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Dynamic Lighting

I have played many popular MMORPGs, as well as participated in betas for the most obscure of games. I like to think I know a thing or two about the industry, and so I write about it.

Author: NotArkard

Contributor: NotBrandon

Lights out for Hellgate: London?

Posted by NotArkard Tuesday November 4 2008 at 8:33PM
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Cross-posted from MMOCrunch.com

It's been a while since a major online game has been completely packed up and taken away from the public. Auto Assault? It wasn't really a major game, it was one of NCSoft's many "side" games. The Sims Online? I'll bet very few other than me knew the game even existed. Whether you experienced Hellgate: London for yourself or not, though, you knew it was out there. You weren't sure exactly what kind of game it was, and that's quite possibly largely in part to the fact that it couldn't decide on a specific genre. I'm writing about it now, since the general opinion was that this game was an "MMOG" at the very least. Hellgate: London won't leave any innovative gameplay features in its legacy, but it'll serve as yet another example of how to not make an online game.

 

 

 

I. Release Date - Ooh, scary!

Hellgate: London was released just in time for Halloween last year. No, the game wasn't ready, but it was Halloween! It fit the "gloomy feel" of the game, and so it had to be released on that date. I did buy this game as soon as it was released, and so I'll note some of its most redeeming features at the time of release(remember, it was Halloween, so it had to be scary!):

  •  An awful patching process that didn't really patch anything. When it launched, the patching process was absolute shit. I remember disconnecting a couple of times, and the patch would start over from 0%. Come on! This wouldn't have been so bad if the client itself didn't crash for no damn reason at all. Side note: I did try to play the game again recently. When I went to patch it, it asked me to manually download a multiplayer patch. I didn't see a reason to, but did it anyway. I eventually gave up once I realized the game couldn't decide on whether it wanted to be patched or not.
  •  An amazing introduction cinematic. Once you got to play the game, in-between crashes, you realized where they spent most of their budget. It wasn't on developing the actual game, it was on creating that cinematic. Everything about that cinematic was great, but I sort of wished there had been more things in the game itself than an intro.
  • A lot of crashes to the desktop for no reason whatsoever. Sometimes the patching process would halt randomly if you tabbed out, or failed to please the game client in some other way.
  • OFFICIAL FORUMS!

I realize most of the times the deadline isn't set by the development companies, but by the publisher, or the person putting all their money into the project. Either way, publishers and developers alike need to realize that if something isn't ready, it's sometimes better to spend a little bit more on it to ensure that the game has a healthy lifespan, than to release it two weeks early so that it will be shut down a year later.

II. You worked on Diablo, we get it.

The game itself wasn't as hyped as the people that were working on it. The first thing I ever learned about the game a couple of years back was not that it had guns, or that it took place in a post-apocalyptic world. The first thing I even saw on their website was "We made/worked on Diablo. You should buy our game." I'm paraphrasing, of course. Still, if the best thing you can come up with to hype your game is "we made a great game in the past" you're not showing a lot of promise for the game you're currently trying to hype.

Hellgate: London had the following things in common with Diablo:

  •  Zombies
  •  Items
  •  Wirt's Leg. Real original, guys.

Other than that, they were two completely different beasts, and should've been treated as such. This is another thing game companies need to stop doing. I'll even say this got Mythic into some trouble when hyping WAR, since a lot of players ended up thinking it would be DAoC2. I, as a gamer, don't really care about your game development resume. Even the often-hated-for-no-reason SOE has released really good games, despite their bloodied past. Likewise, if you made a really good game in the past, you could end up making a terrible game now.

Just stop. Work on your game, hype its features, do what you want. Just make sure you're always focusing on your current job, not on your past. Imagine you have a child, and it grows up to be a success. If you then have another child, would you ignore or skip certain parenting aspects just because you made "a really good one" before?

III. We have guns, swords, and everything you didn't ask for.

Hellgate: London stuck to its vision from the beginning. They didn't want you to be able to "respec" your mastery trees in the game, just like you couldn't do it in Diablo. I, for one, was behind this one hundred percent. The problem in this particular case, was that you didn't need any damn points in anything. You could go the whole game without spending a single point into anything. This was especially true for Hunter classes. Your survival depended on how well you could aim in FPS mode and how powerful your gun was. That was it. You had points to spend on things, but they weren't any useful in helping you shoot things down better or faster. It's cool that you wanted us to think carefully about what to specialize in, but when nothing was useful, it didn't matter if you offered the option to "respec" or not.

This game had everything: rocket launchers, sniper rifles, automatic weapons, and...swords?! I didn't get this bit. It makes sense in steampunk-type games: not every soldier wants to spend an eternity reloading a rifle manually after each shot, and as such some will favour melee weapons. In this setting, it didn't make much sense, though. You had automatic weapons. There's absolutely no incentive or benefit to using a sword, or a shield against zombies when you could be gunning down or blowing up the masses with little effort. I guess templars felt the need to be "stylish" and using rocket launchers was beneath them. The game doesn't give you the impression that a catastrophe has occurred and everyone is doing their best to survive when you have assholes running around hunting zombies with a longsword for sport.

