It has been a little while since I have posted – Real Life has taken priority and the game time that was left was actually spent playing games (MMOs) rather than writing something about them.
Most of the time has been spent in City of Heroes; for me it in a way opened up more of the existing game to play, in addition to the new Praetorian zones they added. Prior to Going Rogue expansion, my guess it that I probably spent 90% of the time in the Rogue Isles and the co-op zones. With the new faction-switching options I had to think through again why I mainly play on the villain side.
Thinking about it I realized that a major factor for me were the archetypes; of the 7 archetypes originally available for hero-side, I only played 2 archetypes to level 30+ (controller and scrapper). Contrast that with the 7 originally villain-side archetypes where there is only 1 archetype that I have not played to level 30+ (brute).
As have been reported by Massively, Everquest 2 is going the same route as LOTRO, more or less. I do not want to talk about “F2P” in these cases, because I think that is as accurate as saying many mobile phone options are “F2T” (free to talk). What the game companies are doing is to provide more options for how you want to pay for your game experience. That is a good thing and something I wanted to see for a long time. It is great to see this happening more and more!
As for the game itself, EQ2 is certainly a game I would consider playing again with new payment options. Starting fresh with new servers sounds very attractive to me.
But what is so special with August 17th? EQ2 starts is beta then, Champions Online releases a new update on the same date and Paragon Studios release the Going Rogue expansion. Anything else happening or getting released that day?
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?
As a lot of other bloggers have added their take on top 10 MMOGs inspired from the thread at F13.net, I decided I’d put in some comments in the same spirit here. I don’t read those forums normally, so I did not jump in and register. I found the different motivations people wrote more interesting than the actual order and who put in their votes – I am sure there are a couple of celebrities in the game world there judging by interest sparked for this particular list, but I did not notice.
The motivations are interesting since it shows in my opinion it is a bit difficult to get some coherent criteria that everyone would agree with, making such list pretty much useless (as it also says in the original post) for anyone outside to get a good view of what game is better than another.
Worth noting is that the only game in the top 10 that is actually reasonably new is Lord of the Ring Online and 7 of 10 are fantasy MMOGs.
My own top 10, which is pretty much all MMOGs I have played for at least 2 months:
- City of Villains/Heroes
This is the game I played played actively the longest (almost 19 months and counting), mostly on villain side. It is not the most feature rich game, but what has been implemented usually works well. Best character creator I have seen so far, separation of looks and character abilities, good variety in powerset selection, great mechanics to enable people to team with each other and good fun fast-paced combat in groups.
It gets a bit grindy at times (big hurdle around level 30) and there is a lot of similar content. Good content updates that comes at regular intervals without extra cost. I have loads of characters in this game and enjoy most of them. Played witha good group of people here which definitely contributed to the enjoyment of this game.
- World of Warcraft
Second longest game I have played, spent around 11 months, got 1 character to top level, which was 60 at the time and a bunch of alts in 30-50 range. Fun to explore, solid content. Main reason for staying that long was the guild I was in and when that fell apart my interest in the game pretty much vanished. Among the least amount of annoyment factors in a game that I have played, which is one reason it is high up in list. Decent mixture of skills in the different classes.
- Final Fantasy XI
Spent around 8 months in this game. Loved the concept of jobs and subjobs, did not like that some combinations there where pretty much forced in practice. Hated the camping. Loved the cutscenes, some of the story line and the general feeling of a dangerous world. Fighting my first dragon there was a rush like I barely had in any other game. I loved the beastmaster job. Did not really like the forced grouping in certain areas at certain levels, which which was abonus for the beastmaster – that did not really apply in that case. Had good fun with the BCNM fights (Burning Circle Notorious Monster) I was in. The linkshell I was in was good at the beginning, but after the general maturity and common ground with the other members faded, the interest in the game also faded.
