Tag: MMORPG

A feature Online games need to have

So MMOGames.com is looking for writers and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. If you’re willing, see if you’re able, too. I love how mmogames tends to recruit bloggers, many of which i’m reading on a regular basis. Bloggers make for a very different tone in their articles, and it shows. I’ve said it before, and i’ll do it again: mmogames is a rising star in the mmo site business- i don’t know about money, but quality-wise and as a “collection of blog posts”, it’s great. Now, i’m not looking for a job, but i found their writing prompt interesting:

500 words on 1 feature all multiplayer games need

Here’s mine.

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Shroud of the avatar (very) early impressions

When january the 2nd came, i needed to decide whether to buy two games from my watchlist for their discounted prizes or not. I chose to do so because SotA looks….different and Telltale/Game of thrones seems to be a combination that simply works (first impression from that: it seems great so far).

Really, i haven’t played SotA, i just took a look. Here’s what i found:

  • character customization could offer more hairstyles and maybe even clothing
  • the combat doesn’t seem so bad
  • it’s immersive! Holy cow
  • small zones
  • SotA is unpolished as of yet
  • i heard great stuff about the community but haven’t played long enough to experience it myself

Now, let’s remind ourselves that this is early access. Polish, hairstyles, small zones could all be changed. Also, i’m not a fan of the 2D-travelling you do between zones, although i have to say: if/when those zones are bigger, perhaps resembling MMORPG zones a little more, i prefer 2D-travel over portals.

What impressed me most was just how immersive this game is. Sure, you could point out how strange it feels to really type stuff in conversations with NPCs, at least to end conversations you’ll have to say “Farewell”, the rest is made “convenient” by highlighting conversational pieces in the NPCs sentences, but i found it to be very much…well, immersive. Also, when you enter the first town, there’ll be NPCs called “Villager” or “Guard”. You can ask for their names and they will pop up from then on. Soon you’ll know one villager as being “Jack, the lantern lighter” and so on.

I liked that very much.

Oh, also: what do i care if this is an MMO or not? As with Elite: Dangerous, if others can impact me in a significant (and not deadly) manner, it is more MMO than some themeparks. And, when an NPC changes his name from something indistinctive to a name, then there is more RPG than in…well, all MMORPGs.

Doing it wrong

Yesterday, i read the massively opinion column titled “Maybe it’s time to admit you don’t like MMOs” and it made me think- about the general perception of MMOs, their communities and my interaction with other players in the games themselves.

I came to the conclusion that i’m doing it wrong- i mean, in Final Fantasy 14 i am member in what seems to be a great linkshell/free company. My interactions with the other members have been saying “hi” and “bye” as well as one dungeon run, which was fun. In Firefall, i had fun doing stuff with one or two other players, but when our army grew to be bigger than the squad size of Firefall, i became reluctant to log in.

Finding excuses for solo-play

Now, i know what this blog’s title suggests, so i am aware of how these games are meant to be played, but there always seem to be obstacles to experience these games this way. For me, it comes down to:

  • Voice Chat. I don’t like voice chat. Yet, in many guilds using it is de facto mandatory. In my Rift guild, for example, guild chat would always just entail fragments of conversations that happened in voice chat. Yes, i might use voice chat once in a while, but don’t expect me to launch it with the game. I might want to listen to music/podcasts or whatever. Voice chat directly affects my ability to relax and enjoy an evening of leisure.
  • Log-In times. We have a toddler in the house. When he screams, i’m afk. When my wife needs assistance, i’m afk. Often, when i log in, i don’t know how long it will be- it could be 2 hours, but it could also be 15 minutes. I don’t want to ruin someone else’s evening by signing up for a dungeon run i can’t finish- or doing something in the party and let them wait for my return in a quest hub.
  • My own mood. I play these games to relax. I take my time, i play them slow- my Conjurer in FF14 is level 22 now and will remain there for a time because i want to catch up with my botanist and weaver classes. If i were to group up with my level 22 i could suddenly find myself being at level 30 without progressing in the storyline and my crafting jobs getting far behind. Playing at my own pace in groups becomes running after someone else very quick. I wouldn’t want that.
  • Other people’s progress. I’m slow, others aren’t. One reason i haven’t done very much with my linkshell is that many are in their 40s or at max level (they played 1.0) and therefore what they do isn’t available to me.
  • Other people’s playtimes. I guess this goes hand-in-hand with my last point, but there’s more than just the progression. I’m always somewhat surprised that even players who call themselves “casual” play 4 hours each day. As i mentioned, i average at about 10-15 hours a week and i consider that playing quite a lot. In Firefall, i saw how others in my army spent every free minute available to them in the game- when i see that, i think to myself how quickly they’re going to burn out and leave the game- and true enough, last week the guild leader played 2 and a half hours Firefall. As i said, right now i think Firefall is a great game, but you have to consume it bite-sized, or you’ll be burnt out when the really cool features come into play.

