Monday, January 30, 2006

EVE Online : Slowly, but surely

Skills

Skills in EVE Online are confusing to get started with. I was, and to a point still am, confused about which skills I should be training. I know in the long run that training my Learning based skills will reduce training times, but that makes for a pretty dull experience in the beginning.

My strategy so far has been to train several skills to level one while I am logged on. They are quick and easy to train, so I am online to switch the next skill active. When I have to log, I set my longer level 3+ skills to train. Luckily, I have plenty of skills that take 7-10 hours to train; perfect for work and sleeping.

100,000 Skill Points

I crossed the 100,000 skill point barrier earlier today. That meant updating my clone. Fortunately I am still well in the positive cash flow and it was no more than a drop in the bucket.

Unfortunately, the only station with cloning capabilities was six jumps away. I probably just missed one closer, but I am a newb and newbs make mistakes. I have a clone that saves up to 120,000 skill points, but I am by far in no rush to break it in.

Goal

I have a goal now: to train to Spaceship Command 3, Gallente Frigate 4, and Gallente Cruiser 1. Then I will look into purchasing a cruiser to fly around in. If anyone has any better ideas let me know!

Update: 8 Jul, 2007 - Edited post and applied labels.

Friday, January 27, 2006

My first day in EVE Online

My first day in EVE Online was uneventful, but still satisfying. We'll start out with character creation and finish with a new ship. Being a newb has never felt so good.

Race: Gallente
Bloodline: Gallente
Ancestry: Immigrants
School: Federal Navy Academy
Department: Operations
Field: Command
Specialty: Advanced Command

Int: 8, Cha: 8, Per: 10, Mem: 6, WP: 6

My adventure into the vast space of EVE Online started with a wonderful tutorial. It takes you over the basics of space flight, the UI, chat features, docking stations, and eventually into advanced space flight. Without the tutorial I doubt I would ever figure out how to play this game. It was so good that I may repeat it just to catch things I may have missed.

During the tutorial I spent a good amount of time goofing around and basically being a newb. Luckily there is a chat channel filled with helpful people that like to laugh. So far this is one of the better newb experiences I've had in a game and at the same time this is one of the toughest to learn games I've ever played in the MMORPG space.

My first combat experience was enjoyable as I fumbled accross advanced commands to just target and shoot things. It seems to be simpler than I am making it out to be, but in EVE you need to learn to fly first before you can get into heavy combat. Therefore I only encountered two combat situations and the first was the tutorial directed one.

The second combat situation had me confused. I had upgraded my newbie ship to a new and improved Gallente Frigate, Atron model. I outfitted it with two new guns filled with real ammo instead of the newb gun. Even riding high with this new bad ass strapped to a rocket I came into the fight with 5 on 1 odds. I was to destroy a Drone Silo defended by 5 drones and two stationary guns.

After a couple near death experiences that forced me to warp out of the fight I came back and barely managed to destroy the silo escaping the drones with only 1/4 of my ship still intact. I warped back to my agent (quest giver) flaming the entire way for a fat paycheck.

Next step: Find a ship buying guide for a newb!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Now playing EVE Online

I decided to finally take the plunge and journey into the game every MMORPG blogger seems to be enjoying: EVE Online.

So far; so good. I am about done with the tutorial and found it to be very helpful. It is actually the first tutorial that has ever explained to me the chat features in game. The newbie chat channels are full and its great to get help when needed.

The new player guide is also helping me with skill training which is one of EVE Online's mysteries to me still. Slowly, but surely, I am learning the ins and outs of the system.

Thanks to Ethic at Kill Ten Rats blog for the hook up on a few links to character creation guides. No gimp rolling here!

My name in game is Column (Heartless was taken) and you can EVE mail me if you would like.

Everquest 2 : Trial of the Isle - Fighter and Scout

Everquest 2 is a beautiful game graphically if your computer can handle it. I am fortunate enough to have recently upgraded to a top end rig that can handle the highest settings possible in EQ2. Yes you heard that right; I run EQ2 at Extreme Quality. The game runs perfectly for me and the initial tutorial on the ship at sea is quite impressive.

Still some animations seem to stutter and monsters seem to skip (especially the first set of goblins you are tasked to kill) across the land if they are moving fast. This is something I experienced the last time I played the game and it doesn't detract from the game overall. I've eliminated it being a graphics related slow down because it happens even on lower graphics settings.

I had previously claimed that EQ2 avatars are equivalent to barbie dolls. This still holds true and is highlighted by most of the elf and human related races. I don't know what they were thinking on some of the more human races, but there is so many hair sets that look like shiny plastic!

However, I will admit that some of the more exoctic races look surprisngly good. Also the Erudite with their darker skin tones and Glpyhs look very good. The plastic feel doesn't really come off on these exotic races I guess because of the darker skin tones and more colorful skin patterns.

