Why I’m back to playing Lotro

When the news broke that Lotro and DDO wouldn’t be operated by Turbine, and in extent, Warner Bros, anymore, I felt a sudden urge to return to Lord of the Rings Online. Mind you, this isn’t really a new thing for me- in fact, from its release to around 2012, Lotro was the MMO I’d return to when another new release wasn’t holding my attention for one reason or another.

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New Game Masters

So everybody* was really excited to see what Amazon Game Studios would “unbox” at their unboxing event that happened yesterday. After recruiting several devs from MMO companies like ArenaNet, the chances of AGS creating an MMORPG were high. We couldn’t admit to that, certainly, since by now it should be clear to everyone that MMORPGs created by devs in the western hemisphere are in trouble. New Triple-A releases were not in sight, and those triple-A-games that kinda, sorta were MMOs were carefully avoiding calling their games MMOs.

So here comes Amazon and announces New World, a game set in 17th century, supernatural america. And it’s a Sandbox with emergent gameplay and stuff.

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Housing wishlist for Elder Scrolls Online

Elder Scrolls Online will get housing in its Q1 2017 update- we know this already. We probably also know that it’s semi-instanced. I’m very much looking forward to housing in ESO – but i do have a few wishes.

Accessible

I hope housing will be accessible very early in the game and not be a max-level thing. It should also be somewhat attractive by default- players who like housing are a creative and loyal bunch, if housing is done right. However, housing players will only “suffer” through so much gameplay they don’t enjoy to get something for the part of the game they do. Leveling to 50 would be a bit long. Of course housing should scale very well and accompany players throughout their characters’ lives. At any point from level 10 onwards, i’d like to be able to see and do something about my house.

Not a byproduct

I hinted at that wish above, but i think this bears repeating: don’t make me run 10 dungeons to – maybe- get some housing item i’d like. Don’t simply attach housing stuff to achievements. Sure, do housing drops, they’re nice loot. Ideally, housing would be a different path to take in the game, maybe even accompanied by a new crafting profession or new recipes for existing crafting professions.

Shareable

I hope we’ll be able to share our spaces, let visitors come in. A player owned house would be great for guild meetings. It would be even better if we were able to visit houses of strangers (if they set the appropriate permissions).

Semi-Instanced

There are great housing systems out there- Wildstar’s and Rift’s housing systems are both very accessible and very complete- however, in both cases i had trouble to connect them to the virtual world they should be in. It’s not a lore- or immersion problem, per se, as the teleporting and locations fit into both games, but in both cases, i couldn’t shake the feeling of disconnect. In ESO, we already seem to know that the houses are part of the zones, so this wish seems to be granted.

Gold sink

It is very important for an MMORPG to have means of spending earned gold. The last couple of years brought us more and more alternative currencies in other games, often different ones for different activities (questing, dungeons, pvp etc.). You’d get some kind of token that you can then spend at some NPC for items. It’s an…ok system to have, but as with bound-on-acquire gear, i think of it as a band-aid that’s hurting the economy. You really only need one currency- gold. Elder Scrolls Online thankfully features gold as a currency mostly, to my knowledge. While i am always broke in this game (and think this is a good thing), i’ve heard others state that they didn’t know what to do with their gold- housing is a good way to get them to spend it.

Light on cash shop

Of course we know housing is going to be monetized in the cash shop- there’ll be exclusive items, possibly even houses, and i have no problem with that. As with everything, though, it’s important to keep a balance. I think it would be a shame, for instance, if crafters couldn’t create anything for the houses, in-game means would be quite limited and everything else would go into the cash shop. Housing items should be attainable through as many means as possible, including but not focussing on the cash shop.

Flexible

Some time, i guess this month when i’ll be looking for inspiration, i’ll tell you the tale on how i got interested in MMORPGs. The short version is: i wanted to become a baker. Nowadays, i’d like to become a tavern owner. Sure, setting up one’s home is nice and all, but in the end, that’s kind of limited in scope- let us build taverns, bakeries, shops, barracks, hiding spots, casinos and more underground stuff. This ties into the wish of housing being shareable, as well- as a tavern owner, for instance, some visitors would be nice.

So that’s basically it- i guess i’d like it to be as close as possible to EQ2’s housing with a hint of Wildstar’s to add flavor.

Being supportive 2

Interesting. On my old blog, i had this post about being supportive of the few (and getting even rarer) companies who bring MMORPGs to us- at that time, it was about Trion’s up-to-then unknown imported game. Today, i’ll return to this topic in regards to Rift’s new expansion Starfall Prophecy- this post started its life as a comment on Psychochild’s blog, but i felt like it was getting too long. TLDR would be: “don’t hold a grudge”.

Trion once was that highly respected company- everyone cheered when the news broke that they’d be publishing ArcheAge. Then something bad happened and now they’re struggling – reputation wise.

Here’s the thing, though: what big MMO devs/publishers do you know? Blizzard? Cancelled their latest MMO in favour of a lobby shooter. Daybreak? Ha, well, they seem to be downgrading lately. Turbine? Already on their way out. Funcom? Is struggling and needs to do something other than MMOs to actually earn some money.

Now, we can have all the business model talks or how exactly each and every company developing MMORPGs went wrong, but i’d like to state something else:

I feel Trion is on the right way.

