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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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Community Spotlight: User Generated Content

Posted by MikeB Thursday April 28 2011 at 3:08PM
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This week's Community Spotlight focuses on the thread "the dungeon experience" by TheDarkCat66. In the thread, TheDarkCat66 ponders the possibility of user created dungeons as a way of addressing the repetitive nature of developer created content:

"I actually think it would be cool if players made their own dungeons and the reward wasn't XP or Gold, but FUN and gameplay.

It could actually be an entire mini-game, where players get to design their own dungeons but as they level up in the real game, they get items such as different terrain pieces, collect monsters and NPC's to use, etc.

I think this is a lot better of a choice than games like DDO or WoW where the dungeons are entirely instanced anyways. Honestly... even the better dungeons of WoW, I would still prefer player-made dungeons. Even my favorites aren't *that* amazing. DDO had some amazing dungeons, so that's different. However, replayability in BOTH of these games was severely lacking. Something user-generated content easily solved."

Wolfenpride adds that Ryzom has such a feature, though it appears to be seldom used:

"Ryzom allows this, i don't recall it being a very widely used feature though except amongst friends/guildies, since there is no xp reward.

I had a chance to play through some though, and it is pretty fun to see what people can come up with, and just generally challenge yourself."

Loktofeit can appreciate the potential of user-created content, but he also feels that most of the content users isn't necessarily so hot:

"I think that with a peer review system and a final developer say as to what goes in or doesn't, player-created content can be amazing.  Puzzle Pirates has had player-created islands and puzzles. Pirates of the Burning Sea has fantastic player-made ships. Actually, at release, 35 of the 55 ships in the game were fan-created.

In most cases, the majority of what players create will be garbage. Of what's good, there's only a fraction that will actually fit the theme and direction that is being sought after. With clear specs/guidelines in place and a two-tier review system (player committee and dev panel) , player-created content can really prove to make a nice addition of content to an MMO."

Aganazer understands that Cryptic gets a lot of flak for many things, but at the same time feels they will be the leader in user-generated MMO content:


"Its odd to say this, but I think Cryptic will be the leader in user generated content. They already have the Foundry in STO and will be releasing (hopefully) Neverwinter this year that is based on UGC. The Foundry already sounds much more capable than the dungeon creator in CoX.

I like the idea of the minigame that unlocks dungeon pieces. Its very Dungeon Keeper. Facebook has Dungeon Overlord that sort of does this, but it lacks the whole single character RPG experience.

I think I read about a German game in development based on user created dungeons as well, but I can't remember the name. It sounded almost exactly like what the OP is talking about. Raid other player's dungeons. Enhance your own dungeon."

As one user mentioned, City of Heroes already features user-generated content with the Mission Architect system. Most of my experience with user generated MMO content is limited to this system, but I found it to be very enticing and the concept can indeed alleviate the repetition of developer created content. Let's face it, it doesn't matter how big a dev team you've got, players are going to burn through your content. Giving users the ability to create their own content and players the ability to peer-review it as Loktofeit suggested can definitely add to the experience. However, I don't feel that a game that is reliant on user-generated content would be a good thing.

Community Spotlight: Do You Hate Phasing?

Posted by MikeB Tuesday April 19 2011 at 9:43AM
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This week's Community Spotlight is focused on the thread "Phasing, why the hate?" by Deathofsage. Deathofsage makes the case for the use of phasing and wonders why the feature gets so much hate:

What is it about phasing, when done properly (no bugs/miscalculations), that people hate so thoroughly? I mean sure, it could be used wrong but until we have a game that truly answers to the claim of "living, breathing, evolving", this is the best thing we have to make it feel like our actions are having an impact on the world.

rygard49 dislikes that phasing separates him from other players:

For me a big issue with phasing is the seperation from other players. I can be in the same geographic location as my best friend, but since I'm three steps ahead of him in a quest line I can't see him or help him. It's very limiting in terms of grouping with the people you want to group with.

For world PvP it also becomes an issue when chasing a player through a zone. If you get the upper hand and he runs into a zone where his phase differs from yorus, you all of a sudden lose your PvP encounter.

