Daily Archives: December 5, 2006

Would You Buy A Game From This Man?

Off my usual topics, but this involves a Usenet anti-legend. Not somebody who made the A-List like Serdar Argic (I still have a Joel Furr Zumbabot T-shirt) or Robert E. McElwaine (UN-altered REPRODUCTION and DISSEMINATION of this IMPORTANT Information is ENCOURAGED), but somebody who made their own small mark on Usenet back when I had the patience to read Usenet.

That man is Derek Smart.

I saw an artcile on Ars Technica today about him. He and his company, 3000AD, are back with a new game. And it is even going to be available on the Xbox 360.

Those who know the man and his reputation, who waded through his posts, or who, heaven help us, actually paid money for Battlecruiser 3000AD, are probably even now groaning in anticipation.

There is an interview with him up on Firing Squad where he shows his usual aplomb. Nobody ever denied he has confidence in himself and his work. Having read much of his writing, the most charitable thing I can say is that he has a vision. His ability to execute on it is another story.

One item to note, which does get us back to the MMO topic, is the mention at the end of the interview of Universal Combat Online, 3000AD’s upcoming space based entry into the MMO world. Look out EVE-Online! I expect to hear reports about this game on VirginWorlds any episode now! I want Gary and Ryan at Massively Online Gamer to be in the beta! This is the MMO that could make us all forget about the “fairly smooth” launch of Dark & Light.

Look for it in 2008.

(This post is the product of a serious Usenet flashback. Your mileage may vary.)

Five Features Blizzard Should Steal From EverQuest II

There have been discussions of how much EverQuest II has borrowed from World of Warcraft since launch.  Vitality (double exp after resting), icons over quest giver’s heads, and quest NPCs appearing on your map all spring to mind.  (Though EQ2 did WoW one better and shows one icon (a solid orange dot) on your map for NPCs to whom you need to report and another icon (a hollow orange dot) for NPCs who have quests available for you.)

But what about the other way around?  I only started playing WoW a year ago, so I do not know what Blizzard might have borrowed in the past, but since I have started playing I have not noticed anything.  There are, however, some things I wish they would borrow.

Guild Features

Right now in WoW, guilds are a chat channel and a title over your head.  Yes, you can make more out of your guild if you want do it yourself.  You can make up your own structure and go nuts.  But my experience in EQ2 has been that the fact that you can do things to level a guild up, which in turn unlocks special things, is a unifying force for a guild.  It lets even the people who aren’t able to get on and play very much contribute to the guild in some way.  It added, for me, an additional dimension to being in a guild that was a lot of fun.

Blizzard may not want to go the status route, but they could build their own point system easily enough.  They could add some solo faction quests that gave a few points as well as making things like the completion of raids or the slaying of instance bosses worth points as well.  For PvP guilds, you could give points for honorable kills and victories in the battlegrounds. 

What should they hand out for guild levels?  They can swipe that from EQ2 as well.  A guild bank, with more slots at various levels.  Unique mounts.  Discounts on items.  Titles.  The people at Blizzard are creative.  They could come up with dozens more.

The usual grouse about the guild features is that it favors larger guilds.  Yes, this is true, but it also helps build cohesion in those larger guilds, and in a big guild that can help a lot.  People become invested in the guild and they are less likely to jump ship. 

And even smaller guilds are not left out.  Shades of Twilight, the Crushbone guild in which some friends and I keep our alts, is level 28, mostly on the work of three people.  That is enough to get a useful amount of guild bank slots and access to reduced price mounts.

Action Key

Here is one I want desperately.  In EQ2, if I put the cursor over an item and hit ‘F’ it acts like a mouse click.  Maybe I have click-phobia after wrecking a trackball playing Diablo II earlier in the decade, but I love this feature.  I put the cursor in a central location on the screen and keep my hands off the mouse for long stretches.  I harvest, open doors, select things, everything you do with a mouse click via the keyboard. (With a little maneuvering to place the cursor.)  This might also cure my annoyance at not having the “H for Hail” key if it allowed me to start interacting with NPCs without reaching for the mouse. 

NPC Finding

In towns in EQ2 you can go up to a guard and one of the interaction options you have is “Find NPC.”  You put in the NPC’s first name, or even part of their name, and the game puts an “X” on your map where that NPC is.  Just often enough I am in Darnassus looking for an NPC and I have no clue where to begin.  I just do not know the city, so I end up just running around until I get that dot on my mini-map.  I want to be able to ask a guard for directions.  The guard will already tell me where some general things are (a feature which EQ2 should copy!) but for a specific NPC you are on your own.

Mentoring

This is a pet peeve item for me, but I will try to give some reasons beyond my hating to have level 60s stomp all over my quests as they power level their buddies.

The first step for this would be to put in a cap on how many levels another player in your group can be for you to still get experience and quest credit.  The EQ2 formula is your level divided by three, with the minimum number as 8.  So you at any level you can always group with a player who is 8 levels above you.  After level 24 this number starts to climb.  At level 36 you can group with anybody 12 levels above you, since 36 divided by 3 is 12.  I remember being very happy when I hit level 38 with my first character in pre-expansion EverQuest II because at that point I could group with anybody up to level 50, the level cap at the time.

Then you need the mentoring mechanism.  Sony screwed around with this for quite a while, but they appear to have perfected it while I was away.    When you mentor a player, all of your current equipment and skills just scale down to the right level.  No changes are required anymore, you are ready to go the second you mentor.

So why bother mentoring?  If you have a friend that joins the game you can play with them, at their level.  Furthermore, in the EQ2 model, when you mentor somebody, they get a boost in exp, while you take a bit of a hit, but you still get exp that goes to you.  So you are actually helping your friend along by mentoring.  You do not have to start a new alt every time a pal shows up and you want to play with them.

Add in the fact that you can go back and play through content you may have missed at the appropriate level and this seems like a winner to me.

At least it is a winner in my eyes compared to being dragged around by a level 60.  But I like to play the game, not play through the game.

EQ2 Players

I love EQ2 Players.com.  I love getting all those stats about my character.  I love knowing how many quests they have done, how many NPCs they have slain, and all of the other information you can get on your own characters.  And not just your own characters!  I love knowing who has done the most quests on my server and world wide.  Or who has done the most damage with a single melee or magical hit.  I am into it.  And while I grumble a little that I have to pay a bit more monthly to get all of the information (you get some basic personal and guild info for free), I still do it.  It costs less that anything at Starbuck’s.

I also love that having this information available on a web page enables people to create things that use the info.  People embed their information in their own web pages.  There is eqsig.com that will embed up to date information in a .sig file.  There have been sites build to help you find people on your server with the right trade skill.  Data is good! (Except that bit that shows how many hours I have played… I have to hide that from my spouse.  My explaining that I left my account logged in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week back when you had to be online to sell isn’t going to help.)

So we have data that the community wants and that the community can use and you can charge a bit extra for it.  Sounds like a winner to me!

Other Ideas

When I started on this idea last night, I had one thing (the action key) I wanted and a title.  I figured that five was the minimum number I should write about for no really good reason.  I was just worried that I could not come up with five.  Eventually I came up with ten, then pared back the goofy ones (the hairdresser NPC is nice I suppose, I nearly went with that, but my other key command annoyances are all pretty trivial) and ended up with those you see above.

But this is a good time for comments.  What else could Blizzard learn from EverQuest II?  Or what have I missed in my own suggestions?