Showing posts with label World of Warcraft. Show all posts
Showing posts with label World of Warcraft. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 09, 2024

June 2024 In Review

 June 2024 has come and gone.  Here is a look back (late delivery due to being in the middle of Nowhere, Minnesota for the last couple of weeks).

The Blog

Blogger provided number (last 30 days graph so a bit off)

 In other metrics:

  • Posts:
    • Target: n/a (with my big canoe trip I didn't have a target set)
    • Posted: 20
    • Difference: n/a
  •  Search Trends
    • "best battlefield game", "best battlefield", "best battlefield games" blew up last month and continues to dominate my search trends.  All thanks to this post: Best Battlefield!?
    • New World continues it's prominent spot with "new world roadmap 2024" right behind "best battlefield game" searches.
    • In the third spot is the search for "pax dei" where my post Pax Dei: Wilderness Alpha Feedback appears.

What I Played

 New World continues as my main game and I spent a lot of time in 3v3 arenas and the trading post.  The game has lost steam without much to do so we'll see how it ranks in July.

 I fished a bit in Russian Fishing 4 which was a change of pace but not sure it's a game I'll stick with.

 The surprise game of June though was the Once Human demo which ran for a week.  I was hooked on the game and looking forward to it's launch today (7/9) at 5 PM EDT!  Check out my Once Human posts.  I suspect this may break me from New World for a bit!

Years Ago

1 Year Ago

 In June 2023 I was hard at work grinding out my major combat trophies in pursuit of the ultimate combat trophies.  I finished my 3x major corrupted in the 28th.

 Oh and our vacation last year started with our rental bike getting stolen.

5 Years Ago

 June 2019 saw no blog posts on the blog and I cannot recollect what I was up to.

10 Years Ago

 In June of 2014 is when my blog drought occurred.  Crazy looking back that it lasted so long and amazing how life just gets in the way sometimes.

15 Years Ago

  June of 2009 was the month of Battlefield Heroes (which I still maintain as one of my all time favorite Battlefield experiences).  It was basically Fortnite-ish before Fortnite was a fart of an idea.

 This month also saw the merge of Bioware and Mythic after they were consumed by EA.

 Probably the most important update though was the fact I finally gave in and purchased my first microtransaction in a game.  Looking back it was a dumb purchase for a dumb game.  Now a days I don't really sweat buying something in a game if I am enjoying it, but back then it felt like I was breaking an unwritten rule.

 20 19 Years Ago

 Technically I have 20 named years on my sidebar, but mathematically 2005 is only 19 years ago.

 In June of 2005 I got screwed out of some loot in World of Warcraft and created a classic forum fire to go with it.  Ironically looking back I see that the guild the player was part of was Angels of Death which at the time I said "I will probably not group with any Angels of Death members anytime soon." which if memory serves me I never did until..... many years later in 2024 when I joined up with Angels of Death to play Battlefield 2042.  Small world out there.

 We also got the Battlefield 2 demo in June 2005 and I was enamored with it and have been a diehard Battlefield fan ever since.  2 is still my favorite of the series.

 And Dark Ages of Camelot was playing around with what we'd call a "classic server".

 Oh and we got battlegrounds in World of Warcraft.

 What a month!

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Sorry ESO, it's not you


 With some downtime from New World I've been out trying some other games.  Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) was one I dabbled with and I shared some thoughts here.  The game didn't hook me though and so here are some thoughts as I walk away from my fledgling Templar.

 The foremost driving factor was the combat.  It just isn't acceptable for my tastes when I've played games like New World where combat is far smoother.  It is annoying having to overthink your combat.  Canceling animations, weaving light attacks in, etc.  These are just not things I care to take on.  It doesn't help as well that the bulk of content doesn't require knowing how to do those things so the only way you learn about them is reading about them online and watching videos on how to do it.

 Second I just didn't like the disconnected world.  It felt like Starfield.  Run a little and load screen.  Run a little further; load the next room.  Sure there are bigger zones but I never got a sense of "world".

 Next I didn't dig the UI and as much as I love UI mods being supported I just didn't have the energy (or time) to dig into what was all available.  I've waffled on UI mods over the years.  Back after World of Warcraft I couldn't envision not having UI mods in an MMORPG but more recently playing New World where I spend very little time looking at the UI I enjoy how a minimal UI keeps me in the world.  Staying focused on the world, and not a UI, has become my new preference.

 Last of all I don't think ESO looks all that good.  I don't consider myself a graphics snob but ESO is dated compared to newer games.  I did not get to newer content in ESO so I am sure it gets better visually with the newer content.

 I do want to note that it was exciting to think about the large amount of content ESO offers; both PvP or PvE.  I really was hopeful it would hook me as it would have given me a good amount of stuff to chew on.  Alas it was not to be and I realize it's me, not ESO, that is really the cause of the mismatch.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Staying Motivated NOT to play stuff!

 The Blaugust 2023 "staying motivated" week rolls on and as I mentioned a couple days ago I mistimed my "Steam Backlog" game playing to match up to this week's posts so instead I am going to talk about staying motivated NOT to play everything that pops up in my feed!

