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rejad Blog

Random thoughts about MMOs and gaming.

Author: rejad

Martial Empires: A Review

Posted by rejad Friday November 12 2010 at 3:00AM
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tl;dr  Don’t bother downloading this game.

So I’ve been playing Martial Empires recently.  Several things about what I read drew me to it, namely the character customization, the wonderful graphics, and what is purported to be realm vs realm PvP, something which I never saw any evidence of.  Those are the good things about this game and sadly they are not the reason why I felt compelled to write this.  To put it quite simply, this game is inconvenient to play.  At every turn where it seems as though other ways exist to make things less tedious, the designers of Martial Empires choose to look the other way.

There is a crafting system and it’s nice in that you can actually make things that are very useful to yourself and others almost from the start.  Collecting supplies is a chore but I looted enough off my kills to do some.  But there is a problem with that, some things you need can only be looted.  And if you are not in the level range of that mob you won’t see any loot.  So if you are not crafting while leveling and keeping on top of it you will soon find yourself having to make a new character to go back and pick up the items you missed to keep your crafting going.  Sure you can buy them but these items are priced expensive on the auction house as one would imagine.

The auction house itself is a chore as well.  First off I didn’t even know there was one until I did a search on google for it.  It is located in a single place, the main city of the game.  It’s called the main city but you only really ever have a reason to go there once briefly around level 8 and never have a reason to return that I can see aside from going to the auction house.  It’s inconvenient because you have travel there either buy running, taking one of the vehicles, or paying through your backside for a teleport.

On top of all this the game suffers the same faults every other MMO on the market does these days.  It follows the World of Warcraft quest-based advancement model and despite hitting level 15 I never saw the need to group or interact with other players in any way, shape, or form.  There was this random battle ground feature that I played a few times, at low level it is a cooperative PvE raid that was just a laggy zerg-fest.  I don’t play online games to play alone and I already work a job that is essentially data entry, I don’t want to do it for fun as well.

Nothing new, nothing innovative, the character customization seems good at first but you quickly realize that everyone ends up looking the same anyway.  Nobody plays together, no reason to, boring grind that seems endless.  Excuse me while I go hit Add/Remove Programs in my Control Panel.

The Best Way to Improve Player Cooperation: End Grouping

Posted by rejad Monday October 25 2010 at 1:51PM
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Allow me to explain that.

Grouping is an old mechanic that's been in every MMORPG game out there.  Get some friends, group up, and do stuff together.  But this is old and flawed.  Like most RPG foundations it goes back to the mindset from Dungeons & Dragons of old where a fellowship of adventures together delve into a dungeon to beat the monsters, find treasure, and gain experience to improve their abilities.  The more people in your fellowship, the easier the challenges.

Nothing wrong with that.  Except we're not playing with paper, pencil, and our imaginations here.  A video game is a whole other animal.  Finding others can be hard to do sometimes if you play at weird times.  Even if there is other people around they might not be in a level range for it to be appropriate for the two of you to join together.  Plus typically there is the mechanic of grouping causing experience and rewards to be split among the group.  If a player can kill the same beast by themselves and reap full reward, why bother splitting the goods with someone else who doesn't significantly help?  Especially when the difference between killing by yourself and with even a full group is a time-savings of just a few seconds?  Why bother at all?

Even worse is that all MMO's these days are trying to be World of Warcraft were all advancement is based on doing quests.  This is nice for a solo experience, but we're playing an online game that we pay a monthly fee to access.  If we're playing alone, why not save our money and play an offline RPG that only has a one-time purchase fee?  The problem with trying to group while playing quests is that even if a player is around while you are, in the same area you are, and even at the same level of experience you are, if you two are on different quests there is next to no reason at all for you to even consider working together.  Especially since in WoW the difference between a solo and a duo kill is about 10 seconds at most.  Seriously, there is literally no reason in the world why you would even bother.

So how does ending grouping help with this?  Simple, everyone around you is in a group.  You help someone, you gain reward even if you aren't "grouped" with them.  Heal someone about to die?  You get some experience.  Jump in when someone is having a tough fight?  You get experience.  You see someone working on a quest you are?  Don't bother trying to set up a group, just jump in and fight.  And for the spoils or loot, everyone gets their own.  Exploitable, too easy?  Who cares?  You're helping others, why not reap greater reward even if it was just for a moment?

Why not encourage helping others instead of penalizing it, which is what modern MMO's essentially do.  Remove this group mechanic and all the archaic BS that comes with it like splitting reward and experience.  Reward player to player interaction, no matter how small or brief it may be.  People who would never interact would suddenly find themselves running around together, maybe even striking up a friendship.