Fighter - My first character to play was an Erudite fighter. I wanted to start out with a strong and straight forward class. Fighters are exactly that. The first noticeable improvement I found was the run speed was significantly increased on all classes. So much so that I actually think it is too fast, but that is easily forgiven when you are getting from point A to point B in reasonable time periods.

The fighter is definitely dominant on the starter island. There was literally nothing that challenged me that much. I could swath through pairs of equally challenging opponents with little fear of death. My only death came from an unfortunate invisible goblin patrol that hid underneath a bridge.

The basic fighter Heroic Opportunity doesn't look like a fighter attack you would find in most MMORPGs, but it was still very pleasing to the eye. After a bit of trial and error I mastered the actions required to perform it which made me feel good. The only downside I found though was that the HO wasn't much better than just performing my base attacks and often times the monsters died before I had the chance to complete the HO. I assume this is because of the fact these are newbie monsters.

Scout - I chose Wood Elf for my scout because I wanted to see if the plastic hairstyles could be lost in game against the background graphics. Unfortunately they look like plastic in game just like at the character creation screen.

Knowing the layout of the isle better I was able to smoke through the quest lines and to my surprise they were different than the fighter quests. A definite plus. Aiding me in the travel is the pathfinding skill for scouts. It is only an increase of 16%, but it made me feel like I was flying through the isle. I didn't time it, but it didn't seem to take more than a minute to run from end to end of the island.

Scouts also get stealth which really doesn't slow you down that much. I felt like a stealthed bomb waiting to go off as most of my ambush attacks took out most lower level opponents and some equal level enemies in a single shot. Unfortunately this means that completing my scout HO was almost impossible.

I quit after discovering the main cave on the island because no one was around to group for the final encounter. Sad, but I understand that there isn't many newbies around to play with during the daytime hours.

Next up is the priest and mage if I feel like it. While not wow'd off my feet I was amused with the game. I doubt I could get over the seemingly "off" flow of combat and the skippy movement to play further. Yet, I would still highly recommend playing at least the Trial of the Isle as it is free!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

New World of Warcraft Alliance race!

Click here for all the details on World of Warcrafts new Alliance race for the Burning Crusade expansion!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Strike at Karkand, a lesson in how to not build a Battlefield 2 map

Lesson 1: Do not start both sides within sprinting distance of each other. This rewards only those players that can load in the fastest on the first round and have the first flag capped before the majority of gamers even think about moving.

Also it is prime real estate for a campfest by tanks and APCs. No one likes dieing the second they spawn because there is ZERO cover to take against a set of camping tanks and APCs.

Pushing the bases farther apart would allow for teams to set up defenses and actually be prepared for an assault before the battle is already lost. Engineers could provide a crucial role on this map, but unfortunately by the time they could get in place to set AT mines the tank and APCs are already camping the spawns.

Lesson 2: In Battlefield 2 openess is key. You can't artificially impose boundaries with non-combat areas to bottleneck the action. I could understand if the south-east corner of the map was mountains, but it is not! It is wide open and should of been left open to prevent the bottleneck that occurs currently.

Boats and other items would of made that area a key part of the map. The MEC would have to defend both their back bases and their forward bases instead of just watching the bottleneck slaughter that occurs at the forward bases.

Lesson 3: Providing tons of buildings with no interiors to hide in is a mistake. Once again the camping issue. Tanks and APCs can have field days in the alley ways as infantry have no place to run. There is also ZERO space for infantry to surprise tanks or APCs to take them out.

Lesson 4: Maximizing fast combat situations does not make the game fun. It just promotes the whoring aspect of an already flawed ranking system. Its sad that you don't have to leave the forward spawn points to get the Gold Medal. Actually those people that actually try to cap spawn points for a win usually wind up with the fewest points. The points are whored within the forward most spawn point in the mid of the rush.

Lesson 5: Don't build in a strategic bridge over a river if you are going to just allow vehicles to drive down river 10 feet to cross without a bridge. These are the type of choke points that should be in game. That way armor whores have to get out of their vehicles and fight or fix the bridge to cross.

A Final Note: Many players play Strike at Karkand with the sole excuse that they just hate air power. These players need to get Special Forces and play on maps that are built 100% around infantry combat. Most Special Forces maps are a joy to play on and are wide open from end to end. Strike at Karkand is poorly designed and is nothing more than an excuse to whore points.

This post came out of anger because I'm sick of the map. I don't play it any longer except for a game here and there. I hate the fact that its the most overplayed map in game and that without it you can't compete for rank sufficiently. Ranks are artificially harder to achieve because of the score inflation this single map causes.

