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Just One Moar (formerly: How To Lose Your Life To An MMORPG)

Part diary, part commentary, part news reviews and editorials covering the world of MMORPGs Among many MMORPG:I feature Runes of Magic and World of Warcraft

Author: giantsquid

Is Inaccessibility Choking the MMO Market?

Posted by giantsquid Monday November 23 2009 at 3:26PM
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I recently downloaded the Allods beta. I still haven’t recieved an email with a beta key, but I wanted to get the game installed and patched so I’d be ready to jump in. I installed to get a corrupt file warning that fixing didn’t correct. I uninstalled and tried 2 more times before redownloading. The new download was the same. I checked the forums to find a large thread that had various techno-babble that “might” help solve this problem for some people. It is now the next day and I’m redownloading so I can attempt one of these manual fixes.

This is a typical scenario for many free to play MMORPGs.

For me and some of my past game jounalism acquaintances, we always loved to discuss the business side of the gaming industry as much as the games themselves. I came to a personal belief that one of World of Warcraft’s biggest claims to fame is its accessibility. The game is extremely approachable by many demographics.

I found that playing WoW was about as easy as playing a game on my Playstation 2. I just pop the disc in and I’m practically up and running. It had me thinking of all the people that aren’t playing other MMOs because they take more effort on the users part. Many people aren’t some determined MMO lot that is accustomed to this, or even understand how MMOs work at all. They just know that it’s a game that looks fun and would like to try it.

I consider myself to be averagely skilled with computers and am still reaching a frustration level cap with getting Allods to work.

Runes of Magic, my current favorite game, is not without this problem. We see new posts from new players daily on the official forums with errors and other problems just getting the game started.

Two good friends of mine, who aren’t really MMO players as much as they are video game players, loved WoW but they’ve told me they want stuff to work period. If they are buying a game, if it doesn’t work it’s total and utter useless junk to them. These are guys who’ve owned every gaming system imaginable and have played PC games for over 10 years.

I played the Vanguard trial over a year ago. I had extensive problems and confusion over Sony’s Station.com site with registration, getting ID codes, and the like. Personally I went through it and loved the game, and plan on playing in the future, but I’m one of those determined type that will go the extra mile and know how to.

MMOs in general are not always as easy to play as console games. Adding a flood of free to play MMOs with constant corrupted file problems can immediately make a persons decision of whether they will ever play that game or not.

Have you had mainly friendly experiences with MMOs? What games do you think do a great or poor job with handling accessibility?

Should companies start beefing up tech support and waiting longer to put out well tested downloads, and making user experience smoother and more easily understood. Or is this too fine a line where people have it too easy and just need to put the work in, if they want to play?
 

Alganon First Impressions: Human Soldier to level 8

Posted by giantsquid Thursday November 19 2009 at 3:09AM
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The Alganon beta is very laggy at times. This is no doubt exacerbated by my bad wireless connection. Even though I was getting booted, and had to slow down my progression due to lag, It was a good experience. After 8 levels, I was able to get many quests under my belt, study a few skills, if that’s what they are calling it because there are other skills that you get through leveling, and delved into crafting a bit all while seeing a good sized chunk of the extremely large starting zone.

My first 4 levels were filled with acquainting myself with the game and world. Creating a character seems average to any other MMORPG. Not super in-depth, but not shallow either. You can pick hair, face, all that jazz. Unique is the family names you choose from. Each race has 5 families to choose from. These are an attempt to help group players to other like-minded players. Each family is related largely to one field of combat or study. There’s an adventuring family, a crafting family, and so on.

I took a human soldier which starts me in Asheran Forest. It’s a gigantic zone, and has the most pleasantly diverse terrain I’ve ever seen. The layout for all the terrain seems natural, full, varied, and never gives a feeling of repetition(Hey I saw that exact shape and size boulder 2 kilometers back). There are some nice animations with swarms of bugs, tree tops gently swaying in the breeze, and other little incidental novelties that actually felt like it brought the world more to life. This zone is also immense. I could only hazard a guess that it may be like taking the zone Stormwind, from WoW, and quadrupling it in size. It’s a colorful world. It has a cartoon-ish look, but high texture and water details make it look sharper, more focused, and a bit less cartoon-y than WoW.

