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The staff of gets together to bring you some behind the scenes insights on stories, the industry and the site itself.

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Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

Girls in MMOs

Posted by MikeB Thursday April 29 2010 at 4:55PM
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This week’s Community Spotlight focuses on the thread “Most Girls Play…” by uquipo who believes that most female gamers play World of Warcraft. The resulting discussion turned out to be hit-or-miss, but was often funny and at the very least quite insightful, thanks to our resident female readers here at

Uquipo’s thoughts:

“I'm guessing most women play WoW.

I'm talking about a per capita amount like out of every 100 people 20 are female.

I once heard that 40% of WoW players were female, but that sounds high.  PvP servers would have fewer women while RP servers would have more, I assume.

I would think a game like EVE would have a small female population.”

With some quick research Cecropia discovered that 3% of EVE’s population are female, and fnorgby followed up with a description of his wife, who played EVE in the past:

Originally posted by Cecropia

I remember CCP actually released the percentage of females that were subbed to EVE a couple of years ago. It was just over 3% at the time.

Heh, two years ago, my wife was one of 'em.  She rode shotgun on nullsec mining operations and was a decent PVP pilot. 

She insists she's not a "gamer", but she played Eve and loved it.  She plays CIv 4 mostly now, and refuses to save/restore because that would be "retarded".

Just yesterday she saw me playing XCOM and was all up in my grill about it.  I'm going to install it on her computer today and school her in the basics.

But she's not a "gamer".  Nope.”

Shae (a female gamer) responded to some of Uquipo’s unfounded generalizations with some snark of her own:


“Yup -  We're taking WoW over one server at a time.

We have female only guilds, we have pink tabards and yes when we get on vent we do nothing but talk about shopping, shoes and how the last time we got our nails done how great they looked right after but like 2 days later they've completely gone to hell.

And no, we don't have a clue how to play the game, I personally just push random bottoms and hope something goes right; who knew if you got 25 of us on the lich king doing the same thing mr. frostbite would go down so easily... iknowright?

Oh and if you don't play WoW and play some other more complicated, convoluted, "technical" game like eve, or runscape or whatever to like... get away from us. Don't bother man, just don't bother. We're all over the place.

We have our pink mouses, our pink keyboards, t-shits that spell the word Girl in like 50 different ways (i.e.: Girlz, Gurls, Gurlz, G!lrz, Gu!z, etc, etc), we have our bras, our tampons, make up, spare sweater in case it's cold (it doesn't matter where we're going, it could always be cold) and we're going to take over... oh yeah, we're taking over.

Oh yeah by the way.

Farmville is... AWESOME!”

Sinella, another female reader, plays RuneScape and A Tale in the Desert, and offers her perspective on what games interest her:

“There are a lot of female players in RuneScape and A Tale in the Desert. Being a woman myself I can tell that I prefer games where there are more activities than only combat, and where I can get the feeling of achievement without being forced to fight.”

Selenica, you guessed it, another female reader (they do exist, you know!) enjoyed Star Wars Galaxies and got the idea that many other female gamers did as well:

“Star Wars Galaxies used to be fairly populated with female players. Probably because it had such a wide variety of things to do/professions. A lot of opportunity to socialize and cooperate on things other than combat. That's what drew me to SWG. 

I like combat as much as any guy. I play games like GTA 4, Killzone 2, MGS4 all the time... but when it comes to MMO gaming and interacting with other players I prefer teamwork and friendships over pvp.”

Alleyia enjoyed FFXI and is now looking forward to FFXIV, contrary to popular belief she did not enjoy WoW as much as some would believe:

“I played FFXI for years and now I'm waiting for FFXIV.

Never really liked WoW, just got a Priest to 52 and a Paladin to 41.. didn't like the graphics, hated the community, but i liked BGs and my first guild there wasn't too bad. Played on a PvP Server because I liked the conflict between the horde and the alliance. Oh and female undeads ftw.

I also played Aion for about two Months, didn't really like it either and a couple of f2p games. FFXI is the only mmorpg that was able to hold my interest (just got no more time for it T_T).

Now I'm playing Allods Online and I like it so far. :3”

How could we have this thread without the always insightful comments of girlgeek? Come on now!

“Most girls play......whatever they damn well WANT to play. I don't think you can pick any particular game that "most girls" play. We play all kinds of games. Asia Carerra plays Unreal Tournament and consistently gives guys a pretty good schooling on HOW to FPS. lol  Mila Kunis was addicted to WoW. Other women play other games. We can't really be lumped into any "most women" comment, I don't think.”

I was honestly surprised with how many girl gamers came out of the wood work to clear the fog on this subject. I really expected it to just be a bunch of us guys, well, making stuff up that made sense to us, and at the end of the day for the topic to remain as mysterious as it began (well, not to Uquipo who had it all figured out!).

Despite some sexist comments, the responses were quite insightful and hopefully the thread will continue with even more interesting responses from our other female readers.

I’m not a girl, so I can’t really speak to what female MMO gamers play, but I did meet my girlfriend on The Matrix Online over four years ago, so I can tell you at least one girl was into that particular game.

Are you a girl gamer? What is your favorite MMO? And what criteria do you look for when deciding whether or not you are interested in a new MMO?

