Leader

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More of the Old...Republic

So the Eve Online monster has gotten me again and I've been mindlessly plodding away earning isk for fun new projects, like my brand new line of self-made Mackinaws, buy yours today (Not actually available today).

Anyhow, I have been trying to keep up with our favorite new pet project of LucasArts: The Old Republic, and frankly not much news has been had. Sure there's been developers talking out their proverbial asses about features they'd like to have, and how they can't talk about The Old Republic because that's the first rule of The Old Republic.

So in short, I haven't missed anything by being locked away in space beyond the EDEN wormhole. That said, I've found that I have felt a disturbance in the force, as if millions had hope and were suddenly silenced. Reflecting on this thought, I realized that Bioware is to MMORPG's what that creepy old man who watches the little boys at the bus stop is to kindergarten...A predatory spirit that has no business trying to get inside their pants.

Let's face it, I worship the ground Bioware walks on, when it comes to RPG's (much like I would trust that old man's opinion on what adult diapers to wear if I needed such information), but when it comes to MMORPGs, Bioware is more ackward than the previous metaphor. It makes me uncomfortable knowing that the guy in charge of delivering this bundle of joy has never delivered a MMORPG baby before. I'd rather see it in the less than capable hands of Sony. Sure, they've dropped a few kids in their days, but we already know their malpractice attourney, and we will be sure to prebook a court date.

I'm not saying that Bioware will be totally incapable of making this MMORPG good, but there is a huge doubt in the back of my mind that they will be able to make this MMORPG good. I expect fully a rehash of KOTOR set in an MMORPG sphere. Given that the only reason KOTOR worked was because you could pause it to navigate the combat options, that doesn't seem promising for an MMORPG.

Now with that out of my system, I can return to another space MMORPG to soothe my weary soul after Star Wars Galaxies was held down by Sony and raped countless times while we, the fanbase, could only watch while waiting for the police to arrive. (Consequently, the "police" in the form of LucasArts proceeded to throw Sony off of SWG then flip it over and rape it harder).

-VG

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ten Ton Republic

After reading up a bit on a pair of Ten Ton Hammer interviews with the developers of SW: The Old Republic, I've come to a determination about this game...

It will be *worse* than SWG NGE. These developers have a lot of good ideas, but they are trying desperately to clone KOTOR and make it multiplayer, while jamming the game full of all the storylines and plot they couldn't jam into KOTOR 1 and 2. Don't get me wrong, they have a right to include content and story, in fact I encourage it, it's just that they seem to be very wistful of their earlier successes and aren't willing to let it go.

As to my earlier ideas of classes, I have revamped them. I now believe they are going to do a Star Wars d20 system similar to KOTOR. In that system, you can start as any character class and gain other classes if you want. So instead of being a Soldier and only a soldier, you can be a soldier and later a jedi, or (this is different than KOTOR) maybe become a soldier/scout mix. This is more of a Neverwinter Nights and Dungeons and Dragons idea, and if NWN taught us anything, multiplayer sucks when you can't take back bad choices in character levels.

Now, it's one thing to play as a warrior or something in WOW and realize you don't like the class and switch to another class. Usually this happens well before the character has had a huge time investment. The player can re-roll and be done with it. If there's a max level cap to The Old Republic, and you take a character level in a class that ends up being a horrible choice, your character is forever gimped. The only reason I see this as useful is to make jedi hybrids that do not start off as jedi (a la KOTOR). Even then, using a level-based system is infuriating to a SWG vet.

Consequently, I doubt we will see a return of the KOTOR D20 system with it's 20 max level. Most MMORPG's have at least fifty levels, with 60-80 being "normal." This game begs for some sort of skill system. Maybe a combination of SWG's old system and something like project entropia or Final Fantasy XI's weapon skill system. In that way, even if you unlearn professions and skills you retain the usefulness of those weapons.

For example, have character classes that provide things like tactics and specials (maybe even the ability to use specific weapons and armor without penalties). Then have a seperate system of skills tied to different kinds of weapons and armor, as well as those fun things like force powers, and naturally crafting skills. As you use weapons, armor, force powers, crafting skills, etc, your skill level increases (you can even cap skill level according to character level if you want but that seems pointless to me). This lets you use those items with some additional ease (faster reload/firing times, less energy/force required to use it, better crafting results, etc). Then, even if you switch professions, you don't feel like you've lost a bunch of skills. This helps retain continuity and a feeling of the character being real.

Just because I've become an accountant instead of being a plumber doesn't mean I suddenly forget how to use a wrench. Similarly, just because I've stopped my career as a soldier to undergo jedi training, doesn't mean I forgot how to use a blaster.

I'm ranting now, but I feel a shudder in the force the more I hear about SW:TOG.

-VG

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Star Wars: The Old Republic Classes

According to Bioware's website for the game, Star Wars: The Old Republic will have two distinct "jedi" flavors; Jedi and Sith. In addition there will be "A variety of other classic star wars roles" whatever that means. Until more information is released, any discussion about classes is pure speculation. Of course that doesn't make for a very interesting blog post, now does it? So speculate we shall...

While nothing should be assumed about Bioware's latest project, lest hopes rise to be crushed under the weight of a game that already has high expectations after Sony's mishandling of SWG, we can make some educated guesses. The problem with guessing is that with virtually no information out about the game, it is very hard to find jumping-off places. At any rate, away we go...

Scenario 1: Single Jedi classes for each empire with a "variety of other classic star wars roles" This is by far the easiest and most cut and dried form of the game. Basically Jedi/Sith acts like any other class, except you get a glowy sword. The game will feature, most likely, a variety of classes along the roles of tanking, healing, cc, and dps with Jedi/Sith filling either a tanking role or some form of dps/cc. If there is any customization with the Jedi class it is likely to only be in talent selection (if using three talent trees, the consular/guardian/sentinel trees would be the obvious choices). The upside: jedi is playable and customizable out of the box. The downside? It sucks running around with a billion other jedi and trying to feel special. Also, everyone and their brother will be a jedi, leaving the other classes largely useless.

Scenario 1a: Multiple Jedi classes for each empire with a "variety of other classic star wars roles" included. Same as above except you make each jedi/sith type an individual class. The upside: More customization and making Jedi feel different slightly. The downside: Even more reason for everyone to play jedi. I should note the obvious problem with both of these systems is that Jedi will have to be in balance with all the other classes, which de-powers the jedi and will probably make them less fun to play.

Scenario 2: Jedi as an unlockable class. No matter the form this leads to players being forced to play "lesser" roles to become jedi. Basically you either play until you are max level and are rewarded with a jedi, complete quests to unlock jedi powers and then go through training, or some other general mish mash of that sort of thing. You either become a jedi on that character or can now create jedi on that account. In either case jedi becomes playable for you, but only after you reach X requirement. The upside: Fewer Jedi at release, though numbers swell rapidly once people realize how you unlock it. The downside: people will complain about how hard it is to unlock jedi, the longer the game is out the more jedi there are, balancing a class that should be more powerful (because it is a reward) but still able to be defeated by other classes.

Scenario 3: Jedi is not in the game. Easy way around the problem is to remove Jedi and keep classes along the standard tank/healer/cc/dps line. Makes for a game that is WOW in a different set of models. The upside: it's ridiculously easy to create a game without the iconic figures of star wars in it, and you don't have to make all those fancy lightsaber fight moves. Also, it is easier to balance and dodges the whole jedi bullet. The downside: Would you buy it if there were no jedi? Didn't think so.

Scenario 4: Jedi is the only playable class. Another way around the problem. Everyone is a jedi. Jedi then just differ through powers or talents. The upside: Millions of fanbois will buy it, no need to balance the game, because there's only one class. The downside: Again, would you buy a MMORPG consisting entirely of Jedi? Also, everyone will be a jedi. Did I mention that Jedi will be common as fleas? Oh, and Bioware already said they would have a "variety of other classic star wars roles."

In my opinion, Bioware will most likely select option 1a, as it fits their KOTOR model of dealing with Jedi. Jedi will probably be slightly better in a PVP aspect than other classes but will have a harder time with PVE content. This provides the ZOMG awesome aspect of Jedi with the balance that games need. I will be watching with great interest.
-VG

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A disturbance in the Force

Bioware has announced that the super secret space-based MMORPG they've been working on is indeed another Star Wars MMORPG, as was assumed when it was first announced. Not much information has been released as of yet, but this is something I will be watching with keen interest. Hopes and dreams of a few million SWG vets ride on this game, and Bioware could easily make billions by creating a game similar to SWG, set in the KOTOR time period, and fixing and adding in the themes that Sony failed to create.

That said, the game will most likely be a WOW or Guild Wars setup, with factions you are stuck in once you join and Jedi as a starting class (if KOTOR is any guideline, three types of Jedi as starting classes). This bodes ill for the franchise, and it will be difficult to pull off this game.

Bioware, the world is watching. Please listen to the players and do right by them. Don't make SW: The Old Republic the bastard child of Sony.