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MMOs are not about playing with friends

A while back i came across this quote when i read a post about Jaedia returning to Guild Wars 2:

…I love being able to play with my friends, that is the big draw of MMORPGs after all,…

Hannah Richardson-Lewis, Returning to Tyria

Hannah/Jaedia is a great blogger – i enjoy following her blog and posts on mmorpg.com and i find myself agreeing with her for the most part- but this statement is something i don’t agree with, even if i know i’m probably blowing her harmless sentence up more than i should and MMORPGs are different for all of us, it’s that statement that inspired me to draft the following post a couple of weeks back, only to edit and publish it now for Blaugust.

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ESO shopping day

I’m slowly preparing myself to return to Elder Scrolls Online, which is supposed to be my main MMO again come september. Yesterday, i read Xannziee’s post with a couple of screenshots as well as her impression with ESO (she made a detour through Black Desert for a while). There was an outfit i liked, so i asked her what it was.

Of course, it turned out to be an outfit from the crown store. Knowing that a couple of those are going away in a few days, i checked the ESO website if that outfit was among those who are going “out of stock” soon- and it is. So in i went to purchase it. I also had a look at a few of the other items who only remain for three days now, and found another outfit and two sets that interest me. I haven’t decided on the sets yet, but i purchased the solo outfits that interested me. Coincidentally, they seem to be originated in the Valenwood, which is the region i’m questing in since…about forever. 

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How could ESO improve trading?

Elder Scrolls Online has employed a unique way of doing player trading. As we all know, there are no global auction houses. What’s more is that materials used in crafting have no or quite low value when selling them to NPCs. Instead, there are trading guilds, guild merchants and merchants in Cyrodiil. Here’s a statement from Nick Konkle:

You don’t necessarily want to do a global auction house for a game with one giant server because that generally leads to all the best gear being available at very, very cheap prices, a lot of times that can trivialize the game. You cannot have a healthy economy when there are no restrictions on getting the best stuff in the game.

I’ve read another statement somewhere that the way ESO does player trading is the closest they can get to simulating regional pricing for goods in a game where fast travel is a thing.

I respect both of these explanations and find it quite refreshing that a developer leaves out a “standard feature” of MMORPGs in favour of game design. However, this approach isn’t working out for me- and possibly a few other players out there, if i were to assume i’m not the only one having some trouble in using either chat or trading guilds as market places.

As i’m also playing EVE these days, i began to think about ways Elder Scrolls Online could add public market places into the game without breaking aforementioned guidelines.

Add a guild finder

I think ZOS has plans to introduce a guild finder in the game. While it’s not too difficult to find guilds who are advertising on the official forums etc., having an ingame interface would make things easier. After seeing EVE’s corp search tool, i’d wish for ESO’s to be more elaborate. In my opinion, there’s a few key factors when looking for a good fit and i think all of this should be considered when designing the guild finder:

  • Play time. Either give a few options to enter your average weekly time you spend in the game or give the option to enter time of day for your activities.
  • Gameplay focus: Questing, Dungeons, Raiding, Crafting, Trade, Thieving, Fishing, Roleplaying and PvP are already in game, with “killing” coming soon. Provide checkboxes to select the content you’re interested in.
  • Target Group: Hardcore, Casual, Social, 18+, family-friendly and more
  • Language

 

EVE's corp search is great.
EVE’s corp search is great.

When you present the results, be sure to add ways to join that guild- provide a button to text with a recruitment officer and/or a simple “apply” button with an optional text message just like they already have with friend requests.

Create regional markets

The market places / merchants would need to be located in the game world. No fancy interface, just a house in a city- let’s say one per zone. I’d also prefer it if the prices weren’t scannable by addons which could be making it easy for players to figure out where to buy/sell stuff.

Taxes

To get regionally different prices, there needs to be a way to control these prices. As you can’t rely on players to do that themselves, as you can indeed fast travel through the world, there’d need to be taxes. Luckily, Elder Scrolls Online already has something that denotes the origin of the item: the crafting motifs. So they could put different taxes on items in different regions.

Let’s say you craft an armor in breton style but want to sell it in Auridon- you could do that, but it would be heavily taxed because the Bretons aren’t even in the same alliance. I think Auridon is also Altmer territory while Grahtwood is Bosmer- you could set taxes accordingly. They’d be lower than the Breton style taxes, but still different.

Of course, there are additional styles that might not be as easy to locate in the geography of Tamriel. I don’t know enough about them to make suggestions, but i’m sure one could figure out a way.

Limit trade

Of course, you’d be able to buy on each market you visit, but selling would be restricted in some ways – otherwise, players would simply teleport around Tamriel to avoid mentioned taxes. I could think of two ways to do that:

  • limit selling for one character/account to one location. If you sell stuff on the Daggerfall market, you can’t sell anything in Wayrest, for instance.
  • limit selling by taxes, again- raise taxes for each location an account wants to sell stuff in and make it hurt, at least when the number of markets per account reach 3

Of course, one thing would happen: we’d have trade hubs in Elder Scrolls Online. But this still wouldn’t be a global market as there’d be incentives to sell in other regions (to pay lower crafting style taxes or get higher profits) and it would actually be believable.

