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MMORPG.com Staff Blog

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

Author: staffblog

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

Community Spotlight - Grouping

Posted by MikeB Saturday February 25 2012 at 4:50PM
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In this week's Community Spotlight, we focus on the thread "Know what I miss in mmo's? Grouping" by Siveria. Again, a fairly straightforward topic, Siveria discusses how he misses being required to group in MMOs outside of dungeon play:

Before you say "well mmo's these days have partying/grouping" I mean grouping where its required outside of dungeons to level up etc. The last game that I have played that was like this was ff11, I've played pretty much every mmo thats come out for the last 11 or 12 years. Most of them were bascally single player games with a glorifed chat room till the end. Recently ff11 lost this aspect to it when they made it piss easy to level, you still can group but now you can solo nearly as fast (least outside of abbysea). Personally I think the point to a mmo should be partying and interaction as its main focus, sadly most just have grouping at endgame or in dungeons, because its just not needed anywhere else.

Am I the only one who misses this aspect of mmo's? I've felt mmo's have bascally become glorifed single player games, with worthless "endgame" and no real goal to hit max level. What happened to the old mmo's? where it was about the journey and not the destination like it is now. I can't be the only one who misses those times... Also WoWtards and current gen mmorpg players please don't bother replying because you'll have no damned idea what I am talking about in the older mmo's, this is for the oldbies who have started playing mmo's way before wow.

Is Siveria alone in this feeling? Read on to find out!

Quizzical takes a more practical approach to the issue, noting the fact that many gamers simply don't have the time to set up groups these days:

The problem is when people who only have half an hour or an hour to play are forced to spend half of that time looking for a group before they can do anything.  If a game is only really playable by people who can set aside chunks of hours at a time every single time they play, then that's a very small potential customer base.  Far too many games assumed that players would magically find a group, without putting any real thought into how players would find a group--or in some cases, actively trying to make it harder for players to find a group.

Instead, what you need to do is to take a good grouping system like that of Spiral Knights, and then put it into a real MMORPG rather than a somewhat, kinda, not really an MMORPG like Spiral Knights.  And then you can require grouping without breaking the game.

Reizla agrees with the OP, recalling fond memories of more group-oriented MMOs, though not without some caveats:

I agree with OP completely. Moet (newer) MMO's lack grouping big-time and by now I've given up on finding groups in the 'open world' by now *is sad*

Lineage II (before the Goddess of Destruction) used to have some interesting party area's (both full party and smaller party) both in the open field as well as in dungeons (also the non-instanced ones), but with the coming of GoD that's kinda gone as well, unless you're 85+ and go to Harnak or ar 90+ the Gardens of Genesis or do the (daily) dungeons. The rest is all solo now :(

On the other hand, Aion still has area's that's a forced party area, which you have to go through to progress. And here we have a design flaw at lower levels where you hardly can go through them because of the lack of players around your level (I hope this problem will be solved soon when Aion goes F2P)

But in general, there are little to no 'open world' parties required anymore these days in MMORPG's. At times I'm wondering where the Mass of MMORPG has gone...

Kaneth feels that when looking ahead, Guild Wars 2 may offer a happy middle ground for most gamers:

GW2 seens like it could strike a happy medium between the two. When someone else is in the area doing the same thing you are, you form an adhoc group. Sure, you're not grouped, but the dynamic event will scale because the both of you are there. It's not forced grouping, but it doesn't detract from grouping either.

My wife and I have been leveling together in WoW on the alliance side (we're both horde normally). The thing I have found is that not only does grouping slow down your leveling rate, but there are also quests where one of us will interact with a NPC and the other can't do a thing with him for the duration. So we're having to repeat certain steps of quests. That's really annoying.

Grouping should NEVER be detrimental in a mmo, from a mechanics stand point, it should always add something to the experience. That's what's been lost when most mmos became solo friendly themeparks.

I really hope the GW2 system actually works the way they intend it to, and if so, that other developers will catch on.