Quests are standard, nothing new here. fetch, kill, find are the norm. Tutorial based quests will get you accustomed to the controls, and your surroundings. There’s a built in quest tracker, to find where you need to go. Some may think this takes away immersion or is too easy. For a first time player I found it very helpful, as the zone is huge and easy to get lost in.

I clicked my study icon to get started with what I could. It’s a time based skills system that lets you select from about 3 studies after character creation, and as you study, more will open up. I found it fine. I started with bladesmanship, then went to crafting related studies. I was only level 5 when I did the novice craftsmen which completed within one play session. It opened up specific craft related studies such as natural oils, alloy, etc… I chose alloy, and suddenly it’s taking 24 hours to get that study. I felt that it was a huge jump from the first level of studies I took. I am not at all familiar with EVE and its time-based skills, so I will have to have some more…uh, time with this part of Alganon.

My first 5 levels kept me pretty close to the starting area, and then the quests lowly moved me further down a road to the town of Greenvale. At level 6 I found out I could have already been crafting at level 1. So I jumped in, asked developer chat a few questions and got started. There’s honestly not much I can say beyond “If you’ve played WoW, you know everything you need to know about Alganon crafting”. It doesn’t just look the same, you’ll feel like you’re playing WoW at times, if not for the graphical differences, with all the similar movements you’ll be going through.

Crafting is the same system used in WoW. It looks like they ripped it out of WoW, put it in Alganon, and just renamed items, recipes, and ingredients. That’s not saying it’s bad, I think it speaks more volume to say “It’s familiar” and I’ll get to that more in a bit. I found a blacksmith, purchased mining, and blacksmithing. I then went out mining which was a pleasurable experience. This is a one-click gathering system. You get a tracker. In my case I could locate ore, but there was a small extra perceived sense of hunting on my part. Even when you near a node, it can take some looking for. It may be behind a tree or rock, or just hiding down in a depression in the ground. It also could be nicely placed amongst some mobs requiring some skill to reach if you are equal or even above the mobs level. Some clicks landed me copper, limestone, and sometimes a jewel along with the others. The most I ever received from one node was 2 copper, 1 limestone, and 1 jewel.

There’s a vendor in town selling some reagents that you’ll need to go along with the ore when crafting. I also found, with the beginning recipes, you’ll quite often also need to refine the ore and get some drops from mobs to create the item(s).

From level 7-8 I went on more quests which sent me further along the zone. I was done crafting for the time being, after feeling used to it, and I wanted to see more of the great graphics in the zone. There are plenty of hubs with lots of NPC’s. Many of them just stand there, but they all have voiced greetings for you. The houses are nice. I always love many buildings you can go into. Just like the terrain, the buildings are varied in size and shape. Asheran Forest lends itself to log cabins and small wooden houses. There’s a few 2-story houses that I explored. This is where the camera flaws really showed up.

I found myself constantly zooming in and out, whether in the forest or in town. The trees are so lush with wide tops, and the camera doesn’t snap below them, so any trees in your way will have to be avoided by zooming in. Same goes for inside a building. There seems to be an attempt at camera snapping, as you enter a buildings doorway then turn right or left it snaps to the characters back just fine, and you can easily rotate around to get the interiors layout. But many times, especially in the multi-storied buildings you have to zoom in to avoid staring at the floor above you.

The most unique and exciting feature in the game, to me, is the Library. It’s simply defined as an in-game repository of information on everything in the game. It’s not simple though, as it has everything. If WoW had this, it would be like taking Thottbot, and WoW Armory, smashing them together, and then letting you access that info all without alt+tab’ing out. There’s also a slew of Alganon world lore to look up. It’s a very nice interface.

Apart from crafting being identical to WoW, the difference for Alganon is how they plan to get items into players hands. They’ve said that they plan on balancing the really good weapons and armor between crafting and drops. You’ll be able to get that Uber Green Glowing Demon Sword+1 from a series of challenging crafting tasks, or from a challenging raid. It sounds like they are trying to create a dichotomy of equality. That is to say, it seems they’re trying to create equal feelings of work and time invested for both the crafter and raider after the same item. I’m very curious to see how this plays out. Unfortunately no instances are available in the beta. Any real world testing will have to wait until after the game’s launch.