Market Halls with player shops / guild traders

While i can understand that ZOS doesn’t want to litter the landscape with guild traders/merchants, i think there are too few of them right now to make them really interesting. It’s a nice feature, of course, if you are a member of a successful trading guild, but it’s a bit of a hassle to find one of these. If they’re not willing or able to develop easily available player trading for individuals through NPCs, they could create “market halls” in cities where a guild or individuals could open shops. Let’s say you have a building and room in there for 20 merchants- add some costs (without making them absurdly high) and allow guilds or individuals to open a shop for, say, 60 minutes. The merchant they hired will then sell their stuff for 60 minutes before the contract needs to be renewed. You could also raise the costs for each successive hire and differentiate between locations.

Create a variety of different trading guilds

ZOS could also create more than one NPC trading guild- let’s say 10 or even more. Each account has to join one and can only buy/sell stuff in this NPC guild (well, and in player guilds, obviously).

Armchair much?

Yes 🙂 But there are two things that do bother me with trade in ESO right now: first, to be able to trade, you have to find and join trading guilds. That’s an active part you have to play and you have to do this outside of the game. The second one is that one-to-many player trade isn’t part of the game system design but part of the guild system design. I get that in Elder Scrolls Lore, guilds are important, but there has to be a merchant/trading guild somewhere in the lore.

Thinking about it, improving player trade could be bolstered up to become a stand-alone DLC.

Dual Wielding LFG edition: fostering communities

Dual Wielding: LFG Editionsometimes a topic is just too big for a couple of bloggers on their own. That’s when we send out the call, and see who steps up to help us with the challenge. This week, in a special LFG edition of Dual Wielding, we’ve put together a four person team to tackle the question, “what can developers do to foster community”?

Make sure to read the other posts, too:

Intro

Let me just state how happy i am about the LFG special edition of the coop blogging post. Thank you so much to Wolfyseyes and Syl for joining Ironweakness and me today. I’m sure it’s going to be fun!

So how did it get started? By a Twitter discussion between Ironweakness, Wolfyseyes and Syl about “confusing” design decisions in Black Desert Online or Tree of Savior, for instance. It’s actually quite difficult to get one Tweet that shows it all, but here’s where one big question showed up.

So, if a game is more complicated- does it foster its ingame community to become closer? And what are other ways of encouraging social behaviour in MMORPGs? Forced grouping and the trinity would be more intentional ways to get players to interact with each others. In the course of this discussion, it became clear that this is quite a complex topic- so we chose it for this month’s Dual Wielding and asked Wolfy and Syl to join us.

Intentional vs. coincidental

In that discussion, there’s an interesting point in differentiating ways to foster community in intentional and coincidental design choices- is a good community in games like Black Desert Online and Tree of Savior a byproduct of the complexity of the game? Is offering or forcing your players to do group content and role management working as a pillar for community building? Is there anything game developers can do to improve their ingame communities? Let’s take a look at examples first.

No negative interaction

Guild Wars 2 employs a “no griefing” approach- in GW2, there’s almost nothing another player can do to lower your enjoyment of the game. When you meet others, you won’t sigh or hope you’ll make it first to the resource node, because everything regarding ingame progress is there just for you. You get as much experience, loot, resources when being in a group as if you were alone. Of course, that makes grouping beneficial, as you can kill mobs faster, tackle more difficult encounters and so on.

gw031

Does it work, though? I’d say no. To be sure, GW2’s community is more on the friendly side of things, but the interaction outside of WvW, sPvP and maybe world bosses is very limited. Yes, you play with others, but they might just as well be displaced with NPCs. Sure, you could say hello and get to talk to others, but the on-the-fly grouping makes pick up groups come and go so quickly that there’s actually no need. The Guild Wars 2 game design is one of the best examples of “alone together” design- i mean, that’s better than being solo all the time, but it’s not meaningful interaction.

Another example of this way of game design would be Rift, where PUGs happen organically all the time- when closing Rifts, preventing Invasions, doing Instant Adventures and so on.

With both examples, i think a good way to improve on that design might be to make the content more difficult or meaningful.

Forced Grouping

As seen in Final Fantasy XIV, for example. In FFXIV, you’ll come to a point where the main story questline asks you to do group content- and that’s putting it nicely. As progress in terms of game features is tied to your progress in the main story, you have no choice. You’ll have to do group content to be able to trade your goods, get a mount and open many more options in the game. And the first time it asks you to dungeon delve? It’s not one, but three dungeons.

ffxiv_duty

Again, Final Fantasy XIV is an example of a very nice and friendly community, but i don’t think the forced grouping really helps in fostering it outside of guilds, possibly. For those, the forced grouping coupled with level scaling is a boon, as there’s always someone you can help, content you can do together and get to know each others. For players outside of guilds, this presents a challenge- on one hand, you have to go find a group in that dreaded LFG tool. On the other hand, but this is of more importance to casual players like me, you are stopped in your progress with a wall of “dedicated game time” in front of you. These three dungeons have been the reason for cancelling my sub/not playing the game two of three times- because i’d need to set the time aside and make sure that i wouldn’t be interrupted while in the dungeon. In the one case where it didn’t lead to me unsubbing, it took me two weeks to get through these three dungeons.

Socialising, though? Didn’t happen- it was a PUG, after all, and the pick-up groups for forced grouped content are basically the same as the pugs for optional dungeons in WoW, for example. There was a higher percentage of players saying “hello”, but that was it.

Another example could be Elder Scrolls Online. Now, there you aren’t forced into doing group PvE content, but for trade, you have to join trading guilds. I’m member of one with over 300 members- the chat is more silent than the guild chat of our small guild where 3-5 people are online in the evenings.

