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Paragus Rants

Rants, reviews, and interviews from an MMO veteran and guild leader.

Author: Paragus1

Rant: The Endgame

Posted by Paragus1 Monday January 30 2012 at 1:02PM
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Rant: The Endgame

Endgame seems to be a hot issue on the site these days, especially with the release of TOR and people starting to reach the endgame.   It's a topic that comes up everytime a new MMO comes out, and honestly it is probably one of the most important aspects of any MMO.   Ironically it is one that people following upcoming games don't really seem to stop and think about when they start sipping the kool-aid for the next MMO they are looking at.

MMO's are games that most players want to play for the long haul.   The developers are in most cases charging us a monthly fee, so it's in their best interest that we as players keep playing for a very long time.  This is fundamental to the MMO genre, but for some reason developers seem to be missing the boat here, and players drinking the kool-aid never stop to look at whats at the bottom of that glass they are drinking from.



The current theme park model of MMO that we have seen come through here the last few years seems to be the most vulnerable to falling into the trap of a bad endgame.  Think about how many years these guys are spending making these games, and the insane amount of cash being throw around to make these MMO's, especially in the case of TOR rumoring to be several hundred million dollars.  Yet with all this time and money being poured in, these developers are using these resources in the most inefficient way possible in terms of how they make their content.   The time and money spent making these scripted one time quests on the linear railroad, compared to how long it takes us to complete them is a horrible formula for long-term retention.  It's not that the theme park can't do this, it's just that the approach lately has been way off.

I always read on the forums here and even in the articles about talking about that guy who rushes to the end game and to enjoy the ride.  Well I am that guy, and allow me to tell you why exactly it is that I do this.  Countless AAA flops have come down the pipeline the last few years and we all fall victim to them.   My guild members get the MMO itch so we jump into the next big thing.  I want to know...no...I need to know if the endgame is viable for long term play.   Not just for myself, but them.   If I get to the endgame and it's paper thin and severely lacking, I need to let them know.   Each one of my members is investing dozens and dozens of hours into this game to get there, and if it turns out to be a bust, they need to know about it.   Dozens of hours multiplied by dozens of members is a crap ton of time I can be saving people.  If this can be discovered by the end of the free month it's even a more compelling case because I can save my friends the cash as well.



Spare me the bullcrap about enjoying the ride.   The ride in the modern theme park MMO is nothing more than running from quest hub to quest hub down a linear hallway, listening to some derp of an NPC spew some nonsense on how he needs me to collect flowers 30 feet from him, or come up with another excuse why 10 rats need to die.   It's not enjoyable, it's not a ride, it's a tedious series of chores masked as "quests" that are not epic or meaningful.  If I am going to be doing chores for some mythical payday at the end of the tunnel, I need to know that is was somehow worth it.   I want to know that at the end I can participate in something bigger and interesting while having some way to push my limits and advance my character.  If there's nothing there and I can spare my friends the pain, I will.

Look, if you are going to spend years making this game and it's only going to take me 2-3 weeks to get to the endgame, I don't think I'm being unreasonable to expect there to be something to do.  These games are supposed to really get going once you hit the level cap, not end.  If I wanted a game to over at max level I could play another number of single player RPGs and spare myself the fee.   But these aren't singleplayer games, and there is a fee usually.  See where I am going with this?

There are thousands of us playing on a given server in any given MMO and developers just aren't tapping into the best source of content they have, us.  This is where the developers are really failing because people like to compete inherently. This is also why I am such a strong advocate for PvP to be a major feature in MMOs, not tacked on as an afterthought.  Getting that character you have been fine tuning and putting him against another thinking person is content that keeps on giving.   All the developer needs to do is intelligently approach how to create an environment that encourages people to keep fighting.  


