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Yohda's blog of randomness

Look at the blog title, now you know what this is about.

Author: Yohda

Are open betas becoming paid previews?

Posted by Yohda Thursday January 28 2010 at 5:50PM
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This will be nice and short, and to the point.


I remember back in my ole days, I walked miles to the rain, sleet and snow!

In other words...what happened to OPEN betas actually being open? These days...lets take Aion as a recent released example. Aion limited the amount of people who could be in the open beta...they even made you PAY for the game to play in beta.


Who thought this "great" idea up? I know Aion isn't the first, but its most recent in my mind. Why even call it OPEN beta? Call it a paid preview or paid trial or something...having to pay to be in open beta, is not open...its a paid beta. 

More frequent updates vs larger, but more rare updates

Posted by Yohda Tuesday January 26 2010 at 7:10PM
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So, I'll get right to the topic.


In Asheron's Call, I'm not sure how frequent their smaller updates are...but I know they update once a month with a large content patch. This is great, since content is always created. I don't play Asheron's Call anymore (I played last in 2001), so I can't say about the bugs if any it introduces. I won't talk about AC past this paragraph, I'm not hip on the latest of AC as I used to be.


Then there is EVE Online that have free expansions, that you don't have to pay an arm and a leg for. But that is for a different more about expansions. And as for EVE patches, like AC, I'm not really up to date on how often they patch their game.


On the other side, there is World of Warcraft. The updates are pretty rare, and the large content updates are pretty few and between. But, from what I saw when I played...content patches were for the most part pretty good bug wise, and the patch was well tested.


Then there is a new kid on the block, Fallen Earth. Every week (sometimes twice a week) there is a patch. Though, the patches are a lot smaller...they are very frequent. And then occasionally they have a much larger patch. One thing I noticed with their patches, that they put in ideas into the game suggested by players on the forums.

Both Fallen Earth and World of Warcraft do patches differently. The thing with Fallen Earth...with more frequent (but smaller) updates, it feels like they are listening and more caring about their game...than a game that seems to be forgotten about, but then gets updated with a large patch. Okay so WoW has the smaller patches in between, but even then, its no where as frequent as the patches that get introduced in Fallen Earth. Though, for an argument against FE...I noticed that bugs tend to be introduced that weren't there before, this is mostly because of their lack of test server. Still, with frequent gives the player (at least me) more of a feeling that they care about their game. And smaller updates tend to introduce a lot less bugs than a huge update, even if it is tested really well. And with more frequent updates, I always look forward every week to see whats new...and it keeps me wanting to continue subscribing.


There are many ways to go about patching a game...but for me, I definitely like the more frequent, but smaller updates. 


Is there any comeback for a MMO after a bad release?

Posted by Yohda Friday January 22 2010 at 11:24PM
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This will be short and to the point (hopefully).


Many MMOs have had a horrible launch, for many reasons


Horizons (now Istaria Chronicles of the Gifted) launched buggy, crashed a lot (especially during monster invasions. Do they even still do monster invasions?) AND biggest thing was all the stuff they said was going to be in the wasn't. I remember that they promised that the Bane (Undead in Istaria) was going to spread by themselves and the people playing would have to fight them back. What did we end with? The Bane was actually controlled by the devs and didn't spread dynamically in the game. Not to mention that they completely changed the game before release...but I won't count that, since games do tend to change before they are released...and sometimes after. But the dynamic AI is only one example of things they promised that weren't in.


Now, many years later...Istaria has new owners, and a very low population. Is it partly because its old? Or is it because they launched in a horrible state, and now most people don't give it a moments thought. I can say, it has improved a lot from release...and only MMO where you can actually play as a DRAGON. Outside of that, I never did get far in my trial. Though I can say, game when I tried it, was a lot more lively than Vanguard (MMO I'm going to speak about next.). But this was a year or so ago, so not sure what its like a year later. I do know Istaria has/did have a much more active chat than Vanguard's chat.

Then take a more modern MMO, Vanguard Saga of Heroes. It launched with a lot of bugs (and still has quite a lot of bugs) and performance was horrible (greatly improved now). But I don't know too many promised features that didn't make it into the game...a few, like Druid's controlling weather, some classes that were taken out (and never put back in)...but not really (in my view) anything major like what Horizon's promised. And classes being removed is understandable if they were unfinished/bugged etc. No one wants to play an unfinished class. But as I mentioned, current Vanguard is greatly improved...sure some bugs are in the game. But, I saw many bugs in WoW as well (for example, some monsters being stuck and you were unable to kill them). Every MMO has bugs that I've it can't be that, can it? Why did Vanguard never make a comeback? 

Lack of advertising? Can't be. I never once see an advertisement for Istaria...and yet, its doing (at least relatively) really well. Well, maybe I need to check up on it again and see how its doing in the present day.

Is it because Vanguard is owned by SOE? 

Or an entirely different reason?

