Daily Archives: April 23, 2007

Soloing – More Than A Requirement

Solo content  is an old argument.  Should a massively multiplayer online game should bother catering to the solo player? 

I thought that the argument had been settled some time back, but then games like Dungeons and Dragons Online release without any solo content and you wonder if anybody has been paying attention.  (Turbine added solo content later, but probably after it was too late to make the game a success.)

So I was glad to see a couple of people pipe in on the subject of solo content lately.

A little over a week back EverQuest II Executive Producer Scott Hartsman was quoted in an interview on WarCry on the topic of solo content.  “Primarily, there needs to be something to do when you?re all by yourself,” he explained.

Last week over on Nerfbat, MMO Development Lesson #12 was that solo content has to be an integral and fulfilling part of any MMO.

As somebody whose in-game time is 80% solo, I agree heartily.  I want to have something to do in-game when my friends are not available.  Being able to solo is one of the things that keeps me playing a game.  Not being able to solo, at least not without great difficulty, was one of the reasons I stopped playing EverQuest.

But there is another aspect to having solo content, something beyond giving you something to do when your friends are not around.

I find that playing solo is really how I get to know a game.  Being able to run off the main path and explore, seeing what is beyond a random hill, interacting with a variety of NPCs, crafting, and experimenting with your characters skills and abilities are just some of the activities that lend themselves to time alone.  These are things you want to do at your own pace.  These are also things that bring you closer to a game, that help you become familiar with the world.

For me to really get into a game, I have to be able to spend a lot of time just poking my nose into things and figuring things out. 

Not that I am down on grouping in any way.  I wish I could find more time to group up and play with my friends.  But a group tends to be mission oriented.  You have limited time together and you want to get things done that you might not be able to manage solo.  That does not lend itself to voyages of exploration. 

When I am grouped up, I want to do things with the group.  Sometimes that can be exploration and learning, but it has a different feel to it. In the end I hate wasting a group’s time to indulge my own curiosity. 

But if a game gives me the ability and provides me the opportunity to solo I am much more likely to feel a part of the game and end up playing (and paying for) that game for a long time.

Wanted: MMO Rosetta Stone

Here is an idea for an MMO web site if you are looking for a niche.  In playing several MMOs over the last year and having dragged a couple of friends from one MMO to another, I have wished for the equivalent of a Rosetta Stone for MMO knowledge.

This wish will probably become more universal with the upcoming release of Lord of the Rings Online.  LOTRO, while it sticks with many of the common MMO conventions, renamed nearly everything in an effort to meld the MMO standards into the Tolkien world.

In my vision, this site would be a comparison of the mechanics and terminology for playing different MMOs.  A few of the common topics that ought to be covered include:

Equipment

Most equipment in WoW is bind on equip or bind on pick up.  In EQ2 most equipment attuned, which is similar to bind on equip, but has a manual step (right click to attune) that somebody coming from WoW might not guess.  EvE has, to my knowledge, no such mechanism.

And then there is the “how good is this” aspect.  If it is “Rare” in WoW, is that as good as “Mastercrafted” in EQ2?  I suppose you won’t me able to line quality tiers up exactly, but it would be nice to have them list out next to each other.

Weight

Does stuff have weight in the game?  I mailed a few bank boxes to a friend who joined up on EQ2.  She put them in her bags and then could not figure out why she was suddenly moving so slowly.  She, of course, came from WoW, where nothing has weight.

Screen Shots

In WoW, Alt-Z turns off the UI and Print Scrn takes a screen shot in a raw format by default.  In EQ2, F10 turns off the UI, Print Scrn takes a screen shot in JPEG format by default, but you can adjust the compression or change to a raw format.

Time

WoW uses real time, but the time zone is based on the server on which you play.  EvE uses real time, but it is GMT.  EQ and EQ2 have their own time scale which is, if I recall right, on the order of one real time minute is one game time hour.

Currency

WoW has copper, silver, and gold, with the ratio of 100 = 10 = 1.  EvE just has ISK, and it frequently comes in 7 digit amounts.  EQ has copper, silver, gold, platinum with the ratio of 1000 = 100 = 10 = 1, but EQ2 has the same coins with the ratio of 1000000 = 10000 = 100  = 1, a ratio I did not notice for some time after I started playing.

Communication

Standard channels, how to speak on them, how to create your own channels, how to send messages directly to people, and how to use the mail system, if there is one, in game.

Other Items

A lot of basic game mechanics vary at least slightly from game to game.  The site should cover things like, how to form a group, how to create a guild, what guilds are called and if they even exist in some games, how to form a raid, and so on.

So that is my idea, you are welcome to it.  I suppose it could be done as a Wiki, though my own experience with Wikis are primarily with the internal ones at my company, where people seem to believe that “Wiki” is the Hawaiian word for “spastically disorganized,” so I am somewhat down on them at the moment. 

If somebody has already done such a site, point me at it!  If you want to do the site, I’ll be happy to contribute.  I just know that I will never get around to doing it myself.