Newsflash: MMO’s make you grind.
(That new, informative and ground breaking statement should win me a blog-pulitzer, or blog-nobel, I am certain of it.)
Follow Up: People tend to not like grind.
MMOment of Truth: Grind equals profits for companies (both in the form of longer sub fee collection, and minimizing development costs)
Sad Truth: Inclusive of the above statements, MMO companies don’t treat their customers very well. [insert any analogy here that shows the longer a company forces a customer to wait for something, or to receive their item, or charges more to one customer for the same item than another customer, etc etc – the poorer the customer feels]
Solution 1: Develop a fun game that doesn’t have grind as it’s core, “innovating” feature (not going to happen anytime soon)
Solution 2: Enhance the experience with Real Money Transactions (community has a hard time accepting the current iterations of the model)
Solution 3: After the break! (oh, how I love cliffhangers)
Warning – Fanboi’s may attack!
WoW has changed. Change is sometimes a good thing, and I’m not going to belabor the obvious changes (less challenge) or industry misconceptions (subs are needed to cover ongoing costs) instead, I am going to look at two things I have noticed the most since my foray back into WoW.
First, to stave of the flames – WoW is still a fun game. It presents well, plays well, and yes, we all know how many subs they have. They are obviously growing still, but there are two nagging things that jump out at me that aren’t typical Blizzard “style”, every time I log in and (try) to play. Confusing conundrums, after the cut.
I took my 4 year old son and my wife (or did they take me?) to the movie UP! over the weekend. First off, I am loving the glorious 3D action that is making it’s way back into theaters. It is good to see the industry figuring out that if you don’t enhance the experience, it’s far easier/cheaper to just download the movie and/or wait for Blockbuster to release it. The 3D experience is one worth paying for, and seemingly only available in the theaters. [Note to self for future post: Why can’t you have 3D at home? And is it possible to have it in games?]
I didn’t start this post to talk about 3D though, but a small surprise about the movie – which led me to thoughts about gaming, kids, and all that jazz. Does the expectation of certain entertainment mediums skew our views on how it is perceived? More after the break.
*Warning – Spoilers follow for the movie UP! – Don’t read if you don’t want to know*
First off, big thanks to Chris for letting me post here. I had this thought rolling around in my head, but no real spot to post it (my regular readership on my blog wouldn’t really get it). Unbeknownst to him, Chris actually touched on the problem I’m looking at in this post in his “welcome” post.
While doing some reading on various blogs, I read several different posts that got my brain working on the subject of guilds and raid teams. Guilds typically form as social constructs, ways for players to stay connected to friends in the game. Guilds also form as a means to connect with other players for a common purpose; the most common of those purposes being raiding. There are plenty of guilds that are purely social guilds and do no raiding whatsoever, but how many guilds do you know of that are purely for the purpose of raiding that don’t have a social element? Beyond the big famous ones, guilds almost always have a nonraiding, social component to them. After all, the raiding component of the game is only a subset of the endgame.
In his last post, Chris referenced the struggle of balancing the needs of the guild and the needs of the raid team. Unless the guild is built as a hardcore raiding guild from the start, the goals and needs of a guild are often in conflict with the goals and needs of a raid team. With a raid team, you know the numbers you need, the types of roles you need for each encounter, and a certain competence and commitment level from each individual raider. There’s a clear goal in mind when a raid team is formed: progression through raid content. In BC, nobody formed a raid team to go and wipe on Moroes for three hours a night. Whatever the pace, the goal of each and every team was success. Guilds, on the other hand, can either be as exclusive or as accepting as the leadership wants it to be. Regardless of its level of exclusivity, a guild, at its most basic level, is a social instrument. Success on a guild level can be whatever the guild wants it to be.
The mere existence of a guild invites drama. I’d venture a guess to say that the biggest cause of guild drama and guild implosions comes from raiding, and there wouldn’t be many who would dispute that. The nature of raiding drama has evolved as the landscape of raiding changed with each expansion. In vanilla WoW it was the pressure on a guild of maintaining a raid team capable of fielding 40 raiders. In BC, Blizzard lowered the raid cap to 25, but put a ten man instance as the entry-level raid. It took a long time for most guilds to make it over the hurdle of Karazhan. Now in WotLK, it’s the pressure of having both 10 and 25 man teams. While having the bifurcated system for all instances facilitates more raid progression across the board, it’s allowed raiders to jump guilds more frequently; in short, the guild as a raid-organizing body is becoming obsolete.