Personally, I have fond memories of what forced or natural inclinations to group can bring to an MMO. This notion of wandering through these large worlds alone and simply consuming content with only the possibility of grouping with others later doesn't really hit at the potential of what the MMO genre can offer. This sort of idea can be accomplished in a singleplayer RPG designed for co-operative play (see: Borderlands).

MMOs offer the potential for much more. It's true that many of the older games did a pretty good job at showing us what the genre could be capable of, but the reality users such as Quizzal outlined in this thread is also true. It's easy to  fondly look back at the memories and the friendships that undoubtedly could have only been formed in these games that required us to actually interact, but I think a few of us  forget the pains of putting many of these groups together. Perhaps when we were younger and had more time for that sort of thing it may have been a nuisance many of us could tolerate in the name of community, but it is a very real issue for MMO designs that frquently force grouping upon players.

Kaneth made an excellent point about Guild Wars 2, in that implied grouping around these dynamic events may help forge friendships and encourage social interaction, which I think really cuts at what many are looking for. People don't need to look for each other, they simply need to come together around the content that is quite literally coming to them. Making grouping easier or even seamless is what I feel to be the right approach to this issue. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater as we have over the last few years has been understandably frustrating for those of us who recognize what this genre is capable of. Hopefully games like Guild Wars 2 can get it right and set a new precedent for the attitude towards grouping in MMOs.

What are your thoughts on grouping? Share 'em in the comments below!

Thoughts on GW2's Beta Changes

Posted by BillMurphy Tuesday February 21 2012 at 9:24AM
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After a long weekend of playing, I just sat down and read the ArenaNet team's latest blog about changes that will be showing up in later stages of Guild Wars 2's beta process.  What I gathered, is that these changes are coming, or are mostly in already.  In either case, let's talk about each a little bit in a quick blog-like fashion, shall we?

THE DOWNED AND DEFEATED STATE

Eric Flannum starts off by talking a bit on changes to the down and defeated state.  Namely, the most important thing is that the fourth skill you have when "downed" and near death is changing to a self-heal that's interrupted by damage.  There was one time during the game this past weekend where I killed an enemy right as it killed me.  There was no one around, no one to heal me, and no way to rally myself via the downed system.  With the change Eric mentions, this situation won't happen again, as I'll be able to rally myself via this fourth healing skill.  A very nice and convenient change indeed.  

I also like that they're tweaking the death penalty to reflect how many times you've been down and how it affects your time to rally when downed.  Not only that but the armor penalty won't start affecting you until one piece breaks.  When your armor is damaged, it'll serve as a warning that you should get it fixed before you start feeling the lack of mitigation granted by that piece of armor. Now, ANet, just make it so that the dungeons each have one repair point, or allow players to buy repair kits and we'll be set.  

THE COMPASS

This is such a little change, but a helpful one.  Basically, they've made it so you can drag around the map on the compass display, draw lines on it for group coordination, and zoom in and out with the mousewheel.  I don't know if this was in during the weekend, but I'm excited to use it next time without always having to bring up my map.

META-EVENTS

I was under the impression these were already in!  But maybe this is just a notice that more are coming.  There was one series of Norn events that started with protecting some people from crazed Grawl, then moved into a scholar searching the frozen lake for reasons why the Grawl are attacking, and culminated in one of the most epic battles I've seen in an open world.  As I started the event, it was just a few of us. As it ended, there were dozens, all working together, reviving each other, and trying to down this insanely powerful Svanir Shaman who'd been negatively affecting the area.  If this is just a sign of the events we're in for with the rest of the game, the content in GW2 is going to be nuts.

HIDDEN TREASURES

I mentioned one of this in my preview about the Shaman Rookery in the Norn starting zone.  In short, they're little areas that are off the beaten path, may not have an event tied to them, but provide you with potentially awesome rewards and bragging rights... if you've got the patience and will to make it through.  Shaman Rookery... remember that.  And be ready to hunt for more in future beta events and launch.

