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Blogging: The art of Procrastination

The wonderful thing about blogging is you can do it whenever you want, about whatever topic you feel like. The perfect way to vent apart from smashing a hole in your door, which lets be honest is only satisfying if you break your hand in the process.

Author: confusedgoat

Is catering for "Carebears" the future of MMOs?

Posted by confusedgoat Sunday February 8 2009 at 11:50PM
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 I'll start off by apologising to anyone who is offended by the term "Carebear". It's simply a term 99% of the MMO population can relate to and  understand immediately. I don't care how you like to play your game, each to their own.

 

Next, I'll say I've never played EVE. I know it's out ther and I know its not a forgiving game, but it's one of a dying breed.

 

I'm not a regular blogger by any means, I like to think that every now and again though I create a post that actually adresses genuine concerns rather than the usual horse piss class complaints you see posted every 10 minutes. I'm 21 and I've been involved with MMOs since UO. My first serious MMO was Ragnarok Online, I moved on after that and played around with a couple of others before dossing about on private RO servers until eventually signing up and subbing for it. Guilt got the best of me. I got a shiney new rig a few months before L2 open beta came out which I also got hooked on for a bit until WoW came out. I stuck with WoW for about a year or two, sacked it off half way through TBC expansion. Since then nothing has really filled the void. AoC was great until the grind and endgame if you ignore the stupid balance issues and stability problems. WAR was fun for a bit but I invested in it in order to participate in wars, not queue for small scale scenarios...I'm getting side tracked. You don't need my history on MMOs, I'd just like to make it clear I have a vast portfolio of experience when it comes to playing them.

 

WoW will always be my favourite MMO. Although I've quit, I've had more laughs and cheers in that game than any other. But I will also hate what WoW has done to the gaming industry for a long long time. Before WoW, there was drama, tension, suspense. Fighting a mob was scary because even in the best case losing scenario, death meant losing XP. Worst case scenario, you dropped your gear to watch someone come and pillage it while you wait desperately for a res to reclaim it. In-game villains were genuine bad ass mother fuckers. They had a big ass red name to flaunt to the masses, and they were usually hard as nails with an entourage of wannabes backing them up. When they fell, they fell hard. They weren't some lippy little 15 year old trolling a forum for attention. They were dick head 15 year olds pillaging the weak to make their games a misery. Heroes were heroes, they weren't a tank that could hammer sunder faster than the average man (I was an MT, don't try to BS me tanks, you know pre-TBC that was the top and bottom of it) walking round in flashy shoulder pads. They were hard ass buggers with the skills to back it up. They'd hunt down the hard ass evil doers and their fights were genuinely huge, not a petty duel outside IF.

 

What I'm trying to get at is a lot of the "epic" has been taken out of MMOs. Heroes aren't heroic any more, they're people you see once in a blue moon when they come back to a city to repair. The rest of the time they stay logged outside an instance, or inside said instance. Villains aren't villanous, they're just people you have beef with because they troll forums, they dont actually cause any grief. You get corpse campers yes, but ultimately logging off for 5/10 mins to have the shit that's been turtleheading for the last hour gets rid of them and no damage is done, whereas in games like L2 they could pillage you of your gear if you were unlucky enough to drop it. Quests, even the quests have lost value. In older MMOs quests were few and far between, because they were quests, adventures, long and arduous (sp?) journeys. You got a genuine reward out of it like class advancement or a pet or skill. Admittedly this isn't for everyone, my friend quit L2 because he ran round the world map for 4 hours for the wolf pet quest. He got back and had to answer some questions based on what he had learned on his quest. He presumed if he failed he could just restart that part (WoW syndrome). He failed and was not best pleased to find out he had to start from scratch. It might sound "lame" but it meant people actually paid attention to quests. They didn't have answers and locations spoonfed to them via retries and marked maps. People try to convince me they're to get rid of the grind. If you look at half the quest chains you do, it's kill X monsters followed by kill X amount of these harder monsters followed by kill the leader of the monsters. That is grind. I never cared about grinding, so long as it was somewhere scenic and stunning. There was a real sense of adventure with some grinds because you didn't have a quest highlighted in red telling you the place was a death trap. You simply tip toed into dungeons cautiously and ran like hell if something seemed a bit too much, making a mental note to return in a few levels so you could possibly see the next level down in it. I think the one MMO I thought the quests were entertaining in was LotRO, though this may primarily be because while everyone else was out hunting X monsters in their start zone, I was delivering post and pies and saving sheep. Death isn't scary, when you fought in older MMOs you fought your ass off. In the L2 seiges (not sure if this is different now) you suffered an XP loss for dying. You were a pawn in an epic scale battle, and you were risking possibly a days worht of XP for one life in a huge seige, genuinely putting yourself and your gear on the line for your guild. What happens in MMOs now? At least WoW had repair bills, as pitiful as they were, some modern MMOs are scrapping even that.

