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Posted by Vexe Thursday June 12 2008 at 9:48PM
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    I guess it kinda sucks, to be born in 1991. I was 6 when UO came out and would not be even remotely interested in computer games until 7 years later when City of Heroes came out. Which means, my experience in practically anything historical in games in minimal because of my ignorance in looking up information about anything before that time in 2004. I don't know about UO. I have never played UO. All I know is that I was 6, it was 2-D, and now; it was seemless. I've never played everquest. I just know that they made a kinda OK effort at making realistic-looking people for the time and created a 3-D environment for socialization. Oh, and there were dragons. And dungeons, apparently.

    Pretty much everything I could write about persists to the present and near future. I have no knowledge of the past. So I am researching now, and I would love anything that you have to add. Stories, incidents, or whatever. I think I'll become an MMO scholar of sorts. Or a Guru, solving problems for others or something like that. But my ultimate goal is to make my posts more accurate, cause I just kinda realized my ignorance on the topic in which I'm trying to write about.

    I can't make a general article, essay or blog if I don't have the general information. Not to mention, I've discovered having my ideas curb-stomped is not fun.

    So, feel free to tell me what you will.

Age of Conan and it's...good side?

Posted by Vexe Wednesday June 11 2008 at 2:32AM
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    Yes. I said it. Age of Conan has a positive side.

    While sifting through my various study papers and letting my mind wander once again, I started to think about all the negative vibes out there about the AoC and how many people were upset with the final product. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm no level 80 anything yet so I don't know every detail, but I have noticed a lot of positive things coming from Funcom through this pretty centerpiece.



    Zomjesus, did I just mention leveling as a positive to this game?! Yes. Yes I did. Although the leveling system is a bit slower in the 40's and needs to be worked on there, I have found it to be much MUCH smoother than in any other MMO I have ever played. The "brick walls" (so to speak) are left to a minimum compared to other titles, and from the sounds of it Funcom is trying to iron out those little tidbits.

    Leveling is suprisingly fun when you're on a long string of quests and those usually last until near the end of your progress in the area. AKA: your next 5-10 levels (except for the 40's. I know.). This is a very VERY nice breath of fresh air for me, who would constantly be turned off to MMOs when I would get hit with walls every few levels. Even grinding can sometimes be fun. I, personally gained 2 levels looking for some of the more rare equippable armor sets with my I had met minutes before-hand and felt like talking to.

    "But, vex! You're not on a PVP server! You can't possibly know how much ganking hinders your leveling experience!" OH, HO, MY FRIENDS! I *AM* on a PVP server, and still have all of these positive things to say. But this ganking issue brings me to my next (kinda) positive.



    I know you all have been hearing nothing but dread about this system ever since launch, but there are some benefits to the system they have set up (and are getting rid of soon)! This system gives you FRIENDS. I made 4 friends in less than half an hour because we all decided to travel in a pack to protect ourselves. Needless to say, we kicked butt until someone 10 levels above us came along; but my point still stands! Not only are these friends you make incredibly useful and sometimes fun, but your friendships can be long-lasting! You can form guilds with these people, join guilds with these people, pillage, plunder, all that good stuff. It's like one giant corny montage of friendship.

    Not to mention this system also supports...well, support. In guilds and otherwise. Need someone to cover your back? Sure! I can finish those missions later anyway. Good guilds are formed around helpful members and this system supports that kind of helpful...ness. Why worry about other people killing you when you have cover? Even if you do die, you can strategize revenge or laugh about it together. That's more important than leveling, anyway. Having fun with it.



    I cannot stress enough about how important fun is in an MMO. It's why we play it in the first place! We want to be able to escape from our world in an enjoyable manner. Just about all the basic gameplay (except for gathering of any sort...that's never fun) is designed around the fun-factor of the title. The combat system is really engaging and gets me into the middle of the action, making sure that my adrenaline is pumping if a fight gets close. I can remember tensing up quite a few times when I just barely beat a few people after they jumped me.

    The bottom line is that the game is fun (again, except for that 40's gap...I hope they fix that.) and FUNcom really lives up to it's name in this aspect. Everything doesn't feel that repetative as you go through it because every fight is different from the last, no matter how you approach it.


The Launch:

    For me and a few others, the launch itself was frustrating and disappointing, filled with errors, bug and the like; but as a whole I must say that I'm impressed with how they preformed. For the first 3 weeks of AoC actually being out, it's doing remarkably well in almost all aspects. Sure a few things need tweaking, but they're fixing most of the problems in upcoming patches. I think this launch was so smooth because they do actually listen to the community. Although they almost seem embarassed about it and try to keep it "hush-hush", they actually read the forums and listen to what people have to say. I never said they were the quickest executioners, though.



    All and all, I'm happy with how it came out. This first month is the hardest for them, and it can only get better from here.


Posted by Vexe Sunday June 8 2008 at 2:33PM
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    We all know that "wonderful" game called WoW that thrust the MMO market upon the unsupecting public for a while. Even some businesses started holding meetings on WoW (supposedly...I have yet to see an actual case of this). The phenomenon was so big, that WoW quickly gained MILLIONS of subscribers; the biggest number ever achieved by any online game ever. To keep up with this powerhouse of an MMO companies are coming up with new things that will boost their game's past it. The newest of these ideas has come from none other than the SCI-FI channel.

