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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,

Getting Ahead

Posted by BillMurphy Tuesday March 29 2011 at 2:05PM
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In a lot of ways, I really wish Real Life reflected the way things tend to work in MMOs.

It's not a perfect system, but generally in most subscription-based MMOs if you put the time and effort into something you get the reward.  You may have to put a lot of hours in, you may have to do something over and over again, but you will get that shiny reward.  Maybe it's a sword, or a mount, or just the next level for your beefy dwarf warrior.  But the rule of thumb is: put in the effort, reap the reward.

Now there's a slew of MMOs that offer convenience for a price, but I'm not going to talk about them here.  Other than to say they're a little closer to the "RL" model than anything else.  Meaning: in many of them, the more you spend, the better you fare.

No, I wish Real Life was more like traditional MMOs.

I worked hard.  I studied my arse off to get my Masters.  I worked hard some more and got a great job in the Veterans Affairs Department.  I worked my arse off writing for this site and made my way to Lead Writer for our network here.  I work two jobs, I put my nose down and do them both with as much conviction and heart as I can.  And at the end of the day?  At the end of the day I still watch the folks with all the money be the ones with all the power. 

I can work my whole life.  I will work my whole life.  I'll love the people I befriend, and god willing my wife and I will enjoy a fruitful and happy time together.  This is all I can really ask for.  And believe you me, I will be content if I can just enjoy my short time here on this planet.  But I can't help feeling a little down-trodden sometimes when I realize that all this work and toil so many of us go through is for naught in a world where we simply cannot fight corruption and greed. 

Maybe I'm a defeatist.  But I just call it realism.  I'll be content to laugh, and love, and live what life I am given.

Oh man... that was a downer.  Um, let's make it happy.  Puppies!

Community Spotlight: Optimal Level Cap?

Posted by MikeB Thursday March 24 2011 at 5:03PM
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This week's Community Spotlight focuses on the thread 'What is the optimal level cap for an MMO in your opinion?" by blognorg. Pretty self explanatory! Let's get right to it, starting with blognorg himself:

For me, a game with a low level cap is a little bit of a turn off.  I'm kind of old school in the sense that I enjoy level progression more than end-game content. Personally, I would probably go with 100. It's not so low that levels would take too long to achieve, yet allows for some a solid amount of time before the cap is reached..... but not so much time that I can never imagining reaching it. I've thought about no cap, but it's nice to have something to shoot for. 

Let me know that you guys think.

What's the rest of the MMORPG.com community think? Let's find out!

Hyanmen is fairly specific about his leveling expectations:

It should take 3-6 months of casual leveling to achieve the max level for one class. After that, 2 months at most for the subsequent classes.

The level cap should be at least 50, with progressively introducing the player to various gameplay features for every 5 levels gained. Main story at level 1, main way to progress at level 2, sidequests at level 10, more mainstory and sidequests until level 20 (this is the 'tutorial' and thus takes less time to complete). At level 20 you get to do quests that flesh out the storyline of your class. At level 25 you are introduced to guilds (and are encouraged to join one). At level 25 you can also do the first side-event such as instanced dungeon. At level 30 you get to specialize further in your chosen class (all the while you can change classes anytime you want but start at level 1). At level 35 you are introduced to a larger "group" of guilds but can not join one yet. Instead you can participate in the NPC-based PvE content of the system  (that acts like a pseudo-"dynamic" content). At level 40 you can join the player-run group of guilds and gain access to their headquarters as well as guild-based PvE content. At level 45 you get to participate in the guild-based PvP content against other group of guilds.

All the while the main story as well as the class-based quests continue roughly every 5 levels, and the normal sidequests every 2 levels or so.

sloeber is old school, preferring anywhere from 100-150 levels:

as an old school player i would go about 100 to 150 lvls.

Make it so hard that the hcore player would need a month to get there so we normal (read casual) players get about 1 year of lvling goodness.

This way towns wont be crowded with max lvl players who just do endgame (grinds) and be bored for the rest of the time.

At least they would have been busy for the first month(s).

thats my tought on it.

but thats way too hard for you youngsters out there hehe.

They call rushing to lvl cap in a week HC these days too......hehe it took me TWO MONTHS (2 hours every evening) of fishing to get my GM (100) fishing skill (thats the max skill for fishing in UO in the old days :) )

lolz

Loke666 much prefers a lower level cap:

20. Adding more levels are just fluff, you dont need any more.

What really matters is how long time it takes to max out your level. If you add too many it just gets annoying, the only difference is that you have to change gear a little more.