 

They may have been harsh, but old school MMOs created drama. Genuine drama, not forum battles. We're talking the KoS-until-they-drop-loot drama. We're talking people willing to risk XP and gear just so they can have the pride of killing an enemy. Duels were tense and wars were epic.

 

I guess the point of this is to say "all good things in moderation". WoW (pre-TBC) was a great game for me, no other MMO has given me as much laughter. But it's changed the industry for the worse in my opinion. You can't blame game companies for taking from WoW, it has 11million subs now or something daft like that. My issue is that MMO designers are looking for something to top WoW, but all they're doing is feeding us with more of the carebear loving games. If designers really want to be innovative, they should go back to the roots. WoW opened a floodgate for MMO users and they're all looking for something new and different. I say put the epic back in MMOs, put the drama and tears back in, put the genuine passion and emotion back in to MMOs.

 

Bring back death penalties so people fear death.

Bring back karma systems so villains and heroes thrive.

Have fewer quests with less clues and directions, so they actually feel like quests.

Bring back the feeling of exploration, dungeons that aren't instanced, beautiful settings and the odd rare sighting of that scary ass huge mob.

Bring back expensive equipment/supplies so you genuinely work for your reward.

 

I know for a fact this isn't everyones cup of tea, I know some people can't think of anything worse. The problem with MMOs today though, is that everyone wants to bring out something new and while the ideas and concepts WoW started were innovative and new for MMOs, they weren't new for the majority of MMO players. WoW made MMOs a global money making phenomenon, and a huge chunk of MMO players today will have been introduced to the genre through WoW. 

 

To many, the ways of old, will be a very very new experience.

Age of Conan and FunComs flaws.

Posted by confusedgoat Thursday July 3 2008 at 1:20PM
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EDIT - Heavy wall of text imminent. I advise continuing only if you have alot of time on your hands or if you want a serious breakdown of the games flaws and the issues with FunComs service.

 

I actually just deleted about 2000 words of writing, because I got totally side tracked onto the topic of where MMOs were going in this day and age and the problems that developers and gamers alike faced when deciding, developing and playing an MMO post-WoW.

 

If I find more time I might actually dive into the above topic, however for now, an AoC rant is required for my personal sanity to remain in tact.

 

Age of Conan was possibly one of the most perfectly marketed games. It kept an incredibly tight grip on what information could be released from the closed beta and showed very small aspects of the game that looked new and innovative in order to sell pre-orders to the masses.

 

Once the pre-orders were in, the confessions and realities started showing. I'll use this space to give a detailed breakdown of promised content that is not in the game, and the errors in FunCom's thinking process.

 

The first is possibly the most obvious. Siege Warfare. Siege warfare was promised to be huge battles with up to 500 players laying waste to a siege. While the realist always knew this was impossible, we still all saw the video of the demonstration, where siege warfare did infact look immensely possible. The sad reality leaked out a few days before release, that Siege Warfare would sadly only be 48v48 man. At the time I remember being thrilled about this announcement, it left way for an affordable TS / Vent server and also meant that smaller more organised contingents of players would be able to stick it to the Zerg Guilds. The sad fact of siege warfare is that it was, as were most things, bugged and clearly hadn't been play tested. Many siege walls could be bypassed or avoided, some bugged on animation changes and simply allowed players to walk through them. Siege weapons didn't work. The merc system didn't work either, so players had to guild hop in order to support alliances. Players could find themself spawn camped if they died or even ported out of th zone completely as it was not locked. The actual method of deciding the victory was also heavily flawed. Whether or not the keep was torn down didn't decide victory, it was based off points scored, which made no sense.

 

My next bone to pick was the "Combo" system. While originally the Combo system sounded like an amazingly innovative system, it ended up being nothing more than a horrendous implementation of a mini-game of Dance Dance Revolution to activate a skill. By combo myself, and many others, were expecting experimenting with attack directions and learning the results, giving us a much more full bodied character-learning experience. However what we got was, as stated, a little mini-game of DDR before every skill activation. More to our dismay learning these combo directions also didn't help. The swiftness and accuracy of combos often didn't matter, rather you had to enter the swings at a certain (slow) pace or button mash them to register. Deft fingers and quickness of mind didn't help, and rather hindered you.

