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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,

Community Spotlight: Danger in MMOs

Posted by MikeB Sunday March 31 2013 at 10:22PM
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In this week's Community Spotlight, we focus on the thread, "Danger in MMORPGs" by BigHatLogan. In the thread, BigHatLogan muses on the lack of danger in MMOs and polls the community on their thoughts:

I recently received an email from ArenaNet about GW2: The Razing.  It states "New Allies! New Dangers! New Items!"  So the first two are certainly reasonable and expected in MMORPGs, but the middle phrase struck me wrong, and even felt a bit insulting.  New Dangers?  Really?  Well I got to thinking about the concept of danger in MMORPGs and realized it really is missing from MMORPGs and single player games in general. 

When is the last time something actually scared you in an MMORPG?  Even if the monster I am fighting is challenging, it kills me and I have about a minute of downtime with no penalty whatsoever.  Even worse is MMORPGs that allow a player to self resurrect, they might as well just skip the dying part.  At worst a player will get a minor debuff for an inconsequential amount of time.

A can recall a couple instances of being scared.  EVE online will scare players.  This is because a mistake can cause you to lose virtual treasures.  That's a bad sign when one of the scariest multiplayer games is based on spreadsheets.  I know Wizardry Online released with perma-death which certainly causes fear, but the game itself was pretty bad at least at lower levels.I never played EQ1, but i heard horror stories from players that certainly sounded like they felt fear.  Perhaps due to xp loss penalties and impossible corpse runs. 

Single player games are often times even worse than MMORPGs with the overall lack of danger.  Many many SRPGs let you save your game whenever you want.  Which of course translates into saving your game every few feet, or even between swings in battle in case a mistake is made.  Dark Souls is a notable exception to this with their soul loss and bonfire system.  Even the old Final Fantasy games required you to get to a save point rather than save every couple steps.  Final Fantasy is far scarier than Skyrim because you don't get to save where you want, and Final Fantasy is loaded to the brim with retarded monkeys and big goofy birds. The new X-Com has a brilliant ironman mode and is a quite scary game, its actually nice to see a game with a scary theme actually play scary. 

Does anyone else feal that lack of danger makes MMORPGs and sRPGs feel stale?  Are their any games out there that I am missing that have successfully caused terror in players?  I'd especially love to hear about MMORPGs that pull it off.  To be clear I dont't mean dark theme or scary graphics, those may scare a 5 year old.  When I talk about fear and terror I mean that a player will be scared or upset when they are defeated.  I don't care how scary a boss looks when it jumps out at me, if i can just hop back up and fight him again when I die that is not scary in my book.

Read on for some highlights from the thread!

Wizardry offers a couple of examples:

I felt scared in EQ2 when first came out and in FFXI because for the most part,you couldn't run,so if something went bad you had to either fight or die.MOST games you can simply run a short distance and the mob/s retreat.

Sometimes the fear factor was totally unrealistic and actually pissed me off.Example in Vanguard,there was an outpost and as soon as i came within a certain dsitance the whole outpost would attack me at unreal speeds.There was no realism in the aggro or range or speed at which they caught me,like 200 yds in 5 seconds lol.

The only real time ,i have actually been on the edge and kind of freaked out was playing an old xpansion for was an expansion done by NIN,so the whole sound and music was eerie.Turn off the lights and it was really freaky lol.

MMORPG's are basically linear,connect the dot questing games now,hardly anything there realsitic or scary.I can't imagine whoever thought ,that if i was a Warrior in real life,i would be going around asking every npc/person if i can do a quest for them.

WHOA kill 10 armadillo in Commonlands???No WAY .,that is frightening.

Take that Stein to your friend?? Wowsers,i don't think i can handle that frightening task as an elite Warlock.

Wolfenpride discusses the good ol' corpserun:

Only game that scared me in that manner was EQ1 when it had harsher death penalties.

The risk of loosing my stuff in the bottom of a dungeon somewhere made going into them very scary. The general mazelike/claustrophobic designs for many of them added a bit to my fears as well, once you were deep in one, you were pretty stuck with no where to run if something went wrong.

It happened occasionally, but I was always able to get a rogue/necro to drag my corpse back to me before it expired.

I was hoping Wizardry would deliver similar experiences, but with the way souls work characters feel really disposable. Same with Eve online, replacing a lost ship didn't seem that big of a deal, but then again I never bothered buying anything that I couldn't afford to replace. Still enjoyed both games though.

Ironmanning Xcom EU was fun and challenging as well, but again there was that sense of disposability once you had a bunch of ranked soldiers. Starting off was pretty rough though.

Rusque hasn't ever experienced that sense of dread that others are describing:

The only video game that would cause fear is one in which someone comes to my house and chops off my arm in real life as punishment.

