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Archive for April, 2008

Completing the pet dings

April 30, 2008 3 comments

Today I completed a goal I had set up for my self a long time ago; now all my dominators have obtained their pets. And since I have dominators for all currently available powersets, that means 4 types of pets, plus mind’s mass confusion (which mind dominators get instead of a pet).

The latest addition to the menagerie was the fire imps. Three small critters that jumps around like Rikti monkeys and just beat on everything in their path. That extra damage is a welcome complement to the psi assault powers that my character uses.

After the soon-to-be-released Issue 12 there will be more powersets added, which means that I will play another dominator also if I want to keep the pet collection complete.

But5 for now I will just enjoy my new fire imps 😉

Categories: MMO Games

4 years of spandex, player created deeds of Destinty

April 28, 2008 Comments off

City of Heroes is turning 4 years old and lead designer Matt “Positron” Miller provides some comments on the state of the game. One intersting item he mentions is an upcoming feature; player created missions!

It seems that they will in some way expose the current toolset to create missions for the game; I assume it is about instanced missions. Most of the game is instanced anyway. Providing the ability to create missions for the player should probably fit better in City of Heroes/Villains than many other games. It will be intersting to see how much of the current mission mechanics will be made available.

E.g. can any villain/hero group be used, can players create their own named villains/heroes? Add pets and helpers, spawn patrols and ambushes? Change costumes/disguises, add temporary powers?

This sounds quite exciting and will be really interesting to see it in practice!

Positrons article also mentioned some statistics of the game; one was that 32 million characters had been created in the game! I think the current number of active players is around 150K. Even if the total number of players that have played the game at any given time is a lot more that is a staggering amount of characters. Even if the total number of players were 10 times as much, that would still be 24 characters on average… Clearly City of Heroes/Villains has been a good place for harboring altoholics like myself, or quite a lot of people have played the game at some point.

Happy Anniversary, City of Heroes!

(Soon at 2 years in the game myself)

Categories: City of Heroes

Good stories hurt the longevity of an MMORPG?

April 27, 2008 4 comments

For many people, inlcuding myself, a good background story and story content is an important aspect of an MMORPG. So why the headline?

Let me qualify “good story” a bit; that is that a game company developed story is a prominent feature of the game and with some thought to hold various elements in the world toghether by the story. You have to put in an effort to compltely avoid the story, if you wanted.
Tabula Rasa is a recent example, Earth & Beyond was another game with some serious story telling ambitions. LOTRO is another one in the fantasy genre.

The story experience if often considered weaker in MMORPGs though compared to single player games. In single player games, the player is the big hero or center of attention – this is not the case in MMORPGs.
The story telling is however not much different from single player games. At any given moment a single player can experience the story by himself/herself. He/she may need help at certain stages to overcome certain difficulties but in essence much of the story telling is just directed to a single player – no element of the story changes regardless of the number of players involved, only the amount and diifculty of some enemies in the path of the story.

Thus I think the story telling currently works better to support solo play experience, sometimes spiced up with some added support by other players. It does not support a core multiplayer experience, at least not well.

And for longevity of a player experience in an MMORPG, the multiplayer part needs to work. This can of course be accomplished by other means, but the story as it is now does not do that much to contibute to it. Rather it makes the solo experience better/good/more bearable. With a too strong story element in comparision to other features of the game, the game is going to hurt. To some extent like in single player games, players are going to feel some kind of completion when a story is followed through. And that may make the game feel “empty” and people may end up quitting.

Compare the games above to games like World of Warcraft, City of Heroes/Villains and Everquest 2, to take a few. The latter 3 all have a strong background story element, but the story element is a bit more hidden and a less prominent part of the player experience. I think this provides for a better foundation for longevity of the game as it is now.

And then there is EVE Online of course. Not much story at all provided by CCP, but very much so by the players themselves and very much a multiplayer story telling. And for those who get into EVE it seems to last quite well.

So how can the story telling be improved? Does it have to be player created content only, like in EVE? Or can game companies create story telling on a multiplayer scale and will that keep players playing longer due to the story?

Villain Epic archetypes – teaser video

April 18, 2008 Comments off

NCSoft has released a teaser video showing some information about the villain epic archetypes scheduled for the soon-to-be-released Issue 12.

There are two different archetypes, Spiders and Widows. Those who choose the spider path start as Wolf Spiders. Skills and powers are of type machine guns, grenades and melee skills. At level 24 a career choice can be made to select between either Bane Spiders or Crab Spiders, adding different types of weaponry and skills for each type, including calling in tarantula reinforcements.

The widow archetype starts with Blood Widows, which are mainly martial arts specialists. At level 24 a career choice can be made between Night Widows or Fortunatas. Night Widows get psychic assult powers added to the martial arts skills, while Fortunatas weakens in martial arts, but on the other hand gets a wider array of psychic abilities than the widows.

While Spiders have been male and Widows have been female among NPCs so far it seems that both sexes will be available in each case.

Personally I am a bit more interested in the 2 Widow paths, although I will most certainly try out the Spiders as well.

Categories: City of Heroes

NCSoft introduces microtransactions

April 17, 2008 Comments off

I na press release NCSoft announces the introduction of their microtransactions system for in-game items, NCCoin. The first game to get this is the mech game Exteel, but the press release indicates that other future games as well as existing games may also get into NCCoin at a later stage.

Which other existing games will get NCCoin? With this model being more accepted in Asia my guess is that the Lineage games might get it. Neither Tabula Rasa nor City of Heroes/Villains are particularly item centric games, so they do not seem very likely targets. Getting enough in-game currency to buy stuff one may need is not a big problem in either game either, although City of Heroes/Villains have started to get plagued by rare item farming activities, so perhaps there are some opportunities to squeeze some cach out from farming players there.