 

Next was the "mounted combat". Mounted combat promised to be so much, it promised to be something that previously had never been tapped. I had never previously experienced mounted combat in an MMO before. And similarly, I wish i never had. The promises of speed effecting your mounted damage turned out ot be myths. Mounted combat itselft was often simply swinging of the sword. The promise of being able to do a hit and run attack was a myth for all classes (unless you're a rogue with quick-dismount). The dream of heroic cavalry charges or rapid flanks and ambushes were dashed.

 

The crafting system was incredibly frustrating. Even if you ignore all of the bugs that surrounded it, FunCom had missed the point of crafting. Crafting progression could only essentially reach it's full potential (or at least it's useful potential) if you were in a guild that had a T3 City. Crafting has often been the love of the more casual gamer, who simply fancies making a name for themselves with a bit of farming and making fine weapons for adventurers with more time than themselves to use. They don't need to make their class their passion, simply their craft. FunCom failed to tap into this and rather ended up with a crafting system that neglects those who are unable to get into a guild that has the players, time or resources to farm a T3 city, and also neglects players up to level 40.

 

The PvP itself was undesirable. Other than the pleasure of ganking some prat you've seen in OOC chat, there was little reward. If someone ganked you, you either raged and got revenge, or decided it was useful and used it as a free lift to the nearest zone spot. Mini-games were included without there being any rewards for partaking in such small and pointless tasks. Yes, you received guild points, but in all honesty most of the servers are no longer left with a player base large enough for 900 players sieging, so your guild is normally guaranteed a spot any way if you choose to lay siege. This may all change with the upcoming PvP patch, but even so PvP was promised to be a new and immersive blood thirsty experience. All it looks like to me is a mash up of WoW's PvP system and Guild Wars combat mechanics with fatalities included.

 

The levelling, was possibly the most decieving part of AoC.  Tortage was possibly one of the most immersive and exciting starting zones I've ever experienced. Yes there is only one start zone, which is dissappointing. But it was beautiful and had unequalled design. There were quests that had you fighting a demon bat atop the Acheronian Ruins, leaving you to see the full extent of the games beauty (and leaving you to fall hundreds of feet through the ruins to the ground below should you be careless in the fight itself). After that you are once again followed by immersive and exciting zones. I never appreciated the Wildlands, but Conalls Valley and Kopshef both gave off a great impression and immersed the player into both the are and it's culture. Kopshef admittedly had bugged instances, but it could be forgiven. After this however things started turning sour. The imagination and magic died out when you reached Noble District and Field of the Dead. The quests become dull and you noticed the grind while doing them. You noticed your hard earned blue gear rapidly being replaced by shoddy greens. Your character development started feeling less and less worth while. By the time you hit 50-60 grinding became common place to level up during holes in th questing experience. 65-70 was also pretty much a solid grind, as was 74-80. The worst part around the levelling experience is that it doesn't feel like FunCom ran out of time, rather it leaves the player feeling like the developers ran out of passion. It feels as though the developers lost the love for their work, and it reflects in the content that was left post 40.

 

The customer support provided by FunCom was dire to say the least. Petitions could take hours if not days to recieve a response, and due to the time it took to get a response you'd often find yourself missing your turn in the queue because you were offline when a GM finally got to you. There is no phone support as far as i know, me and a friend managed to find a contact number somewhere on the box / in the manual, but the number was not in use. The hoards of complaints and bugs that went without response was disheartening to say the least.

 

The bugs, and the methods that the devs went about fixing them. Classes seem to get broken worse and worse before they are deemed as "fixed". The most agitating example is FunComs most recent "fix". The epic loot is near on useless. Bear shaman loot with 1handed blunt damage and Herald of Xotli loot with 2h blunt damage. Simple mistakes in stats, however these small mistakes led players to seek alternative equipment in order to gear their character for endgame. This came in the form of crafted armour. There was a bug with crafted armour where Defense ratings were higher than they were supposed to be. The "fix" caused the gem slots of the gear to vanished. Players had farmed for days on end to get the correct gems for their gear, and not only did the gem slots vanish, the farmed gems along with them. The only response was an apology, with a joke (in poor taste may i add), from the developers that said the gem slots were not meant to vanish, however they will be restored as soon as possible. The gems the slots held though, recieved no comment or response from the developers. Something I also couldn't believe is that within the first month of launch, one of the senior developers (and the only developer that apparently represented the English Euro forums) went on a holiday. This may be seen as petty and selfish, however it sent off the wrong message to a large portion of the community.

 

The endgame encounters themselves are far from challenging, and get broken / fixed on a regular basis. I won't say much on this topic as I don't want to include spoilers. I'll simply say every T1 boss is dull, and doesn't offer a sense of accomplishment.