So no, in my opinion forced grouping doesn’t work.

Complex gaming mechanics

I’ll use Black Desert Online, EVE online and Fallen Earth as examples here. Black Desert Online has the reputation of not introducing players very well into the features of the game. Exploration is a big part of BDO, as well, and other players telling you where to find a horse to tame or certain plants and whatever are a thing there. EVE Online has the infamous learning curve. And Fallen Earth, while unfortunately being almost forgotten, was a Sandpark before Sandparks became a thing. These three games have one thing in common, albeit to varying degrees: you are actually dependant on out-of-game resources and help from others inside the game.

2016-03-04_1490972650

It’s been a few days since i last played BDO, so i won’t comment on its community. EVE and Fallen Earth, though? In my opinion, those are the games with the best communities out there. Sure, especially EVE has lots of shadow in its light, too, but it’s here where things like EVE University exists. EVE and Fallen Earth offer a newbie help channel that’s actually helpful and maintained by friendly players.

As EVE is one of my two current games, i can tell you that when you begin to dive a bit deeper into the EVE community, it’s almost like a parallel universe. I could easily double my MMO related feed reading if i were to follow all those EVE blogs out there. Of those 98 game-specific podcasts listed by Justin on Massively Overpowered, 13 are EVE podcasts, World of Warcraft has 15.

EVE has one thing up on the other two, though: interdependancy and different means to interact with other players.

The odd ones

There are two games with great communities i haven’t mentioned above, because it’s more difficult to pin down the reasons for why these games have such great communities- Lord of the Rings Online and The Secret World. But thinking about it now, there is a connection: out-of-game engagement and assets. As with BDO and EVE, these games are not self-contained. Lotro makes use of one of the biggest IPs we have in the gaming world and The Secret World…well, it makes use of conspiracy theories as well as lots and lots of modern tale storytelling like Zombies, Vampires and other themes that have a connection to the real world.

The other thing here is- and maybe that is tied to the out-of-game resources, that they’re both very roleplaying friendly.

What fosters a good community?

I think fostering and maintaining a good community is not about removing or creating obstacles within the game- it is about providing more than “just” a game, invoke emotions in the player base and feel them connected to the game, its world and its players. It is about creating the opportunity to have meaningful interaction with these elements both within and outside of the game.

Make it more than a game

The games don’t carry themselves- they need to be accompanied by out-of-game resources and interactions. For interactions, as i haven’t touched on them above, a developer needs to employ a very open conversation channel with all of their players- offer popular builds on your website, introduce guilds and talk about planned features and what you’re working on as well as your intentions in changes to the game. Hold community meet-ups. Know your bloggers. Stay- or get- in touch.

tales_of_tamriel

If the game in question is set in a widely known IP, they are halfway there, but even then, developers need to offer resources outside of the game or encourage players to create them- for instance with a design philosophy of “systems over features” (that can make a post on its own). In my experience, if a game offers a connection to the “real world”, either by links to IPs of books, movies, real world legends or even other games (as is the case with WoW and FFXIV), when it is able to make use of connections between the game and real-world experiences of players, it has a leg up in terms of building community.

Create and maintain interdependancy of players

Self-sufficiency is nice and all, but if it is offered, even as a hard-to-reach goal (like leveling all crafting professions in FFXIV), nowadays players will try to achieve it. It’s easier than to try and make connections to other players. Picture interdependancy as the “system” version of the “feature” forced grouping. It’s easy to do in crafting- just don’t let anyone craft everything by themselves (ideally not even by making use of alternative characters) to “enforce” player trading- but don’t make it more difficult than it needs to be. Also, let things break to maintain this interdependancy. Or allow certain crafters to repair stuff / create repair tools.

It can be done in PvE, too, if we think about Entertainers in Star Wars Galaxies who were able to remove debuffs from players in cantinas. The trinity is not enough, combat-wise, there have to be more roles on offer- like debuffing enemies, buffing players, support roles and so on. Another thing to note: being grouped up with other players should always be beneficial.

There should be an inherent need for having other players around and it should span more than the odd dungeon or world boss.

Allow interaction on different levels

Most of us have noticed that MMORPG players have changed. There isn’t a big influx of young gamers into the genre- they play specialized games, and the genre fans have been getting older. That means having less time to play and less will to dedicate huge chunks of time to gaming. I think many of us are still in this genre for the other players we can meet and interact with, but at the same time, we are less willing and able to put lots of time into this.

One of my favourite articles (really, go read it) introduced the idea of asynchronuous interaction- it is what makes Twitter, Facebook and E-Mail work so great- all of them enable their users to communicate even when the other one isn’t there. MMORPGs haven’t toyed much with that idea, though. For most of the things we can do together, we’d both need to be online (auction houses being the excemption).

Trading is the obvious one here- i can offer something for sale while you’re offline and you can buy it when you log in. But this is faceless interaction; it is needed for the general community of a game, but it doesn’t offer the individual the satisfaction of doing something with others. There is one feature, however, that makes this possible: housing. If i can own a housing plot and allow others to help me build it, we can create something together even if we’re not online at the same time. I think this could be expanded- for example by allowing us to create contracts or quests in game for PvE or crafting content. Now, these systems often end up being exploited, but that’s not my problem today 😉

And then….let it scale up. Offer something for two players to do together while they’re both online, or not. Offer the same for groups of 5, 10, 20, 50 or 100 players and you have a solid base for building communities of all sizes.