To sum up, I felt the game was very polished visually. The server snags and lags quite a bit right now, but that’s to be expected in beta this young. It plays very much like WoW in many respects. I felt torn whether I should dislike this or not. You could almost disassociate yourself from the graphics and you could simply believe you found some brand new zones in WoW. I never used the term WoW clone before so I do not use it lightly now. The interfaces from crafting looked ripped directly from WoW, as does a few other interfaces, and also the way you interact within those interfaces. Ultimately it doesn’t make me dislike the game in the least. It’s not a bad thing to be a clone. And it really has it’s own look graphically. At the end of reaching level 8, I find that apart from the knowledge base called the Library, there isn’t much in the way of innovation. I don’t need innovation when a game uses many approved standards of play that agree with me. I find myself wanting to play more to see how beautiful the rest of the world is, if nothing else, and to see how the crafting implementation will affect the player base and my enjoyment level of crafting.
 

Where should the best loot come from?

Posted by giantsquid Monday November 16 2009 at 12:37AM
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I don’t state this to try to add validity to an argument, just to let you know that I respect where the opinions are coming from. I’d very much like to hear what others have to say.

Some of my friends, I used to play WoW with, I’ve known for a long time and have come to really respect their opinions on all sorts of subjects. They are all very well educated, very well-rounded, and are intuitive as all get out. So when we discussed where the best loot should come from in a game, and they agreed with me, it not only fed my lovely ego(which I do love, no matter how small it is), but I really focused my thought on the subject for a long time.

I’m of the belief that the best armor and weapon loot should come solely from crafting. You can still have good crafting that people will partake in, as I would point to any existing crafting system as flawed yet obviously working. But to have anything less than the best armor or weapons come from anywhere else undermines crafting and takes a way the one purely viable reason to have crafting in the first place. Otherwise you don’t really have crafting, you just have the aucton house where people play online “economists”.

In the strictest sense, I would call all current crafting systems economy systems. They solely feed into the economy. That’s their highest and most valid priority. Sure you are crafting “stuff” but what is the number one reason you are crafting it? In WoW, you may find some alternative uses for crafting early on, but once you pass level thirty, the crafting system takes a nose dive off a thousand foot sheer cliff, and turns more into a money maker where most people stop after refining and don’t actually get to the crafting part. They refine material to sell in the auction house.

There’s a place for this, but there’s also no tangible use for the fully crafted goods. We call these crafting systems?

Are we undermining raids and battlegrounds, if we take away their gear drops? I don’t think so. It’s shifting responsiblities back into their proper places, and improving the game dramatically. Can’t there be other uber drops in raids and battlegrounds? I don’t see why not.

If players and/or developers feel that one area of the game ends up having to take priority over the other as far as where the best loot comes from, then I still see the logical conclusion that it should be crafting. I personally don’t see it undermining raids or “end-game” content because there is plenty to achieve in doing raids, and players will still have a source to obtain the best gear to run more raids and gear up for battlegrounds.

I’m still a bit skeptical about the inner working of Alganon, that is now in beta. But they mention this very aspect which made me smile knowing that others agreed with me. We all love that. But that’s not the only reason for me to push a subject like this. I think it stands on it’s own two feet when it comes to what role different parts of a MMORPG should play.
 

Will Next Runes of Magic Expansion See Large Spike in Popularity of MMORPG?

Posted by giantsquid Saturday November 14 2009 at 3:02PM
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I have a hunch, a theory.

RoM has so far been pretty good with it’s content updates, and the first big expansion. Up until now I think players are still skeptical and wait to see it to believe it, for the most part.

But if they make good on their next big expansion, said to be out in spring of 2010 in the recent developer chat, we may see an extra large jump in the games popularity.

Not only will we see the game world increase in size by a few more zones, and plenty of new content, with hopefully significantly more fixed bugs than new ones, but I think players minds will be much more at ease to let go of their skepticism.