Good luck, and May the Force be with you.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The General Reborn (Pt 3)

From the personal log of General Babkadol:

I have returned to this world again to save the kingdom with my military mind. I met with the King today to outline my plan. He does look just like Istrian. I don't know if he believes I am who I say I am, even though the old dwarf, Dorflin, assured him of the potency of his rituals. Dorflin will not accompany me on this journey, though six other have been selected to join me. I have not yet met them, though.

The King has advised that I do not reveal my true nature to anyone. I have even been given the official title of General Noramdeduk, or Relievemanor. I believe this is in hope that I will ease the tension off the mountain homes by the presence of another fortress. I have promised to export what we can, and hopefully there are sufficient resources where we will settle to help rebuild the army of the King.

My sketches for this fortress are much more complex than the last one. At Pickspells, we were thrust into the open fields with little in the way of defenses. Now we will be able to cut into the mountain and use mother earth for protection.


From the Personal Log of General Noramdeduk,

We have arrived at Obursavot Anil, or HeroicStand of Glory. I hope it won't come to a heroic stand, but the name is noble and worthy of the endeavors here. My companions think I am a military commander of little note, otherwise they would know of me. I will ensure they listen to me.

First I was introduced to my new quartermaster and bookkeeper, Sarek. She seems like a decent enough dwarf but balked at me when i told her that everyone under my command undergoes basic weapon training. She apparently thinks that the fighting should be left to the military. I informed her that she is now part of the military. She doesn't seem happy.

Next is Neo the poet-warrior. She is a swordsdwarf and a jeweler, which is a strange combination. She seems eager for battle, and doesn't have much respect for authority. That will change.

Our field kitchen is headed by Vesa, a virtual dwarf-of-all-trades when it comes to cooking, She cooks, brews, and butchers. An army is led by it's stomach, and she will be central to keeping us fed.

Our smith, Dracnor, is a very useful addition to our force. We will not have an anvil for some time, but having someone who knows his way around a forge is necessary for equipping our forces. Especially since there will be no obsidian where we are settling.

Next is Zak, the miner and mason. He is rumored to be able to do things with stone no other dwarf can. I will have to keep an eye on that. We will be digging deep into the mountains, and having a miner of some skill is always helpful.

Finally is a dwarf I barely took note of, as he was quiet during the entire trip, and immediatly took off to hunt what wild game exists in this wilderness. Malaki is the master of our hunting dogs and is at home in the wild. He is trained in the ways of the spear, though we have none, and is wise in the ways of the wilds. He will be useful in keeping us fed until our farms start producing.

Now we must strike the earth and prepare ourselves for the goblin and elf menace to break upon our fortifications like waves upon the sand. For better or worse, we make a stand here at Obursavot Anil. May we bath in the blood of our enemies and rejoice together in Warhalla.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The General Reborn (Pt 2)

"What us the meaning of this?" She said and looked down. She felt her chest and abdomen, searching for the holes where four goblin bolts had pierced and killed her so many years ago. She found her skin intact and body whole.

"You have been recalled to life by the Blood Pact of Armok, sealed by our forebearers in the early days of our race. It is by this pact that you are reborn and return from Warholla, General." The elderly dwarf said.

"Warholla? So what I saw was the halls of all fallen warriors, where we celebrate for all time. How long has it been?"

"Nearly a thousand years. Your enemy, the Tyrant King, has long since died, and his line is extinct. A new threat looms, great General. Goblins and Elves threaten our very mountain homes. Our outposts and kingdoms have been crushed beneath their alliance, and we are in a perilous position. As I speak we are battling back a siege at our capital, one of ferocious force. The humans have broken our alliance and now fend for themselves, leaving us alone and vulnerable."

"Why me? I was killed, I was unsuccesful in my goal, and this fortress clearly fell," She motioned around to the dust-covered stones, and the moss growing on the cavern walls. This fortress had not been occupied for a long time. "I am a failure."

"A failure? General, you are a legend. No dwarf in memory is recounted more in history than you. You took a group of six dwarves and forged a nation. Every child knows the story of the General who took her six lieutenants into the wilds and carved out a solid fortress of obsidian against the tyrant king. How she trained every dwarf with discipline and honor, into a warrior without compare. How she met her end fighting goblins, killing dozens and having bolt after bolt pierce her skin until finally she succumbed to the onslaught. How once she died, her proud warrior Ignaz the samurai led her soldiers home to confront the king. When the King saw the return of her soldiers, he ordered the fortress guard to slay them all. The King's dwarves with steel and iron clashed against the General's forces armed with wooden shields and obsidian swords. Ignaz was badly wounded, but fought his way to the King. He dueled the tyrant, and cut out his throat before succumbing to his wounds. The General's forces overcame the King and his guards, taking the mountain homes from the tyrant, at the cost of the lives of Ignaz and only three others. Istrian, the brave engineer and last alive of the six lieutenants, was crowned as king, and his line continues to this day."

She wiped a tear from her eye. "Ignaz was a good warrior, as was Istrian. Of the six, Snoopicus was killed in battle, as was Beastmaster, and Baradus died in the first few months here. What of Flokstein?"

"She died from an infection caused by a goblin bolt. She received a grievous many wounds from goblins, trying to save the artifact bone shield your wore on your arm. That item has long since been lost to history, but not the legend of it."

"What of this place? What happened to Pickspells?"

"It is a ruin and a monument to you and your six. It has been sealed ever since Istrian the King died, and was interred with you and your other lieutenants. I unsealed it two days ago to recall you to life."

"Then it is time I take the field again." She jumped from the coffin, and collapsed on the ground. The old dwarf helped her up.

"Your new body is not as strong as your old one, and it will take time to get used to, General."

"What does the King need of me, and what will I have to work with?"

"The King needs an outpost to train soldiers and act as a distraction for the goblins and elves. We need to relieve the pressure on the mountain homes. If we can take the battle to them, even better. The soldiers of the capital are mostly injured veterans or green recruits. Our forces have been devastated by the constant wars. The King has decreed that you be given supplies and six able dwarves. Every dwarf in the kingdom has volunteered, and six have been chosen. We are unable to spare an anvil, but will send one as soon as we can. We also have this for you." He handed her a small package wrapped in pig tail cloth.

She unwrapped it, and laughed. "Pickspells never received an anvil and we survived just fine. With this at my side, we will raise a mighty army for this war." she tucked the warhammer into a loop of her belt. "Let's begin planning, we have much to do."

For more information on this story, Click Here

The General Reborn (Pt 1)

"Another round, Snoopicus." she called to her old friend. "Today we toast Maggarg, the best swordsmaster I've trained. I remember when you were a raw recruit, my friend."

Maggarg raised his mug and downed the contents. Snoopicus filled it swiftly and the sixty dwarves gathered together cheered.

"And to Pickspells, the greatest self-sufficient military outpost in the known world." she said, and every dwarf gathered cheered heartily. The whole group milled around a luxurious dining room filled with all manner of food and drink. She was readily enjoying herself, when something tugged at her shoulder. It was a little dwarf boy.

"General Babkadol?" He said.

"Yes, that is who I am, young one," she said.

"Come with me, General Babkadol" the boy said, still tugging at her tunic.

"I'm in the middle of something, young one, I will come with you later." She said, and turned away from him.

"General Babkadol, you must come. You are recalled to life."

A cold chill ran down her spine. The room flashed red, and she saw horrible things around her. Snoopicus, her loyal second-in-command, waved to her...a bloody stump where his hand had been. Beastmaster turned and toasted her, draining her glass only to have it's contents spill from holes that perferated her body. Maggarg nodded to her, his head rolling from side to side on a broken neck.

"General Babkadol, you must come. You are recalled to life." The voice said. She turned to it, and the little boy was at the door. Reluctantly, she stood and followed him. He lead her out into a long corridor, one the General recognized well. It was the hallway of the residences of Pickspells. This was were her recruits and soldiers lived. She had dug these rooms herself in the early days.

The boy ran to the main stairwell and up the stairs. She paused only for a second to look at the statues depicting her soldiers' exploits, and the tombs of the lesser heroes of this place. Many recruits had died in their sleep from wounds during training. She had been careless with the green recruits, and the sheer number of those interred showed it clearly.

She walked up the stairs to the main level of Pickspells. The boy darted around to the grand catacombs of the fallen soldiers. There she knew Snoopicus, Beastmaster, and the others of the great seven were interred. The boy entered the fourth door, one that had not existed in her memory, and she reluctantly followed. It led to a grand tomb, complete with a masterful throne and cabinet, and dozens of momentos of a wonderful life. The walls depicted battle scenes with goblins, including the fall of Snoopicus, and a female figure she did not recognize. The boy gestured to the sarcophogus, and she let out a gasp. This is what was engraved:

General Babkadol
"Now rest with our ancesters, great commander
Let the goblins siege your soul no longer
Drink deep of the flasks of our ancestors
Until we meet in the celebration of a final battle."
-Interred into rest in the year of the King, 1608.

