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BadSpock's Logical Conclusions.

My random thoughts about MMORPGs. A bit of critique, suggestion, debate, and insanity. Enjoy.

Author: BadSpock

Thoughts on the Grouping

Posted by BadSpock Monday April 28 2008 at 11:07AM
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Just some random thoughts I've had about grouping and class archetypes and the so-called "Holy Trinity" of DPS, Heal, Tank.

The tank is usually the one who ends up paying for it when DPS screws up.

So is my experience as a tank.

DPS is off target and pulls aggro so tank has to use their cooldowns and shift focus off their target to get the 2nd target back, but then this causes the first target to break and kill the healer whose been building steady aggro...

Then the group wipes without a healer, and everyone is pissed off. Everyone is blaming the tank "L2play hold aggro nub!" when the real fact is that the dps players were so concerned with having the highest DPS and largest damage scores that they caused the wipe.

As a tank, we understand that we are only as good as the DPS and Healers allow us to be. We can only do so much.

There is a holy trinity between tanks, healers, and dps. Tanks have to hold aggro so the healers and dps don't die. Healers have to heal the tanks and dps so everyone doesn't die. DPS has to kill fast enough so the healer doesn't run out of mana and then the tanks/everyone else dies. It's a circle, each part is dependant on each other. We are all responsible for each other in a group.

Tanks understand this, many healers do too... DPS are the ones that tend to have trouble with the concept

The tanks are responsible for keeping the hate on them, and for using their resources to increase their survivability, thus giving the healers an easier time. The DPS has to be as free as possible to unload without fear of pulling aggro.

The healers are responsible for keeping the tanks and everyone else alive, and for not being wasteful or inefficient. They rely on the tank's survivability and the DPS' damage to kill the target before the mana pool runs dry.

The DPS needs the tank to keep the damage off of them, they need the healers to keep the tank alive to keep the damage off of them, and they need the tank to hold aggro. But they also need to unleash as much as they can without tipping the scales to keep the healer's mana from running out and the tanks survivability from failing. 

It's a circle.

The question is, do we like it?

I've often heard talk of the holy trinity being a bad thing, how people don't like being defined to roles and that they'd rather have more freedom. 

But do you really? 

I personally enjoy the Holy Trinity. As long as it is balanced, as long as there is equal need for people to fill the roles, I believe it adds a lot of commradery and dependancy between players. 

What do you think?

Online Maturity

Posted by BadSpock Friday April 25 2008 at 2:54PM
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The definition of maturity in a virtual online setting is as follows:

"Knowing that your actions/words may have an effect on others and you should respect that fact and act in a manner similar to how you'd want others to act towards you."

It may be a game, and you may be hidden from the real consequences of your actions by the fact that we are all annonymous through our avatars...

But even so, your actions and words can have an effect on other players, because unlike other gaming genres, in a MMORPG the other characters are real people too.

It boils down to "treat others online as you would like to be treated."

Hiding behind the online annonymitty is no excuse for foul behavior towards others.

Ganking someone for hours may be fun for you, but imagine how fun it is for the other person and ask yourself if it's really worth it.

This is the very definition of online maturity in the MMO space.

I myself liken it to the guy that goes 50 mph in a 30 mph zone because he's always in a hurry and the other drivers on the road are obsticles in his way, merely an inconvenience. He has no respect for them or their concerns, no concept of their existence other then how they negatively effect him.

I don't think it's the bully who beats up the little kids or the theif who steals candy from a baby... I think it's more the guy who feels that others are somehow beneath them.

It's a superiority complex much more then anything else, and shows a complete lack of maturity.

What do you think?

Do you deserve to be competitive?

Posted by BadSpock Friday April 25 2008 at 12:54PM
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I just see something wrong with not having enough time to work at something so instead you purchase your way up to equal footing.

To me, it's unfair.

You buy your way to the top.

If you don't have the same amount of time/effort to put into the game SHOULD you expect to be as good? To be as able to compete?

My answer is no.


I think this is the fundamental issue behind the RMT market, gold selling, item malls, etc.

People feel that they DESERVE to stay competitive in the game even if they don't put the same time / effort towards the game. That they DESERVE to have the option to spend their real life money to stay competitive. 

I don't think that you do.

In most every MMORPG, time invested = power. You gain levels, gain skills, gain money, gain rep, gain items, etc. etc. etc. All of these things take time. Time is the one comodity that we spend more of then anything towards a MMORPG.

The monthly subscription fees are peanuts in the grand scheme of entertainment.

Imagine you pay 15 dollars a month to play 20 hours a week. That's 80 hours a month. 15 dollars for 80 hours of entertainment? That's not a bad deal.

Now imagine you spend 80 hours a month at the movies. That'd be hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a month.

So the REAL investment we give for our MMORPGs isn't the money, it's our time.

Using real money to get ahead in the game INSTEAD of investing time is NOT fair.

This is why I am 100% against RMT, gold selling, item malls, etc.