- Everquest 2
Lots of features, some nice storylines and mixed graphics – some great some so-and-so. Loved Brigand and Coercer and had some decent fun with some other classes also, highest got to mid 40s (brigand). Have played the game in 4-5 periods, total time perhaps 8-9 months. Too much master spell farming and grouping for XP for my liking.
- Star Wars Galaxies
Mainly for the game as it was during the first 5-6 months, to a bit after player cities was introduced. This was a time where many higher level creatures could be considered dangerous. Loved the skill-based structure, hated the grinding necessary for some of these skill trees. Hated the one character per server restriction. Loved the versality in classes, crafting mechanics although did not like htat you pretty much had to be a master crafter to make any money on your work (and the grind to get there). Ended up as a ranger/creature handler eventually and I loved the pet handling, collecting pets and raising them and go hunting for material that I sold later. Player cities was an intersting concept, but I thought it actually destroyed a bit of the game and later changes destroyed it more. Never was interested in getting into Jedi.
- Anarchy Online
My first MMOG. Spent perhaps 10-11 months in total there over multiple periods. Have all the expansions, but has not really touched much beyond the original game content. Had plenty of alts, only a few got above level 50. Due to real life circumstances (i.e. work), my first 10 months in the game was mainly a couple of hours each weekend, the only time I was home in Sweden. Great mood setting in some areas and good fun back then. Cannot really back into the game nowadays though.
- Tabula Rasa
The game has not been out after release for 2 months yet, but I also played some in beta. Great combat and immersive environment, good storyline. Crafting is a bit crappy at the moment and some of the mission bugs gets annoying. Playing it with a good bunch of people, which adds to the fun. If I make this list again in a couple of months I suspect this game will be ranked higher. I just need to put some of the games I played for a longer time ahead of it, the postion is rather low due to the short time it has been around. A couple of months from now it may be in top 3.
- Earth & Beyond
My second MMOG and the first game in space, played for maybe 9-10 months. I loved the concept of a changing world and the grand story arc and the first 30-40 levels had some nice missions and story lines in addition to the story arc. Combat with space creatures was fun. Crafting was ok, trading part (a chat channel) was horrendous. A lot of the time towards level 150 was one of the worst grinds I have had in an MMOG, which lowers its position.
- EVE Online
Wanted to really like this game and have a complement to Earth&Beyond initially. Played in two periods, totalling maybe 2-3 months. Never got into a company I liked and after a while space felt a bit empty. I like a number of the game mechanics and it is a bit stimulating, but not so much fun after a while. Probably would have worked out better with a good company.
- Lord Of the Ring Online
Pretty game environment, some of the start quests and the main story arc was good. After a while it felt really uninspiring and grindy, quests, combat and pretty much everything except the environment itself. Highest character got to mid/high 20s, loremaster. left after about 2 months, even though I had bought a pre-order with 6 months subscription.
Some of the positions here is pretty much impossible for me even to agree with myself and if I am asked again in a short while some of the positions may change. And if I was asked about a list of games I would like to play now and order them, it would be a quite different list. It is a rather futile attempt at comparing my enjoyment and frustration at different periods in time when it comes to MMOGs.
How important is humor in the MMOGs you play and what kind of humor should that be? Often we divide MMOGs into areas such as fantasy, SciFi and other themes, or perhaps if the experience is somewhat directed or more of a pure sandbox style.
But would not also how serious the game and its theme take itself or allows people to see the funny side of some thing be an important factor as well? After all, it is entertainment, so humor should be a relevant factor.
For me humor is an important factor, perhaps not for choosing to start play a game, but a contributing factor to why I might stay with a game. It can be what NPCs say, humorous things in the environment or situations occuring. And of course funny things caused by players.