The game is also starting to garner popularity among some big MMORPG journalist sites with some giving RoM its own dedicated section. A first for many of the sites to do that for a free game, where they previously only gave big triple A subscription based games their own homes.

It’s all contingent on whether Runewaker can successfully handle the business side of things and grow the company larger than an average F2P games company. They already boast being a larger company, but they have to be able to grow even more, and continue to make money at it.

If Runewaker can figure it all out and make it work, could we see the first of its kind in a F2P MMORPG company that gets close to being as large as a subscription based company? Do you think they could end up becoming pioneers in the same aspect that Blizzard did for subscription MMORPGs? or will they find themselves stuck as a smaller company not finding that golden apple to let themselves grow?

Time will tell.

NaNoWriMo Novel Pt. 1- "Mobly and Abernacky: The Seductive Dark Pearl"

Posted by giantsquid Saturday November 7 2009 at 3:21AM
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This is a fanfic based on the epic quest line "The Seductive Dark Pearl" in Runes of Magic.

Part 1

The large double handed axe flew in an arc through air heavy with fragrances of Mountain Poplar and Rosemary with the occasional faint sour rotten stench of aged dead things. The midday light punching holes down through lush tall treetops, bursting with multiple hues of green, glinted off the broad razor sharp edge. Its surface was polished to a luster and only recently marred by splotches of dark green that clung to intricately carved patterns like thick wet tree sap. No faded colors, rust or corrosion of any kind revealed the weapon’s true age. The axe flew effortlessly toward the ground, now picking up speed helped by gravity. There was no familiar “thwak” of metal against wood but a wet crunch like a horse chomping a carrot. The small creature’s eight black skinny legs snapped straight from involuntary muscle spasms as its bulbous abdomen split as easily as a watermelon. The spiders life left its small hairy body in a gurgled hiss but not without exacting one last act of revenge by squirting some of its blood and guts across Abernacky Anvilslayer’s chest armor.

Abernacky relaxed his body, exiting his fighting stance to stand casually. His axe hung loosely at his right side as he fixated on his chest. A disgusted half-grunt half-moan came from somewhere beneath his fiery red beard. He removed a glass vial hiding behind his belt, popped the cork stopper, scraped some of the green ooze into the vial while flicking off bits of meat, re corked the vial and returned it to his belt without ever looking away from his pristine armor, taunted by the smears that he almost thought formed the shape of a sarcastic toothless smile with two deformed meaty eyes. After a few heartbeats a reluctant sigh followed the grunt only satisfied by the thought he could at least wipe the smile off that sarcastic face after he returned home. The rhythmic sounds Abernacky’s axe made continued and could be heard echoing throughout the forest.

***

Mobly sauntered into the small town of Logar. It was a small quaint town that nestled in the northern end of the Howling Mountains. Part of the mountain range bordered to the West, and a well worn trail lead East eventually turning into the golden hues of Silversprings where the sprawling city of Varanas lay. Gently rolling hills and glades lay around Logar with some mines and caves that attract would be adventurers. Mobly inhaled air filled with wild flowers while slowing his gate to match the slowed pace of life around him. Life here hadn’t stopped but it was more peaceful as if time didn’t matter so much. As he entered the main route that cut through the middle of town, he took in all the wonderful smells. That particular scent of yeast, flour, and heat from an oven mingled with vegetables, fish,, and meat wafting from a simmering pot made its way past his nose as he passed the merchants. Mobly smiled as his mouth watered. Steam and hot steel rose up to overtake the fresh food as he made his way further along past the tiny blacksmiths corner. Although there was all the amenities and more in Varanas, he loved how crisp and fresh the smells were here in Logar. The town wasn’t walled in and crowded like Varanas which always holds in all smells, even the less enjoyable ones that can only be caused by the proximity of too many people. Here the country air swept those fouler smells away, not giving them time to accumulate while allowing the ovens, smithy, and all the other daily smells to be fresh and new as if it was the first loaf of bread baked, the first pot of stew boiled, or the first bar of glowing red metal plunged into a barrel of cool water.