Now a good point was made to me earlier,

The multi-million/billion dollar RMT market exists. We can't deny that it exists. Wouldn't we rather the money that is generated go towards the game companies themselves instead of 3rd party groups that just spam chat channels?

Yes, I agree. Might as well keep the money internal and use it to improve the quality of our games.

But the real solution is the Blizzard solution.

AGRESSIVE stance against all things RMT, gold market, item malls etc.

Item malls create a Tiered system of gameplay. It's like the big debate over adding payment tiers for content on the internet.

It's bringing real world socio-economic concerns into the online space. Imagine you and your friends all play the same game, but they never invite you to their group because your family doesn't have that much money, so you can't afford to buy all the newest upgrades from the item mall to stay competitive.

There is already enough economic stratification in the world, why expand it to the virtual space?

I dunno, argue if you want to, you'll never get me to agree with you.

I don't think that people who don't put in the same time / effort DESERVE to stay competititve. It's a byproduct of the whole new-generation of "Whaaa whaaa everyone get's a Gold Star everyone is Special and Unique" and no one can handle admitting their own shortcomings anymore.

Age of Conan Beta PvP Weekend Review

Posted by BadSpock Sunday April 20 2008 at 1:46PM
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Yep, it's true. I'm going to do a review of the Beta PvP Weekend.

Let me make this VERY clear:

This is NOT an Age of Conan review.

It's an Age of Conan Beta PvP Test Weekend review.

NDA was lifted for the weekend event yesterday. Since this is the only experience I have playing Age of Conan, remember that this is a very limited section of the game.

The Beta PvP weekend gives you character creation, about 5 levels (20-30 mins) of PvE content, and level 20 PvP matchmaking "battleground" type games.

Let's start first with graphics and performance.

My computer can't handle this game all turned up. I've got a 2.2ghz Dual AMD Athlon with 2 gig RAM and a 8600 GT. In order to have perfectly smooth framerate for PvP, I have to run on low settings. I'm sure since this is beta and not the full build it will perform differently then release.

It still looks great, and it runs very, very smooth. I'm able to bump up to Medium settings for the brief PvE tutorial. Beyond that, the character models and animations are excellent. The art style and "immersion" factor is way up. The jungles feel like jungles and the crypts feel like crypts. I'm really impressed by the animations. They are smooth and realistic. The fatalities are a nice treat every once in a while. When someone kills you with a fatality move it goes into kind of a cinematic mode where you watch the brutal death from the killers perspective. It's a nice touch.

Even on low settings this game looks top notch. I could barely move on High settings but it looked stunning. This game has some of the best character models I have seen in a MMORPG.

Server performance isn't bad, only 1 major outage Saturday night. Random disconnects now and again, but that is to be expected.

Graphics - 10/10
Performance - 8/10

Sound I'll only mention briefly. Lots of grunting and yelling which suits the IP and the setting well. The music is good, though very sparse. Voice acting in PvE tutorial section is top notch.

Sound - 9/10

Let's move to character creation.

There are three "races" though they are all humans. Your choice of race defines your look and customization options, but also available class selections. There are the standard body type and face and hair style etc. etc. that we are all used to, but you have an "advanced" mode where there are sliders for everything. I haven't played around too much, but it's an enjoyable and interesting system. As I said before, this game features some of the best looking character models I have ever seen in a MMORPG. 

This is only limited by the fact there are only about a dozen hairstyles to choose from, and many are shared between races.

Character Creation - 9/10

The interface is pretty standard fair MMORPG. Nothing new or exciting or interesting to report here. Seems very dull and drab though. Like looking at a slab of granite.

Interface - 7/10

PvE Experience:

The PvE experience in the Beta PvP Test Weekend is painfully short. 20-30 minutes total play time, roughly 4-5 levels. My only complaint about the PvE is the length.

The quests / story are pretty standard fair, but the use of cutscenes and dialogue options add greatly to the experience. At this stage, I'm not sure any of the dialogue choices really matter, but I imagine they have more influence later on.

The game play is smooth and well paced. This opening tutorial island area is very linear and very easy, you can take on 3-4 baddies at a time no problem. I know this is "as designed" to ease players into the game. One thing I do enjoy is that even at these low levels, I've had many different armor/clothing options drop off of mobs. They have the same stats but totally different looks. I think this is a major plus.

PvE - 9/10

The PvP experience:

This Beta PvP Test Weekend offers a selection of 4 maps of 2 different game types. 1 map for a Deathmatch style game and 3 Capture the Flag maps. Each is fairly basic, symetrical, and on par with what you'd expect from a FPS type game or a similar MMO like the WoW battlegrounds. The areas all look interesting and function well, there are a few glitchy areas but that is to be expected. A few spots where you can get "stuck" and become invulnerable but unable to do anything. 

Not going to go into too much detail on gameplay specifics, but everything you'd expect from this type of instanced, team based PvP is there. Teamwork helps a whole lot, as does communication and coordination.

