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The staff of gets together to bring you some behind the scenes insights on stories, the industry and the site itself.

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Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

Possible Canadian internet Woes

Posted by Stradden Monday January 31 2011 at 1:36PM
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I try very hard not to use this site as my own personal soap box. Generally speaking, politics divide gamers almost as much as the games themselves. Sure, I have my own personal opinions, but who doesn’t? frankly though, you guys don’t care about my views and I like it that way.

With all of that said though, I wanted to take a minute and address a concern that’s been growing here in my home country of Canada. It seems that the CRTC (a blessedly shortened name for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission), the branch of our government that regulates our entertainment, has given the green light to a proposal that would allow our cable companies, and more importantly our internet service providers, the right to charge per byte for internet usage... you know, the same way that the phone companies charge for 3G access.  

As a gamer, and a general internet user, I take exception to even the vaguest idea that I should have to spend more, above and beyond my monthly internet bill, to continue to enjoy the same things that I’ve had access to without additional fees since the internet came into existence.

I know the argument: Why should grandma next door pay the same amount for enough bandwidth to check tomorrow’s weather and emails from the grandkids as I do to surf YouTube, play AAA MMOs, and do any of the other thousand and one download intensive activities I do on a daily basis?  

My answer is this: Grandma’s internet usage is behind the times, I’m not ahead of them. If ISPs want to give Granny a break on her rates, then I have no problem with that, but don’t punish me for using the internet the same way that the rest of the world does.

In any case, I’m not going to bore you with details that don’t affect many of you. I just wanted to point those of you who are interested toward a group that’s trying to do something about this:

Community Spotlight: Largest Scale/Best PvP?

Posted by MikeB Thursday January 27 2011 at 11:22AM
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This week’s Community Spotlight focuses on the thread “Largest scale PvP/Best PvP?” by Greymoor. In the thread, Greymoor asserts that Darkfall has the largest scale and best PvP offerings out of all the games out there, but he’s got an open mind, so he asks the community if they feel any other games offer better PvP:

This of course discounts EvE which has massive fights but it's not the same as physically controlling your character.

I believe Darkfall has the largest and best PvP scene out of all the currently released MMOs, are there any MMO's you'd put up out there as simular sized / action packed PvP?

Aion came close to the size of the actual PvP but we all know those fortress battles were just one sided lag fests.

Never played a game with better PvP than DF. WoW and Aion had good PvP but it was of a different type and didn't get the adrenline going.

So what say you? Are there better PvP games out there?

Mortal Online promised something simular although less PvP based. (The game still needs work though)

Astoria agrees that Darkfall has some solid PvP, though he notes that Warhammer Online also offered some good PvP fun:

Darkfall definitely can have some good city fights. The only other game that has been consistently fun large scale PvP recently for me is Warhammer. Unlike DF, you can be constantly in PvP and that is how you level mainly. However, no loot, kinda just respawn fairly close by for most maps and run back so there isn't much virtual fear as much as DF and definitely no death penalty like EVE.

I was in keep fights in Aion near launch, but they were 100% a numbers game imo. There is zero skill in building your character, just RNG and time. WAR at least has different ways you can roll.

Looking forward to Earthrise. It has the tools to allow largescale PvP, but lag etc hasn't really been tested. Right now they're on a sortof temp test server even.

Axehilt feels that PlanetSide offered the best large scale PvP, but doesn’t really feel that any of the current crop of MMOs are worth any accolades as far as “best PvP” goes:

Best large-scale PVP: Planetside

Best PVP: I find the best PVP in LOL currently (and in the past from FPSes, fighting games, and RTSes.)

Personally I feel it's sort of a joke to call it "PVP" when fights are completely pre-determined like they are in DF or EVE, where there's no interesting decisions to be made during the fight.  All of the important decisions are made before the fight, and tend to be so abstract or bland that they're not very interesting (basically (a) mass more friends, and/or (b) accumulate more wealth/progression.)

But some people like the zerg and grind.

