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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.

Author: staffblog

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

Weeping & Wailing in the Old Republic

Posted by SBFord Friday September 30 2011 at 11:16AM
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So yesterday I found out that I’ve either been playing SWTOR in my sleep or I have an evil (or really lucky) twin somewhere in the world who’s been playing the game unbeknownst to me. You see, I received this little love note from EA Bioware:

Oh and this too:

What the…? I’m not even in the closed beta for SWTOR so unless one of the two previously mentioned things is happening, I was pretty confused opening up those babies.

Know what though? I just deleted them. No harm. No foul. The part of me that’s actually an adult realized that some EA or Bioware intern probably pressed the big green SEND button with the majority of the beta pool included in the recipient line rather than just those who are actually playing the closed beta. Poop happens, right? RIGHT?

Did Bioware really need to post a handy dandy FAQ for people who are too thick headed to understand that this was a mistake and that their chances of getting into the closed beta aren’t affected? I mean, come on. Allison Berryman posted that it was a mistake and that nobody would be removed from the potential tester pool as a result of the mistake. “Thanks for your understanding.” Kthxbye. End of report. Or it should have been.  You’d never know Bioware had said a thing judging by the fifty two page thread on the official forums. That’s right: FIFTY TWO PAGES of weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth over a human error. For Pete’s sake, when did these people become members of the Legion of the Perpetually Offended? Or worse, when did they become members of Whiny World?

I mean, really. Is it that big a deal? Are there not, just perhaps, more important issues to discuss with regard to SWTOR?

/face palm

Community Spotlight: Why Gank Newbies?

Posted by MikeB Saturday September 24 2011 at 3:07PM
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This week's Community Spotlight focuses on the thread "What makes ganking newbs fun?" by robert4818. Robert4818 understands that some people find ganking newbies fun, but he's asking the community to explain exactly why that is:

"SWTOR announced that you would not be able to make your way to the opponents starting world and gank starting players.  It did not say that they removed PVP, that it would only be instanced PVP, or that once someone left the starter planets (around lvl 20 or so) that you couldn't attack them.  ONLY that you you couldn't go and gank brand new toons.

Nerd rage followed from the PK community.

My question is WHY?

Why is the ability to kill brand new players so integral to the playstyle?  Why does the temporary ability to avoid ganking cause so much hate and discontent?

So, why is ganking newbies fun? Or is it even fun at all? Let's find out!

jedensuscg actually feels it has more to do with boredom and laziness than fun:

"People get bored and lazy, and when this happens, they will go and gank lowbies that have a 0% chance to defend themselves, why?

Because they are bored and have nothing better to do, and because they are lazy and don't want to take the time to challange someone that can...well...actually challenge them back.

It's one thing to go and wipe out a noobie zone once just to laugh and say you did, but truth is, most gankers get the vast majority of there in-game enjoyment doing this, and that is just pathetic behavior.

The irony is, THEY call the people against this playstyle carebears, when in reality they are the ones too chicken-shit to face someone that can beat them back."

Slukjan feels that "particularly sadistic" people get enjoyment out of ganking newbies, but it all goes back to boredom for him:

"If you are a particularly sadistic person then noob ganking is a source of great enjoyment.  Knowing the furstration and pain you are causing the other person makes it fun and worthwhile.  Laughing at them as they struggle, knowing there is nothing they can do but log out to avoid the ganking.  I've done it a few times and have to say that it's pretty fun.  I would get bored of it if it was my only thing to do, however.  But every once in a while, in WoW, when I'd get bored....sometimes I'd hunt down lowbies to squash.  One of my favorite haunts was Duskwood (it's been so long I forget if that is the right name).  There was a building in the town that was close to a hill and if you had a mount you could jump onto the roof and proceed to use your ranged attack to kill the lowbs and the guards could not reach you.  Plus the noobs usually had no idea where the attacks were coming from so they would just run around all panicked.  Like I said, fun for a little while, but not as a regular playstyle.  Except for those moe sadistic types."

odinsrath feels it's more of a 'cat and mouse' thing:

"what makes camping nubs fun?