I’m not sure about the viability in Guild Wards for this; it was too long ago since I played it and I never got very far in that game anyway.

NCSoft Europe podcast #2

April 16, 2008 Comments off

NCSoft Europe has released their second podcast, talking about the player event at Omega Sector in Birmingham (“The Ultimate Heroic Weekend”), an interview with City of Heroes/Villains designer Melissa War Witch” Bianco and, as well as some talk about the Lineage 2 collector’s edition.

I really liked the interview with Melissa, who is a quite infectuously enthusiastic person. They talk about the player event @ Omega Sector, Issue 12 and the transition from Cryptic to NCSoft. Rockjaw, who is the podcaster is doing a pretty good job, although I think it goes a bit fast a times. A nice touch is that there is a transcript of the podcast available also.

It seems to me that NCSoft Europe has stepped up their activities a bit, which is a good thing.
It was a bit over a month since they released the first podcast, so I guess the next one will be some time in mid to late May if the trend continues. (As much of a trend you can have with 2 podcasts…)

Categories: City of Heroes

Altoholics rejoice! More character slots!

April 15, 2008 Comments off

Recently NCSoft hinted that they would provide an option for added character slots in City of Heroes/Villains. More than any other MMORPG to date, this is a game that encourage the creation of many different characters, in particular due to its excellent character creator.

Now the details around the added character slots have been revealed. They are doing three different things in this area:

  • Giving two extra character slots to all players
  • Providing extra character slots as veteran rewards, one per year
  • Selling extra character slots for a one time fee

The maximum limit of character slots will be set to 36 per server, which is 3 times as much as the current 12 for those that have both Hero and Villain games.

As a no-cure-whatsoever altoholic, this is great news. Even for me I think 36 slots will be more than enough on one server. And the cost of buying a few extra slots is no big deal either.

Now it remains to see if any other MMORPGs will provide similar options at a reasonable cost.

Categories: City of Heroes

Chronicles of Spellborn changed release to autumn 2008

April 11, 2008 Comments off

It seems that the Spellborn people have found a potential publisher for the North American market, who wants to get some lead time for the project – 6 months.
So it seems they have decided to move the release date to accomodate this. So at the earliest the game will be released some time in October. In the meantime, the intend to use the P-word (not the people, the other one) and then do a concurrent release for both Europe and North America.

Perhaps that is better use of resources to coordinate marketing and release efforts. Or perhaps they think it may hurt American sales in case the game does not do too well in Europe and it would be less risky to do it all at the same time. Or they need more time and this is just another way to get a reason for it.

I cannot help but to think what the European (and Asian also) publisher Frogster thinks of the whole matter. Are they just happy going along with the changes? They have been signed up for quite a while now and it adds another delay to their schedule possibly.

And who is the publisher? SOE? EA is probably focusing on Warhammer Online which likely is released around the same time. Blizzard only do their own thing. NCSoft seems to focus more on internal projects and this might also potentially collide with Aion efforts.

I guess it is not any of the publishers of the various Korean-style F2P MMORPGs at least.

And perhaps not going head to head with Funcom and Age of Conan befoe summer is a good thing for them on European side. Only time will tell.

In-game advertising in City of Heroes/Villains

April 3, 2008 2 comments

NCSoft has announced that they are going to start with optional in-game advertising in City of Heroes/Villains, a s detailed here and here. Seeing these ads are optional and the player can select to not choose to see those ads.

Motivation for this is to get another revenue stream to cover the costs for the increased effort put into the game, instead of charging the players more in some way.

While I cannot say that I am particularly excited about advertising in the game, I can understand their position. It is a competitive market and with the current business models it can certainly be price sensitive. Anarchy Online has done it for years now, but City of is a bit larger title and it will be interesting to see how this may impact the player base.

We will probably see more of these changes in the future. I think this may be one potential driver for developing games with modern settings – it will be easier to introduce advertising in the game that does not seem to be out of context. You cannot really have that in a fantasy setting, unless the setting was something similar to Discworld perhaps.

Categories: City of Heroes

World of Baywatch Online soon to enter open beta

April 1, 2008 4 comments

Today it was announced that the highly anticipated game World of Baywatch Online will soon enter open beta and the NDA will be lifted. The game features a revolutionary character creation system, allowing players to not only to create their own bathing suits, but also customize every aspect of the body for the ultimate life guard experience. And if the initial creation is not completly satisfactory after some play time, an in-game plastic surgeon will be available for a fee.

The game developers also promises a rich and deep story line with 1000s of missions available right from release. With the incredibly rich lore and the previously untapped beach genre the company is confident that they have a winner here.

“Making a beach MMORPG is an incredibly challenging task”, says the company president. “Not only does it have to work in a beach setting, but also above and even under water. No one has dared to take this on before, but we are confident we can take this to the next level”. The company uses the DreamBabe 2 engine as a base for the game development, citing that the toolset provided is the only one in the market that could manage their high requirements.

The developers also promise that players will be able to both meet, interact and co-operate with their heroes and heroines from the original series. The NPC interaction system is promised to be one of the most innovative elements seen in an MMORPG.

Personally I am not entirely convinced that WOBO will be a big success. It may have many attractive elements in it and beaches have a wide potential market appeal. But the business model is unclear and will another subscription-based game work? Will there be a strong beach community to keep the waters safe? Only time will tell.
The game is scheduled to be release on Mac, Wii and PC.

Categories: MMO Games