Though I haven’t had the luxury of experiencing the current endgame raiding content, I’ve kept tabs on friends raiding experiences and watched them be more or less successful in the content. One friend organized a group of individuals into a set team for the sole purpose of defeating endgame content on a time-limited basis. The team wasn’t created out of any single guild; instead, the team was formed independent of guild tags and was set by one person. Once the team completed its stated objective, the team disbanded and a new team formed with a different objective and different raiders. Though I am not sure exactly how well they’ve done, I’m fairly certain that they’ve been able to complete most of the 10-man content in the current endgame. This with high expectations and only a few raid nights per week.
Back when they launched Burning Crusade, Blizzard introduced a new gameplay element in the PvP Arena system. With it came a new organization method in the Arena Teams. As you know, Arena teams consist of two, three, or five players fighting a time with team rosters allowing for twice that amount (four, six, or ten) for the sake of versatility. The beauty of the arena team system, though, was the fact that the arena teams weren’t limited to guildmates; an arena team could consist of members from completely different guilds.
I think you know where I am going with this. What if Blizzard were to implement a system for raiding similar to the Arena Team system?
Instead of using the guild structure to organize the raid team, a raid leader acquires a raid charter from the “Raid Master” just like an arena team would visit the Arena Master to sign an Arena Charter for the preferred size. A set number of raiders sign the charter and become members of that raid team. Perhaps the allowed number could be double the size of the raid, like Arena teams, or it could be some other reasonable number. The raid leader could set the timeframe of a raid team, or perhaps there could be raid “seasons,” similar to the current Arena seasons. Just like Arena Teams, the raid leader gives the Raid Team a name. Just like an Arena Team, the Raid Team is not bound by guild structure; raiders from multiple guilds can belong to the raid team. Additionally, once formed, a raid team could have a dedicated chat channel through which to communicate (say, /rt or something?), even when not formed into an actual raid group. I have thoughts on other mechanics, but I’ll save them for a possible later post, since this one’s running long.
This would provide distinct advantages to the current “ad hoc” system WoW currently has implemented. The biggest advantage would probably be the segregation of raid organization from guild organization. With an Arena-style system, raid teams could organize and be tracked independent of a guild system. Guilds could focus on being social entities without worrying about the competing interests of the raiding component. Raids could organize around their goals free of the concerns of guild management. If a raid team wanted to be all in-guild it certainly could organize that way, but it wouldn’t have to. Additionally, an Arena-style system would allow tracking of raid accomplishments by Blizzard. The Armory system already tracks Arena Team accomplishments and progress. Instead of having websites that scour the Armory and produce data and “rankings” for raid teams, the armory itself could remove the guesswork from the system. We could easily see who was a world- or server-first for a specific kill. Who knows, Blizzard could even implement some personal titles or competitions for raiding, just like they have for the Arena system.
Well, there you have it. I welcome your thoughts.
A friend of mine is going to start adding a post or two, here or there on this site. The thought came by in a discussion – he reads a lot of gaming blogs and wouldn’t mind sharing his thoughts. I thought it would be fun to give him an outlet.
I have known Pope for many years – back when I was a GM he was the RM. It was a fun relationship – often the ‘struggle’ of the needs of the RM and GM were on different wavelengths with what the guild needed. Took a lot of communication and compromise, but in the end we struck a dynamic balance of a hardcore raiding environment in a casual friendly guild. We hit most of our goals, and tackled most of the the things we had to. It’s funny how fast you can respect and rely on people you have never met.
We didn’t talk about what he was going to write about, or his writing style. Whatever it may be, I welcome him into the blog-gaming sphere and looking forward to reading his stuff.
I hope you do do.
A sequel so close to the original – (Left 4 Dead launced last November) seems to have the fans of the title confused. Some, who have spent tons of hours in zombie guts glee are extactic that the new game, with new features and improvements, is coming out so quickly.
Others feel ripped off – and that in typical Valve style they would be playing free upgrades and mission packs for a long time from now (a la TF2).