Have a vision and make it last

This one is hard to grasp, but i think if we’re looking into the examples i mentioned above, they all have in common that the games in question have a vision. They want to offer something special and they stick to their guns. Be it TSW’s creepyness, Lotro’s world-creation, FFXIV’s compelling themeparking, EVE’s cutthroat philosophy and so on. Even World of Warcraft with all its changes has stuck to one vision: creating and maintaining an accessible MMORPG.

internet_spaceships

Others have changed focus, hunting for new/more players instead of keeping their current customers happy or miscommunicated their vision before launch. Some of them do well, money-wise, some don’t. Some still have good communities, but really, would you say that the Star Wars community isn’t capable of doing much more than what happens around SWTOR? Yeah, me neither.

Whodoesit?

What game does it best? In my opinion, even before returning to it, i’d say and would have said EVE Online. They have the fanfest, blogging events, the whole ingame economy is player-based, even the lore and history is. EVE started in the game and was only that. But players were enabled to take ingame events and such to the outside. We’re talking about a game with concurrency numbers in the 30-40k area, but the community has created so many assets, from tools, to websites, blogs, videos, even books and history, that EVE is much more than just the game now.Ingame, there are huge advantages to flying in a fleet without debuffs, xp bonus or some other “artificial” benefit, but because of the game’s inherent systems.

Guild Update: activity and recruitment need to go up, more continuity on guild nights

Yesterday evening saw the first login to Elder Scrolls Online, or any MMO, for that matter, since we’ve returned from China.

Zharyon

That’s the name of our guild- yesterday, a commenter here made the connection between this blog and that guild, so i think i can tell now. I would have done it soon, anyway. Why we’d use such an unusual name? Well, it’s kind of a long story that i’ll probably tell when/if i make an official introduction post here, but to make it short- google it. We wanted a unique name that wasn’t descriptive like “Order of Light” or something- we wanted a name that wasn’t taken but still somewhat good on eyes and ears and we came up with that. It has been used a couple of times, but i think 800 results on Google is ok in terms of uniqueness.

That fear i expressed when i was sick and had to cancel guild events the last time i got sick? Well, turns out that two weeks of going to China might have made it true. We were only two players logging in, with a third one patching up on a night where i had planned to venture into a dungeon (to be fair, i scheduled that event more or less as a trial for organizing dungeon runs without consulting anybody else first).

We need bodies

The thing is: casual, social, tight-knit or not- we need to up the game a bit. We need more life in our community- or at least i do. 3 of us more or less only log in when we have a scheduled activity, i haven’t seen two recruits in quite some time, so in the end, our roster is at about 3-4 players who log in from day to day (but usually not daily). That’s not enough. We’re spreading ourselves to thin there. So i was beginning to think how we can gain a bit more traction without, you know, either disbanding, looking at another direction and/or recruit every Joe or Jane Doe that comes along.

I think the homepage might be one good way- disregarding whether we’d move to selfhosting and/or wordpress or not, it needs a bit more work to look attractive and show off who and what we are a bit better (if someone reading this wants to offer their feedback on what makes a good guild website or knows of some examples, i’d be happy for pointers). There’s one advantage in WordPress: it shows content much better than Enjin does. Let’s say other members would be interested in contributing to a “guild blog”, WordPress would be much better in handling this than Enjin is.

Of course that’s just a dream- in my experience guild members don’t like to contribute in this way. But still, it would also be a pretty good excuse for myself to sometimes post in german if i’d like (although, of course the activity would still be much lower than here). Still, it’s nice to dream- i love coop-blogging and multi-blogger sites and maybe, one day, some kind of project will come out of this.

Another thing i was thinking about was to simply cross voice chat off the list- now i know what you’re thinking, but with germans? “No Voicechat” guilds are actually quite popular- there are several communities that have this as their sole USP. We don’t use our server anyway and with Enjin only 5 slots come with the basic paid version of the website. So in the end, i guess it’s either moving to Discord or crossing it off. When i was looking for something like this in some english community, i drew a blank. Don’t know if this was about the game or maybe there’s just no market for these kinds of communities in the english speaking community.

We need continuity in our guild evenings

Another thing that propped up was that up until now, we’ve been dabbling in everything on guild night- we were in Cyrodiil, ran a dungeon, went to Wrothgar, the Thieves Guild and so on. What i’d like to do starting with the next guild evening in about two weeks is giving it a bit more structure- select something, then take it from the beginning up to the end. For instance, if we chose to start with Wrothgar, we’d stay there until we’ve finished all the content. Judging by the fact that Orsinium is supposed to have 20 hours of storyline content, that would probably take us ~15 weeks. Still, better quality, more continuity- i think that’s where we need to go.

Happy with what we have, but still have a way to go

We’ll have a chat about all this in our coming guild meeting (friday), i’m eager to see the results of this discussion and take some of that to action. See, i’m happy with what we have- we’re basically six semi-active to active players who like each other and share a very relaxed view on things like progress, wiping, online times and such. There’s no need to change that, it’s actually the opposite: we’ll try everything to keep it that way. But that doesn’t mean we have to stand still- we need to evolve, improve, gain some numbers in order to actually be more than a part of a good filled friendlist.

Are EVE online players bad people?

