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The Casual Life by Wintyre Fraust

An older, casual player's perspective on MMOG's in general and GW2 in particular.

Author: Meleagar

"Have To" vs "Want To"

Posted by Meleagar Saturday October 22 2011 at 8:55AM
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Of course, nobody has a gun to anyone's head when it comes to playing an MMOG.  However, there are two entirely different modes of playing particular content in any MMOG: the content you have to play, and the content you want to play.  Sometimes it's the same, but a lot of times it is not.  Many players have the sense that they have to grind the repetitive kills, quests, battlefields or raids to keep level with their friends, or for their guild, or just to compete overall.  With others it's just a sense of having to do what they can to level their character or acquire the next ability or advancement; at some point, it can become a burden between you and what you'd rather be doing in-game.

A lot of players would really rather log in and focus on socializing, exploring. role-playing or other activities, but many find themselves torn between what they want to do in the game, and what they feel they have to do in order to advance their character, because IMO one of the greatest pleasures in an MMOG is that sense of managing the advancement avenues of your character.

Now, I'm certainly not trying to cast any playstyle in a bad light; we all have our preferences.  Also, there's a lot of people who truly enjoy the at-the-keyboard, online-time-invested competition of character advancement; but there's plenty of games for that particular enjoyment.  There's a lot of us who really don't want to spend our online time "grinding" in any sense for character advancement; honestly, why not let the character do that on their own? 

How about a game that lets the characters do all the boring, repetitive, grinding stuff on their own while I'm offline, so that when I come online, I can do whatever I want to do, and nothing that I feel like I have to do.  Let me set my character to grind for gold, or collect ingredients, or train to advance levels in whatever category I wish while I'm offline.  That way, when I come online, I don't have to choose between things I want to do, whether it's raid, or group, or role-play, or socialize, or explore, or go do various quests (once, for god's sake, just once).

Eve has a good interface for offline advancement, but IMO it just doesn't go far enough. Why not open everything possible up to offline advancement?  That way the only reason we're online and "in the world" is to do what we want to do. It seems to me this would cut down immensely on burnout and frustration that inevitably comes with every MMOG currently available.

Furthermore, just think of what offline progression would mean for casual players who want to experience more of the game from different class and race perspectives.  As it stands now, casual players have to limit their experience of the game to one, or perhaps two, characters because they just don't have the time to meaningfully advance more than one or two characters significantly.  Every time they log in, it's a choice between advancing one character or another, or socializing,or role-playing; with offline progression, they could be advancing an entire stable of characters 24/7!!!

If a lot of the fun in an MMOG is character advancement - being able to choose traits and skill pathways, making decisions about talent and specialty trees, just think of the fun of being able to manage the 24/7 advancement of a whole stable of characters, without having to grind any of them at all! 

All it would take is an MMOG developer that moved the focus of the player's involvement from character advancement grinder to character advancement manager, and let the player decide what aspects of the game he or she wants to play, instead of "forcing" them to spend online time doing things they'd rather not.

How About A Casual-Friendly MOBA?

Posted by Meleagar Friday October 21 2011 at 6:28AM
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As I said, I've been playing League of Legends while I wait for Guild Wars 2 to come out.  If you've never played an MOBA before, I suggest you try it out. You don't even have to engage in PvP if you prefer to just team up with others and fight a team of bots.

Which brings me to my point: here is another case of game developer myopia.  I understand that MOBA's originated as a pvp system, but it doesn't have to end there. Why not a more fully-developed PvB (player vs bots) system?

In League of Legends, you can play as much as you want against bots.  They offer a single 5-man scenario; 5 players vs 5 bots.  It's a load of fun. Frankly, I'm just not professional enough (read: I'm too casual) to burden a small PvP team with my inadequate twitch skills; the best I can do is contribute to PvB team wins. If I'm one-third or one-fifth of squad fighting for rank, it's just a bit too much responsibility. 

If that makes me pitiful, then so be it, but I doubt I'm the only League of Legends player that stays on the bot course.  I've already experienced some rage from fellow players in the bot section, I can only imagine the dust-ups that would occur if I tanked some otherwise capable group from a win that counted in the official rankings. 

That said, how about some more PvB diveristy and options?