Read the comments in this blog announcement to see the ruckous.
I can understand the fret from an economics point of view, but the fandom in me from a title I logged 100 hours playing for the box (through the single player, co-op, co-op versus and recently free released survival mode) and loved every minute. A game with set play, limited levels, and replayability isn’t going to hold me much longer than that. I am ready for something new.
So it comes as no suprise, that I am pretty excited about the announcement.
In Valve’s defence (if it’s needed) or additional cheering (which camp are you in this announcement?) they haven’t said the pricing structure, future support for L4D1, or anything of that nature. One would suppose that the majority of the fan base of L4D1 will pick up the new title, leaving less games for people who stick with L4D1. You could also make the argument that by next November, a lot of people will be tired of the original title and ready for new anyway.
Will be interesting to see how it all pans out. Whatever Valve has touched lately turns to gold – hopefully that translates into gold zombies, and not upset L4D1 fans.
Bing Search: I has PC
1. Lack of consistency on offence, defence has PC’s Welsh in bind..
2. Dell’s All-in-One PC Has the Guds, Design to Compete with iMac…
3. I HAS PC
4. Property: HAS PC member – semanticweb.org..
5. Motorola’s Renew has PC Magazine’s GreenTech Seal of Approval..
Google Search: I has PC
1. I HAS PC
2. Property: Has PC member – semanticweb.org
3. Renaissance chambara | Ged Carroll – Samsung Windows Mobile has PC..
4. Motoroal’s Renew has PC Magazine’s GreenTech Seal of Approval..
5. Kotaku – The Chronicles of Riddick On PC Has a Rediculous Install..
Google is still the champ, for obvious reasons.
MMO gamers seem to be lamenting the fact that everything starts at the “endgame” in current mmo-land. The grind/level mechanics exist mostly to slow you down to getting to a point where you can start having fun. While that sounds back-ass-wards, the common argument in support is traditionally “Developers can’t create enough content to keep up with the players”.
I don’t disagree entirely. Developers can’t create the current type of content to keep up – or can they? I am not going to get into alternate schemes (where players are the content) or anything crazy or off the wall – I’m just going to look at our good friend WoW and understand where all their content – and developer hours – went into their game. After the break of course.
World Building: End Game in WoW, to narrow it down to the final two instances, are indicated in the map below.
If you are generous, you can expand around those dots a bit, but honestly the entire game is funneled into those two spots (which are really just entrances into instances, anyway). That is an awful big waste of programming dollars, don’t you think? Especially for a game whose 95% of “end game” content exist in instances anyway? (Depending if you count Wintergrasp as “end game”, or the Argent Tournament).
Quests: The WoW quest system, while mired in mediocrity (typical escort/kill/collect) is a HUGE part of their development costs. WoW currently has 8027 Quests (searchable at wowhead.com, at least). How many of those are “endgame”? 223. WoW has 7804 planned obsolescence quests. While you could argue the quest system is just a means to an end to GET to the endgame – how many 5/10/25 man instances could you build in place of the 7804 one off quests?
Instances: WoW has ~80 pre-cap instances, (when you count instance wings and heroic modes) and only 22 targeted for max level. Isn’t that split in reverse? Shouldn’t there be 20 instances before the cap, and have 80 instances when you hit the cap – wouldn’t that make it harder for players to “run out of content” fast when the game truly begins?
Arenas/BG’s: Pretty much all instanced except for a few world ones – but think about how many we could have if resources were allocated to play the game for fun from the outset, not just burn 5 days /played to get to (slim) endgame.
I could link to various posts of mine and others who believe the level and time to level gap needs to close, keep the relative power closer from first level to final (so everyone can play together, regardless of how long each have been playing) and there are still plenty of carrots to dangle if you like grinding through achievements, etc. I just can’t help but wonder of developers focused their time and resources at the true “endgame” how much content would we really have there – especially if the majority of content that we just use once per character and throw away, was spent on end game materials.
Just a thought.
So much to get excited about, I’m not sure where to begin.
With that in mind I will begin here.
Released in the late 80’s (1987?) Mike Tyson’s Punch Out was a game on the SNES that my friends and I played for hours on end. It was a classic. Ah the memories.