It's Cold in San Francisco

Posted by BillMurphy Tuesday April 27 2010 at 4:48PM
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I flew out to San Francisco last week expecting sunny, shiny, happy people in bathing suits, tanned, roller-blading, all in the midst of a very warm April in California. 

As you can see, I've never been to SF or California.

I'm an Ohio-bred Nerd, when it comes down to it, and I felt a little like Jed Clampett when I got off the plane in SFO Airport Thursday morning.  Only I wasn't so wide-eyed once I got into the heart of downtown San Francisco and stepped out of the cab to realize it was fifty degrees.  Glad I brought my hoodie indeed.  Still, the trip was fantastic.  I didn't have too much time to explore the innards of the metropolis, but I got a good sense of the food and the people and realized that I would go mad from trolly dings if I lived where my hotel was stationed.

But the real highlight of the trip was the Trion Worlds event.  No one really knew what to expect with the exception that we knew we were going to see two of the company's games in action.  The news out of Trion has been relatively dark since last year, but Dr. Lars Buttler and crew didn't disappoint with all the info we gleaned from them that evening. 

And there's something I feel I have to say about Trion.  It may seem like sucking up, but after talking with the developers and businessmen alike, I get the feeling that nearly everyone at the company is in love with online gaming.  They don't just think of it as a money-pinata (though obviously that's what they're hoping), but rather they all seem to approach MMOGs the same we we fans do... with feverish devotion.  Dr. Lars himself may be "The Suit" of the operation but I hope I'm not too crass in saying that he seems every bit a dork as myself.  Only Dr. Lars managed to secure a buttload of funding for a massive online entertainment company while I'm having trouble squaring funding for a trip to Niagra Falls in May.

I met a slew of people that evening, drank a lot of free IPA, ate a lot of good food, and watched the developers play a couple fantastic looking games.  The only way the night would have been better was if I could have laid my greasy fingers on the keyboard myself.  But for that, I just have another month and a half to wait as Trion's crew will be in full force at E3. 

Maybe then it'll be warmer...

How Pokemon killed Magic

Posted by garrett Monday April 26 2010 at 1:57PM
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When Magic the Gathering came out it had changed games forever. Anyone who can remember gaming in 1994-95 remembers that those cards never stayed on the shelves. Wizards of the Coast was so successful in Magic that they purchased TSR and now remain one of the top paper & pen companies still around to this day. There are other, there are always other who have strived to create successful games. Some smaller companies have made better games, some have even been somewhat successful. But no one can match what happened.

Then after Magic's triumph a ton of card games hit the market. Most failed, some still exist today, but overall the card game industry remains.

Then came Pokemon.

Now, Wizards published Pokemon in the U.S. the game became insanely popular and continues to be to this day. Basically it brought a more kid friendly approach to card games and had fun anime artwork and gave kids a reason to spend endless money trying to collect cards.

Think about this event for a few minutes....1994-1996 we saw card games pulse. Then came Pokemon and the execs found that kids spend their parents money much better than the parents themselves did. The market shifted somehow...and games like Magic stopped being made.

Many will argue that I am wrong. Many will argue that Magic still flourishes today, and it does. I am not talking about one specific game or games, I am talking about an industry.

Ultima, Everquest, Dark Age of Camelot, and ultimately World of Warcraft brought in a wave of gaming that looked like it would never go away. By 2005 there were endless MMOs in development with subscription models that would make the execs billions...BILLIONS!! (Muwaahahahaha!).

Then came Free to Play games. (The came Pokemon.)

Now, classic MMOs may never be seen again.

I am not going to go through a laundry list of reasons why I think these two comparisons are valid. You may entirely disagree. However...I do think that it gives us something to think about.

It is you know where your MMOs are?

Community Spotlight: What is Your Preferred MMO Combat Style?

Posted by MikeB Thursday April 22 2010 at 4:58PM
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This week’s Community Spotlight focuses on the thread “What sort of combat system do you prefer?” by Buttermilch. Straightforward and to the point, Buttermilch polls the community on their preferred MMO combat system:

“Hello people!

I would like to get to know: "What kind of combat system do you preferably have in an MMO?"

It would be very kind if you could also tell me, WHY you prefer that particular one.

Ideas on how to spice existing combat systems up are welcome. Maybe you can even come up with a completely new super-uber system that rocks my brain away? ;-)

I'm curious. And now discuss please! :-)


Here is what I think:

Most systems have their right to exist, as it totally depends on the world and overall game mechanics. But what I lack to see are typical RPG elements / combat systems in modern MMOs. Why not have combat simulated as in "The Dark Eye" or "Dungeons and Dragons"? Everything is done with dice rolls, combat is a bit slower and it's more about tactical choices.

EvE is a bit like that, though combat is implemented in a very boring manner in my opinion...

