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All Posts by Tithenon

All Posts by Tithenon

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105 posts found

Magnificent article... well done, and I believe it's the absolute truth.  Something you might include in another article is the time it takes to develop a game, that the community more often than not desires to see games before they're ready for release and that companies are compelled to release games somewhat earlier.  This may be as a result of their benefactor's desire to gauge continuing interest, or it may be true community desire to just have SOMETHING at their fingertips.

 

MechWarrior Online, for example, while not an MMO in the most traditional sense, remains in development, released LONG before even two of the four design pillars of the game were completed, and yet the development that continues, the hope you hear from the developers about what they would like to see in the future, and more, can be intoxicating.  Yet, they were all but forced to release the game early, with nothing more than a combat engine and powerful plans to continue development.

 

So, to give relevance, here, development, pre-readiness releases due to pressure, and more is what the development cycle of many games have grown into, leaving the days of a solid release in the past.  That doesn't mean MMORPGs are, by any stretch of the imagination, dying, nor that developers have to release early for money, it is simply an evolution of development.

I absolutely love the BattleTech universe, have been playing the tabletop game, and running my own mercenary unit in that universe -hey, I'm a gamer, it's what I do, hehe- since November 1984 when I picked up my first boxed set.  BattleTech has been a big part of my life, ever since, not just as an enthusiast for the game, not just as a gamer, but because it's helped to shape my life in the most positive ways possible.


 


On October 30th, 2011, within five minutes of Piranha announcing MWO, I had set up my tabletop unit, Armageddon Unlimited.  I had my account on the MWO forums set up before that, being probably the first or second guy, post-announcement, to have an account, beyond those who'd already been involved with the game for some time.


 


I ran AU from there until September 9th, 2012, when some horrible things took place, and I disbanded the unit.  I have not really logged a full hour in my Founder's Catapult since then, but I keep up pretty readily on the forums, and can't seem to let this particular bug go.


 


However... as much as I love the BattleTech universe, and that should actually read LOVE, and as much as I want Piranha to succeed, because this universe is running out of chances -indeed, this may be the last one-, running out of life, I am at the point right now where I'm having a very difficult time remaining positive.


 


Piranha can pull this game back out of the fire it's now resting in, burning to pieces, but they have to do it fast, or there will be no game.  Sometimes, it seems as though that is exactly what Piranha wants to do with this game.  The reviewer, Gareth Harmer, is absolutely dead on, every single point he's made, and then some, are truly problematic, not the least of which is that PGI have stopped listening, and seem to no longer be following their own design pillars, anymore.


 


This saddens me, and I wish with all of my might I had the money to put a team together to do this game justice.  A lot of us 'enthusiasts', for whom this game is a lifestyle, have put hundreds and thousands of hours, a labor of love for each of us, into the BattleTech universe, and it's as if PGI couldn't care at all about that.  Sad, really, because it's so beautiful.


 


~Colonel Kay Wolf, Armageddon Unlimited, (in limbo)


"I'm not saying Funcom would make a better game, just a better looking game because I think Middle Earth should be a dark gritty place (not saying T and A) and not so clean and ornate like Turbine's version." ~ rodingo

 

Well, you've apparently never read the stories, then.  It should be exactly as it is.

As much as I love this MMO, and I love all three of the character's I have in it, on Dwarrowdelf, I'm afraid the grind is not something I would miss.  I love the world, and think I should be able to explore it to my heart's content, without being required to fight my way through every single zone, but I have been doing so since 2007, and have come to not mind it.  The vista's, the bad guys, the Dragons, the way the world is being laid out, the information that's there, the parallel storyline, it's all awesome.  Frankly, I can't see how the license holder could do anything BUT renew.  It's fantastic.

"As developers, we need to share our work early and often, before we are so far along that we can’t make changes and adapt to players."

 

You may have a NEED to share your work early and often but, from my perspective, were I to develop a game, I would develop what I was going to develop and share nothing with anyone outside the company about anything until it was time for open beta.  My take is that developers don't put enough effect into closed beta to make the game viable for open beta, so they get the crap kicked out of them during open beta.

 

My philosophy is two-fold... single-player game design companies don't have a closed or open beta, they make their games and release them, which leads me to the second fold of my philosophy... if you build it, they will come.