The 2009 version, besides fun new Wii controls (disclaimer: I haven’t bought this yet.) Enjoys an expected graphics update.
I don’t even like boxing as a sport – but the game was so much fun. Sadly, without playing the game I am not here to review – just share in my excitement for the upgrade and then ponder a question that has been asked many times before: What games would you love to see “updated”? And as a follow-up – can the magic of a couple decades old game be recaptured with today’s tech and design differences?
Time for my top 3? Glad you asked.
3. Privateer (1994)
Be your own Han Solo, run missions, fight in space sims, buy/sell/kill? Yes thank you. Missions felt oft-repeated, but with today’s tech and design I would like to think this would be the easiest of games to update and make super cool. Could probably even Multiplayer it – or, (shudder) Massively Multiplayer it. Great part was there was a main story line, but you could freely stray from it to do an endless stream of side missions
2. Star Control 2 (1992)
I didn’t ever know, or figure out, how to win this game. I just explored and played and played and played. Diplomacy, gathering, and combat components as I ventured out to save the earth from slavery. I don’t want to include any spoilers here, in case you are thinking of picking it up to give it a whirl.
1. X-Com (1993)
Resource, Research, Team Managment and turn based combat. Pure Joy – and a great challenge.
I know those are easy picks, but I wonder how Punchout (2009) will fare both on it’s own merits and the nostalgia merits. I wonder if PC gaming will go the route of Hollywood and start remaking old classics for revenue. I certainly wouldn’t complain – Although I am half afraid to pick any of these titles back up for fear of let down. What was great 10-20 years ago, may not feel so spectacular now.
What are your favorites?
Oh, the joys of Askimet.
After the break, I’ll show you my latest and greatest last 10 spam messages which were caught by the automatic filter. I “de-linked” them but kept everything else in tact (yes, there are some URLs in there – plenty, actually) so if SPAM makes you sick, or you do not have the capability to NOT copy and paste a link after the break, don’t go after the break.
I don’t fully understand spam. I just don’t understand how anyone would be even remotely interested in clicking links, especially when they are framed in the context as they are. I am sure there is some other point to it all – and even by posting them maybe I committed the ultimate evil. Anyway, if you dare, go read what our spam-friends are putting out there – albeit a very small sample – after the cut.
EDIT – i did mess up the URL stuff just in case listing them as is will help them on search engines, etc.
Not of Moira. Sorry LOTRO fans.
I hope Zardoz doesn’t end up getting sick of me linking to his posts, but data gets me all hot and heavy. WoW data is always fun, and a couple weeks ago he posted his Minority Report outlining level 80 class allocation at 3.1.1. His sampling methods are reasonable so let’s look at who is playing what.
It’s actually not a bad spread, when you take out the top 2 and bottom 3. I would suppose the goal, with 10 classes, is to have each around 10% of the playerbase. That would be a great indication of balanced and interesting classes. 4 of the 10 are +/- .5% from that equal mark, with a couple glaringly high and 3 glaringly low.
If you were a developer I wonder how they would take that info to adjust the classes (if they even thought it was needed) – Would you try to Jaxx up the Shaman/Rogue/Lock to pull from DK’s and Pallys specifically, or just work harder to make sure those classes are more fun, interesting, and useful on their own merits?
Not going to dig too far into it today, perhaps if discussion arises – just putting it out there as fun information to look at.
Suzina over at KTR posts about a couple recent gaming experiences in LOTRO. It’s a good read for several reasons, but mostly because it captures the essence of what is great about MMO’s – success and failure. I shared a snazzy yet true golf analogy in the comments section about “hooks”. MMO’s live on hooks.
Psychochild made a comment in the thread about the beauty of Suz’s post (we are tight like that where I can nickname her unashamedly.) and that those are experiences you can’t have in single player games – and my first reaction was that he was right, followed up with a “wait, is he?” The answer is yes and no. Suspense suspended after the cut.
Cool premise? Check. Decent art direction? Check. Story and Lore? Check.
WoW treadmill/quest hub/kill ten rats style gameplay? Check.
I suppose developers still don’t understand what “different” is. If every other entrepreneur didn’t figure it out either, we would still be cranking our cars with a handle out the front grill to get them started.
I know. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – right? What if a large group of consumers actually thought it was broken?