What kind of combat system do you prefer?

n     WoW-style: Autoattacking and some abilities to fire

n     Chronicles of Spellborn-style: No auto-attack, every ability is performed on demand

n     EvE-style: auto-attack only

n     Darkfall-style: You click to attack and you have to actually aim

n     FPS-style: Very twitch playstyle aiming with a crosshair

n     Final Fantasy-style: Combat is separated into rounds, not real-time

n     Strategy-game-style: You command several units and give them orders

n     Other”

Zyonne’s preferences can’t be pidgeon holed into one choice, as he feels Age of Conan doesn’t necessarily require strict aiming, but also doesn’t have an auto attack:

“I like the melee combat in Age of Conan, which doesn't have auto attack, but doesn't really require much aiming either. The combo system isn't perfect, but controlling the direction of the swings with the keyboard rather than clicking with the mouse just feels right, and works fine with a little lag. If the weapon swing visually hits the target, I don't see why it should matter that your cursor wasn't over it when you started the swing

For ranged combat I'd like something in between fallen earth and tabula rasa. Slower paced than an FPS, and slightly sticky targetting to make lag and desync less of an issue, but definitely manual targeting and no auto attack.

I also like being able to switch between combat mode and exploration mode. Interacting with the world in ways that don't involve combat is a huge part of MMOs to me, and I don't want the combat system to impose restrictions when exploring, interacting with objects in the world, NPCs and other players. Autotargeting is fine for this, and if the game has a magic system, there should be no need for precision aiming to cast utility spells and "friendly" spells out of combat.”

Maji prefers the FPS style, but offers a breakdown of several of the other options as well:

WoW-style: Autoattacking and some abilities to fire - 22.4%

The good thing about that one is, that it's very easy and comfortable. The bad one is that it's also very boring. If you are in some kind of boss fight that takes a long time, or in easier smaller fights, then you just have to spam the same buttons over and over, and you don't have to aim. It really invites you to have a movie running on the second monitor, or phone, or stop paying attention in general, because... well there is not really any interaction. If I keep pressing "1 1 2 1 1 2 1 1 2" for half an hour, then it's for me not that entertaining.

At the same time there are certain playstyles with this combat system, where you actually have to pay attention. But that requires than focusing on your hotbar, and that makes the fight boring again for me, since I want to have a good look at the enemy.

 FPS-style: Very twitch playstyle aiming with a crosshair - 18.4%

I prefer that one, especially when there are zones to target at (ie headshot, legshot and whatnot). You have to pay attention, different enemies are different to fight because of the targeting alone (depending on their size and speed). And especially: paying attention rewards you a lot. It's far more involving than the WoW style.

Final Fantasy-style: Combat is separated into rounds, not real-time - 8.2%

It's cute but not really my thing.

 Strategy-game-style: You command several units and give them orders - 8.2%

Well good for RTS and the like obviously, I wouldn't want it in an MMORPG.

Wizardry throws his weight behind FFXI’s combat system:

“No question i prefer FFXI's combat,that is the main selling point of the game,that and it's sub class system.

You howeever left out the fact that FFXI's combat ALSO involves team work and not solo like most games.Geesh even a game like WOW a player can cheat by using add ons and take on instances by himself,how sad is that for MMO gaming?

This is why i prefer FFXI's combat it stands for what MMO gaming SHOULD be, playing alongside other players.I might also add that it is not turn based,it is real time,it uses delays for weapons,with different gear you can up your attack speed 10x if you wanted utilizing Haste and Multi attack weapons,it is possible to hit a mob 7-8 times to his one attack,so that is nothing close to turn based.

FFXI combat is also thought provoking,this was a big deal with the RDM class,making it possible to solo mobs that were not meant to be soloed,but using all the tools that a RDM has it is possible.The added Dancer class and Ninja to boot also make for thoughtful combat,heck even Ranger could utilize thought by loading up tons of early damage then binding him for another go.

Big damage in FFXI is a waiting game for your abilities to load up from timers/TP guages,so it is VERY important to not mess up and miss that golden opportunity,many other games you just button mash the same 1/2/3 icons on the hotbar with no real thought what so ever.”

I'm a bit conflicted myself, as I would actually prefer to play an MMO with Final Fantasy (not FFXI) style combat. Similar to Atlantica Online, except the party is made up of players all with their own ATB gauges. I don’t know if I can say I would prefer this though as I have never actually played an MMO that utilized it. I know Atlantica Online offers some version of this type of combat, but I am not sure how it plays out with other players vs. the mercenaries in your party. I don’t have much of a preference with regards to the other choices, except to say I’m not a huge fan of autoattack.

So there you have it – I want to see traditional Final Fantasy style combat in an MMO!

How about you? What is your preferred MMO combat style? Let us know in the comments below!

Earth Day? Pfft... Trion Day!

Posted by BillMurphy Wednesday April 21 2010 at 6:27PM
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Sort of a short little blog today in light of the fact that I’ve got to get packing.  Tomorrow I’m off on my first trip for to meet with the fine folks of Trion World Network.  That may not be a very recognizable name yet, but something tells me it will be in the months to come.  With investors the likes of NBC/Universal and TimeWarner fueling the development of several AAA games, it’s likely only a matter of time before we put Trion right alongside the likes of 2K and EA.
One of TWN’s premier titles is the forthcoming MMORPG Heroes of Telara which was unveiled during last year’s E3, but has since been rather dark in the terms of media exposure.  I suspect that tomorrow’s press event is something of a coming-out party for the title.  The company also has Petroglyph Games currently working on an MMORTS.  You may recognize them as the developer behind the forthcoming Mytheon, as well as the cult hit Universe at War.  Lastly, Trion is partnering up with the SyFy network to produce an as of yet untitled MMO Action-RPG. 
Looking at that list, little is known about all three of these titles, and since I’m taking off for San Francisco early tomorrow morning I’m probably not too far off in assuming that I’ll likely be getting some demos and presentations on the company’s forthcoming products.   I should have some face time with the games’ developers as well.  With that in mind, I’m wondering what you all might want to know about these games.  
Got a question for the developers behind the ambitious Heroes of Telara?  Let me know and I’ll toss it at them.  Want to know more about the RTS or the SyFy game?  Post it here in the comments and I’ll try to torture them into answering it.  
In the meantime, enjoy your weekend and pray there’s slight jetlag for me.  Though I’m sure I won’t mind getting out of the still chilly Ohio to see some sunny Californian skies for a day or two even if I sleep away my Saturday. 