    The SCI-FI channel has come up with the idea of a new show. Then, with this new show they will create an MMO for the masses based on the program. Now, normally I would look over such an article as stupid idea for the promotion of their show; but one thing caught  my eye that made me really look into this. They plan on having in-game events that actually determine the outcome of the show. If there was an epic battle in the game, the epic battle (or at least the aftermath/effects of it) would appear in the show as well and direct where the series went. Even this sounds a little iffy on the "if it will work" scale, but the idea is new and brings up a few questions about how MMOs are immersed into our lives.



    MMOs are already very immersed in our everyday life. They eat away at our monthly income (or your parent's monthly income) and take away bits (or all) of our lives to be played upon. But none of these games really immerses the game into our lives by giving us control over not one, but two media options that take up most of our free time. TV shows are very popular, but usually tend to crash and burn around season 4 or so. This project is so ambitious as to say that they can stay on the air forever; or at least for as long as the MMO is in business. Now, this in itself is a near impossible task, because SCI-FI would need to make both the show AND the game superb. People will have continue to play and watch for as long as they feel like putting in the effort for. That means that both the show and the game will need to be good enough to survive on their own without the other if need be so that if a viewer loses interest in the show, they can still play the game and vice-versa.

    The reason I chose to talk about this topic, though, is not because of the game itself but how the idea could effect how we play games in the future. Will there be games that determine the script and happenings of a movie? Will there be a game that will have a real life event that will determine the outcome of something in the game? This immersion is all well and good and I completely support it by itself, but the only problem is that anything like this is almost planting a big target on it's chest that reads "Advertise Here". Advertisements are fine in my opinion, as long as they keep to the beginning of movies and commercials. If my raid experience seems unrealistic of lack-luster because there's an ad for Verizon or Red Bull at every loading screen, I would not be too happy. To impede on my brain-cell killing TV time is ok (if it's only for 5 minutes), but to place your self-promoting crap on something like an in-game billboard that will always be there is too much for me and is something that needs to be prevented. The corporate world is big enough as it is. We don't need to inject it with any more steroids.

    Now, you may be thinking that it's a stretch to assume that advertisements would find their way into this game. But it is only inevitable if these immersion games will be filled with them. They will most likely be produced by TV companies. TV stations only make their money through commercials. They have no other source of income other than maybe a donation. If they were to produce a game, even starting it would be incredibly expensive. I don't know if you've watched the SCI-FI channel recently, but they're "original movies" aren't exactly top notch. Now if they have trouble making good movies, they are going to definately need a little help finding the money for producing a multi-million dollar game and a show while still upholding their station. The only way they can get this money is through advertsiements, which makes me worried for the integrity of the game.

    As much as I think the idea of immersion is great, it is not absolutely necessary to enjoy a game. And because of this non-necessity I think it's almost better to avoid it to keep from advertisements from making our game-play unrealistic.

The Idea Barrier.

Posted by Vexe Thursday June 5 2008 at 2:18AM
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   Concepts. They start out in the mind of the creator, little baby ideas blossoming quickly as he/she scribbles down their thoughts, adding onto their creation. Little does this creator know that what he/she has just created is a God among the development process. This God can make or break even the most ambitious of MMOs like nothing. This God decides how you will make your game. This God looks hella cool when you write it out on paper.

    Because these concepts hold the make-up of the game itself, these ideas are the pillars that every MMO sits on. Concepts include things like setting, how combat plays out, etc., etc. along with some major theme. These ideas can be great, sure, but more often than not they spell defeat for an MMO; no matter how ambitious it is. Let me sift through my pile of discarded MMO boxes for an example of this. Ah! Perfect! Auto Assault.

The Problem With Concepts

    Auto Assault was a game that I was extremely excited about when it launched. I even went out of my way to get the collectors edition (which came with a headset, by the way) and happily created an account. This game was going to be awesome. I mean it had some awesome things going for it. Who doesn't want to play a game where you drive around in kick-ass car while shooting things in a post-apocalyptic setting with tens of thousands of other people? Unfortunately it didn't turn out that way. The controls were lacking at best, the PVP was non-existent, the battle system was weird, and the directions in everything from quests to directions were so vague that they were impossible to figure out. Because of this, those tens of thousands of players I mentioned before turned out to be about a couple of thousand, max. In fact, the only thing that this game got right was the world you roamed in. This is because the team focused primarily on this part of the game.

    The team working for NCsoft wanted so hard to get the game world right and make everything look so pretty that they left everything else for after they finished with that. The major theme in this project took control and made sure that it got first dibs with everything. Unfortunately, this is true for a lot of games. Because of this major flaw with the game, so many other little ones occurred. The game servers shut down...I think...8 months after launch, or something similar to that. Auto Assault is no more, but we can still learn from it.

    Concepts are meant to be flexible by nature. You need to be willing to change an idea in order to better the game. Ideas sometimes have to be discarded because they simply won't work with the title. Most of the time though, only a simple bending in the idea you created is required to take your game above and beyond. A game is not a cool idea or something that makes sense, but rather a group effeort of all these ideas to cooperate with one another and make a game that's different AND fun.


Bottom Line:

    All developers and anyone working on an MMO just needs to take as much time as they can and focus on all aspects of the game instead of ensuring it's defeat with marketing the game on the cool idea they thought of. Concepts are vital to making games and should be treated with more respect.