Losing will to help out said developer by seriously testing the alpha stage? Check.
I have switched my browser from good ol’ MSIE 8.0 (the new version) to Safari. I know many out there Firefox it, maybe even Google Chrome, but I just like basic functionality (and not having to learn new things all the time.)
I didn’t download it purposely, I am a big fan of the iPhone and it kept prompting me to download it. I also have a ME.com account (great for the iDisk alone) and since it works better in Safari, and everytime iTunes wanted to download an update to work with my phone it prompted me for Safari. So I finally downloaded it.
I am pretty impressed.
Something about the font and color choices they use make every webpage POP. It just presents so nicely. I am sure that is why long time users love it – visually it is just so darn impressive. I only run a couple things that require AX, which I hear Safari doesn’t do, but I have good old’ MSIE to use that with.
MSIE just upgraded to 8.0, and not only does it seem to take forever to boot up but it just runs slow. Plus it feels it is necessary to open 2 tabs everytime (the main page, and a LIVE search tab) which also makes it run slow.
Now, I have little experience with other browsers (I did beta Chrome, but didn’t bother with it afterwards – I don’t mind minimalistic as long as full feature functionality is available) so here I am making my first blog post in Safari and it looks real pretty.
Any of you have experiences with Firefox, et al? I half feel I am cheating on my wife with an evil Apple application, but I can’t get over how good she looks, and how fast she works.
I have been working on a pretty big acquisition of a company past few weeks. Haven’t had much time to sleep, let alone blog. I did have the option of completely neglecting my family – but chose to neglect the blog instead. Little bit of a shame as I was having extra fun blogging throughout April and into May.
I am so out of the loop on blogging and gaming news – any new MMO’s flop lately? Any juicy industry rumours or gossip?
I need to go make the blog rounds to stay current. I’ll put more effort into here this week, I certainly could use the break and distraction.
Lots of little gaming going on. Will touch upon them.
1) LOTRO revisted: While I am trying to organize friends to go through the trial, nothing concrete is set up although a little interest and a couply people hopping on Brandywine. I said this before and I will say it again – the fact that LOTRO doesn’t allow you to play their two new classes WITHOUT buying MoM is a terrible design decision and puts me in a bad mood immediately at the character creation screen. I wanted to test drive the Warden for the trial again – it made my list of favorite fantasy classes although I only got to level 10. My beef with this is that the characters start at the exact same spot as the previous character classes so not having them available upon start is just a silly money grab. I am trialling the game to see if I am going to resubscribe – let me choose the character I want to play. The high end zones included in MoM have no impact on the class selection – it will be months before I even get to MoM – so let me play them dammit! To be fair, they do have a 10 day trial for MoM – but on the welcome back weekend I can use my old box (that I paid for). Maybe I do want to resub, and maybe the game is fun enough to buy the expansion (when I get there) – but it will be awhile before I get there, and I want to do it as one of the new classes. We are off to a poor start, me and LOTRO. So I rolled a Champion, and if all goes well I am going to have to drop $40 bucks on an expansion and reroll to a character class I want to play. Shame on you, Turbine.
More random stuff after the break.
I have been away for a week for work – and the inevitable happened. I ran into an old friend, conversation ensues, and WoW comes up. He plays it too. We chat about raiding, levelling, guilds, etc and the topic shifts to gaming together on the ultimate cruise ship.
Things are starting to sound fun, when he pulls ultra geek on me and proudly shows me his WoW tshirt underneath his sweatshirt.
For the Horde!
Damn, I play Alliance. Dreams are shattered. Mood turns negative. I secretly envy the shirt.
Then I think – why not?
In the facebookesque MMO, which discourages meaningful choice, insists on bringing the player and not the class , encourages most classes to have two role options, allows name, sex, appearance and server customizatiom, AND trounces it’s own lore in the name of fun and convenience (all the while producing a pretty fun game) – are we really that far away from bringing the player and not the race?
Horde and Alliance notables already work together in cutscenes. Main cities can still be off limits as there is an “uneasy” truce – battlegrounds are explained as efforts for the most ardent of same side supporters and opposite race haters.
The sympathizers from each faction can form guilds and defeat enemies side by side, while political figures and notable npc’s can choose to support the merge or rally against it.
