Bosses and Gimmicks and Nostalgia January 15, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, Rift, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Ultima Online
Last week’s post about the instance group covered our first attempt at the Exodus of the Storm Queen instance in Rift. The title of the post was A Journey of One Hundred Deaths, which alluded rather accurately to how many times individuals in the group died in total. There were five of us, so 100 deaths works out to about 20 for each of us.
Sounds like we did not do very well, doesn’t it?
We didn’t bring down the final boss, that is true. But I would estimate that more than half of our deaths happened before that point.
What happened was that each of the four bosses in the instance had their own special behavior… their own gimmick… which we stubbornly insisted on learning on our own. We have a general rule about giving a boss at least three runs before we turn to the web.
That can cost you in wipes. On the other hand, we are there to play the game, not to win the game as fast as possible. There is a balance to be achieved between making some progress and being engaged with the game. Getting to either the “no progress” or “no engagement” ends of the spectrum means we lose.
The post lead to a Bhagpuss mini-rant about gimmicks and expectations, which I will quote in part:
That’s all I ever wanted. My character has spells/skills. The NPC has spells/skills. I use mine as I see fit, he uses his according to his AI. To counter my ability to improvise he gets a much bigger HP/Mana pool.
And I am sympathetic to what he is saying.
Like many old hands at the MMORPG thing, I do recall with fondness some simpler times. SynCaine has a piece on simple elegance of combat in Ultima Online. I have raged against talent trees and and the proliferation of skills in games like EverQuest II and Rift.
At times I do pine for the way things were in the days of MUDs or early EverQuest where you took a class that got a pretty limited set of skills and spells by today’s standards, and you played it in the role it was designed to play. If you were a cleric, you were going to heal. If you were an enchanter you were going to crowd control. If you were a warrior you were going to tank and damage. And if you were a ranger you were going to sit around in town hoping for a desperate group while cursing the fact that you didn’t make a druid instead.
Now a days, if I tell people I am a cleric in Rift, it doesn’t tell them anything about what I do at all.
Of course, the flip side of Bhagpuss’s rantage is that 99% of the mobs in Rift and just about every other fantasy MMORPG behave just as he describes. They are just a stand up fights, no tricks, no gimmicks, which the player probably wins more than 90% of the time.
Plus, the whole five player dungeon routine is something you have to actively seek as opposed to something being forced upon the player base.
And while the stand up boss fight is the exception as opposed to the rule these days, you do still run into them. They get labeled as “simple tank and spank” and generally pose no issue to any group that is within the range and equipment parameters of the dungeon.
And that is the problem, really. They offer little or no challenge, unless your group isn’t up to par. I actually think that the first boss in every instance ought to be a hit point heavy tank and spank that tests the group’s ability to perform their basic roles, if only to act as a “you must be this powerful to hope for success in this dungeon” gate.
Fight gimmicks are in boss fights to make things interesting, to change things up, and to keep things from getting boring. And such things have been in for a long time. Dragons back in the MUD days always had special attacks and breath weapons had special effects. I recall one that would cause your bag to be destroyed if you did not have protection from cold on you. There would go all your extra gear and loot!
Granted, the gimmicks in boss fights used to be less subtle at times, and I am not sure I want instance level bosses to start becoming like the elaborate dance routines that raid level boss fights have evolved into.
But in some ways, the gimmick is part of the fun of facing a new boss.
There is a reason, beyond simple pride, that our group doesn’t look up boss fights in advance. Figuring things out is part of the experience. We do have our limits. We are not as young or as talented or as patient as we used to be I suppose. So after a few tries we start looking for hints or help online. But it is always satisfying when we figure out the gimmick successfully.
I think, in the end, a boss fight… or at least the final boss fight… in any instance is defined by the gimmicks and surprises it brings. And if the gimmick doesn’t pan out… it can be a bit of a let down. I remember our last boss fight in Wrath of the Lich King against King Ymiron. After our struggles, it seemed like a bit of a let down that we were able to simply pile on and take him down.
So I think I am pro-boss gimmicks. They can make boss fights stand out, though I recognize that they can also turn a fight into a rote learning experience as well. There is a line there somewhere.
