August in Review August 31, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, Lord of the Rings Online, Month in Review.
I have been experimenting with Tumblr. This has been for no reason other than the fact that WordPress.com now supports direct updates to Tumblr. So there are now Tumblr versions of both my blog.
I would have to say that the Tumblr version of this blog is… not worthwhile. The auto-update basically takes the first picture from any given post, adds in a link back to it, and calls it a day. Add in the fact that I could not get tagn.tumblr.com as the URL and I am vaguely dissatisfied with the result. Only the fact that it is zero effort keeps it going.
The EVE Online Pictures Tumblr however seems to be working out quite nicely. Since every post is just a picture anyway, with maybe a sentence of text, nothing is lost in the updates. WordPress.com even successfully moved my tags over for each post, though not the categories. So it seems to fit into the Tumblr mold just fine.
Nobody appears to actually have looked at either of those sites, but there they are, experiment in progress.
One Year Ago
Then Vanguard suddenly went free to play ahead of schedule, no doubt trying to get in early and avoid the crowd.
It was announced that NCsoft would be closing down City of Heroes.
Turbine delayed Riders of Rohan, but continued pushing the crazy stuff you would see.
Speaking of year long commitments, Trion liked that Blizzard idea so much, they did it themselves and gave us an ugly mount for it right away. Oh, and they got rid of faction group restrictions. What population problems? The instance group started on its attendance slide, with just four of us trying Runic Descent. At least we had instant adventures. Or was that instant levels?
In EVE Online, there was a revamp of mining ships. I listed them out and wondered which would become the most popular. In the end, the Mackinaw won I think. All the while CSM7 seemed intent on proving that the thing they loved most in EVE was themselves.
Meanwhile, having been asked by TEST to leave the war down south, the CFC got into a scrap with Northern Coalition over moons. We fought in Venal and some monkeys lost a titan. We were staging in QPO for a thrust into Tribute with the goal of taking a forward base at UMI-KK.
AWESOMESAUCE.LIVE was announced. Only the fact that it was later cancelled preserved my faith in humanity.
Five Years Ago
After what seemed like endless delays, Darkfall went looking for beta testers for real. Many asked if this product would shed its “vaporware” reputation and see the light of day, and if the feature set would be anything close to what was promised.
Meanwhile Warhammer Online was rolling on towards release with a preview weekend. The CoWs were gathering. I looked at races and classes as well as my general opinion of the game as I saw it. I thought I was generally positive, though I wanted to be able to open up the quest log with a single keystroke. Rabid fans sensed faint praise and whined a lot in the comments. Still, Google liked me as I got the top spot for the search on “WAR Preview Weekend.”
Suicide Ganking was the plague in EVE Online. I suggested that the Secure Insurance Commission be given the power to extract the cost of insurance payouts from high sec gankers as a way to make this “throw away character” exploit a bit less lucrative. In the end, CCP just made CONCORD a bit more responsive to attacks right under their noses.
In WoW the instance group we were hitting level 70 and starting on the Caverns of Time dungeon Escape from Durnhold Keep. Instances were starting to get tough for us and it would take a revamp of our talents and some work on gear before we would be able to take on an at-level instance on the first try.
Also in WoW, Zhevra fever.
We went down to LEGOLand for vacation, but I left a vacation cliffhanger post to keep people amused.
LEGO Indiana Jones came out, and while it was a lot of fun, I wasn’t sure if it was worth list price.
And finally, people were fretting about Diablo III. It was too colorful! Internet petitions were deployed and accomplished what they generally do… nothing.
New Linking Sites
The following blogs have linked this site in their blogroll, for which they have my thanks.
Please take a moment to visit them in return.
Most Viewed Posts in August
- 6VDT-H – The Biggest Battle in EVE History Ends the War in Fountain
- Who Holds the Oldest Null Sec Sovereignty?
- Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
- Comparing EverQuest and EverQuest Next in Two Pictures
- Conspiracies, Immersion, and the Secret Life of PLEX
- More Propaganda from the War in Fountain
- Monday Morning Talking Points for EverQuest Next
- The Elder Scrolls Online: Throwing Itself Under the Subscription Bus?
- Projecting on to EverQuest Next
- The Greater Western Co-Prosperity Sphere and You!
- Has the WildStar Team Looked Into How is Krono Working for SOE?
- Can SOE Keep the EverQuest Next Excitement Going?
Search Terms of the Month
is tobold trolling us
how to steal turbine points
[Way to support free to play!]
eve small or big ship in nullsec
[Bigger ship, bigger target]
Spam Comment of the Month
This blog was… how do I say it? Relevant!!