 

I understand MMOs are a whole lot bigger than single-player games, which is why there's a need for beta, at all, but you have to do absolutely everything you can during closed beta, not just pawn it off to three or four months of closed beta, and then 18 months of open.  Of all the beta's I've participated in, I've actually found little wrong with any of them, except for some of the more extensive mechanics, and that's as it should be.

 

No, players need to stay out of having any information for the game whatsoever until it's time for open beta.

Even though I've been a role-player for the past three decades, I scored HIGH on Self (55%), followed by Role (25%) and Mastery (20%).

 

What's the use of mastering anything if there's no story behind it?  I am presently playing ONLY Lord of the Rings Online, and I believe my answers are based more on how the MMORPG is constructed than an overall thought process.  I love certain characters -three of which I am presently playing in LotRO-, but I cannot actually role-play them because there are no real role-playing opportunities, whether from the game or the community.  If I had a game that at least tried to fit role-playing into it -I'm thinking ESO will actually do a lot of that, if my experiences in Oblivion were any indication-, then I'm sure my role would be much higher, likely 50%, shoving Self and Mastery lower.

 

Perhaps some control questions could be introduced for that quiz, such as "Does the inherent environment of the game have an effect on how you play that game?"  Perhaps there could even be a multiple choice question about role-playing, exploring, crafting, and other elements typical to most MMOs.  I understand no one wants the quiz to be huge, but I have to say that several of those questions simply did not have any manner of satisfactory answers for me; nothing fit, so I made the best choices I could.  I would definitely love to have a more accurate quiz, though.

Yet again, a very well-written piece.  Thank you.

 

I have stopped trying to convince my family, several years back, of all the things you have in this article, because they refuse to understand, and all of my current friends, as far as I know, play various games, even if they don't play the same games I do.  In fact, among all of my friends, I am the only one still playing Lord of the Rings Online, and I've not played that for some time, now.  Most other games either don't strike my fancy, or I can't afford the time and money for them, and/or I don't want to play them alone.

"So this begs the question. If getting gear and increasing stats can replace leveling in a game, why bother with levels at all?"

 

In the first place, in tabletop RPGs, which is what MMORPGs are SUPPOSED to be based on, your gear rarely changes, except for improving in ability to hit.  It's your skills, talents, knacks, and abilities that change.  I'm going to use Earthdawn as the example for what I would like to see in MMOs.  In most all MMOs, you gain a certain number of experience points and you go up a level, which AUTOMATICALLY gives you all the bonuses for that level, and then you gain more experience and, at your next level, like clockwork, you automatically gain the all the bonuses for that level.  You can play five of the very same type of character, and you're going to have five very similar, if not absolutely exact characters, at the same level.  EVERYONE on the server has the very same character when they reach the end-game content, it's all the same garbage all the time.  This is especially true when you have only 5 classes, or so.

 

Now, Earthdawn... 15 Disciplines (Classes) to begin with, 15 Circles (Levels) each.  You begin at 1st Circle and you choose up to 8 Talents (Magical Skills) -more to the point you have eight points to split among a group of Talents, with a maximum of 3 in any one Talent- that you like for your character.  You have to have a certain minimum number of those Talents raised to 2nd Circle -and this is true for all other Circles-, and a certain amount of Legend (Experience) Points (LPs) before the 2nd Circle can be opened up to your character.  But, instead of automatically gaining all of your bonuses, it simply opens those bonuses to you, and you have to purchase them, through the use of these accrued Legend Points, before you can use them.  This includes increasing Ranks on your Talents, increasing your Attribute Values so you can increase your Death Rating (Hit Points) and Unconsciousness Rating, and purchasing non-magical Skills in the game.  This is added to increasing Ranks on Legendary (Magic) items, activating Group powers, and a few other things in the game.

 

A system like this is a bit more difficult to deal with, but it allows each person to customize their character, by Ranks and by Talents chosen, and thus by abilities available overall, so players can have unique characters.

 

The technology is here, and it should be used.  The much vaunted TESO is not going to correct this, though they'll have skills that will automatically increase individually, as they're used; however, this does not allow a player the ability to build their character as they see fit.  Secret World did about the same thing, only they somehow came up with 700 active and passive skills for players to mix and match in small doses to be used in the game.  No levels, but no real direction to go, either.  The perfect mix has to be somewhere in-between.

 

To answer the original question: levels are heavily passe, and there are better ways to deal with advancement for player's characters.

 

For anyone who will decide to respond to me, I am unable to receive -I've worked with the admins here multiple times to try and resolve this- notifications on returning comments.  All of my settings are right, so that's not the problem.