And don't add more levels with expansions. That is the reason most games never gets balanced, once they finally are getting better they add more levels and start from scratch again.

There is no advantage with 100 or 200 levels compared to 20 assuming it takes the same time to reach that last level.

This might sound like a cop out answer but I don't have a fixation on the number of levels personally. Whatever the level cap is I feel there needs to be enough content to get you there, there are few things I hate more than content gaps where I have to grind endlessly (I'm looking at you launch Conan).

If anything, there should be enough content that you can hit cap and roll a new character and go through different mostly different content.

What are your thoughts on an optimal level cap? Share 'em in the comments below!

Dragon Age II

Posted by BillMurphy Tuesday March 22 2011 at 4:45PM
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I've been playing a bit of DA2 here and there when I'm able.  I'm actually really enjoying it, too.

Is it fun?  Yes.  Is it better than the first?  In some ways, also yes.  But I have to agree with the sentiment that this edition of Dragon Age is somewhat of a step back in one area: story.  At least a few hours in.

I'll be the first to admit that the action of Dragon Age: Origins felt too old school to me.  I just lost the love of those games a long time ago, probably after Arcanum sold poorly and Troika went under. 

So when Dragon Age 2 was announced, I was excited that the combat was being given a long hard look.  I'm actually somewhat pleased with how it turned out. I can still pause and issue orders if I want, but by and large it feels a lot more like I can control my character in this one.  I like that change.  Others miss the party-management, but really it's still all there.  You can still take control of any character at any time and issue orders.  Similarly you can set their behaviors and never look back.

It's not at all unlike the changes that happened to Mass Effect 2 from its prequel.  I honestly feel (on the PC) that DA2 plays better.  It's more interesting in terms of combat for me than it was in Origins.  I used to loathe the combat in DA:O, and would instead wait eagerly for the story-driven aspects as cliche as the tale was.  It was still gripping.

The big difference with DA2 is that after a pretty solid lead in (mind you I'm only in the first few hours of the game still), I'm not grabbed by my character's tale.  In ME1 and ME2, I was immediately hooked and both games kept me playing until I beat them much to the plight of my dogs and wife.  In DA:O, I was hooked on the story in a more gradual way, but I was still hooked.  In DA2, despite the increase in fun I'm having with the action, I feel like the story's kind of dull.  I'm skipping chatty scenes... in a BioWare game.  That just doesn't happen with me.

Hopefully it will get better as I play more.

Community Spotlight: Have Battlegrounds Destroyed PvP?

Posted by MikeB Thursday March 17 2011 at 1:19PM
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This week's Community Spotlight focuses on the thread "Battlegrounds has destroyed MMORPG PvP" by depain. Depain asserts that the popularity of battlegrounds in MMOs have had a destructive effect on the quality of the MMO PvP experience. Below he lists his reasons why and polls the MMORPG.com community on their thoughts:

Battlegrounds: Instanced 5v5 or so objective based PvP, e.g., Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, Take the Hill, etc.

WHY DO PEOPLE ENJOY THIS?

#1. In BGs, there is NO element of surprise. Eveyrone is buffed up and expecting combat.

#2. In BGs, tactics are learned within a month. The scenario becomes a rinse/repeat cycle.

#3. In BGs, there are a limited number of maps. Everyone quickly learns every blade of grass, every hill, every tree, every typical hiding spot.

#4. In BGs, everything is redundant. Been there, done that... a thousand times.

Am I simply asking for World PvP? No. I'm asking for some creation depth - something outside the box. Battlegrounds/Arenas are so typical - so boring. It's seriously time for something new.

How do the rest of MMORPG.com community feel about BGs and PvP? Read below to find out!

Solestran prefers open-world PvP but sees a purpose for BGs as well:

At least battlegrounds help to alleviate lower levels being slaughtered by higher levels.  Unless you can get developers off thier lazy asses and produce a lower level buff system that actually makes them competitive with their higher level counterparts, you're going to see most people sticking with battlegrounds for a better fighting chance.