She felt another chill in her spine, and the world blacked out.

*****

She woke to a cold room. Sitting up, she realized she was still in the crypt. The boy was gone, and in his place was an elderly looking dwarf. She looked down and found herself sitting in the coffin she had stared at moments ago.

"Welcome back to the living, General Babkadol." The dwarf said. "We have much to discuss."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

On Politics

I know this is a video game blog, but something has been really bothering me lately: The political campaign. This year seems to be the worst in my short life. I don't remember either of the Bush elections having just so much hateful BS and rhetoric flying around. It seems that there are three kinds of people: Those that are McCain fanatics, those that are Obama fanatics, and those that aren't voting (either because they don't like either candidate or they feel their vote won't matter).

I will state for the record that I am an Obama supporter (though I do not feel myself a fanatic). This decision was reached under careful consideration of both candidates proposed policies and messages, and may be subject to change depending on the upcoming debates (if they ever happen). Another factor in my decision to endorse Obama is probably related to my age, his message appeals to my generation, and because I am absolutely fed up with President Bush and feel that McCain will be more of the same or worse. That and when the republicans had BlackWater mercenaries illegally detaining reporters (not paparazzi, actual reporters from actual networks) and infringing on the freedom of press, that seemed to be a big sign of what was to come.

I wanted to tell you that so that you can put what I am posting into perspective. Honestly all news agencies should have a statement of beliefs before political broadcasts, because no news agency in America is unbiased one way or the other. Maybe that is the problem.

What I've seen in the news and in talking to people is that people will largely believe what they want to about this campaign. If they hear a report that their candidate has done something "bad" they will reinterpret it and switch it to a good thing, or blame it on the "liberal/conservative" news coverage that is obviously making up lies to support the other candidate. I've come to the conclusion that 99% of America is hopelessly retarded and unable to make any decisions for themselves. Most of us will believe just about anything as long as it goes along with our beliefs.

Some examples? I've had people tell me that Obama is a sleeper cell agent for terrorist networks, and when he gets elected he will kill us all. My thoughts on that? Why would he have to be elected to kill us all? Also, don't you think that a sleeper cell agent would be detected by someone? This is not a movie, you cannot magically brainwash people like that without leaving some sign or proof it exists. The same woman also told me that he was Islamic, and that proved he was a terrorist. I asked her if she thought every Islamic person was a terrorist, and her response was yes, and that she was glad they were all in the Middle East. I didn't have the heart to tell her Muslims make up a few percent of the US population, she might never leave her house again.

It's not just limited to Obama. I've heard people say that McCain is old and senile and that McCain/Palin is a plot to get Palin into the presidency (who would have no chance at it otherwise) and that she will be some sort of evil dictator. To be honest, I'm amazed she hasn't single-handedly ruined this campaign from the start. She spent most of her day of meeting foreign dignitaries with Kissinger, an American diplomat, instead of...you know...meeting foreign dignitaries. She is not a world-wide threat.

People really need to evaluate where their news comes from, not so that they can say "oh it's all lies, my political candidate is a god" but so they can make intelligent decisions about how much of what is said to believe. No news agency is going to make something up whole-cloth. There is always truth to what is reported, now the interpretations of that truth that are represented and the means they are represented are another matter all together.

http://www.flobots.com/

Monday, September 22, 2008

Spore Revisited

Okay, so my last post was really harsh (though totally justified) to Spore. Here's how Spore could be fixed.

1. Allow players to continue to gain DNA points/evolve their creatures even after they've beaten the stage of life. In other words, just because you've gotten 100 dna points in cell stage doesn't mean you shouldn't be able to collect more and upgrade your cell into a really cool looking version of it in-game. This solves the problem I have between the creature creator and the actual game. You can make really awesome things in the editor, but in the actual game you are severely limited by points.

2. Make the earlier stages matter to the later stages. Currently, the only way earlier stages impact later stages are by the special abilities you get, and these are largely pointless little buffs. In fact, there really is no reason to play through stages you don't like as you can make a much better creature starting in say the creature phase or civ phase than you could evolve from cell.

3. Make space playable. I'm not a boy-scout, and collecting badges doesn't interest me. Achievements, sure after I've beaten the game, but not to unlock main game content. Achievements should be used to unlock special content, not anything on the main storyline. I'm not going to even get started on invading another empire, as it is stupidly difficult to do without making millions of trips back to recharge and repair or upgrading until you are in god mode. It'd be better if the space age wasn't included than giving us this crappy stage.

4. Cut back the cute crap. I understand bright colors are pleasing to the 8 year olds, but frankly the cartoonish nature of the game is painful. I tolerated WOW's cartoony feel because it had a lot of mature humor and was actually fun to play (and let's face it, a lot of warrior armor looked badass while cartoony). I intentionally color my buildings and creatures in realistic colors, but the pallet is very limited.

5. Apologize. Seriously it was not just the fans that overhyped this game. The videos of the concept of this game was way better than the end game ended up being. Not to mention the fact that we deserve an apology for having to wait so long for this crap. Just my thoughts.

-VG Philosopher

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Spore, why?

Why, Spore, did you have to give me hope only to dash it on sharp rocks like a seal trying to eat a crab? Why? Did I do something horrible in a past life that I have to attone for now?

But seriously, Spore isn't a horrible game...but it is not the ambrosia that gamers thought it would be. Honestly, it's a freaking kids game. I can deal with the bright colors and themes, and all the crappy textures for your creatures, but the game is simplified to an almost painful level.

Let's start with the cell phase. Now this should be simple, right? Well, it's not simple, it's painfully simple. You can choose from a whole 9 cell parts! Wow...I haven't had that much selection in equipment since the original Zelda (My bad, you only had 8 secondary weapons in Zelda). Not only that, but you have to FIND 6 of those parts. Beyond building your cell, you get to collect little meat dots or little plant dots. That's right, your hours of playing Pac Man have not been in vain. (Authors note: I know they said it would be inspired by Pac Man, and I should have expected something like this, but inspired by and blatantly copied are two different things)

So, once you grow enough to get a brain (Where's the wizard of Oz when you really need him?) you get to go to the land creature creator. Apparently the only important evolution creatures got from cell to animal was legs...I mean, even those cilia and flagella you had from the cell phase increase your movement speed on land (I'm not even speculating how). If you're lucky enough not to crash (which happens about 80% of the time to me, especially if I try to create an herbivore) you get to have a wonderful choice of game play: Kill stuff or play simon says. Seriously....you can kill stuff and eat it or go up to creatures and mimic them to make them your friends (and you thought making friends in the Sims was a pain in the ass). Anyway, somehow playing simon says and killing things gets you DNA points and a bigger brain.

So, on to the tribal phase which is just as simple, except instead of killing stuff and playing simon says you have to build a small selection of buildings, and then kill stuff or play simon says (while conducting music). Seriously, the camera angle is pretty much the only major play style difference between tribal and creature modes. I guess you can give orders RTS style, but it's still pretty much the same. Oh wait, you can domesticate like 3 creatures and have them lay eggs for you to eat...that's pretty much the only addition.

City phase is a laughable attempt at an RTS. It offers three play styles: Religious, Economic, and Militaristic. The difference? Well, Religious and Militaristic are largely the same with different graphics (oh and you can't actually destroy buildings or anything really with religious units, just "convert" them which doesn't seem to do anything except in the case of cities, which surrender to you). Economic conquest is an interesting concept, but kinda far-fetched if you think about it. Why would an enemy nation agree to a trade route let alone sell their last city to your empire. Corrupt Officials? I guess.

Space phase is a joke. Are we playing pokemon? No? Then why do I have to collect badgers to progress? And if you have ships specifically for your trade routes why do I have to haul and sell this spice? I thought this was supposed to be a sandbox mode, the problem is it takes 50+ hours of play (exageration, I don't have the patience to screw around with this horribly designed phase of the game to really find out how long it takes) to get to the max rank, and even more to get enough money to have all the tools on your ship (many of which you have to buy for every use.

Overall Rating of Spore as a game: 6/10

VG Philosopher Plays Spore
VG Philosopher's Soul take 100000000 depression damage.
VG Philosopher dies a little on the inside.


For how long this game took to make, you'd think it wouldn't be designed for a 3 year old.
-VG Philosopher

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Up Up and Away

I guess it's time to get up off my lazy butt and get back to work here. My last topic of discussion was of course, EVE Online, a good game, and an addicting one. But for now, I'm going to change gears a bit and discuss another obsession of mine, Combat Arms.

Combat Arms is a FPS full of the usual standard FPS fare. You have your Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatches (Called Eliminations), Free for all Fun (Called One Man Army), and Objective based missions. So why is it so great? Well, it has a built in rank system, so as you play you earn xp towards your next rank. Each rank unlocks new weapons and armor for you to buy and use. Also, the top ranks are only able to be held by a certain number of players.