 The first temptation for my game time is World of Warcraft's launch of the official hardcore servers for Classic.  Willhelm over at TAGN had some commentary on the event and it seems there is a rough go of the launch impacting more than just classic hardcore so that is helpful to keep one temptation off my plate.

"... but the errors and issues, down to being told constantly that you’re not in a raid if you join the queue as a group, have been annoying"

 Next up on the temptation list is Skull and Bones which is supposedly starting a closed beta today.  It looks like a cool game and I applied for the closed beta.  However, based on some leaked rumors the game is in rough shape so I'm not sweating that beta invite landing.

 Wayfinder is also tempting.  There is early access for $20, but it has been a trainwreck of server issues for the game.  I played the earlier betas and the game was OK, but I couldn't get past the idea of picking a premade hero vs creating my own character.  Still on my "maybe list" but right now I'll pass with the early launch jitters.  As a note my main thoughts on the game mirror Massively OPs First Impressions: I honestly can’t tell whether I like Wayfinder or no.

 The last temptation is Guild Wars 2 launching it's Secrets of the Obscure expansion. I've said many times that if my fancy with New World ever wanes that Guild Wars 2 is the game I'd jump back to.  I have jumped to Guild Wars 2 multiple times before and each time I get the most recent expansion.  I also believe that the best times in MMOs are around launches; new games or expansions.  So there is a thread of me that wants to jump in at launch here but my brain can only take one true MMO at a time and the MMO of the moment for me is New World!

 I'll be over here motivating myself to stop being tempted by stuff :)


Friday, August 11, 2023

GamesMadeMe: Actual Games + My Gaming Origin Story!

 GamesMadeMe is a series of posts that cover gaming-related topics that have shaped who I am as a gamer today.  Since I've covered specific moments in games and related topics like gaming magazines it is about time I actually talk about some games that made me!  Today let's take a jaunt down the gaming history that has informed my current day preferences.

 We'll start at today and work backwards as best as my memory can recollect!

new world
  New World is my current jam and holds the record of "most played" across my entire gaming career.  As of this post I am nearing 2,500 hours played!  Whats most amazing is that I never planned to play this game.  I only found out about it because it was hosting an early preview event at the same time as the Crowfall beta test.  

 While testing Crowfall the population numbers plummeted one day and when I asked why the New World preview event was mentioned.  I decided to give it a go because I just wasn't feeling Crowfall and I was absolutely hooked from the moment I set foot in New World.  I am still hooked.  I love New World.



 Guild Wars 2 (GW2) is next on the list.  Between New World and Minecraft (which we'll hit after GW2) there were a lot of games but Guild Wars 2 was the one that stuck around and kept coming back around.  I own and have played the first three expansions but admit I am all about PvP so spent a lot more time in World vs World vs World (wuvwuv for short).  

 Also as I mentioned in my Game Markets post I was a huge investor in Guild Wars 2 and truth be told that is where most of my /played time was invested in GW2.  I earned so much gold and converted so much of it to premium currency that I have piles of stuff and knick-knacks on my account. I also have several level 80 characters.

 I never really got hardcore into GW2 even though I played a ton (1,000+ hours).  I didn't have a guild and never played with one during my time in the game.  The game is very solo friendly so it was never pressed upon me to need to group up.  I did a lot of things but aside from playing the market one specific thing never grabbed hold.  I never finished the original story, never did dungeons/fractals/raids, really didn't finish any living seasons, and outside of some ascended gear pieces and a single legendary greatsword don't have much gear.  I own the first two expansions but barely played their stories/areas.  But I still loved the game and should I ever break up with New World it's likely where I'd go back to.


 Minecraft launched in 2009 which was a special year as that is when my oldest was born.  I tried Minecraft off the recommendation of a co-worker.  At the time there was no survival mode and the game was a very basic block building game.  The UI still showed how many players online; I used to have a screenshot showing there were about 500 total users online!

 The beauty of Minecraft way back then was that it ran on our work computers.  When the survival mode launched my co-workers and I filled our breaks and lunch hours with Minecraft.  We had our own server and played the crap out of the game (some of my Minecraft videos from this era exist on my Youtube 1 2 3).  

 As a first time father Minecraft was the perfect game in those first few years of my oldest son's life.  Relatively non-violent and abstract blocky graphics = perfect for a kid to watch.  I played Minecraft pretty hardcore for it's first four years.  Lots of fond memories and I wish to this day I'd of stuck with making videos (I could be super famous now!).

 And that would have been the end of Minecraft after I moved on to other things, but right as I was breaking my addiction my oldest son hit Kindergarten and Minecraft was every kids world at the time.  My son picked up Minecraft about 2013/14 and he still plays it to this day.  We've played together on and off and we even got mom (not much of a video gamer) to play.  Some my fondest gamer dad moments are building stuff in Minecraft only to find out my son cheated and spawned a wither the next day and destroyed it.  I still have the worlds saved and a personal cherished digital artifact is when screen recording accidentally recorded my son exploring a new castle I had built for him.