You're right and I should play the game for fun, but I like to watch my stats. Fortunately I can somewhat compete playing on the other maps and I enjoy my time. EA has done a better job with each patch to make it so you can score more points on other maps than just Strike at Karkand. Hopefully EA gets a clue and rebuilds Karkand with a more open battlefield.

I'm installing Everquest 2 : Trial of the Isle

I am going to go against my better judgment and install Everquest 2 : Trial of the Isle. Actually, I am almost done installing it. Now, some may ask, how could I go do such a thing being the SOE hater that I am? For starters, I'm bored and need an MMORPG fix. Plus, EQ2 seems to be a better option currently than resubscribing to World of Warcraft. Also I would like to see EQ2, settings pumped up, on my new system. This should show the game off; compared to slideshow when I played it on my older PC.

I doubt EQ2 will turn into a subscription for me, but I figured its worth it to try the game as it is now before it goes through its major class changes. Then, I can return after the changes with a bit of perspective, and see if its something that has enhanced the newbie experience.

Update: 30 April, 2009 - Edited post and applied labels.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Dungeons and Dragons Online gets a D

Update: 30 Jan, 06, restructured some parts of this post.

So the preview event for Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO) has come and gone and I finally got to play the game that I've already started ranting about. It’s hard to approach the game objectively when I've already decided the game was missing an aspect that is key to pen and paper Dungeons and Dragons; the Dungeon Master. Regardless of my reservations about the game I had to try it.

Holding Hands

If you were a new player coming into a MMORPG how would you want to be introduced to the character building process? Would you want it to be fairly straight forward allowing you to get into the game and explore OR would you want to wish you had spent a little bit longer buried deep inside your D&D rule books?

DDO starts you off in a small un-guided cluster of a mess. For MMORPG veterans it may be intuitive to click on the nearest NPC as you enter the game, but for a newbie the hand holding approach needs to be used. Also it is very nice as a veteran when a new game takes my hand and guides me in my baby steps.

Guided steps are another key to introducing the player to the game. Turbine's idea of combat orientation is giving you one of four doors to choose from IF you actually figure out that they exist! The four doors are off to the side and had I not just out of curiously investigated them would have never discovered them. Each one offers a different combat training experience because I guess it was too hard to teach you about ALL your avatar's abilities at once.

Once you are familiar with what you are doing it is not hard to find your first quest and set off. The beginning quests are simple and actually do serve as a good stepping stone into the game. It just stands to reason that the combat training would have been much more fully integrated into the quests.

The minor victory that is achieved after completing the newbie area is quickly lost as you hit the same unguided wall when you finally reach the only city in DDO; Stormreach. I found myself just as lost and unguided as the newbie area. Hopefully by this time you have figured out to look for the big yellow swirl symbols that mark the entrance to a dungeon instance. They are equivalent to graffiti in any major city. Luckily you can click on a dungeon entrance and be directed to the NPC that hands out the pre-requisite quest required to enter. Its up to you how to actually get started in that quest line.

Combat isn't for Wimps

The combat of DDO is not for wimps. It also apparently is not for the standard MMORPG player because it’s radically different. Radically may be too strong a word. The trinity still exists: heal, tank, and damage.

The radical comes from the controls for combat. Auto attack is all but removed. Every click is an attack, a swing of the weapon, a block, or any number of various skills. Combat is real time and it is very hack’n’slash inspired.

Sadly this left me with soar wrists and fingers after only a couple hours of play. Sometimes I just wished I didn’t have to click a dozen more times to hit my target. I don’t really understand why the clicking gave me soar wrists or pain in my fingers because after all I play FPS games for extended periods of time with no problems. I think it came from having to constantly have a key depressed to keep the camera in a decent position.

It is just poor design to have an action inspired control scheme that requires you to control the camera. In the end the combat does not feel like a true representation of D&D. Don’t ask me how to fix it because I don’t know.

Crazy People Repeat Themselves

There is a Dungeon Master present in every quest instance you adventure into. It is the same computer controlled DM that you will meet in every single adventure. It does not change. It does not adapt to play styles. It does not feel like a real DM.

On top of not being real there is a huge immersion breaker when the DM repeats every action you take. I know that the rusty metal gate just clanked open because I saw it with my own two eyes and just so happened to have pulled the lever to make it do so! I know the chest just opened because I opened it! I know the ladder just broke because I was climbing it when it happened!

The idea works in some areas. At first the booming voice of the DM was very welcome and added to the experience. The enjoyment was short lived when I realized every action I took in my adventure was going to be narrated back.

With a little time and effort this system could have been much more effective. The system shines when it accurately notifies party members of an impending trap or situation that their skill checks passed. This makes every party member have to pay attention because the clues given by the computer DM don't go to every person in your group. This is good. Repeating my actions is not.

