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Bladewir's Bellowing Blog

I'm back! I usually blog about MMORPGs and my experiences with them here, as well as other topics at my other blog located at http://knvpradio.blogspot.com

Author: MMOPlaya

Let's Put the "RP" Back Into "MMORPG"

Posted by MMOPlaya Thursday November 15 2007 at 9:01PM
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NOTE: I have to admit that this particular blog entry is for those readers who enjoy roleplay or are interested in roleplay, and is not aimed at the purist game player.

We all know that MMORPG stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game...so why do most modern MMORPG's not offer strong roleplay elements?  It's almost like the whole roleplay idea has been eviscerated from the genre.  But first, how do we define roleplay?  I like to consider immersion to be the key to roleplay. 

What particular MMORPG do you consider to be most immersive?  By immersive I mean which MMORPG do you presently play that completely engulfs you into it's world and surroundings and you forget that you are sitting in front of a computer and moving your avatar?  Which game is so detailed and interactive that it allows you to feel as if you are your character?

Which game has the necessary elements in character creation, character development, and activities that allow your avatar to take on what YOU would do if you were your character? 

Is the in-game ability to actually grow and harvest your crops or chop down trees help you with immersion?  How about being able to build your own house or even a city?  Is a detailed crafting system that requires the gathering/hunting of materials, the making of solvants or sewing of cloth even before you started immersive to you?  Is the ability to raise a young hatchling from egg to maturity into a trusted pet immersive?  I think you see where I'm going with this.

Most importantly, does this game actually exist?  If it doesn't, which MMORPG would you consider to come closest?  Also, what do we as roleplayers need to tell the developers of upcoming MMORPG titles in order to secure a nice immersive gameplay style?

I personally think that there are several games out right now, that have elements of good immersion, but not all in one package.  There are bits from Vanguard: Saga of Heroes (housing / crafting), Star Wars Galaxies (housing / player cities / mounts) and Face of Mankind (metropolitan setting / jobs) that if thrown together would make an excellent, immersive roleplay experience.  But this is just my opinion.

Let's start a list of which existing games or even suggest ideas for new games that might include something for the roleplayers and let's put the RP back into MMORPG.

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If you enjoy my ramblings, please visit my new MMORPG forum located here.  Thanks for reading!

Just How Important is In-Game Housing?

Posted by MMOPlaya Tuesday November 6 2007 at 11:12PM
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As a long term MMO player I thoroughly enjoy the sense of immersion I get when I play MMO's that offer in-game housing.  Because I also like to roleplay, housing is an important element I look for.  Mainly it's used as a place to store my stuff...but it's also just a place I can go to "get away" from the hubbub.

There are many things you can do with your house.  Use it as a guild headquarters, crafting workshop, meeting place, a shop, warehouse, or a million other things.  Did I mention you can store your stuff in one?

So to me, in-game housing is fairly important.  My first exposure to housing was in SWG, which had the grandest housing scheme of all - a complete sandbox solution - you could place your house almost anywhere you wanted, in any direction you wanted.  Just plop it down and start to use it.  Genius.  I really latched on to the idea of owning real-estate in a virtual world that your virtual self lived in.  Very cool.

As my interest waned from SWG over the years, I started looking at other MMO's that were available and noticed that housing / apartments were not significantly available.  They were just not in the plans.  It quickly appeared that I was a niche player who found themselves looking for a new MMO that had housing.  A pretty difficult proposition.  Then I found it difficult to find a game that had vehicles and mounts, also like SWG.  Pretty soon, I began looking for a SWG clone it seemed.  Ouch.

In my MMO sample platter as I call it, I discovered the following MMO's had some type of housing: Anarchy Online, Ultima Online, Neocron 2, Everquest 2, and Face of Mankind.  I found myself willing to try the game regardless of style as long as it had housing.  Kind of a strange critirea I know.  But that's how I ended up trying them.  While I wont touch on those games in this blog posting, suffice it to say that I wasn't really impressed with any of them.

Then along came Vanguard: Saga of Heroes.  I followed this game through mid beta (beta 3) and was just enamored with what it was going to offer.  One of the biggies was player owned real-estate and housing - a house that you had to find a plot of land for, purchase it, then actually build a house on it.  Wow, now that's immersion!  Mechanically this seemed like a tough feat to overcome, since the entire game world is non-instanced and open.  But they figured it out.  And it works.  And it's cool.  Now all I need is some gold!