imo its more of a cat / mouse type thing ..when im playing any kind of pvp server of these days and theres no lvl req. when fighting i just poke at em to get a "being the cat" may shoot sumpin at em or give em a tickle and be about my way..them "being a mouse" come at me full force trying to kill me i put em in their place or leave em near death...but if im pvping / playing a epic game like shadowbane i play to crush whats ever in my path..nomatter how many or who lol

thats the problem i think with pvp in mmo's nowa days..alot of people that want to pvp ..want to experiance the feeling of other mmo's that they played in the past..why? cuz pvp back then was and is epic ..haveing a sence that theres danger around every corner is what makes pvp ..pvp

and ganking..if you like pvp mmo's and you have played many diff ones most people have had been ganked 1 time in another..over and over and over again..hell,even to log off and play an atl till the lil twat moves along to pick on someone else..or to even log on your main char. and hunt the lil twat down..imo its fun..its what pvp is about survival of the fittest

pvp of now is just cluttered with arena type pvp that is plane out cant even have decent fun in them because you got derps that sit in arena 24/7 and think they belong to some elite league of arena pvp..not to mention that most games are giveing either badges or rewards that make that char even more OP ..imo if you want to play CTF or TEAM DEATH MATCH go play COD i really hate these concepts in pvp mmo's now days theres no more open world pvp it has become "you have to pvp here if you want to pvp" or Q up for a battleground"


The only time I ever "ganked newbies" were random instances in Age of Conan involving characters that were "kill on sight" for my guild. I'd say 95% of the time I'd leave them alone, but every once in awhile I'd indulge myself in a bit of asshattery and kill a low level player in an enemy guild. Otherwise, I don't really see the point. I PvP for the challenge of it and killing newbies offers none. If anything, I will target players higher than me to test my own mettle.

Community Spotlight: The Sandbox Never Got its Chance

Posted by MikeB Saturday September 17 2011 at 12:59PM
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This week's Community Spotlight focuses on the thread "The Sandbox never got its chance" by precious328. As the title implies, precious328 is asserting that the sandbox sub-genre of MMOs never got its chance to shine:

There really is no true definition of "Sandbox MMO". However, the ultimate idea is geared around self-sustaining content, e.g., player economy, large worlds and versatile progression. There is no set path that will lead you to the end; there is no point A to point B.

The only chance the sandbox genre ever had, if you would call it that, is with Star Wars Galaxies. Its ultimate demise scares the hell out of developers, as if SOE's / LA's failure was because the game was considered a sandbox.

If you take a look at the master list of MMOs, you will find very few games with the above characteristics. There are probably less than 10. Regardless, the top three active Sandbox games, IMO, are as followed: Eve Online, Darkfall, and Mortal Online. None of these, with mild exception to Eve, experienced AAA development and marketing.

It's never been written that a sandbox game must be hardcore, e.g., first-person, full loot pvp, and full of void material (walking for 15 min without performing some sort of action. However, most naysayers depict the genre as is.

What a shame...

Does the community agree? Let's find out:

robert4818 feels the reason sandboxes never took off has mroe to do with some of the sandbox fans themselves:

I would argue that its the Sand Box Fanboys who have really ruined the genre (if you can argue that the genre is ruined).

Its not the naysayers who insist that Sandbox means  Full Loot, Large empty worlds.  Its generally the SB Purists who shout down anyone who doesn't want those things in there.  Many base their ideal on old UO, they try to emulate that as much as possible.  Suggst a game have quests "Go back to wow", suggest no full loot pvp (or non-open pvp) "Go back to wow". etc.

eludor argues that it was the additional required effort, complexity, and lack of direction that hampered the sandbox genre:

IMO...For a good deal of people who play games (not necessarily gamers), everything that makes a sandbox successful in world requires too much work. Folks who enjoy player housing, crafting, political systems, and other forms of self-sustaining content are often quite differant than the must level to end game ASAP and do that content, make a new toon and do same thing crowd.

SWG was pretty complicated for the average new to gaming person. I know people with little gaming experience that just rush through everything, skipping storyline (not impressed by TOR's VOs) and play just to lvl and gain loot.