Resolutions

Good excuses, right? Well, no, maybe not. Maybe, if i don’t want to play with others i should just start up one of my many single player games i didn’t finish (or pretty much didn’t even start them). Sure, MMORPGs nowadays are soloable and especially the gathering and crafting bits of FF14 lend themselves very good to solo-play.

Maybe i should just scrap crafting first and just level my most advanced class to 50 as quick as possible. But then i wouldn’t be able to craft equipment for myself during the levelling process. Also, endgame is usually not what i’m playing these games for. When i reached endgame in Rift in June 2011 i just quit- doing daily quests or repeating the same dungeons over and over again doesn’t appeal to me. Levelling as quick as possible is also not what i’m there for. So that’s not going to work.

I made a resolution, nonetheless. I want to party more, and usually, when i do, i get something out of it. The other day i helped another player in a really dense spawn point- he was going to fill his hunting log, but no matter how he’d do it, he would pull 3-4 enemies to get to his targets. So, as a healer, i asked him what he wanted to do, grouped up and helped him achieve his goal. One more member on my friendslist.

So i want to do that some more- go around with open eyes and help players i see having trouble. I did that before, as well, but it was a case of throwing out one or two heals and going my way. Also, i should ask in linkshell chat if somebody wants to group up- either for my most advanced class or for some of the classes i want to play down the line. I mean, there’s many of them. Just for adventuring classes, i aim to play:

  • Conjurer
  • Arcanist
  • Thaumaturge
  • Archer
  • Pugilist
  • Lancer
  • Gladiator

All this to get the jobs of White Mage, Black Mage, Bard, Monk and Scholar- more or less in that order.

Making (and keeping) friends

One problem, of course, is that none of my friends play MMORPGs. Many players just enjoy group content with either real life friends or acquaintances from the game(s) they’re playing- none of the two are available to me, for different reasons, many of them my own fault. If you jump around in games and guilds very much, you’ll have a hard time making “online friends”. And when you do make them and let the connections somehow fall apart (as i did with the guild i co-founded in GW2), that’s your own fault, as well. Maybe i’ll talk more about that last mistake some time.

This blog

Now, there’s a topic for a series of blog posts that fits right into this blog’s title. Party business- how to put the multiplayer part back into MMORPGs from the perspective of a casual player.

I haven’t written for some time, because when commenting around at the last post i realized that the reason i started this blog- or the topics i wanted to cover- aren’t really hot anymore. EQ Next is a thing of the past- i’ll look into it again either when SOE scraps P7S1 or when i cave in and decide that making an account there isn’t the end of the world. With EQN, there’s another thing: i can’t shake the feeling that this will play very GW2-like. ArcheAge seems to become a lot more themeparky than expected and The Repopulation seems still to be far off.

Final Fantasy 14 caught me by surprise- i didn’t expect to enjoy it so much, but as you can see above, i have goals that last for quite some time- for me, at least- and i didn’t even mention crafting. But i’ll have to put some thought into how i’m going to develop this blog further, since it really doesn’t bother anyone what i’m doing in my MMO and so the journal-type i was using isn’t of much interest. That’s not to say i won’t continue like that, but there will be another theme to my blogging, and right now i think it’s going to be somewhat community-focused, which might be an odd thing to do for someone who’s doing it wrong.

The Repopulation: primer

It’s time to check out the second of the three future MMORPGs i laid my eyes on: the Repopulation. Now, the Repopulation is in Alpha 2 right now, so it may be some time before we get to play it, but the general direction the game is going is set and made available for your reading pleasure with great articles and descriptions by the devs.

The Repopulation is set in the quite-distant future and a time when earth as we know it is no longer there. Fortunately, we aren’t on Earth anymore- scientists had sent out some spaceships to habitable planets 200 years ago and we are going to be inhabitants of a planet called Rhyldan.

The Repopulation calls itself a sandbox and it is quite obvious from their design descriptions where this is coming from. You could summarize it by saying “It’s a lot like SWG pre-CU”, but if you are like me, you don’t know what Star Wars Galaxies was like neither pre- nor after CU.

Factions

There are three factions in the Repopulation: the OWON (One World, One Nation) and the FPR (Free people’s republic)- we can summarize these by saying one is the oppressive empire and one are the rebels. Of course, it’s more complicated than that- and there’s a great backstory on the official homepage.