Having been a tabletop GM since about 1993, and a tabletop player since a decade before that, I have to say that, although MMORPGs are starting to improve -and World of Warcraft's lame way of doing things were the catalyst to make this happen-, they still have quite a way to go to reach the open-world open-adventure/exploration sort of game.  However, if they ever get there, I have a feeling it will be done on a more perfect level; there is NO video game that will EVER replace an excellent GameMaster, and there never should be, but I think they could get pretty close.  Let's see what TESO does when it launches.

Ms. Gonzalez,

 

Bless you for bringing this up.  I look forward to your second article on this subject.

 

There CAN be game mechanics which foster RP, but again the developers don't worry about that.  For the past decade, as I have played, I've noticed that almost ALL RP is incumbent on the players to maintain for themselves.  RP will never be an in-MMORPG constant, as most RP deals almost exclusively with social aspects of life.  If I am not sitting across the tabletop from you, where I know your face, see or at least sense your emotions, and can at least attempt to address you as my character, and vice-versa, then it's not really role-playing.  My oldest son, at 16, even knows the difference in this, as he often comes to me and asks when we'll be able to get back into a tabletop group; he plays games like Assassin's Creed, MechWarrior Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Smite, etc., but he comes to me often enough that I feel badly that we don't live in a part of the world where role-playing is more prominent.

 

Could this be changed?  Sure.  Biometrics, but further than that.  If you're playing an MMORPG, and you have a web cam, part of the game, while creating your first character for it, could run you through a series of emotions, each captured by the web cam, measured and made into template images for various emotions.  Each template would have a percentage of leeway because you won't make the exactly measured expression a second time, ever.  While in-game, your character's face is superimposed over your own, but your head movements and expressions would replace current animations.  That might help.

 

This is just one suggestion, but I have papers due for college, and this is finals week, so I'm not thinking of much, right now.

"What motivates you to explore?"  I think the biggest part, for me, is the "Ooh, what's that?!" effect.  What I mean is, when I move into a new area, regardless of means by which I find myself there, if I see a bit of landscape, or pretty colors off in the distance, that grabs my attention right away, I usually say "Ooh, what's that?!" and soon find myself moving in that direction.  What I would like to see in MMOs is climbing - I mean real climbing, not just moving up a steep hill as quickly as possible.

 

"Rare titles?"  No.  I couldn't care less about titles.

 

"Chests hidden in remote areas containing epic gear, consumables, and crafting materials that benefit you no matter the level of the zone?"  I can't say these interest me, though they can be a nice surprise.

 

"What about discovering breathtaking landscapes?"  I certainly like to see these pretty places, but I think the drive, for me, is to get to the top of them, to the deepest or highest point, and perhaps even into areas that are not developed, yet, like I did with every available square centimeter of World of Warcraft prior to Burning Crusade.  The breathtaking landscape draws me in, but being able to look back to where I came from after I get up there, is where the thrill is.  The ONLY place I've found to be somewhat counter to that was Rivendell Valley/Imladris in LotRO, which vista you get to see as you're entering the valley in the first place.

 

"Do you prefer quest lines that are guided/linear and have a cohesive story?"  I prefer to have a sandbox environment, with tasks littered about, or which are concluded upon completion of their requirements, but yes I would love to have a deep storyline that actually has something to do with the back-story, the history, the uniqueness of the setting, and takes some time to solve.  I want to have "...adventures, Gandalf...", where a group of aspects are assigned to all tasks and the adventure's twists and turns are determined by what I do in the adventure and the aspects that are affected.  I haven't figured out precisely how to do this, yet, without the various databases for the game being completed overloaded, but once I do, I'll let you know.

 

"Or do you like the freedom to explore areas yourself and find quests along the way?"  Well, part of my answer from immediately above, applies here.  To be complete, however, I LOVE to explore, regardless of whether I'm doing it as part of a task group or chain, or on my own.  I've already been known to do both, and have gotten myself in trouble a few times as a result.

I built the following for the Beyond the Supernatural tabletop RPG, though he could easily fit into Dark Conspiracy or, with some modifications -which I've done-, Millennium's End/ Shadow Games RPG.  Finally, for the MMORPG he could easily fit into, which I've yet to purchase and try out... Secret World.  The images were taken from various places on the internet, I don't know from where, but no copyright infringement is meant by any of these, and they are all used without motive for profit.  Without further adieu, I give you Lance Barrett Shaw...