Warforged

Warforged are in DDO because of Turbine's decision to host the game in Wizard of the Coast's new world of Eberron. Warforged are a significant element of Eberron and that has pretty much sealed their fate to exist in DDO.

Remember playing the game "One of these things is not like the others?" when you were a child? Well then you will have a similar experience when you get to the race selection screen of DDO. The Warforged neither fit in appearance or in MMO familiarity. They are large. They look funny. And most of all they are not a race players can identify with at all. Dwarves, Elves, Humans, and Halflings are all Fantasy 101.

I kept finding myself pulled out of the immersion because of a lumbering hulk of a Warforged standing around. D&D always has relied on openness and allowing players to be anything they want to be. The problem I find is that DDO does not have this openess and therefore having one unique race really hurts the game. Now if many other races could have been included we may have a more diverse selection to fit Warforged into. Unfortunately the selection is small and the Warforged stick out like a sore thumb.

In the End

The game got a passing grade from the D&D creator himself, Gary Gygax. Still this doesn't sell the game to me. The lack of a real DM was a main detractor before I even played the game and after playing the game I am 100% confirmed in my prediction.

Lacking and uninspired combat just adds onto the laundry list of things that don’t translate between D&D and MMORPG. DDO doesn’t deserve the D&D in its title. Don’t get me wrong. The game is set in a D&D setting, but the rules are much maligned and overall poorly implemented into Turbine’s vision.

Vote with your wallet and vote no for DDO. I give Dungeons and Dragons Online a resounding grade of D (no pun intended).

Saturday, January 21, 2006

How does Jack Thompson get away with it?

Go here and read this. It details the suicide of a gamer nicknamed Kuja105. Not only did his online community try to save him, but they went to an exhausting length to do so. In the end it was not to be and Kuja105 is no longer with us.

But the tragedy of the story? During a time when communities and families are still grieving and trying to understand a death of one of their own out comes Jack Thompson to prey on the situation.
"Your 'gamer friend' will find peace through the Lord, Jesus Christ, but sadly it's too late for that.

There is a void in every heart. You can fill it up with the things of God, or the things not of God. This unfortunate soul chose to fill it up with combat games. The playing of these video games is masturbatory activity, meaning senseless self-stimulation. If you gamers could use a dictionary you would know that that term is not necessarily a sexual one.

The real tragedy here extends beyond the life and death of this one fellow. There are literally millions of young people and young adults whose despair is deepened by turning to the things of this world and then finding them meaningless.

All of you gamers need to put down the controllers and get a life. The utter inanity of the vast majority of postings here shows how vapid "gaming" really is.

You are one of the cheerleaders for this wasting of time and the wasting of lives. Do you feel any remorse for having contributed to this "culture of death?" Of course not. Hey, let's all play MORE games, and ignore all the really productive things to do with our lives.

Let's pretend to be shocked that a gamer might descend into deeper depression, as his gamer "buds," knowing he was killing himself, couldn't figure out how to call 911 themselves for him. That would have involved leaving their computers I guess.

Sad. Sad for all of you." - Jack Thompson
Now how the fuck can Jack Thompson get away with such things? I just don't understand this. He can throw a law suit down because he was called a name over the Internet, but feels he can turn around and berate a community of millions without repercussion?

Jack Thompson needs a wake up call. These communities need to rally behind this tragedy and Jack Thompson needs to be barred as a lawyer and never allowed to practice again. I am not a lawyer and don't even know if that is possible, but this is something that must be done.

If a Pepsi drinker commits suicide in the same situation does Jack Thompson e-mail Pepsi and tell them they are all children of the devil and that drinking Pepsi is causing our youth to commit suicide? No, he doesn't, and Pepsi (HFCS in general) is responsible for more youth deaths than any video game ever will be.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Tips for Battlefield 2 : Special Forces

I'm writing this tips for Battlefield 2 : Special Forces for all the knuckle heads out there that are still trying to play Special Forces as though it was regular BF2. Special Forces is not and will never be like regular BF2 and therefore you need to adjust your current way of thinking.

1. Squads! Squads! Squads! Joining a squad is key to success in any Special Forces game. Special Forces is grounded in the work of squads! This is a good tip for regular BF2, but is magnified 10x in the Special Forces expansion.

1a. While in a squad spawn on the squad leader! Most of the time they are setting up for a flag cap and its easier to sneak one person in than 5. Spawn and cap... makes for a great surprise.

1b. A squads success relies heavily on its combination of classes. A good rule of thumb is to always have a medic and two anti tanks. Anti tanks are always needed... a single tank will always win a stand off against a squad that has no AT. Even if you have Spec Ops you need to assume you will not have the jump on a tank. Resupply doesn't hurt, but you also need to have some decent firepower and until EA fixes the supply weapons accuracy they are not more important than a Spec Ops or Assault.