I prefer open world PvP when I do participate, but I'm sick to death of toons barely 5 levels higher than me doing twice the damage and taking half as much on top of having more advanced abilities.  If you think that kind of level difference should have that much of an advantage, then the developers need to stop thowing cannon fodder to you guys by allowing a 5 to 10 level spread in the area or instance to begin with.  You should be forced to fight against players who have the tools at least to fight back.

monstermmo feels that the introduction of BGs allows for players who are interested in PvP but not interested in being randomly ganked an avenue to get their PvP fix:

A lot of players like myself dont find any enjoyment of being ganked while questing. An actual battle sure but thats not what usually happens. Most of the time in open world pvp someone sneaks up on you and youre dead before you know it. That has nothing to do with "skill" its simply you battling a mob and someone coming from behind and finishing you off.

Battlegrounds put people together for actual team play pvp. Real battles, not the nonsense that most open world pvp is.

Im not against open world pvp and you can think of me as a carebear i really dont care, but battlegrounds have certainly not ruined pvp. Its more enticing to players that want to pvp but not be ganked.

demented669 agrees with depain on the destructive effect of battlegrounds on MMO PVP:

Battle grounds have made PVP into a hunt in a game farm there is no more thrill of the hunt or chase, it has givien the players a "even" fight they want so it's  a sport like foot ball or base ball or hockey, every one is packed into a small space to figtht it out and one side wins big fun for some.

just not fun for me and others that want to have VIRTUAL WORLDS to live in and not a theme park to spend time in.

Saying battlegrounds destroyed MMO PvP is kind of casting a pretty large net. In the end, battlegrounds are just another tool in the toolbox, and it really ends up being more about how it is implemented. For example, in Warhammer Online's equivalent of battlegrounds players could level up through PvP and the battlegrounds also co-existed with a fairly decent (depending on when you played WAR) open world PvP component. However, as the game went through many changes over its first few months there were points at which players completely ignored open world PvP (Public Quests and Quests too!) as Scenarios were the path of least resistance towards leveling, granting the most amount of XP and easiest Renown (PvP XP). 

The result of this was an eerily empty game world where everyone simply disappeared into their instanced scenarios all day and you'd never see a soul wandering about (bad!). Mythic responded by creating greater incentives to do world PvP and so eventually things balanced out and the two co-existed fairly peacefully.  The system isn't perfect now, but it's come a long way.

I personally loved Scenarios as I could pop out of character creation and immediately start leveling through PvP which was incredibly refreshing, and while I love open world PvP as much as the next guy, there is certainly a place for structured match-made PvP, it's all about how it's implemented.

What are your thoughts on the effect of BGs on MMO PVP?

Community Spotlight: Best MMO Cities?

Posted by MikeB Thursday March 10 2011 at 10:57AM
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This week's Community Spotlight focuses on the thread "What were the best cities in an MMORPG?" by MMO.Maverick. The topic is fairly self-explanatory, so let's kick things off with Mavericks take:

These were the memorable cities I encountered:

- Kelethin (EQ): combined with the typical Kelethin music, this is one of the MMO cities that stuck with me in all the MMO years that followed

- Pandaemonium (Aion): it's large, and has a high fantasy atmosphere without a doubt.

- Tarantia (AoC): take all the areas together, and there's no denying that Tarantia does a good job giving the impression of a thriving, lively Hyborian city where a lot of adventure happens

- Stormwind (WoW): when I first started playing WoW, Stormwind managed to capture perfectly the atmosphere of WC3 for me, like I would've pictured WC3 to be if it was made into an MMO. Good memories.

- Millennium City (CO): a city that really feels like a modern day metropole and not a miniature version of it.

Those I'm looking forward to:

- Coruscant (SWTOR): it looks majectic and vast, this Star Wars city planet, from what I've seen of it so far.

- Divinity's Reach (GW2): this must be the most beautifully designed city I've seen so far, this last capital of the human race. Magnificent, without a doubt.

So what were the MMORPG.com community's favorite cities? Read below to find out!

nolf adored the PvP hotbed of Anchorhead in SOE's Star Wars Galaxies:

Anchorhead in SWG is my all time favorite MMO city/town.  While I could rifle off a few that come close, the constant PvP clashing in Anchorhead on my server virtually defined that game to me.  Between that, the Tusken & Jabba runs and hanging out in the hybrid cantina/med center, Anchorhead holds a special place in my heart.

I always found it ironic that the smallest little desert oasis seemed to have the biggest presence.

Ultima Online's Britain received a good deal of love in Maverick's thread, here's sacredcow4's take:

Brittain.  Period.  Nothing captures the feel of a living breathing city like Brit in UO.  You had real beggars, real merchants, real mercenaries... the city itself was very real.  Blacksmiths congregated around the forge repairing armor, people sold goods by the bank...

