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Your Sacred Cows' Mad Disease

Challenging the Tired and Used assumptions in MMO's - and gaming in general.

Author: badgerbadger

Fantasy *special forces* & The Sacred Cow of poorly-written Quests

Posted by badgerbadger Wednesday October 31 2007 at 9:20AM
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A more Bite-sized and less tangential blog entry... ("make it accessible")

 That most "Role Playing Games" of the computer variety; particularly single-player ones; tend to really BE a campaign of tactical squad-combats is no secret I suspect...  

   But there are situations , both in fantsay and reality; where a smaller group of people are BETTER.  And  NOT just when trying to sneak a ring to a volcano...

   One of the great failures of most "RolePlaying " quest-games is to explain why adventurers-in effect SPECIAL FORCES -rather than the whole regular army is being sent in.  And really; in most adventures; the army would be a better bet.  All those quests where they tell you to go take a place over and exterminate everything...
  Not hit and run before reinforcements come to tip the tide & overwhelm you; but rather go and kill EVERYTHING...?
   Are you REALLY so tough that NOTHING the enemy has can defeat you? You have NOTHING to fear?Wheres the Adventure in THAT?? 

 Ever been asked to Save The Kingdom - at LEVEL ONE?  Oh I forgot: I'm the chosen one; blah balh bladda-dah.  Thats not only as TIRED as all hell a cliche can BE;  its also a matter of - you know what? SCREW YOU - I'll EARN mine - thats MY destiny.  If I'm Destined to win; Wheres the Adventure in THAT??  

   If being so tough that we've nothing to fear is NOT the case; but we're still expected to control & occupy; that just makes you ask why they aren't using someone tougher ?(or a whole lot more than 4-6 some-ones?)

  ...And if the situation arises where a party IS actually stronger than the Forces of Said Authority Figure; Your Campaign Has A Much Deeper Problem...
  (...which will bother MOST gamers no more than all those weapons & robots designed to make 13 year-old power-rangers fans say "WOW!" "COOL!" )

   Any situation where its a smash-and -grab (and run) is ideal for squads - for adventurers.  History - even now - is rife with tales of professional adventurers- and yes; sometimes you get hung for not wearing a uniform...( ..cough; cough.. pirate, cough.. spy; cough cough ).  But with or without one; there are more purposes to squads than just patrol encounters.  Enough said on that other than to say; if you want to write convincing and compelling adventures for small groups; research special missions/ops; or ask a friend...

   With THAT cow finally a-salted - and a-burgered; I hope I have established an in-game need and justification for squad-level events.  

 A little more thought in the actual quests would be welcome tho' - and maybe cut-scenes.

 

MY Dream MMO.. with Playable Examples! * and fantasy "Special Forces"

Posted by badgerbadger Tuesday October 30 2007 at 2:54AM
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   If you have a moment to digress; let me direct you to the post that on another forum -got me redirected to MMORPG; which i had only until then glanced at. In short; I had played DDO then finally given up on it - and MMO's. 

http://www.mmorpg.com/discussion2.cfm/post/1595162#1595162

My thoughts on what I'D like to see in a game got me directed to some of the sandbox vs scripted content discussions here.
 

now; other than seeking to slaughter; barbeque; and serve up to your originality-starved palates some Sacred Cow; I also; occaisionally play a game or two...

   Imagine if you would that when TSR/ Wotc? Hasbro tried to compete with mage knight; et al., by releasing a squad-combat minis game named Chainmail; it hadn't been bullocks-ed up with the worst-reviewed molten-turds of excuses for miniatures seen by man or elder beast, and tanked- that they hadn't thrown out the idea of using the Greyhawk World-at-War once again ...(cheerfully enough; this was Greyhawk we were talking about - one of the two birth-worlds of the Wargame that becamethe RPG all these games are decsended from? You may have heard of it? Dungeons &Dragons?)

  That would have been a perfect setting; although really any would do; for a good game mixing role-playing and squad-based combat elements.

  That most "Role Playing Games" of the computer variety; particularly single-player ones; tend to really BE a campaign of tactical squad-combats is no secret I suspect... 
  ..The only real advantage in using such a setting is that they (the new-Chainmail Devs) had done a good of explaining one thing that is a great FAILURE of most "roleplaying " quest games:

  Which is to explain why in effect SPECIAL FORCES rather than the whole regular army is being sent in. And really; in most adventures; the army would be a better bet. All those quests where they tell you to go take a place over and exterminate everything...
  Not hit and run before reinforcements come to tip the tide& overwhelm you; but stay and kill EVERYTHING...?
   Are you REALLY so tough that NOTHING the enemy has can defeat you? You have NOTHING to fear?Wheres the Adventure in THAT?? 