 

I could go on, but I'm running out of steam now. Things such as the cencorship, the broken promises (even the ones listed on the back of the box), the travel system, the untapped potential, the method by which instanced zones are managed, the horrendous guild management system and similarly the somewhat pathetic raid management system. There's plent I haven't mentioned, I simply don't have the time (nor the energy) to continue listing the flaws with this game.

 

There are strengths, do not get me wrong. FunCom has brought some wonderful potential to the industry, and I still believe that given time (and from a more critical view a re-assessment of it's employees) it may emerge as one of the ground breaking MMOs out there. However when it comes to choosing an MMO it comes down to enjoyment, and your commitment towards the game in question often comes down to how heavily the pros of playing outweigh the cons.

 

I came into this game with a pre-made guild of 39 friends, all of the founding members of which are real-life friends of mine. I'm now left with 4/5 active players from the original 39, and we had to resort to abandoning the guild to merge with another.

 

That to me is the largest problem with this game, and you may blame it on whatever reasons you see fit. However, when you log on to a game and the friends you've come to enjoy sharing your online experiences with are no longer active and haven't logged on for days, it leaves little insentive to play.

 

Apologies for this being quite long, I'm impressed if you've read this far. I'm not really sure whether I've left many topics open for discussion as this is mainly a run down of the games flaws, however feel free to post your own personal opinion, or elaborate on any of my mentioned/unmentioned topics.

 

Robbie - 77 Guardian

Beved - 80 Bear Shaman

Wildsoul PvP-EN Server.

 

Series that beg for an MMO - Naruto.

Posted by confusedgoat Sunday April 6 2008 at 12:59PM
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EDIT 2: Thankyou for all of your comments. This would not be another "WoW". The design I proposed would be nothing like WoW. It would be more along the lines of UO. While I understand the likely hood of this is near on non-existant, there is nothing stopping Game Developers creating their own Lore to creat such a game. The mechanics in the Narutoverse are taken from Ancient Japanese Lore, History and Mythology. There is nothing stopping Games Designers from taking the same Lore, Mythology and History to create their own MMO, and indeed create something better, given the flaws presented by the Narutoverse. The genre is screaming for a next-gen MMO, and I believe the basis that Naruto is set up is a near perfect setting for it.

EDIT: Apologies for being misleading. My aim was not to create a game around Naruto, simply explain how the mechanics of the Narutoverse could be perfect for te Next-Gen Sandbox MMO that the industry has been screaming for.

I'll start by stating that I am a Naruto fanboy, however never considered this until a recent conversation.

I was discussing this the other day with my friend, as we were talking about what the world of online gaming really needed. We have an abundance of your Medieval style games. Where you run round with a sword and cave in the skulls of rabbits until you can progress to saving damsels and crush mighty demons. The MMO genre has recently started to explore the Sci-fi aspects, with MMOs such as EVE and Tabula Rasa. While I have yet to try the former, Tabula Rasa was in fact a breath of fresh air, being thrown into a world where you're being invaded, smooth mass combat scenes and guns and explosions going off left right and centre. However I lost interest in the games combat system, given it's limited list of skills and the need for aim wasn't as prominent as i'd originally hoped. I was hoping for a Planetside style gameplay, only more advanced and up to date. Finally we have our abundance of Asian MMORPGs, where martial arts and ancient chinese lore become a key role. However my personal experience of these has left much to be desired, with many of them following an incredibly linear character progression.

I'm quite fascinated with the whole "ninja" aspect of things, and I'm currently studying Games Design. I was considering with a friend a concept for a "ninja MMO", simply to pass time by. We were considering character development first, and we know that the fans of the genre have been screaming out for a sandbox game in this "next gen" age. So we were considering how it would be made posible. As we discussed it we referenced naruto alot as an example, then realised how perfect a world it was for such an MMORPG.

The one flaw we did admit to fully, was that it is not really feasable to create a Naruto MMORPG without either talking to Kishimoto and him giving away the script to the entire series, and we somehow doubt that would happen. The reason for this is that it is incredibly hard to pick a time / date in an MMO world without fully understand the Lore of the world, and since the series is not yet complete, there is no way to determine this time / date and furthermore it is near possible to further add to the Lore of the Narutoverse.

For arguments sake we will forget that, and I shall simply paint the picture.

Firstly, I'll go into the the way the Narutoverse would play. As of yet I'm unsure whether this is even a plausable option, however the game would simply have one "world" (where possible). It would operate much in teh same way Guild Wars did, where you simply select a region when entering a zone (Tabula Rasa players will be familiar with this). The reason for this is there is a huge selection of villages to choose from. Each admirably large in their own right.