Another thing a lot of people were pissed off about was the lack of a LAN option for the game. I'm sure they're even more pissed off now that the servers are shutting down and they're going to be stuck with a single-player game they can't return to the store. It seems Flagship wasn't really interested in letting players play their games with friends unless it was on their server. They had reasons for this, and they were posted all over the official forums for time to time, but damn if I remember them. I don't even remember what I had for breakfast.

IV. Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Rumors are going around that the game will live on. People still aren't sure of the game's fate in the US or EU, but for Asia, at least there has been an announcement that they will try to keep the game alive. You can read about it here. The servers for US, and EU, currently hosted by NAMCO BANDAI Games America Inc. will issue their final breath on Jan 31st, 2009 at midnight.

Though we should never celebrate people losing their jobs, or someone's dream shattering before them, we should at least try to learn from it. Game development companies need to learn to take the right steps in hyping their product, preparing it for release, and take feedback from their communities. At the same time, publishers should realize that if something isn't ready, it isn't ready. Waiting a couple of months without income can net you a lot more in the long run.
 

Witching Night: A blessing in disguise?

Posted by NotArkard Monday November 3 2008 at 2:12PM
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Cross posted from http://mmocrunch.com.

Happy Halloween, everybody! Yes, yes, I realize it's a couple of days late, but better late than never, right? On that note, I wanted to take this opportunity to properly introduce myself. My name is Malcom, and I'm one of the newest writers here at MMOCrunch.com. If you've read some of my previous posts here, you'll know that I mostly write about the world of Warhammer: Online, as well as some free-to-play MMORPGs that I happen to come by every now and then. Other than that, there's very little about me to share, and since you're here to read about MMORPGs, let's move on! Today, I will be describing my experience with the Witching Night event added to the world of Warhammer: Online on October 29th to honor the real-life celebrations of Halloween. Not only are we going to look into the event itself, and the obtainable rewards, but Mythic's ulterior motive behind this event. Was Witching Night Mythic's way of pushing people to the open RvR areas? Was it the miraculous kick-start that we've all been hoping RvR would get, or simply yet another item-driven and soon forgotten event?

I. Content Additions

I'm sure I wasn't the only one thinking "oh god, here comes another holiday event," but much to my surprise Mythic didn't simply add two or three items, a quest in Altdorf/Inevitable City and called it a day. Witching Night included one important addition: the Live Events tab to the Tome of Knowledge. We could spend a lot of time speculating what it will be used for in the very distant future, but it does show promise. Mythic has already announced that they will have more live events during the Heavy Metal content update set to take place starting November 17th. The potential for this tool shouldn't be underestimated in the right hands. For instance, if you were to have a team of people working on live events constantly, you could add a lot of flavour to the game. You could have daily, or weekly events to try to get people away from the daily scenario grind.

II. Influence and PvE

The main event included goals and rewards for both PvE and PvP. When accessing your Live Events tab on your Tome of Knowledge, you would see an influence bar and a "quest" showing your progress on the PvE aspect of the event. In order to complete the PvE side of the live event, you needed to kill: 50 Restless Spirits, 25 Withered Crones, and 10(?) Witching Lords. You would also get basic, advanced, and elite influence rewards as you would obtain from any regular PQ. To obtain influence during the event, you either had to kill the monsters listed on the live events tab, or players. Players seemed to give a minimal amount of influence, and from my experience they were not the best way to go about obtaining it. If anyone had a different experience, I'd love to hear how it worked for you. I would've preferred obtaining full influence by killing players than grinding mobs.

The PvE rewards included:

* Mask 4/4 - Obtained as the elite influence reward.
* Mask 3/4 - Obtained as drops from Restless Spirits, and Withered Crones.
* Gift of Dark Tidings - 4 cloaks in total you could choose from, one for each archetype. Each one had different bonuses: one for melee, one for ranged, one for healing, and one for offensive casting.
* Witching Potion - Obtained as the basic influence reward. This gives you an aura for 10 minutes and has a 60 minute cooldown. I don't know if this was intended or not, but my charges kept resetting at random intervals allowing me to always be at 5/5. You could also obtain a title from using this potion.
* Witch King* Title - Obtained by killing all the required mobs on the Live Events tab.

*To obtain the Witch King title, you actually had to do some or keep track of the RvR PQ. The Witching Lords you needed to complete the "quest" appeared only after one side killed 100 players of the opposing faction. I don't know if I was the only one this happened to, but whenever I killed a Witching Lord, it gave me credit for five. Not sure exactly how that was intended to work, or if Mythic originally intended for players to only have to kill two and the live events tab displayed ten.