When I say you buy weapons and armor, I actually mean that you lease them. You pay GP (Gear Points) to purchase weapons and equipment for a certain period (1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 3 months). You can then use those weapons for that period. Once the period is up, you have to rebuy those weapons. The good news is that GP is easy to earn. The bad news is that everything is expensive to buy.

Basically with this game, the more you play the better you are. You will have access to more equipment, and have more GP to buy equipment with. I play a couple nights a week for a few hours, buying equipment just for that day. Sure it costs less per day to buy for a longer period, but when I'm not sure how long I'll play, I'd prefer to keep some gp in my pocket for later.

The bad part about this game is that there are a large amount of hackers, and flaws in the game code (it is still relatively new, but also a free FPS MMORPG!) Nexon is trying hard to crack down on hackers, and seems to be making headway against them. At any rate, this game is ridiculously fun to play, and I'm off to play it now.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Lost In Space

Okay, I haven't posted for nearly a month. I blame it on the ADD and getting sucked into EVE online. Why is it so addicting? I don't know. But here are things I know I really like (and will detail further in later posts)

1. Skill system: Eve has a virtually free-form skill system where any character can learn any skill. Now certain characters have the benefit of better abilities which let them learn certain skills faster, but any character can learn any skill. Also, skills generally just give a small, but extremely useful, bonus to an ability and unlock new equipment. No skill makes you uber, nor does any particular piece of equipment. Someone with the best skills in the game with the best equipment can be overcome by others if he is not careful or he gets outnumbered.

2. Controlled PVP: You can pvp anywhere you want, but you cannot force pvp on people in certain areas. In "High Security" areas, anyone who attacks another player will be brutally hunted down and killed by NPC police ships. In low security areas, this is not the case, but there are guns at the jump gates and stations that deter this action a little. In 0.0 security space, anything goes. Now it's still possible to suicide kill people in high security space, but generally not worth it.

3. Player controlled Stations/Space: Players can build their own stations and can claim sovereignty over areas of space. Now a large portion is already claimed by alliances, but the borders shift constantly as POS's are built and destroyed. Full scale fleet battles between warring corps are an impressive sight.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Eve Online

Okay so I haven't died or given up on video games all together, I've just been enthralled by an MMORPG besides WOW (I'll be honest, I only went back for about 20 days and was bored again with WOW). My new game is Eve Online. Why Eve? Well, it has a both a skill based system and a free-form end-game. Do you like PVP? You can do it all you want. Like raiding PVE instances? Blow up some pirate outposts. Like crafting? Test out the invention and research options of EVE.

I'll go more in depth with Eve Online in future posts, but for the moment I'm going to go back in and blow up some stuff with my missile boat.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Player Content

As I think more about it, I wonder if companies using player content is a good thing. Now, it can be assumed that eventually every game will have some form of player content, as players tend to modify games, make maps, etc. However, relying on player content for a majority of gameplay is a huge mistake that I feel looming on the horizon.

Let's look at a possible scenario. Big Game Company Inc. decides that instead of spending a lot of money developing content and unique characters, they will just make copies of player's characters and use models very similar to them in skills and appearance as NPCs. This saves countless hours of NPC design and customization. The downside to this? Well, that's quit simple.

You see, if you rely on players to make the content, you will either have to filter content to the point that it would be cheaper just to make it in the first place or allow the crap to pour in. Development teams have some standards to which they are help (or they are fired) whereas players playing for fun only report to themselves. I have intentionally created weird or stupid things when playing games and being exceptionally bored. Is it fair to have these boredom-inspired creations ruin someone else's gameplay?

The bottom line is that player based content should be an addition to games, not a central aspect. I question how well SPORE will do, and how effective the player content system will be with that game.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Warning: Explicit Content Issues

It occurred to me that, with the advent of MMORPGs, and games where content is automatically shared, like Spore, censorship will be even more evident in our gaming experience. Now, games are currently rated and controlled though the ESRB, which is fine and dandy, and most MMORPGs on the market now have the added tag-line that experience may change during online play. However, Spore will be actively pulling new monsters for your worlds from other player's databases, and let's face it, there are some sick and twisted people out there.

For example, within hours of the creature creator for Spore's release, the web was flooded with various penis-shaped creatures and other vulgarities. Which for an initial release of a creature editor is fine (if not childish), but what about the real game? I am not paying $50-60 for a game that downloads penis monsters onto all my unoccupied worlds. Frankly, I expect some quality control.

Which brings me to my point: where is the balance between content control and enjoyability. City of Heroes regularly "genericizes" (transforms the player's costume into a generic one and changes their name to generic####) any player whose superhero resembles a copyrighted hero. World of Warcraft, on the other hand, doesn't seem to care that much (given the number of Chuck Norris's out there). The makers of Grand Theft Auto got sued for the Hot Coffee incident, when in fact the content wasn't even playable in the shipped game (players had to hack the game to find it). It seems that no gaming company really knows what is good and what is bad in terms of censorship.

If every little act that could be deemed censorable was censored, then the games themselves would fall apart. There would be no cursing, blood splatter, mention of anything that could be mistaken for vulgarities. Largely, the community aspects of these games would disappear, as well as the fun of solo activities. If there was no censorship, these games would not be suited for children and would all receive a mature rating. There is a balance point in the middle, but it requires a constant level of surveillance and quality assurance that no gaming company is willing to pay for. I doubt Spore will have a quality assurance system, and will more likely just approve any monster that comes through the server.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Avvath's Tale: Level 1-6

After playing Alexya for an hour, I switched it up with Avvath, the mighty Blood Elf Paladin. Paladin is a class I've toyed with but never committed to. My main for a long time was a warrior, and I just wasn't ready to commit to another long grind in plate. Happily, Paladin DPS has been nicely buffed since I played the class last and my days of fearing Paladin boredom seem to be at an end.

Having just done all the quests for Alexya, I knew exactly where to go for Avvath. An experienced player knows to make the most of his trips out of town, and hit as many quests as possible before returning. With Alexya, I went back to the quest givers about 5 times, with Avvath, I only returned three times. It's a lot faster when you dump your quest log all at once.

Something I didn't do that most experienced players do is grind mobs en route. This increases xp gains slightly, and when I'm at higher levels with these characters I will do this, but at lvl 6, it's just not practical. The newbie area is set up to get the character to lvl 6 with quests alone, and when it takes less than 10 minutes per level, grinding mobs is just extra tedium that I don't need.

At any rate, Avvath reached lvl 6.5 (as close to the same xp as Alexya) in 45 minutes. Part of that is playstyle differences (Alexya had to regen mana a lot more than Avvath) but the majority of it was extra travel time and searching for the right quest locations. Newbie quests are mostly good about directing players to where they need to be, but a few were very confusing. A novice player may wander around for a while trying to find the spot, which leads to longer levelling times.



More in dept analysis in a minute.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Alexya's Tale; Lvl 1-6

I started the experiment with the mage, Alexya (and consequently, if anyone is on Area 52 horde, don't hesitate to send me a message in-game, I'd love to have your input). Having not played a mage in a long time, it took a little bit for me to get fully adjusted to it, but soon enough I was blowing my way through mobs with vengeful fireballs.

My experience was fairly easy from lvls 1-6, which is good. The quests were easy, and while I got a little lost once, that's just because I didn't bother to look at the top part of the quest description, where it told me exactly where to go. I reached lvl 6 (6.5 actually after turning in quests) in about an hour of played time. This is an hour without any profession training stops or any side trips. A final picture of my status at lvl 6.5 is below. I'll be posting my experiences with my paladin next, along with some analysis of the differences between the two playing experiences and end results.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

WoW Experiment: Class Discussion

I’ve chosen Area 52 for a few reasons. First, it’s medium population will provide a decent auction house. Secondly, I have no characters on the server, so it will be a clean slate start, and thirdly, it’s a normal server so I don’t have to worry about PVP issues.

I wanted to create two characters that would be able to start in the same area, but have playstyles that differed (more to ease boredom than for experimental value), so I decided on a mage (for the newbie player) and a paladin (for the experienced player). Why these classes? Well…

The mage was my first class, and a class I never made it to 70 with. It was fairly easy to play, and relies primarily on one stat. Builds from all three trees are viable, and with baseline spell damage being very reasonable, gear doesn’t matter that much (though it does make a difference between being okay and being good). Also, there are very few tricky abilities to get in the way, and the mage has a natural profession set (tailor/enchanting) that is profitable.

The paladin is not an easy class to master. Like warrior, it requires good gear for decent damage output, has a large amount of abilities that can be tricky to use, and only specific talent builds are worth using. It does not have a natural profession set (though you could argue mining/blacksmithing) and it’s abilities are more expensive than any other class’s.

So why bloodelves? Well, I like the horde. And if I were a new player I would pick bloodelves because of their relative newness to the game and because they look cool. Also, they are the only playable horde race for paladins, and when you think of mages from Warcraft 3, the BE sorceress and priests come to mind.