[Nobody has ever said that, until the payday loans spambot happened by at least]
It was a quiet for most of the month for me in New Eden, a time for training and plans. I spent a lot of time in my high sec clone with implants to speed training along. My focus changed to capital ships and, once I make up my mind, I could be in either a dreadnought or a carrier withing a day, skill-wise. I still have to obtain one.
And then the call went out to deploy down to Delve. I seemed to have missed the mass of convoys, if there was a mass of them, and only have two ships down there, a Megathron and a Harpy. So if they aren’t in the fleet composition being called for, I stay docked.
I didn’t play any EQN, as there is nothing there to play yet. But we all certainly spent a lot of time writing about what was shown at SOE Live at the beginning of the month. A very exciting moment. However, the moment has passed and I expect we won’t get any real news for a while now.
Lord of the Rings Online
I made it through Moria, one of my big goals. And then, last weekend, Turbine had a “welcome back” double XP event. Rather than using that to push my main guy into the Mirkwood expansion, I spent the whole time… and I was in-game for many hours… playing alts. For example, I rolled up a guardian and ran him all the way to level 30. His role in life is to finish off the epic quest line, which I always end up straying from somewhere in the Lone Lands. And I pushed my champion into Evendim and started up a rune keeper as well, because hey, lightning!
I need to invest some time in this just to get far enough in to tell if I like it or not.
Autumn is coming, though it is often more a state of mind and an arbitrary date on a calendar here in California. Still, in anticipation of the regular bout of autumnal nostalgia, I started looking into how to play EverQuest Mac on a Windows PC. I haven’t actually got it running yet, but I have all the parts in place, including a copy of EverQuest Titanium I unearthed. Old school, Planes of Power level EverQuest could be a possibility. We’ll see how much I enjoy that cup.
Of course, there are other choices for the nostalgia season if I cannot get EverQuest Mac going, including other flavors of Norrath, Azeroth, or even NeverWinter Nights 2, where we stopped playing mid-campaign. Plus there are a few new delights out there, like World of Warplanes and War Thunder, both of which I have totally meant to try, and neither of which I have actually played yet. I have even considered Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn due to reports of its old school nature and it not being cash shop driven. Unfortunately, part of its old school nature included a rough launch. Some things never change.
And then there is the cast iron rule of MMOs for me is that I can really only play two at any given time while maybe dabbling in a third. That would likely mean LOTRO going dormant again, since EVE is different enough from anything else that I want to stick with that for now.
So I expect my play time pursuits will change up soon.
Has the WildStar Team Looked Into How is Krono Working for SOE? August 20, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, EverQuest Next, WildStar.
Tags: CREDD, Krono, PLEX
The big news so far this week… at least at the point when I started writing this post… seems to be the announcement about WildStar’s business model.
WildStar is going for the classic monthly fee subscription model, which means they had better have something new and different to offer. Given what I have seen so far, I hope their secret weapon is still under wraps, because the MMO market is pretty harsh these days. The masses have spoken, and they do not like monthly subscriptions and won’t tolerate them without good reason.
And Carbine, WildStar’s developer, is working for NCSOFT (Didn’t they used to write it NCsoft?), which means the gun will be to their head from day one to make this work and work well. NCSOFT’s record of closing down games indicates that they either have no compunction about shutting them down or they have no clue about what works for MMOs and end up backing a lot of losers. Neither paints a happy picture.
So, yea, no pressure there Carbine. Hope you have your shit well and truly together.
The alleged mitigating factor in the WildStar plan appears to be a PLEX-like item which they are calling CREDD. As they put it on their site, after you buy the box and use up your “30 days with purchase” time, you have two options:
Option 1: Monthly subscription
Option 2: C.R.E.D.D.
So, the buzz after that has been people sorting themselves out into the love/hate sides of the subscription model, attempting to decipher exactly how this is “hybrid,” and generating inapt parallels to EVE Online and its PLEX scheme.
You all remember PLEX right?
PLEX has been around for about four years at this point. It has added to the usual EVE drama. You buy PLEX from CCP and get it as an item in-game, which you can then sell to other people for the in-game currency, ISK. You do this if you really need some ISK. If you buy PLEX, you can consume it for 30 days of game time or use it for various account services.
PLEX works in EVE.
It works for various reasons, the most important of which is that everybody who plays EVE with any level of seriousness has to be part of the in-game player economy. EVE is not World of Warcraft where you can say, “screw the auction house” and go run through the quest chains that lead you through the game and which keep your level of equipment… well… I hate to say “competitive” in a game like WoW… but you can get the basic job done, the bar being set low and the equipment being handed out readily making keeping you sufficiently over powered.
There is no escaping the economy in EVE. You need it for your ship, for your fittings, for your implants, for your skills. And the fact that ships and fittings and implants… and if you screw up, even skills… are constantly being lost to player action means that you keep going back. You keep a few ships fit and ready to go. You buy better fittings. You change up fits that just are not working. You spend a lot of ISK.