PvP - 8/10

So how about them classes? There are 12 class of 4 different archetypes. Pretty much, they are Warriors, Priests, Rogues, Magicians. As I said before your racial selection determines what classes are available.

I've had the chance to try out every single one, so I'm not going to be too specific, but all the classes seem interesting and unique. 

In terms of balance, after they fixed the Ranger class (was way too overpowered initially) it seems like the balance is actually pretty good at this stage. Any class that gets the jump on any other class has a fairly high chance of victory. Any 1vs1 fight is winnable (in my experience) and group engagements are just as chaotic and fun as you'd expect them to be. 

Each class has skill points for different stats like mana regen, health regen, your ability to hide (everyone can hide and move stealthy if they choose) your detection of hidden players, taunt rating for PvE tanks etc. 

You also have a very WoW like talent tree system. 3 trees, two specific to that class and the 3rd tree is generic across the archetype.

Nothing really new and different here.

Classes - 7/10

Combat, the big one.

There is no autoattack. You can attack in three direction, left right and middle (top). You have to manual click or hit the appropriate key (1,2,3 by default) in order to swing your weapon. Targeting is somewhat sticky, but range does count. You can swing at any time, but you have to be in range and facing your target to land the attack. You can also damage other players/mobs that you swing at even if they are not your selected target.

The abilities and spells come in two forms. The standard "click and activate" and the AoC combos. You hit your ability key then have to swing an either 1 or 2 step combo sequence. I'm posting a screen with the combo indicator at the end of this article. 

You also have "shields." 3 rings of protection that are by default evenly distributed on your left, right, and center arc. These of course correspond to the left, right, center swing directions of your attacks. You can manual reassign the shield rings to stack a certain direction. Like all 3 center or 2 center one left etc.

I have found no point to this yet. You can't see the enemies shield rings in PvP, and in PvE you can't tell what sector the mob/npc is swinging at. I'm sure this may have some use later, especially in PvE, but I don't see too much point to it now. If you look at the screenshot of combat, you'll see the crocodile has their shield rings distributed. All this means is that you then choose to swing at an "unprotected" area instead. It's simple, but does add an element to combat that makes you more involved.

You actually have to pay attention to your opponents defenses and react accordingly. Again, this is only in PvE.

Bunny hoppers in PvP are 10x time as annoying. Your toon tries to autotrack their movement, but you end up having to turn around and move a lot. This makes it hard to then select the 3 direction attack keys. Maybe I'm just not that good at it yet, but I screw up a lot of combos trying to keep myself in range and facing a bunny hopper in PvP.

Combat - 7/10

Finally the big question:

Is it fun?

The short answer is yes. The PvE experience was fun and interesting, not all too different then you'd expect from any other MMORPG but the combat system makes it a little more involved. The cutscenes and dialogue are a great addition.

The PvP is fast and furious, and suprisingly well balanced at the level 20 tier. (once they fixed Ranger that is) The capture the flag scenarios seem a lot more fun and interesting to me personally, and this is mostly because not too many people actually care about winning, just slaughtering each other and improving their own kill/death ratio.

It's a very satisfying PvP experience that has kept me glued all weekend. The short PvE experience makes me itch for more, so that is definetly a positive.

It's WAY too hard to comment on the longevity of the title because this is just a small taste of the game. It's like taking away everything in WoW except the battlegrounds. There is still so much to be seen. 

Fun factor - 8/10

Finally the little stuff.

It's the little stuff that really makes or breaks a game for me. This is a very limited test but from what I have seen this is the area that concerns me most. It's just stupid little simple things that I feel are done horribly wrong but have a lasting effect on my impression of the game.

The logout command (/camp) and the logout menu button in the option menu don't actually say "Logout." Instead they say "Exit Game." It's very stupid in my opinion and misleading. The global chat and help channels are filled with people asking how they log out. Such a small thing, but a big difference.

Also when you do log out you are taken back to the login screen, not the character selection. Maybe it's just a personal preference thing, but I don't like it.

It also seems to take FOREVER for your character to actually log out.  Trying to switch to a different toon is a hassle. You log out, are taken back to the login screen, authenticate, get to character select... But then if your character isn't fully logged out yet and you try and log in on a different toon, you get an error and it boots you back to the Login prompt. Annoying as hell. You have to relog in back to the character select and try again, hoping your previous toon finally frak'n logged out.

When you queue up for a PvP scenario you've got this huge window taking up half the screen with the search running. I guess I'm just totally used to the "queue and forget" system in WoW where all you have on screen is the mini-map icon.

When you die in PvP even it takes you to a loading screen. It's brief sure, but it's still a loading screen every time you die...

Little Things - 5/10

Overall.... Overall I'm excited to hopefully get into the Fileplanet beta starting May 1st. I really want to explore the PvE side more. This Beta PvP Weekend Test was such a small taste, but I like what I saw. I'm not going to rush out and pre-order a copy, but I am excited for another chance to play.

Overall rating (sum of total scores / maximum possible) --

87/110 = .7909 %

Overall Score - 7.9 / 10