So, is it ever possible for a MMO that had a bad release to make a comeback? So far, every MMO that has a horrible release, hasn't really done too well afterwards. Okay so, Anarchy Online had the worst release ever...and now its doing pretty well...but that is probably because its now free to play, so it doesn't truly count.

What do you think? Is it possible for a MMO to have a bad launch, but earn the right to be given another chance? Or, is a bad launch it for a MMO?

What happened to Vanguard?

Posted by Yohda Tuesday January 19 2010 at 2:15PM
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So, I started the trial for Vanguard a few days ago...I did play at release, and again 6 months later, and I think once more when they offered free time that one December. All three times the performance was horrible, and crashes were frequent.


Now I started trial about 10 days ago, and performance has improved immensely. Same system I had when I played it before (well, besides the extra 2 gigs of ram, and Windows 7 64bit, those two are new)...and I can play on max settings, with no performance problems at all. Though my system is pretty high end, so I don't think lower end PCs would work too least not on max settings. But still, I haven't had any lag at all from when I've played and haven't crashed once.

It seems like a game a lot of PvErs would like, and I see a lot of features people look for in a MMO that are in Vanguard.


BUT, for PvP...Vanguard is heavily lacking, partly because the PvP server is pretty much dead. Maybe it would be better if more people were playing on PvP server, but rumor has it that only like 100 to 200 people play on it.

Here are some good things that I like about Vanguard


1. HUGE world...and I've found tons of cool stuff by just exploring off the track. And I love exploring in MMOs and RPGs.

2. A good amount of classes to choose from, not much else to say about it. Classes are a lot of fun

3. You can move and cast at the same aren't stuck in the ground like a test dummy waiting for a mob to beat on you

4. Crafting is awesome. Tons of different items to make, and its really interactive...I'm still new to crafting, but so far its really good

5. THIS ONE IS A BIG ONE: YOU GET BONUSES FOR GROUPING...yes...I grouped with my friend who joined me, and I got BONUSES to grouping. I got a good buff, and bonus exp. Not like in certain other MMOs, where you get heavily penalized for grouping. Oh, and when you harvest a node...I think need to be in a group, not sure...but if your friend starts can harvest the same copper node as him, and you again, get bonuses to harvesting and harvest a lot more than you would solo.

5a. That isn't to say the game is group forced, I've soloed plenty too (and some classes solo better than others)...but this game seems to be grouping encouraged...great :D

6. This one is only a minor one for me...but lots of mounts to choose from :D And you can fly anywhere pretty much

7. This one is just what I've heard, so don't take it for granted...but housing system I heard is good in Vanguard. But I'm too poor to think of having a house

8. Amazing graphics (though graphics is personal taste, I myself really like them)...great view distance, and Qalia is my favorite place in the game :D

9. This one is a big one too, but amazingly friendly least on Seradon. Not sure what other servers/pvp server is like. But plenty of games have friendly communities.

10. It does have quests to follow, but it has TONS of sandboxy elements to it too...I'm not forced on a certain path, I'm pretty much free to do whatever. I say its sorta a hybrid, kind of like Fallen Earth.

Outside of that, thats what I've seen so far on the trial, might have missed a couple things...but lets move on


Now some negative stuff (what, you thought I was gonna be like...OMG BEST GAME EVER, NOTHINGS WRONG...nope, there are major problems, so you decide if they would be gamebreaking or not


1. Game is looking to be on life support, and it is looking like SOE is going to cancel this MMO...rumor has it that they don't want it competing with EQ2. I say game has less than 5 years left...and thats me being really optimistic.

2. On trial Isle, there is an area in the swamp where if you find the right hillside (underwater), if you start swimming underwater, you can go right through the hillside...and go right under the world. Not like this is only MMO to have this problem, WoW I've gone under stormwind plenty of times, even got banned for it once for exploiting a glitch (which they still haven't fixed)...but back to vanguard...this hillside hasn't been fixed for as long as I remember. Watched my friend do a trial when the isle was new, and the bug has been there since then.

3. Low population for such a large world. Seradon is most populated, but even then, its still rather on the low side (which ties in with number one)...don't bother going to the PvP server, thats the least populated server I've seen in a game, and there are talks of merging it...

4. This ties in with number 2...but tons of bugs, and some bugs I faintly recognize seeing from release. Oh, do you have WIndows Vista/Windows 7+a high resolution monitor? Yup, you still do NOT see rain...they haven't fixed rain since I can remember. Thats a major problem for can hear it, but can't see it. And who knows when this will be fixed. Not everyone has this problem, and people with even low resolutions can get it...but its pretty common, especially with higher resolutions. Can't see snow either, but not seeing snow is not as common as not seeing rain, but they tend to hand in hand. Oh, and you know the pet dragon you get as a Dark Elf (racial ability)...yup, you yourself can't see the dragon (its invisible), but people around you can...