The knight knew people here would recognize him to be an out of towner, but here among the cleaner air and waters in the Howling Mountains he felt less embarrassed by the slight streak of vanity that ran in his blood. Mobly didn’t care if people thought he was showing off, He was glad he took a bath and cleaned his armor before making the trip.

As mush as he enjoyed slowing his life down, he hadn’t simply come to Logar for a vacation. After a few minutes of scanning the crowds, and watching people pass him in the street, he walked up to a local merchant who wasn’t currently busy catering to any costumers. The merchant politely obliged his question by pointing up the road that led north out of town and into a small forest glen.

Mobly stood, arms crossed, smirk across his face as he watched the scene in front of him play out. Most people would probably find humor in watching a small boy with a large chestnut beard trying to wield an axe bigger than his torso. One would also hope to be smart enough to look just a little closer and realize with what precision and shear strength and agility this figure wielded the weapon. If any one was still curious, which most were, they would take a few steps closer to see the hard lines of age around his eyes, dark skinned muscles sweating under the strain of age. If anyone after that was still overcome with curiosity, possibly slightly blinded by greed to rob a preoccupied figure, wearing what looked like valuable armor and who knows what else in his bag, they’d be in for a big surprise.

“What brings ya here Mobly? Ain’t the end of the month yet.” Abernacky growled in a low monotonous tone just before his axe split another spider in two.

“No ‘Hello, good to see you old friend?” Mobly said with a wry smirk on his face.

“Yer old, I’ll give ya that, but as for bein’ my friend, I don’t mix up business ventures with friendship, and fer good to see ya, that’s yet ta be true.” Abernacky took one last swing before turning his attention to the knight.

The green ooze covering Abernacky leapt out to at least two of Mobly’s senses. He immediately traded a smirk for a grimace, made a show of taking half a step backwards and crinkling his face up “What are you doing? I thought you hated letting your armor get dirty?” waving a hand in front of his nose.

“Don’t be so crass, this is just todays work. Ye can be sure it’ll get cleaned up before the days done. Besides, yer one ta talk. When’s the last time ya dirtied that new outfit yer wearin’?”

“So glad you noticed. Actually this is all on loan from a good friend of mine.”

“And here I thought yer friend remark was a silent plea. So you have friends afterall?” Abernacky asked not really caring.

“Who, Redorick? Actually he’s a pretty good friend. I used to do a bit of dungeon running with him back in the day” turning his head and poking his nose into the air haughtily, “but I admit it’s been quite awhile since I heard from him. What are you doing out here anyway, there’s got to be some…cleaner ways to make a living?”

“Not much real work is clean, outsid’a just buying an’ sellin’ at auction, and that’d take too much time away from my work.”

“Ahh yes, speaking of new armor, I haven’t seen you in that finery last month. I believe that is in part due to my ‘real’ work in getting you the resources you need from the Windmill Basement.” Mobly sarcastically punctuated, throwing a thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the Logar Windmill sitting behind him.

“Yes, but ya’d get more work if ya honed yer skills a bit more and that could make you more gold than ya get now. Not many ’round these parts no ya do good work…of the work ya can do.” Abernacky shot back, taking a nibble at the bait Mobly was dangling in front of him. “And I told ya, I can pay ya at the end of the months. I aint got any gold to pay ya or loan ya, if that’s what yer after.”

Mobly was amused by their banter, although he’d be lying if it didn’t twinge a little “Firstly I am doing just fine thank you. I may not be the best knight in the business…”
“Best knight? Try for slightly above mediocre.” Abernacky chortled

Eyes narrowing a bit and rasing his tone, Mobly repeated “I may not be the best knight but I get by just fine, and secondly” He inhaled sharply before finishing “I’ve been working a lot more on my priest studies.”

Abernacky gave him a sideways glare, one eyebrow raised with a cloud of approval in his eyes “So then why are ya here, an’ why now? I know you didn’t just stroll in for a visit to say ‘Hello good to see ya ole friend’?”

The trap was sprung, with bait gone, Mobly pulled a shiny object from a pocket with a smile, handing it to Abernacky in hushed excitement “Because of this.”

It was small and shiny with carvings on it. Mobly handed it to Abernacky. It was a badge