Phasing is great at what it does creating the illusion that you're affecting the world with your actions, which was sorely lacking in MMOs, but the consequence is that now you're sacrificing the social aspects that you play MMOs for in the first place.

Loke666 feels that when done right phasing is a great tool for developers to use in MMOs, the problem is most developers don't:

Phasing is like instancing and cut scenes a great tool for the devs to add to the story if they use it right, However if you use too much it turns the game into a ghost town just like cut scenes easily turns into a snoorefeast if they overuse it (*cough* Dragon age *cough*).

The problem here is that certain devs who get a new flashy technology uses it in every possible situation and that sucks, MMOs should feel massive. That is the reason for the hate, few people complain about a few well used instances or phasing but it is rarely just that.

Worstluck evaluates the use of phasing in World of Warcraft:

Phasing was done pretty well in WoW's Wrath of the Lich King.  There was a moderate amount of it, and I felt that it added to the overall story of the game.  However, it was massively overdone in Cataclysm, to the point I could barely level to 85.  It just seperates everyone, moreso the instancing.  It was just awful in Cataclysm because it seperated everyone by what part of the quest line they were on.  I played on a very populated PvP server and I hardly saw anyone while leveling up, simply because of phasing.  All my Alliance "enemies" were in different phases of whatever silly quest.  At least with instancing, you can get a group together, regardless of what quests people have, and have at it.  With phasing, everyone needs to be on the same quest/storyline, or they will be in a different world. 

This applies to WoW mainly, as I really don't know of too many other games that do this.  Most just settle for open world or instancing of some sort because those concepts work well.  With WoW's phasing, it's like playing a single player game built into an MMO.

I personally haven't had too much experience with phasing, but I too am not ideologically opposed to the use of the feature. As others (including the OP) noted, phasing done right can be a great addition to an MMO. Star Wars: The Old Republic makes use of phasing in order to tell the player's story and in my brief experience with the game it's worked pretty well.

What do you think about phasing? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Community Spotlight: Is MMO Immersion Still Possible?

Posted by MikeB Thursday April 14 2011 at 4:17PM
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This week's Community Spotlight focuses on the thread "Is it possible to be immersed in an mmo nowadays?" by otter3370. Otter3370 wonders if it is still possible to be immersed in the game world of an MMO these days with the amount of players who break down the game into all the nitty gritty technical details:

I've read a lot of threads discussing upcoming and current mmos. Many times they delve into everything from what type of graphics engine the game uses to what kind of dance animations the avatars can do. Gamers know so much about an mmo, right down to its game mecahnics, is it possible to even get immersed in the character or story of an mmo anymore. Does knowing too much about the game before hand ruin in any way its immersive potential for you?

I've been in games where gamers were discussing how they need one piece of equipment because it will will boost another ones str by .3% or something like that. When you start discussing percentages and ratios, crunching numbers, when you basically have playing an mmo down to a science, are you really immersed in the mmo or is this just another type of game play style?

These types of gamers are the ones that usually find the exploits, bugs, etc., that plague some games and can be a positive force in stabilizing them.  But I can't help but wander if it hurts their enjoyment of an mmo in the long run. 

Can knowing too much about the technical side of an mmo remove the simple wonder of being in a new world?

JB47394 shares his thoughts on the topic:

I found EverQuest pretty immersive for the year or so I played.

World of Warcraft (WoW) was very nicely immersive for about half an hour.  WoW destroyed my sense of immersion because of all the gubbage on the screen.  Numbers floating out of characters during combat, punctuation floating over NPC, quest boxes, spell icons, item icons and so on.  When I finally got around to raiding, it only got worse, with all the raid UI stuff to allow support characters to track the status of everyone in the raid.  It got to be more like air traffic control at O'Hare than playing at being a Tauran Druid.

EverQuest stayed immersive because the game interface was so crude.  All the information was jammed into a lttle box in the corner of my screen.  That meant that I spent the majority of my time looking at the uncluttered game world.  If the game had been usable without the floating name tags, I'd have enjoyed myself that much more.