5. This ties in with number 1...but there will be no new content for a year (at least thats what I got out of that news post)...they are focusing on fixing bugs. Which, fixing bugs is great...because there is so many in Vanguard....but its not a good sign when they scrap all their content ideas, and put them on "indefinite" hold. Hopefully they finally fix rain...but no content for all year doesn't look good, and goes in with SOE spending a lot less money on Vanguard


Thats the biggest ones that stick out for me.


So negatives aside...I hear people on different MMO forums looking for that MMO, and the features they talk about are in Vanguard. Except for PvP, though there is a PvP server, its not really a hopping place...unless they can get tons of people back to vanguard and some of those people go to the PvP server.


So, what happened to Vanguard? Yes it released horribly, but its a fun game and its actually a WORLD and not an arcade style singleplayer MMORPG game where I get penalized for grouping. SOE needs to put more money into Vanguard, because a lot of people would like it...its a great alternative to WoW. Especially if you are more of a Fantasy person like I am :D Not many sandboxy Fantasy MMOs out that are "modern" and PvE based...I myself am a PvE person, but that isn't to say I'm anti-PvP, I like Pvping occasionally too.

Sadly, it seems like SOE only got Vanguard to keep it off the market so it doesn't compete with EQ2, which reminds me of WoW in a lot of ways...except good house system in EQ2, and way better crafting...heh...but maybe those are just rumors about SOE, who knows


Wish Vanguard was a more lively game though.

My thoughts on forced grouping, encouraged grouping, and forced soloing

Posted by Yohda Sunday January 17 2010 at 5:18PM
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This is a PERFECT example why forced grouping does NOT work

I started my 14 day trial for Saga of Ryzom a few months back. I played the trial a few days on the starter isle...ran into a few group forced quests. Problem? I played Ryzom for 3 hours, for 4 consecutive days...every 10-30 min (depending how active chat was)...I asked for help for the group quests. But, 90% of the time, chat was completely dead...and I only saw a few people or less a time on the isle, and was never able to find a group for the quests or any help. I tried doing the quests myself, but no luck.I had no choice but to log out, and never log in again. The game pop was dead, and with forced grouping, it was impossible to do anything.

And that people, is why forced grouping does not work. It might work at a MMOs release when its most popular. But, once people get higher levels or into higher content, or the game loses a lot of population (like Ryzom) it does NOT work.

EVE you really do need a group (especially for PvP)...but it works, because the game has so many people playing it. And even then, in EVE you can solo if you want.

Forced grouping is awful in level based games, because after the MMO gets more mature, everyone is a higher level so you are stuck being a low level, unable to do anything. Sure, like in WoW there is usually always some new players showing up, or people making alts...but I often ended up (before dungeon finder) trying to find groups for low level instances, and was never able to get a group going. Dungeon finder fixed that problem, but before didn't really work. Most of the time, I just ended up paying a high level some gold for him to run me. Wasn't fun at all.

Now, forced grouping in skill based games works a little better in my opinion, especially if skills don't matter as much, but what items you have or your own skill. Not perfect still, but way better than a forced group in a level based game.

Now, in WoW...everything was soloable pretty much (at least until end game), even group quests (if you were a warlock, druid, paladin or some other class, you could easily solo group quests). People joined a quick group occasionally, got the quest done, then never talked to you again and left. That doesn't work either. You never meet people, never build up relationships or anything.

But lets go farther UO, you had power in groups, but you could be just a solo person just as easily. Well, at least thats how I remember it when I, I soloed lots in UO, but I also grouped lots too and met many good friends. But UO, it wasn't forced.

And my first MMO was Asheron's Call. That game had tons of solo content...but...I often saw people looking for groups for things that could easily be soloed. I made TONS of friends in AC...but this worked because (correct me if I'm wrong, haven't played AC since 2001)...when you grouped, you got bonus exp for grouping.

In fact, because grouping was more optional, but provided bonuses in AC...I think this built up way greater relationships than if I was forced to group with them. I remember I tried FFXI for 3 months (back when it was new), and most of the time I greatly disliked the people I grouped with. I was forced to group with them because I had no other choice.

On the other side of the coin

Games like WoW, the community suffers greatly because no one cares to group with you, you never get to know people really well...and you lost TONS of exp for grouping. Not to mention all the ninja looting and item stealing that went on.


So, forced grouping = no, especially for low pop games (spend hours just trying to find a group if you can even find one, like what happened to me in Ryzom). But it always works (at least in my opinion) if you get bonuses to grouping, but can still solo if you want. Asheron's Call, Ultima Online AND SWG all offered plenty of "encouraged" group content, but still offered you a chance to solo just as much. 

But games that DISCOURAGE grouping, like in WoW, fail just as much for me

Sure, MMOs are about interacting with people...but how I interact with people should be MY it if I want to group with them, spit on them, trade with them, kill them or any other ways I can interact with them in a MMO. But, groups should not be penalized. Make it like AC, UO or SWG...give bonuses to groups, not take away items or exp if you are in a group.