Or maybe not a lot. If you are new, losing a frigate seems expensive. Later on you’ll throw frigates away and laugh… if you last long enough in the game.
But another aspect of EVE that makes PLEX work is that the in-game currency isn’t an “I win” button. Sure, it helps. But if you can only afford to fly frigates, you can still find something to do. And if a battleship lumbers up to you, you can run away easily. Or, even better, you can tackle him, orbiting faster than his guns can track, and call in some friends to kill him. Or kill him yourself and laugh, if you are skilled enough.
Look at Gevlon. He has, through an admirable level of persistence, become quite wealthy in EVE Online. He has made billions of ISK. But has he “won” EVE? Was all that ISK able to save TEST? Is he powerful in-game in relation to his wealth?
I would say no.
Anyway, all of that is old news and has been discussed and argued over for ages at this point. The take away from that is that WildStar does not sound like EVE, so the success of PLEX is not, to my mind, a reliable predictor of success when it comes to CREDD. Feel free to correct me if you feel I am wrong. I am no expert on WildStar. But the two do not feel parallel.
No, WildStar’s CREDD seems like it might be closer to SOE’s Krono.
Krono has been out for almost a year now and it sounds a lot like PLEX and CREDD.
You buy it from SOE for real money and can turn around and sell it in-game to other players for in-game currency. The last I checked it was available in EverQuest and EverQuest II. While PLEX sounded like a viable plan in EVE from day one, I was a bit dubious about Krono. (I was dubious about WoW supporting such a thing in theory as well. Certainly the Kitten economy did not take the world by storm.) It seems like a decent idea. It ought to work. But it depends so much on the in-game economy, which can vary greatly from server to server, and which does not have anywhere near the buy-in you get in EVE Online.
I checked into the market price for Krono a few times early on, but haven’t heard much about it since. So it isn’t clear to me if Krono has been a big win, a modest success, or is another one for the list of SOE science experiments that will never be spoken of again. Did it get any mention at SOE Live?
The one ace in the whole that Krono had was the price.
A single Krono is $17.99, or two dollars cheaper than a month of SOE All Access, which starts at $19.99. I looked into this pricing scheme in a post a while back. It seemed like the one thing that might guarantee some Krono sales, since Krono can extended you SOE All Access plan by 30 days, just like it does a single game plan, and there are some price points where Krono wins for that.
Anyway, Krono seems like a much closer parallel to WildStar’s CREDD, so if I knew that Krono was a success, I think I would have more confidence in CREDD.
Of course, there isn’t a perfect parallel between any SOE game and WildStar.
Wildstar will be shiny and new, will be monthly subscription based, will have its own take on things, will presumably be different enough to stand out, and so on. Meanwhile, SOE games are all free to play at this point and the games closest to Wildstar in model are pretty old at this point, with EverQuest standing at 14 years of age and EverQuest II at nearly 9.
On the other hand, some of the differences work in Krono’s favor. The fact that some of the SOE games are older and have mature economies means that there are players out there with the cash in hand to buy Krono at a price that makes it worth acquiring Krono from SOE. That might be an early days weak spot for WildStar. Will its economy have evolved and produced enough wealth to make selling CREDD a viable option just 30 days after launch? And if it has, if there is enough money in the market so quickly, is that really a good thing, or a sign that inflation will grip the economy?
That is a whole pile of questions and speculation without much in the way of answers. Such is my usual method I suppose.
What do you think? Is it going to work?
And, in another parallel, I do wonder where Krono fits into the EverQuest Next scheme.
Is Your Faction Getting the Short End of the Stick? August 16, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, Rift, World of Warcraft.
Red Shirt Guy… you remember the Red Shirt Guy from BlizzCon, right… he got his own NPC in game… has an editorial up about the perception in World of Warcraft that the Horde is the favored faction and the the dev team prefers to work on things for the Horde to the detriment of the Alliance side of the coin.
Since he is a well established lore hound in addition to being a dedicated player, it was interesting to see his take on what has been a controversial topic from time to time.
Of course, the bias hasn’t always been that perceived the same way. I recall a time when it was felt that the Horde was neglected because they did not have a “pretty” race. And so they got blood elves. And the Alliance got blue space goats. Making things right or evidence of bias?
Anyway, this got me thinking about other games, and there are certainly times when I felt a faction was being neglected.
For example, when I started off in EverQuest back in 1999, I chose Qeynos as my starting place. That was a mistake in some respects. The city was somewhat neglected, was not the place to be if you wanted to craft, and was on the opposite side of a hostile continent from most of the player base. They were all in Freeport where all the cool stuff happened. So while I loved the Karanas, I still had to travel to Freeport time and again to by things or meet up with friends.