A little programming to ensure cross faction chat doesn’t work in Arenas and Battlegrounds will do the trick.
Really, why not?
This is my 99th post. I was going to wait and do something for the Centennial Post, but after my Montreal Canadiens had a tragic end to their 100th season, and I lost a pretty daring, yet silly bet around it, I think the 100 mark is one of tradgedy, and curses. Not luck and prosperity.
99th post musings after the break.
Here I go again on my own.
Help me like Lord of the Rings Online.
I don’t need long winded posts epousing how good the game is. You probably, if playing the game, don’t feel like you need to explain why it is so good. I don’t need convincing by any means.
I need company. After the break.
A little snippet about game design from Blizzards almightly Lead Game Designer, Ghostcrawler.
“Do you know how many professional game designers I know who were trained as game designers? Zero. I imagine that will change over time though. This is, happily, one of the few industries where talent > experience > education. “
One of his atypical responses to angry forum posters making fun of design decisions because he was trained as an oceanographer. The entire thread, if you dare so brave the WoW forums, can be found here.
I am not writing this to pick on Ghostcrawler. I don’t care where he came from, or what degree he has, or how he got to where he is right now. I am going to analyze that statement of his to have a closer look – only because I want to know if that is true. It is a pretty bold statement from the man at the helm of the ultimate cruise ship experience. He may even be right – but i’m not so sure. Truth searching after the break.
Let’s discuss each of the traits, before working out the ranking of them.
Talent: How do you define talent? Is it a natural affinity for an action, set of actions, skillset, natural attributes, – a combination of the aforementioned, or simply all of them? Is Talent something inherent or learned? I don’t work for, or have insight into the industry. Is the industry really full of talent-full, experience-less, uneducated go getters? Perhaps that would explain the quality of patch releases (hello, Blizzard 3.1) and game launches (hello, WAR, AOC, et al.)
Experience: If history has tought us anything it is that people rarely make the same mistakes twice. This is what makes experience a beautiful thing! Mark Jacobs is a great middle MMO manager who had a great title under his belt (DAOC) and proceeded to make DAOC 2 (WAR) in the same fashion. That wasn’t a mistake at all – but things have changed in MMO expectations and uh, experiences. Creating the same game using his experience wasn’t a failure – it has a healthy population base, perhaps even growing. He used his experiences with DAOC and built the same kind of game with additional experiences with design decisions from a 2004 title (WoW) to try and produce a 2008 title. The importance of this point is that experiences change with progression – a good way to do things 4 years ago may not be a good way to do things now. However, if you absolutley did it wrong 4 years ago you would be apt to not make the same mistakes now.
Education: While GC specifically states game design education we definitely need to delve further. Education, especially University, doesn’t just teach a specific skillset – more importantly it teaches the ability and capability to problem solve, analyze, and communicate in a coherent and academic manner. That is why employers in many industries tend to care less what your degree is in, and simply look for a degree to begin with.
I would argue that Talent is the sum of natural expertise, learned experience and studied education. The absence of any of those pillars produces a far weaker sum – therefore, Talent = Experience + Education (with a dash of natural skillset). If the industry is indeed looking at it from a Talent > Experience > Education – without quantifying where that Talent comes from – would help explain the state of the gaming industry as it stands currently. True talent can’t exist without the experience or education.
I just received an email invite to a closed, alpha stage MMO beta test. I love beta testing. I love seeing a game grow from crap to less-crap-yet-not-ready-for-release-but-released-anyhow. I love interacting with devs on their life’s work (pre crunch time, of course. Once they hit the crunch they all become crabby). I love going into a new world and trying to contribute to the development process (usually, only to be ignored). Well, chalk another one up on my list of beta tests, and soon as the NDA lifts (ugh, could be a long one) I’ll be sure to be nice.
Okay, that’s a lie. I always prefer to be fashionably late.
I know the Jeff Kaplan interview at GDC is very old news. While I had a lot of thought about it at the time, it was mostly the rehash of the same old stuff already out there, and not until I made it into WOTLK with my Shaman re-roll did I really start to re think – and re think about writing about it. I am doing the same quests he designed. Now that we have settled that I am not FOX or CNN with breaking news, let’s discuss.