I like when combat is an interesting match of wits and skill with my opponent.  Completely different from what you find in DF/EVE.

Stridar feels the game “Rising Force Online” offers both some of the best and largest scale PvP:

Rising Force online had some very fun, very large scale PvP that I have to rank up there with my PvP fights in AC, SB, DF, Dark Age of Camelot and Eve.   I can't believe some people answered WoW PvP....what?

For biggest fights that I've personally been in it's been Rising Force with a few hundred player on 3 different sides.  The most fun pvp would probably be some of the smaller 20-25 people groups in Shadowbane.

What others have said about Eve is completely true, I'm still learning it so i can't say to  much about it.  It's easy to see that just selecting a target and hitting orbit at a certain distance is not the way to win a fight.

Currently, I prefer the PvP in DC Universe Online, though I used to be a WAR junkie. On a PvP server in DCUO the entire concrete jungle of Gotham City is my playground, and the quest design lends itself well to facilitating some random large scale (and action packed) street fights. Kicking a guy in the teeth so he flies off a building and then comboing him all the way down to ground level is an experience you really can’t get anywhere else!

Oscar Season for Games?

Posted by BillMurphy Tuesday January 25 2011 at 8:56PM
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The Oscar noms were announced today.  Pretty predictable stuff all around, minus the nomination of John Hawkes (which is an awesome notion).  Oddly Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) got a nod too.  I honestly didn’t know he was in anything this year.  But the guy’s got the chops, so I’m okay with it.  I’ll admit, sadly, that I’ve only seen Black Swan so far this year out of all ten nominations.  Yep, I haven't even seen inception.  I've been busy getting married... and other... things.  Something tells me with everything going on over the next few months in work and IRL, I won’t be seeing True Grit or The King’s Speech (though I wish I already had).

But this whole Oscar stuff got me thinking… when is gaming going to get beyond the rather ridiculous Spike Awards and try something a little more prestigious?  The GDC Awards are pretty much the closest thing the gaming industry has to the Oscars, yet they don’t seem to get enough coverage by the gaming media.  Sites like ourselves give out awards based on player votes, and the Spike Awards take votes on nominated games as well.  So I think there’s plenty of player-represented picks out there.

There’s just not enough attention on what the industry insiders themselves think is exemplary in their field any given year.  GDC is right around the corner.  We’ll be there covering the event.  I’m sure most gaming sites will.  And while I know that recognition isn’t the goal of game developers, like film the hundreds and thousands of people who make our precious entertainment pieces deserve a little more props.

Community Spotlight: Seamless Building Interiors?

Posted by MikeB Thursday January 20 2011 at 10:31AM
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This week's Community Spotlight focuses on the thread "Why no seamless building interiors?" by jusomdude. In the thread, jusomdude wonders, well, why aren't there seamless building interiors in MMOs these days!?

After playing the superhero games or any game with large cities I've noticed that you can't seamlessly go into every building.

I think it would be a ton of work to make every building with an interior but why has no game done this?

GTwander feels object loading is the main barrier to accomplishing such a feat:

Object loading.

SWG had it to where you can enter basically any structure in towns, and every time you went into one there was a major hiccup where the game tried to load all the deco objects in the place. If you go to player towns you could enter any house that allowed you to, then exit, and enter others. Eventually you'd lag yourself out with the thousands of objects taken into consideration, even while outside of them.

To do something like this in modern games there would have to be a distinct lack of clutter, almost sterile environments. People would bitch about that in and of itself. "Sure you can enter any room in the game, but there is nothing there!". There would be hell to pay if there was that many objects + physics as well.

Even single-player games like Oblivion went the load in/out route for this very reason. It optimizes performance.

Axehilt feels it is an issue of efficiency:

Strikes me more as an efficiency issue.  I'm sure a game programmer would say, "It's possible, but it'll take x hours of my team's time.  And that's x less hours we can spend on other features."