Vikings vs. Werewolves!! and yes Elves!

Posted by garrett Tuesday April 20 2010 at 9:37AM
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I have still been on this search for what is fun in games. As players, what draws us in and keeps us around? Well today I want to talk about what we think is cool and why it should be in a game. Hence my title, Vikings vs. Werewolves!! Grant Gould is an artist and cartoonist best known for his work on Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

He is famous and has hordes of Star Wars fans watching his work. Yet in all his Star Wars glory back in 2008 he released a short comic called Wolves of Odin. The story is about three werewolves that attack vikings for revenge. It is simple and cool. The artwork is great.

So my question is, why don't we see more games with this simple style of things we find cool. Pirates, Ninjas, Vikings, Werewolves, Elves, Orcs, Barbarians, Mages, all of these classes and elements are in MMOs somewhere, but how come we never see MMOs develop around something simple.

Do the executives say: "It's a Fantasy MMO we have to have Elves or no one will buy it!"

For me, all Grant Gould's comic needed to say was Viking's Vs. Werewolves and I was sold. I was buying that book and spending my free time reading it, why? Because it was cool to me.

Imagine an MMO where Loki awoke Fenris and created a Werewolf army. The Vikings are the other faction fighting under Thor and Odin. Since it is now a Fantasy MMO "and we have to have Elves!" Why not make a third faction with Freya and Frey and their Elves who come down to re capture artifacts stolen by the vikings.

So, Vikings vs. Werewolves vs. Elves (because Corellan Larethian forbid, we must have elves!).

Quests, armor, gold, glory for your faction's diety and Norse awesomeness....and BAM! You have a cool MMO!

See, to me this is cool. This is what would make me cheer and say, cool something that looks fun. It does not have to be a major IP from the 1900s. It does not have to be for kids. It is just something fun. Look at Plants Vs. Zombies for goodness sake, fun and simple and cool.

For me, this stuff is cool. What games would you like to see...Ninja vs. Shaolin vs. Samurai?

Until next time...


Community Spotlight: Your Favorite Grind

Posted by MikeB Thursday April 15 2010 at 4:25PM
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This week’s Community Spotlight focuses on the thread “What grind did you actually enjoy the most? And why?” by elocke. Of course, you have to accept the basic premise that a grind can be enjoyable at all, here. Elocke himself enjoyed FFXI’s grind the most, read below for more:

“We've heard it stated over and over through various people and forums, that MMORPGs ALL have a grind of some type. My question is this. Which grind did you actually ENJOY the most? Was it Lord of the Rings, WoW, Aion, Lineage 2, EQ1, or one of the many others? And why did you enjoy it?

Personally, as much as I kick myself for not playing this game still(mostly due to other games grabbing my attention and the control scheme being a hassle) FFXI is probaby my most favorite game that has a ton of grind to it. Something about knocking out those levels in a sweet party, skillchaining through them, etc. Still gives me good memories.”

TribeofOne disagrees with elocke’s FFXI choice, and offers the original EverQuest as his favorite grind:

“the complex party mechanics(and the UI /shudder) is what turned me off of FFXI. I never could get the hang the renkei thing or the reliance on macroing.

EQ would be my favorite. I loved it back in the day when youd get a group together and find a spot to camp and someone would pull. We would sit there for hours pull, kill, talk ...”

Hobson101’s favorite grind wasn’t exp per se, but realm points in Dark Age of Camelot:

“Dark Age of Camelot: Realm points - by a MILE

I played that game since the beta and thus ended up on the US servers despite being at GMT+1.

The sense of community that was not only created by the players but also the mechanics of the game itself kept me playing for years even tho prime time was at around 3am for me.

I was younger and had a lot of time back then - much of it spent in daoc. I was a member of Anam na Eireann, an RP guild on Percival but the RvR was always a big focus for me.

Playing my druid i managed to make a name for myself as a good (great?) healer and not being bound to any of the gank guilds "by name" I had the luxury of playing with most if not all the best people on the server.

I got to play with melee setups, bomb squads, tower ganks, caster heavy setups and everything inbetween all at the top of their game. Technically we were grinding realm points day in and out but the nature of PvP (or RvR in this case), both small scale and the gank group scenarios coupled with the close knit community and the emotional investment in how your realm was doing made these some of my very best years in gaming.”

Neilh73 submits his Jedi Grind in SWG as having been the most fun for him, now I’ve seen it all:

“Grinding for my second Jedi character in SWG.  29 proffessions and 2 Village of Aurelia pahses, followed by grinding out his Jedi template of Master Lightsaber, Master Powers, Heal 4004.