Lots of people require direction, and when left in an open world they don't have the desire nor creativity to contribute.

Emeraq disagrees with the OP entirely, noting that with Ultima Online the genre did actually have its chance:

OP I disagree, Ultima Online still fits that description. I remember playing it on and off in the year 2000, and the entire time I was hoping and wishing for an MMORPG that actually played a lot more like a console RPG with classes, levels, story and quests, and regardless of what people say about the genre today, it's obvious that I wasn't the only one that wanted it.

IMO Sandbox did have a chance, and many players preferred developer quests and content over RPing their own.

Like Emeraq, I also feel the genre had its chance. I wasn't there for Ultima Online, but with Star Wars Galaxies, which also did significantly well before the NGE, and later EVE Online, I'd say the genre has had more than ample chance to shine. Sandboxes are naturally harder to cultivate, given that they require creativity on part of the userbase and are not wholly dependent on developer content. As such, it's not possible to release a sandbox game in the same way as a themepark MMO and just go off the initial subscriptions and sales to say whether or not it failed. A game like World of Warcraft comes with a significant amount of content built in and gamers either enjoy it or they don't. Sandboxes tend to build up over time, which is what we saw with EVE. This is problematic for the genre as a whole as it would take a long time for people to even recognize that a new sandbox game was succeeding unless it reached critical mass quickly (Minecraft). Combine this with the complexity and investment noted earlier and you have a genre that is basically pretty niche and hard to market to wider audiences, something that became much more desirable after the meteoric rise of World of Warcraft.

I feel if you're looking for the next great sandbox game you'll probably want to keep an eye on CCP Games' World of Darkness. Now, they've not said anything on the type of game this would be, but given the IP and CCP Games' expertise at designing a succesful sandbox MMO it would make perfect sense for World of Darkness to be a legitimate new sandbox game. The game will be niche from the get-go and so there is no reason for a company like CCP to shy away from their roots here and pursue a themepark-style MMO.

Community Spotlight: Are MMOs Too Easy?

Posted by MikeB Saturday September 10 2011 at 3:59AM
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This week's Community Spotlight focuses on the thread "MMORPGs are too damn easy." by precious328. Simple enough, precious328 laments the lack of difficulty of most contemporary MMOs:


It's been so long...

I've been submerged within the realm of ease and simplicity for over 10 years. I've become "soft".

I don't know why, but I was greatly consumed with this nostalgic-gaming type thing. I loaded up eBay and purchased a RETRON 3 (Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Genesis - All in One). I know I could've just run an emulator. However, it's not the same. It's got to be on the big screen with the original controllers :)

I purchased a few of my favorite Nintendo games:

  • Kid Icarus
  • Metroid
  • Rygar
  • Battle of Olympus
My package arrives! I load up the system on the 42". Wow! How nice it was to experience classic Nintendo in Widescreen! I load up Kid Icarus, one of my favorites.
The music starts. Intensity sets in when the level 1 4/4 beat kicks into full progression. It's harder than I remember. I get to level 2...
WHOA!?!?!? I can barely do this! I keep dying on level 2! I finally get past it after several tries. When I did pass it, however, it was by the skin of my teeth. My heart was pounding at the finish line. I had to actually take a breather. I felt accomplished.
I felt accomplished.
I felt accomplished.
I felt accomplished.
I felt accomplished.
I felt accomplished.
I felt accomplished.
I felt accomplished.
Where was my guiding hand? Where was my help? Where was mommy?
The MMOs of today are insulting. Problem solving? There is none. I load up my map, I follow the quest marker from point A to B, I click the chest, I follow the quest marker back to the quest giver, rinse/repeat etc. The combat is borderline K12. I've experienced this in every game I've played post-WoW.

What did the community have to say in respones? Let's find out!

fivoroth feels the culprit is the traditional MMO combat system:

The problem lies within the very mechanics of MMOs and their combat system. When you fight a mob 1 on 1 it mostly boils down to stats and not strategy or precision. What's even more hilarious? Boost a monster's health and damage 5 times and what's the solution? Get a group of 5 to have the EXACTLY same fight as the 1v1 fight but scaled by 5. Still no skill required but simply pressing 1,2,3,4...

just2duh asserts that it's the industry's pursuit of broader audiences as the cause for the lack of challenge:

The problem is.. games are seen more as a business than it is about making good games today, it's all about getting as many people able to play and buy it as possible than anything else.