I really never understood the appeal of perma-death games or severe consequence games. I don't feel scared, I actually care about my avatar less than I would in a game in which I get to keep him. Whenever I play hardcore mode in PoE or some game with similar death system, I just view my character as a temporary resource for some entertainment, but my main is always invariably on the softcore side. That's the character I care about, the one I want to develop and see grow because I know I'll always have it.

I must be missing the fear factor so many people experience from those games, I never get the adrenaline rush or the near death high.

The only time I really felt any sense of fear in an MMO was back when Star Wars Galaxies was still using corpse runs. Running back to Ft. Tusken or some such area where my corpse is deep behind enemy lines was always something I looked to avoid back then.

Other than that, it's really only PvP servers that can create that feeling for me at all, even if there aren't permanent consequences to dying. That feeling of possibly being attacked at any given moment can really keep you on your toes.

What about you? Have you ever felt a real sense of danger in an MMO? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Warcraft CCG: Hearthstone Announced

Posted by BillMurphy Friday March 22 2013 at 8:50AM
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Dynamic opening of packs with glows, sound effects. Players can build their own decks.

Earn or buy packs. Around $1 as it's being tested at the moment. 

3D graphics, fully active game board. We want the game for WoW players to be really intuitive. If you're used to playing a mage, you can quickly and intuitively play the game.

Make it simple and intuitive to play but with interesting special effects, fun to watch as players go back and forth.

Set in the Warcraft universe, make it something anyone would play.

Collectible card game, free to play game, Blizzard's first.

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft!

Team 5: Very different, 15 developers, smaller than the SC team. Old School team of scrappy and versatile devs with multidisciplines. Experimental. Doesn't rely on building new tech. Need different type of games. What is the game we'd make?

History lesson....development time for each of the Big 3 Games: WoW, Diablo 3, Starcraft

And so it begins...

Blizzard Entertainment will be making a major announcement at PAX East beginning in about ten minutes. We'll keep you posted about the big news through our Live Blog! Keep your eyes on this spot!

Community Spotlight: Grinding: Mobs vs. Quests

Posted by MikeB Sunday March 17 2013 at 10:10PM
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In this week's Community Spotlight, we focus on the thread, "XP grind. Mob or Quest?" by Arclan. Arclan offers up some examples of games where we grinded out mobs or quests to progress:

In EQ, we earned xp several hours at a time by killing mobs. Much of that time involved joking around with newly met friends. Often, you came to respect their wit and skill and made a game-long friend and in some cases a lifelong friend.

In Vanguard, I earned xp by doing quests. This never involved staying in one place for more than just a few minutes. If you are busy moving or fighting, you don't have time to chat. So no new friends were made in Vanguard.

Most games require xp, and many refer to that as a 'grind.' So pick your poison.

What's your 'poison' then? Read below for highlights.

Theocritus leans towards mob grinds:

I made more friends in EQ than I have in all other MMOs combined...The reason was because of the way we had to gain XP..... Liek the OP said, once we started questing we weren't in any one place long enough to make new friends and often didn't need anyone else anyway.....IMO quests should have been in MMOs only if they involved a great task (like class epic quests in EQ) and should involve other people....Otherwise its basically a single player game with other people in the game world.

For AlBQuirky, it's a bit of both:

It is a matter of a combination for me. Sometimes, I feel like being in a group and tearing through MOBs for hours on end. Other times I feel like following quests, where I can do as I please without worrying about others in my group. It is 2 very different types of gameplay and I enjoy them both.

The "grind" is so variable. With quests, I am engaged in the game. With MOB killing, I am not as engaged. If I get in a good group and we chat, the "grind" becomes less "grindy" and levels seem to come much more quickly.

The downside to EQ for me was the feeling that I could not do much without getting into a group. Even crafting was tough because it costs money and money was much easier to get fighting MOBs in groups. I could get to level 20 fairly easily without the "need" of others to help, but after that, soloing was very tough, indeed.

I do miss the Epic Quests that EQ had, though. They seemed to involve everyone in the group, not just the player doing the quests.

Psychow is a clear fan of quests:

I would rather quest.  Mindlessly killing mobs for no other reason than to gain XP is not a gamestyle I would want to participate in.

I'm sure developers would LOVE it if we did prefer mob grinding tho. Just think of all the costs they can save from having to provide content for it's players!

I'm going to take the easy route and say both. I actually prefer questing as the main form of progression, but I do enjoy grinding on mobs when the mood strikes. I spent a ton of time in my teenage years just grinding mobs in JRPGs and MUDs, so there's a bit of a soft spot for that in there for me, but it can get boring if it's the only source of progression.

Which do you prefer? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Community Spotlight: What Can Sandboxes Do Better At?

Posted by MikeB Sunday March 10 2013 at 8:58PM
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In this week's Community Spotlight, we focus on the thread, "Is there something the Sandbox genre can do better at?" by MMOExposed.

To improve the Sandbox genre, is there something that need to be improved? What can be done to improve the genre?