Until MMOs can go back to a streamlined interface while keeping the game playable, I'm fairly certain I won't be able to get immersed.  Making advancement less frenetic would help quite a bit as well.  With so much change in the character, it's hard for me to think of my character as much more than a place to hang gear.  A slower pace of advancement would also give players an opportunity to learn the game world instead of racing through quests and zones using all sorts of builtin aids to guide them.

Loke666 feels that he can still get immersed into an MMO, it just takes a certain type of game world for him to do so:

If you can get immersed in a P&P RPG without more than some paper and possibly a few dices you can of course get immersed in a MMO still.

But I can admit that the last game that did it for me was GW from 2005 and even that didn't have the feeling I had in some of the old games.

AoC actually got me into it for a few days but it kinda lost me after a little while. The world was actually pretty well made but it was too small, buggy and I just lost the feeling for the world after a while.

I think a game needs a certain size for it to work for me, and it also needs small details that isn't really for anything but to add to the feeling that the game is alive. Like a small part of an old fence in the middle of nowhere, a few stones that might once been part of an house, a tree with some pretty birds in or other small stuff like that.

Not too many but a few so the world actually look alive. Also the world need some planning I havn't seen in MMOs lately, you don't just place mobs and animals with certain distance from eachother for the players to kill. It is actually nice with a small part of the wood with almost nothing, maybe besides a squirrel and a few birds. 

But I do have the hope things will be better soon.

I am of course certain other people still are immersed in their games, but I feel that this is a point that can be bettered a lot.

LydarSynn feels it's certainly still possible, but it requires a believable world:

I think the biggest thing that breaks immersion is that there is no sense of reality at all in any of these games. When MMOs were new and the game mechanics were not completely understood (i.e there was little concept of end game), it was easier to become immersed. Once you have played a half dozen of these games, you know what the game is all about. Sure, there are different graphics and mechanics but in the end, your character is simply an immortal fighter, mage, crafter or whatever. While most of these games are built on fantastic premises, there is no consistent reality other than one- you cannot die or even lose anything except some time that you played. The world is static and the player cannot affect it at all. The econmies of most games are also completely unrealistic.

IMO immersion can only really come from playing in a world that is somewhat believeable. Believalbe means that there is some risk to the player of loss and not just from death. Also, the players have to be able to affect the world and change it for better or worse. That also means putting limitations on what one player or a small group can do.

However as another poster put it, your mileage may vary as far as immersion and some may be able to forget all that I just mentioned and be really immersed in the current crop of MMOs.

I'm not often as immersed in MMOs as I was in the past due to the fact that I'm older and understand them on a much deeper level given the nature of my job, but even if I were younger and not working on this side of the fence I can see how contemporary MMOs are a good deal less immersive. It really does have a lot to do with a lack of mystery in newer games, at least for me.

There is a lot of handholding and leading around that makes for a much more linear progression in most new games and so it feels like I'm playing them with the same attitude as a single-player game, and by that I mean I'm trying to "beat" the game. A lot of the older games had a bit more mystique to them and didn't really focus on pushing players from quest chain to quest chain.

Can you still be immersed in an MMO? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Community Spotlight: Old School vs. New School

Posted by MikeB Thursday April 7 2011 at 1:19PM
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This week's Community Spotlight focuses on the the thread "What made old skool MMO's harder than modern day MMO's" by Calerxes. Calerxes admits to having gotten his start in the new age of MMOs with Blizzard's World of Warcraft back in 2004 and he genuinely wants to know the difference between the previous era of games in the genre:

I was not there at the birth of the fully graphical online roleplaying game aka the MMORPG, I've tried free shards of EQ, UO and SWG, I picked shards that tried to produce an authentic version of the original game but really its not the same as actually being there at the beginning so I did not stay long, though I do pop back in every now and again.


So correct my ignorance as I was not there.... what makes Ultima Online, Everquest, Asherons Call, Anarchy Online, Dark Age Of Camelot, FFXI more difficult and immersive than modern day MMO's like I have listed?

Let's take a trip down memory lane!

Loktofeit kicks off the discussion with an excellent post:

Online resources weren't as prevalent. For example, wikis didn't exist and fansites were more about events and guild news than walkthorughs.

NPCs weren't marked and quest logs weren't as detailed.

You could actually do things or have certain rep levels that would get you guard-killed in otherwise-friendly towns.