If thats NOT the case; but we're still expected to control & occupy; that just makes you ask why they aren't using someone tougher ?(or a whole lot more than 4-6 ones?)       

  Ever been asked to Save The Kingdom - at LEVEL ONE?  Oh I forgot: I'm the chosen one; blah balh bladda-dah.  Thats not only TIRED as all hell a cliche can BE;  its also a matter of - you know what? SCREW YOU - I'll EARN mine - thats MY destiny. If I'm Destined to win; Wheres the Adventure in THAT?? 


 ...And if the situation arises where a party IS actually stronger than the Forces of Said Authority Figure; Your Campaign Has A Much Deeper Problem...
  (...which will bother MOST gamers no more than all those weapons & robots designed to make 13 year-old power-rangers fans say "WOW!" "COOL!" )

  But there are situations , both in fantsay and reality; where a smaller group of people are BETTER.  And  NOT just when trying to sneak a ring to a mountain...

 Any situation where its a smash-and -grab (and run) is ideal for squads - for adventurers.  History - even now - is rife with tales of professional adventurers- and yes; sometimes you get hung for not wearing a uniform...( ..cough; cough.. pirate, cough.. spy; cough cough ).  But with or without one; there are more purposes to squads than just patrol encounters.  Enough said on that other than to say; if you want to write convincing and compelling adventures for small groups; research special missions/ops; or ask a friend...

 With THAT cow finally a-salted - and a-burgered; I hope I have established an in-game need for squad-level events.  The market need speaks for itself- even single-player rpg's are mostly running a team or party rather than an individual.
  Hopefully no one has shot me down in flames SO FAR; so that i can go on? If you disagree with me; please bear with my tangent-hopping trainwreck; this train DOES  GO somewhere!

   We have roleplaying games and we have combat games and we have environments.. and some have spoken of mixing them and so far .. So far I'm just not sure.

  So as an example of what possibilities I see; i have found two examples i consider incomplete - they are both casual games - but effective as illustarations i believe; and besides; they're casual games; you can play 'em for a second and have fun; and be done with them.

  The first game is purely tactical combat; its what i am surprised hasn't happened to mage-knight or to D&D minis (aka: "new" chainmail)...
  www.digisonline.com/tactics

 The game is simple; elegant; chesslike; and you get pieces like the games mentioned. Or like a deck in a certain famous card-game that went online.  The strength of the game is right out of one of my forum posts; never mind AI opponents; there are enough new players looking to try free games (or continue) that there is never a shortage of opponents. It also says soemthing that a game that started as a flash experiment got its own personal server; then 4 Commercial servers.
   The weakness of this format; as isee it; is its lack of development.. other than a few rare "drops" for battles won; there is no real progression or accumualtion other than aranking system - which is just fine for many players; clearly.

  The second game SOUNDED more like what i had in mind - its a role-playing themed campaign where one can recruit followers to engage in a series of REAL TIME battles.  Its worth checking out just to see what you think - it is; however; a flash game - casual and almost cartoony... but the possibilities are compelling.

 They certainly were to ME as you can see.
 My main complaint with the game is that  its main draw is .. well. flat - the tactical comabt ISN't very tactical; as you have no control over your recruits, and your options are pretty starightforward.. heal my men or let them die, lol.
  And by adding the "capture a town" option - really just a requisite to raise troops -it opens cans of worms better left alone than half-assed.
    I know a certain MMO is making quite a fuss about allowing exactly this.  Better left to game of that magnitude.

   But for what it surely was - someones project - it should get you thinking. Thinking..  for example; what if...  the comabt WAs a bit more tactical; like the other game; so that having a squad was meaningful.  What if the troops improved and could be give equipment?
  what if you played one of them if your main died?

 what if other players also had squads; and characters( hell soem would just want to be single warriors and help out i'm sure.. a party of both PC's and npc's? why not?)

 What if there were a certain group of Player versus Environment monsters that are so stupid an AI could run them reasonably ( I'm talking zombies here; and maybe animals andthe WORST of minions)...
  but; after that; free-account players were entitled to play the lowest ranking (for example; non-professional or savage) encounters; while ranked players kept their squads game to game..earned experience; got equipment?