Why was it fun?  The constant fighting off groups of Bounty Hunters, always having to watch my back and of course the end result - an Alpha class character, or two in my case (although the first was just blind luck really).”

SwampRob gives City of Heroes some love:

“For me, it was City of Heroes.   The combat is just so animated, with tons of colorful powers and bodies flying everywhere.   Not overcomplicated, but fun, seat-of-your-pants battles.”

I’m torn between two games: Star Wars Galaxies and The Chronicles of Spellborn. The former was my first MMO and I’m partly viewing it through rose-colored glasses, but as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs I made tons of friends playing in Star Wars Galaxies and many of those relationships came about through essentially grinding together. Starting with the big noob run through Endor in the first few days of launch (Starsider server, were any of you there?), to big Ft. Tusken newb groups, etc. On the other hand, later on as my character developed I remember the mind numbingly boring grinds on Dantooine, and waiting on long lines for doctor buffs or entertainer buffs.

Spellborn though, was a really interesting grind. As I remarked in my review of Spellborn for ,the game’s AI really stood out. Early on in my travels I actually found myself confused at times, mistaking NPC enemies as players, with the way they grouped up on you intelligently, even trying to kite you while the melee enemies held the line. The quests were often frustrating, but the moment to moment combat was really engaging, and this helped alleviate an otherwise ho-hum experience.

What was your favorite grind? Share your experiences in the comments below!

The Necessity of Re-Specs

Posted by BillMurphy Wednesday April 14 2010 at 5:32PM
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I recently was playing Champions Online with a Supernatural/Might character I’ve been slowly building since launch, when it dawned on me that I didn’t particularly enjoy playing with the combination of skills I’d chosen. I was a powerhouse when it came to survivability, but my fights consisted of me simply spamming one attack most of the time and occasionally using an AOE stun. I know it would have gotten better as I leveled and gained more powers, but really I couldn’t wait. I wanted to progress this character more than any alts, and that meant I needed to redo my powerset.

Luckily I had a free re-spec still sitting and waiting on this character and with the sweeping changes to several powersets coming in the game’s next patch I knew that I’d be given another one soon. And since you can only ever have one free re-spec at a time, I took my disillusionment with my current build as a reason to spend the one I’d been holding onto for months. What’s beautiful about re-speccing in CO is that you don’t just get to tinker with a few choices within your class. Since the game essentially lets you design your own class through the choice of powers, a re-spec is like reimagining your character altogether.

I’ve been playing Wolfenstein, my werewolf-looking hero since before launch on and off, and in that time I’d only ever had him with the Supernatural/Might mix. Yes, I’m a Robert Kirkman fan. Mind you, I’m the world’s slowest leveler ever, and with a penchant for alts, Wolfenstein is only level 20. I decided to ditch the thematic Supernatural choice and instead made him into a mostly Fire build (with some Supernatural utility… namely, Regen). Of course I made some wrong choices and because I left the Powerhouse, I ended up spending a fortune to re-spec again a few days later, but the core of Wolfenstein being now a whirling dervish of flame and explosions is the same.

The re-spec basically reignited my love for the game’s combat and for the first time in a while I’m not using a slew of alts with the majority of my playtime. It’s like playing a whole new character, and one that’s enormously more fun.

Essentially I’m writing a love letter to re-specs in our MMOs. I remember when Torchlight released to eager gamers it shipped without a re-spec option. There was significant debate as to whether a game like Torchlight should have one, and the developers’ official viewpoint seemed to be that it shouldn’t… but a mod was quickly released by the studio which allowed interested players to put a re-spec potion into the game allowing such a feature.

I know the old days of having to learn from your mistakes the hard way by rerolling are fond to some, but not to me. I like that in most of today’s games I can count on some feature being in place that allows me to retool how I play my character. I think that as long as some form of cost is in place such a feature is not only welcome but necessary in games with a multitude of options. Now I don’t know about charging real money for the ability, but if people want to pay the cost of two foot-long subs to change their characters skills, more power to them. Paying real cash for a re-spec is a much better form of RMT than paying real cash for unfair advantages like weapons and armor.

Simply put, every game with a modicum of choice in terms of character development needs to have some form of re-spec in place from day one.

Multi-Faction Warfare and PvP

Posted by garrett Wednesday April 14 2010 at 7:06AM
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Back in the old days Player Killing was quite a big deal. I can remember playing UO with my PK character and hunting through the forests looking for Blue. I was an outlaw I felt like an outlaw. I could not go to town, I could not get to civilization, I had my guild, my band of thieves and cutthroats, they were my only home.

The next night I was on the Blue side, fighting and hunting against the other PK guilds on the server and saving those poor souls who had been killed, robbed, and forced to go back to town in shame. Both side of this coin were fun and players had the ability to create 2 characters that they could join either fight with.

I know I harp on DAOC a lot, but the concept of multi-faction warfare in an open zone was what made DAOC great. I played Midgard and we were out numbered. We also all worked together for a common cause. To hold the relics for our realm that gave us bonuses and helped out new players level in Darkness Falls. We went out everynight in 8 man groups or sometimes a zerg to hunt down Hibs and Albs. The Hibs, even though our enemies, would fight it out, yet if the Albs showed up the game changed fast and we joined to defeat them first. If I got out late, or missed a group it was ok I would go to the walls where the stealthers would hang out and wait for their quary. I never minded being bait because we all worked together.