Later on (in fact just last month) another game released a housing option: Lord of the Rings Online.  I too was very impressed with the way the devs decided to handle such a daunting task, and the fact that they decided to implement it at all, made me decide to resub.  With the number of subscribers in game, and the fact that the mechanics of the game relied heavily on instancing, why not use instancing to your advantage?  So the solution the devs came up with is pretty cool - create instanced neighborhoods instead of instanced houses or apartments.  Each neigborhood contains 20 houses of various costs and sizes, and they are quite literally set up in a suburban setting, each house has a front yard which you can decorate, a mailbox and a front door.  In addition each neigborhood instance (which is fairly big by the way) has a community center, with parks and meeting areas and a few vendors and a banking NPC.  Very cool.  And when all 20 houses are bought, POOF! Another instance opens up ready to be consumed.  Genius.

So to wrap things up, in-game housing is very important to this immersive/roleplayer.  It's just another tool one can use to help you feel like your avatar is part of the game.  They are functional and look cool.  How important is housing to your character?

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Please visit my website / forum which is dedicated to the MMORPG genre.  You'll find topics such as this open for discussion as well as other great ideas.  Click here to visit.  Thanks for your consideration!

Clearing up The Terms "Casual Gamer" and "Hardcore Gamer"

Posted by MMOPlaya Monday November 5 2007 at 11:47PM
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It has been brought up in replies to my Blog and in other people's Blogs that the terms "Casual Game Player" and "Hardcore Game Player", both in reference to MMORPG games, have become skewed over time.  I want to address this issue here in my blog, and in fact, have decided to change the name of my blog due to my inferrence to the word "Casual MMORPG Player". 

Dictionary.com defines the term "Casual" as such:

cas·u·al  [kazh-oo-uhl] adjective  without definite or serious intention; careless or offhand; passing: a casual remark 1

Dictionary.com  defines the term "Hardcore" as such:

hard-core  [hahrd-kawr, -kohradjective  unswervingly committed; uncompromising; dedicated: a hard-core segregationist 2

For my definition as outlined multiple times in my blog, I took the literal definition of the term "casual" when I referred to how I played, and added an element of roleplay and immersion.  Meaning that I enjoyed the game for what it was, and was not interested in racing to the finish and hitting max level in the least amout of time, and striving at all costs to acquire the best of the best of the best items in game.  Instead I took my time and enjoyed.  That's all I meant by using the term "Casual".

However, there appears to be a mantra (unbeknownst to me at the time) that MMORPG gamers have followed, taking on the terms "casual" and "hardcore" in a whole new manner.  Therefore I default to Wikipedia for further analysys:

Wikipedia has an entry for the term "Casual Gamer" and defines it as such:

"Casual gamer is a term used to describe a type of video game player whose time or interest in playing games is limited compared with a hardcore gamer. They can be found playing games across all genres and of varying levels of complexity and difficulty. However, they do not devote the amount of time or practice to video games spent by hardcore gamers. Whereas a hardcore gamer may approach gaming with the mindset of a professional, a casual gamer would think more like a hobbyist.

Casual gamers can conceivably consist of any people who show more than a passing interest in video games, therefore it is difficult to categorize them as a group. For this reason games which attempt to appeal to the casual player tend to strive for simple rules and ease of game play, the goal being to present a pick-up-and-play experience that people from any age group or skill level could enjoy.

Not all gamers who play casual games are themselves casual gamers.

Usage of the term

The term casual is often misleadingly used to describe a class of hardcore gamers who play massively multiplayer online games, a type of game which is generally not casual by definition. In that case the term is used with various meanings, most often to differentiate players between 2 or more specific gameplay preferences. For example, the term casual is sometimes used to identify a player who spends significantly less time playing than other players. Alternatively the term is used to identify a player who spends a significant amount of time playing but prefers less competitive or time intensive activities to productivity maximization (rapid character development, rapid income production, acquiring the best possible equipment etc.)." 3

Wikipedia has an entry for the term "Hardcore Gamer" and defines it as such:

"Hardcore gamer is a term used to describe a type of video game player whose leisure time is largely devoted to playing or reading about video games. This type of gamer prefers to take significant time and practice on games, in contrast to a casual gamer. Many hardcore gamers pride themselves on mastering the rules or use of a game, although this is not a strict requirement.