2. They added grapling hooks, zip lines, gas, and flash bangs in for a reason!

2a. Grappling hooks and zip-lines. The Special Forces maps are full of buildings and obstacles that can be bypassed. This makes it harder to defend flags, but in the end it makes the game 100% better because there isn't finite choke points to bottleneck at.

If you see your squad leader tossing up a rope be kind enough to follow. Chances are he is looking to get high to a) clear out any enemies below and b) get high enough for a zip line into the flag.

2b. Zip lines. As with grappling hooks they are keys to Special Forces. I guarantee a good squad will always be zipping into flags and you would be very amazed at how quickly the flags get capped. The key to the zip line is to deploy it and use it right away. If you hesitate at all you're never going to make it down.

2c. Flash bangs and gas. These two items can allow a squad to go into a packed spawn and remove every target before they have a chance to react. Employ with a zip-line and you can zip line into a flag covered by gas.

Flash bangs are useful, but don't get happy with them. They are tricky to throw and usually the effect is not enough to throw someones aim off that much.

Update: 29 Nov, 2009 - Edited post, corrected spelling, and applied labels.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The SOE effect: The other side of the coin!

SOE Effect Part I
SOE Effect Part II

Those are both my articles on how I feel SOE is leading their games (Everquest1&2, Planetside, Star Wars Galaxies) astray and that any SOE game should NEVER be played. SOE is a shifty and underhanded developer pushed a) by money grubbing business suits and b) by unrealistic development schedules and practices set forth by John Smedley.

However I have found someone who differs in opinion. Someone who can argue a lot better than I can, but Darniaq will not sway my opinion. SOE is dirt. Go over and read the article and browse around.... Darniaq has quite a few insightful posts.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Who cares about the stories?

One Tired EVE Pilot doesn't care about game stories. So who does? That's a question I can't really answer. Role-players? Possibly. Hardcore fans? Maybe. The gamer looking to get lost in a fantasy world? Another possibility.

It's not that people don't care about the story, but they just don't care for poorly implemented story telling devices. I read 1,000+ page books every couple of weeks, but you won't catch me in-game reading chat boxes. I play games to have a living story where a battle is not narrated... it is won or lost in my actions.

Cut scenes in general are poor story telling devices simply because most game developers aren't cinematographers. There is a couple games like Warcraft 3 and Final Fantasies 7-10 that have used great cut scenes to help tell a story, but cut scenes alone do not make a story go. The game play needs to help tell the story as well and that's something I've yet to see done well.

Art is another big area. If a sewer is dark, damp, and stinks like yesterday's garbage... then visual clues like buzzing flies, visual fog, and proper lighting is required. Imitating smell without smell is hard, but artists are smart and I think it can be done without a 100 word text box describing the stench.

The avatar and animations are also important. The way an avatar runs or moves can tell a lot about the history of the character. I would rather see a Goblin Pirate limp across the ship deck than read a text box tell me that he lost it ten years ago in a battle. Resident Evil had your character slump over and stumble as you became injured and it replaced the health meter quite well.

Our minds make the words to the story we see on screen. Pictures are worth a thousand words and a proper game using the proper story telling mechanisms is worth a million.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Trying to understand things on the internet is hard

What do spray cans, groping, and racism have to do with each other? I don't know. Why are you asking me? I wish I knew, but I don't. Why?

Because I am trying to understand something on the internet. While hitting up my favorite Blog search engine, Technorati, I came across the search term "xiaxue". What is xiaxue you ask? I really wish I could tell you, but I have an inkling from the search results at Technorati that it has to do with spray cans, groping, and racism!

Well I'm not really sure... this is the Internet after all.

What To Play: WoW, EVE, or EQ2

I've been thinking recently of what MMORPG I should head back into for a bit. I have not had an active subscription for two months strong now. I've really felt no pull towards any of them to start playing them again. Battlefield 2, Call of Duty 2, and various Half Life 2 mods (Goldeneye Source, Dystopia, Counter Strike : Source) have kept me busy. But like Ogier steddings in the Wheel of Time series, by Robert Jordan, there is a longing to return.

World of Warcraft

I have an account and a level 60 Troll Shaman on Azgalor. There is a lot of new content from the 1.9 patch that may interest me. However, I doubt I would continue playing my Shaman. Most likely I would start a new character elsewhere to level up for the expansion (which I'm not sure I will be buying).

EVE Online

I love the trading and corporation aspects of EVE Online. I've tried to learn the game, but I've fallen flat on my face. I can't stand playing games that are painfully slow and confusing to learn. I know if I put the time in, I could be rewarded, but there are no guarantees in EVE Online.

Everquest 2 : Trial of the Isle

Ethic at the Kill Ten Rats blog has been trying out EQ2 and the Trial of the Isle. He has somewhat peaked my interest in picking it up again for a spin. It is doubtful I would play past the free 14 days, but giving it a try would satisfy my curiousity. I like the idea of play and forget without paying.