Then WoW arrived and while I have now been playing WoW on and off since day one. The concept of realm pride and knowing that you were fighting to help low level players was gone. Sure WoW had its two factions, but it was only two. While the Horde and Alliance definitely did not get along, there was no reason behind hunting players. Sure WoW has PvP, but it is for personal glory. Also, there is no loss. If you lose a Battleground, players can just leave and only suffer from gaining less Honor. Wintergrasp was a step in the right direction, but that is one zone. Stil it did open up VoA which is cool because you can get loot, but again personal glory.

I miss the idea of multiple factions. Everygame has two now, there is no longer faction choices. I think one of the biggest mistakes Warhammer made was not having multiple factions. They thought they needed to be like WoW, they did not.

I also miss the idea of fighting for our players to have a place to level easier. It was a real benefit and gave every faction a reason to fight for something.

Anywas these are just thoughts today, maybe some of the MMOs coming out will change back to these ideals and give us a good strong reason to fight again.

Community Spotlight: Would Any MMOG Make a Good Offline Game?

Posted by MikeB Thursday April 8 2010 at 4:31PM
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This week’s Community Spotlight focuses on the thread “Name an MMORPG you would play offline from level one to max.” by Ihmotepp. This is Ihmotepp’s second time being spotlighted, so congrats! In the thread, Ihmotepp wonders if there are any MMOGs out there that people feel they would enjoy as an offline game. Ihmotepp himself can’t say he’s played any so far, but he points to Star Wars: The Old Republic, which he thinks could also be a great single player game as it is essentially a “great big KOTOR.”
Here’s what Ihmotepp had to say:
“Normally, I don't play MMORPGs solo, ever.
I find the solo game play to be very similar to counting grains of sand at the beach, or maybe watching  clothes go around in a dryer. The quests dont' change the game world, and the combat is just whack whack whack.
So far, there isn't any game that's been released that I would say I'd play it offline ot max level. I'd be bored to tears, and this goes for my favorite MMORPGs like DaoC, EQ, or CoH.
However, I can say that although it's not released yet, and I haven't played it, TOR looks like I might actually want to play that game, if it was offline. I liked KOTOR, a single player game, and TOR looks like a great big KOTOR.
If that turns out the be the case, that it would be fun to play, EVEN OFFLINE, I believe it will be a smash hit.”
At first, most of our users appear to be confused at what Ihmotepp was getting at, but following a bit of explanation there were definitely some interesting responses.
Reijan and many others feel that MMOG’s wouldn’t make such great offline games:
“One big factor for me playing MMORPGs is that I can play with others. Otherwise, they would just be cheap RPGs with repeating content and boring grind (most of them). So no, I wouldn't enjoy playing any game offline from level one to max.”
Dhayes68 names LOTRO as a good candidate:
“LOTRO. Though for me its because of the IP. I love the client, wish they'd use it for something else. But with no meaningful pvp, no option to play antagonistic races/factions, and the storyline, it just feels more like an standalone rpg to me. Also, being a big fan of the IP, its kind of a downer to see heros running around everyhere. The Shire packed full of elves men dwarves. Armored mounted hobbits all over the place. Its just silly. For my preference I'd have liked the game to be standalone.”
Ghettobooste disagrees with the basic premise that MMOGs would make subpar singleplayer games:
Originally posted by Bigdavo

Without the multiplayer component MMOs are pretty much sub-par games, so the answer is no.
I disagree, if LOTRO, WOW, Vanguard or EQ2 were all just offline solo games they would be on par with Oblivion, at least. I think much better because of how much more depth they have, these games have so much more content than any offline game, and the character building is much more in depth as well. They could also make the graphics much better as well since it would be an offline game.”
Malickie along with luckturtz feel Age of Conan would make a great SRPG:
“Originally posted by luckturtz
AoC with a little adjustment would make a great offline rpg.
I was thinking the same thing, say they had made the game single player, it would most likely have a greater focus on story telling (more voice over etc..), which it already does to an extent. Really as is, AOC isn't much different than something like NWN2 in it's presentation. Tortage was basically a single player RPG to begin with. I love the Conan story, so I'd definitely play a decent single player RPG based on it. AOC to an extent is what you would get if you made a Bioware/Obsidian rpg into an MMO. I used to play a lot of the PW's for NWN1/2. AOC has always felt similar to them.”
This is a really interesting topic to me. For example, when the Torchlight MMOG comes out, will all of us who played the SRPG be able to say we essentially did just that, play an MMOG offline?  I guess that all depends on how different the MMO version is.
As for Age of Conan, I would agree with Malickie and luckturtz. Age of Conan pretty much starts off like a SRPG anyways, heck, the main Tortage storyline is pretty much a singleplayer RPG. If the storyline continued in the same manner throughout the rest of the game world, I don’t see why not.
If anything, I felt like the experience outside of Tortage was a bit of a rude awakening. Tortage wow’d me pretty good, and then it was just back to your typical conventional MMO gameplay. It was a bit jarring for sure.
What MMOG do you think would make a good offline RPG? Let us know in the comments below!

Aren't All Games Worth a Second Look?