 

http://www.wolvesau.net/LShaw.pdf

 
Originally posted by marz.at.play
After the leaked video, is anyone actually still excited about this game considering it's going the subscription model route? Just curious as a game would have to blow me away to justify a subscription anymore. Most MMO's are going the B2P or F2P route, plus there's so many choices now as a result.

In fact, I am even MORE excited.  Free-to-Play games are labeled as such for a reason... namely, they suck.  Now, I feel the need to qualify that... Lord of the Rings Online is actually very well-done, and Turbine is seeking to improve the game in ways that haven't been done in an MMO community, before, but the game is still F2P, and it will have a long way to go before it would be subscription viable.

 

TESO, on the other hand, if the game is anything like Oblivion or Skyrim and, from all indications it will be even better, will be well-worth the monthly subscription.  I don't understand why people are so averse to paying a monthly fee, for all of the hard work and content put into the game, for everything that will be fixed by a professional-grade business rather than a gamer business, and for everything yet to come.

 

In fact, for those of you who hate subscriptions and are work-aged... how would you feel if I came to your business and told you that all of your services, which were VERY expensive to build into your business, and your business model itself, were not going to be paid for through the standard means of paying for them?  Wouldn't you be absolutely outraged that all of your hard work was going out the window, that you wouldn't have the money, meaning you also wouldn't REALLY have the opportunity, to improve them, and that your pay might take a drastic cut.  Or, worse, how about you look at it this way... all of your hard work doesn't mean squat to anyone who will not be paying for your services, but they still have the right to yell and scream at you like you're some ignorant stupid dweeb who had nothing to do with building their new favorite pastime, and you still have to work as a wage-slave to produce new items that cannot be P2W and have to look and function great in the game, without flaws, or you will lose people, hence losing your job?

 

You subscription haters disgust me, frankly; if I am capable of paying what I consider to be a tiny monthly fee to have dozens of hours per month of self-directed enjoyment ANY TIME I want it, I will.  I want a game that actually has quality, not just a time-sink that makes me want to bang my head on the desk, and that is precisely what F2P models have become.

 

"In the last Touchy Subject, I discussed the lack of community and social within the genre, and how it affects the longevity of a title. I think the element of roleplay, or at least feeling the pangs of character is also key." ~ You really wanted to answer 'yes, the lack of community and social times ARE, indeed, missing', didn't you?  My cousin is the ONLY person I have grouped with in nearly three weeks in Lord of the Rings Online, because the community is crap, now.  Either the community is so small that I'm surprised the game is still going, or the game is barely surviving because of the lack of play.  I used to see thirty or forty people listed in the social panel of ANY zone I was in, but not anymore.  Every night this week that I have logged in, it's been me, and me alone.

 

Now, speaking of LotRO... this is the ONLY MMORPG I have played that has some semblance of story to it, and it's not great.  I'm still "bunny-hopping" from marker-to-marker on the map and, if I don't take the time to read the text, I find I'm logging out sooner than I thought I would be.  I believe TESO is going to change at least SOME of this; I believe they are going to come up with a fantastic back-story players will relate to, enjoy, and be able to truly interact with, but I'm not sure if it will actually reduce the zone-to-zone work so prevalent in today's MMOs.

 

"I look at my time in EverQuest and see a definite story arc. I see the lower level character scrabbling around, fishing for rubies, exploring the land, and forging armour for friends and customers. I look to my time in The Old Republic and see 12 carbon copies of myself bunny hoping to markers on a map." ~ If that doesn't signal that something is seriously missing from our games, these days, I don't know what is.  The trouble is, these developers all must be console gamers, not even cRPG players, and definitely not tabletop gamers, or we would see more beautiful storylines to go along with the beautiful in-game locations and vistas.  Also, the fact that tabletop gamers are usually strapped for cash and have a hard-time maintaining their apartment, let alone trying to make an online game, is a crying shame, because the rampant creativity of these tabletop folks far outstrips ANYTHING we've had from MMORPGs, thus far.

 

"Do you feel there are still RPG elements within the genre? Are you still as mesmerised by the fantasy created by developers? Or do you yearn for a time when pen-and-paper influences were more pronounced, and character and choice was valued? Let me know in the comments below." ~ Mesmerized to see the locations and vistas provided in the game, yes.  Are there still RPG elements?  Only on the most basic levels.  Too many RPG-ignorant people in the varied communities out there argue that, since you're playing an avatar, you're accepting quests and working your way through them, that you are role-playing, and NOTHING could be further from the truth; role-playing is normally a whole lot more than that.  I certainly do yearn for a time when tabletop gaming influences were more pronounced, and choice and character development were important. 

