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The General Store

A collection of articles created by me regarding anything that has some faint relation to an MMO(s).

Author: Nalestom

Who Knew A Free MMO Could Be Good?

Posted by Nalestom Tuesday July 7 2009 at 10:14PM
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After playing and enjoying Jade Dynasty for a while, an online friend of mine recommended to me one of the best free MMO's I have ever played in a very long time. It's name? Runes of Magic.

Upon entering the game for the first time, I was greeted with the option to take part in a basic tutorial of the game (How to move, how to fight creatures, the usual basics of any MMO), which sounds like it's not worth noting, but it actually is. In too many MMO's, I've seen veteran players who created a new account just for the fun of it be forced to take part in the same tutorial they've seen to the point where they can clearly remember each line of dialogue, the quest NPC's, the monsters you need to kill, where those monsters are located, and so on. The simple fact that Frogster (the developer of Runes of Magic) included this as an option told me that the game was designed with the players in mind.

After stumbling into the starter town, Pioneer's Colony, I was greeted with another series of quests that mostly involved errand-running, but allowed me to become familiar with the town, the surrounding area, and all the controls and uses of the features in the game, without the quest NPC's actually instructing me on how to do such tasks in extreme detail. Near the end of my journey at Pioneer's Colony, I had learned a great detail, including the crafting system, the various dungeons in the area, the roles of my class and the roles of other classes in a group environment, and many, many other things that, if you understand early on, make the game a whole lot easier to play.

Which brings us to the crafting system. Like any good MMO, if you want a really good weapon or set of armor, you're going to have to gather materials from the surrounding area and craft it yourself. While a few powerful weapons do drop from certain named mobs from time to time, weapons that are almost as powerful can be crafted by the player or bought from another. A unique crafting system that is unlike any other I've seen so far is revealed through this process. This system isn't complicated, but is so hard to describe, I can't go into much detail here.

There are many, many things that make a good MMO, and many more things that make a good MMO better! In my opinion, Runes of Magic is definitely worth a try, whether you're a casual MMO player or a hardcore raider and grinder. It isn't a complete duplicate of World of Warcraft or EverQuest or whichever MMO you have in mind, but it's as close to them as I've seen.

The Music Buff -- How In-Game Music Affects MMO's and Players

Posted by Nalestom Saturday April 4 2009 at 8:11AM
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Recently, I've been on a "free trial" spree; playing the Age of Conan, World of Warcraft, Everquest II, and Guild Wars week-long trials simply to see how each game is. During this freeloader epidemic, I've noticed the wide variety of instrumental music created and used in each game. I've also noticed how the same music affects my playing experience, as well as my mood about certain activities (as the last thing you want is to be annoyed by horrible music while doing one of your least-favorite activites, such as farming).

Some of the best music orchestra music I have ever heard in an MMO belongs to Everquest II. The music, written by Emmy award-winning composer Laura Karpman and performed by the FILMharmonic Orchestra Prague, is designed entirely with that zone's "personality" in mind. For example, listen to this and imagine walking through a dark, evil, vermin-filled city full of mystery, or listen to this and imagine walking through a forest filled with tall, thick, ancient trees supporting a small colony of nature-loving, beautiful fairies. I'm not sure about you, dear gamer, but simply listening to the music makes me want to play the game, and that is exactly how in-game music should be.

Music is a very important part in an MMO player's experience in the game, and it is a true shame that a lot of mainstream companies don't realize its value or commit more time and effort towards a quality musical masterpiece. Whether you like alternative or heavy metal, rap or techno, a good music selection will always enlighten your day of playing in Azeroth...or Norrath, or Tamriel, or wherever you are.

Shouldn't I Be *Dead*?

Posted by Nalestom Friday February 20 2009 at 4:53AM
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I've seen it all too often, both in professional and novice MMO's. You're fighting in a high-level dungeon, barely holding off mobs that are 4-6 levels higher than you, and for that large difference, you're doing pretty good. You're dealing out quite a bit of damage while staying out of trouble just enough so that you don't annoy the healer. Suddenly, you find yourself dead, and you aren't sure what happened. Did a member of the opposite faction sneak up behind you and snipe you with an arrow? Or did a mob spawn off to the side of you?