BOONS AND CONDITIONS

This is also good news, that Boons and Conditions (buffs and debuffs) will be getting increased visibility and more straightforward math applied to them.  Basically, you see in your skill descriptions that buffs are applied, but it takes some time for the average player to realize what they do. With these changes, those effects will be more apparent from the start and it should make players realize what they can do to help themselves and others more quickly.  Namely: regeneration and defense boons, and stacking poisons and bleeds to down enemies quicker.  In all, these are the things that replace straight up support and healing classes in the game, as every profession has access to the boons and conditions of their own and needs to use them wisely.  

GW2 has a learning curve, even for seasoned MMO veterans.  And these changes will make that curve less steep for sure.

 

 

Guild Wars 2: PvP: Why 'Progression' Doesn't Matter

Posted by MikeB Monday February 20 2012 at 5:11PM
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In perusing our Guild Wars 2 forums today, I came upon an excellent thread by Ishan-shade. In the thread, Ishan-shade discusses his concern over GW2's lack of progression when it comes to PvP. After the last few years of MMOs, I think many players are going to find themselves strongly pondering this themselves, which is actually a good thing. Many of us have had what an MMO 'should be' like ingrained in us over many years, and ArenaNet is looking to challenge a lot of these MMO tropes with Guild Wars 2. I wanted to respond to Ishan-shade, but as I began writing it I realized my response was a bit more in-depth than I initially thought it would be, and thus a blog entry is born!

Ishan-shade:

Well to answer your question I guess I want to grind for gear to be competative in PvP. I dont pve, too me thats my progession, attaining new gear, skills to make me a better pvper. So the only poin to pvp in gw2 is for some title and or ranking or something?  Dont get me wrong those are cool bonuses I guess, but hell I want to pvp and get better gear!

Is there even a reason for me to lvl lol?

For structured PvP, there are rolling tournaments going on all the time with qualifiers that can earn you entry into monthly or annual tournaments for real bragging rights, for example. Winning some best PvPer of the Year honor seems like something more interesting to strive for (even if you don't make it THAT far) than a set of gear that says you've put in the time to earn it. You can't simply put in the time to qualify and win the highest level of PvP tournament the game offers, you just have to be that good. I think this sets players apart much more than a set of gear would.

Examples of the tournaments GW2 will feature:

  • Pickup Tournaments: These single-elimination tournaments wait for 8 teams to join before starting. Once they start, they go through 3 rounds of eliminations, with winners receiving qualifier points.
  • Monthly Tournaments: For monthly tournaments, you'll need a certain amount of qualifier points to join.
  • Yearly Tournaments: These grand tournaments feature the winners from the monthly tournaments slugging it out for the right to call themselves the best PvP players of the year.
  • Player-Run Tournaments: These tournaments will be customized by players, allowing for great flexibility and unique bragging rights.

'Grinding' a set of gear doesn't make you any better of a PvPer than the next guy, it just shows you both have been playing long enough and put in the time to earn it. What it DOES often do is create a disparity between new PvP blood and old PvP blood, more often than not to the detriment of the overall PvP game. Depending on the game, the best PvPer in the world simply can't overcome a player decked out in the best PvP gear in the game. Look at RR gear in WAR. You basically can't even participate in T4 RVR without RR65+ gear. Many players currently stay in T3 as long as possible so they have a fighting chance in T4.

For WvW, I think ArenaNet may be looking to tap into that long-lost sense of realm pride. In GW2's case, it's server pride, but it's essentially the same thing. MMOs have been missing this for some time now. I'm not sure what individual-focused rewards WvW may offer, but I find the concept of a living, breathing campaign between three servers over a course of two weeks to be particularly compelling on its own. The fight doesn't end when you log off. I've got notions of checking my GW2 Mobile App obsessively while being away from the game in order to check on the status of my server's war effort. I'm not sure if this is one of the functiionalities of the Mobile App, but it should be!

Securing victory for your server won't be as simple as winning some major skirmish against one of your enemies, but a long protracted campaign that is almost certain to create intense server rivalries and possibly even some politics. When wins or losses are settled within a short period of time it's easy to forget them. Consider how hard-fought a win will have to be over a two week campaign against two other servers and I think you may find yourself appreciative of this accomplishment more than you would some piece of gear, especially when a significant chunk of your server population is involved in the overall effort. These are the sorts of things that MMOs were made to foster, and it's why many remember DAOC so fondly. These are fights bigger than the individual, and potentially provide opportunities for guilds (large and small) to really make their mark. I don't know how successful ANET will be at executing on this aspiration, but in my opinion, they are at least aiming at the right target.