 

I wrote a 220-page MMO document based off research for writing such from those in the 'industry' who'd built MMORPGs for the Earthdawn property, but very bloody few people have looked it over, I think.  The problem is not only in the developers, however, it's also in the players, who are LAZY... let me say that, again...

 

LAZY

 

The interest in reading and doing, the interest in making choices and altering the outcome, are just not there, anymore, beaten out of old role-players, like myself, and not present in new role-players, to actually play the games, to make choices, to develop their characters.  They're LAZY.  However, if a developer is able to put together a game that makes current players helpless to resist their decision-making, role-play requiring, ways in a game, I think we can start to get that back.

 

Oh, and just a caveat... we'll have to wait and see what TESO delivers.  Star Wars: TOR was supposed to be a sandbox delivery with more than just pretty graphics, and it's turned into yet another travesty.

"The Air Strike feature allows a pilot to call in a fighter air strike on a targeted zone on the field of battle, dropping up to six bombs after a five second flight time delay. Each bomb rips 10 points of damage, striking a devastating blow on your enemy from above. The Artillery Strike option calls in a barrage of long-range artillery, with up to six shells shattering your foe with 10 points of damage.

Read more at http://www.mmorpg.com/newsroom.cfm/loadNews/27240/utm_campaign/MMORPG%20Daily%20Digest%20Email/utm_source/MMORPG/utm_medium/email/eatrack/tithenon@wolvesau.net,8#zXBGKpPBmDYumeL0.99"

 

10 Points?  Only 10 points per bomb or shell?  Are you f'n kiddin' me?!  The Long Tom drops 30, and that's just within the first fifteen meter radius, then it drops to 20 up to 45 meters, and then 10 up to 165 meters?  What's wrong with these guys?  Or, do these strikes automaticagically hit a target within the grid-reference?

This might take me a bit to answer.
 

 

“The elusive end game is what many MMO players are looking for in order to keep playing the same game for long months on end.” ~ Okay, this statement makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.  So, you plan for a game that is supposed to be set in a potentially perpetual universe… to END, from the outset?  Alright, when THAT makes sense to someone, let me know, please?  ‘The END-game… players are looking for to KEEP PLAYING… for long months on end…’?  Wait, WHAT?!

 

 

Rather than allowing the words ‘end game’ to creep into the planning at ANY point during the planning, as with a regular video game that is designed to come to an end, why not allow for a different term, such as ‘content in-game release point’, or just simply like any other business designed to be perpetual?  Have a tasks benchmark point, such as 1500 tasks in-game prior to release; we all know MMO developers are going to put in expansions and updates, and those apply to the game overall, but they really don’t go to any sort of ‘end game content’.

 

 

“I’m too much of an old school RPG Game Master at heart to trust the care of my world to the players, and I think that’s why I never really got into EVE.” ~ Now, this is something I’m very familiar, having been a tabletop role-player since my middle school days -too long ago to be recognizable, anymore, just AFTER the dinosaurs, I’m afraid-, and for the tabletop this sort of mentality is fine.  As a compromise between the two viewpoints of allowing players to create the world or keeping a tight control over it, build the stories and assets you want to see placed in your world to begin with and, once you’ve reached your planned saturation point, then begin to develop tools for other players to get in and create, as well.  Keep in mind that there are thousands of others in the world who have been GamesMasters and will find your game to be the perfect place to put together adventures they love, have developed, and/or have run for their players.  For those who are not tabletop gamers, there are still many out there who will want to take ideas they’ve seen and/or developed, before, and see them in your game.  It’s the height of selfishness to not allow them to work magic you didn’t think of.

 

 

“Costumes and Emotes are usually the worst selling microtransactions in any given game’s cash shop, when they sit side-by-side with power items that have an actual improvement on your character’s combat effectiveness.” ~ I hate to say this, HATE IT, but unfortunately MMORPGs are designed to power players up.  Had MMOs been designed with the traditional role-playing ideals in-mind, two things would have happened:

 

 

1) Traditional RP players would not expect all of the power-ups available since EverQuest and Asheron’s Call, and

 

 

2) MMORPGs would have died on the vine, because video gamers would not have taken to playing something where they couldn’t build their characters up and gain super-powers to keep them playing to the end of the game.