Axehilt feels the moment-to-moment gameplay could be approved across the board:

Quite a lot, but the most obvious is that moment-to-moment gameplay needs to not suck.  Games like ATITD or Haven & Hearth get close, as their crafting is involved enough and varied enough to be rather enjoyable.  Basically it has to feel like you're actually playing a game and not simply wasting time in a massive decision-less timesink, like harvesting resources in most sandboxes.

Jenuviel offers some commentary on the recent trend of PvP-oriented sandbox games:

I think a big thing they could do to achieve more mainstream success is to stop scaring away the pve crowd with pvp-focused gameplay. I know most of this site's forum-goers are big supporters of open-world-pvp, but the second you decide to make pve players unwilling targets, you've gone from a mainstream title to a niche title. I absolutely believe there should be open-world-pvp sandboxes out there (and there are), but we need a AAA, mainstream, financially successful sandbox if we ever want to see the model catch on.

Conventional wisdom tends toward the belief that social and political conflicts between players are the only way to give long-term life to a sandbox. While such conflicts can certainly add longevity to the game,  they're not the only method of doing so (see: A Tale in the Desert), nor is player-versus-player combat always necessarily when it comes to conflict resolution. The best way to make a breakthrough sandbox, in my opinion, is to build with a focus on systems rather than "content." Provide player authoring tools, social tools, deep crafting systems with dynamic resources, a skill system rather than a class system, a huge open world, and include some goals that give those new to MMOs a sense of direction.

That last part's important. Mainstream adoption means grabbing people from a broader market, and most  people just have no clue what to do when they log into a sandbox; they wander around for awhile, get listless, then leave. That's fine if you're CCP and you're aiming for a fairly specific demographic, but it's never going to result in market penetration. There has to be some sort of linear quest mechanism in place; it shouldn't be the focus of the game, but it should be there, it should be of decent quality, and it should be supplemented by the aforementioned player authoring tools (hopefully peer-reviewed), so people have direction if and when they need it. Also have things like City of Heroes' badge/title collections. It was quite a simple system, but collecting badges and titles provided concrete goals for achievers and explorers.

Also, I'm probably totally wrong, because I know nothing about game design. Maybe I should have put that sentence first...


jimdandy26 feels sandboxes could use a bit more story:

Telling a decent story for a start.

It's been a while since I've dug in deep with a sandbox game, but from my experience, sandbox games tend to lack polish. Sandbox games often feature a system design focus in place of a focus on developer created content. I've noticed that perhaps the developers have too many systems in the game out of the gate and that each system lacks as a result of the spread focus. Perhaps reining things in at first in order to polish up a smaller amount of systems while leaving room to expand later may be a better course of action for developers of these games.

How do you feel sandbox games could be improved on as a genre? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Community Spotlight: Male or Female Characters?

Posted by MikeB Sunday March 3 2013 at 10:25PM
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In this week's Community Spotlight, we focus on the thread, "Poll: Do you play male or female characters?" by IG-88.

Since MMO´s let us enter an alternate reality and be what we normally not are, heroes, villains etc i was wondering what gender you enjoy playing, since you have a free choice.

Zierrity's answer depends on the quality of character creation:

For me, it all comes down to how my character looks. if I'm unhappy with the customization options for male characters, I usually roll female and vice versa. Then there's what looks best for different classes, what role I think fits the story, (if a story driven game), et cetera, et cetera.

I rarely think about what kind of "ass" I'm staring at, as for me, it's basically a bunch of pixels :P 

The only thing thast ticks me off, is if a MMO don't give me the option of choosing for myself, (Gender locked classes for example).

Mickle obliges us one of the most common answers to this question:

For many years I always played a male.  Then one day a friend of mine was playing a female.  I asked why and he told me this.  Would you rather look at a guys a$$ or a females a$$ while you play?  I now play a female.

Also, around that time, I read that female characters get stuff for free.  I have found that to be true.  I have been given many items for free just because i looked good.  They could hear me in vent and knew I was a male but still gave me free stuff.

I will always play a female character for those two reasons.

For Brenelael, it depends on the class:

You are missing the option for both. I play male fighter types and female rogues and mages. To me at least those roles seem more natural. A male in robes just doesn't look right to me personally. Also females seem to be more naturally adept at being sneaky little backstabers as well(Sorry ladies). When it comes to big burly fighter types I always choose a male character just because it looks right to me. I'm not trying to be sexist or anything like that. In real life I strongly believe in equallity but in a fantasy world I view things a little differently.

I'll play either. It all depends on my concept for the character. Even though I no longer actively role-play with other players in MMOs, I do try to think up a concept for my character in most games and I'll pick their gender accordingly. I love Frank Frazetta style tough female characters and so in games like Age of Conan I'll roll a female Cimmerian Barbarian, for example.

Do you play male or female characters? Both? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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