It’s always the same. Some EVE story breaks and three things happen:

  1. reading about EVE is great
  2. i think about diving in again
  3. commenters call eve players bad people

Case in point: Massively Overpowered’s really great post about the current war in EVE.

The largest PvP war in gaming history has begun in EVE Online

So that was number 1. Number 2- i actually downloaded the client because i have a 10-day-return-card in my mailbox. I haven’t pulled the trigger yet, but it’s really just a matter of time until i’ll take at least those 10 days. It’s actually the mining/industrial branch that interests me the most and wartimes are good times for that. Whenever i visited EVE, i’ve found it to be hugely relaxing (mainly because i prefer starting on the mining route). And it’s a true sandbox. And there’s something happening in the game right now.

Now onwards to number 3: Are EVE players bad people?

I haven’t met any abuse, pvp action or similar while playing EVE. Questions i had got answered quickly and politely. Now, of course there are bad news we can read about all the time- threats even to real people, scams, people treating other people badly or just griefing other players among many, many other things.

But EVE is also the place of the EVE university– a guild corp dedicated to teaching new players the ins and outs of the game and other really great stuff from a huge blogosphere to dedicated news-sites and so on.

While i hold the impression that different games attract different folks- that much being obvious when looking even at themeparks like Lord of the Rings Online, The Secret World or Final Fantasy XIV having polite and friendly communities in my experience compared to World of Warcraft, Blade&Soul or Archeage (yes, i’m putting that one in the themepark category now), i think that in most cases, there’s a huge range of players- from the friendly to the griefers, from polite to barbarians.

Even in Rocket League’s normal friendly games there were many people cursing and insulting others before the game added a way to report players. I could tell you about my first dungeon finder experience in Wildstar, for instance- that was only the training dungeon but when my friend, being the tank, struggled with the game mechanics, the other people were all over her. In the end, after trying to kick her out of the group (and failing, of course, because i didn’t agree), everybody left.

Looks quite different than the artwork, doesn't it?
Looks quite different than the artwork, doesn’t it?

Coming back to EVE, i think here the impolite, griefing players get put more in the spotlight because the game allows them to do more than just insulting other players. The game makes it possible to gank, rob, extort and even hijack property of a whole account. If it were for game mechanics only, i think EVE would have a very normal playerbase. But unfortunately, CCP goes even further with its hands-off policy. They regard everything fair game that is possible to do via game mechanics. They don’t stop players to do actually, really bad stuff even to real players – i count hijacking all properties on an account as an attack on the human.

In my opinion, that last part is the mistake. I know it’s difficult to draw a line sometimes- is something ok because game mechanics allow this type of action or is it an ad-hominem already? But by refusing all responsibility in regards to these player actions, CCP allows rotten apples of the EVE community to go even further- and there will always be people who test the boundaries. If there are none set, well…let’s just say i think if CCP were to take a different stance on this, i guess EVE would have much more subscribers.

So no, i don’t believe EVE players are inherently better or worse people than the average MMO player- but i think both the game and CCP allow the “evil players” to be at their worst- and that is what’s getting noticed from the outside.

Why i love reading your MMO blog

Professional Blogging

Have i mentioned how much i like the Global Chat column on Massively Overpowered? I think it was the first one that started featuring blog posts of “regular people bloggers” on the more respected sites relating to our genre. Liore did something like that on mmorpg.com a while back, but i think that this column was discontinued- it’s hard to tell with mmorpg.com’s way of organizing their content. Then there were Murph and Belghast, doing their thing on MMOGames.com, but i think that one was discontinued, as well.

Massively Overpowered, MMOGames.com and MMORPG.com- what do they have in common? They’re more or less branding themselves as “professional bloggers”, if you will. Their staff gets paid (i think) for their posts and they have a big audience. The strengths and weaknesses of each one of these sites can very well be a post on its own (one i started to draft several times already).

In short i would say MMOGames.com has the most potential of the three and has taken several great bloggers in, but its informational structure simply isn’t quite there yet. Still, the site reminds me of reasons i used to really love Massively in 2010/2011: its’ authors are bloggers who love their games and are quite stable in their selection of MMORPG they play. With a little more continuity and a better structure/home page and less crappy games on their sidebar, this site could be great.

MMORPG.com is a mess- the site looks outdated, i can see no structure in their content and navigation whatsoever. It’s even hard to discern which games they cover, as they have adopted RPGs along with multiplayer games. While i do like some of their authors and commentors, this site needs a do-over badly. They promised being close to launching a new layout when Massively closed last year- possibly as a way of trying to catch some of that audience, but it still hasn’t happened.

As for Massively Overpowered, it’s the most professional of the three. The layout (despite being at least based on a free WordPress template) is clear and functional, as is the navigational and informational structure. The authors know how to write and, at least in my opinion, have a very professional stance. However, i feel it has developed to a news site more than a “blogger site”. Even their game-specific columns are oftentimes more about news relating to the games than, well, describing gameplay experience, the lore or whathaveyou (exceptions being Anatoli’s old Guild Wars 2 column and the new Black Desert column by Matt Daniel).

Are bloggers full of themselves?

All the more happy i am when Massively Overpowered does something “bloggy”, like featuring content of “regular people bloggers”, highlighting podcasts or something similar. I am, of course, happy if/when i or someone else i’m close with gets a mention there, but i’ve read some interesting comments in the last two i was mentioned in, as well.