And let’s face it, boss fights with gimmicks have been around at least since Mario started facing off against Bowser.
What do you think?
Boss fight gimmicks, good or bad or somewhere in between?
Complex Gaming Declares EVE Online Best PC Game of All Time November 9, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Torchlight II, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Lists, Ultima Online
Complex Gaming has a list, and we all love lists! Well, I love lists.
This list is a list of their Top 50 Best PC Games of All Time.
And their top pick on the list is EVE Online.
I cannot imagine that will cause any controversy.
Actually, the whole list is pretty controversial to me and seems pretty heavily weighted towards more recent games. I would argue about whether Civilization V should be on the list relative to past versions. (I prefer Civ II still, and I know there are Civ IV partisans out there.) And should both Torchlight AND Torchlight II make the list? And both StarCraft AND StarCraft II? Really?
On the MMORPG front, Ultima Online, World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, Star Wars the Old Republic and, of course, EVE Online make the cut. No EverQuest and no Guild Wars 2 though.
And LEGO Star Wars III but not LEGO Star Wars – The Original Trilogy? Heresy!
Ah well, such lists are pretty much designed to stir up controversy. How do you pick 10, 20, or even 50 “bests” out of such a huge body of work without leaving something out?
Maybe I should work on my own list.
Mists of Pandaria Launches Today September 25, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Mists of Pandaria, Ultima Online
Nearly eight years after launching World of Warcraft, Blizzard today shipped the fourth expansion to its mega money making MMO, Mists of Pandaria. As is the case with any Blizzard product release, there were midnight launch events all over.
I do wonder if, in the age of digital distribution, how long retailers will be willing to expand their hours for something that seems to be moving away from brick and mortar.
Mists of Pandaria continues the pattern set previously of WoW expansions coming out about every two years.
- WoW Launch to The Burning Crusade – 784 days
- The Burning Crusade to Wrath of the Lich King – 667 days
- Wrath of the Lich King to Cataclysm – 754 days
- Cataclysm to Mists of Pandaria – 658 days
Making the average time between releases just shy of 716 days.
I strongly suspect that Blizzard’s ability to get away with an expansion every two years with, at times, a seeming modest investment in additional content in between, while continuing to grow until recently, was a big influence on SOE who, up to that point, seemed to feel that cranking out an expansion every six months, finished or not, was necessary to stay afloat. They have flailed about significantly less in the last few years.
Mists of Pandaria will likely stem the tide of subscription losses for now. WoW has gone from over 12 million subscribers just after the launch of Cataclysm to 9.1 million at the last quarterly report. We will know in a year or so if Pandas are a magic elixir or just a plateau on the way down. Mike Morhaime wisely declined to make predictions on that topic.
Unlike past WoW expansions, I will not be picking up Mists of Pandaria today. Our regular group grew bored of Cataclysm and moved on to other games. We are currently playing Rift.
But a lot of people have been waiting for this day. How about you?
Oh, and Ultima Online turned 15 today. Imagine that. [Link fixed]
Lord British is Talking to the Press, Not EA, About His Ultimate RPG December 15, 2011Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment.
Tags: EA, Lord British, Portalarium, Ultima Online
“I’m not sure what Richard Garriott is referring to. But no one at EA is discussing partnership or licensing opportunities related to the Ultima Online franchise…”
Jeff Brown, EA’s head of corporate communications, Industry Gamers interview
Just to keep all the Lord British Ultimate RPG story in one place, here we go with an update.
I saw over at Massively that EA was saying they hadn’t heard a thing from Lord British about the Ultima Franchise and his Ultimate RPG. This despite EuroGamer having quoted Richard Garriott de Cayeux saying
“We’ve actually talked to Electronic Arts about [Garriott leading Ultima Online again]. I would love to have access to the Ultima property. We’ve had discussions at very high levels with Electronic Arts about access to the property.”
Since the EA denial story broke, a spokesperson for Garriott de Cayeux offered this clarification:
“Richard is not CURRENTLY having conversations at high levels with Electronic Arts regarding the Ultima franchise. He never said that he is. I can assure you, however, that those conversations have taken place in the past.”