This is the sort of stuff that sets MMOs apart and can't be replicated in other genres. It's a design that focuses on the community building aspects of it all at its heart, which is really the 'hot feature' many MMOs have seem to have let slip by the wayside over the last few years. You can add MMO-esque progression to games like Call of Duty, but you can't create the opportunities for real community like you can with an MMO. I get the idea ArenaNet wholeheartedly embraces this significant advantage of the MMO genre, and is looking to leverage it in every way possible with Guild Wars 2, including its PvP offerings.

What are your thoughts? Share 'em in the comments below!

Community Spotlight: Importance of Character Customization

Posted by MikeB Saturday February 18 2012 at 4:16PM
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In this week's Community Spotlght, we focus on the thread "The importance of character customization" by Findariel. In the thread, Findariel grades the customization options offered in a number of popular MMOs and polls the MMORPG.com community on their value of good customization options:

Firstly I must admit I´m probably one of the most character oriented players around. I simply love to have characters that can look and dress like I want them to do. For me, immersion stops when my character looks horrible and animations look embarrassing.

Thus there´s not a lot of games to choose from if that was my only criterion (fortunately it´s not):
WAR actually looked nice, I love the warhammer outfits and characters and outfits actually looked good from the start. Too bad the end game is all about an endless PvP grind and that at any given moment there was only 1 best oufit you could wear. What a waste of a very stylish game! My score: 6/10 (for stylishness)
WoW looked reasonable, initially I played humans as I hated the night elves look but I was very happy with blood elves and dranei. Gear looks weren't all that impressive; all the mixed (undyable) gears, you basically looked like a mess. The huge shoulderpads weren't my thing either. The tabards were ok though. My score: 5/10 (including a +1 for the barbershop)
Frankly LOTRO is horrible, customisaton options are very limited and they run very strange. If I were a develeoper I'd be too embarassed to release a game with animations like that! It' s the one reason I quit playing, I really couldn' t stand looking at it anymore. My score: 2/10
EVE has no characters that can interact or see each other, you' re basically a spaceship with a 2D picture as avatar. My score: 1/10
AoC doesn't have nice looking characters and the ridiculous big weapons really look a bit out of proportion imo. My score: 4/10
GW did an ok job in my opinion.  Especially after a few expansions and the unique possibility to mix all the faces and hairstyles and armor sets because stats and looks were not connected, you had quite a choice of decent and unique looking characters. "Toggle off" headgear and capes was another good thing. The possible styles were still a bit limited though, in my opinion most sets for one class (profession) still looked too much alike. My score: 7.5/10
Rift has very stale looking characters and you can only pick one face per race/gender, which is really very, very poor. The clothes are ok but don’t look very spectacular either. My score: 4.5/10

Why can't game designers start to lay some more emphasis on the character their players can make? GW has learned us that a lot of people even want to grind for vanity gear and special looks. I think asian game developers generally do a lot better job and their characters generally looks a lot better, although the options aren't always that extensive either.

Read on for the community's thoughts!

Four0six doesn't tend to care about character customization in gear based games:

In any gear based game I don't even bother to care about character customisation.

Why? Even if it's dyable, you and all your buddies/strangers will have the same 'clothes'....Ask any kid in highschool if that is cool.

I  L O V E D the character creation in the CIty series ( Heros/Villians/Going Rogue ), this in my opinion is REAL character creation. WIth a likelyhood of you NEVER encountering another who looks like you at all. But, here you have a game with NO gear, so unique characters can be bountiful.

Senjinn admits his vanity:

Vanity has always gotten the best of me. How my character looks has always been extremely important.