Humor is a difficult thing; it should be delivered in the right context, with good timing and in reasonable amounts. It still will work differently for different people. And talking about it like this in a bit of analytical way for sure does not bring out the funny side…
I am not sure how much consideration is going into MMOGs when it comes to delivering humor in the games. World of Warcraft has some quite nice situational elements with the school class in Stormwind and the Dwarf shooting range in the dwarf/gnome newbie zone. And some of the characteristics of the races there might be funny initially, such as the troll Jamaican accent. That game is a good example I think where there is a decent amount of humor delivered well – it does try to take its story and environment too seriously and be that realistic, so it probably works well with most of the audience, I think.
In Everquest 2 humor was a main contributing factor for me when choosing to play on the good or the evil side (and that ratongas were evil only). The rude and sometimes sarcastic comments made by the NPCs in Freeport was a great benefit over the quite annoying and a bit cutesy comments of many of the Qeynos NPCs. Of course, humor is easier if you can be a bit evil and that shows in the Quenos/Freeport case. Comments were also adapted to the race you played, if you for example played the cat-like race some NPCs would comment on how wonderful I looked and if they could have my pelt..
The ratonga chef in the Temple Street zone in Freeport is also my favourite NPC in that game, with his constant hunt on the street for food sources to kill on the street, as well as being chased himself by street cats (he is a rat after all…)
Everquest 2 was also the first game I heard a mob ask for a heal (Cleric, heal me!) which was good fun the first time I heard that and smiled a number of times after that when it has popped up. Other games have also included that now, the latest I heard that in in Tabula Rasa, when a Thrax soldier called for a Caretaker to heal him. Short one-liners like that work great when delivered with voice, as has been the case in both Everquest 2 and Tabula Rasa.
City of Heroes/Villains have plenty of humorous one-liners and does not take itself and its environment too seriously, which I think works pretty good with a comic book inspired setting. There is also some good cut scenes, such as the one in Mercy Island, with the target of the mission, Dr Gerst, an evil genius wannabe being shown that he is just that, a wannabe…
Some of the one-liners in City of Heroes/Villains as well as in Everquest 2 is being delivered a bit too often, while others are seldom enough to work just great when they occur. If you see/hear a joke for the 100th time, it probably is not that funny anymore.
Another source of humor and fun is of course the emotes and how they are used by players. For me, City of Heroes/Villains is at the top there. I remember Anarchy Online having a decent amount of emotes here that were pretty good, useful. To be honest, I cannot remember what World of Warcraft had here besindes the dances (its been about 2 years since I played the game) and as I recall Everquest 2 emotes were a bit so-and-so. Tabula Rasa does not have many and do need to work a bit on that side.
So how is it for you, is humor important in the game? And what type of humor works for you? Any games that has too much humor, are lacking humor?
Do you play one MMOG, or do you play multiple ones? If you play only one, is that due to lack of time for multiple games, lack of multiple good games to play or simply lack of funds to play multiple games?
MMOGs are becoming more “casual friendly”, which can mean many things. But one thing may be that you do not need to invest a huge amount of time to feel that you get something out of the game – no 4+ hour sessions required, but anything from 30 minutes to 2 hours could be perfectly ok. And also better opportunities to group with friends without necessarily keeping all characters in complete sync.
As this trend continues, which I think it will, the time factor could both introduce more people to MMOGs who previously did not have enough time for them and also provide more options to play multipleMMOGs for those that want that.
There are more and more MMOGs coming out in the market. Some may be crap, but overall the choices for MM playtime are increasing.
Costs may potentially be a bit prohibive with the subscription model that is quite common, but is still not that high compared to other forms of entertainment. Still, lots of free-to-play type games are also introduced, which at least also gives a lower cost of entry, even though the total cost in the end might not be lower.
With all of these trends it would seem quite natural that there will be more people playing more MMOGs and perhaps with less overlap. Many MMOG players would agree that the “people factor” and the socializing in game is an important factor for the staying power of a game.
So why are there then a distinct lack of community tools cross game servers of even cross games? In some MMOGs I cannot even chat with someone unless they play on the same server and even in the same faction on that server. Any interaction has to be through outside means, be it web site forums, voice chat tools and other means.