He added, “What is taking place right now are conversations with EA as well as other companies regarding potential partnerships/distribution deals involving our other products including Ultimate Collector and our Casino games, Port Casino Poker and Port Casino Blackjack. These are normal and expected communications taking place as we move closer to launching Utlimate Collector sometime after the first of the year.”
So we just have Lord British out there attempting to woo EA in the press by expressing his “great fondness” for the gaming giant… and then the next day complaining that their sports-game mind set ruined Ultima VIII… all without actually broaching the subject directly with EA.
As to how we got to this state of affairs, it is hard to tell.
Visionary people often project what they plan to do into sounding like it has been done already or connect unrelated things to sound like a single narrative. I’ve lived that routine a few times. This might just be Lord British in space… again.
And then there is the editorial reputation of EuroGamer. They have certainly gotten confused by gaming honcho statements before. Remember when they said that PlanetSide 2 would SHIP in Q1/Q2 of 2011? Yeah, they’re good like that some times.
Anyway, this seems to be Lord British month. Stay tuned for updates.
Lord British: About Tabula Rasa… and Ultima 8… December 13, 2011Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment.
Tags: Lord British, Portalarium, Tabula Rasa, Ultima Online
“since Ultima Online was a fair time back and Tabula Rasa had its troubles, it makes perfect sense that people would go, ‘I’m cautious as to what my expectations are.’”
Dr. Richard A. Garriott de Cayeux, EuroGamer Interview III – Exodus
I swear, I thought he was done. He sounded done. He probably should have been done. But apparently he was not done, and I’m on the Ultimate RPG train, so I am going to stick with it!
Anyway, Lord British takes full blame for both games not being up to par. Sort of.
“Too bad, spilt milk,” he rued, “I get the blame – I get the appropriate blame, I’m the top of the food chain. It was my decisions. But that’s my excuse or rationalisation.”
And then he does go on to rationalize… or rationalise.
Essentially, it was the same problem in both cases, being forced to ship before they were done.
With Ultima VIII, the big problem was, in his view, the sports-game-centric mentality of EA, which insisted that they ship the game when they said they were going to ship. This lead to a giant miss in the market according to Lord British.
…if we’d really just finished it properly – even the movement, the jumping that was in the game – had we done it less hacked and more accurately, we would have had a Diablo-style success a year or so before Diablo.
There but for the EA mindset, they could have beat Blizzard and their hugely successful Diablo to the punch. I wonder if Rob Pardo is going to publicly scold him now for ceding the hack and slash RPG to Blizzard ala something Lord British said recently.
Missed opportunities though? Was Ultima VIII really a potential competitor to Diablo? I never made it to Ultima VIII, so I couldn’t tell you, but it seems unlikely to me.
And then there was the tale of NCsoft and Tabula Rasa. According to Lord British, the team blew the first two years of work and had to start again from scratch, something about which NCsoft was not happy.
And whenever you start a game that is two years out of position, you’re basically already up a creek, if you know what I mean. Because what the company is not going to do is forgive the two years and forgive the millions of dollars that have already been spent. You basically are two years late and what’s taking you so long – let’s get the game out.
I’ve read more detailed insights into what transpired. To say NCsoft was impatient is a bit of a simplification. And from the outside it looked bad as well, what with Lord British in orbit while Arieki and Foreas burned. 15 months was all NCsoft could put up with before closing the game down. And, in an all time class move, they fired Lord British while he was in space. I wonder if that was a first. He should have that on his list of accomplishments.
All of this wraps up with another mention of Lord British’s goal of the Ultimate RPG, his company’s current venture, Ultimate Collector: Garage Sale, and the previously mentioned new development processes and dedication to modern platforms such as Facebook and mobile devices.
I guess he felt the need to clear the air on past issues… though Ultima VIII was shipped more than 17 years ago, so it might be time to just let go… and he did steer clear some of his past strange statements. He managed to stay pretty much on message while trying to explain away what went wrong with these two releases.
I’m just not sure that the end message (big bad companies made me do it) was all that helpful or if he needed to bring this up at all. I think he would have been better off if he had stopped at the previous interview and his professing great fondness for EA, an expression somewhat undone by this interview.