No, you're tank and healer experience a bout of lag, therefore transferring all of the aggro over to you. And your 500-HP butt couldn't withstand a blow without keeling over.

The healer endlessly apologizes, complaining about the modem and the ISP (Internet Service Provider) and everything that could have possibly interfered with his connection (Meanwhile, the tank is still warping around the zone because of his lag). It's fine, though, because you lost a measly .5% (Yes, that is a decimal point in front) of your total experience, which is nothing compared to what you were getting per kill. You'll probably earn 10 times the amount you lost just by killing a single monster! Plus, you didn't lose any of your treasured gear, and you respawned at the beginning of the zone. A simple minute-long walk will bring you back to where you were fighting, and then all will be well.

My point? In most MMO's, the death of your character does not carry a high enough price (Unless your cause of death is from another character through PVP. In that case, all that is affected is your kill/death ratio and PVP ranking, whatever that may be).

So, what would an ideal death system be? Well, one of the best death systems I have seen so far in my history of gaming is actually from RuneScape. While I may sound like a complete idiot for even mentioning anyting good about that game to some people, I ask them to think about it. In RuneScape, death holds a very high price. You don't lose experience, you don't lose any levels whatsoever, but you do lose all of your beloved items that you carried with you except for the three most valuable items. So, while that highly expensive weapon that you just bought may be safe, almost all of your precious, valuable, and good-looking armor is lost unless you are able to find your body and recover them.

However, the games we shouldn't idolize for their death methods could be Everquest I and II, World of Warcraft, Adventure Quest, Dragonfable, etc. I know for a fact that (with the exception of World of Warcraft, as I have only played the trial, so the death system may or may not change in the later levels) each of these games do not take away anything important except for a little bit of experience or perhaps nothing at all. The only real penalty is having to walk all the way back to where you died at and revive there to continue fighting.

The reason I am ranting on and on about this is that I am tired of seeing people who regard death as a "minor annoyance" in a game. Death shouldn't be realistic (for example, when you die, it counts as a permadeath, and you have to start over from scratch) but it should be highly undesirable for anybody of any level. They should lose something important to them, like an item, or perhaps even a hefty amount of experience, for those higher-level players who farm enough money to replace anything.

I highly advise the developers of MMO's to rethink the "traditional" death system and come up with a more substantial price to pay for those who love to die. After all, death isn't death if you don't "die".

 

Pitting Ourselves Against One Another -- Player vs. Player Combat in MMO's

Posted by Nalestom Sunday February 8 2009 at 9:04AM
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For years, game producer's have attempted (and, as far as I know, have failed) to create an ideal, "perfect" Player vs. Player (Referred here as PvP) system, one that caters to all playstyles, whether it be casual or hardcore, "run n' gun" or strategic, or anything else you can think of. One that has a perfect ranking system that can't be abused and truly determines your ranking based on the skill of how you fight, not just your kill/death ratio. However, in all my 10 years of MMO gaming, I have yet to see a system that could be described as "perfect" or "ideal".

There are many reasons why so many PvP systems in some games have miserably failed. Some producers created systems that were wildly complex and hard to manage. Some producers created a system that was too simple, one that was based upon kill/death ratios, and the only rewards you were given was a title next to your name. Some producers were lazy, and just threw in PvP to please it's audience and assure them that there would be PvP servers. Some producers didn't put a lot of thought into it's PvP system.

Which raises another question. Look around at your most popular MMO's (Everquest II, World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, Warhammer, Lord of the Rings, etc.) and analyze their PvP system. Most of these games have separate PvP servers for those who want to take the extra risk and be in a dangerous environment constantly. However, it does appear as if these games were not made for PvP.

And they weren't. It's very obvious, just from the structure of the game. You have the same old quests, the same old characters, the same old zones, it's just that everything you do has a certain risk to it, and you have to be much more aware. You can't set your character on autorun across the continent, go pour yourself a drink, and expect to still be alive when you come back.