As far as the PvE event, it wasn't anything spectacular. You had to grind mobs to get items. The rewards weren't really "rare" or difficult to obtain. It took me an hour and a half of grinding restless spirits to get full influence, and the result shown to the right. Man, I wish I was good enough to edit or manipulate pictures. That's actually how many masks I ended up with in my quest to full influence. Anyone who did the same can tell you it's a pretty accurate depiction of the drop rate for the gobbo masks. Now, I'm not going to complain; I plan to make a killing once the initial appeal of this holiday has passed and most everyone has sold their masks on the auction house. Still, it made me feel weird equipping this mask when I knew that everyone else on the planet was also wearing it. The mask model was actually my favourite out of the four, so you can imagine how disappointed I was when I realized how easy they were to obtain.

III. Get thee to the RvR area!

The RvR PQ was actually fun, and it looked like it could've been even more fun if it had been planned a little bit better. I'm on a medium population server, and the amount of people that showed up to the RvR areas for the event was absolutely staggering. I had to tinker with my settings for a few minutes to make sure that I wouldn't miss a second of the plentiful action. It reminded me of why I wanted to play Warhammer: Online in the first place; this bloodshed is what I signed up for.

I sharpened my waraxe, polished my armour, and set myself on the path to combat. Leaving behind the makeshift defenses of the Troll Country warcamp, I steeled my nerve and prepared myself for battle. The land itself had been scarred by tools of war, and the marching of hundreds of heavily-armored soldiers. Bodies lay scattered across the war-torn field where each faction had planted their own seeds of enmity, in preparation for their harvest of death. In the distance, the fighting screams of elf and greenskin alike could be heard, many silenced half-way by arrow or blade. Ready for the coming bloodbath, I rushed to aid my fellow soldiers in battle. Arriving closer to the battle cries, I could now see the fight more clearly, and that's when I witnessed the most horrifying event of my life.

Now that you get the basic idea, let me tell you what I witnessed without role-playing. What I saw in the coming minutes were the forces of Destruction sitting safely at the border to (in this case) Ostland/Troll Country shooting arrows or spells at our dim-witted melee classes who could not understand that we needed them to back up so we could get credit for the kills. Here's the deal: The event consisted of both factions fighting to see which one could obtain 100 kills first, so that a Witching Lord could spawn. That sounds easy, right? There were, after all, at least one hundred people constantly respawning and showing up to the RvR area on my server. The problem was that most of the kills we got were outside of the designated PQ area. As such, about three quarters of the kills we got didn't count towards our overall progress. This meant that we had to spend close to four hours completing stage I, constantly telling people to back up, so that one person could walk away with a gold bag, and the rest of us with suicidal thoughts. I'll be honest, though. I didn't really much care for the PQ itself. In my mind, I was happy that there were that many people in the open RvR areas, and that I was getting so much experience and enjoyment from doing open RvR. Early one morning, I was able to get 4140 experience for killing a single chosen solo. It made my day. Okay, that wasn't in the RvR area, and it was a 1 on 1...but, still!

The rewards for the PvP side of the event were the following:

* Mask 2/4 - Obtained as random drops from players.
* Mask 1/4 - Obtained as a reward from a gold bag after the PQ ended.
* A large amount of satisfaction.

I had a lot of fun. Whether we were completing the PQ objective or not, it encouraged people to actually get to the RvR areas, and that was enough for me. If the PQ wasn't happening, people would still show up, and we would take the area's objectives, or a keep. I loved every minute of it.

IV. Conclusion - Success or flop?

Having witnessed the event first-hand, and spent many hours participating in both aspects(PvE and PvP) of the event, it made me wonder: Did Mythic really give a damn about Halloween, or were they just using that as an excuse to add a couple of items to convince people to get out to the RvR areas? If the event's ultimate goal was to get people to do open RvR, then it's safe to consider it a success. Who cares if you got a gold bag from the ORvR PQ or not? As mentioned previously, even when the PQ wasn't happening, people would still show up, and we would then take objectives and keeps. It made organizing warbands a lot easier, since you knew where to find the people you needed. Normally, if you want to take a keep, you have to spend a staggering amount of time organizing a warband, and trying to find people in the right areas. With the event, you knew where people were, all the time. Even if you didn't want to do the PQ, you could go poach people there, and off to another area you go!

If you are to judge the event's organization, the way the PQ was laid out, and the originality and effort put forth to create a holiday event, then I would call it a flop. The ORvR PQ was poorly laid out, with people usually sitting away from the designated area shooting arrows or spells, or one faction chasing another one away from the area and refusing to back down resulting in hours and hours of lack of progress.

What did you guys think? Was the event entertaining or not? Are you looking at it from the PQ-completing perspective, or simply for the fun factor? I, for one, am looking forward to the Heavy Metal content update, and the events that it will bring.