The third faction is no faction at all- all players start as either OWON or FPR characters and are put in a generic nation (tR’s equivalent to guilds) of their faction. Eventually, players can form their own nations and align them to one of the two factions or become a rogue nation. A rogue nation has no allies by default and therefore has to conduct diplomacy by themselves. Nations can start out as being a part of OWON or FPR and become a rogue nation, but they can not revert to being part of one of these two factions.

Now, while it does seem somewhat generic, i still enjoyed reading the Lore to the Repopulation and think that this is a great way of doing things- Sandboxes usually tend to offer free-for-all PvP, additionally with full loot systems (Darkfall and EVE come to mind), but i think it is served better when there is some kind of alignment- i mean, when you enter the game, at least you know there are people out there who do not want to kill you. In my view that’s a big step forward from my panic attacks while picking iron in Darkfall.

PvP

The interesting twist with factions will influence PvP, as well. Now, nations can own cities, outposts and harvestable areas in this game, they can lay sieges on other cities and so on. So there is a massive amount of possibility in the Open PvP realm.

Other than that, tR seems to be somewhat like ArcheAge’s PvP system, at least under what the devs call the “normal ruleset”- in which there are protected areas, no loot system and no heavy death penalty. Furthermore, there’s a distinction between reserve and active soldiers. You start out in reserve status and are protected in non-contested areas controlled by your faction- you can’t attack anyone there and nobody’s able to attack you. When you venture out of your faction’s area into the contested land, though, there’s open PvP between the factions.

Every faction owns around one third of the game world, the last third being contested by all factions and nations. I think there’s only cross-faction PvP, but the article isn’t clear on that.

PvE

PvE in the Repopulations seems to look like standard fare when looked at for a short amount of time- there are Missions (Quests), Engagements (Public Quests), and a general system of delivering those that is similar to something like Rifts or Dynamic Events.

When you read upon the details, however, there are some very interesting twists. One twist is that you don’t have a linear path through the world- missions are tailor made for your character and reach you through the ingame mail system. They take your skill & gear levels (there are no character levels) and previous actions into account and offer branching dialogues and outcomes. In the article, there’s an example of an NPC who changes its mood to “angry” based on your actions- now he might reference you in a bad way to other players, insult you when you walk by and offer varying missions. Engagements don’t have to be combat related, but could, for instance, involve building up a city. Instead of spawn points the game uses Dens. Dens can spawn various amounts of mobs in number, strength and type, but still fitting to the area the dens are in. Oh, and they can spread if players don’t take action.

Crafting and Items

Now, here comes the core. See, everything mentioned above is interesting and all, but this is it- at least for me. If a Sandbox doesn’t offer a complex crafting and trading system, it might just as well be a first person shooter. Fortunately, crafting in tR is complex and rewarding- i’ll start that off with a video.

Crafting will be interdisciplinary, so chances are high that you have to depend on other crafters to focus your own progress. The only bound items? Cosmetic ones from the cash shop. Items degenerate in quality and become useless with time. So there is opportunity in crafting and market, here.

Items you craft will have a quality range from F (bad) to A (good) and a subquality ranging from 0 to 9- so you can craft items with qualities from F0 to A9. Quality is determined by your skill, the quality of the ingredients and some luck and decisions made during the process of crafting itself. From what i saw, i think the crafting system will be similar to those of EQ2 and Vanguard (and FFXIV), but a bit more complicated.

Impressions

I’ll finish this entry, for now. The systems i mentioned are more complicated than i have made them to be, of course. But let’s have a look how the Repopulation measures up with some of the points i made in previous entries.

Virtual World

The worldbuilding seems fine to me- the Lore doesn’t seem like much, but i enjoyed reading it nonetheless. There don’t seem to be fast travel options like teleports, but one can craft vehicles. The world seems to be as open as possible with some sensible restrictions put into place.

I was surprised, however, that after really reading about this game for this post i found there are many systems at work here that EQN is advertising for, as well. But to me, it seems as if players make a bigger impact in this game.

Player-to-player interaction

There seems to be a lot in this regard. From building houses (in-world as well as instanced individual housing), cities, a crafting system that’s complex and involves other players to PvP, PvE encounters, open grouping, item degeneration, a reduction of bound items there are many options to play with, alongside or against others.

While the auction house seems to be global and i’d prefer locally different prizes, a good crafting system can make up for that. We’ll see how that goes.

Conclusion

I’m really looking forward to the Repopulation. What i read is encouraging, this game is developed as an MMORPG at its core. There are many systems in place that will allow for longevity- actually, even if EQN hadn’t disqualified itself for me, right now i’d place the Repopulation higher in regards to expectations. Also, tR might release before EQN, but since it’s still in Alpha2 it’s too early to estimate a release date- although it is slated for 2013.