Update: 8 Jul, 2007 - Edited post and applied labels.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Dungeons and Dragons : The DM difference

With all the post-NDA opinions floating around about Dungeons and Dragons Online's beta I have been thinking about a crucial part of what has always been the most important aspect of a tabletop game of D&D. That aspect of course is the real, live, and breathing Dungeon Master (DM).

Let's step back to DDO for a minute. Turbine has gone a long ways to make sure the aspect of the Dungeon Master was not forgotten. They have added pop up text boxes that go into some detail about each and every area a player visits. Also there is narration to help better explain some of the different events within a quest or adventure. It gives an overall impression of there being a DM present, but in reality I doubt any player will ever believe a DM is truly watching over their play.

Turbine has decided that the DM is not a role that needs to be filled by a human. After all, that's what they have servers, graphics, real time combat, and the game itself for. There is no need for a DM to be there. Turbine's quest team has hand built numerous quests and areas for players to adventure in. They have gone the extra mile to make adventures that are exciting and multi-faceted. What possibly could a DM be needed for?

Human > Computer

It is a simple fact that a human would serve as a better DM than a computer.

Your party has been rolling through a dungeon. No monster, trap, or ambush could stop you. No monster, trap, or ambush could... because the dungeon doesn't change based on how well you're doing. The difficulty hasn't scaled. The computer is not smart enough to do so.

Insert a human DM into that situation and you have a different story on your hands. The DM could throw down a trap to slow the party while he prepared the next wave of attackers. What may start as an easy fight could escalate quickly as the DM jumps in to control one of his summoned creatures. Now the party is fighting against a real opponent.

This even extends beyond just interacting with the party as they adventure. It pays its dividends in the end also when the true reward of adventuring in D&D pays off and that is at the division of the experience points. A computer is going to reward you the same amount for the same quest (with diminishing returns for DDO). A DM on the other hand is going to analyze the fight. Was it hard for the party? Do they deserve a little extra maybe? Do they deserve less possibly because they took the easier path? These are questions to think about the next time you earn experience in any MMORPG.

What about getting a bad DM?

Well it is a possibility and I would like to think there would be quite a need for DM with the number of adventurers playing. So the possibility of getting a poor DM that is unable to enhance the adventure is a real possibility.

Things like DM rankings and scorecards would go a long way to alleviate this. After every adventure the party could rate their DM and a DM would rate his players. Other things such as rewarding a DM for achieving better rankings and giving them more power as they achieve higher ranks could also help. These are things that just haven't been explored and until real DM are placed in game it is hard to expand upon them.

For some ideas on ranking and rating systems check this article out.

Its too exploitable

I know what people are going to say. A bunch of buddies get together and jump into an adventure with their buddy buddy DM. The DM makes the adventure a cake walk and then rewards insane amounts of experience at the end. Everyone else feels cheated because there is nobodies all of a sudden level 10 after a week of playing.

No one likes cheaters and sadly cheaters will always look for maximum return with the smallest investment on their part. Its a sad fact, but there are ways to deal with it.

One idea is to randomly assign the DM to an adventure. That way no party can “shop” for a DM that will help them exploit the system. But honestly do we need to go so far as to push the players and the DM apart?

Honestly the simpler fix would be to just not connect the game to hub worlds. Disconnect the player base from itself and offer a separate way of connecting. Server browsers work great in FPS games. Give the adventurers a simple chat interface linked with a game browser so that players can hook up for a game. Each game could then be stored for players to join in later.

Without the connection of hub worlds the effect of the exploiters would not be seen as a negative on other players experience. The exploiters would be playing their own games and the other gamers would be playing theirs. If an adventure called for a party of five level 5's then it would not matter really how each character entering got to level 5.

Again the DM has control of the adventure. If players come in with items the DM doesn't feel are appropriate they could be easily replaced or restricted. If a character comes in weak the DM could boost them up for that game and that game alone.

Conclusion

The DM holds a great power in D&D. Without their presence the D&D experience is not the same. Pretty graphics and flavor text will never replace the human imagination. D&D has never been about what 1,000's of other players are doing, but more about what you and your small group of friends are doing. An online version of D&D needs to simply increase the size of the pool from which you pick your fellow adventurers and in turn hopefully make some new friends.

DDO may be a faithful representation of the world and rules of D&D, but it will never capture the spirit.

Update: 28 Aug, 2008 - Updated labels.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Battlefield 2 patch 1.2 and Armored Fury

EA is at it again today with the new Battlefield 2 patch 1.2 and the announcement of Armored Fury another booster pack. Also with the announcement they put a price tag of $9.99 on the two announced booster packs; Armored Fury and Euro Force.

