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Switching games

July 31, 2007 1 comment

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.

MMOGs and media cross-overs

July 7, 2007 Comments off

Is taking the lore and story lines from other media and adapting it to the MMOG sphere a successful approach?

There has been a few attempts so far – Star Wars Galaxies, Matrix Online and Lord of the Ring Online comes to mind. The two former mainly coming from the movie business and the latter from fantasy litterature.

The Star Wars and Matrix efforts have probably less than the expected playerbase today. Lord of the Ring Online seem to be do fairly good at least, but I think it is still to early to judge.

There are some more coming up, like Marvel Universe Online, Star Trek Online and Stargate Worlds and probably a few more which I do not know about of have forgotten. Then we have some that might fall somewhere in between, like God & Heroes which is based on perhaps primarilyRoman mythology but likely have used some creative freedom in adjusting the stories to adapt to the gameplay.

Where am I going with this? I must say that I am a bit sceptic when it comes to media cross-overs like this, in particular when there is a strong control factor in favour of the non-MMOG medias. I think this has been the case with Star Wars Galaxies and is a situation that Turbine faces with Lord of the Ring Online as well.

Just as most movie adaptations of books often tend to be a bit of a disappointment for readers, this can probably happen when moving to MMOG space from other media as well. A key here I think is when moving story lines and lore to MMOG space is to continue to develop the lore in that space, together with the previous media. The MMOGs cannot just adapt to fit within the frames of the existing lore from the other media, it must be developed further in MMOG space.

Lucas have a quite strong control element in what happens with the Star Wars brand and I am not quite sure they have been that interested in moving the lore and developing it in the MMOG space. This is by far not the only problem SWG have had, but I think this has been a contributing factor to the troubles the game have had.

For Matrix Online I think there was an effort to develop the lore within the MMOG space as well and that game has still not been doing well. But the lore cross-over factor is just one factor.

I think the longevity of LotrO might potentially be a problem as well. JRR is not around to help develop the story line and while there is much material to work from, Turbine is still restricted in fitting it in the existing litterature. It may last for a while, but I think it may have trouble sticking around for as long as other games with original lore. Ultima Online has been around for 10 years, Anarchy Online for 6 years and Everquest falls in between. All of these games will likely be around for a couple years more. If they are shut down it is not because of the lore, but for other reasons (outdated graphics and game mechanics comes to mind).

Of the later coming games it seems that at least Stargate Worlds and Marvel Universe Online are going in the direction of developing the lore within the MMOG space, which I think is a good thing and that these games may end up successful also in the long run.

Will this be different for different markets also? In the Western hemisphere PvE and lore focused gameplay have had more success, while it is more PvP oriented in the East and possibly also less focus on the lore. Going for existing players/customers, the cross-ver development is probably being more important in the West. But will it be for future potential players/customers as well?

What do you think?

Uninspiring quests

June 27, 2007 Comments off

I have not played Lord of the ring Online for about 3 weeks now. There are a few reasons for this, but a major reason is that I have found many of the quests to be quite uninspiring.

My highest character is in the mid 20s and have done quests in Lone-lands and North Downs at the later levels. In particular Lone-lands have a lot of “collect 20 boar meat”, “kill 15 orcs” type of quests. This is the type of quests that to me signals time sink without too much effort on behalf of the quest designers.

I am usually one to read and follow the quests descriptions as much as I can, since if there is a good story to be told, I do not want to miss that and hopefully it will leave me wanting more and know or experience what happens next.

There is very little of that in the Lone-lands quests. And when groups or single people have to compete with each other to get the kills for the few spawns that appear, then it just becomes tedious.

In Everquest 2 they do a bit better job of wrapping in such quests into something at least semi-interesting, with a better dialog and some humor with the quest NPCs and scale amount of work and spawns a bit better. There is still only a limited amount of such quests one can do before it becomes a chore.

My belief has been that quests should be there to tell a story or get the player involved in the situation in the area, but in many cases the actual story seem to be very superficial and the quest is just there to give some extra xp.

Why should I go out and try to kill 20 wargs, if there has already been 10 other people wiping out every warg that appear. If such a quest should be there at all, then allow some variation – kill at least 5 wargs and we will give you some reward, more reward for more wargs up to some point or within a certain amount of time. If there are many wargs, give more in reward – since it should obviosuly be a bigger problem. In this way people can stop early if they get tired of it but perhaps still get some reward for it. And with lower rewards if there are few spawns to kill, then people might move on to other areas or quests – assuming that there is other areas to go to…

But better would of course be to have quests which involves the player a bit more and tells a story. In this regard I must say that I find City of Villains to do a decent job. There are a lot of story arc missions and some of these story arcs tell pretty good stories, of which the player takes a part. The people at Cryptic has been getting better at designing these missions also, which is apparent in updates of the games (villains and heroes). Early work on hero side is not that inspiring in my opinion, but later work is substantially better.

The talk I see from Richard Garriot and Tabula Rasa makes me hopeful about that game – remains to be seen what the reality will be.

Games I play

June 23, 2007 1 comment

As a short starting post, what do I currently play?

City of Villains I really like this game. It has good, fun and fast-paced combat, lots of humor and it is easy to get a team going. Some good story arcs. Very good for reasonably sized play sessions (30 – 90 minutes), much better than most other MMOGs in that area. And there are some great people to play with there. And it got Dominators, my favourite archetype.

City of Heroes The older brother of City of Villains, pretty much the same game. I do not spend nearly as much time on the hero side as I do on the villain side though. No Dominators there is one factor.

Everquest 2 Recently reactivated my account (3rd reactivation) and started an Arasai (evil Fae) wizard. Most of my old characters are on the evil side also. One reason for picking the evil side was the NPCs in Freeport and Qeynos. There is more humor on Freeport side, I mostly get a bit annoyed with many Qeynos NPCs. Remains to be seen how much and how often I will play EQ2 this time.

Lord of the ring Online Very pretty environment and has some great parts, but also a lot of uninspiring pieces. Have not played it for 2 weeks and not quite sure when/if I will get back into the game.

I have been playing City of Villains actively for close to 13 months now, which is longer than any other MMOG to date for me. World of Warcraft and Anarchy Online are currently hold 2nd and 3rd position.