On the flip side of all of that, when it comes to nostalgia, being from Qeynos is now superior. Freeport continued to be lavished with attention, getting a graphics revamp a while back. Meanwhile, Qeynos remains in pretty much its original state, which is fine with me.
And the Freeport bias continued in EverQuest II, where at launch Freeport was a giant, over-wrought city or intricate detail. And Qeynos was a nice place to live, but not very memorable.
In EVE Online there used to be some irregularities in the factions. And I am not talking about the ships, which seem to favor one faction or another with each revision. Long was the rule of the Drake and Hurricane battlecruisers before their nerfing. But back when I was starting, there was a clear advantage to picking the Caldari faction and specific bloodlines and background, as you ended up with more, and more useful, skill points to start with. That has since been fixed, but for quite a stretch there was a “right” choice when creating a new character.
And, to beat a nearly dead horse, there was Warhammer Online, where it sure felt like destruction had been given some better options when it came to character classes back when a lot of people actually played it.
You could go on. the Guardians in Rift clearly got the better character models. The dwarves and elves in Lord of the Rings Online get kind of crap starting zones in my opinion, while the hobbits just get a version of the human starter zone, then get jumped from Archet to the Shire, breaking the story line.
But you start to get to nit picking and things that are really opinion. Some people might like the Defiant character models in Rift.
The question comes down to whether or not it really matters. I think in a lot of cases, it really does not. I got over the character models, you don’t spend much time in the starter zone, I’ve moved on to flying other ships, and once in a while it works out, as in the case of Qeynos. Not that I let anybody forget the slight.
Of course, I am in favor of there being a more difficult faction available, something that makes the game more challenging for those willing to accept the assignment.
What about you? Is there a faction getting a raw deal in your game?
Monday Morning Talking Points for EverQuest Next August 5, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, EverQuest Next, Sony Online Entertainment.
I decided not to rush to post thoughts about EverQuest Next right away. First of all, the initial presentation, while full of spectacle, was shy on details. I walked away full of unfocused enthusiasm. So I decided to see if further panels on the game would bring out more.
And I wanted to see if anybody picked up details I missed and to gauge my enthusiasm to see if my own lens on life was distorting anything way out of shape. The blogesphere mostly obliged, so if you want further reading you can look at:
- Keen and Graev
- Bio Break
- The Cesspit (Twice)
- Avatars of Steel
- Inventory Full (and coverage of the class panel)
- Aardwulf’s Lair (plus a part 1 and part 2 Q&A panel overview)
- MMO Symposium
- Nosy Gamer
- Party Business
- Hardcore Casual
- Heartless_ Gamer
In that group there is a range of responses from excitement, to “meh, sounds like Guild Wars 2“, to predictions of failure. I cannot honestly say I read every one end-to-end… too much to do over the weekend… but there are opinions in there.
In the end, I am not sure if I learned enough by waiting to focus my own enthusiasm. I was able to fill in a few details, but hard data is still pretty scarce on the ground. There is an official EverQuest Next wiki forming. EQNexus is trying to collect data into an information index. Hopefully we will get something that will stay up to date and pool updates as they come out.
I am cautiously optimistic. A lot of what was said sounded like a pretty big change on the fantasy MMORPG front for SOE. They appear to have stuck to a lot of what I divined in the past as “SOE Lessons Learned” and even managed to include a few items from my wish list.
However, what things will actually look like at launch… we’re still a long way from that. Here is what I managed to cull from the data stream. My list of items is after the cut as they go on for a while.
Comparing EverQuest and EverQuest Next in Two Pictures August 3, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest Next.
Tags: Firiona Vie
Well, the big EverQuest Next reveal has come and gone. If you missed them, replays up are in a number of locations including YouTube. (There is a part 1 and a part 2, but I think you could safely just watch maybe the last 10 minutes of part one along with part 2.)
The official site is up. I signed up for beta like everybody else.
I am working on my own post on the subject, with a primary focus of trying to summarize what we know so far about key features and what they mean to me. I expect that will be posted on Monday. (Here)
In the short term, I think one of the wallpapers that SOE has for EQN is really great, as it attempts to harken back to the original EverQuest launch poster. Here it is.
So I went to find a similar sized scan of the original poster… which wasn’t as easy as it sounds. We had small monitors back then and were content with things being just 800×600. Poor us. But I found one that I think will do.
Firiona seems much more sensibly dressed in the new version, though skimpy female outfits still seem the order of the day. In the new vision, everybody appears to have been working out and looks like they bought their armor at a Blizzard garage sale. No halflings or Erudin in the new vision, no cat or rat people in the old. And in the new vision, the group seems to have turned upon itself rather than facing external foes. Hrm…
So what do those two pictures say to you?