Onto the 1.2 patch notes and some commentary.
  • * Helicopter now carry 8 missiles rather than 14
  • * TV-Guided missile now have a shorter range
  • Both of these will go a long way to balancing the attack helicopters.
  • * Hit points on all air vehicles have been reduced
  • * AA missile lock on has been improved
  • More nerfs to the overpowered air power. Ground pounders rejoice!
  • * Support kits have had their primary weapons adjusted for accuracy
  • * Sniper kits have had their primary weapons adjusted for accuracy
  • * Anti-Tank kits have had their primary weapons adjusted for accuracy
  • Hmmm wonder if this means they will be more accurate? I may go back to playing support and sniper now. Nothing like letting 100 bullets fly at someone two feet away and not hitting them with the support guns or the 50/50 accuracy of the sniper rifle sometimes.
  • * "Dolphin Diving" is no longer possible
  • Dolphin what?
  • * Players can no longer jump and shoot at the same time
  • And a whine hear the world round was heard the day the bunny hoppers were nerfed!
  • * "Prone Spamming" is now fixed
  • * "Sprint exploit" is now fixed
  • Exploit fixes are always good!
  • * The Sa80 weapon has been improved
  • * The G3A3 weapon has been improved
  • Don't even know what weapons these are... oh well.
  • * Reload while sprinting has been enabled
  • Fin a fucking lee.
  • * Chinese and MEC APCs can now shoot through penetrable materials
  • Now they didn't specify if these were the main gun or the side guns.
  • * Damage decreased for the M134
  • * Medic defibrillator paddles have been adjusted. They now reload while not in use.
  • Medics rejoice... no longer pulling out the paddles and having to watch them re-reload!
  • * Server search filters now work properly
  • What??? They FINALLY fixed the server browser filter issues. I will believe it when I see it.
  • * All mines (Claymore, Anti-vehicle, C4) can now be picked up by the same class that dropped it by using the “G” key.
  • Snipers rejoice... no longer is it a "wait and see if I got a TK for using a claymore!"
  • * Mines can no longer be destroyed with other explosives
  • What you do in one patch can always be undone in the next.
  • * Flash bang effect radius decreased
  • Good... never made sense that flashbangs worked 100 feet away and through walls.
  • * Added unlocks for Sniper and AT kits
  • Say what? Interesting.
  • * Fixed a bug in terrain rendering with night vision, whereby terrain was still dark in dark areas.
  • * Fixed a bug whereby mods that are not bf2 or not xpack permutate shaders every time a level is loaded.
  • * Fixed a bug whereby non-xpack mods cannot use xpack shaders.
  • * Fixed bug in TV guided missiles of Havoc helicopter
  • * Bug in MP7 fire rate fixed. Ammo count increased and mag count and damage decreased
  • * APC Update – “Chinese and MEC APCs can now shoot through penetrable materials”. This fix was a miscommunication to the patch team. Chinese and MEC APC’s have been reverted and the LAV25 now no longer shoots through penetrable materials.
  • Awww damn... hope none of you had your hopes up.
  • * Vehicles no longer disappear when viewed from some vehicles with a HUD (e.g. Tanks).
  • * Performance gain found in static mesh rendering.
  • * Detonation radius from grenade launcher explosions has been reduced.
  • * Grenade launcher projectiles now have a minimum time before arming.
  • All the poor noob toobers spamming Strike at Karkand will quit... I mean it! I can't say much since I had a love affair with the noob toob grenade launcher for a while.

Battlefield 2 : Euro Force... my predictions

EA has announced that Battlefield 2 will recieve a booster pack entitled Euro Force. Here is a list of what it will bring.
3 New Maps
  • * Operation Smoke Screen
  • * Taraba Quarry
  • * Great Wall

4 New vehicles
  • * Main Battle Tank - Leopard 2A6
  • * Main Battle Tank – Challenger 2
  • * Fighter – Eurofighter (Typhoon T1)
  • * Attack Heli – Eurocopter Tiger (Tiger HAP)

7 New Weapons
  • * HK53A3
  • * Famas
  • * SA80 L85A2
  • * SA80 L85A2 with UGL (AG-36)
  • * HK21
  • * Benelli M4
  • * P90
  • * L96A1

1 New Army
  • * European Union

1 new award
  • * European Union Special Service Medal



Now onto my predictions.

1. It is no secret the Chinese Army is the most underplayed army in BF2. For good reason; the Chinese maps are large and prone to air power raping the entire map. On top of that there is no single good map for scoring points in the Chinese map set.

So one of these new maps is going to be very (and I mean VERY) similar to Strike at Karkand. It will offer equally fast paced combat in an urban setting without the use of any air power. People will flock to this server because it will gain as many (if not more) points than Karkand does. EA probably believes this will somehow even out the balance between the armies.

