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My thoughts on the MMO market and current game development.

This blog is mainly my opinions of current and future mmo's, what I think dev's are doing right and wrong.

Author: Pyrostasis

The Nemesis and Property! (Part two of the fun missing in MMO's today)

Posted by Pyrostasis Monday February 11 2008 at 1:39AM
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I hadn’t planned on writing another part of this, but after all of the positive responses I got yesterday I have become motivated!

Yesterday I talked about open pvp with consequences and the content that added; today I’m going to kind of expand on that a bit with "The nemesis and virtual property".

I’m an old school gamer who started back in 1997 with the release of ultima online. I started off as a card carrying carebear. Hugs, kisses, and roses for all! However my time in UO taught me one major life lesson. In MMO's there are two types of people. The Screwer and the Screwee.

I never raised my weapons in anger towards anyone, but after losing 5 + houses in UO and countless hundreds of suits of armor and pack horses it starts to wear on you. I remember sitting down with my brother and a rl friend of mine and talking about going red. This was back before stat loss and back when there was only one world, back when killing 5 people turned you red as hell and anyone could kill you with out penalty.

We finally agreed to make some pvp characters and set up a house way out in the swamps south west of trinsic. Place was a real crappy spot, but since it was so far away we didn’t have to worry about folks finding our drop spot. We planned on looting our victims, storing everything in the house, and once a week or so we would go and sell and resupply.

I remember hiding with my buddy outside of shame and waiting for 20 minutes for someone to come by that looked "takeable" and jumping him. We were both shaking so bad by the end of the fight it was unreal. We had actually killed some guy. Unfortunately the guy begged us for his stuff back... and we felt down right horrible. We rezed the guy and gave him his stuff back, and the first thing he did was cast gate, and 10 of his buddies came through the gate and raped us... Lesson learned, being nice just gets you killed.

With the new changes to UO causing stats loss of 25% of all skill points upon death for a red, pretty much ended our UO careers. My friends and I moved on to the new game, Asheron's Call.

AC was a skill based / level based system. It had the benefits of giving you the ability to make any kind of class. For instance a melee that could cast spells, but you were limited in skill points by your level. Using a skill would increase the skill and also earn you exp. So it was still fairly familiar, and still had the open ended sand box play we enjoyed.

We never tried the blue servers as they were called then, and started out right off on Darktide. Darktide was an open pvp realm, no level safety caps, anyone could kill anyone, but unlike UO you only lost a small bit of items on you, and there were ways to make sure the items dropped weren’t your "good stuff".

However, with the new level system this brought in a need for exping, and to exp you needed hunting spots. Granted, you could hunt anywhere you liked, but just like anything else there are the best spots, and then there is everywhere else.

Blood was the name of the big uber guild on the server. At its hay day it had upwards of 15,000 members and was highly organized. Ventrilo and Teamspeak were just now starting to make their way into gaming. They were buggy and rarely used. Most folks used Yahoo to chat.

Our guild was a smaller guild of about 500. Now these numbers might sound rather excessive to folks now days. But AC was a bit different. You could have 5 characters per account per server, and with the way exp system worked you usually made all characters on the server.

Exp chains were also a new feature. Bob could swear allegiance to Ted and he would give Ted say 15% of his exp. Bob didn’t lose anything mind you, Ted just got extra exp from no where. Thus people spent hundreds upon hundreds of hours daisy chaining their guild into super huge pyramid scheme like chains that had the folks on top making millions upon millions of exp per day.

This is where the real key to AC came in. Land control.

As the server was open Pvp you had guilds fighting over spots constantly. You knew x guild would hunt at X spot, and if you weren’t in that guild you couldn’t hunt there. If you decided to go into the area, you would be attacked on sight. Thus there was constantly a power struggle to control the top 3 - 6 hunting spots that produced the most exp per hour.

Our guild was rather small for AC standards, but most of us had played UO together, and with the new voice coms over yahoo we were rather coordinated. While we couldn’t really compete with the 15k man guild strictly cause no matter how many you killed there were 20 more to take their place, there were however plenty of smaller guilds to compete against.

AC had a random portal system. Basically portals would occasionally open up and head to certain key locations that didn’t have a regular portal to them. If you could get a link to this portal during the 10 minute window it was open, you could get access to a spot most people could never find. These spots were highly secretive and well guarded / defended.

One of these spots was a tusker camp out in the middle of the direlands. My guild TDK managed to snag the portal one day by accident and the guild was leveling insanely fast off the insta spawn. We were finally making exp similar to that of some of the uber guilds, and it was our spot no one knew about it. Keep it secret keep it safe as someone once said.

Inevitably as all good things do this came to an end. Another guild on the server managed to locate the roaming portal, and started showing up at our spot. We had a few people killed, and we knew the time had come to fight for our property or get evicted. The spot was nice, but not big enough for two clans to share. Dread lord trevor was the name of the guild (DLT) and were about twice our size.

The other key thing to note about AC was all spells and arrows were projectiles. If I cast a fireball on you, a ball of fire would streak from my character towards yours, and if you were quick, you could slide out of the way, same thing with arrows. This allowed a good player to take on 2 or even more players at once and come out on top. Thus our little 500 man guild squared off against this 2000 man monstrosity.

We had been hunting at the tusker camp all day, and were getting a bit careless. We had stopped watching the portal in as closely as we should have, and one of the DLT folks ported in and took advantage of the moment. He managed to kill 2 of our 6 people before we realized what was going on. After a short fight we had him run off.

We got everyone in the guild that was on to the spot, we knew if we couldn’t hold it, then they would eventually control it completely. Eleven of us buffed at the portal drop spot and waited for the attack. We began talking strategy, who was going to cast what debuffs, and who would work together. I was going to be calling targets, so there wasn’t much else to do but wait.