The worst character creation system imo was in Vanguard. The bodies always seemed disproportionate. Heads were always too big or too small. They had sliders but i still couldn't get things to look right. The best system was probably Aion. I only ever played the trial, but spent most of that time in character creation because the game itself didn't really appeal to me. Favorite character model of all time is definately gnomes in EQ2, the alternate appearance ones. The original models from EQ2 rank down near Vanguard but i thought they really made up for it with the alternate ones.

As far as armor goes most games have a lot of variety , so i can usually find something i like. The only game i can think of that was bad is Shadowbane. I only played for the first 6 months. So maybe it got better later on. I remember my bard having to run around in this frilly pink and purple costume , with a big funky looking hat with a feather in it. It made me look like Huggybear.

Datarin ties the importance of customization to what players actually do in a game:

I would argue that character customization is much more directly linked to what you do in a game as well; merely looks won't get you far, but the general look and feel of your character would bring you much further: roleplaying is just one such outlet. In that case, EVE would rank far above LOTRO and others. Vanity graphics are just what they are: vain and useless unless you add an emotional attachment to it.

It should come as no surprise to any of you who are familiar with my writing here that I also find good character customization to be 'extremely important'. I started playing games of this sort with MUDs, where I was always free to bring whatever character concepts I had to life, including what I imagined them to look like. I resisted jumping into the MMO genre for many years for the same reason many people feel a good book is better than a movie based off said book: imagination trumps all! It's partly for this reason that I feel a good character customization feature is extremely important for me to be able to enjoy a new MMO.

If I don't feel like my character is my own, it's hard for me to appreciate anything else the game has going on, though there are a few exceptions mostly dependent on the type of game. For example, I don't fault Dungeon Fighter Online for not having a robust character creation feature. In general, however, there's just nothing that bothers me more than feeling like I'm essentially playing 'Attack of the Clones'. I don't need every game to be City of Heroes-esque, but if I can see 50 duplicates of myself in a crowd, there's something definitely wrong.

What about you? How much do you value good character customization? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

SWTOR's Writer Laureate Deserves A Break

Posted by BillMurphy Friday February 17 2012 at 9:49AM
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Of course, something like this news about Drew Karpyshyn leaving the industry was bound to stir up some controversy.  But why?  Can't someone ever leave the industry without it creating a big fuss and doom and gloom posts?  I remember when Gaute Godager left Funcom.  I understand then why people created posts about the botched AoC launch.  It made sense, given what Craig Morrison was able to do to turn around Anarchy Online (and now AoC).  That sort of thing was very clearly about a person leaving a team because they needed to hand over the reins to more capable folks.  But this business about Drew K.? It's not exactly something to get riled up about.

The man has been making a living for years now crafting other people's worlds.  He's written content for games that we've all loved and adored, and helped make BioWare the studio that is known for their stories over all else.  But, ask Daniel Erickson (who is the lead on SWTOR's story content): creating stories for games isn't easy.  It's not like writing a novel.  It's painful, arduous, and absolutely brain-wracking work (not to mention the carpal tunnel).  Maybe, just maybe, Drew wanted to back out of videogame writing to focus on his own worlds and novel writing career?

He's still writing novels for BioWare as he posted the blog announcement of his departure from the game side of things.  But he's worked at BioWare writing games for twelve years... as someone who once entertained the notion of being a novelist, I know the the lure that Drew must be feeling to really focus on his own work, something entirely of his own creation, once more.  There comes a time when the ideas in your head are just too strong to be ignored.  He's been writing what he's been told to write for over a decade, he's earned a hell of a living from it.  Maybe now he just wants to have total and complete control over the tales he tells.

So instead of getting all crazy-eyed about what this means for EA, BioWare, and SWTOR (hint - they lose a great writer, and that's all) instead let's focus on wishing Drew well in his new writing adventures and eagerly await the sorts of worlds he crafts on his own.

A Weekend of TERA - What Say You?

Posted by BillMurphy Monday February 13 2012 at 12:35PM
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So the first western Beta Preview Weekend of TERA has come and gone.  Our own Hillary "Pokket" Nicole streamed a great deal of her playtime last night (and sick no less!).  You can see a highlight from that session HERE.  