  Before Minecraft my passion was Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR for short). WAR also holds the record as the game that broke me.  I was the uber fanboy for WAR. As a long time Dark Ages of Camelot player I was confident that Mark Jacobs could do no wrong.  WAR was going to be the best game ever.  It was the World of Warcraft killer (remember we are going new to old so we haven't gotten to WoW yet).

 WAR is also unique in that the entire rise and fall of the game is captured in this blog's history (see tagged posts here).  If you were interested you could watch as I go from eternal fanboy to ex-cult member.  I loved the premise of the game and had a great group of folks to play with.  

 We formed the Casualties of War guild on the back of a bunch of World of Warcraft/MMORPG bloggers (400+ members at its peak).  Running that guild taught me I never want to run a guild again even though in every aspect of real life I am a leader (people leader at work, leader when I was in the military, leader in boy scouts, always my kid's sports team coach, etc).

 WAR was really fun to play when it launched. Unfortunately the game was never really finished and it showed.  End game zones were mostly devoid of content and the advertised end game of city sieges never really worked.  When it did work it was exploited heavily.

 WAR ended up crashing and was shutdown.  Fortunately I broke my fanboyism long before it was in shutdown and even though I revisited it for a little bit it never got it's hooks back in me.  It did forever change how I want to interact with new MMORPGs.  I'll be optimistic about games.  I will play them hardcore like I do New World and be a cheerleader.  But never again am I going full fanboy and expecting a new MMORPG to be the next big thing.


 November 23, 2004.  A day after my birthday.  World of Warcraft launched and there I was on the Azgalor server with my mind blown (even though I had played in a beta phase before launch).  How could a game be this good?  12 hours later I realized I hadn't left the computer.

 World of Warcraft (WoW) holds the spot in my record book for the longest gaming sessions.  I could not put the game down and my addiction was aided by an odd work scheduled at the time where I basically had half the month off and the other half 12 hour shifts.  I was also in the military in full on real-life-war-mode so interest in anything other than work and then getting home to play WoW didn't exist.

 I loved playing WoW launch.  I was fortunate in that I never really had problems accessing the game and playing.  It was just a magical time to be playing online games.  So many new players, and gamers, coming to check this once-in-a-lifetime game out.  I played as a Horde Troll Shaman but refused to heal; I was all about the DPS shaman with windfury on the great axe.

 My time playing WoW was focused on PvP.  I really didn't care about dungeons and did very few.  I never participated in a raid nor did I have interest in raiding.  I wanted to do nothing more than prowl the Alliance zones looking for trouble.  Since there were PvP servers I was given that opportunity.  Later on battlegrounds came out and that was my jam.

 As magical as WoW was though it didn't hook me long term.  I gave up playing before the first expansion came out and it was months later before I gave The Burning Crusade a try.  I really don't know why I went from playing 12 hours straight to not interested.  Partly it was landing an amazing girlfriend who then became my wife, but mostly I just stopped playing.


 Before WoW it was Dark Ages of Camelot (DAoC).  DAoC launched Oct 9, 2001 and I played it faithfully until WoW wrenched me away.  I loved the Realm vs Realm and played a Runecaster for Midgard on the Merlin server.  I was at or adjacent to many of the world firsts in the game: there when the first relic was captured, in the race to be the first player to 1 million realm points, and there when the guy that did make it to a million realm points got part of the game world named after him (screw you Dakkon!).

 Mixed in with my time in World of Warcraft and Dark Ages of Camelot was Star Wars Galaxies.  I was an early adopter as I was heavily involved in the Star Wars roleplaying forums the game hosted before launch.  I was in the early beta/alpha tests when all there was to the game was an empty sand zone and speech bubbles.

 Star Wars Galaxies had some of the best possible MMO systems ever created.  It is a shame they never got the time of day if they were not strictly combat or Jedi related.  As I tell people I want to be the moisture farmer so as the game steered more to letting anyone become a Jedi the more it wasn't for me.  But systems like housing, vendors, gathering, and crafting - no game has done it better.  No game even comes close.  Damn it game developers; give me SWG 2.0! (No; I am not interested in SWG emu servers).

 Ultima Online is the first graphical online game I played.  It is the first game I bought when I had my own PC and my own place as a young adult.  I rushed to get internet solely because I wanted to play Ultima Online.  

 I was introduced to Ultima Online years before that moment when I was working in a grocery store as a teen and my manager played it.  I would get a chance to go to his house and watch him play on a potato of a computer.  At the time it was original Ultima Online with all it's craziness: no safe zones, red players killing anyone that walked out of town without a plan, player run cities, game masters that would literally play god in the game, and houses you could lose if you lost your key.  To illustrate how early we are talking: there were still tons of open spots to place a house.  I never got to play, but watching was enough for me.

 Fast forward back to being in my own place with my own PC and I was joining right as Ultima Online Renaissance came online.  The Renaissance expansion brought a mirrored version of the world, called Trammel, that was completely safe and it opened up a flood of new land to fill with houses (the "open spots" having long ago been taken up in the original Felucca realm).

 Being a new player I had zero idea what the land grab was and other than some memory of watching my old manager play the original game I didn't know what I was doing.  So I treated the game like a virtual world; more intent on interacting with other players in a social aspect than getting the next progression item checked off.  If that meant just picking up garbage people left on the ground (oh yeah; items could be dropped and picked up by other players... how novel) then that's what I did.

