom started their developer narrated videos a few weeks before launch... Bottom line is that needs to be budgeted, but it appears to be well worth the expense.
I don't know about you all, but I am tired of seeing gaming company profiles on their employees. Who cares if one of the artists likes comics of the 1930's? I am not going to buy your game based on the composer of your music either. Maybe it is a human resources tactic - be proud of your staff and they will work harder for you and not want a raise every month. Maybe HR people say instead of "Employee of the Month" with a premium parking spot, give em a dedicated web Spotlight. ::Shrugs:: I want information about your game, not so much from your staff. If you are proud of your staff, keep it on your website. You never know, it may backfire someday. What if someone falls in love with your company codemaster and steals him/her away for their project??
Conferences - this is a no brainer. Get your team out there and let players test your game. The people that go to conferences are your die hard gamers. They take the time out of their lives to learn more about the games coming down the pike. Ignoring conferences delays your recognition.
Easy to produce, but also easy to criticize. WAR tries to quell critics with the Pre-Alpha/Beta footage disclaimer on many of its videos. Is that all you need to do?
Yes, the time of this blog comes to the all important marketing tool. The Preorder. I will go over the ugly before what I like about it.
The Ugly - Gods and Heroes (Perpetual Entertainment), The Chronicle (MMO Center?)
Examples of abuse. Examples of companies which took your money and almost ran. This alone should always caution people when pre order offers are available. Make sure you know how to get your money back. Do companies make it easy to cancel or is it an act of congress? Think twice if a company does not make it simple for your to cancel a preorder. You are giving money away in return for a promise of a game sometimes a long, long time.
The irritating - Age of Conan
As these forums demonstrated. When a company makes its preorder offer vague, alter it promises in features, makes you spend more money to enjoy the preorder privledges, restrict the numbers of availabilty, etc. you are not doing your customers any favors. You would think you want more money asap so why not entice people to buy your product before you launch it?
Maps/Books/ artistry - eh. i can live without them. For avid fans I suppose. Collectors edition. Fine. Pre-Order standard edition? Nah
The Beta Lust
Grab player information data and computer data from gamers interested and what do you have? A buttload of information. Emails of gamers? Check. Personal demographics of gamers? Check. How many gamers have x amount of these types of video cards? How many have vista systems? How many have 2 or more gig of RAM? How many use cable/dsl/dial up? All this data is important to developers because they do not want their game to overload players systems, but they do not want their game to look dated either. So how do you know what gamers have? Offer them a chance to be in your Beta! Don't promise them a spot, just offer them a chance. If the player has what you want in regards to system to test your game, let them play it - beta testing is important of course. So offering a spot to beta testing in return for my preorder money? I'm on the fence.
Yay for Pre orders that deliver!
What works so far is not so much an item that becomes useless in the first few days of actual play.
Mounts - everyone loves them because they do stand out. I give FunCom hats off because they won't make them available until you have played the game ( lvl 40). That deters people who want to sell their mounts or cancel their pre order. Also props for FunCom for making the mounts more than just a speed buff. You can fight with them. I am hoping they cost a lot for those that did not preorder so at least I feel a little special for giving my money up earlier than they did. :)
Unique avatars - Props of Warhammer for doing this. This really makes me feel special. If I have access for a toolset of customizable characters that no one else does when the game goes live, that entices me a lot. MMOs need all the customization as possible, and this is a great start. I see this as a win/ win for future MMOs. Set aside some portraits or even a website of tools (that need to be unlocked via password) where players can create their portait to be saved before the game goes live. People can advertise your game with their avatar they made as well. Champions Online would do well to offer this.
Mega Download/Torrents vs. mailing CD - what if instead of an empty box for $10 at retail stores, you get a basic framework cd of the game? This way players are not downloading for days and do not have to buy subscriptions for the opportunity to try your beta test? If players don't want to go to the retail store then offer direct download as well with fileplanet, but if you have to spend $$ to put an empty box on a store shelf why not save the gamer some headache by putting a basic dvd in it? Make it clear that this is only the beta version and patching will be frequent before launch, but at least its patching.
Enough for now.. I hope I didn;t bore you all..
Kristanna Loken would look sweet as well either as a Witch Elf or Sorceress
I would love to hear your thoughts!