Usage of the term

There is often confusion about what a hardcore gamer is. The term is often used to differentiate between types of hardcore gamers by such things as the amounts of time invested playing, how competitive the player is, preference for player versus player or player versus environment, game style or gameplay preference, or even the type of computer or console equipment used. Certain hardcore gamers are sometimes inaccurately labeled as casual gamers, often derogatorily, because of this differentiation even though they prefer playing games which are designed for hardcore gamers. This is common among MMORPG players where there is a demand for many different gameplay styles (e.g., solo play, quests, PvP, raid content, crafting) within a single game but limited developer ability to deliver all of them." 4

 

So it appears that I was unaware of actual definitions in use, and that I was mixing up definitions and folding them into what my personal definition of the terms "casual" and "hardcore" gamers were, and potentially confusing my readers.  And for this I apologize.

Just for clarification I shall no longer use the terms "casual" and "hardcore" in my blog entries when referring to a particular playstyle.  MMORPG's are a melting pot of multiple game styles and game types, all rolled into one package, making a true definition very difficult.

The way I approach MMORPG's, and the way I have been playing them for years on end now, may be 100% different than the way you play them.  There is nothing wrong with this, so I just want to document how I play  the games and interpret them.  If you play the same way as I, I'd love to hear from you as we have something in common, and perhaps can exhange ideas on working on immersion and roleplay.

Thanks a bunch for reading and hope you enjoy my blog!

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References:

1 http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/casual

2 http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hardcore

3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casual_gamer

4 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardcore_gamer

 

A Casual Players View of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, Part 2

Posted by MMOPlaya Sunday November 4 2007 at 4:51PM
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Vanguard Saga of Heroes is a HUGE game.  No doubt about that.  Heck, it even exceeds 17 gigabytes on my hard drive!  I am of the ilk of casual mmorpg gamer that likes to incorporate roleplay into my gaming time, and Vanguard affords me many opportunities to do so.  But because I spend anywhere from 0 to 3 hours a night playing the game, I am also rarely involved in large, multi-tier quests that many groups like to run through in one sitting, and I doubt that I'll get much opportunity to raid, once the mechanic is incorporated into the game (coming soon™ with Game Update 3.2).

And that is fine with me.  I have actually only really explored 80% of Thestra, maybe 20% of Qalia, and maybe 1% of Kojan.  And I'm level 30.  Take a look at the photo below, for an example of just how vast this game world is:

Somanthia taking in the view over-looking the port city of Khal from atop the Cliffs of Ghelgad in Karibasa Village

That is non-instanced folks.  From the cliff wall below me, to the ocean that runs through the city, to the mountains on either side, with every door, cave-entrance readily available to explore PLUS the gameworld was created / coded in such a way that when it comes time to expand...and this just blows me away...they can build downward and upward almost the entire length of the continent up to almost a mile up and down (all to scale of course...not a real mile)!!  Can you imagine an entire city the size of New Targanor underwater like a lost city of Atlantis?  Think about it.

For this casual player, just in the distance it took to walk down that cliff on my way to grab a bite to eat at the tavern in Khal down below (on a path of course) I discovered almost 8 different encounters, from roaming mobs to cave entrances leading to more quests and baddies, and ruins to explore than I knew what to do with.  It's that big.  And that's mostly without a single quest in my journal.  There were vendors selling their wares out of carts or straight off their camel's back along the path too.  Plenty to do and see.

In a game this size, you really do need a mount.  This plays into the roleplay too, as it totally immerses you into the game world.  Now this is not for everyone.  Some players prefer to travel instantly to meet up with their friends so that they can quest together quickly.  And I agree that a mechanic like this is necessary, due to the size of the world.  So the devs created a quick travel method called the Riftway.  They are also working on getting flying mounts into the game (for player consumption) in the near future as well.  Imagine pulling out your personal Wyyvyrn or Griffon and flying down that cliff into the city below.  Once down at the harbor area, you can call your ship and sail from the port city off to far-reaching place you have yet to really explore.

This is the kind of casual play that I am talking about with on this blog.  And this is why I'm sticking with Vanguard for a very long time, because it offers multiple opportunities for me to explore and envelop myself into the world of Telon.

Have a great day!

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If you like what you've read here, please come check out my website where we discuss subjects such as these, and cover just about every type of MMORPG game and category imaginable.  You can follow the link here.

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