Archive for June, 2008

The influence of history – designers and gamers

June 29, 2008 Comments off

Raph Koster posted an interesting blog entry related to the latest discussions that popped up regarding the Richard Bartle transcript and the whole discussion that followed that.

Or rather, the blog entry and the comments that followed makes this a quite interesting piece, at least to me. The discussions there led me to a few interesting articles and presentations:

However, if you are mainly interested in finding out which MMO or other types of multiuser games that are fun and exciting, reading all history and influences will not give you much. And that is a difference that will likely to continue to create controversies like the last one regardign Richard Bartle’s statements.

To use an analogy with cars:

Most users of cars mainly care about rather obvious design choices. Does it feel good to drive, does it have a CD or MP3 player, does it have GPS navigator? Does it consume much fuel? Does it have good safety features? How many cup holders does it have? Which colours is it available in?

You can find drivers that swear by the latest Audi A6, by Toyota Camrys etc – do not dare to talk bad about my choice of car! If the speedometer uses the traditional eddy-current or uses a digital numeric display instead can be a major issue. In the realm of personal vehicles, cars in its current form (often 4 wheels, a couple of seats, steering wheel, combustion engine etc) is what is in the plausible scope for most users.

Look then at the designers of vehicles, what makes them tick? Do they care that their new car model now comes in 4 new colours and that a GPS navigator may be included? Do they that there are 4 cup holders in that car model? They might care, but that is because it is their job to understand what the drivers want or need. That probably does not make them excited and rush to work in the morning.

Now, if they were working on whole new ways to control the car, entirely or partially different types of engines, vehicles that do not use wheels etc – that would probably excite them more. After all, most cars although they have certainly more and nicer features for the driver, they are still in essence similar to the T-Fords and many other personal vehicles from almost a century ago.

And designers might have the view on vehicles or personal vehicles as the area of interest, while drivers are mainly focused on cars – different scope, different perceptions and views.

Categories: Uncategorized

Anarchy Online 7 years

June 28, 2008 Comments off

Another year has past and Anarchy Online is now 7 years old.

This is celebrated by giving all current subscribers 700 service points to spend on in-game items. Players of the free version of Anarchy Online can upgrade to all the expansions for 7 Euro/USD and gets 7 days of free game time.

They mention that an offer is going to be sent out to previous subscribers by email. Since I am one of those but I have not received any email yet I had a look at my AO account page and there is an offer there for 30 days of game time and 700 service points for free. (actually 0.00 Euro, plus 15% VAT…)

I will probably pick up this offer; I tend to go back to Anarchy Online from time to time – with it being my first MMORPG I do get nostalgic every now and then.

There is also a video here with some of the former and current game directors and designers talking about the game, which is a pretty nice piece. Mirror links and links for download for offline viewing is here.

Happy birthday, Anarchy Online!

Categories: Anarchy Online

Less content for a more changing world?

June 25, 2008 1 comment

One of the things that often pop up on the wish lists for MMORPGs is that actions that you should be able to affect the state of the world, to be able to make a mark somehow.

Few games get close to fullfilling that request, basically only sandbox-type games like EVE may aspire to at least partially fulfill that wish.

Part of the problem here is that changed content = new content, which somehow must be produced. There is no chance game companies can keep up with the players in this regard. So what solutions are there – should all content be player created and player managed? Do we need a Second Life-type environment?

Another possible option could be to set a definite end to the game world. I.e. the game world will change according to some criteria and player actions and at some point it is done. At that point it could basically start all over again, from scratch. The game developers do not have to create entirely new all the time, they can run the game again, perhaps with some additions and changes.

And those changes could be to both areas, content and/or game mechanics. Not huge changes, but perhaps enough to allow for some different types of progression.

E.g. a Highlander MMORPG – the world is moving forward in time, the immortals fight each other and when there is only one left the game ends – and starts again from scratch. Now there would probably be some challenges with a Highlander game close to the original, since people might not enjoy getting killed early and drop out of the game for example.

Another idea might be alternate reality type environments. Each round of playing represents one slightly different setting and different conditions. There are plenty of examples in litterature of both subtle and significant changes.

A Tale in the Desert have applied this concept and that game has been running a few rounds now. While that particular game itself may not be for everyone, the idea behind a definite end and start of the MMORPG has a certain appeal.

Some continuity should still be there and keep player connections between rounds, in whatever ways one has added support for guilds, teams, chat organisation etc.

Just by allowing the game to actually have an end the game developers could try different mechanics and options to affect and change the play styles possible. This might get players a bit closer to the dream of an everchanging world in which they play a siginficant part.

The end of the blog year – game status

June 22, 2008 Comments off

Today on June 22nd is the last day of my first year blogging.

One of my first blog entries when I started was what games I play.  City of Heroes/Villains is still going strong and right now I do not see any end to that. The other games were Everquest 2 and Lord of the Ring Online, neither which I play any longer. LOTRO was even one of the titles I spent the shortest time with, not even playing 2 months even though I had paid for the 6 month preorder.

Everquest 2 is also a thing of the past which I do not plan to go back to.

Tabula Rasa is a game I have played a lot in this period also, although at the moment I do not log in often and play. A few games that I tried to revisit were Anarchy Online, EVE Online, Vanguard, Guild Wars and Dungeon & Dragons Online, but neither stuck with me.