General development technology increases won't really change that, unless it was technology which specifically applies to seamless interiors.  (which might happen if some game company gets it in their head to stubbornly implement it no matter what, and then shares their learnings.  It happens.)

Explorium asserts that this wasn't even an issue back in the day, that it is really contemporary MMOs that are deficient in this area:

Because older MMOs were more advanced than new MMOs. In UO and Asheron's Call and Istaria (Horizons), I could enter any building I wanted without a loading screen. Think oldschool SWG did too.

New MMOs are greatly devolved from the oldschool MMOs. Technology for MMOs went backwards.

Servers are much lower quality too, cause in UO/SWG/AC/Istaria I can/could meet anyone from all over the world, but new MMOs can't do that because technology is too bad today to support that. EVE is only exception to that.

We aren't actually in 2011, we are going back in time. At least as far as MMOs are concerned.

I too feel it has more to do with efficiency than anything else. Creating a mass of interiors especially in a modern era MMO with tons of buildings would be a lot of work and more specifically, art time, something that is at a premium during MMO development.

As another user noted, The Matrix Online tried this using technology they developedf or the game that allowed for randomly generated interiors to be built within the game's many many buildings. It was really cool being able to run into any building, but it was pretty obvious that they were lifeless and not created by hand, so I am not sure it was really worth doing it that way.

What are your thoughts on the lack of seamless building interiors? Share 'em in the comments below!

DC Universe: NFL Commercial Spot

Posted by garrett Monday January 17 2011 at 12:26PM
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The best part about being a gamer and a Football fan is breaking stereotypes. I have been both for years a hardcore gamer and a NY Giants fan. Yes I know they are out of the playoffs and had a rough run at the end of the season, but I am not here to talk about that. I am here to talk about how things have changed over the years and we are now seeing video games pick up commercial spots during NFL games.
Many times football and gaming are not something you can use or say in the same sentence, but lately and this year especially we are seeing more and more games reach out to new audiences and the newer fan base of football may be picking up their games to play against the hardcore of us all.
Both World of Warcraft and DC Universe have now shown commercials on TV during major NFL games. This might translate into an eventual Super Bowl commercial for an MMO. Yesterday while watching the Jets and Patriots game it was great to see a DC Universe commercial pop up. Working with the DC Universe team on coverage and playing the game made me happy to see it on TV during one of my favorite sports.
I have talked about how gaming continues to become more accepted in popular culture and while this generation still uses the terms nerd or geek, eventually these stereotypes will go away and gaming, comics, anime, etc. will just become normal. This is not happening any time soon, but if you were living back in the 1980s and saw a Dungeons & Dragons commercial come on during a football game, I think everyone would be in shock.
That shock is gone and the more we get games into pop culture, the more we will see bigger audiences and fans stepping into virtual worlds to battle it out. That is never bad and will keep our market alive for a long time to come.   

Community Spotlight: Crafting: Does Every MMO Need It?

Posted by MikeB Thursday January 13 2011 at 4:59PM
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This week's Community Spotlight focuses on the thread "Why even have crafting in every game?" by Gintoh. In the thread, Gintoh wonders why MMO developers feel obligated to include crafting in their games:

Obviously in sandbox game it's a must as you're supposed to feel you're in a world.

But some people complain that the crafting sucks in a themepark game about gear grinding, and it's like why does it matter if you can get way better gear from raiding? Why really even bother having drafting in say WoW or a better example DDO? Why is it a must?

lizardbones addresses the WoW portion of the OP's question, and touches upon the purpose of crafting in Rift as well:

In WoW, you need something to break the monotony of what you're doing. Even if the thing breaking the monotony is more monotonous that what you were trying to break up. There are very few crafted items that are better than what you can get from drops. I think Inscriptions are the only player supplied items in the game.

In Rift, it's a source of quests and XP, along with some gear that's better than what you'd get from quests, or it fills in gear slots that you don't get from quests.

ericbelser feels that if a developer doesn't feel the need to add depth to their game's crafting system, they may just be better off not doing it at all:

I have to agree that if you aren't going to do a crafting system with any depth then there is little reason for every game to include it. Many of the current themeparks seem to have a crafting system tossed in just, "because they had to have one".