It must have been the topics at hand (future of MMORPGs and Black Desert impressions earlier), with the latter seemingly counter to popular opinion- the quotes, despite being well-chosen, made the impressions seem worse than they were- so we got a lot of “how dare these bloggers have a different opinion than i?” comments and the former with being positive outlooks on the MMORPG genre as a whole or Daybreaks…stuff…in particular, where we got the “why are bloggers perceived as special?” and “why do they think they’re special?”-treatment.

Well, i’m kind of new in this whole thing, not very deeply connected to others from the blogosphere and not a popular blog by far, especially here on the new site, so these comments still kind of get to me- no, i don’t think i’m special or my opinion matters more than that of, say, a commentor on Massively Overpowered or on a forum or reddit. I’m simply adding one layer of personal enjoyment and community building on something i enjoy without that part. And i’m pretty sure that’s more or less what every one of them does- adding something, in this case writing, to their hobby.

Why i love reading your MMORPG blog

Perspective

MMORPGs can be played in many different ways- maybe you enjoy dungeon runs, or roleplaying, or questing. Maybe you care about the lore, the quest-givers, your guild, pvp, gear or costumes. Maybe your thing is the economy, crafting or even horse-breeding. Whatever it is that gives you the most enjoyment in these games, chances are that it’s not exactly the same thing that i enjoy most. But maybe i’ll like to read about it or try dabbling in it myself to see if i might enjoy it. Or you’ll give some inspiration regarding ideas i could use in our small guild.

Opinion

Is the MMO genre dead? Could Daybreaks hickups result in something good for Everquest 2? Is that game/ingame shop/game “pay to win”? Is pay-to-win even possible? I don’t know, but i sure have an opinion on most of these topics. Some Oftentimes it’s not a well-founded or 100% thought through opinion, so i love reading what other people think, especially when it’s about games of minor interest to me.

Games

Speaking of games, some of you are seducers, writing great posts about games i might have crossed off my list or didn’t have on my radar, and your excitement is contagious. Maybe i’ll send you a bill for the next purchase 😉 But you could be playing a game i love to read about or i didn’t keep in touch with and i’m wondering what impact some new feature/expansion/content has on players who stuck with that game and you’ll offer some insight. It’s really not about the game someone’s playing, as they’re in the same genre anyway and some stuff that works in, say, World of Warcraft, might be transferrable to a similar experience in Black Desert, for instance.

Personality

Some of you, i can only admire for your writing capabilities. I tend to babble a lot- many of you are able to write short, concise blog posts and still inflict your personality and character into your posts. There are bloggers who cut their content’s word count by half and their posts seem to be of the same or better quality, and have the same amount or more personality and character as before. Sometimes, you’ll even share some aspect of your real life, and some of you make it a point to blog about your real lives quite often and in the same posts you deal with your gaming life.

Community

As i’ve said, i’m not deeply connected. Sometimes i think that’s my fault, for not being able to put personality/character in writing, sometimes i think it could be a location/time-zone/server location-issue. But i can see connections all over- people commenting on each others’ blogs, ping-ponging blogging topics, creating guilds, organizing blogging events and so on. And i’ve also made a few connections via blogging that i do value very much.

So that’s why i love reading your MMORPG blog and hope you enjoy writing it as much as i do reading it.

And i’d like to point you to my Blogroll– i’m not sure if i’ll stay with this one, but it is the one i like the most right now because i can include as much as i want. It might still need some configuration, but this is just too good a moment to let it pass.

Dual Wielding: is it dead yet?

Dual Wielding: A series featuring two bloggers writing on one topic and answering the question, “If the pen is mightier than the sword, what happens when you dual wield?”

Make sure to check out Ironweakness’ take on the subject.

Introduction- did that just happen?

When Ironweakness and i decided to pick our Dual Wielding series back up, we also decided for two topics, to be published on a monthly basis. The last one has been about Negativity in the MMORPG community and this one was to be an outlook on the genre. We figured it might be a good time for that post, so shortly after the release of Black Desert Online and The Division (as well as the Thieves Guild DLC). Little did we know what was bound to happen last friday- namely the cancellation of Everquest Next and layoffs at Carbine. Since these news broke, the question whether the MMORPG genre is dead has been tackled countless times, by bloggers as well as MMORPG-related Outlets and even general gaming sites.

I’d like to be brief here, because this post is about looking ahead, not at the past. I’d like to say, however, that both news didn’t come as much of a surprise, i guess, to people who were watching these games closely. We haven’t heard anything from EQ Next since what seems like forever, Landmark hasn’t seen significant developement during that time, either, and Wildstar clearly failed to get much attention, players and most of all money following the shift to free-to-play. Here’s what i think both of these news have in common and give a little hint at what’s coming next: the WoW days are finally behind us, and i do think this is a great thing.

Not in Azeroth anymore

Wildstar is basically “WoW in space”, and that’s not just relating to the art style. Sure, it has more features, but the whole thing is still very close to the WoW generation of MMORPGs. Everquest Next, as it was envisioned, was to be an evolution of the same thing- it still took the WoW-style MMORPG as a blueprint for what they thought should be improved in the genre- and furthermore, they took a Triple-A approach to that whole thing.