I've played the game myself at a few shows, but those are always during very tightly controlled press demos where we're playing within the confines of a dungeon and not out in the game world proper.  This past weekend was largely the first time a lot of us got to see what the real game will play like, and franky... I'm a little suprised and then not.  

I love the look of this game, and from my short amounts of time with it, I love the combat as well.  It plays wonderfully with both a mouse and KB or an Xbox Controller.  I'm not keen on the Asian-influenced art, but I can get over that if the game's able to grab a hold of me with its systems.  That's where this beta weekend and all of the streams left me hanging.

Because while we got to see players play up to level 22, fight BAMs (Big-Ass Monsters) and test out crafting... we didn't get to see much in the way of PVP, the political system, or dungeons and raids.  We saw some very standard questing, a lot of "collect this, kill that", and static towns with NPCs galore.  In short, aside from beautiful visuals and fantastic looking combat... there doesn't seem to be much new here.

But then, we've not really seen the politics and how they impact players, and we haven't seen the supposedly ambitious server vs. server PVP either.  I'm reserving judgment until I get in to play, or trying to. But in the year of games that try to be different and unique butterflies (TSW, GW2) is TERA going to wind up feeling a little dated?

But damn is that combat looking sexy.

What say you all?  Did you play this weekend, and if so what are your thoughts?

Community Spotlight: Do you enjoy dungeon running?

Posted by MikeB Saturday February 11 2012 at 3:40PM
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In this week's Community Spotlight, we focus on the thread "Do you like doing dungeons in MMO's?" by brody71. Another fairly straightforwrad topic, but one that has got the community chatting:

i dont particularly like doing them.  the only reason i would do a dungeon was either for a quest, or to update a piece or two of gear.  i never find myself saying "oh i want to kill that boss".

Havok2all enjoys running old school dungeons, but isn't too fond of the new school style:

I love dungeons, but I like the old school dungeon crawl dungeons. The ones that took hours or longer to explore every nook and cranny. To find secret doors took checking every wall or object. Today, it is just go in an instance, clear trash go to each boss, kill, then leave. I want the dungeons like in EQ1, but alter the necessity to sit in once place. Bring back the benefits of tenacity.

Kabaal isn't very fond of dungeons, preferring the content to exist out in the open world:

I'm not a fan of them,, i'd rather they took place more in the open world clusters of buildings. The odd one is fine but so many games have a tendency to make half their quests in labyrinths underground.

Send me to sack a town, liberate a harbor but stop sending me to the sewers.

bumuscheekus feels MMOs could learn a thing or two from Minecraft when it comes to dungeons:

Oddly the best fun I've had Dungeon crawling/exploring (if it can barely even be called that) has been in Minecraft, possibly the simplest game imaginable. Now, I'm not suggesting Minecraft is perfect by any means but I think some of the things that make it fun hint at the roots of what made exploration fun at the very beginning. Why? 

1. Digging around and find an open cavern with tunnels which are randomly generated and utterly unpredictable and you don't repeat the same one over and over, insta-teleport there and back, to get some predefined loot detailed down to the tiniest boring detail on google with drop rates, stats, gear sets bonus zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

2. Randomly spawning monsters can be anywhere, go for you on sight and scare the living bejaysus out of you when they creep up on you as opposed to predictable clusters of mobs, evenly spaced at predefined corners who apparently dont notice you until you get within a mysterious 'aggro range' zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

3. Old school preparation before exploring- food, tinderbox, torches, making your own arrows etc. makes it feel like a proper adventure versus the current google  preparation reading up on how EXACTLY to take down a specific boss you've already done two dozen times zzzzzzzzzzzzz. 

This may all sound trivial but these are the things that made paper and dice RPGs so iconic and enjoyable. Bring things back to basics and stop giving things to people on a plate so that the mere thought of doing a dungeon/instance sounds routine, predictable and eventually dull as cheese and onion crisps. OF COURSE people complain about having to put efforting into doing something worthwhile. OF COURSE people want to be teleported to the instance entrance and back to their beds afterwards. It's obviously better in the short term if something is simpler an easy...but if you take the mystery and effort out of things, what you get from them feels hollow and pointless in no time at all.