 The magic word has been "accessibility" for the past few years now.

 The same has been happening with all games in general, not just MMO's. While there are still a few go against the 'build-for-casual' trend of the past few years, there are many many more that go with it. Even beloved franchises of the past that return and were popular because of the challenge they offered have been getting tailor-made for a giant crowd of average joe gamers.

 (most recently i'm looking at you Driver:San Francisco)

Elidien doesn't mind how easy most MMOs are, as difficulty often seems to equate to additional time sinks:

Until MMO's find a way to make challenge/difficulty not equal to time sink, then I will accept easy.  I will reserve difficult and challenging for things like work and raising a child and marriage. Thank god my "easy" game is a respit and a shelter from the things that really do require a challenge. Or at least that is why I play games.

I'm pretty torn on this subject myself. I play every game I can on max difficulty (just beat the Hard Reset demo on 'Insane'. Woot!) but as Elidien notes, more often than not MMO difficulty just means more time sinks. This isn't always the case, or the full picture, as there are MMOs out there that are simply more challenging/punishing. I don't know how much I miss that feeling though. I like the additional difficulty when it encourages players to play together, but I don't like it when that difficulty amounts to what fivorth described as your typical 1v1 fight only necessitating 5 people due to the multiplied health and damage statistics of the enemies in the encounter. I'm much more of a fan of mechanical difficulty than arbitrary difficulty.

MMOs are definitely easier now than they used to be, but too easy? Let's talk again when we don't have to tell people to not stand in the green fire.

Share your thoughts on this week's topic in the comments below!

Community Spotlight: Difficulty Playing with Friends

Posted by MikeB Saturday September 3 2011 at 1:18PM
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This week's Community Spotlight focuses on the thread "Why can't I play with my friends" by jezvin. In the thread, jezvin discusses how despite MMOs being inherently social experience, developers often make it difficult for gamers to play with their friends as they progress:

"Recently, like most of the people here, I've been looking for an MMO to play with the most recent game I played being Rift.

And what gets to me more than anything is how inaccessible almost every MMO is to play with someone else unless you work tireless to be the same level and only play at the same time.

In rift we leveled at slightly different paces he had more free time at first. He got about 10 levels higher than myself. We could PvP together that was OK but when it came to questing he would be done with an area and I’m not. Basically we never were able to both work on our characters together it was always someone sacrificing some form of progression to play together. we did it but it wasn't really something we wanted and if we were far too much of a level difference we basically soloed while talking on vent.

Just looking around almost every MMO suffers from this issue. There are a few that have some things that work, such as ffxi with level sync, once that was implemented my friends are I almost always were able to play together no matter what. but ffxi is an old game where that doesn’t really work for quests.

There seems to be nothing out there where if two people logged on they could do stuff together most of the time. Sandbox games it's easy to do but why not theme park games. why is endgame the only time people can do stuff together, why can't I level with friends must we all do it solo.

I've been playing vanguard which has some useful things to help people level together but I still can't just tell my friends to come join without saying o yeah you guys need to catch up a first and then we can level together.

I had this issue with WAR RIFT WOW tons of F2P games, almost every theme park mmo in existence. I just want to enjoy an MMO with my friends why is that so hard."

Starpower feels this is less of an MMO issue and more of a friend issue:

"Sounds more like a friend issue than a MMORPG issue.

The friends I play with wait. They don't level ahead. If the game is THAT good, that they can't help but to log on. They play alts or work on crafting until we are all together. That's what good friends do

This is always going to be an issue in level based games. Mentor systems seems to work but are far from perfect. Your "friends" still possibly have to go through content they are already done with."

cali59 feels Guild Wars 2 is the answer to all of jezvin's issues here:

"Guild Wars 2.