The MMORPG genre chased WoW numbers for 12 years now and threw evergrowing budget at their games. The idea was, of course, to build something “mainstream” enough to make the success of World of Warcraft repeat itself. While it was clear quite early on that simply copying World of Warcraft wasn’t enough, the thought that it might only take a few iterations on the concept lingered in the newer games of the genre.

All the while one thing has been mentioned but didn’t find consideration in game design: WoW was also that big of a success because the basic feature of MMORPGs- laying with hundreds/thousands of other players- was quite new at that time. That feature alone was enough to inspire awe in players. But with years gone by, contacting other people through the web has become normal- and we, the players, found ourselves isolated more and more, choosing to play with friends or people we already knew instead of with strangers from the web.

We all know now that throwing money after that problem doesn’t work, either. And we’ll be better off for it going forward.

Alone together

Playing alone together still is interesting and unique enough, but one has to see there still are technical limitations to what developers can do if they design a game around thousands of players playing at the same time- gameplay-wise, few if any MMORPGs are very compelling and i know for a fact that on the one general gaming site i read (Rock Paper Shotgun, you should, too!), players and authors alike pity MMORPG players because of the games’ repetetive, grindy and boring gameplay. So it seems unlikely that the normal, persistent, shared world MMORPG would be able to gather the masses for quite some time. Investing here really was and is throwing good money after bad. But designers came up with a solution.

Alone together in Guild Wars 2
Alone together in Guild Wars 2

There’s my MMO in your shooter

The Crew, Destiny and The Division are three games where you’ll find MMO elements as well as a semi-persistent world combined with a single player or simple multiplayer game. These games incorporate most of the “mainstream” elements of MMORPGs while offering a different kind of gameplay. Think about it: there are hubs where you see other players (the “alone together” part of open world MMORPG play), you can also join a few friends and tackle content together (similar to going into MMOs with your friends or doing some guild activities) and even grouping up with random players (just as you’d do with Dungeon Finders and the like). These games are basically an essence of what MMORPGs have become, but they shed a few shackles that put them in gameplay or feature-constraints.

When you think about it- maybe ArenaNet did it the wrong way around- releasing the hub-centric semi-MMO Guild Wars in a time when persistent, shared worlds were popular and then releasing Guild Wars 2 in a time where, maybe, stronger gameplay and storytelling would have won them the day.

There’s also Elite Dangerous and the upcoming Shroud of the Avatar, Shards Online and all these survival games where you can rent/create your own server where it’s possible to play the same game either totally alone, with friends or in a shared environment. While these are a different sort of game than the titles i mentioned earlier, they all give the option to scale the “Massively” part to comfort.

We have only seen early entries here and i think this is where you’d need to look in the future if Triple-A MMO-ish design is what you’re looking for. We should all be happy, because the “mainstream” will go in that direction and there will be huge hits releasing in that “semi MMO” genre.

Welcome back into my MMO, RPG!

On the other site of the fence we have “classic” MMORPGs- but fans of persistent, virtual, shared worlds can be happy about the demise of the triple-A MMORPG, as well, because now, the masses are chased elsewhere. We’ll be getting more niche products more fitting to our respective playstyles- think about Shroud of the Avatar, Shards Online, Camelot Unchained, the Repopulation, Crowfall and others. They mark the return of the classical western MMORPG. I have to cite something here, because i think this is spot-on.

The very problem was using AAAs as a measure of stability, success, and fun. AAAs broke us. Why be sad when they pack up their tents and move on? Clearly the core MMO playerbase will still be catered to; it’ll just look more like the early 2000s than like 2012.
– Bree Royce, Massively Overpowered

We’ll continue to get new MMORPGs, and if the current crop doesn’t meet your preferences, chances are the next wave will, because for once, after 10 years, we’ll be getting games that do something new or concentrate on a particular part that made MMORPGs great in the first place. Then again, if you want Triple-A MMORPGs, they are still going to come, but from the east instead of the west. And, to be frank, they always have. I think Lineage might just be the MMORPG that’s “really” the most successful- released in 1997, i think, it’s still the best earner for NC Soft in Korea. Black Desert Online shows how the next iteration of a shared, persistent, “alone together” world looks like, there’ll probably be others.

It’s not

As you can see, i’m really looking forward to future developements in the genre- all in all, it seems to me that it has matured and evolved into more specialized subgenres- we have MOBAs, the semi-MMOs like Destiny, we have Survival games and we have the classic MMORPG, and i probably missed something along the way. All these subgenres will provide players with different parts of what makes MMOs great, with different amounts of “massively” in their multiplayer options. The classic MMORPG will return to its genre-bending roots while also being specialized.

Fishing in Black Desert Online
Fishing in Black Desert Online, one iteration of “next gen” MMORPG

In the coming years, we’ll be better off and happier with what’s out there. If we like the current crop (as i do- i love Elder Scrolls Online), we’ll be happy to, again, stay with the titles we love for the longer term instead of always wanting to check out the new shiny. If we were unhappy, the next generation will provide more specialized experiences. And if we liked parts of what MMORPGs offered as a whole but disliked other parts, there will be games offering that, as well.

I wanted to touch on more than that- the shift in business model (buy-to-play is becoming the norm) and design (MMORPGs can’t afford putting the fun behind a grindwall anymore), but i’ve gone on rambling long enough (and really need to pack). I might get on these other topics another time, but in essence, i view both of these as getting better now, as well.

We’re not in our last moments here, we’re entering a new era in our genre and should be excited for it!