Personally, I'd rather have a sandbox type game with a serious crafting system, but I know I would find some of themeparks more enjoyable if they just got rid of the wasted systems. Toss out all the "junk" loot that serves as nothing but cumbersome coin tokens; get rid of crafting that has no depth or personality.

I agree that crafting isn't a necessary feature to be included with every MMO. If it fits, sure, there is a segment of MMO gamers who enjoy nothing more than a good crafting system and I wholeheartedly believe that those gamers should be catered to when appropriate, the issue is its not always appropriate for every game to have such a crafting system. MMORPGs as they were traditionally defined were a lot easier to describe, but today that definition is changing constantly and there are tons of different games that are categorized as MMO that don't necessarily fit within the typical MMO mold, but this doesn't make them any less of an MMO.

Take DC Universe Online, for example. Many users are commenting that the game has no crafting and so really combat is the only activity available in the game. To that I say: so what? It's just not that kind of game, you jump in, kick some heads in and get out. There is room for all sorts of games in the MMO market, and developers shouldn't all feel the need to include crafting. Cryptic Studios tried to design Champions Online with an MMO bullet list (including crafting) and many things really didn't fit the game. No use in trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

What are your thoughts on the necessity of crafting systems in MMOs?

Grinding My Gears - NGE

Posted by Stradden Wednesday January 12 2011 at 9:59AM
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I didn’t want to get into the habit of using my blog to post rant-like entries, but I find myself once again feeling the need to put fingers to keys and talk about something that’s, to steal directly from Family Guy, Grinding My Gears.

This week, I want to talk about something I can’t even believe I’m still talking about six freaking years later. The New Game Experience added without player consultation or warning to Star Wars Galaxies.

Now, let me start by saying that I think making a sweeping change to your game suddenly is bad. I think it’s a thousand times worse when players are left in the dust feeling as though they’ve had something snatched away from them because they weren’t consulted or given proper warning. I think it’s a mistake of epic proportions that should never, ever, be repeated in the industry.

Still, that hasn’t stopped the events of over five years ago from coming to the forefront yet again in numerous attacks against Sony Online Entertainment’s newest title, DC Universe Online.

I’ve read comments from people trashing the game and then saying that they won’t touch another SOE game after the “travesty” of the NGE. I’ve read about how people will “never forget” the NGE, and I’ve read the comments from people who feel that SOE should be disbanded as a company for their heinous crime... five years ago.

I’m going to say some things now. These are things that have been eating away at me for ages so I’m just going to say them:

  • It was five years ago, SOE is a completely different looking company now, with new people and new faces and new input in the decision making process.
  • John Smedley, SOE’s CEO, has apologized for the mistake and has stated publicly that it wouldn’t happen again.
  • Continuing, after five years, to spam every thread related to an SOE game with NGE hate isn’t productive, and it isn’t “helping” anyone. Anyone who knows about the NGE, already knows about it and probably thinks it was stupid and anyone who doesn’t know, doesn’t care about a single incident that happened five years ago and has been apologized for.

Please keep in mind that I’m not suggesting that DCUO should be free from criticism. it shouldn’t. While I actually like the game, there are plenty of areas for folks who want to complain to have legitimate complaints about it. The combat system is different, the UI has a trimmed down for console feel to it, the quests (if broken down only into their mechanics) can be repetitive, and more.

So, like I said, telling people that you don’t like DCUO because of that thing that SOE did half a decade ago just doesn’t make any sense. f you want to be angry about it, that’s entirely your call, but honestly, and I speak for a large number of others who read this site: I don’t want to hear about it anymore. Let it go, at least publicly.

Community Spotlight: Do You Still Roleplay?