Posted by BillMurphy Wednesday April 7 2010 at 6:50PM
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You may have noticed if you read this week's list, and if your eyes aren't bleeding from anger at my choices of top P2P games, that I've recently picked up Age of Conan again.  I have a friend, we’ll call him Adam (that’s his real name; he just doesn’t read my blog because he’s a bad friend).  He’s the type of gamer who will forever dismiss an MMO based on his first five minutes in the game, never to give it another try down the road.  It’s not that he doesn’t know the nature of the games, and how they change and update and mature with time.  Anyone who has been following City of Heroes of Everquest 2 can tell you that both games are entirely different in 2010 than they were upon release.
So why won’t some people own up to the fact that games, especially MMOs, deserve a second look?  Is it the same thing that makes a person hate green beans into adult hood because he once choked on them as a toddler?  The memory of the bad taste is never able to be forgotten?  First impressions are lasting impressions and all that, but in the world of online gaming second chances should be given.
I recently re-subscribed to Age of Conan, for the first time since originally cancelling my account a few months after launch.  I stopped playing back then because I ran into a content wall where I had no way to level outside of a few group quests and grinding.  No excuses here, but when it comes to PvE I prefer solo-questing as my main mode of play.  So I figured I’d quit for now and check back later on after the game had time to add content. 
But my return kept getting delayed.  New games launched, they seemed shinier, prettier, newer… and for a while I doubted I’d ever actually check in on Hyboria.  Until I started to notice a few friends of mine taking the leap and trying it out again.  Reports started coming in of improved stability, tons of new content, better user-friendliness.  Sure the UI is still ugly as all get out, but it’s functional at least.  Knowing full well that I have plenty of gaming to do with Global Agenda’s Sandstorm coming, Warhammer Online and my love for the Slayer growing, and a renewed interest in my revamped Champions main… I paid up the $15 and reinstalled the client.
It’s only been a week, but I’m finding Hyboria a much-changed world.  Believe it or not, the game really did deserve the Most Improved awards it was given, and with the expansion looming on the horizon I might even stay a while much to the chagrin of my other virtual characters.  So next time you put down a game in anger, disappointment or disgust, don’t forget about it forever.  With time in this industry, even the disappointments can gain redemption.

Where is the Fun in MMOs?

Posted by garrett Wednesday April 7 2010 at 10:22AM
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Ya I said it, where is the fun?

I am asking this question because I often think about what would make MMOs better. So here is my take on what is fun in MMOs....

1. Customization - Something WoW lacks tremendously and other MMOs get about 50% right. Making your character your own is all part of the game and one of the biggest things MMOs lack. Thank god for APB and what they will be showing to the world soon. Because MMOs are in serious need of giving players the tools to stand out in a crowd.

2. PvP - Ok this is not for everyone, but this is for me. Fun PvP areas are critical but there also needs to be a reason to PvP. DAOC had its realm pride, something the players created. They had a good system with Relics for players to steal and fight over. They even added in Darkness Falls as a great place to level characters and the end game fights determined who controlled the zone for lower level players...simple question...WHY HASN'T ANYONE BEEN ABLE TO DO THIS AGAIN?

PS: EVE has awesome PVP even if it is relentless, at least you know it is out there. Fear is missing from MMOs. Fear leads to teamwork, teamwork leads to guilds, guilds lead to player pride, and that is a sense of accomplishment better than loot. at least it is for me.

3. FUN quests and boss fights - Progression is important in any RPG. However, progression for the sake of watching a bar move from left to right is painful. The grind that MMOs have adopted can easily be solved by adding in some quests that have purpose. Also, boss fights rock. Everyone loves boss fights. If MMOs would put wandering bosses in around the world that actually dropped decent loot...COOL! The gathering and kill quests of MMO's past should in turn give way to some more depth. Star Wars: The Old Republic has some of this, from what we saw in the demos. Lets hope they get it right.

4. Socialization  - Chat, Guilds, whatever, Yay! Ok great....give something to players that encourage them to help other players. Faction reputation should not be for NPCs....give it to players who help characters lower than them, who help a solo player who is about to die because they took on too many NPCs. These games are epic, heroic, REWARD GOOD DEEDS for God sake. If you gave loot for a faction system that was in the code for helping other players and not something players controlled, that would be so cool.  Or, what about evil. Ultima could do it. You were branded a criminal....FUN! You hung out with other criminals. Even more fun! APB does this...why cannot a fantasy MMO do it?

Hope you enjoyed these few ideas. To me if an MMO could implement these concepts the fun factor might be there....instead of just charging players for healing potions...which is where we are going apparently...

Community Spotlight: Why Not Just Skip the Leveling Up Part?

Posted by MikeB Thursday April 1 2010 at 4:02PM
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This week’s Community Spotlight focuses on the thread “Why not just skip the leveling up part?” by Athecar. In the original post, Athecar compares the leveling up track to an “elongated tutorial,” but he feels it goes on too long, and wonders why we can’t just “skip the leveling up part.” Or at least reduce it to about a dozen levels, making the point that most of us have already done the leveling up bit countless times and it is getting a bit old:

“Leveling is like an elogated tutorial.  As you level up, you learn how the game works, and then get to the endgame.  A lot of people consider that endgame is the real meat of a game.  That's where you get into serious competitiion, big battles, storyline, and other goodies.  So why not change the dynamic a bit.  A dozen levels might be enough to allow someone to learn how to play a character, or some form of level-less system.  The point is, after so many different MMOs, levelling has gotten pretty boring.  So let's do away with it.  It might help the persistant worlds, too.  There's plenty of mid level areas that are never revisited once a character levels past them.  Suddenly, there's no more need for these areas, and the whole world can be relevant at max level play, which would then be the majority of the game.