There are some games that provide a bit better facilities in this regard, for example the SOE games (EQ, EQ2 and SWG at least) allows chat and friend lists to work cross server and cross game. Same goes for City of Heroes/Villains. It is a good start, but is far from what could be done.
A problem here is of course that there are no standards in use here on how to implement and integrate community tools in the MMOG space, at least none that I have seen. And companies may be a bit cautious about letting in the competition or open potential malicious entry points into their environment.
If you use Microsoft Office at work, chances are that you use Outlook and that you have a contact list in there with work related contact at the very least. You may use facilities to synchronize this witha PDA or mobile phone so you always have that info available to you.
So what if you could have friend lists in the MMOGs you play that not only covers specific characters that some persions play on a specific server in a specific game, but all MMOG you play and have played and which could be accessible from any of the games you play? Or from your guilds or your own web site perhaps? Same goes for chat functions of various kinds, info about characters etc.
This is not really something new – in other areas different community tools are available. In the online gaming space there a companies like NCsoft, who are building an online gaming platform, according to their investor reports. This seems to include a couple of different community tools which are already there in the platform and then games can be developed to take advantage of that platform. This is mainly aimed at more casual and less massively multiplayer online games than the MMOGs, but is still a noticeable effort.
Community sites like Guild Café and Curse also try to provide some soem cross game facilities and there are tools like XFire to provide some help to keep track of friends cross games. But this is still many separate efforts and not much around to bind them together or to move information between all these efforts in a seamless or close to seamless way.
My guess is that Raph Koster’s Areae is working on something along those lines, with the talk of combining the worlds of MMOGs with “web 2.0”. They have not provided extensive information yet on what they are up to, but I definitely suspect it is about supporting community building efforts blended in with the game environments.
Personally I am glad that while there is still room for lots of improvements in this area for games to work on, the various online communities that already exist do a significant part to facilitate the socializing parts. One that I am a member of, The Older Gamers, have been a great place to keep in touch and meet (virtually mostly) new people.
I recently decided to cancel my Everquest 2 account, I think for the 4th time now. As for game mechanics, I think EQ2 is a neat game and it has lots of features. There is a wide variety of classes and there are a number of fun quests. The game has lots going for it.
But I currently do not have any people to play with and in my previous comebacks to EQ2 the guilds and groups I joined were too much focused on raids or high level content for my taste. In low level and mid level group it was mostly to maximize xp, farm master spells from named mobs or just do some heritage quests as quickly as possible. Neither has been particularly interesting for me. And with EQ2 only being number 2 on my list of MMOGs I spend time on (City of Heroes/Villains has the top spot), there was not much meaningful time in there. So I leave the game again.
This is a problem not only with Everquest 2, but with other “oldies” I have jumped into again. Most players are focused on high level, end/elder game content and if they have lower level characters they tend to rush them through the lower level content in order to get to the high level parts ASAP.
This actually makes me appreciate City of Heroes/Villains and the “no end game, make alts” approach the game has. It is easy to group and have fun at pretty much any level and at lower level there is usually a mixture of new players, those that have played for a while and the real veterans grouping together.
Lord of the Rings Online has been on hold for quite a while also. I did preorder the game and paid the 6-month option, so there is no need to cancel that game yet. At the end of this 6-month period I will probably take a peek again and see if the subscription will be worth extending.
However, I did start to play Guild Wars again. So far I have actually bought all three reelased Guild Wars campaigns – Prophecies, Factions and Nightfall. But I never played any of them for more than a few hours before I got tired of it and my highest character in there is level 7, and a couple others in level 3-5 range. I decided to give it another try though and started a new character, a dervish – no secondary yet. I only play a few hours per week at most, and will see if this will have any more staying power this time. The game should fit reasonably well with a casual playstyle and make the time useful and fun in shorter time periods, at least that is my hope. We will see.