On the flip side you have the PvE focused games that fall flat in the endgame department as well.  These guys are releasing PvE focused games with a miniscule amount of end game PvE content, or the content there is so easy that a moron can faceroll right through it and complete it without being seriously challenged.  If your MMO is all about PvE and it's not challenging, you will never be able to create it at a rate where players will instantly devour it, and it won't be meaningful.  In older PvE MMOs like Everquest or even FFXI, there is a sense of accomplishment and a badge of honor when you were sporting that hard to obtain item.  Competition between players exist just as much in a PvE focused game as in PvP focused ones. If that desired item is growing off a purple epic tree that anyone can pick one off of, it really isn't as exciting or appealing is it?  The entire concept of welfare epics needs to be replaced by challenging content so that there are bragging rights.


Endgame is one of the most important MMO features, and for some reason it's the one the developers seem to be talking about the least.  If you aren't talking about it and showcasing it, then I think you're hiding something.  The endgame should be explained right next to the other "next gen" features because it is the sales pitch as to what I am buying for that monthly fee.  This is why I will rush to the endgame, and for the sake of my friends and guildmates to see what's behind the curtain.  If there is nothing there you can bet your ass I'm going to tell everyone I know that your joke of a ride isn't worth taking because it goes to nowhere.  We see this happen over and over again and yet these guys keep spending more and more money on the same failed formula.  It doesn't matter what fancy big name IP you try to dress it up in, it's the same empty crap and it's why I think we are going to continue to see the monthly fee fade into obsurity.

 

Paragus Rants
Co-Leader of Inquisition

Livestream Channel:
http://www.twitch.tv/paragusrants

Tribes Ascend Impressions

Posted by Paragus1 Friday January 20 2012 at 8:55AM
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Tribes Ascend Impressions

The Tribes series was undoubted one of my favorite FPS franchises when I was younger.   I spent countless hours playing both Tribes 1 and 2 back in their hayday, and like many Tribes fans I was saddened when I saw what happened to the series after this point.   It was probably for this reason that when I was accepted into the closed beta for Tribes Ascend months and months ago when it was very exclusive, that I just filed the email into my saved box and forgot about it while I focused on playing through my backlog of other games on Steam that I had picked up through the holiday sale season.

At this stage Tribes Ascend is still technically in "closed beta", but for all intents and purposes anyone can get a key to play the beta by liking them on Facebook, or buy visiting any number of gaming websites.  It wasn't until last week when some fellow Inquisition members got into the beta and nagging me that Tribes Ascend might not quite be the debacle I was expecting.   Having finally cleared most of the games in my backlog, I decided to fish out the email I filed away months ago and go take a look.

For those who don't know, Tribes is a first-person shooter series of games that take place in a futuristic setting, where two teams play pretty intense matches typcially of capture the flag.   There's a lot of things that sets Tribes apart from a lot of the other FPS games out there, primarily the focus on air-based combat through the use of jetpacks combined with a physics system that allows players to "ski" across the large open landscapes and down hills at very high speeds.  This creates a very unique dynamic that really sets the combat apart from a lot of the other stuff out there.  Tribes Ascend seems to have retained this aspect of the game very well from the original two games.

Aside from all of this, there is something that sets Tribes Ascend apart from not just the previous titles as well as the other games out there, and that is the pricing model for the game.  Hi-Rez Studios seems to have opted for a free-to-play model for the game that almost exactly mirrors that of League of Legends.   Much like LoL, you can opt to spend real money if you want and be able to unlock some classes faster, but you could also not buy money and unlock them anyways just by playing over time.

That's right, I said classes.  Older Tribes players might remember being able to choose between playing a Light, Medium, or Heavy armor type from the original games, and to a degree these exist in Tribes Ascend.  There are in total as of the time I am writing this, 12 classes that feature a variety of different preset builds that span across the 3 different armor types that seem to be geared towards offering a specific type of utility to the team.  Some of the lighter classes that have less life but faster speed are geared towards trying to grab the flag or long range sniping, while the opposite end of the spectrum has the slow moving heavy armor classes that can take a lot of damage but lack mobility making them good defenders.