Therefore, my conclusion is this: If anybody wants to experience a truly thrilling type of PvP, one that is newcomer-friendly and unabusable, then they need to play a game that has been structured around a PvP system, and has kept PvP in their mind through every line of code. As far as I know, there is only one game that is currently being developed as I described above, and that game is Jumpgate: Evolution. So far, the PvP system looks excellent and very well-planned, and I will be camping the front door of my nearest Best Buy on the day that it comes out. Or the mailbox. It depends.

More information on Jumpgate: Evolution can be found here: www.jumpgateevolution.com

The Best Failing MMO

Posted by Nalestom Sunday February 1 2009 at 2:11PM
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Recently, I have read news that NCsoft, the publisher of Guild Wars, is completely dropping it's sci-fi MMORPTPS (Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Third-Person Shooter) Tabula Rasa. Intrigued, I decided to download the now-free game to try it out, as I had nothing to lose, but as I would later find out, lots to gain.

The overall concept of the game was very well designed. NCsoft managed to perfectly blend the concept of an MMORPG and a TPS (Once again, Third-Person Shooter). The game has the skills/attributes/classes side to it that comes with any other MMO. You have certain skills you can level up, and experience point system, a class tree, and equipment that affects your attributes and the damage you deal/take. However, they also add a TPS side to it, giving players access to a wide range of different types of guns. In normal MMO's, the weapons you are given are the same with each player. If you give your sword to another player with the same character, he will do the same damage. However, in Tabula Rasa, it is not only a "who has the better weapon" situtation, but also a "who knows how and when to use their weapon" situation. If you want to win against anybody, you have to know how your weapon should be used (for example, you should know not to attempt to kill somebody at point-blank range with a rifle) and in what scenarios it should be used (for example, don't use a rifle when there is a group of enemies attacking you.

There is a slightly different "feature" as far as quests and the overall storyline goes. In most MMO's, there is a separate storyline to each little zone. In Tabula Rasa, the storyline in each little zone tie together. A minor feature, but one worth noticing, especially since games like World of Warcraft and Everquest don't have one big storyline.

 Overall, this game is definitely worth downloading and trying it out, especially if you are a fan of both FPS' and MMORPG's. After all, since it is now free, you have absolutely nothing to lose, and quite a bit to gain!

The MMO Cycle- Can We Break It?

Posted by Nalestom Thursday January 15 2009 at 12:30PM
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MMO clones are everywhere. In reality, most MMO's use some variation of the old Dungeons & Dragons system, using virtual dice rolls and true character customization. However, who is at fault for these clones? Who is at fault for the same, repetitive combat system, the same repetitive quest system, the same repetitive tradeskilling system? Is it the producer and developer, or the consumer that has caused this mass production of MMO's?

 

Game Developers & Producers

Game developers are very scared. I don't blame them. They're tasked to make an excellent game with an assigned release date, and this game must be centered around a certain concept. How they make the game is up to them, and at that point (especially if it's part of a well-known series) all they really do is create a new storyline and fix the issues that buyers pointed out. There is no real creativity behind the scenes. While the finished product may have excelllent graphics and have every single non-porous surface all shiny, there is no real creativity as far as gameplay goes. It's the same old system that had been used for a decade or so.

So, why not create a game that uses a completely new system and different gameplay than what gamers are used to?

Well, as I said before, the game developers are scared. They've seen the games that work and the game that don't work, and they think that by "recreating" the system that works, they might please the fans of the series, or anybody whomight be passing by the game in EB Games.

However, could it also be the buyer's fault too?

Game Buyers

The gamers that buy these MMO's are afraid, but for a completely different reason. They don't want to waste their money on a bad game, and will only buy the games that have been advertised and have been approved by multiple sources (probably including MMORPG.com as well). Also, they do not like venturing outside of a series very often, as they think that they might waste their money on these games as well.

 

So, is it the game developers fault for producing games with a traditional World-of-Warcraft-type system, or the consumer for not taking risks and buying games that may be just as good (or even better) than the traditional games?

I would put the blame on both parties, as both are very afraid of the possible downfalls of creating a game that might be rejected. The way I see it, if people want a game that will bring abut the destruction of World of Warcraft, they can't look for a game that looks just like it. They must broaden their horizons and demand a game that is different.

Because do you really want to see people raving over World of Warcraft for another decade?