Posted by MikeB Thursday January 6 2011 at 5:29PM
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This week's Community Spotlight focuses on the thread "Do people actually ROLEPLAY anymore?" by Suilebhain. Simple and straightforward, Suilebhain recalls his heyday of roleplaying back in Dark Age of Camelot and wonders if anyone in the community still roleplays in MMOs:

I recall the good old days of DAOC where, on the roleplay servers, nearly everyone roleplayed to some degree, even if it was just to say "Hail". Almost never did I encounter people who would approach my elf with their lurikeen and say "whatup dude?" Later, SWG provided a similar, even expanded immersive experience, as player cities became hubs of roleplay activity  where you could wander into a cantina and find people ready, willing and able to engage in improvisational roleplay nearly any time of the day or night.

Now, though, finding anything resembling a roleplay community that approaches that of Albion/Percival or the entire Nimue server is like finding hen's teeth. Not even on roleplay servers in alleged MMORPGS do people roleplay. I know this all started with WOW and the absurd and infamous Barrens Chat, but it has speard and now nowhere provides a welcoming place for people who prefer a greater level of immersion.

My most recent escapade came about in Runes of Magic. F2P games attract the most casual of players, but on the unofficial RP server there were only a few guilds and no casual roleplay that I could find. The folks in the guilds seemed like nice enough people, but the majority of their interaction was spent in an OOC channel labeled RP, which really was just a sign to those seeking others who enjoyed RP rather than providing any true outlet. There were little to no in-game opportunities to roleplay, as there was back in DAOC and SWG.

So, is it time to drop the RPG from MMORPG and just call it MMO.Com? Do people even value random roleplay ex periences or is it all about gear/level acquisition (AKA Achievement), raiding, and PvP?

Randomt had some luck with RPing in Age of Conan, but feels that MUDs may be a better outlet:

When AOC came out, I joined the RP server (usually tends to have slightly less douchebags on them, among other things), and ended up joining some heavy duty RP guild.. There were a number of those at the time.. and that wasn't all that long ago.

I guess being on an RP server helped though lol

MUDs were much more conductive to RP I think, but that's easier with a much smaller player base, although at the time there was no such thing as an mmorpg, really.

thamighty213 feels RP is missing not only due a change in the playerbase but the design of the games themselves:

Sadly its becoming less and less of a art form but its not just the people its the games.

So many games have mapped our backstory our lives our destiny that fitting role playing in is difficult in the past we where plonked in a world with no story to our character no clear route to our destiny we simply existed and everything about us was to be imagined.

The old SWG ad always sums it up well for me bah cant remember how it went now something along the lines of "The greatest Star Wars story never told - YOURS!!"

Thats exactly how it worked it was our story which activeley encouraged RP a entire backstory a imagined destiny family and whetever else you can come with.

Its harder to RP in the modern non sandbox gearfests as the tools, community are not there and the game has already provided reasons as to why we are there what we are doing these things for etc etc

Oddly on that same hand I think TOR with its overabundance of storytelling may well be the saviour of RP from what I'm seeing it spins a good yarn but never to the point of you here for this reason and this reason alone your doing this for this reason and this reason alone.

Its character creation allows 1 of 3 generic backstory's that you can do what you will with.

Lidane takes issue with the idea that the potential for RP is really only present in sandbox games:

It's entirely possible to create your own character story within the framework of someone else's world. Using LOTRO as an example again, Frodo's quest to destroy the One Ring was only one story among the entire mythology of Middle Earth that Tolkien created. There's a whole lot of room to move in terms of finding a place within that world. And just because we know how Frodo's story ends, that doesn't mean we know the way that the life of an individual Hobbit, Elf, or Rohirrim might end.

City of Heroes/Villains lends itself to a whole lot of roleplay, since you can write and create entire story arcs for your characters with the Mission Architect system.

Roleplay isn't the exclusive domain of the sandbox game. It CAN be done in "theme park" games too. It just takes actual knowledge of the lore you're dealing with and being able to carve out your own niche within it.