The Public Quests of Warhammer Online were something like this.  Guild Wars 2 is looking as though they've learned some of these lessons and are applying some of the same ideas into the game.  But as it's still in development it remains to be seen how it will play out in practice.  I'm looking forward to seeing it.

The Old Republic Will Be a Success...and a Failure

Posted by rejad Saturday October 23 2010 at 2:11AM
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tl;dr  SWTOR will be a good video game but a lousy MMO.

That's pretty much what I'm thinking these days.  When the game was announced, Knights of the Old Republic fans everywhere either rejoiced or, and more likely from my observations, wrung their hands in anger at the fact that there would be no KOTOR 3 just this MMO.  But those KOTOR fans should now rejoice as it is looking clear that the game we will get is very much KOTOR 3.  The MMO fans on the other hand should look forward to some hand wringing.

Every indication seems to point to an emphasis on the single-player experience.  The focus is on story, you are typically strong enough to take on groups of enemies by yourself, you get an NPC partner to help you out, the space portion of the game is a rail shooter, etc.

So far I've heard naught about how players will interact with each other, save for being able to make a story line comment here and there if in a group.  And that's only on the repeatable side quests that don't matter much to your overall story.  No word on crafting and I'm not assuming there will be much beyond the item upgrade feature of the first two KOTOR games.

Now this lack of player interaction doesn't mean it will be a bad game, just that it will be a bad online game.  From day one the devs of this project have been wetting themselves over talking about how wonderful you'll think the story is as you solo the whole game.  As far as I can tell the most player interaction you'll have is seeing another player run by you when you're walking through a non-instanced area.

Sure I could be wrong, but so far I'm not.  If I am I welcome anyone to come and point out to me the error of my admitted assumption.  Until then I will hold the theory that SWTOR is a single-player game with a monthly subscription fee. 

I suppose that's one way to get around piracy.

EverQuest Extended; SOE Fails Again

Posted by rejad Wednesday October 6 2010 at 4:27PM
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SOE has a long history of observing another company's success, focusing on one aspect of said success (typically one that while visible has little to do with the result), and completely botching it all together by missing the point entirely.  Then they typically want to be praised and get rather petulant when people point out how badly they've failed yet again.

Sony's latest debacle is EverQuest Extended, a free to play version of the dying EverQuest 2.  Now I'm sure they decided to try this based on the success of game like Dungeons & Dragons Online which experienced a revival after it went F2P (free to play).  But, as with all things, they saw the success but for the life of them apparently were unable to divine why DDO was successful.

You see, in EverQuest Extended you have four tiers of customers based on how much one is willing to pay.  Pay nothing and you are Bronze.  Access to the game and all its content save advancement halted 10 levels below the cap, skills can only attain the status of adept (being unable to gain master skills), and the best gear cannot be used.  That doesn't sound so bad, you're probably thinking.  And you'd be right, if those were the only limitations.  And here is where we get to why this effort will not bear the fruit SOE hopes for.  Player to player interaction limitations.

Take a moment to consider that.

A Bronze player cannot access the chat channels, you can only talk to players who happen to be standing around you.  Also you cannot access the broker which is the primary way players buy and sell items from each other.  Oh, and the amount of money your character can carry is severely limited.  Pay $10 one time and upgrade to Silver status.  You still have these limitations.

Every other F2P game out there does not do this.  It is so standard a feature of the MMO world that one expects to be able to at least do these things.  But not SOE, who fancy themselves innovators.  Why play a game where you can talk to others for free and carry as much money as you can and buy and sell freely when you can pay SOE for those privileges?

I understand they want to make a buck and they've every right to.  But this won't work.  Sure, they'll have a few diehards who will cling to the game and pay.  Even their abysmal Matrix MMO had people playing to the end.  Star Wars Galaxies chugs on to my and nearly everyone else's surprise.  But the success of DDO?  Hell no.  Not going to happen. 

The whole point of F2P is a larger community to interact with.  That's it in a nutshell, really.  Free players are not a burden or even customers waiting to happen but a feature of the game just as graphics, content, and expansions.  They are there to bring in paying customers.  Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd.  Who wants to play an online game alone?  Even if you just want to PvP or be better than everyone else, you still are interacting with other players.  This is the advantage of F2P, this why it exists, this is why it works.  Almost any F2P game out there you can find others to group with or interact with at all hours of the day.

I won't even go into the cash shop.  If you guess "horribly over-priced" give yourself a cookie.  Apparently selling an armor appearance set for $10 to 10 people means more to them than selling the same thing to 1000 for $1.  I guess watching the spectacular rise and fall of Allods Online provided SOE no lessons to be learned.