Lord British has a Great Fondness for EA December 12, 2011Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment.
Tags: EA, Lord British, Portalarium, Ultima Online, Ultimate RPG
“I have a great fondness for Electronic Arts – I still think they’re one of the best, most powerful and competent sales and marketing and distribution companies in the business.”
Dr. Richard A. Garriott de Cayeux at EuroGamer
You will note that he doesn’t say anywhere that interview that EA can make a decent game.
In yet another interview over at EuroGamer (is that the only gaming site that will talk to him lately, or does he just have a “great fondness” for them as well?), Garriott de Cayeux continues to pour out his man-love for Electronic Arts in the hope that they will work with him by letting him use the Ultima franchise for his Ultimate RPG.
And, well, I am already two posts into this story, so why not carry on quoting for truth I guess. I am sure that this will all seem worthwhile when I sum it up again in a year.
Unfortunately, according to Garriott de Cayeux, not everybody at EA is happy to see him.
“Electronic Arts is a big company,” he said. “There are some parts of the organisation that would love and embrace and clearly understand the logic of ‘wouldn’t it be great to work together on an Ultima’.
“And then there are other parts of the organisation who – I’m actually not sure where the resistance comes from, but it must be people who either have their own ideas about where the product should go, or have their own ideas about whether or nor I should be involved in it. And I don’t know where the counter-forces come from.
“So far we’ve not put a deal together, but of course, yeah, I would be very open to it.”
Ah well, life in the big leagues. I am going to guess that maybe EA thinks that they have some RPG muscle in their BioWare division.
Still, EA is not the critical ingredient in this project.
“What essentially makes an Ultima an Ultima is the principles of design,” Garriott explained. “And I’m very confident that when players sit down with this new world they will very quickly recognise that, whether or not we end up doing any deal with Electronic Arts.
“This is clearly the spiritual successor of the Ultima series,” he said.
I do have to admit that his message is a bit more focused of late after recently spending some time all over the map. I don’t know who reigned him in, but good job on that!
Anyway, the interview goes on speak of a Minecraft-like development process, getting the game into the hands of players as soon as possible, being platform agnostic, and allowing for both synchronous and asynchronous player interaction.
Now if they could just hook up an RSS feed on the Portalarium site so I would get notifications automatically, all would be right with the world.
The era of the Jesus feature is over December 11, 2011Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
Tags: Council of Stellar Management, Crucible, Star Wars Galaxies, Ultima Online
A Jesus feature, it emerged, is something that turns “4 loaves of bread into 50,000 new subscribers“. It’s the home run, the called shot into deep left field, the awesome idea that will solve all of CCP’s problems, carved in a stone tablet made of virgin Eyjafjallajökull lava and delivered from on high down to the adoring fish-factory devs.
Supertitans! Tech-IV! Jovians! Jovians in Tech-IV Supertitans! And they’re naked, and want your precious NEX store clothes and monocles!
You get the idea.
The quote in the title was attributed to Hilmar Pétursson, CEO of CCP, as part of his address to the latest session of the CSM.
According to the full post, the next couple of expansions will be more like Crucible, fixing and refining. It will be likely be 18 months before the next big “new feature” based expansion. While the minutes of the session are not out, that seemed to be the general gist of things. The Mittani seemed to only be tweeting about alcohol at the CSM, which I take as a sign that there was little drama.
Now, in the case of CCP and EVE Online, they kind of backed themselves into a corner. Their last set of “big” features, which came as part of Incarna, and they failed to draw many new people while alienating a lot of veterans.
But a lot of other companies take their shots at “Jesus features.” Free to play seems to be the big one these days. And it seems to work, for the most part, though it isn’t really a feature of the game, just a payment plan change.
Do MMOs just hit a point in time when the best thing to do is incremental changes and improvements? Where raising the level cap, adding a few more zones and dungeons, tacking on a new features, and maybe tossing in a new race or class is all they can safely do?
When does the era of the “Jesus feature” end for most MMOs?
Tags: Lord British, Portalarium, Richard Garriott de Cayeux, Ultima Online
Lord British’s Ultimate Role Playing Game, which may be called “Akalabeth” or may be called “New Britannia” or may be called “a name I cannot yet say as it describes the setting I am considering and think I should keep secret at least until I know if it’s likely true,” will be an Ultimate RPG.