I'd have to say Brittain is the best city with no close contest.  It was the ONLY city that made me feel like I was actually there.  What did you have in Stormwind?  Scenery, Auction House, and Bank.  No real portrayal of city life.  No feeling of players actually populating the city.

Garvon3 loved Camelot, of you guessed it, Dark Age of Camelot fame:

One of the best cities in any MMO I've played

Camelot - of Dark Age of Camelot.

You had everything you  ever needed inside those walls. Dozens of quest NPCs, citizens just milling around talking to one another, a din of crafters and traders in the air. You could buy any kind of armor or weapon in the market square, the crafting center had tons of material merchants. You had all the trainers in their respective buildings. The Clerics and Paladins in the Church, the Wizards in the Arcane University, martial classes in the Defenders of Albion, thieves and dark classes were hidden in the undercrofts of the city with the poison merchants. And of course, the central guild areas with banks, guild emblem merchants, Merlin's Tower, and most importantly, the Round Table.

It was, and still is, an impressive city.

My favorite MMO city has to be Theed, Naboo in Star Wars Galaxies. The city was so large and majestic, and easily captured the look and feel of Theed from the films. Many of the Naboo cities were almost as beautiful and somewhat serene. The Lake Retreat was quiet and isolated and again, just as beautiful as it appeared in Episode II. Say what you want about SOE's shortcomings with Star Wars Galaxies but the design and layout of the games' various cities was certainly not one of them!

Torchlight on XBL

Posted by BillMurphy Tuesday March 8 2011 at 8:34AM
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Runic Games was kind enough to send us a few review keys for the XBL version of Torchlight a while back, and while this won't be an official review (that comes later) I wanted to sing a few of its praises.

I have a long history of love for Rogue-likes.  There have quite a few solid console titles to follow this formula as well over the years.  From Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance to the Ultimate Alliance games of recent years, the action-RPG has been well represented on consoles.  But I think I've found a new contender for King of the console rogue-like.  Torchlight plays amazing well on the XBL with the only drawbacks being that it's still a solo-only affair and the inventory management is hampered and made clunkier by not having a mouse interface. 

The combat though, which is what these games live and die by, feels much more fluid and responsive.  I love the point and click way, but I'd be lying if I said TL didn't lend itself very well to console controls.  The movement is analog, so you can move slowly or quickly, you can map four skills or spells (which is less than on the PC) but they're more readily available and they've apparently changed some of the way the skills feel too... it just feels more responsive. 

Anyway it comes out on XBLA tomorrow for 1200 points.  I've bought several copies of the game myself for the PC and am glad I didn't have to buy this one.  But I would highly recommend it to anyone who has yet to play the game.  I can only hope they'll bring the co-op TL2 to the Xbox after it hits the PC this year too.  Well done, Runic.

Community Spotlight: Your First MMO Love

Posted by MikeB Thursday March 3 2011 at 5:17PM
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This week's Community Spotlight focuses on the thread "Your First MMO Love" by fivoroth. Fivoroth wants to know what was the first MMO you truly got into and if you think it is still the "best ever".

I think that for pretty much everyone their first MMO is an amazing experience, something which they try to compare all the other MMOs to.

The question of this poll is whether you think people believe that their first MMO is the greatest and the best and they will always compare other MMOs to it, and will look back with nostalgia - the same way we do with our first love in real life?

For the sake of clarity, I will define the term first MMO :) By first MMO I don't mean the one you tried first. I mean the one you really got into. I played UO first for about a month and I never got into it. Same thing happened with my second MMO - EQ. My third MMO, WoW, was the one I really got into it. So I would be using WoW as my first MMO and not UO.

Sanity888 is shocked to find out over 37% feel their first MMO love was is still the best:

I can't believe over 37% says yes.

Well, I guess it depends. How long you've played MMOs and such. Well, my first MMO was The Sims Online. Then I played pre-CU Star Wars Galaxies. I was completely blown away from it, right from the beginning I liked pre-CU Star Wars Galaxies over The Sims Online. Actually, I prefer what I'm playing now, World of Warcraft, over The Sims Online too. I just really prefer full-fledged 3D MMOs over isotopic 2D MMOs like The Sims Online and (haven't play it) Ultima Online. There is much more emmersion with it.

Cereal2K recounts the days he spent with his first MMO love, Ultima Online:

Due to my video stores lack of knowledge they had Ultima Online there to rent when it first came out...I had no clue really and rented it as the first person and therefore could register the account  for like 3 bucks xD

At first I was overwhelmed and clueless but once I came across a guy who helped me and explained a lot it would go down in history as my fondest MMO memory.