 Eventually I did catch on that I needed to progress and that spun into having multiple different accounts so I could abuse all sorts of systems like the faction system, housing, and more.  Unfortunately I was so late to the housing party the only way to get a house was to buy it off eBay (yes, I bought my UO houses off eBay!) because all open spots were taken so even if you wanted to place a house you could not.

 I was very fond of PvP in UO.  I was not a player killer, but I loved faction warfare (player killing without becoming a red player).  I also got into the provoking skill which was basically the easy mode of end game PvE content as you could entice monsters to fight each other while you hoovered up the loot they dropped from killing each other.  

 I also got big into taming anything the game let you tame; my favorite being the white ice dragons.  Anyone that knows taming in UP knows the saying "kill all"; nothing more satisfying than a half dozen dragons suddenly vaporizing an enemy.  While in today's PvP metas it is "kill the healer" back then it was "kill the tamer".  Many a fight was won based on how many dragons were brought.

mud mush

 Now I need to fill a gap between my gaming origin story and Ultima Online because before graphical MMORPGs I was addicted to text MUDs (multi user dungeon).  Without MUDs we wouldn't have the MMORPGs that we have today.

 The one that got me started was a MUD running in IRC on the Xnet IRC server.  I stumbled on it joining a chat room and a bot posting a puzzle; once you figured out the puzzle it let you in fully to the MUD.  It was like virtual Indiana Jones! I have no other recollection other than those pieces, but it was tons of fun and featured perma death PvP.  I killed my younger brothers character at one point.

 Probably my most invested MUD was a Star Wars themed one.  I don't remember the specifics and the websites are long gone, but I do still have notes I took on paper about it.  I used graph paper to map out areas of the game and take notes about things like "droid here" or "viewport overlooking space dock".  It had space flight as well as many planets.  I do vaguely remember getting into some drama and getting banned at one point. 

 I played plenty of other MUDs as well along with MUSHES and whatever other acronym soup we used back in those days to differentiate one from the other.  I even got into Medievia MUD for a bit which was the largest MUD ever and still running to this day.  It was mind blowing they were aiming for things like 20,000 players online and wanting to get to 200,000 (not sure what they ever peaked at).  I was used to MUDs with 5 people online; thousands was crazy to think about.  One of the coolest part of Medievia and many other MUDs was player created content.  It was just text so the barrier to entry to have your dedicated players help build was very low.  I honestly wonder if some of my poorly worded room descriptions are still floating around somewhere in Medievia!

 We'll finish on the origin story of gaming for heartlessgamer and recount the day I won a Sega Genesis.  I had played Nintendo and Super Nintendo at friends and extended family houses, but in my house we were still stuck in the "black and white" television era.  Without easy access to them video games were no different than any other toy to play with when visiting friends and family.  

 That all changed the day that I won a Sega Genesis.  The Sega was a possible prize from selling magazine subscriptions as a fundraiser.  I (really my mom) had done a good job getting folks to sign up so I was in the running.  It was towards the end of the school day and classes had just let out and announcements were coming over the intercom.  I hung back in the classroom to hear them.  I really, really wanted that Sega Genesis.  Then I heard my name and to this day I can remember looking at my teacher at the time and seeing the biggest smile on her face as I sprinted out towards the office to get my prize.  I hoisted the box over my head and for a few glorious moments I was the king of my school.

 I walked to school so had a few blocks to get home with the prize.  I really don't remember my parents reactions, but they were supportive of me getting it up and running.  I wasn't kidding when I said we still had "black and white" televisions.  Our main set was too old to get the Sega working and after phoning a friends parents we were able to get it set up on my mom's tiny little kitchen TV.  From then on I spent many an hour at the kitchen table playing Sega games in black and white. Some favorites from the time; Wrestlemania, Shining Force, and of course Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

 I will never forget winning that Sega Genesis and I swear the movie 8-bit Christmas is loosely based on that time in my life (I already had an awesome treehouse my dad made though; I just needed a video game console).  And that is the gaming mode that started it all and therefore is what truly made me a gamer!

Friday, May 12, 2023

New World Hardcore?

new world hardcore mode
 With the recent buzz around hardcore play in World of Warcraft Classic hardcore it has folks in the New World community talking about alternate game modes.  Of course hardcore (if your character dies its deleted) is the mode that occupies mindshare, but I want to propose a different game mode for New World I'd like to see.

 I call this game mode "Open New World".  The key changes:

  • No instanced content (no Outpost Rush, no PvP arenas, no Expeditions, no Trials)
  • Factions are optional (i.e. players are not required to join a faction)
  • If a player joins a faction; PvP is always on

 The big change here is "no instanced content".  I really enjoy New World's open world content.  I love looping around the open world and doing stuff.  I don't dislike the instanced content but wish there was more content in the open world and more players there doing it.  Removing instanced content will force players into the open world.