I do want to discuss the character look real fast. My female mage I made to look cute. Females have always felt more “magic” oriented than male characters, and I feel this is a good choice. I like red hair, and I think the earrings she has are very magical. The name Alexya comes from the random name generator, with a letter switched phonetically.




The paladin is male because I wanted to be able to differentiate between screenshots easily. This guy is 100% randomly generated and I think he’s badass. The name is again a random name generated with an extra letter added to make Avvath, mighty BE paladin.

Now I would have an in-depth analysis of my first few levels as each players, but unfortunately my screenshot program refused to save any open windows, so I have to go in and rerecord the status screenshots. However, preliminary analysis indicates the experienced player reaching lvl 6.5 in 15 minutes less than the newb player (and that includes the two disconnects the experienced player had, and having to run completely back to the starting area to finish a quest I forgot about). Without my screenshots I can't determine any other comporable statistics until tomorrow.

This seems promising.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Theory in Action; the WoW Experiment

I've been thinking about returning to my World of Warcraft days. I long to play again, and while I often dread the idea of levelling even more characters, and hate the fact that Blizzard is pushing another expansion instead of expanding in-game content for "free," I find that this provides me with an opportunity. In examining the theory of video games, I find some problems and quirks that are difficult to explain or even grasp myself. So, I've decided to conduct an experiment.

When I was a new player to WoW, I was not a new player to MMORPGs. I had the basic concept, but things eluded me, and some things I didn't learn about until an embarassing amount of time later. It never occured to me that this might be a flaw with the design of the game itself, and not a problem with my understanding it. I want to return to that newbieness and see if it was indeed my problem, or if the game lacked important knowledge that a newbie needs.

So, here is the experiment. I will document myself playing two new characters. For one, I will follow all newbie quest lines and help information. I will only explore new zones if directed there by a quest, and if I don't happen upon quest givers or am not led close enough to them to see them on my minimap, I will not visit them. In all ways I will pretend I know nothing about the game when I start. For the other one, I will use my knowledge and experience to level up quickly and efficiently.

Benchmarks I will use to evaluate this experiment:
1. Money earned in-game (will vary based on class skills cost)
2. Time to level
3. Zones explored (i.e. content explored)
4. Gear (appropriateness and overall power)
5. Anything else that arises that seems relevant

In the next posts I will detail my character selection and reasoning. Most of my logic and reasons will become apparent through the experiment. I will try to keep from boring you with the trivialities of leveling and only bring up important points, but I want to document this experiment. I am by no means a fast and efficient leveler, but I have leveled so many characters certain things become second nature to me. It will be hard to keep this experiment pure, but I feel I am up to the task.

Let me know if there is anything else you think I should consider in this experiment by leaving me a comment on this post.

I work alone...

Most MMORPGs involve a lot of group content (hence the name massively MULTIPLAYER online role-playing game), especially at higher levels. WoW has raids, SWG had missions too difficult to solo, and City of Heroes is extremely difficult to solo after about lvl 20. It could be argued that the group aspect is the point of MMORPGs, but as a casual player myself, I am bored with this mentality. It's not like I want to play the game completely by my self (I have Warcraft 3 for that) it's that I want to be able to solo and have fun.

Let's take a look at the misconceptions developers have about MMORPG content. I agree that MMORPGs should have group content, and I love the challenge and the fun that arises from WoW's raid and heroic dungeon content. It is very well put together and challenging. MMORPGs are largely community games, and aiming towards content that involves a community or group is a good idea, it's just not the only one that should be exercised.

By soloing, I don't mean running through the entire game and never grouping up with someone, nor do I mean avoiding groups at all costs. I enjoy group quests, I enjoy dungeons and instances, but I do not enjoy *having* to do them to advance or them being the *only* source of good equipment. In WoW, you can either run heroics all day, or PVP all day to get "good" equipment. Why not make some solo quest lines or something that lead to equal equipment as to what you would get from raids? They should be difficult, and take time to do (roughly equivalent to how much effort it takes to get them from raiding) but can be done completely solo. It would be difficult to balance and impliment, but then again, it's been completely ignored for the sake of raids.

I imagine a system could work like this: You do a series of solo quests, gather rare reagents (all found out in the world, not in dungeons), perform some sort of ritual, a spirit is summoned, it asks you to do 3 quests in exchange for an item of power, you do those quests (which all have multiple steps and time requirements, and maybe reagents), he gives you a sealed chest, and inside is a random BOP epic item that would drop from a raid boss. Now I have two thoughts about this, making the quests harder, but being able to select which raid or which boss even the loot table is drawn from, and making it basically drop loot from a random boss (so multiple epics, and a chance for the really cool and rare stuff) but no selection of what raid or what boss.

Again, these quests should be interesting and require as much effort (or perhaps more) than the effort required by each raid member to down a boss. There should be timers to repeat the quest and for certain parts of the quest so that epics can't be ground out any faster than a raid. Let's face it, it's a good day if you get one pieces of epic equipment from a raid, let alone an entire boss drop. Most of the stuff dropped in my example will be useless and disenchanted or sold. Also, put the quest timer on a global cooldown with all raid timers. You can pick one, you can't do solo epics and raid epics.

Another thing that bothers me about MMORPGs is the lack of development of the basic quest lines. These are quests most players play through, so there should be some development to them, but they are largely badly written and have dubious reasoning. "Go kill 4 wolves, because I hate wolves." etc. I want quests that bring me into the world and make me feel that, even though I'm a newbie, I'm a newbie *hero* I don't think it's that hard.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Realism

I've briefly discussed realism before, talking about gun limits in FPS and how it's used primarily for balance issues more than for realism. However, Mike R's blog post on Fierce Punch points out something much more interesting. It seems that most ninja games blatantly abuse the tools of the ninja, and show them being used in really cool looking, but completely fictitious, ways.

Why does realism matter? I mean, if the game is fun, that should be enough, right? Well, ideally, yes. I enjoy a lot of games where impossible things happen (any game featuring big exploding spells comes to mind), but there are also games I really enjoy that are bound more closely to the laws of reality (like America's Army). You could say the reason for these differences is because they are marketed to different people, but I play both types of games, as do a lot of my friends, so what makes realism so necessary in one game, but a stumbling block for another?

Playability is the simple answer to this. How playable would a fantasy MMORPG be if it had to be bound by the laws of physics? Well, a choice would have to be made between realism and the fantasy elements. Fantasy is hard to make real, so what about games that should be realistic? Well, game fallacies that appear in them are primarily to enhance playability. For example, a single bullet wound is usually enough to convince an enemy to surrender or be incapacitated in some other way (or die in some cases). In a lot of FPS games, enemies, especially bosses, take many bullets to go down. Would it be as much fun if the bosses died to a single bullet wound?

Now let's look at Mike's example. He complains that the kusarigama, a scythe with a weighted chain, is shown in most games as a weapon utilized by throwing the scythe, when in reality it was used as both a grappling hook and the scythe was used in-close and the weighted chain was swung around and the weighted end was used as a short-range weapon capable of killing. He also mentions that in the latest Ninja Gaiden game, the weapon is used more correctly, with both the chain end and the scythe being swung around, however, the chain end can only do light damage and stun.

Why is the weapon used in video games in this way? Well, let's face it, it's cooler to see a scythe go across the screen than a chain. Considering that in reality, the weighted end was probably more capable of killing or knocking and opponent unconscious than the scythe, it doesn't make much difference what the animation is if the effect is the same. Why Gaiden screws with this is something only their developers know, but I don't feel much is lost in these fallacies. After all, if someone really cared about Ninja weaponry, they would research it on their own, as Mike did.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Swappable Materials

Most crafting systems are the same. There are recipes and certain materials make certain things. For example, in world of warcraft, the silvered bronze mail armor set requires a large amount of bronze as well as silver bars. Other recipes require very specific gemstones and other materials.

Don't get me wrong, the recipe system works, but it can be better. What if, for instance, instead of having to use bronze you could use steel. The armor would be stronger and more durable (and probably heavier, not that that matters in WOW). It would be Silvered Steel armor instead, and have different stats and level requirements. The materials would change the final product. These changes should be somewhat predictable. For example, using a stronger metal should result in a stronger product (and probably higher level requirements). Changing things like gems should change the bonus stats the item has.

Being able to swap materials opens up the door to useful loot items. At the moment in World of Warcraft, looted items are sometimes required for recipes, and create items that are better than other items of similar level that do not require loot components, but it's all because the recipe requires it. Imagine if you looted an armor scrap or something from a high level mob, and it could be used in a piece of armor to greatly increase it's stats. Drops for such components of high quality should be low enough that they are very valuable, but high enough that they should be used, especially at high level. This further enhances the uniqueness of crafted materials as mentioned in the last post. Imagine if you were the only person to have a Reinforced Steel Greatshield encrusted with Moss agate and Azerothian Diamonds. Now since these names will get very long, it's useful to have a custom naming capability, with some limitations. Obviously things cannot be named the same as loot drops, or there must be some way of distinguishing them. Otherwise you'll have people selling crafted lvl 1 swords with the same name and model as the epic BOE sword from the latest raid.