No game gave me so many memorable moments of utter joy and frustration alike :D

To this day I could recite countless tales of adventure and woe all of which I remember as if they happened yesterday....

None of the other MMOs I've played (including pretty much all mainstream ones and a few niche games) were that memorable....when I think back to my like 4 years of wow theres hardly any times I think really fondly of except maybe 1-2 raiding experiences in vanilla...but world pve is so whatever that there are no tales to be told. (doesnt mean I didnt enjoy wow in general it just didnt have many individually memorable moments)

The only thing coming even remotely close was pre-CU SWG and Jumpgate back in the day.

Even nowadays I listen to the UO soundtrack thinking of good times...

The difference between UO players and players in almost any other MMO to date is in UO haters are almost non-existant.

I've hardly come across anyone badmouthing UO who actually played it for more than a month or two...while the same couldnt be said about any other game as far as I'm aware :)

Like fodell54 said if EA would open a classic shard I'd be back in an instant.

When thinking about UO today it feels like a home long lost.

CK

Mardy has come full circle, starting with the original EverQuest and now plays on the new EverQuest progression servers:

Started in EQ in 2000, 11 years later, I'm back in EQ playing the new progression servers.  It's been great fun, a blast from the past.  Great nostalgia & that community feeling.  I think I'll be in EQ for quite a long time....again.

I sorta rate EQ up on #1 on par with Asheron's Call and Dark Ages of Camelot.  Those 3 classics were my favorites, each with their own pro's and con's.  I loved AC1 for their FFA PvP and DAOC for RvR.  But bottom line is, I had an awesome time playing them and won't hesitate to play AC1 & DAOC if they came out with progression style servers.

This one is a bit tough for me as we're all inclined to view our first MMO love with rose-colored glasses. My first MMO was Star Wars Galaxies as many of you know by this point and it gave me a great many amazing memories, but it also gave me a few nightmares, and I'm not going to bother getting into them as that story is beyond a dead horse by now.

I would say aside from the bugs and stupid decisions SOE made with Star Wars Galaxies it probably still stands as the best MMO experience I've had to date with The Matrix Online coming a close second (I know, you guys think I'm crazy).

Do you feel your first MMO love is still the best ever MMO? Let us know in the comments below!

Much Needed Hotfixes - DCUO

Posted by BillMurphy Tuesday March 1 2011 at 11:30AM
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Today SOE pushed out some much needed fixes to their recent release, DC Universe Online.  Here's the running tally from SOE's RadarX:

  • Epic PVP neck items now have the correct icons in your inventory.

  • “Be Mine Hearts” can now be rolled on as loot.

  • Fixed an issue causing the first console in the Cape Carmine Lighthouse to sometimes fail to spawn. 

  • Corrected an issue that caused Gorilla, Insect and Ice Elemental forms to occasionally cause no damage.    

  • Fixed an issue causing some Nature abilities to do reduced damage. 

  • Only one Isis will spawn in the Gotham University Duo.  

  • Fixed an issue where Ice Bash could continue to damage the player after they were Knocked Out

  • The Gotham University Warehouse playroom will now be accessible even if you have completed the Mission.

  • Valentine’s bosses will now drop Bite Me and Super candies.

  • All bosses will drop Seasonal items more frequently.

  • Fixed an issue allowing players to stay in the Harley Legends form when a match ended.

  • Sorting the items in the Broker by name will now show all items of the same name.

 

The most notable thing there, for me personally, is highlighted.  The only prevoiously mentioned incoming fix that's missing is the corrected Mortar Damage bug.  RadarX said it's on the way, and hopefully it won't be too much longer.  With Ice Bash corrected, along with the other fixes from the February update, maybe PVP will be fun again.  One can hope.

But really this bunch of hotfixes is pretty encouraging.  I think there was a growing sentiment that maybe SOE wasn't moving fast enough to address bugs, and was holding fixes back because of the updates.  This tells me that we'll hopefully be seeing lots of stuff addressed prior to the major monthly updates, and that's always a good thing with a game like DCUO where so many seem to enjoy the PVP. 

As it stands now, the PVE in DCUO is solid and consistently fun for me.  It's the PVP I turned away from in light of the exploiters.  And it's nice to see the developers acknowledging and addressing concerns of their players as quickly as their approvals process will let them.