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The Space Between

Gaming and Life, Rants and Raves, now with 30% more loot!

Author: TesterNGS

A New Graphics Engine?! *Yawn*

Posted by TesterNGS Thursday January 24 2008 at 3:04PM
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A New Graphics Engine?! *Yawn*
If you read you no doubt know that Funcom has announced that they are going to use the graphics engine from the Conan MMOG to power the visuals in Anarchy Online.
I don't know about you, but a graphics update won't spark my interest in any game if the gameplay isn't there first. If all a game needs to be a smash hit are shiny visuals, then why hasn't Vanguard taken over the MMOG world? Not many people would accuse WoW of having cutting-edge graphics, but it somehow manages to score millions of subscribers. Good looks help, but gameplay is king, always.
If you ask me, the demo video that showcased the new graphics wasn't that impressive. You had the same old world but with fancy lighting and water effects. Big deal. The geometries still looked low-poly, textures were still bad, and the design was still needlessly full of dead space. You can paint an old car, but underneath its still an old car. We'll give Funcom the benefit of the doubt and assume that they'll revamp their zones later on.
In any event, props to Funcom for updating an old game. I hope that EVE and now AO have started a trend in MMORPGs, because there are games out there that are actually good that could use a graphical overhaul.

Creating Rewarding Gameplay

Posted by TesterNGS Thursday January 17 2008 at 2:18PM
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Creating Rewarding Gameplay
One thing that plays an important role in keeping me interested in a MMORPG is rewarding gameplay. I don't mean loot rewards. I mean a game that is rewarding to play, that gives you a sense of accomplishment, that lets you learn and apply what you've learned. For me, learning how to play is one of the most enjoyable things I can take from a MMORPG.
I think that's why I change MMORPGs so much. New games are uncharted gamer territory. They are full of new systems to learn and new skill to gain as a player. Sadly, most MMORPGs are too similar to one another to provide ample learning opportunities, so I end up unsubscribing once I realize how limited they are. Maybe that's why my list of "Played MMORPGs" is a mile long.
Games are unrewarding when they are limited. Limitations make the game repetitive because you end up doing the same thing over and over again, and after a while, there is nothing left to learn. No new skill to gain as a player. No sense of accomplishment to get by tackling a new challenge with your game-knowledge. To use a metaphor, its like being asked to cross a river and the only tool you're given is a raft; once you've crossed the river, what else is left?
In MMOG terms, we are asked to kill a monster and we are given a handful of skills/spells/weapons. That works for a little while, until the monsters, skills, and weapons begin repeating theirselves. As a player, on perhaps a deeper level than some folks pay attention to, you are stagnant. You gain NOTHING as a PLAYER. You've reached the top of your personal skill ladder. You've (far too quickly) exhausted the game's learning opportunites. You get bored. You unsubscribe.
How do you fix this? How do you continually provide players with ample learning opportunities that will keep them engaged and enjoying the game, all while keeping the limited resources of developers in mind? I've written far too many (ignored) posts on far too many beta test forums to want to write them here, but the short answer is: Variety.
Do you expect players to be engaged in a game where all you need to do is press a couple buttons to be effective (Warcraft)? Do you expect players to enjoy bowling through clumps of lifeless NPCs in yet another repetitive mission environment (City of Heroes)? Why do you think players will be happy with a game that has huge gaps in the acquisition of new skills and abilities (Tabula Rasa)? How is fighting the same recycled bad guys, but with more hitpoints and damage output, an engaging, rewarding experience (Final Fantasy XI)?

But I must be crazy, right? Those games I mentioned have a lot of subscribers, so what gives? Well, I'd argue that no game has really gotten it right, in my opinion. And if somehow one did get it right, it'd be a smash hit. I'd also argue that WoW has gotten it more "right" than the others, but that's another blog post.
Variety is king. Variety provides learning opportunities. Variety keeps players (well, me) interested and engaged because you are more often gaining skill as a player and experiencing different situations in the game.