 Now that we have players forced into the open world let's enable PvP by making it so joining a faction is electing to be always-on for PvP.  Players can remain faction-less if they don't want to PvP and companies can be either factionless or faction (if faction; all members must be in the same faction).

 Some other changes to go with this:

  • Make it so certain resources can only be gathered by faction players so that players compete over resources at the top end.
  • Update fort captures to be events that encourage players to show up (basically an OPR replacement)
    • Move OPR caches to fort capture as rewards
  • Update Elite POIs to have mutations and have former expedition rewards (expedition replacement)
    • Rewards scale off players in the area; the more players the less the rewards

I'd play this version of the game in a heartbeat :)  Would you?  Leave a comment.


Friday, September 30, 2022

Old Post, New Thoughts on Games and Business Models

 Getting back into blogging (apologies for missing yesterday for my post a day commitment) has also had me reminiscing through my 17+ years of posts.  I stumbled across This is WHY Free 2 Play works, quote from Pirates of the Burning Seas team today and it got me thinking.  I find it odd how, as a gamer, I jumped in to defend a company making money.  More odd is I still hold to this line of thinking.

It took me reading a few posts to wrangle what my younger self held as opinion on the topic of business models for games, but here is my "years later" assessment of that journey.

  • Back in the day you bought a game in a box and got everything with it.  
    • If the game was online you paid for a subscription and that made sense.
    • Online games with player trading often had real money trade (RMT) where players would sell in game items and game accounts to other players for real cash (usually via eBay)
  • RMT was part of how we played Ultima Online back in the day; you had to go to eBay to buy a house as an example.
  • After moving on from Ultima Online to newer games like Dark Ages of Camelot (DAoC) it became clear to me RMT ruins these games
  • Anti-RMT, buy the box, and pro-subscription became my mantra; just look at how much a player could get out of World of Warcraft for $15 a month!
  • Micro transactions (the infamous horse armor DLC) made no sense
  • At some point I then tried some free 2 play games and I still remember when I posted: My First Microtransaction (in retrospect that was money NOT well spent)
  • I seem to have turned the corner around the time of this post
    • "So, color me conflicted on micro-transaction business models. I still don't believe it beats a subscription model, but no longer is it the EVIL that I thought it was."
  • Ever since that time I seem to have adopted the moniker of "games are a business and have to make money first"

With that last bullet I am going to hop off the autobiography train and focus on "games are a business and have to make money first".  In my older age I find this really odd as a position for a consumer of a product to take, but as a gamer who really-really wants to see my niche of games (MMORPGs) have new options to try.  Basically I want to "vote with my wallet" for games that I want to be successful or from developers I want to be successful.

Speaking of "voting with my wallet" that brings us back full circle to business models.  In the subscription model players have a single vote; my vote counts the same as yours -- either I am a subscriber or I am not.  In a micro-transaction model each player's vote is variable.  A player in a free 2 play game may abstain from voting by just playing for free or a player may be a whale 

There are so many issues with this.  The biggest problem of video games making money is that it preys on human weakness.  For some of us it's just a case of "I have more money than time so I want to buy my way ahead or buy things that are fun", but for others it preys on impaired decision making (children, addiction, FOMO, etc) and works to extract maximum cash.  Yet, I still defend that a game is a business first and has to make money.

To the post I kicked this off with on why free 2 play works (which is really to say micro transactions work) is that it does let players invest at their level so developers/publishers can maximize per-player return. I do still believe as I mentioned in that post that good game design can keep the playing field level.  

At the simplest level for my argument are the games that "just sell cosmetics"; games like New World where after you buy the game you can play for free (no subscription) but then there is a store that offers all sorts of goofy outfits and stuff to put in your house; none of which affects power level when playing.  If you really like and want to support the game then drop $50 on the store, but there is no requirement to do so.

In the more complex category are games with things like battle passes/premium/season pass (for my purposes just called battle pass).  I think battle passes came from a marriage of game design and business model.  For many games battle passes offer unique rewards and drive players to participate in the game in a certain manner.  Good game designers marry battle passes with great game play and it's a great experience.  Every time I jump back into Apex Legends I snag the battle pass and it is worth it.  In Guild Wars 2 I've bought multiple living seasons (which are battle pass like).  Battle pass is the modern day subscription, but this time around players get a benefit.

Of course there is the opposite end of this where battle passes are required to make any meaningful progress and the entire game is designed to get you to pay up.  This is where I start drawing the line as it falls into an area of abusing players.  This is basically why I don't play any mobile games; every single one I've ever looked into, while looking fun, are just designed to make me depart with my cash.

In conclusion: I support game companies making money and I believe good game design can go hand in hand.  It is important to keep this in mind when looking at future games; the sooner they outline the business model the more likely it is the game design will support it in a positive manner.  The later a game decides on it's business model the more likely it is to be abusive and/or insufficient to be successful for the game.  

Want me to review more of my old posts?  Want to argue with me?  Leave a comment.

Monday, September 26, 2022

MyMMORPG: Let's dream one up!

 Listening to various podcasts about Ashes of Creation and listening to folks overlay their hearts and dreams on the game has made me think about what I'd want out of an MMORPG.  Combined with my recent "a post a day" commitment to get back into blogging I figured it was time to start my long awaited series on "My MMORPG" and the game I'd make if I was Steven-rich.