The Repopulation will be free-to-play, which, at the moment, is my main concern. They’ll have to earn money and with Sandboxes, i think it’s quite difficult to strike a balance in a free-to-play title that’s both good for the devs and the players. Either they’ll offer convenience/fluff items only, and leave me wondering if many people buy those, or they’ll interfere with gameplay- for instance by selling repair kits that should be crafted and traded by players.

Above & Beyond Technologies are an independent dev studio, so there might be some concerns in regard to polish and gameplay feel, but i don’t think this is critical- if it’s playable, it will be alright. Fallen Earth is a good example of a game developed by an independent studio with not-so-polished gameplay that’s still highly enjoyable.

I can see this game being a huge contender for ArcheAge when it comes to my personal “next MMO” decision.

Sticking to one MMORPG

As mentioned on my about-page, i recently decided to stop playing multiple titles at once. The main reason for this is that i don’t play much, really. It is a beloved hobby for me, but it still is just that- according to Raptr my gaming time amounts to about 10 hours a week. That’s an amount some reach in 1 or 2 days, and in my experience even players calling themselves casual can do that in 3 or 4. Now, imagine me trying to split these 10 hours up to play Guild Wars 2, Lord of the Rings Online, The Secret World, Rift sprinkled with Defiance and/or Planetside 2. And, of course, don’t forget about singleplayer games. My backlog on those is so impressive that i wouldn’t need to worry about having something to play until the end of 2014, at least.

So i decided on two things.

First, regarding single-player games: i only buy those on sale- the Steam sales being of priority, but i wouldn’t mind spending my money elsewhere when it seems appropriate. But of course, there are temptations- right now, The Raven (i love whodunits) and Europa Universalis 4 are on that list. I won’t go into more detail here, since i called this blog Party Business and none of these titles allow for parties.

Regarding MMORPGs it’s the same thing- i decided that i’ll stop treating Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World as such. Mind you, of course they are MMORPGs- and very good ones at that. Actually, i found one of them my biggest disappointment of 2012 and the other one the biggest surprise of 2012, but i still know they’re both great games. It’s just that, i think SynCaine used that term first (can’t seem to find the actual post, unfortunately) – they are “play-to-finish MMORPGs”. They have a storyline, they are great at what they do, but they both have a point where i’d say they wouldn’t hold my interest any longer. With GW2, that would be after the 100% achievement, with TSW it would be upon finishing the story content. Both of them could still pull me in with updates and/or living story, but i could see the end of the tunnel. And this is something i don’t like in MMOs. I wouldn’t say i’m done with these two games, but i stopped trying to build a MMO rotation around them. The same goes for Defiance.

Strangely enough, not seeing the end of the tunnel is the main reason why i also decided to let go of Lord of the Rings Online. The levelling content in this game is overwhelming- my last effort here brought me into Moria, but came to a halt there. Now, i love Lotro, somehow- it’s an interesting game to play and the amount of content could be a positive, i’d love to see places like Lorien, Isengard and Rohan, but i would need to wade through Moria to reach those places. A good kinship could help, but good guilds are really hard to find and even harder to get warm with for a guy playing 10 hours a week and taking a dislike to voice chat.

Now this leaves me with Rift- some of you who read the first posting here might ask why i don’t play EVE and i would be hard pressed to answer that. Rift has some things going for it- the levelling content is there, but it’s not overwhelming, and you can level in different manners. I also much prefer the combat over the combat of Lotro. Then there are dimensions which are incredibly interesting and fit the bill of something to return to. The group options and content in general leave me with the impression of Rift being a MMORPG, i think Trion are one of the best devs/publishers out there and the free-to-play option is good. Rift doesn’t fit all of my expectations towards a MMORPG, but right now, i think it’s the best option for me. Why that is, i might explore on another post.

As long as you don’t count the temptations, again. After the reveals of EQ Next, and i have to state again that while i might sound critical of that game i really think it has the potential of being a game changer- EQ2 is singing its siren song and i can clearly hear it. So loud, in fact, that i decided to make saturday an anything-goes-day and found myself in Norrath. People say EQ2 has lots of content, interesting places to visit, good, long-lasting quests and other activities to make a longterm commitment viable, and that’s why i’ve been in Norrath three times already but made it only to level 12 by now.

Still, i’m trying to resist that call, since i’m not only looking for a good mmo home, but also for a good guild and companionship. I think, for me, the key to finding the magic of MMORPGs again lies in focus- a focus on game, guild as well as playstyle.