This would take some further design and programming, but it seems worth it. SWG had a crafting system that utilized the loot drop part of this idea to some extent, but it could be further enhanced.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Second Chance at Life

Unless you live in a hole in the ground, you've heard of Second Life. It's a free MMORPG with an interesting twist. You can create items and sell them for money, which can be traded on their website for real money. That is about the only good thing it has going for it, but it brings up an interesting idea: Player made content. For most MMORPGs, the only player-made content is Role-playing. That is largely it. In Star Wars Galaxies, players also were able to decorate their houses and guild halls, but there wasn't much there. Ideally, an MMORPG would contain a lot of player-based content, but most rely on developer-made content.


Some MMORPGs rely heavily on player suggestions for future patches and updates, but there is no way for a player to create something real in the game, with obvious exceptions of guilds and such. There is no way to customize the things you craft (besides names sometimes). My question is, why not? Everything in the game has a skin and a model, and there are hundreds if not thousands of models and skins in the databases of each MMORPG. Why not make these things customizable?


Instead of crafting a Bonereaver Sword with the same model as everyone else, you can make Psychoman's Boneblasting Blade, that has a unique model and skin combination. Obviously there are some problems, as a variety of skins have to be made for each model, but creating a large amount of customization isn't hard. It would require a few basics:

1. A few base skins for each model.
2. Different colors for certain spots on the model (like hilt shades and blade colors for swords)
3. Different effects for the blade, i.e. flaming blade, glowing blades, etc

There are other things that could be changed and altered, but the point is that every weapon you make should have the option to be unique.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Is it Chilly in Here?

You know, I really should just hire coldness to be my muse, because this is the second idea I've gotten from him. Anyway, I've already thrown around the idea of level vs skill based gaming systems, and while I haven't quite beaten that horse to death yet, it won't be racing anytime soon.

So I'm going to talk about skills-based gaming. No, not character skills, but player skills. There are almost no MMORPGs out there that require the player to have any skill besides basic computer operations. The only one I can think of is Star Wars Galaxy NGE, but that doesn't really count as a game. Since none exist, why is the player skill-based game important?

The growing trend among video games is to either include full online play so you can beat the crap out of your friends and show off your l33t skillz, or include some sort of stat and scoring system so you can compare yourself to your friends (or both). Warcraft 3 has Battle.net and their levels and rankings, Sins of a Solar Empire has titles you earn by completing certain goals (like winning after not building any capital ships, or earning a certain amount of money). This doesn't even scratch MMORPGs, which are entirely about getting better gear and stats than your friends.

So if people like these games, what's wrong with them? Well, nothing really. Most games require either skill or a large amount of time to dedicate to getting better and learning the game. I know a good many players who suck at First Person Shooters, but are great at Wolfentein: Enemy Territory because they've played and memorized the six basic maps. When you put them onto a new map, they fall apart because they don't have strong FPS skills. MMORPGs are all about time dedication, as those that have time to raid and PVP have the best gear, and thus the advantage.

So why make a player-skill based game? Well, imagine if you were playing an MMORPG, and if you clicked the mouse again at the right instant during an attack, the attack did a large amount of additional damage. Or what if, in an MMORPG you actually have to aim in, like Project Entropia, hitting a monster in the head dealt more damage or had a chance to disorient them? Heck, what if there was a mini-game for crafting? What about a mini-game for casting, where success determined power level of the spell? What about blocking and countering during a fight if you time a click right? There are countless things that could be added to pull in player skill as well as to deepen immersion.

There are, of course, the usual problems with this system, in that any time you offer additional damage or success rates, people will try to create programs to automate the click so it lands perfectly. Lag alone might be enough to stop this, but if the time you need to click varies too much, players who are trying to get good at it will become frustrated. Also, servers will have to have a minimum of lag to make this work and I question the viability in PVP of any blocking/countering system as it might increase lag if both players have to wait on the other.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Player Bounties

Coldness's Comment to my last post started thoughts spinning in my head, and I'm reminded of something about the NGE of Star Wars Galaxies that I actually like: Player Bounties. How does this go back to Coldness's comment? Well, they operate within the quest system of SWG, with the exception that the target is a PC, not an NPC.

The idea is pretty simple. You're flagged for PVP or on a PVP server, and Joe McRogue comes by and stabs you in the heart, killing you. You decide that you want to put a 200g price on his head, and that the next person who kills him will get 200g. UberHunter1337 decides to take you up on your bounty, finds and kills Joe McRogue, and gets 200g for his trouble. Simple enough right?

Theory is always simple at first, but here's the difficulty: Preventing abuse and griefing using this system. So here are potential problems:

1. Use as Gold Transfer system

Any time currency can easily trade hands, there are problems with gold farmers using it to move gold en masse. The benefit is that this is a very risky system to use, as if Gold Farmer 1 and Gold Farmer 2 are trying t0 transfer gold, so Gold Farmer 3 kills Gold Farmer 1, Gold Farmer 1 puts a bounty on Gold Farmer 3 and Gold Farmer 2 kills and collect, succesfully transfering the gold. The difficulty? What happens when UberHunter1337 sees the bounty on Gold Farmer 3? He kills Gold Farmer 3 and the gold is his. Since Gold Farmer 1 placed the bounty, he can't complain that someone collected it. Also, bounty missions shouldn't be active during PVP events (like battlegrounds) and the player must have the mission (obtained by going to an inn or other frequently available "town" location)

2. Use as a griefing system

The idea of this system is to counter griefing, and give something for PVP players to do when not in PVP games. The problem arises after UberHunter1337 kills his target. The target then would want to turn around and put a bounty on UberHunter1337, which would cause him to put a bounty on whoever killed him, etc. I'm torn as to whether I like this or hate it, but the simple fact is, after testing it could be determined whether or not to allow targets of a Bounty Hunting mission to place bounties on the Bounty Hunter.

Additionally, to reduce griefing abuse, only Bounty Hunters and their target can attack or heal each other (like a WOW duel) and once the bounty has been collected, all bounty missions for that player are wiped. Also, only players killed by a player can post bounties on them.

3. Friends of Bounty Hunter targets killing them for the mission reward

So, lets say you get a Bounty Hunter on your tail because you killed Rich Noob 27. You talk to one of your friends, and he sees your Bounty Hunter mission, and takes it. You let him kill you, and you are in the clear, and he earned some gold. Right? Wrong! To prevent this abuse there must be some penalty to the Bounty Hunter target after he is killed. Many games use level and experience loss as the penalty, but I'm not sure how well that would work, or how well it would be received by players (although I am a fan of it). Faction loss seems to be to light of a penalty, and a debuff that lasted a number of days would be ignored while the player uses another character. I'm not sure there's a good solution that would keep people happy with this system.

There are other issues, but these are the important ones. Obviously, the player shouldn't be able to collect the bounty by killing himself, nor should it be clearable by the player's non-BH mission related death.

This brings up another idea though, player help quests. Let's say you are trying to kill NPC McBaddy, and you die during your mission. You can offer gold for help on the quest. Palimazing 123 decides he wants the gold, and helps you beat the crap out of NPC McBaddy, completing your quest. He gets the gold, you get your quest done.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

What is your Quest?

Quests, aka doing stuff for people too lazy to do it themselves, are a major part of MMORPGs, and they are almost all horribly designed. Quests seem to fall into a few simple categories, each more infuriatingly difficult or badly designed than the ones before:

1. The gather quest: “For reasons I’m not going to tell you, I need 23 pig livers. Now, they can’t be bruised or damaged in any possible way, but you’ll have to kill the pigs before taking their livers…oh and did I mention that not every pig around here has a liver?”

Seriously, these quests are THE most common in MMORPGs. Let’s face it, they are simple to design, just create a semi-plausible reason for an NPC to need the item, assign a drop rate, and profit! It’s hours of mindless, grinding fun, as those pigs never seem to have any livers. I do recall a statistic that says in WOW, only 33% of murlocs have heads, and I wonder how hard it is to get one bloody ear off of a bunch of trolls you just mercilessly slaughtered.

2. The Kill Quest: “I really hate farmer bob, you should probably just off him for me. Did I mention he has bodyguards, cause he knows I don’t like him? Oh, and they’re elites too. But I’ll give you this worthless vendor-trash robe if you do it for me!”

Kill quests aren’t that annoying in themselves, the ones that require groups or put you up against mobs of much higher levels are, especially if you have no crowd control class abilities. Kill quests are extremely difficult for dedicated healers to accomplish solo, but dps classes excel at them. A bit of a mixed bag, but the weak storylines for why you have to kill these specific people are annoying as hell, and I don’t bother reading them anymore.

3. The Class Skill Quest: “I need you to kill farmer joe now, but he’s immune to everything but . Luckily, you’re a so you have and can easily kill farmer joe.”