 

 

In this way, I agree with you, Matt, that face-to-face contact is very important to keep players interested in the game, or you have to go with incentives.  It’s pretty sad that we have a now-me society, because there are a lot of great stories to be told, but no one to enjoy them.

 

 

Which appeals to you more as a player, Sandbox or Theme Park and why? Is there an element of the other that you don’t mind? Is there an element of the other that drives you away? ~ I believe that both have their place.  To be honest with you, from what I’ve read about how tasks will be gathered, and with the removal of “quest hubs” from the game, it sounds to me as though The Elder Scrolls Online will have the perfect mixture, or at least the next-best step to doing so.  However, my thought is that a game needs to have a perfect mixture of both; after all, what’s the problem with having a relatively open world while finding the periodic beginning campaign task that will take your character, and your friend’s characters into a long chain of events that ENDs in some manner of catastrophic and perfectly heroic event?

 

 

The ONE thing I feel MMORPG developers (keep in mind the RPG stands for Role-Playing Game) have missed, wholesale, is how role-playing adventures, campaigns, and actual quests are developed, and that’s because most of the industry is full of console gamers who have played games mistakenly labeled as RPGs, but do not actually have any decent story-telling abilities themselves.  TESO might be the first MMORPG that tells several decent stories, and I am only saying that based off prior experience with Bethesda games, particularly Oblivion and Fallout 3.  I hope they will set the benchmark for telling stories in games; however, even Bethesda does not have the whole of it, and I’m afraid I will wait forever before I see actual tasks related to actual adventures, unless somehow I win the lottery or I gain a huge inheritance and take to making the game myself.

 

 

Champions Online, Star Trek Online, pretty much any Cryptic game I have played, especially now that they are so closely in bed with PWE, who has forced players to get a second account WITH THEM to be able to play any of those games -IGNORANCE-, turned me entirely off within the first 30 levels.  Why?  Because their stories are about getting into fights, and little else.  Star Trek was SOMEWHAT different because you could drive a starship around in their universe, but their map -as cool as it is- only allows you to go from planet to planet in a very close frame… there is no real travel, and I never saw an actual shipboard adventure.  Basically, without going much further, Cryptic’s games are a bunch of pretty graphics and character design and background elements, with zero substance.

 

 

“I’ll be at C2E2 in Chicago at the end of April. My panel is on Friday, April 26th at 3:15 entitled “Playing a Hero in MMOs”, stop by if you have a chance!” ~ Oh, man, I wish I could make it to Chicago for that.  I can’t make it out of my driveway, right now, hehe, but I hope that your panel will show up on YouTube somewhere, so I can see it.

 

Poignant article, and I agree with you, Adam.  My only MMORPG, right now, is one not a lot of people really care all that much about, anymore, likely because of the mistakes made by the producers and continuing developers, Lord of the Rings Online.  I talked two of my cousins, and both of my sons into playin LotRO because I knew I wouldn't be able to make many new friends, and I was right.

 

I am not an extremely social person in the first place and, quite frankly, I would play a tabletop RPG with a group of friends over playing an MMO, any day of the week and twice on Sunday, if I could find a group.  But, I guess, a lot of us are finding cause to be anti-social together.

 

I think one of the problems I have is, like you, I will go through an instance, or team up with someone to solve twenty or thirty tasks, and then we'll go our own way.  Oh, by then I will have added you as a friend, but we will not have said much to one another over the two hours or so and, at the end, you and I consider one-another someone we can call on, acquaintances, but not friends.  I will have said hello in the beginning, and we might converse about what to do next, and I will say fair journey when we part, but there is no substance in-between.  No talking about March Madness, or the insanity of North Korea's leader, or Mahmoud Imanutjob, or the price of gas, or how our families are doing.  I don't think it has anything to do with the games, the new structures, mechanics, and goals within the game; rather, I can't see your face, I don't have the first fraggin' clue who you are, and I'm not willing to give you infomation until you give me some.

 

This is all as a result of having been socialized due to our present socio-political-economic environment; I'm poor and can't seem to get my math score in my continuing college very high, for whatever reason, and I'm depressed because I'm a Bosnia vet, and our government has us living in a climate of fear, scared of terrorists and a 2nd American Revolution, and NONE of our news is positive, and we don't have GREAT music artists and actors like we used to, to inspire us to find more and better in ourselves.

 

This translates into the game.