In Dungeons and Dragons (tabletop, not online), levelling works just fine because there are always cutting edge challenges for you, scaled to your level.  That's the benefit of a human DM.  But MMOs don't have that.  So let's try and put people at the max level that much faster, and stop spending time, effort, and money on the mid-game that is really nothing more than a time sink.

My case in point is Aion.  Abyss PvP is really cool.  The questing and leveling in that game makes me want to hurl myself out of a sixty third story window.  Focus on the good parts, and just give the rest of it the axe.”

Of course, some people might argue with Athecar’s most basic point – that leveling is just a means to an end(game). Some people prefer the scenic route, the journey. So, what did the community have to say?

Acivim kicks things off by, you guessed it, disagreeing with Athecar’s basic point:

“Posted by Athcear on 3/29/10 at 9:50:24 PM

A lot of people consider that endgame is the real meat of a game. if you say so...

Honestly I really dont mind questing, I actually read the text and enjoy the storylines (crazy huh!?!) to me its about the journey and the destination.”

Kyleran offers a bit of a snarky response, watch out!

“I think they already have PVP combat games that do away with needless leveling, called first person shooters as I recall.

MMORPG's are all about character progression, its what defines the genre. Sandbox games don't suffer quite as severely as theme park games, but don't kid yourself, they have a progression system built into them that has to be climbed that lets the player enjoy more and more of the game.”

Gauge2k3 agrees with Athecar:

“'ve wondered this too.  If endgame is the only place to be then why have anything else?  I don't mind a journey if it is good, however the trend seems to be to put a journey in for the sake of having one.”

When looking at some games’ drawn out leveling grinds, I would definitely agree with you there Gauge2k3.

Cyphers would like to remind us that Guild Wars has essentially done what Athecar asked, and it has been successful, however, he agrees that the leveling experience has a purpose and a place in the world of MMOs:

“they tried to do without leveling in GuildWars, where you had only 20 levels to learn your character. You could reach L20 within a few full days if you wanted to, in fact you could already jump into the high end PvP with one of the available template characters right from the start. GuildWars had a number of pretty interesting game designs, like combat with a limited skillrange and skills that interacted with eachother a la Magic the Gathering, dowtimeless patching and NPC henchmen to fill out groups.

So it has been done. And it showed that such a system can be successful, because they delivered a few expansions that sold in the 100,000s to millions while there was still no level cap raise. But it also showed that many people actually liked to progress in leveling, because many were craving for  a level cap raise. There are other methods to measure progress and growth in a MMO than levels, and I'm glad that a number of upcoming MMO's are experimenting with that. But the level system hasn't been successful by luck: it's what many people like.

About the urgent haste  with which many players rush through the content, focused on reaching the level cap, I'm gonna say what I mentioned earlier on these forums: the way they do it resembles with sitting at a 5-course meal gobbling everything up just to know what the dessert is, while then being disappointed that it's just a dessert. 

The endgame content isn't the be all and end all, the content of a MMO throughout the levels isn't there to rush by, it's there to enjoy your ingame experience, just like all the courses of a 5-course meal are there for your dining pleasure, and not just the final course.”

I personally don’t have an issue with the concept of leveling in general, my main issue has been with games that artificially draw out the experience without the content to back it up. Let’s take Age of Conan for example, at launch the game had an 80 level trek, with major content gaps that forced players to resort to mind numbingly boring grinding. If a few months out to launch you realize you only have enough content to go 40-50 levels, lower the cap to 40-50, or jack up the experience to meet whatever you’ve got content for.

Now, not all games focus on quest-driven progression, Korean games often feature grinding as the main means to level up, and that is fine. You know what you’re getting into. But if you are playing a game for 30 or 35 levels that has progressed steadily through questing and then all of a sudden there are large gaps where you are forced to grind, that really isn’t cool with me. For people who are on the “enjoy the journey” side, this is one issue that can ruin that journey. For those looking to rush to the endgame, grinding should also be rewarded.

What I’ve noticed in some games is that when they are openly quest-driven they will also seriously punish you if you attempt to ignore that and grind instead. Sometimes you just don’t feel like doing a quest or want to just explore and tackle whatever challenges you encounter. Unfortunately, this can be discouraged in quest-driven games as you feel like it is not worth it due to the developers decision to lowerr mob experience in favor of quest completion experience. Heck, this is an issue even if you’re questing. If the quest complete experience is good enough, players will often avoid as many of the encounters the quest actually throws at you in order to speed things up. Anyone remember ghosting missions in City of Heroes/Villains? I rest my case.

Like many things in life, the concept itself isn’t flawed, it’s the execution that has been a problem for some games. Simply put: match the “grind” to your content. And by content, I mean actual content, not filler stuff like repeatable missions. Masked grind is still grind (I’m looking at you Aion).

What do you think about leveling up in MMOs? Toss it out altogether? Or do you actually enjoy it?