You know that class ability you never use and thought you didn’t need to buy? WRONG! You need it for this stupid quest, that usually is either a critical quest or has a reward that’s worth the tedium of learning how to use a class ability you probably hate.

4. The Escort Quest: “Thanks for rescuing me, now to reward all your hard work, I’m going to pull every mob in a 3 mile radius and run around like a moron. Oh, and did I mention I have like 2 health and can’t do any damage? Oh look, here’s a harmless bunny. Oh no, he looked at me! *dies*

Do I even need to mention Escort Quests? Either make the damned NPCs smart enough to wait and walk with you, or reduce their agro radius. I can’t count the number of times everything has been clear for a mile ahead of the NPC and they manage to pull something. Between that and them dying while you deal with the 20 mobs they pulled, Escort Quests suck.


So now that we realize that these quest lines are horribly overused and boring, what can be done to improve them? Well, I’m up for suggestions as I’ve never seen a game that really can do it right. SWG came close, as they had mission terminals which generated random missions for players. They were buggy and didn’t work right, but they would provide you with a location and usually a lair and group of mobs to destroy, in exchange for money. The missions varied based on your level, and got mind-numbingly boring after a while, but they got the job done.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

A look at Warhammer Online Crafting, the good and bad

Now more on crafting. According to the webcast of Warhammer Online’s crafting system, they are trying something “new” that actually isn’t that new. It seems that there are four gathering professions (basically to get magic stuff, plants, meat, and misc. loot) and two manufacturing professions (basically talismans and potions). You get to have one of each.

The gathering professions seem to just be taken from other games. For instance, the growing profession screams Final Fantasy XI, and the scavenging and butchery professions are analogous to how skinning operates in WOW. Also, the final gathering skills, magical salvage, is the same as disenchanting things in wow, with the exception that you get to choose what you receive from it.

Gathering is where the “new” stuff really is, though. Instead of recipes, you get to choose four ingredients to put into an item, and different combinations and skill levels generate different power items (Anyone remember the Elder Scrolls games? This is Alchemy!) There’s always a chance for critical failure, but you just loose the container you were using, not the ingredients, which is strange for me, since I’d think it’s more likely to loose ingredients than have the container break beyond repair.

So, I guess here’s my opinion.

Good:

  1. Non-recipe based crafting: Good, so long as it is implemented well and that there are many ways to make the same potions (like health potions) and item stats for potion making reflect their rarity.
  2. Gathering skills can be done anywhere. That way you don’t have to run back to newbie areas to get your growing skill up at the beginning.
  3. Skill trainers aren’t even available until Chapter 2, reducing the likelihood of alts being powerhouses for crafting.

Bad:

  1. You just copied WOW and FFXI for gathering skills. Seriously, I thought this was going to be a new system.
  2. Within days of the first players getting crafting skills, “recipes” will start showing up (as happened with FFXI) removing any need to experiment to find what recipes work well.
  3. Certain recipes will be deemed the best, and their ingredients will be costly, and make up most of the market for reagents. With the real time requirements of growing (a la FFXI) and the fact you get to choose seeds and such, and plants aren’t random spawns like WOW, players can simply choose not to grow plants that aren’t in high demand.

Some good, some bad, but I certainly hope they put more work into the basics of the system. I was really excited at the beginning of the podcast, and nearly depressed by the end.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Crafting

Now it's time for one of those long-winded rants about crafting. You see, I love crafting. There's something that really draws me in to an MMORPG with a good crafting system. What's a good crafting system? Well, that's up to the individual using it, but here are some things that pop to the top of my head when thinking about it.

1. Items should be customizeable and/or unique in some way. If two players make the same item, there should be differences between the two.

2. Grinding should be kept to a minimum, and anything you "have" to make should be desirable and usable.

3. Crafting should be complicated enough to take some experimentation to get good at, but simple enough to be able to get into.

There are other things I look at, but these three seem to be the things most lacking in today's MMO market. So, let's take a look more deeply at them.

My first point is very simple. I don't want to make an item that is identical to everyone else's item. I want it to reflect the resources that went in to it as well as my skill. Even if you are making a pair of lowbie boots, a higher level craftsman would make the boots better than a low level craftsman. This can be represented by skill bonuses, quality or durability bonuses, or in other ways. Star Wars Galaxies represented this by having every attribute of an item have an experimentational bonus, and having the crafter's skill determine the initial quality of the item as well as how many experimentation points and the likelihood the experimentation points would work. If I work hard to grind my way to max level of a trade skill in World of Warcraft, all I'm rewarded with is the hardest recipes in the game, which is laughable for the amount of time and resources it takes to get to that level. The reward should justify the means it took to get there.

My second point is a make-or-break point of most crafting systems. Whether a crafting system is utilized depends on how easy it is to get in to and how interesting it is. If I have to make 300 sets of orc underwear to get master tailoring, I'm not going to enjoy crafting as much as if I could make whatever I want. This is honestly a hard thing to do with most recipe type crafting systems, as they are innately designed on skill level versus recipes. This is fixable by making every recipe available from the begining and tweaking the failure chance and chance of skillup a bit. This would mean a low level blacksmith could make the hammer of uberness +10, but would most likely fail to make it and suffer some mishap (which should hinder him in a significant way so that he doesn't just try until he succeeds). Additionally, a high level smith could level making lvl 1 swords all day, but the chance of skilling up is low and the amount of skill gained will also be low, making it much more advantageous to use recipes of about your level (but not requiring it)

My final point is complexity. A simplistic crafting system is boring. World of Warcraft's crafting system can be completely automated with addons. Meanwhile, Final Fantasy XI's crafting system is complex and rich, but almost too confusing and lacking resource availability. Project Entropia's crafting system is difficult and conufsing, but fun if you have the time to invest in it. A crafting system should be interesting and fun every time you craft.

Next time I'll go into the Warhammer Online crafting system and my personal thoughts on it. Theories will fly and opinions collide on the next episode of VG Theory.

Conspiracy Theory

I was doing some idle speculation and something came to my tired brain that makes a lot of sense. What if Blizzard were to run a gold and powerlevelling company? Let's face it, when the GMs can create gold and items at will, as well as level characters at will, so there's almost no cost to them to provide the service!

To completely level a character from 1-70 will run a player around $130-150 (depending on service used). Considering the character is already paying to play, why not tap this extra money source? Also, players will pay $100-250 for 5000 gold, so why not provide that as well? Blizzard would basically increase the income from that account by 10-20 times.

Now, of course, Blizzard couldn't publicly do this, or they would loose a large percentage of their player base. However, doing it behind the scenes makes even more sense. If you can covertly get paid and at the same time collect names of characters who do buy powerlevelling and gold, you can do something even more evil. After making them pay for their leveling and gold, you ban the account after a few weeks. They realize they got caught because of buying gold and powerleveling, and so they don't feel nearly as pissed at Blizzard as they are at the power leveling service. The character then buys another account (and another copy of TBC) and starts all over again.

Now, this is complete and utter speculation, but it makes a scary amount of business sense, provided the ownership in the gold farming company could be kept secret. Given the player-based rumor mills, allegations could be denied or ignored with ease, and as long as it was never officially documented, Blizzard could continue with impunity.

More on Warhammer's Crafting system later.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Living Guilds

A brief respite from DSS talk for a look at something from the upcoming MMORPG Warhammer Online. Paging thought their development podcasts, I came across a discussion about their guild system. It seems to be a system where whenever a player earns xp, the guild earns xp. The guild can then level up, and gains a banner to be carried into battle. This banner (or battle standard) then grants the guild members morale bonuses and access to special moves and maneuvers.

The way guilds are implemented in MMORPGs is usually horrible. They are often just a private chat channel and a way of ensuring your spot in a raid. I've only had one good guild in all of my MMORPG experience, and that's just because a group of people who were my friends already in-game decided to just form a guild around our friendship. Most people change guilds at a moment's notice, and I've known several players who flit from guild to guild, taking anything they can from kind guild leaders before moving on to the next one.

MMORPGs need guilds to matter more. City of Heroes/Villains had a good start with the base system. If you have to work with your guild to build and secure your base, you feel much closer to them than if you just raid once a week. You've built something together, and worked hard to defend it. In Star Wars Galaxies, my guild because very strong when we had to defend our bases from being destroyed, to the point that when they were destroyed we ground out faction points to rebuild them together.

The largest detriment to guilds is bickering. So many guilds are lost or dissolved over one or two small disputes (at least in WOW). Usually, it's over something completely pointless, and usually it's not worth arguing over in the first place. The fact that guilds are so interchangeable and there's so little work involved in joining and being in one make it that much easier to complain and threaten to leave. If you had to work hard to get somewhere as a guild (and I don't count raiding as hard work, it's all formulated now) you are less likely to dissolve and your members will stay through more minor disputes, because they are invested in the guild.

I look forward to seeing Warhammer Online's guild system in action. A little later I'll discuss the crafting system Warhammer Online has stated they will be using. It seems interesting on some levels, and disappointing on other. More on that (and a discussion of what I think DSS crafting should look like) later.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Blizzard using Paypal?