 

I had made friends, a couple of brothers from Macedonia, in LotRO, a couple of great guys, but one was having to kill himself solely for work so he could support himself, his college-bound younger brother -who was also working overtime while attending university- and their mother, as they all continued to live in the same house.  Unfortunately, when their three-week version of Spring Break ended, about three weeks ago, that was it for them.  I haven't seen them, since.  Of course, they went from 0 to 60 in that three-week span, and I'm still working on 52 after nearly three years of playing the game, so that might be contributing to the lack of communication, as well.

 

People are depressed and, in general, uncertain about the next moves in the world, they're weary of playing through more of the same that we've had for the past decade or so, weary of gaining new friends in a game where no one ever sees one-another and the climate of trust we used to have is eroded to dust, and there's one more factor that's fairly important, here...

 

There are so many raids, large-group areas and dungeons, Small and large Fellowship tasks, that completing the game without being forced to join others is wearing pretty damn thin.  Now, I've joined several groups of folks, whether I had a task to complete, or not, simply to help them, not because I was forced to, but because I was given a choice to.  I, for one, am desperately sick and tired of being REQUIRED to join or group, or die in the execution of the game.  This group-or-die mentality strangles the choice players SHOULD have as to whether or not they will join a group and complete a task, or the several that might automatically feed onto your character when you enter an instance, and it needs to be removed!  How...?

 

How tough can it be to write an algorithm that takes into account the varied stats the dungeon might call for, total or average those out, by level and power, and then build the opposition within a dungeon to match, or slightly exceed, that number, so players, whether solo, grouped, or in a raid, can take on that dungeon and have a challenge and a good time, getting through it, without wiping a thousand times (I'm looking at you, WoW) or running into creatures several levels below you, when you're completely spec'd out based on research you shouldn't HAVE to do to play the game, and a spec you don't want for YOUR character, and have your butt handed to you, anyway (LotRO, this one's for you)!

 

For my tabletop game, I built an Excel file which does this.  I put in the party member's names, their important statistics, and I have three ratings that glean from these statistics to determine their survivability: Offensive, Defensive, and Arcane.  I then decided which monster type, or monsters, I wanted to put into the game -some of them include bosses and champions, but many of them do not- and I build up the number of these until the comparison ratio I also have built into the file reads one-to-one, or perhaps a little tougher for the party to have a real challenge.  I do this for every single encounter my players fight in.  The functional rows number 7, only four of which hold formula's, and then each character and each creature gets their own row.  The functional columns number 18, where their stats come in.  So, what's the problem with having a party when, on entering the instance the statistics that are important to that instance are calculated, totaled, averaged, and then opposition equal to or somewhat in excess of their power level is slammed against them, PER ENCOUNTER, so there is a challenge to be had?

 

Oh, and as for the Looking-for-Group finder, for raids or instances, I would be willing to bet you that less than 10% of folks ever use the thing.  I've tried to use it, as an experiment, over a dozen times in LotRO to find a group, and everyone's too busy using the LFG channel to look into using the finder.  I don't think non-communication is the problem, there.

 

Adam, I don't believe this is a problem with the game so much as it is the people, and developers, I believe, need to work around this to make it happen where solo players are rewarded appropriately for their play and are not left out of small and large groups, and raids, simply because the player isn't keen to join those and, thus, can't level properly, and then several other incentives need to be given to allow players to make the choice whether or not they will group, rather than group-or-die.

 

Finally, MMORPGs are supposed to be for role-playing, but we have quest hubs, and we have merchants, but there's no real place, as there is in role-playing, for players to sit their characters down with one-another, share a virtual drink and a meal, and just talk... can we have that, please?

 

Ms. Jonte,

 

I think you may be my new favorite author, here.  Absolutely outstanding article; I hope someone pays attention.  Thank you.

I'm just hoping I will be able to afford upgrades, or new computers even, by the time this comes out.  I loved Oblivion so much, and haven't had an opportunity to play Skyrim because it's only on Steam, and I utterly despise Steam.  Come to think of it, I hope Zenimax runs ESO, so I don't have to deal with the utterly huge amount of BS concerning Steam.
I am an explorer, and I was really wondering if they would open up the whole of the world to those of us who ONLY want to explore.  I could give a rat's ass about AvA or raids, and this pretty much brought a tear to my eye in gratitude when it was said exploration would be in.  Thank you, Zenimax!!!  It will be Christmas all over again when this game comes out.
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