Dr. Richard A. Garriott de Cayeux on The Ultimate RPG
I don’t think we’re out of the woods quite yet when it comes to the Madness of Lord British, but at least we have some more details.
In an interview over at EuroGamer, Garriott de Cayeux gushes about Portalarium’s first non-casino related game, Ultimate Collector: Garage Sale, a Facebook game expected to be available some time in 2012 and which seems to be somewhat inspired by Garriott de Cayeux’s own collecting mania. The game boasts the following bullet points:
- A collecting and shopping social media game
- From hall of fame designer Richard Garriott
- Decorate your own house and show off your collections
- Shop and collect from garage sales, markets and auctions
- Go shopping in-game at nationally known retailers
- Playable on a PC and available on Facebook in first quarter of 2012
This, as with the previous casino games, is Portalarium’s way of financing the development of the technology they will need to create the Ultimate RPG. We will have to wait to see how it fares.
This all comes with a serious, professional upgrade to the Portalarium web site, including a new logo and motto.
And, thankfully, they removed that 20+ year old picture of Garriott de Cayeux. That was influencing how seriously anybody could take this venture.
The Ultimate RPG is still out in the distant future, but Garriott de Cayeux offers these inspirational words.
So when traditional gamers look at all the “Ville” clones out there in the world, take heart! See not what is popular now, but rather what is happening in this new era that also would benefit them! A great game, like a great movie, need not be inaccessible to the masses. Great story and depth need not come at the cost of up front effort, pain and cost. Free to play does not mean the game has to be riddled with advertising and calls to spam your friends.
But, for those unwilling or unable to pay fairly for what they now play, asking them to work for the developer and find us players is not unfair. Great games can and will be made in this new era, to the benefit of all, traditional and new players. We intend to be a leading maker of such games.
Dr. Richard A. Garriott de Cayeux, again on The Ultimate RPG
There, does that make everybody feel better?
So Where Exactly is This GDC Online Hall of Fame? October 13, 2011Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment, EverQuest.
Tags: Game Developers Choice Online Awards, GDC, GDC Online, Kesmai, Ultima Online
As far as I can tell, it is online. Which I suppose is appropriate. And it certainly makes it easier to visit.
I was wondering about that since a number of headlines have popped up about EverQuest being inducted into the Game Developers Choice Online Awards Hall of Fame.
Which is cool. Yay EverQuest and all that.
And, in each account I have read, it has been mentioned that EverQuest joins Ultima Online in the hall of fame.
And there they are.
The two of them.
Alone together in that virtual hall.
Because this is only the second year, and they only induct one game a year, so there are only the two games.
And for two games representing the world of online games, those two represent a somewhat narrow demographic in online gaming I would say; online, subscription based, fantasy MMORPGs released between 1997 and 1999 and still running today.
Not that I would deny either game belongs on the list, but when you are admitting one game a year into the hall of fame, “Get all the MMORPGs out of the way first” doesn’t seem like the best plan of action.
Ah well. They do also induct people into the hall of fame as well. Last year it was Richard Bartle, so I guess the committee figured they had MUD1 covered as well with that. Still kind of virtual world oriented there, but at least it is old school, text based stuff. Real history or whatever.
And this year there was a two-fer, with the induction of Kelton Flinn and John Taylor, co-founders of Kesmai back in the day, and both responsible for a few games which ought to be inducted into the hall of fame at some point, like MegaWars III, Air Warrior, and Island of Kesmai.
Along with the hall of fame, there are various yearly awards voted on and given out. Last year it was League of Legends that came out as the big winner, grabbing the top spot in most of the categories. In categories for which they were nominated, they only lost out to EVE Online for the “Best Live Game” category. (Categories with definitions are here.)
All in all, another set of awards. While I am sure they are all quite meaningful for the recipients (who does not like to be acknowledged for their work?) I do sometimes wonder what such awards really mean in the big picture. What impact does such an award have?
And, more importantly, which game and person do you think will (or should) be inducted into the hall of fame next year?