About six months ago, Blizzard Entertainment added a new option to account payment for World of Warcraft: payment by Paypal. While this is extremely convenient, as it allows anyone with a paypal account to play World of Warcraft, something else occurred to me. Blizzard has “tried” since the beginning to deter the infamous “Chinese Farmer” population by requiring either game cards or US credit cards to pay for account subscriptions. With the advent of paypal subscriptions, this protection is gone.

Why has Blizzard done this? Well, there are a couple things I can think of. I’ve mentioned before that I believe Blizzard thrives on account sales and the gold trade, as it allows more players to access the game that wouldn’t otherwise. While Blizzard bans gold farmers in huge waves, the farmers often know when these waves are coming, and curtail their activities for a short period. The ban waves keep players happy and the gold trade continues.

What does that have to do with paypal? Well, before the paypal change, players who wanted to play on US servers had to be in the US or use prepaid game cards (or have a confederate in the US with a valid credit card). Paypal accounts are much easier to get and use than using a bank account in the US for a non-US resident.

So why make this change? Well, to get places to sell them, Blizzard offers discounts on gamecards to stores. The gamecards cost the same as two months of play time (purchased monthly) to the consumer, but blizzard makes more raw money from the subscriptions than the gamecards. So, why let companies that sell to Chinese farmers make money that is rightfully Blizzards?

Sure it’s a conspiracy theory. Sure it’s only founded partially in facts, and is a lot of idle speculation, but then again, it’s my blog :-p I don’t know if this was Blizzard’s plan, but if I were an executive at Blizzard, I’d be pushing for this kind of plan. It’s something that’s easy to deny on a corporate level and ignore. Oh well.

Up later, more discussion of the Dynamic Spawn System. If I had the skill to make an MMORPG, I would.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Example of Skills in a DSS

Skinning:

XP from skin = level of monster * quality level of skin

Failure xp = Level of monster / number of fails

XP: 1-1000

Failure xp: 1-100

Ex: 1-100 monsters

Quality: 1-10

1: Scraps: Scraps of leather, barely suited for anything

2: thin leather: The thinnest of leathers, useful for scrolls and canvas

3: Light Leather: A thin, lightweight leather useful in making armor with little encumberance, and little protective value.

4: Medium Leather: The standard for leather, most leather armors use this as a base, and it provides decent protection for the weight.

5: heavy leather: Better and heavier than medium leather, useful for more durable armor.

6: Thick Leather: Leather that is best used stretched over a frame as a shield.

7: rugged leather: Useable for leather armor that is almost as strong as metal, also used in shields

8: Reinforced Leather: Leather reinforced with parts of the animal’s skeleton and tissues, extremely strong and durable.

9: Dense leather: As durable as steel

10: Pristine Leather: This is exceptional quality and imbues anything made with it with special properties and a mystical connection with nature (rare)

Quality degrade by 1 point every failure

Success is based off comparing skill to level of creature (plus or minus gear modifiers), where there is a 50% chance of success of skinning if your skinning level is equal to the target creature’s level. This chance of success increases by 5% per level over the creature’s level.

Critical success chance increases quality of material to 10, and generates a specific masterwork resource for that creature and zone. For example, a lvl 10 creature may generate a pristine light leather and a lvl 100 creature would generate a pristine dense leather. These can be used like the lesser quality leathers (pristine light leather can substitute for light leather) and increases the quality and properties of the finished item. Chance of critical success is 0.1% and increases by .01% for every level over the creature’s level your skinning level is. It also decreases by .001% for every level below the creature’s level. (so a lvl 1 skinner can try to skin a lvl 100 monster, and will have a 0.001% chance to get a critical success). This should be checked after the first skinning attempt. If the first attempt fails, there is no chance for a critical success.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Recap

Okay, so I was throwing some ideas for a Dynamic Spawn System in an MMORPG, and I got sidetracked by school and work and gaming…which seems to happen a lot. I apologize to the few who actually read my blog and hope for updates (sorry, Rich :-p ), and I’ll try hard once again to post regularly.

So to go over what I’ve kinda been toying with, here’s some basics:

1. Each player in the MMORPG would have a number of spawn slots for creatures to be generated when he is around.

  1. These creatures would be of an appropriate level for the character and the zone he was in.
  2. This dynamic spawning should be tailored so that it is in full effect only when the player needs it to be, or when the player is entering an area too dangerous for his level
  3. This dynamic spawning should not hinder trade skills

2. Trade skills operate on an experience system, and attempts to be equal-opportunity.

  1. Higher level players will have access to higher level nodes with higher quality metals, but each zone level also has special rare drops for players with a high skill for those areas, keeping lower level players with high trade skills profitable.
  2. Lower level metals can be obtained by unskilled miners in high level areas.
  3. Failing reduces quality/quantity of end resource, but generates some small amount of xp.

With that in mind, some concerns have come to my mind. The biggest problem with DSS is ensuring that griefing by use of the spawn system doesn’t occur. It would be very easy for a high level character to get angry and spawn max-level (for the zone) mobs around the newbie starting area. An easy way to deal with this is by making only mobs you spawn hostile towards you, but that leaves the area wide open to abuse. As it is, almost every system in an MMORPG is strained and twisted to the limit before it is broken, and abused.

I’ll have more tomorrow. I’m brewing up ideas for the full write-up on the trade skill system. Have a good night

Friday, April 4, 2008

Skilling in a DSS

Trade skills in most MMORPGs is based off of spawns of resources and creatures and your skill level to even attempt to collect those resources. If you fail you get to try again as many times as you want. This ensures that there is a large supply of specific resources, and that players know exactly where to go to get the resources they need (i.e. newbie areas have copper nodes). The problem with this is it forces high level players to go to low level zones if they get these professions late in their career, and it effectively limits new players to low level resources until they gain in player level.

In a Dynamic Spawn System (DSS) this raises a problem. High level players will never spawn low level creatures and thus can never gain basic skills to get more advanced ones. This is fixed by removing a skill requirement to skin a creature and instead basing the quality of skin attained on the skill level of the skinner. So a lvl 70 player with skill 1 skinning will only get poor quality hide and leather, but a lvl 70 player with 300 skill will get high quality leather. Not the quality of leather should be capped by the level of the mob, so a low level player skinning a low level mob will not get a very high level skin, instead he will get a low level skin.

This should also apply to mineral nodes. I like the node system that WOW uses, where minerals are available in certain areas, and are more populous in mines and rocky, mountainous areas. However, I don’t think they should be apparent what minerals they contain, instead that should be based off of the skill level of the miner, and also capped by the zone. So a high level miner in a high level area will get a really good and expensive mineral, but a low level miner in a high level area will get the same thing as if he was mining in a newbie area. Also a high level miner in the newbie area would probable get the low level ore, but there’s a better chance he would get a rare world drop off of those nodes (i.e. a special gem or some other material) that would be only mineable in the areas of that level. There should be a rare in every level bracket to encourage even high level miners to mine out those nodes, and thus also supply materials of all levels for crafting.

Skilling in these skills should be based on use. To get better at mining you have to mine, to get better at skinning you should have to skin, etc. However, I think that failing at a task should increase your skill slightly. Now this is not a point for point system like WOW, where every success gets you 1 more level in the skill, instead it should be based on skill xp, with a certain amount of xp needed for each level of skill, that is increasing (however, the skill gained from skinning mobs also increases as the quality of the product/mob skinned increases). So lvl 2 skinning might take 5 skill xp, and 3 might take 10, 4 will take 20. 5 would take 40, etc. It will become harder to skill as the skill increases, but it would be possible to skill all the way on just lvl 1 mobs…it would just take a few million times longer than skilling on higher level mobs. If you fail in skinning, you get some small amount of xp, and also you can try again, but the skin you will eventually get will be one quality level lower. So medium leather will become light leather, and light leather will become ruined scraps of leather. If you fail on a skin that would reward ruined scraps, the mob is unskinnable and despawns. Similarly if you fail on mining, the quality of the resource decreases (or the amounts) so instead of copper, you get copper dust, and if you fail again, you get no minerals and just rocks, and if you fail again, you get nothing. From a skill xp standpoint, it should be noted that the xp from a successful first skinning/mining attempt should be more than you can get by failing and then succeeding. So if getting a medium leather was worth 20xp, then failing once and getting light leather should be worth 12 xp (2 for failing and 10 for light leather) and failing twice and getting scraps should be worth 4 xp (2 for failing the first time, 1 for failing the second time, and 1 for ruined scraps).

This system does two things. First, it ensures that players can level their skills any way they want on any mob or node they want, but they will be rewarded for skilling as they level (they will have appropriate materials to sell for their level and will have the easiest skilling curve). I will make up a mock-up of a skill to demonstrate these ideas fully, but this is a pretty rough idea of what I mean by this skill system. It will make more sense when I make a full abstract of the skill system.