The question is where do you start this quest?  Do you come up with a long list of things to do?  An outline of the entire thing?  Define the business model; is it free to play or a subscription?  Write the story first?  

Personally I have a saying I like to use in my career "If something is worth doing it is worth doing WRONG." What does that have to do with where to start?  Fair question. I bring this up here because I want this to be a start but not the only start.  We may be back here again in the near future.  Maybe feedback makes me change course.  Maybe a brilliant idea later down the road requires something earlier on changes.  Regardless I have a couple goals to get started here.

  1. This first post has to set the framework
  2. Keep it simple

So where do we start?  Simple: the world and setting for the game and to keep it simple and set the framework for future conversations this post would be better titled as "The Not-Star-Wars MMORPG". Follow along to find out why.

When I look back on any MMORPG I've played (or wish I could play) the first thing that always catches my attention is the world and setting.  Ultima Online?  Basically took every medieval text MUD I had ever played and put it on screen.  World of Warcraft? Warcraft where I get to play that orc on the battlfield!? Count me in!  Warhammer Online Age of Reckoning?  Duh (and sigh).  Star Wars Galaxies?  Ummm; duh x2!  New World? A cool setting that hooked me before I ever hit log in.

So why "Not-Star-Wars"?  Simple: Star Wars has everything in a setting that I'd want in my dream MMORPG, but I would never want to put my chips into a game that can be ended on the whim of an intellectual property owner.

Let's work through what "Not-Star-Wars" brings to us:

  • Melee combat
  • Ranged combat
  • Magic 
  • Not-magic
  • Mounts
  • Vehicles (aka multiplayer mounts)
  • Houses
  • Spaceships (aka space houses)
  • Varied planets (i.e. zones and instanced content)
  • Multiple races
  • Multiple classes
  • Crafting

Probably the biggest benefit of this setting that pays off the most is the "varied planets".  Planets and space travel between them is the ideal contextual reason for zones and instanced content to exist without turning the game into hub and spoke and thus losing the M for Massive.  While the world setting doesn't need to explain everything the more it is able to justify for mechanics to exist the better the game will feel.  It would make immediate sense to a player that they are jumping in a space ship, zooming through space, and ending up on a unique alien planet that only they and their group are present on.

This also allows this MMORPG to target the "mega server" model instead of "single server" and have it all make sense with the way the universe is set up.  All players need to be in one single universe with the chance at any time to interact with any other player.  This eliminates problems such as scaling up single servers to deal with population growths and eliminates the follow on problems of having to merge servers down.  The universe just exists and it makes sense when you jump in a space ship and fly off to a planet that you are off by yourself and then joining back on a busy core planet with thousands of other players.

Another benefit that some old school MMORPG players will welcome is that space travel, inside a fully customized player ship, can bring back the social aspect that has been missing due to the "get you directly into a group and into content" model of "group finders" in most MMORPGs.  Don't get me wrong; I want games to connect players via in game tools but what I also want to ensure it drops players into the opportunity to socialize and not just at the starting point a sprint.  Sitting around in a space ship, making preparations for the content, and socializing with your fellow players is huge.  Scale this concept up to core planets and ideas like space stations: the core of setting should be places for players to interact socially.

As my bulleted list shows there is a lot of pieces that fit with Not-Star-Wars and give context to game systems and mechanics MMORPG players are familiar with.  Again the most important aspect is that the setting gives context to many MMORPG staple systems such as zones, instanced content, socializing and more.

More to come on MyMMORPG!  Have thoughts?  Think I am starting in the wrong place or heading in the wrong direction?  Leave a comment.  I love to argue socialize.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Rift is World of Warcraft

Rift may be a completely different game than World of Warcraft, but I will never know.  I've played two hours of Rift and had I not seen the title screen, I would have thought I was playing World of Warcraft.  This is the same thought I had while playing Aion.  The same thought that made me shriek in horror when I finally got to play "the game that shall not be named".  It annoys me that so many games have copied World of Warcraft and not just copied ideas, but cloned wholesale everything about World of Warcraft.  It is so bad that the games are all using the same text color to identify different levels of loot.  The font used looks almost exactly the same.  The icon shapes.  On and on and on this goes.

There has been a long running discussion that World of Warcraft just copied Everquest which just copied DIKU MUD and therefore the current flood of WoW clones is expected.  I disagree with this line of thinking.  Everquest's biggest achievement is that it brought the DIKU MUD to 3D graphics.  Other than that, I would argue Everquest was a pretty terrible game.  World of Warcraft's biggest achievement was that it refined the DIKU model into something that made sense with a massively online game that is beyond a doubt one of the best games ever released.  Secondly, WoW brought MMO to the mainstream.

These other games: Rift, Aion, etc. They are all clones; none of them bringing anything significant to the genre.  They aren't even trying to bring something to the genre.  They are all fighting to carve out a piece of the table scraps of players that Blizzard ends up shoving off the table where they keep the money hats.