Projecting on to EverQuest Next July 30, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest Next, MMO Design.
Tags: John Smedley, SOE Fan Faire, SOE Live
Enough about internet spaceships for the moment and on to a topic that will loom large this week.
We are going to hear a lot about EverQuest Next very shortly. The clock is running down and SOE Live (formerly SOE Fan Faire) will begin this Thursday.
The big news will be whatever John Smedley chooses to reveal about EverQuest Next. Everything else will pale by comparison. And the reason it will be big is that just over a year ago it was reported that SOE was throwing out their current plan, which included some very basic lessons learned, and going for a much more dramatic change. A year ago everything you knew about EQN was declared wrong.
So now we all wonder what we shall see. And I am sure that we all have some hopes or wishes. I have teased Keen about investing himself in the idea of the new game, and I see Wolfshead has come out of hibernation to issue a list of demands, which I tend to agree with in spirit if not exactly on a point by point measure. The heroes bit resonates with me especially.
So I too have been thinking about what is coming, but it is tough to know where to begin.
There is the word “sandbox” that gets thrown about, even by Smed. Especially by Smed. That has been his opening. But “sandbox” can mean so many things in so many circumstances that I am reluctant to hear get invested in that idea until I hear what the SOE definition of “sandbox” is.
And along with that, there are the realities of the SOE business model. They have completely declared for free to play.
Well, who hasn’t, aside from Blizzard these days?
But free to play brings with it certain requirements. A high amount of churn is expected. A lot of people will try the game and for them to become paying customers, the game has to welcome them in and hold their hand for a bit, and presumably not just to guide them to the edge of a cliff so as to be better positioned to push them over into the abyss, ala a certain internet spaceship game I said I was not going to write about.
So EQN cannot be EverQuest of old, letting you create a character then dropping you on the doorstep of Qeynos with a pat on the back and a “have fun!” There is a certain lowering of bars to be expected for the opening. In free to play you cannot frustrate people straight off, you do not have their money yet! You have to get them pointed in the right direction, teach them how to play, how to group, and how to interact. (Who does the last two nowadays?)
And then there is the StoryBricks angle. StoryBricks announced at one point… and then turned around and denied everything… then got permission from the right people so they could announce it… that they were involved with EQN, which would be ‘the biggest sandbox ever designed.’ There is that word again.
Anyway, StoryBricks, if I can borrow a phrase from somewhere, is about bringing NPCs to life. So, one might presume that we can expect a more complex relationship with the world of Norrath and its permanent citizens when we get to EQN. Quests are unlikely to go away or become less common, but one would hope that we might be asked to dine on more than the common staple of ten rats.
And then, despite the rework of the system, I suspect that what previously seemed to be the lessons learned from previous games will still have influence. I recounted them as:
- Single world without the need to load zones
- Instanced dungeons
- Low system requirements
- Stylized character models
- Fewer classes, relative to EQII
- PvP from day one and “done right”
A single seamless world sounds so “2004″ at this point, but I think it is important and I hope they stick to it.
Instanced dungeons will be controversial. Some insist that this kills the worldliness of a game. Frankly, some of my fondest memories at this point are of dungeon crawls with just our group without other people in chat, trying to rush past us, stealing mobs, or otherwise turning a group adventure into a bad trip to the mall. I think there is clearly a place for instanced content. It should be special and rare and have a connection to the full world. The instanced dungeons in World of Warcraft lost their charm for me when they ceased to be part of the world and, with the introduction of Dungeon Finder, became a way to avoid the world.
Low system requirements and stylized character models I think are pretty non-controversial on the surface. Not that SOE couldn’t screw this up and makes us hate it, but it could be good. And, with free to play in mind, it is probably a requirement.
Fewer classes relative to EQII. I have to agree. 24 classes at launch was too much. Adding a 25th years later was interesting, but not all that helpful.
PvP from day one and “done right” scares me. PlanetSide 2 hasn’t had a charmed existence in my world. I hope that “sandbox” doesn’t mean slaughter and fast respawns. It doesn’t have to. But SOE and PvP has something of a checkered past to my mind. I hear it was good in Star Wars Galaxies at launch, but what have they done since?
So given all of that, what dare I wish for? What would I like to see come to pass with EQN?
I would like to see a a lot less emphasis on levels and content that goes obsolete when you out level it. We have had Band-Aids applied to that problem in the form of various mentoring and leveling down schemes, but they have all been unsatisfactory to my mind. Yes, you have to have some sort of progression and character advancement. That is part of what drives many of us in MMOs. But our addiction to levels has to stop. They start off great, but always betray us in the end. They are a dead end street.
I couldn’t tell you how to replace levels, or even de-emphasize them sufficiently, but I hope that SOE has come up with something.