In UO, there was no global chat and even when one was introduced, no one used it. All chat was based on proximity.

Ingame maps were very limited, IIRC, in EQ, I had to constantly spam 'Sense Heading' to raise the skill that told me what compass direction I was facing.

No respeccing or skill builders available. If you took cooking on your swordsman in AC and were 30 levels into the character (took al ong time to do that back then), you either lived with it or rerolled.

People also played very differently back then, though.

  • People used their first character or two to learn the game before making their actual character. The first character almost always ended up a mule with a skillset or build that was entertaining to see years later. Now people expect their frist character to be their main and, as such, MMOs are designed to support that which means less expeerimentation and more direct information, less choice and more handholding, and definitely as little consequence as possible.
  • People back then also came from group gaming backgrounds. The early MMO gamers were that cross section of PnP gamers and computer users. They were people that actively looked for groups, wanting to emulate the teams they read in their fantasy books or played in their DnD games. As such, with a group-focused audience, the games were designed to offer challenge to groups, resulting in often torturous gameplay for most solo players (*cue the jackass that has to reply with how that isnt' true because they leveled their druid/necro/whatever to cap solo*).
  • Politics were more a part of gameplay.In the older games there was more of a hierarchy, and when you had a problem with someone you didn't start spouting profanity in general/local but rather went to your guild leader who went to their guild leader to resolve it. As such there were a lot of rules, written and unwritten that players generally followed.

someforumguy isn't quite as nostalgic as some about the "good ol' days":

Back then I played shooters and RTS games. The early MMO's were too boring for me. I never had any understanding for the dull and painfull mechanics that made everything take so long. The only challenges I saw in oldschool MMO's were challenges that had nothing to do with gaming in my eyes. Camping, corpseruns,waiting for mana to replenish, travelling times even if you were just going back and forth were ridiculous in my eyes.

Not fun and not a gameplay challenge. I wanted to be challenged in skill (twitched based) or tactically. This was nowhere to be found in those oldschool MMO's. Oldschool MMO's would never become popular in current market. (Most) people have a job already.

VengeSunsoar didn't find the older games harder necessarily, but he did certainly find them more tedious:

I personally don't feel old MMO's were harder.  They were longer than most newer games, they definately had points that were more irritating.  But the game itself, how you played wasn't any harder or more challenging... just longer and more tedious.

Actually as much fun as I had in EQ I actually find that it was more limited in almost every way than games today.  Less choice in developing my character, less choice in the areas I played (eventually solved by... what 16 expansions now), less choice in the content available for single player progression.

However I did like the teamwork.  These days I team when I want and solo when I want, however I will admit that sometimes sparking up conversations and keeping groups is harder today.  There has to be some way to not only make grouping as easy and rewarding as it is today (and yes groups get more xp, more loot and more coin than soloing) encourage teamwork, while still keeping soloing as a real viable experience and not the afterthought of games gone by.


Admittedly, I wasn't around for the oldest of the old school. I got my start on Star Wars Galaxies back in '03, so I missed the boat on Meridian 59, EverQuest and Ultima Online; and while World of Warcraft was just slightly over a year away Star Wars Galaxies was pretty old school, especially at launch. As other users mentioned a lot of the "quality of life" features we take for granted weren't necessarily available back then. Galaxies launched without vehicles or mounts and only a few fixed locations per planet to fast-travel to so everyone spent most of their time walking. If you played at launch there were indeed corpse runs, loot and all. Adventuring wasn't a quick and easy affair, either; players had to stack up on consumables, get buffs, etc in order to go out and hunt and earn experience. Everything simply took longer.

In some ways, this was a good thing, and I feel contemporary MMOs often go too far in the other direction. Instant gratification is the name of the game now. I don't mind this depending on the game, but when I'm looking forward to some grand new MMORPG I'd definitely like to see a bit more of a happy medium.

What are your thoughts on the old school vs. the new school? Share 'em in the comments below!

Community Spotlight: Your PvP Preferences

Posted by MikeB Friday April 1 2011 at 11:02AM
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This week's Community Spotlight focuses on the thread "Do you prefer ffa-pvp everywhere, only consensual, or something in-between?" by mrcalhou. Mrcalhou wants to know your PvP preferences, but let's start with the man of the hour himself! Take it away, Mrcalhou!