2. A patch will be appearing shortly before or after the launch of Euro Force. It will make Euro Force unplayable and be removed. It will be taken back and retooled and then be released with the next big update.

3. The pack will sell well because of the new Karkand like map and EA will be convinced they can keep making money off these minor content updates. Its a good idea, but after Special Forces I don't expect too much meat with the release of each of these booster packs.

EA has failed to integrate the game play of SF and Battlefield 2 as it is which has segregated the community. I don't see this pack being that great, but give the stat boys a map to whore points on and they will pay... they will pay.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Dungeons and Dragons (DDO) beta preview/review wrap-up

Update: 29 Nov, 2009 - Removed post as all links were broken. This will be kept as a historical placeholder.
This originally linked to various articles detailing previews/reviews of Dungeons and Dragons Online's beta.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Virgin Worlds : Panic at the Console; a look into MMORPG gamers

The Prognosticator over at the VirginWorlds blog has an interesting article up entitled "Panic at the Console" which delves into the differences among FPS and RPG gamers. It also touches on the differences of MMORPG gamers.

I wrote a somewhat in depth response which has now been included into the original posting. I've cut and pasted it here for your reading pleasure, but for the full effect please read the linked article above.
Assuming of the 5 million or so MMORPG players that are playing out there (which I'm doubtful of, but we'll play ball) it is a drop in the bucket compared to the number of players that would play MMORPGs if they didn't come off the line like solid brick walls. There seems to be little, if any, move to make MMORPGs more accessible (please don't read that as simpler) to the mass audience.

You hit the idea on the head that RPG gamers come from a different breed. I'm not so sure if you can limit it to past systems. You need to remember that back in the day of the Atari 2600 there was almost TWO TIMES the number of gamers in the market. Yes you heard that right and if I could get the link to Nolan Bushnell's speech I would :P

RPG gamers also come from the roots of D&D (duh!) and that is something you can compare to the experience of being a non-Atari gamer back in the day. It has never and will never be about the graphics, technology, or the feature list.

It will remain to be about the PEOPLE.

Also I think you are complete backwards on people coming in through WoW and moving onto "harder" games. It is quite the opposite. People get stressed out on the overly time sink methodology of games like Everquest and jump ship to the more casual friendly WoW.

WoW in no ways should be seen as a market entry point for new gamers. It is bringing in new players, but the experience it promotes DOES NOT make people get into what you are classifying as harder MMOs. Don't confuse more time consuming with harder. It could be debated for years how hard WoW's end game content is compared to EQ's. Its the delivery mechanism that counts here and WoW delivers a system that a new gamer isn't going to be destroyed in.

On another note I don't believe time played is something the MMORPG market has cornered. I would even wager that the average Counterstrike player has more time online than most MMORPG players over a much shorter time span. Sure there is a lot of cross population amongst FPS players and what games they are playing, but the same is true of the MMO market (except within the HARDCORE circles).

What I'm getting at is that ONLINE play is what is stealing the market. MMORPGs are just charging for that time and hence are getting the attention of the venture capitalists looking to fund projects that are going to prove to be a genuine revenue stream.

Video gaming was born in the social aspect. It was not something that was developed as a solo experience. Pong (or Tennis for Two) was two players remember. The majority of early games focused on playing together. It wasn't until after the video game crash and the eventual launch of the original NES that spurred more single player games.

You give players a way to play together and they're going to eat it up. This is something MMORPGs have been charging for, but they by far do not have it cornered.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

World of Warcraft 1.9 Patch

Update: 8 Jul, 2007 - Removed post. This will be kept as a placeholder for historical value.
Originally, this post contained links to various World of Warcraft patch download websites.

Carnival of Gamers X - Winter Carnival

Carnival of Gamers X (10 for the non-romans out there) has graced the front page of the KillTenRats blog. Go over and check out the articles linked. There is a great selection!

This is my first Carnival of Gamers appearance and I submitted my "MO5 - The SOE effect… part II… MMORPG madness" article.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Trust Me, an article from the Escapist on MMORPG economies

The Escapist, an online magazine, has an interesting article looking into the heart of MMO economies. The article covers both happenings in EVE Online and Second Life.

Quote:
But business is good only because it's not actually ISS that owns the outpost. An ISS corp operates the outpost (and technically, within the game's mechanics, owns it), but real ownership has been vested with the pilots of EVE, through what has become the first publicly owned company in the game.

If there was a great article out there to start 2006 with... it would be this article. A great read that poses a lot of good questions.Freedom is the premise of most online worlds.

However, many fail to even get close to freedom. EVE Online and Second Life have shed that approach and have told their players "Try what you want." It is dangerous ground to stand on, but as the article highlights it can be the most rewarding.
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