I want long, multi-stage quests like the heritage quests in EverQuest II. I realize that WoW does similar things with long chains of quests, but the start and stop breaks the concentration for me. Heritage quests are long term commitments, things you do not get done in a day, and which often require a group a various stages. I want that again.
While we’re on quests, and as a nod to my gripe about levels, I also wouldn’t mind seeing quests get out of the experience delivery business. They ought to reward items or equipment.
I want live, open world group content. I do not want to be able to solo every mob in the world. I do not want to have to go into an instance for every group experience.
And while we’re at it, I do not want to get punished for grouping. EverQuest had this about right. WoW did not. EQII started down the right path and then screwed up open world grouping completely. Trying to run our instance group through New Halas was an exercise in frustration because the whole thing expected you to solo.
I want my weapon choice to mean something. If I choose a sword over a dagger or an axe, I want that to mean I gain some benefit at the cost of something else. The damage per second calculation should not be my only factor in weapon choice. Lord of the Rings Online tried this, but I do not think they went far enough.
I want weapon skills back. I do not think I should spend ages swinging a sword and then suddenly pick up a spear and find myself equally adapt.
I would like to see crafting materials handled more in line with how EVE Online does things (sorry, internet spaceship reference again), where the materials do not change every ten levels. I want to be done with this sort of thing.
I want some staples that are in high demand and which anybody can harvest. And these should be good for making basic things. Then I want some rare items to mix in that can be used to create special things. And when I say rare, I mean rare. Special things should be special.
I want crafting to be a bit more… I don’t know… organic? Is that the word I want? Organic to the game as opposed to being something of a side effort where you make 38 blue silk hoods to level up your tailoring skill and then just vendor them because nobody wants them because the auction house is full of them being sold at under cost.
Speaking of the auction house, if you give me buy orders as part of things, you will probably exceed all my expectations. My view of such things is pretty low in the fantasy MMORPG realm.
And… and… and… well… a lot of things. I could ramble on ad nauseum about the minute and trivial. Basically SOE, make this all fit together with UI conventions that make sense. And what Keen said about stories. Mostly. You can tell me stories. You can make me part of stories. But just remember that my own stories about what happened to me and my friends, those are the ones that really matter.
So I am waiting to hear what Smed has to say. I realize that there are going to be compromises. They have a business to run and we live in the world of free to play where fantasy MMORPGs are over abundant. And I am going to hate some of the things he says this week. You watch. I know it will be true.
But I will be happy if I hear something new or different or exciting. It doesn’t have to be from my alternately vague and oddly specific and somewhat emotional list above. SOE is full of smart people. Hell, SOE has brought back some people who made EverQuest lately. They get it. They played TorilMUD and decided to bring that sort of experience into a 3D world. Find some of that essence for me. Combine the mundane into something beyond the sum of its parts, into something magical.
Make me believe again.
Is that too much to ask?
I will be watching EQ Next Wire for news about the game.
How about you? What do you want to see?
Decisions and Inventory Management July 8, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, MMO Design, TorilMUD, World of Warcraft.
Tags: A lot of words, No Real Point
Why doesn't every MMO have a "sell all trash" button… first thing I notice when I play one that doesn't. Bag management is not fun ever.—
Belghast (@belghast) June 27, 2013
I must agree. I love that button. I feel that pain all the more because I am playing Lord of the Rings Online at the moment, which makes vendoring items about twice as annoying as most other MMO I have experienced. Meanwhile, Rift has put that button in the cash shop, so you can rid yourself of vendor trash wherever you may be.
Well… at least I agree at that instant, gut reaction, convenience level. Long live the button!
Hell, as one person responded to that tweet, why have gray items at all? If you want to reward players, just drop coin and be done with it.
But then I start thinking about how we got there in the first place, which seems to me to be a convergence of a couple of things.
First there is the reality of currency and the fact that wild animals rarely ever carry any at all. If you want to give your players a currency reward for every kill, then you have to do it indirectly with item drops or explain why your wildlife feels the need to have coinage on them at all times… and how they carry it.
Granted, these sorts of drops do not necessarily have to be vendor trash. LOTRO has turned those gray remains into quest items that generate a little experience and a small boost with the local faction, though in the end I still vendor them most of the time because I usually need cash more than faction.
I will call that the lesser reason for gray drops. It could be worked around it in all sorts of ways if you set your mind to it.
Then there is what I think of as the greater reason, which is essentially to drive us crazy.
Well, not explicitly. That is just a side effect for some.
It really is/was a way to put constraints around the game to force us to make choices rather than simply having things our own way. This aspect has some deep roots.
Much meandering on that after the cut.
Quote of the Day – Defining a Successful MMO May 31, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, World of Warcraft.