Does this make these games bad?  Not really, but after an hour of playing Aion I was done; having decided if I wanted this experience I would just go back to play World of Warcraft.  Rift?  Same story.

Yet, the worst part is each and every game tries to sell itself as though its the "next big thing".  That its ONE THING IT WILL DO DIFFERENTLY is the NEXT PILLAR OF WHAT IS GOOD IN GAMES.  It's annoying.  These developer's need to just shut up and tell gamers that they really liked World of Warcraft and wanted to make a game that emulates it.  I would be far less pissed off about the state of the MMO industry if the big players would just come out and admit they are riding WoW's coattails

Rift is World of Warcraft.  I don't care if the game gets better in the later levels or has some whiz-bang new idea that you get to enjoy at some point.  Give me something different that as soon as I start playing the LAST thing I think of is the other game I played before it.  When I played DOTA 2, I didn't think "oh man, this is League of Legends".  DOTA 2 is it's own game.  It defines itself as something unique.  AND DOTA 2 IS A LITERAL CLONE OF ANOTHER GAME!

Fuck it, Valve make me a god damned MMO already.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bastion, thoughts on MMOs

I've played through Bastion once. I am playing through it again on the New Game + mode. Bastion is the rare type of game that comes in, makes a remarkable impression, and then leaves before its stuck around too long. It also has my juices flowing for a bunch of thoughts about things I'd like to see in an MMO.

The first and most unique element of Bastion is the narrator which narrates not only the story, but the player's every move. When I first talked about Bastion's narration to my wife she commented "so he just repeats back to you what you just did? That's annoying!". I attempted to sidetrack her from that position by showing her some of the game, but then "the kid" (the game's protagonist) picked up a giant hammer to which the narrator announced "the kid picks up his trusty hammer". My wife laughed and walked away. While this example is the game's narration at it's most basic it is not truly the genius that exists later in the game. The narrator is seemless, delivering not only the story but also filling in the gaps between fights and everything else that occurs in the game. By the time I finished Bastion I was a bit sad to say good bye to the narrator. I had grown accustomed to listening to his voice through my journey. It probably doesn't hurt that they have one of the best voice actors ever providing the voice and paired it with an award-winning sound track.

Where would a constant narrator fit into an MMOG? The first immediate example that comes to mind is Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO). I know I gave DDO a bunch of hate because it was just an RPG set in the D&D Eberron setting and because it missed the boat as far as what makes D&D fun (at least for me). With my personal tastes aside, DDO to a certain degree does have a narrator in place, known as the dungeon master. When adventuring through various dungeon areas the dungeon master will announce certain things such as the "the air hums with flies here" or "the smell of decaying flesh permeates". Usually these pieces of flavor are added for things that are hard to represent in a video game (smells for example). I wasn't sold on the idea when I played DDO, but having played Bastion now I think a dungeon master that follows your entire adventure and provides constantly evolving narration to your activities would work. The real trick would be making it work in a multi-player setting, which given some time I think a developer could work out.

The next outstanding feature of Bastion is it's namesake. The Bastion is a sliver of land, floating over the destroyed world that "the kid" is able to rebuild throughout the process of the game. Each area completed generally results in a shard being obtained. The shard can be brought back to the Bastion to restore a piece of the old world. These restored parts take the form of buildings that allow the player to perform different functions. In addition to the shards there are also relics from the old world that can be placed in the Bastion. Everything from a set of banners to a smoker's pipe add flavor to the player's Bastion. Some are for show and others serve other purposes (such as launching a side quest). Over time there is a real sense of progression to the Bastion.

Now it has always been my dream to have an MMO where the players are tasked with building the world from the ground up. The storyline in Bastion is the classic post-apocalyptic hotbed of building an oasis in the middle of a world wracked by destruction. This, to me, is the perfect setting for an MMO to launch into. It lets the players decide the pace at which the world progresses. Players hold the keys and make the decisions that will forever change their existence in the world. The so called "fourth pillar" of MMOGs is touted to be "story", but why does that story always have to be something the developers created? Why can't it be the story the player's create?

For bonus points, Bastion gets the mechanic for this world building correct as well. Players retrieve shards or relics that have immediate affects on their Bastion. In the case of shards, the player get's to spend them as a sort of currency to build the buildings they wish to have in the Bastion. This is almost directly transferable to an MMOG. Player's would be tasked with retrieving "shards" from the old, destroyed world to use and build items in the new world. Each player would have their slice of the new world in which to build. Guilds and alliances can join together to focus on improving a shared area.

Another part of the Bastion experience that makes the game so refreshing is the idea of player-directed difficulty via the in-game idols. Players can go to their shrine and activate idols they have unlocked. Each idol makes the game inherently more difficult. For example, one idol makes it so enemies randomly block one attack. The reward is increased experience gains and in-game currency. It's a simple idea, but something not seen in an MMO outside of the idea of "heroic" versions of some dungeons. Now it would be a challenge to develop, but I think an MMO could have every player set their own idols to dictate their own difficulty. The challenge would be in making it play nice together with other player's idols.