Ah, roleplay, a subject dear to my heart. I have a long history of online RPing dating as far back to the goofy stuff that went on on AOL back in the 90's. This naturally led me to MUDs, which, as another user noted, are quite conducive to good RP. The communities are often fairly small, and if you have a knack for writing it's pretty easy to to put together a good scene.

MMOs on the other hand, a lot of their potential for RP depends on how much the developers value that sort of gameplay. A lot of the RP is dependent on the tools provided to the player as MMOs are entirely visual. Sure you can just stand there lifelessly and emote, but it really takes you out of the experience. With MUDs, you didn't have to worry about that.

To this day, games such as Star Wars Galaxies offer great tools to roleplayers, especially in recent years. SOE has improved upon the kinds of props and costumes players can use to put on their own events, really allowing players to create much more believable scenes. Of course, the emote issue is still there but that isn't something easily overcome.

The Matrix Online was also an RPers paradise, as the emote issue was somewhat addressed through the use of many interactive emotes, and the game's unique setting and use of live-event content made the game's storyline and characters more malleable. Indeed, I once found myself  on the top floor of a high-rise participating in a secret meeting with Morpheus, or in an underground meeting with Niobe and other prominent guild leaders and players. That sort of thing really brought players who appreciated that sort of thing into the experience.

Beyond the games, I do think it is true that roleplayers are definitely in the minority of the MMO playing populace and it is pretty easy to find yourself ridiculed as a freak for partaking in it, but I'd say a lot of that has to do with the goofier roleplayers who do it only to cyber with what is hopefully someone of the opposite sex, or those who do it just to be annoying.

When I first started playing MMOs all I really wanted to do was replicate my MUDding RP experiences in them, but I found it was nigh impossible to do this and I must admit I've pretty much given up on the idea. I'm older now and honestly most of the RP I've found was not really that good anyways (with a few exceptions, shout out to the Mos Eisley community on Europe-Chimaera from way back!) and now I focus more on PvP gameplay.

What's your take on RP in MMOs these days? Are you currently RPing in any MMOs? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below!

Grinding My Gears - DCUO

Posted by Stradden Wednesday January 5 2011 at 11:29AM
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Ya know what’s been grinding my gears lately? People who have been complaining that DC Universe Online doesn’t conform to what an MMORPG should be. Folks, come on: it’s massive, it’s multiplayer, it’s online and while it’s not a traditional RPG in terms of its combat system, it certainly is an RPG in terms of character and advancement.

I mean fine, if you’re an old school purist who doesn’t like anything that isn’t a wide open sandbox, then sure, slag on the game cause it’s not for you. But for those people out there who play other modern MMOs, but have decided for some reason to attack DCUO, I just don’t get it.

I was actually impressed with DCUO in its open-world MMORPG feel. Instead of shuffling players from instance to instance with some shallow semblance of a social hub, a large number of quests take place in the open world, alongside other heroes and villains.

The abilities that players have to choose from are relatively diverse for a new MMORPG. Sure, it doesn’t boast the most expansive ability trees, but there’s some choice there.

The biggest argument that I’ve heard as to why DCUO “isn’t an MMO” is because players’ hotbars only allow for six slotted abilities at any given time rather than the traditional metric crap-ton of abilities that players have available to them in most MMOs.

This bothers me. Not so much because it’s a style that some people don’t like. I completely understand it being a taste thing. What bothers me is that so many people are quick to point to this as a major flaw in the game, a way that it was “dumbed down” for consoles and a reason that DCUO isn’t really an MMO.

Here’s the thing folks: Like it or not, this is innovation, something that our industry desperately needs if it wants to stay relevant on the video game scene and that  MMORPG players have been screaming and yelling for for years.

I guess what i’m trying to say here is that you don’t get to call DCUO “not an MMO” and then turn around and complain that the current batch of MMOs are painfully cookie-cutter and all Wow clones. you may not like it, but DCUO is taking an innovative approach to MMO design and whether or not you approve of the direction, you should probably give some kind of respect to the fact that they’re doing it.

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