-Land of Fire

-Land of Rain

-Land of Sound

-Land of Wind

-Land of Water

-Land of Waves (Not really worth mentioning as it has no Hidden village, however would be fun to visit for Lore fanatics as it was Naruto's first mission).

Do not be put off by the names, they have no sway over what affiliation or skill set you will have, and I have listed them simply to give a scale as to how many Countries there are in the Narutoverse. In each of those countries (bar the land of waves) there is a hidden village, in which would be your starting zone. The basis of PvP would revolve around these 6 nations, as they would fight for border control, to make their country the most prominent, and obviously with more land comes certain bonuses. There would be no allegiances, though players from one country could find themselves under attack from 2 or more countries if they have taken land that shares borders with more than 1 Nation.

As far as the Sandbox character progression goes. If you want to be a blacksmith you could be a blacksmith. If you wanted to cook teh finest Ramen in the Narutoverse then you could do that. There would be no need for you to go off and train your character in anything other than the cullinary arts if that was your desire. However, you may reuire an ingredient that you are by no means equipped to go and obtain, so may have to fork out money for adventurers to get them. These would be listed (as in the Narutoverse) as ranked missions, which players could choose to take on to increase their purse or their fame.

For those that don't know the "ninjas" in Naruto receive different ranked missions, that range from finding peoples dogs to assassinations and recon. Certain ranked missions (bar a few exceptions) are only available to certain ranked ninjas. For instance someone who has just started and is figuring out which end of the sword you stab people with, isn't exactly going to be given the chance to assassinate one of the worlds deadliest villains.

There is also the combat itself. Naruto revolves around 6 different types of "Jutsu". These are essential combat preferences. Progression in each would simply be down to how long you spend training each. The progression would be in the form of "easy to learn hard to master". Players would need to continously train a certain area to make sure they are proficient in it, and certainl to be a master they would need to devote alot of time to only using a certain area of Jutsu, or their skills would become rusty and less effective. There is no "level system". Character progresion is simply down to how much effort a player is willing to put into a certain area of their character.

-Taijutsu

The basic jutsu in the Narutoverse. This is essentially your hand to hand combat. However by pouring extreme effort into this you can develop further into Taijutsu, be it professing in the Empty Palm, or opening the Heavenly Gates, or excelling in Gentle Touch. If you don't want to be completely useless in hand to hand combat.

-Ninjutsu

The next most prominent jutsu in the Narutoverse. These are essentially the skills you have that can seriously damage your openent, trap them, trick them and suprise them. There are hundreds if not thousands of areas that you could branch off to, be it mastering and manipulating shadows, controlling puppets, having a pet which you develop jutsu's with, healing, enhancing your movement speed or indeed just excelling in moves that will leave nothing but your opponents smoking boots.

-Genjutsu

Another largely used jutsu. These jutsu are often used to catch your opponent off guard, as it effects the brain and can leave the opponent in a hallucination. It can also have other effects, such as drowziness, trapping opponents, paralysis. This in theory would be teh sort of "Debuff" area of the Jutsu's.

-Sealing Jutsu

This is more the "preperation" jutsu. Jutsu that seal something inside objects or living beings. The most common application of this is sealing weapons or other objects within scrolls to efficiently carry a large number of items. Sealing jutsu are also utilized to restrict access to things, such as chakra or entry to a building.

-Curse Jutsu

Much like genjutsu if will have a debuff effect on your opponent, however often requires physical contact to initiate. These are jutsu that use a special "cursed seal" to put someone under the control of the user or elicit an unnatural effect in the one they are placed on. They can be used to cause either pain (including death if the pain is large enough) or invoking various mutations in the recipient

-Bloodline Limits

I'm not sure how these would work for the players of the Narutoverse, but certainly they can make for interesting opponents that you can team up against. These can including things from 360° vision, to metamorphisis, to new and exclusive Jutsu.

The final area to consider would be movement, and combat. The combat system would probably be one of the most enjoyable yet challenging to work on, as it really suits console style gameplay, yet console gameplay is very hard in turn to suit sandbox gameplay. The movement however I would love to see much like that of city of heroes, where you can increase how far / high you can jump, and the speed at which you can run.

 

All in all I think Naruto begs itself for an MMO, however to create an experience that would be both rewarding, innovative and enjoyable for the fans of Naruto, would indeed be a hefty challenge. And i fear that game developers will simply take the easy route of "pick a character and level it" when it has the potential to be so much more if the would only put in the time and effort.

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