Tags: inflammetory, Quote of the Day, Strauss Zelnick
“How many MMOs have been successful in the U.S.? Two. World of Warcraft and EverQuest. Kind of a bad slugging percentage.”
Take-Two Interactive chairman Strauss Zelnick, arguing that MMOs don’t work in the West
I am not sure what measure of success you would be using if you declared that the only two successful MMOs ever in the U.S. were EverQuest and World of Warcraft.
I guess if you don’t wildly exceed your initial expectations, you have failed.
Charting the Relative Natures of MMO Economies May 28, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Guild Wars 2, Lord of the Rings Online, TorilMUD, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Charts and Graphs, I could make a little list, MMO Economy
I think that by this point in time, some fifteen years down the road from the launch of Ultima Online, having a player economy is one of the hallmarks of games I consider to be MMOs, at least when I use the term.
If there is no player to player economy, then the game is something else to my mind. World of Tanks, not an MMO in my book. EverQuest certainly is.
And desire for a player driven economy stems from the deep in the roots of the genre.
In 1993 I was playing TorilMUD, arguably the precursor of EverQuest, which was very much a gear driven game. Despite there being no mechanism at all to handle or encourage a player economy, one spontaneously appeared. The desire to exchange gear for trade or coin, the need to create an economy, was so strong that an unofficial one was started and developed its own rules and customs. And it became popular enough that there were standard prices for certain items. We would sit around in Waterdeep and people would do shout auctions for items, which you would bid on with a direct tell to the seller. And it you were looking for something, you would shout out a “want to buy” or WTB.
The economy become very popular very quickly, to the point that the people running TorilMUD were not quite sure what to do with it. First they tried to contain the amount of spam it caused in town, putting a limit on the number of yells you could do over a given period of time and then by trying to get us to do this in a single room rather than shouting across a whole zone. Eventually, an auction house was implemented, though the devs put the auctioneer in out of the way places, as I think they were still suspicious of the player driven economy.
This suspicion came, in part, from the fact that the player driven economy pointed out flaws in the game. With little to spend the in-game currency on besides items from other players, some people began to amass huge quantities of cash. This, of course, drove up the price of everything in the player economy because the long term players could afford to drop a lot of coins on things they wanted for themselves or alts.
But the whole sinks and faucets and inflation aspect of the currency is another discussion.
Likewise, when EverQuest launched, there were no tools to drive a player economy. It formed around the Commonlands tunnel where people would go to buy and sell, very much in the model of TorilMUD. This popped up again for a bit on the progression servers, at least until the bazaar showed up.
I was thinking about all of this and trying to fit MMO player economies into a two dimensional system for comparison.
What I came up with was how much of a requirement the player economy was to play the game and how much friction there was to engaging in the player economy.
The first seems pretty reasonable to gauge. Can you play the game, or can you get very far in the game, without engaging in the player economy. For example, in EVE Online, you have to use the player economy to play the game. You could, I suppose, try to avoid it. In fact, it might be an interesting experiment to see what you could do without it. But I imagine that it would be a long, slow grind to completely avoid the market and it would limit what you could accomplish.
Most other MMOs make the player economy somewhat optional, and have moved more in that direction over time. The combination of quest rewards and game difficulty have moved in the direction of keeping players independent of the player economy.
Friction, on the other hand, encompasses a whole range of things, such as:
- How easy is it to access the market?
- How easy is it to buy and take delivery?
- How good is the UI?
- How high are the fees/taxes on transactions?
- How stable is pricing?
- Do enough people use the economy to make it viable?
And it is with this that you start to get all over the map. For example, Guild Wars 2 and EVE Online are oddly similar in how easy it is to view the market. You can bring it up in the UI wherever you are. On the other hand, while GW2 shows you everything on the market in the game, EVE limits you to your current region.
Anyway, in order to compare these, I made a little graph and put down where I thought certain games might sit on those two continuum. This is what I ended up with.
The X axis is friction, and the mixed bag of items that represents. The Y axis is how much of a requirement it is to engage in the player driven economy. For a few games I made entries for past states of the game and how they seem currently.
EVE Online is, of course, the game furthest down the required end of the spectrum. I also put it midway along the high end of the friction scale. On the one hand the market is chopped up by regions, there is no delivery so you have to go get the item from the station in which it was listed, this leads to interesting price differentials based on convenience, there is a double tax/fee system, and then there is the whole contracts economy to confuse the issue. And pity the poor capsuleer in the middle of nowhere in need of something.
Mitigating that friction is that if you go to the right system, usually Jita, you can find what you want to buy, and there are so many buyers and sellers competing that there is price stability.