And the latest that I left are of course Age of Conan. Fantasy games do just not seem to have any staying power for me. Thus games that I look forward to are more along the line of Champions Online, Jumpgate Evolution, Stargate Worlds, Blackstar and The Agency to mention a few.

When I started this blog I had set a goal for myself that I should write at least once per week, except perhaps when on vacation. Including this entry I have had 139 posts during this past year.

A big thank you to all of you who happen to read my ramblings from time to time. It is nice to know that there a few people out there who occasionally find it worthwhile to read 🙂

Categories: Uncategorized

An eye-opening team invite

June 22, 2008 2 comments

For years now the topic of blind invites gets people into sometimes heated discussions. I.e. the habit that some people have to send a team/group invite without asking the person who receives the invite before. Recently the folks at Massively had an article about such invites in City of Heroes/Villains.

I am against blind invites myself, since I may only want to team up during certain circumstances. Even though the Massively article brings up this in the context of City of Heroes/Villains I find that it is less of a problem in CoX. Not that I do not get blind invites; I get them regularly. But in CoX there is less chance of a team being a bad or unwanted case than in some other MMORPGs due to its flexible teaming and mission systems.

So what if the blind invites were changed and their eyes were opened? All the information in an invite that are lacking are provided right there in the invite. If someone sends and invite, the invite dialog tells you who sent it, their level, the area they are in the team size. It could also include different options for different types of team activities and also allow to send some text messages with the invite, that can have been predefined or added before by the team leader.

The invite dialog could also allow for a response text to be entered. All this would allow much of the interaction that would take place if the invite was not “blind”. It would save effort and make things smoother for both those who just want fast invites and those who may be a bit more picky. Then the issue of blind invites would perhaps not be an issue anymore, since both sides can get what they want.

Categories: MMO Games

The Epic ding

June 22, 2008 Comments off

I now have my 3rd villain that has reached max level in City of Villains and my first epic archetype to reach max level. That is, my Fortunata has now dinged for the last time.

Playing the fortunata has been and still is really fun. It is a quite versatile combination of crowd control, team support and damage dealing options.

Leveling this one has been fast also, a bit over a month calendar time since it was started. I did not check the hours played, but probably less than half of the time use for previous villains. That NCSoft has smoothed out the leveling curve is one contributing factor, but mainly it has been that there has been a larger chunk of the time where I have played in big team. Big teams make a substantial difference when it comes to progression speed through the levels.

Reaching level 50 also got a grand finale, since I reached in the mission where you have to defeat Lord Recluse in the future, right at the moment Lord Recluse was defeated.

Categories: City of Heroes

City of Heroes podcast

June 21, 2008 Comments off

Recently I discovered that there is actually an active City of Heroes/Villains podcast running, CoHpodcast.

I don’t know why I have not seen this one before, but I am glad I found it. There are too few podcasts covering this excellent game.

Categories: City of Heroes

Double XP weekend in July

June 21, 2008 Comments off

I had a look at the City of Heroes calendar wallpaper for July 2008 and it seems that there is another double xp weekend coming up in July.

I missed the last one due to work. This one I might actually be home for.

Categories: City of Heroes

NCSoft Europe podcast #3 – Tabula Rasa developer interview

June 21, 2008 Comments off

NCSoft Europe has released podcast #3 in which community manager Avatea interviews Starr Long, Tom Potter and Victor Meinert from Destination Games/NCsoft Austin.

Not that much new if you have been following Tabula Rasa news, although some nice bits and pieces mentioned. The podcast starts with an introduction of the participants and introduction of what kind of game Tabula Rasa is. They continue with talking about the feedback process and some of the new things coming soon in Tabula Rasa, with focus on Clan Owned Control Points.

The podcast is about 40 minutes long.

For those who subscribe to RSS news feeds from NCSoft, note that NCSoft Europe and US NCSoft has different feeds, so you won’t see the podcast news unless you subscribe to the NCSoft Europe feed.

Categories: Tabula Rasa

The solo trap

June 20, 2008 Comments off

In todays MMORPGs it is pretty standard that one can solo through most of the progression of a character. This may sometimes be to the extent that some people complain that there is no or little reason to team up – at least not until the “end game” is reached.

Thus we get games where much of the content pretty much oriented to be played solo, but sometimes “scaled up” to force people to team up for this particular content. I think this is a bit flawed; the content in the form of missions/quests is still solo content in essence. Sometimes it just have been made a bit more difficult.

The result is sometimes content where the team gets in the way – missions do not always update for all in the team, missions have to be done and done in a certain order regardless of what team members have done before.

The trap here is that much of this content seemed to be made with solo play in mind and then just scaled a bit.

What if the mindset is changed here? The social aspect and interaction with other people in MMORPGs are key factors to the longevity of an MMORPG, so why do not the design start from that concept? How can one make a game with encourages (not force) and support various types of interaction between people primarily?

If people may only have a short time window; perhaps need to get away from the game on short notice and many other things that “disturb” teaming in todays games then the teaming design is fundamentally wrong. The answer is not to make solo content for those occasions. It is the people interaction aspects of the games that should change.

When that people interaction design is in place then adjustment could be made to cater for solo play. I do not have the answers for how these games will look like in the end. But I think that one of the most important aspects of these games sometimes only seems to be addressed as an afterthought and I hope that is something that will change and have to change to expand and keep larger audiences.

Categories: MMO Games