The game doesn't have quests, it has events that run all the time whether players are there or not.  It's not like quests where you have to be on the same stage, you can just decide to help out or leave any time.  People get rewarded for helping after every stage, so it doesn't matter if someone did half a dozen things before you even got there.  The game scales up in dificulty with more people who show up, so it's always challenging no matter how many people are there.

The game automatically mentors you down in power if you go do an event lower level than you (you'll be slightly stronger than the content but won't be able to grief it by 1-shotting it).  You can outlevel your friends yet still meaningfully group with them in any event or dungeon.  Or in the open world you can sidekick them up to your level.

The events run on cycles and can be repeated (or you might see new ones in an old area) so you never run out of older content.

The game is purely cooperative.  You can group to make things easier to coordinate, but you don't even have to.  Everybody gets xp and loot for helping kill a mob or participating in an event.  The game is designed around making you want to see other people and there's plenty of other aspects which support that as well.  Should be not only plenty of opportunities to play with friends, but also make a lot of new ones as well."

Murashu notes that games such as EverQuest II offered a mentoring system that helped to alleviate this issue:

"EQ2 and I'm sure there are others that have a mentoring system so that no matter what level you or your friends are, you can still have fun together. As long as you keep playing games with the restrictive class/level system you will either be forced to have an alt for every friend or wait til everyone is max level to play together and both options suck."

I feel much like the OP does, in fact, I wrote an article on just this subject with regards to Star Wars: The Old Republic (and how it will be seemingly more difficult to do this in that game). I've never liked the notion of basically playing solo from level 1 to cap and then meeting up with your friends to do endgame content. I started out playing Star Wars Galaxies, which had no levels, and my next game was City of Heroes, which offered a robust Sidekicking system that made the issue all but moot. Once I graduated from both these games and moved on to others I realized that this was a major issue prevalent in most MMOs today.

Unfortunately, if the game is designed in a "themepark" manner, it's a pretty hard to find a solution. Themepark games focus on linear quest chains and someone that is just five levels apart from you may be on a totally different quest track than you and sharing isn't often a possibility due to the chaining mechanic. Games that focus on dynamic events, such as Guild Wars 2, will be able to avoid this issue as the content is open to anyone, so this may be the future for MMOs if developers want to re-emphasize the social aspects of the genre.

What are your thoughts on the difficulty of playing with friends? Let us know in the comments below!

STO Boldly Going F2P

Posted by SBFord Thursday September 1 2011 at 10:46AM
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Late Wednesday evening, new information about Star Trek Online came to light during a Q&A session between investors and Perfect World Entertainment's CEO and CFO.  While fielding questions about the acquisition of Cryptic Studios by PWE, it was revealed that "Cryptic is working on the free-to-play model for Star Trek Online. This is going to be launched by the end of this year as well. So I think free-to-play model we have a bigger potential in US market and also in China market."

Honestly, this information isn't completely unexpected. It's definitely something that a lot of players and fans of the property have been clammoring about for a long time. Add to the mix that Champions Online: Free for All version appears to be doing very well and PWE's commitment to F2P titles, it appears that we have the recipe for the announcement.

There is no question that this is a smart move by PWE on behalf of Star Trek Online. By all reports out of Champions Online, the in-game store is not a "pay to win" type of store and truly does contain fluffy vanity items rather than overpowered weapons, etc. If PWE and Cryptic have learned anything from Champions' transformation into a F2P game, let's hope it's this one.

A sticky issue for PWE is going to be the fact that STO has run on a "sort of" item mall model from its inception. While the game charged a monthly fee, players who wanted to, for instance, play other races had to unlock them using the Cryptic Store. The new model is going to have to address some of that when it reemerges as a F2P game. Devs are going to have to ask themselves which things will stay in the store as vanity and which will have to be released wholesale as something required to "win" at the game. Without adequate answers, the idea of pay to win might have some merit.

Fans of the game and those who love the IP will want to watch the transformation of STO as the months roll on. We can certainly hope that the development team will be expanded as (hopefully) revenue rolls in. More devs = more content which is always a good thing.

So what are your thoughts about the F2P Star Trek Online? Is this a good or a bad thing? What about the announcement pleases you and what worries you? Let us know!

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