 New players would always have opponents to practice on; and as I've said elsewhere about PvP concerns; any game is going to NEED people to play the bad guys...  Let the people who cant help it do so.. You know who you are.

 Hell; games track favor and reputation; why not track alignment? ...

 Being too evil? You're aligned with Evil/Chaos/Cthulhu Kitty now...
   keep it up you may sprout some fangs or a nasty prestige class...

i've said elsewhere a game could have subscription-model in the sense of magazines content.. alot of this writes ITSELF; but even so; the LIVING RPG worlds; as someone pointed out; have done that for years. Why PAYING subscribers expect - or TOLERATE anything less is beyond me.

 The only point cognizant to THIS discussion though is I was pre-empting the anti-sandbox arguemnts.. some player driven content doesn't mean it ahs to be entirely so.

  ... SO: whats the real point?

  That this is heading towards MY dream MMO.

 Almsot all the pieces exist; technologically its there - just not in harmony; yet.

 As a final straw; if you would; the game archlord had a premise that reminded me of the forgotten "BirthRight" setting -  whether by blood or by sword; if a game allows players to rule - I've seen people "Grind" "favor" to get a locked race...  who wouldn't want to earn the ranking or what -ever (as a player; character aside) to get dibs on unlocking playable NPCs...?

- or even NPC HEIRS?

  Just thoughts...  and dreams.

 A dream that has finally motivated me to get my ass back in gear and go to school again  :)

 

 Care to Dream with me?

Grind in MMO's - the Subscription Model

Posted by badgerbadger Monday October 15 2007 at 9:18AM
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  As I often read posts or blogs on MMORPG.com what i notice is that many; many are from the people looking for a little something more  or a little something different.

 After all; do you remember what brought YOU here?

 Myself; I came here looking to for another game to try as i had tired of mine...

 I think this is the case for most players; after all; truly satisfied MMO-ers are in a hurry to use what free time they can spare gaming; Logging on; not coming here to read about logging on.

having just watched the humorous review of Yahtzee; of whom I am becoming a fan:

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/editorials/zeropunctuation/2326-Zero-Punctuation-Tabula-Rasa

  i observed that once again the idea of Grind had come up.. the idea of the repeating or never-ending story...  And after all; if money is made by subscriptions; the companies have to have some mechanism for keeping paying customers playing (and paying).

  Again and again; various posters have pointed to other ways than the typical 'grind' to keep customers involved... and i think it has been well-said that in fact it is WHEN gameplay begins to FEEL like a grind (kick another 20 bunnies for a bunny stew recipe); that player interest declines.

 BLAH BLAH BLAH... we've heard all this before.

  i would like to remind you of another albeit similar business model... that of MAGAZINE subscriptions.

Unlike most mmo's where people play ina largely static game world; often 'grinding' to rush to the Vaunted Endgame; (to repeat the same raids?)...

  Magazines have a different model - people are subscribing to new content.  Magazines; just like MMO's ; have operating expenses... Yet they survive by CONTINUALLY providing newe and interesting content that KEEPS reader interest.

 There are those that would say by subscribing to an MMO you are in effect paying for the original development and rental of their servers... someone in one of these threads actually used the term 'free update' - when in fact it isn't free at all.  It is part of the service you are paying for; and to imply that new content or service updates are some kind of 'freebie' would tend to argue this.  It would be as though the big book companies - which BTW if you are interested in fantasy; they specifically ask if writers can drag series on for multiple volumes (my understanding is this is true for movies as well; but I've never tried to sell a movie)- asked you to keep paying for (and one supposes keep re-reading) the same novels.

  And who hasn't looked at some of the bloated fantasy series and thought that getting through them would be a grind?  But that is a seperate tangent.

 People have spoken of Dynamic content and Sandboxes...

      What  I want to add to this discussion is the magazine model of subscription - continual new content; perhaps a deveolping story line; be it seperate or dependent on the players; the idea here is that development does not stop at release; and that this continuing content be expected the same as i would from a magazine or short-story colections or TV series.  One does not subscribe to a single static story; no matter how long the movie or books.

    The current business model to me smacks of sitting on the laurels of the old content; expecting people to be content running 'raids' or memeorizing quest/levels for a sense of "accomplishment".

     Just as book companies encourage writers to 'fluff' novels to great length and multiple volumes to make series longer (keeping customers of a series buying books is easier than getting fans of a new series); MMO companies 'fluff' theirr games with time-sinks and what people call grind.

  As always with my articles; i ask you to question THIS sacred cow; and ask if it could not be done some other way.

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