I, personally, love Eve-online's pvp system. While it's technically ffa-pvp everywhere, the consequences in many systems makes random pvp happen extremely infrequently in those areas, while pvp is actually encouraged in other parts of the game map.

Lately, however, it seems that a lot of games are coming out where pvp is being forced on the playerbase from the moment they log-in. Now, this isn't necassarily wrong in and of itself, but with the knowledge that it drives away so many potential players, why do developers still do it? These games also never seem to get the consequences for pvp balanced in such a way that there are times when it would make sense, from a strategic perspective, to not attack someone.

While I don't mind consensual pvp, it does take away a good chunk of emergent-characteristics from MMOs and I'm pretty bored with those types of games since they seem to be a dime a dozen.

I'd like to see something in-between: like a game with twitch combat mechanics (though better than what Darkfall and Xsyon offer), but a pvp system where players can play the game and not feel worried about getting ganked all the time, while there would also be content and resources unique to pvp areas to encourage players to go play in those areas.

karat76 prefers the way DAOC did their PvP:

I prefer the DAoC set up. If I wanted to worry about being ganked all the time I would have kept my job at the state prison. FFA does not work mainly due to the casualties of puberty that will grief everyone that comes in. They maybe a minority of the FFA community but they are usually the first people encountered in those type of games. Playing UO and Shadowbane there was not a day that went by when people were not feeding on the newbies. If a gaming community is to survive you have to learn to cut off your own diseased parts.

Miner-2049er is convinced the EVE model works best:

Like many people here I think EVE pretty much has the ultimate model.

The game design should do everything possible to prevent bored people ganking newbies. At the same time the best stuff should be in full-on PvP areas to encourage people to go there.

I think CC is often overpowered. If you are clearly outgunned you should have some chance of actually getting away.  I also think that we should have some ant-ganking tools available, like smoke bombs, or suicide attacks that do high damage to all people in a small radius.

I also think that in any game a group of low level players should be able to work together with a chance of beating the high level attackers. 

Finally, although I like the idea of full loot I think that this should only be implemented in a game where the weight and size of items has an clear and significant effect on your movement and mobility. This would mostly limit you to taking a few items, and if you attacked someone lower level it really wouldn't be worth you while to loot anything.

Otakun isn't entirely convinced on overworld/FFA PvP:

It boils down to the point that FFA OWPvP fits a niche market or in a more common term it doesn't please casual gamers. People who like FFA OWPvP will still play a game without it as long as the PvP is good in general but casual gamers will not play a game with FFA OWPvP cause they will get frustrated and quit.

Personally my problem with FFA OWPvP is that people will generally kill you for no reason other then just to do it and possibly grief you and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it unless you happen to have friends online who care enough to help you. This basically says, "Well, you can play this game unless someone else wants to come around and ruin your day." cause other then sitting around and getting killed over and over your only option is to log off and that is a game that I wont pay for. I wouldn't mind a B2P MMO that has FFA OWPvP cause then I ain't losing money when not playing.

I generally enjoy the ability to hunt other players in PvP, but I don't necessarily need it to be FFA. Factional PvP works fine for me. However, I tend to play on PvP servers even if the game allows you to flag yourself due to the fact that I don't honestly believe that most players will flag themselves willingly. I'd rather endure a few crappy gank situations as it is balanced against the freedom I'm given otherwise.

There are ways around ganking, anyways. Joining a guild with good diplomatic relationships with other guilds is an easy way to marginalize ganking guilds or groups of players, simply playing with your friends is a pretty good strategy too.  I don't consider getting jumped by five other players while I'm rolling around with four other players myself to be a "gank", that's more of a fair fight to me!

My take is, you knew what you were getting into when you signed up for the server, so everyone is kind of in mutual understanding there. That's not to say that gankers that will kill you at any time no matter what (even when you're at low health fighting a mob) aren't jerks, but I expect it and so I just move on with my life when it happens.

What are your MMO PvP preferences? Share your thoughts in the comments below!