For better or worse, one point of controversy is the fact that you can't customize your classes loadout like you could in the older games (at least in the current version of the beta).  At first I was a bit apprehensive about this because I did like to be able to fiddle with my kits to find the optimal loadout for my playstyle.  The counter arguement is that this often led to a lot of people just taking the same optimal loadout and not having the diversity.  While I am still torn on this I can understand both sides of the debate, and whether or not this changes by the end of the beta, it hasn't detracted too much from the fun I've been having so far.

Game matches can hold up to 32 people per match (16 vs.16) which isn't too shabby.   At the conclusion of each match, experience points and tokens are awarded based on a variety of factors which seem to in part related to your performance and the length of the match.  Tokens are a currency you accumulate on your account that can be spent on unlocking the other classes.  The game only gives you 2 medium classes to play with when you first start playing, the rest have to be unlocked via tokens or gold, which is the currency you get for spending real money.  Obtaining the cheapest heavy armor and light armor classes are not overly expensive, but many of the more advanced classes beyond this can be quite pricey in terms of tokens and will require you do play a fair amount to grind out what you need.

Experience points serves 2 purposes.   The first being that they go toward ranking your account up much like you would have in Battlefield or CoD.  At the present time, there is no real reward for ranking up except bragging rights as it really only acts a symbol of how long you have been playing.   Your rank does seem to be factored in to determining who the match making throws you in with, so that newer people will be more likely to fight other newer people.


The second aspect of experience is that it's stored up on a per class basis to be spent unlocking passive talents in a tree much like you would see in an MMO.  Unlike other talent trees, you are not forced to only pick one path.   Tribes Ascend will let you unlock everything in the tree assuming you play that class extensively enough.  The talents themselves however are not earth shattering or game changing to the point where someone with less invested won't be able to beat someone with more, player skill still trumps all.   In most cases the bonuses add a only few percentage points to certain aspects of your class such as a few more ammo, life, % run speed, or energy used for the jet pack.  At the very bottom of each classes tree you can unlock perks that once available can be used on any class you own.

As far as the game modes go, both Capture the Flag and Deathmatch are fun in their own rights.   Capture the Flag is a very team oriented game where a team can work together on a variety of fronts to help win the match aside from actually grabbing the flag.   Setting up a good defense and defenders are critical, while others may opt to sneak into the bowels of the enemy base compound and try to sabatoge the enemy by destroying the generator powering all of their turrets.  This is the mode where the various classes really have a chance to shine because each is really tailored to have its own niche in this mode.

Deathmatch is a completely different beast all together, but one that I found myself liking a lot more than I thought.  Basically the two teams of 16 each are dumped into a large landscape with the sole purpose of fighting each other.  The bad news about this mode is that a lot of the niche classes you would use in CTF seem initially to be a lot less viable, and as a result you'll see a lot of people playing the basic soldier and ranger classes most of the time.   The good news is that this mode is pure mayhem and really puts you into the center of a massive dog fight with people flying and chasing each other while trying to out maneuver their prey.  To mix things up there is a single flag that gives the team carrying it double kill credit on each kill.  It makes for some intense moments if you are the guy with the flag as everyone starts coming after you, and some funny moments when the flag falls on the ground and the mad scramble to grab it ensues.   Shooting the flag with an explosive weapon sends it bouncing around like a hot potato and it makes for quite the brawl.

Overall Tribes Ascend has a lot of potential from what I've seen at this preliminary beta stage.   There is still a lot of missing parts in the beta, but the core gameplay is solid.   I'd definitely recommend checking the game out if you are looking for something to play or are a fan of the older games.  If you end up liking the game and think it's something you will want to play, you will be happy to hear that everything you earn and unlock during the beta will carry over to the release version, so no wipe is planned.  It's fun and it's free, so you have nothing to lose really.  If you decide to play it and want to come find me, add me to your friend list as "Paragus" and maybe I'll see you on the battlefield.  You can also catch me streaming my gameplay live from time to time on my channel below.

 

Paragus Rants
Co-Leader of Inquisition

Livestream Channel:
http://www.own3d.tv/live/15003