At the other end of things is Guild Wars 2, where you can list to sell anywhere and just have to find the right NPC to pick up items you have purchased and proceeds from sales. The friction is so low that low that lots of people engage in the economy, so commodities for crafting and the like are readily available at reasonable prices. How much a player is really required to participate is a wild guess on my part. Gear provided by your personal quest line seemed good if you kept up, but I have no idea if that carries on through the game.
In the middle, well, a few other games. I ranked LOTRO‘s friction higher than most because of the low participation and the annoying locations and mediocre UI of the auctioneers. On the other hand, you don’t really need it, and doubly so since Turbine started selling very good armor in the cash shop.
EverQuest II was high friction at launch in some ways… you had to be online to sell, sales were restricted to the storage space of your home (which you had to have to sell), and fees pushed players to go visit players directly in their homes. And, if you were crafting at the time, there was the interdependence of the crafting skills that required you to use the market or use up your four character slots to make crafting alts. On the other hand, when you buy something on the broker in EQII, it appears right in your inventory. A lot of that got smoothed out over time, but dependence on the broker went with a lot of that.
EverQuest started at high friction, you had to be online and see the right person on the auction channel selling something you wanted. Later the Bazaar came and you could get a listing, but sellers had to be online, in the Bazaar, and you had to go find them. Finally, things got to offline selling in the more recent expansions, though I think you still have to show up at the Bazaar.
I ranked TorilMUD even higher on friction, if only because the player base was so much smaller. When your player population is a few hundred, and only 256 can be on at a time, your buying and selling options are pretty limited.
And in the middle there is World of Warcraft, which used to have a segmented market, but which has since been unified. The UI for it has gotten better over time, and the addons for playing the auction house have grown more sophisticated, but the need for the auction house has diminished over time as quest rewards in the form of gear have become more regular and standardized through the leveling process.
So there is my chart. It is pretty much a gut-level, unsubstantiated work at this point. Where do you think I am right and where am I clearly wrong? And where would other games fit on the chart?
And, of course, where do you think MMOs should sit on that chart? What would be ideal, if anything?
Dangerous Travel May 24, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment, EverQuest, TorilMUD, World of Warcraft.
Travel is always a hot button issue. Long have been the debates between convenience and seeing, or making people see, the world. What is a waste of time and what builds character and all that.
And opinion has changed on it over time.
For example, in WoW, you used to have to go and find flight points on foot (or on a mount) before you could use them.
Later, Blizzard decided to open up any flight point at your level or below without having to visit them.
Then, more recently, Blizz changed their mind and now you have to go find them again.
Clearly not a settled issue.
But what about the more dangerous methods of travel? What about stuff that can get you killed?
A friend of mine who is back playing WoW sent me a pic of his new favorite toy in the game, the Last Relic of Argus.
It will send you to one of a list of locations. His first try sent him to the bottom of the Golakka Hot Springs in Un’Goro Crater. He set it off and walked away from the computer, only to find himself drowning upon his return. Always good for a laugh.
That reminded me of the engineering device from the Wrath of the Lich King era, the Northrend Wormhole Generator that would put you in some pretty odd places when it was working right. And when it wasn’t, you would end up high in the sky and hoping you remembered to attached the flexweave underlay to your cloak so you could deploy it as a parachute.
And then we moved on to the old days of TorilMUD and the spell planeshift.
Some of them were clearly dangerous locations. The astral plane was always good for a wipe. Somebody might wander into the wrong room and elicit this zone wide shout indicating things have gone horribly wrong.
Juiblex shouts ‘You will pay for attacking me mortal worms! Denizens of Darkness, Come and Feast upon Thanti!
And the plane of Fire could also be bad news. Just for openers it was, as the name implies, on fire. You needed a powerful fire protection object just to survive long enough to worry about who lived there. And even if you did have such an item, the dread Moritheil might get you killed before you got back to the City of Brass or other destinations.
Other planes were more benign. There was a plane of smoke where nothing was aggro. You needed protection from gas to stay there for long, and you had to be flying to move around. But it wasn’t a big deal.
The ironic twist in the whole planeshift spell was that the most dangerous place to shift to was the prime material plane, which was basically the world where we all were most of the time anyway.
The thing was that, while shifting to the other planes was sort of random, there were limited locations that allowed it, and none were at the big mobs that I recall, shifting to prime could stick you in any room that allowed teleport. And there were a lot of dangerous rooms which fit that bill.
At one point, when I was last “done” with the game, I used to take my level 50 druid and play what I called “the corpse game.”
I would pile on a bunch of coins and maybe some good gear and then planeshift between smoke and prime until I landed in a room with something I couldn’t solo and died. Then people would have to find my corpse in order to claim the loot.
I think the most times it took me to die was 10 shifts to prime, which given the number of possible rooms, says something. And I did it enough times to fall back to level 47, losing a quarter of a level of exp with each death.
So what other dangerous travel methods or devices have there been in MMOs?