5 of them ported in at once, I remember seeing their little purple figures waiting to load in and thinking, we got these guys, then 5 more appeared, then 10 more, then 6 more. Before we knew it we had almost 30 of the guys vs. our 11. Collision detection was another feature of AC; you could use your body to block folks in.  Our 11 man group formed a tight circle around the drop and prepared to fight the horde.

I still remember calling the name of the first guy who materialized. We had him vulned before he could move and instantly 8 people cast a bolt at him, he died as two more materialized. I called a second target and began casting. One of them jumped over us and made a run for it as his buddy was melted where he stood. 2 down.

6 materialized at once and that’s more or less where we broke down into groups. We had one mage and one melee to most groups, the mage would debuff and the melee would attempt to kill while the mage tried to assist. The next 45 minutes went by in a crazy adrenaline rush. 25 some odd enemies were trying to kill my 11 friends and take what was ours. People were calling targets, dodging spells and arrows, fighting and killing for something more important than a score, we were fighting for the right to hunt at our spot, our piece of property.

Sadly we weren’t able to hold them at the portal, there were just too many of them and over the next week the spot was rarely able to be used by either of our clans. We would start with initial ownership, and as the day wore on DLT would eventually drag control from our cold dead hands, but they definitely weren’t getting full use out of it. Every 15 minutes we would meet up at the guild mansion, buff and roll in killing anyone we could and then disengage when the large force got organized.

DLT eventually got tired of messing with us and moved to a different spawn, and we had a few weeks of peace before House of Sagacious a huge guild of several thousand came in and completely obliterated us. But we learned a lot in that time, and had a hell of a lot of fun.

They key point to this long winded story is two fold.

#1 We had a common enemy who was out to destroy us and keep us from doing what we wanted.

#2 We had ownership of a certain area and fighting for that piece of land was important to us.

These two features combined were the main reasons AC Darktide was so huge and such a fun game for the 3 - 4 years that I played it. AC as a game itself was fairly simple. Kill mobs, level up, get stronger, rinse and repeat. However, the open pvp combined with the guild and portal system gave a great mechanic for player content.

There were huge epic wars being fought 24/7 for different spots all over the gaming world. Guild names and places went down in history. Even now I can talk to old AC'ers about BSD and they will remember who owned it and where.

These types of content are what kept us playing for hundreds of hours and unlike raiding content took 0 dev hours to implement or maintain, it was 100% run and created by the players.

Look at wow's arena system and battle ground system. Your fighting for a flag *Yawn* who cares. Hell, up until recently lots of folks were just afking in the battlegrounds for free honor, this isn’t content. People have been saying "Shut up about pvp and go play counterstrike" ... but... arenas and battlegrounds ARE counterstrike. Meaningless fights over meaningless ground that when you log out no longer matters.

MMO's need to bring back battlegrounds / battle sites that matter and give us opponents that deserve killing. Give us a reason to fight again.

Evilsam writes:

Very good story,and I enjoyed reading it,sounded like you had a real blast.

 I played UO about the time you did.It wasn't my first mmo but it turned me against pvp,at least against the free for all type.I solo'd most of the time,played at odd hours and such .Made it to GM warrior with 70 magic resist,as best as I remember,been a long time,After being killed over 15 times by two mages, I quit. No fun to be parilised by one and blasted by another with no chance to even hit one of them or get away, and lose everything you were carrying. next game was AC aswell,played beta and for 3-1/2 years on Leafcul.I liked the way they did pvp.Hard core pvp'rs had thier own server.Skill system was great, other than SWG pre-cu, haven't found anything close to it yet

Mon Feb 11 2008 2:34AM Report
Shadowhearth writes:

Thats one damn good story m8! And i agree with bouth of your statements!

All new mmorpgs have one thing: eng game raid dungeon ( item based)

But in all those clasic mmorpg (like UO) You actually could do something that made hours of fun, like making a gang of thiefs, or pkers, have safe house etc. Then it was fun! And that cool pvp you told in AC was HUGE!

I look at third mmorpg now, and they all same, and no fun at all! Just pure lvling, gear stacking, dungeon runs, and all craftings are just not inportant in game, for just being a crafter, non combat character!

Btw i love to see mmorpg, which would have pvp death penalty, like full loot, or atleast 1 random item from your character ( like helbreath had). But ofc not to hardcore, like uo did, 25% skill down if you die as red....

Anyway, amazing story, and 100% agree on your statments!

Mon Feb 11 2008 4:08AM Report
mukin writes:

Pyro, as usual, you've got my thoughts down perfectly.  'Capture the flag' is not PVP.  'Protect my hard-earned property' is!

Of course, that simple rule might make Eve the best PVP MMO out today...

Mon Feb 11 2008 1:08PM Report
Pyrostasis writes:

For today, yes. In the future, hopefully myself and other indi devs can at least create some stuff that caters to us, even if the multibillion dollar companys dont like it.

Mon Feb 11 2008 2:18PM Report
vajuras writes:

Man this was another great story I'm so glad you're here writing blogs man.

Wed Feb 20 2008 11:51PM Report
Pyrostasis writes:

Appreciate the kind words Vajuras =)

Thu Feb 21 2008 1:11AM Report
Manifold writes:

My problem with EVE is that it is heavily gear based and though it doesn't have levels like WoW it is heavily tiered. Leveling is no fun, im sorry but it's not. Just because a world is persistent, doesn't mean it has to be about leveling and collecting stuff. I get enough of that crap in the real world.

Fri Nov 27 2009 12:04PM Report writes:
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