I'm not hating on PvPers - I enjoyed the battlegrounds when I was playing WoW, and am looking forward to WvWvW in GW2 - I'm just lamenting what is once again the lack of vision in the minds of game developers,  How about an MOBA that's not even constructed to be "fair" to both sides  (mirrored battleground layouts), but can be any design with any NPC adversaries? These battlegrounds can have quests, boss mobs, all sorts of things. You could potentially log into 3-man, 5-man, 10-man, 50-man, or 100-man battles, ranging from 30 minutes to several hours.  All of which, over time, raises the level of your hero and gives you attribtue and skill points.

It seems to me that there's an awful lot of online gaming potential that just isn't being explored whatsoever.

Guild Wars 2 Professions - Solo & Casual Friendly

Posted by Meleagar Thursday October 20 2011 at 6:17AM
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So, what's not casual and solo-friendly about the current holy trinity - healer/tank/damage?

Does the fact that MMOG's are geared around their significant content requiring three players not clue you in that it's not SOLO-friendly?  If the entire game is geared around my character being only one third of a necessary unit, then the core design of the game is not solo-friendly. When the major content of that game requires that you play that particular role at a professiona level, then that game is by design not friendly to casuals. 

The word is that GW2 has done away with the holy trinity. Every character has skills for each of the new roles - damage, control and support, largely based on what items you put in your hands.  If the bad guys are getting out of control, anyone can pitch in. Not enough damage? Again, anyone can ptich in.  Having less well-defined class roles, a slew of combinatorial skill interactions, and every character capable for any role, what's not casual friendly?

Since every profession can fill each role, then when you're out and about soloing, if different creatures require different tactics, you're fully capable of changing tactics. You're not bound to one kind of strategy.  When you, as the solo adventurer with casual-grade abilities stumble upon an event where several other characters are already involved, you can assess their needs and contribute what is lacking - not just whatever you happen to be limited by class.  If they have the bad guys under control, you can just step in and augment their attacks/defenses or lay on some extra damage.

That your abilities can interact with those of other professions makes combat in GW2 more of a multifaceted tactical situation than a linear formula of damage, health and healing defined by class.  The professions and skills in GW2 seem to provide for almost limitless explorations of how different professions can interact. and offer on-the-fly improvisation.

Is that good for casuals? I think it's good for everyone who has gotten bored of the old, formulaic holy trinity battle system, and it certainly makes it easier for a casual player to be accepted into groups if they have a willingness to fulfill whatever role required and improvise when necessary for the good of the group.

Guild Wars 2 - Casual Friendly!

Posted by Meleagar Wednesday October 19 2011 at 12:02PM
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So I've been spending my time playing League of Legends and waiting for Guild Wars 2.

It looks like GW2 has really upped the ante on casual-friendly games. While I have advocated for offline progression, it seems to me an equitable way of addressing the advancement issue is to provide instant advancement for the PvP side of the game, as well as offering a truly free-to-play game (without cash shop advantages).

One of my main gripes about the current MMOG monthly fee system is that casuals, who spend far less time in-game, pay the same amount as hardcore players, who spend much, much more time in the game. Casuals just can't compete with that, and will naturally feel short-shrifted because they get much less game for the same $1 spent. If there is no monthly fee (and no cash shop advantage, for the cash-poor), then this disparity is a little more easy to take - especially if I can gin up a top-level character and join in PvP.

I still think there should be a whole set of alternative advancement pathways that advance 24/7, such as I've written about before, so that you always have the sense that your character is "doing something" even if you cannot contribute as much time as you'd like.  Those alternative advancement lines don't have to have anything to do with combat or normal character level - they can be entirely side venues, affecting aesthetics, cosmetics, styles, lore, information, diplomacy, reputation, etc.

Another casual-friendly feature will be the dynamic event grouping mechanism, which basically allows any and all comers to join in and get equal distribution of loot for their significant contribution.  Since a formal pick-up grouping for casuals can be a nightmare (usually ending with a teenager vomiting up a sailor-speak rant about your pathetic combat-role skills), being able to just jump in and not be responsible for playing like a pro in my role is a good thing.

Which brings me to the classes of GW2 - but, I'll save that for another post.