I love doing dungeon content whether it's instanced or some of the great public dungeons I tackled in games like Star Wars Galaxies. What I'm not a huge fan of is doing them to chase gear, which a few users in the thread echoed as well. I get the whole acquire gear, beat boss, acquire new gear to beat next boss paradigm, but I prefer a more lax approach to dungeon running. I'm more in it for the content and there are definitely better ways to create challenge that don't involve the bosses gear checking you.

What are your thoughts? Share 'em in the comments below!

Double Fine Kickstart Their Adventure

Posted by shakermaker0 Friday February 10 2012 at 11:38AM
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Apparently, if you develop both Monkey Island and Grim Fandango, you will generate a sort of rabid affection from fans worldwide. Over the last 48 hours, Tim Schafer and his team at Double Fine have generated some 1.4+ million dollars, all in the name of point-and-click adventure. Now if only I can get you folks at MMORPG.com to go along with my 'idea' of buying a yacht, a dozen hookers, and a mountain of cocaine then I too can rest happy.

Putting up a Kickstarter pledge campaign, and a video detailing their plans to create a self-funded, classic-style adventure game (reminiscent of past Lucas Arts projects) Double Fine has seen a massive outpouring from fans, media-sites, and other developer's such as MineCraft's Notch. Initially with a goal of $400,000 the team have almost tripled their modest expectations, and there is still a month of pledging yet to go.
 
"Adventure games are almost a bit of a lost art-form; they exist in our dreams and memories...and Germany" - OK, so it helps if you are one of the most persistently funny, and enjoyable gaming personalities around to pull off this kind of funding coup, but Schafer, Gilbert, and the rest of the point-and-click veterans have highlighted an amazing path for future PC games to follow, dutifully picking at the bread crumbs sprinkled behind.
 
In a move that proves once and for all that the Internet isn't just for angry porn addicts, this act of gaming altruism is amazing, a spectacle of community and togetherness. For years PC gamers have openly bemoaned the lack of a sequel to this game or that, and that there has been a notable shift from esoteric, niche games, to those multi-million dollar "play-it-safes". Through the medium of Twitter and a few websites, this image of EA, Activision, and Ubisoft being solely in-charge suddenly crumbles and washes away doesn't it?
 
Will we see the old-guard developers rising up and taking on the project they have wanted to for years? Will we see a glorious return for the much-yearned for the Brad McQuaids, Raph Kosters, and Richard Garriotts? While major publishers refuse to see the bottom line in much loved genres such as the point-and-click, this outpouring of support shows that actually those people that really want it, can actually make it happen.
 
Unofficially, the MMO genre has been doing this for years, except we call them disastrous launches. Games such as Mortal Online, Xsyon, and Earthrise release far too early, simply to liberate a little more cash flow into ailing development. Perhaps through honesty on the studios part and programmes such as Kickstarter, eager-fans can quite literally put their money where their mouth is, and help out a virtual world they so sorely want to murder within.
 
Whether or not Double Fine's achievements will change the gaming landscape remains to be seen, but for this brief moment, isn't it exciting? As a PC gamer since the mid 90's, I can't help but see the beginning of a new time for the platform - indie developers, pitching direct to consumers, and finally seeing some of those long-sought after ideas come to fruition.  Oh sure, it all sounds a little like socialism, but rise with me comrade! One more round of The Internationale!
 
You too can aid Shafer and Gilbert's adventure right here
 
~Adam Tingle

Community Spotlight: Why do we go nuts over MMOs?

Posted by MikeB Saturday February 4 2012 at 1:37PM
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This week's Community Spotlight focuses on the thread "Why do people go so bananas over MMORPGs?" by lizardbones. In the thread, lizardbones discusses our seemingly weird perceptions of value when it comes to MMOs:

A friend and I were discussing this earlier. With most games, if you spent $60 on the game, and then played the game for three hours a day, five days a week for a month, it would be a ridiculously good deal regarding money spent and time spent playing. If players buy a game (Dragon Age 2) and it blows, players don't spend weeks on forums complaining about the game incessantly. If they happen to like the game, they don't spend weeks on forums declaring the virtues of the games either.