The other part of the shrine that works so well is that it's not just a UI element in Bastion. It is an actual building the player has fought to restore for the sole purpose of using it's services. This gives better weight to the player setting their idols and takes something that in most MMOs is just a UI element and makes it part of the world. Everything in Bastion is managed via these buildings that the player builds. Want to change your equipment load out? Head to the armory and swap them. Want to change your unique character traits? Head to the distillery.

Oh and the distillery. Let me talk about that. It's a brilliant idea just like the shrine is.  In the distillery player's set up "spirits" (aka alcoholic beverages) which modify how the player's avatar works.  Some add straight up stats like +10 health while others are more complex such as offering a counter attack mechanic.  However, the beauty really isn't in the details.  It's in the fact that the distillery takes the monotony of the stats screen out of the UI and inserts it into a practical in-game solution.  It doesn't hurt that the player can visit the distillery at any time to "respec" their character.

I understand some of the ideas I bring up here are not entirely original and in most cases there is an example game on the market that exhibits some of the traits that I mention. However, there really hasn't been a mainstream game that has attempted to tackle any of these elements. "The game that shall not be named" with full on voice acting does cover some of the narration, but it is not dynamic and at it's base level is still just uninteresting filler for quests. Bastion's narration is so far above and beyond that it's hard to compare. A Tale in the Desert covers the "let's build a world together", but really that's about all it has. Plenty of MMOGs feature "hard" or "elite" versions of dungeons, quests, or monsters which sort of works out to be like the idols of Bastion, but that's a loose connection at best. The "UI-built-into-the-game" element would be a first for MMOGs, as far as I know. In fact, a lot of MMOGs are more about the UI then the actual game (I'm looking at you EVE and at you World of Add Ons), so seeing an MMOG work towards removing as much of the UI as possible would be interesting.

My concluding point is that we haven't seen an MMO that incorporates a lot of what I've talked about and that's a damn shame.  Bastion feels like a really simple idea, but its clearly taken time for something of it's caliber to hit the market. It's a brilliant game and in my opinion, a blue print for a successful MMOG.

Monday, January 02, 2012

2012, the first post

2012, the first post.  Where in lies a reflection on predictions of the year that was: 2011.  And maybe some prognostication of the year that's just begun: 2012.

I kept the predictions light for 2011 and I'll tackle all five of them in one go:
1. World of Warcraft will maintain its dominance.
No doubt World of Warcraft is still top among MMOs, but to say its maintained its dominance is ignoring the fact that WoW took a significant hit this year and had to break out the pandas to keep people's interest.  In the larger genre of persistent online games, League of Legends has soundly trumped WoW's numbers with over 30 million active users and concurrent user numbers well beyond that of WoW.
2. Free 2 Play will continue its march forward and many will consider 2011 the year that F2P becomes the dominant business model not only for MMOGs, but for any online game (MOBA, FPS, etc.)
There is no doubt that Free 2 Play has landed with most major publishers having already published or considering to publish a F2P title(s).  2011 also marked the arrival of F2P on Steam; the premier digital distribution platform for games.  The subscription MMOs fell like flies to a flyswatter this year as several joined the F2P ranks and enjoyed immediate success.
3. "the game that shall not be named" will NOT launch this year.
OK, it squeaked into 2011, but just barely.
4. The "next generation" Xbox will be announced by Microsoft. Nintendo and Sony will stay with their current generation.
I was way off here.  Xbox 360 is marching strong and Playstation 3 is still playing third fiddle.  Nintendo, of all companies, is the one out front with news of their new Wii U console.
5. This blog will be completely different and may actually feature commentary and experiences from games I'm actually playing.
Proof: I posted about Fallout: New Vegas and I actually played that game!

Now onward and upward to my predictions for 2012 and beyond

1. The world will not end.  (just wanted to get that one out of the way)

2. I will post more than I did in 2011.  (just wanted to give ya'll something to look forward to)

3. "the game that shall not be named" will have a tough year, but will survive.  The argument to take the game Free 2 Play will begin around July.

4. Warhammer Online will be shut down this year.

5. DOTA2 will launch, but fail to make much more than a drip into the MOBA scene.

6. League of Legends will hit 50 million players and still be flying under the radar in the online gaming market

7. A major game will "surprise launch" this year with little to no notice and possibly be Free 2 Play

8. Indie games will continue to creep into the spotlight and we will see another Minecraft-level indie break out this year

9. At least 4 of these predictions will be right :)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Free 2 Play World of Warcraft

...until level 20 that is.  Meet World of Warcraft: Starter Edition which will let players play the first 20 levels of the game for free.  Rock, Paper, Shotgun has some more details:
"They’re calling it the World Of Warcraft Starter Edition, and it’s still limited by other trial aspects, such as not being able to use the auction house, and suffers a few other caps such as a limit of 10 gold. If trialees get to level 20 and want to open up their game and keep playing then it’s possible to to purchase the Burning Crusade for $20 and subscribe for the normal amount. The Burning Crusade has also now been unlocked for free for anyone who owned the original game."
Question now is: is this Blizzard feeling pressure from the F2P revolution or Blizzard just trying to hook more subscriptions on an aging game? Only time will tell.

EDIT: Oops, said it was the first 25 levels when in fact its only the first 20.