Another Sub Bites the Dust: Tabula Rasa

Posted by TesterNGS Monday January 14 2008 at 3:08PM
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Another Sub Bites the Dust: Tabula Rasa
I cancelled my subscription to Tabula Rasa.
One reason why I quit was because of my experience with NCSoft tech support. I couldn't play their game for two weeks after an update made the game unplayable for me. They took me through a series of patches, utility downloads, report writing, and speculation. When I had the chance, I discovered that a BIOS update may fix the problem. So a little research on my end fixed an incompatability problem they introduced into their game. Did they offer to compensate me for the lost two weeks? No. Are they going to use the fix *I* discovered to help other customers? You can bet your a%# they will.
The other reason is because, for me, your character in the game is far, far too limited.
First off, tiered class systems have gone the way of the dodo in other games - EverQuest II took them out more than a year after they went live, what does that tell ya? People want to be their final class sooner. None of this bulls#$t like, "Oh we're slowly branching out so you get a feel for what class you'd like to be." What a load. Tiered class systems are a lazy way to make you feel that the game has depth. A better way to do it is to let players choose their class at the start and then build upon the class by awarding new skills and abilities. World of Warcraft does this, and yanno, they have like MILLIONS of subscribers.
But instead, TR forces you to slog through a gap of 10, and then 15, and then 20 levels where the only things your character gains are new ranks in their small number of existing abilities. What genius thought of this? Wasn't TR in development for like 6 years? You'd figure there'd be more to this game.
And its not as if the rest of the game is so compelling that you forget how crappy the classes are. The fast pace of combat does hide the game's flaws to an extent. But when you're level 40 and your weapons look and sound and operate just like they did at level 15, then I call that a problem. After a while, the best thing you have to look forward to is getting a new piece of armor or a weapon with marginally better bonuses. No new skills or abilities. No new or different way to attack the game, just different numbers on your laser rifle. Yawn.
Will these damn games EVER get better? First, Brad "EverQuest" McQuaid tried to force his ridiculous Vision on the gaming community. Now Richard "Ultima" Garriot tried to tweak the status-quo with fast combat and a sci-fi theme, but he failed to provide a game that, for me, makes you care about your character enough to keep playing. Even the old pros have fallen short. It'll be interesting to see how Age of Conan and Warhammer fail to "change the MMO world" by slightly tweaking the boring gameplay of previous games.

No New Games for 2008! (for me)

Posted by TesterNGS Thursday January 3 2008 at 3:20PM
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No New Games for 2008! (for me)

This year I resolve to not buy any new MMORPGs.
The past few years have shown me one thing when it comes to my favorite genre of games: few MMORPGs are released with what most people (well, me at least) would consider a complete set of quality features.
Gaming is big business, but when business becomes more important than quality and entertainment, then you've lost touch with what games are supposed to be all about. Recent games, like Tabula Rasa, have spent a very long and expensive time in development, but what did the game have when it went live? Combat, partially implemented crafting, barely supported PvP, shallow classes, and....? Now NCSoft expects its subscribers to fund the continued development of the game - they call them "Free Expansions". A more honest way to put it would be, "Stuff You're Paying For That Should Have Been Here At Release."
Some people may say that it is unreasonable to expect a complete game upon release; the very nature of MMORPGs is that they evolve and grow over time.
Call me crazy, but when I think of a game growing, I think of a greater variety of existing content, not, "Hey, we added an Auction House!!" I don't want to pay for stuff that should already be implemented. I WILL pay for new quests, items, classes, spells, zones, and other expansion content. I will NOT pay for "catch up" content, where a developer scrambles to add features that should have been there at release.
This year I won't purchase a game that isn't, to me, feature-complete. So essentially, no new games for me because I don't think the industry will change its ways. I'll just keep an eye out for free trials, and wait for games to mature before I subscribe.


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