All of this changes with MMORPG. If you spend $60 (or a lot less in some cases) and spend three hours a day, five days a week playing the game and are done a month later, it's horrible. The game lacks content and the developers are obviously lazy morons. Forum ranting ensues. It's even worse if the player just doesn't like the game. For weeks players will rant about the game. If the player likes the game it's often just as bad in the opposite direction. The game can do no wrong and the people ranting against it are 'haters'. The forum ranting and proselytizing can happen even with players who haven't purchased the game. Would anyone on these forums fanboi or hate on a game like Alice: Madness Returns when they haven't purchased it?

Why is this? It's not people who have been playing MMORPG since UO either. New MMORPG players seem to exhibit a lot of this behavior too. Why?

What's the MMORPG.com community have to say about this? Read on to find out!

RabbiFang feels it has to do with being spoiled by MMOs past:

The problem is we're spoiled by other MMOs we've played in the past.

I got 2 years out of Anarchy Online, 4 years out of Neocron, 2 years out of SW:G, then everything I tried afterwards was a pile of crap in comparison to any of those games. 

Neocron got everything right; people just didn't give it the chance it deserved. Crafting, economy, player apartments, territory wars, loot from players, mostly open PvP (with safe zones), great clan system with ranks/responsibilities and all the wars that go along with it. 

Perfect MMO, broken by a lack of players and a lack of dev support.

Kiljaednas offers up a design-based reason for the disparity:

I think one major aspect to this is to the way MMOs are structured content-wise compared to single player games.

The vast, vast majority of the time, single player games have a definite concrete end. I.e., kill the final boss, lead your people to safety, find the ultimate rare artifact, whatever. You work to get to that goal, finally get it, watch the ending credits and say "I win! Yay!", and that's the end of it. Even if you can beat the game somewhat quickly, as long as the content was good enough to keep you engrossed and entertained along the way it's still a good game, and you get the sense of achievement from having that ultimate end victory.

MMOs, on the other hand, the vast majority of the time have no set end-point. The companies that run the game servers want to keep as many people as possible playing (and paying) for as long as possible, so putting an end point where when a player reaches it they go "Okay, I won, bye bye" would put them out of business. Therefore, a good MMO has to have enough complexity of content to keep a player interested for much longer than a single player game to be considered good, and ideally a decent set of stuff in it that makes it unique in some way which does NOT include graphics or a simply different flavor of storyline. If a new MMO has the exact same core content and logistical challenges as an already existing popular one, just with a different visual appearance, people who have played the first one won't really see anything new other than the visuals in the new one and can get bored quickly. The new one needs brand new gameplay mechanics and core activities for the player to get interested in, and sadly these days a very large number of new MMOs either have very little of that or none at all.

jdlamson75 thinks it has to do with the implied commitment factor:

By the time people realize a single player game sucks, everyone who wanted to play it has ordered it.  There's no continuing subscription fee, so the rant is moot.

By the time people realize an MMO sucks, those who really wanted to play it are still playing it, and those who hate it want other people to know - rather emphatically - that they hate the game.  And keep letting them know.  And then, once they figure people know, they keep letting people know that "Hey - I hate this game!". 

In short, it's the fact that people subscribe to a game that keeps people ranting about MMOs - it's the long-term vs. short-term game "commitment".

I think core to the issue is the subscription based model we've been used to for the last 10+ years. One of the largest barriers to entry in the MMO genre has been the notion of that recurring subscription every month. While MMO gamers obviously have been able to get past that, I feel it still rests in the back of their mind: "This developer wants me to give them $15 every month for this?" We've all spent that $15 on a bunch of different MMOs and whichever ones we felt were actually worth it inevitably become the gold standard for which we compare any new MMO we play.

I agree it doesn't necessarily have to do with older vs. newer MMO gamers, but I think it does largely have to do with those who may have gotten months if not years from some other MMO in the past. Once you've experienced what it's like to find a game that hooks you for that long, you're going to want every MMO you're interested in to do the same thing.

What are your thoughts? Share 'em in the comments below!