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Posts Tagged ‘Social’

Waiting for it… f2p

June 21, 2010 1 comment

After the success of the revamp of DDO from a subscription game to a free-to-play game, I should probably have been less surprised when a similar change was announced for Lord of the Rings Online. Financially, I have nothing to complain about, I bought a lifetime subscription when the game went live and I have spent more than enough hours in-game to make that one of my best financial decisions about entertainment. I do have concerns though, about how the lower threshold to start the game may ruin the friendly community, about how long we will have to wait for new content if the team is busy working on the f2p model, about the gliding scale of micro transactions from cosmetic to slightly useful to simply buying power with real money.

What worries me most is pretty personal. I still like playing MMO’s though I would rather be playing Starcraft II at the moment, but the beta is down. However, getting into a new one is a pretty large time investment. LOTRO is fun, but it will never be my main game for long. I am thinking about getting back to Age of Conan, Warhammer, Champions Online, Global Agenda or trying something new, but there does not seem to be anything out yet that draws me in enough to make the initial investment of time and money. Or rather: why would I be paying now when the winning business model for failing (DDO) and non-failing (LOTRO) games seems to be FTP? The games I mentioned could clearly use a boost in subscriptions.  Perhaps I like a game enough (again) to continue, but perhaps that game needs a bit more time to grow on me before I enjoy it. This was certainly the case with LOTRO. I really like the setting, but it was basically WoW with a Tolkien skin when I started playing. Only later, thanks to my “playing for free”, did I start to appreciate the game for what it was.

And that leaves me wondering where the MMO pricing model will go. I am really curious what The Old Republic will do and how that will affect the market. If DDO is potentially changing the whole landscape, imagine what that game will do if it is the success it claims it shall be. I am ashamed to admit that I am hyped enough about that game to buy it anyway.

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Forced Grouping

January 10, 2010 Leave a comment

MMO’s are per definition social affairs. We actually pay a price for being able to play with our people: the world becomes static and whatever we do, it will not change. In single player RPG’s like Dragon Age when we kill a dragon, it says dead and the town is saved, but it will be back every week in an MMO and the town it threatened will never be free. Blizzard solved this partly by introducing phasing content: it hides or shows certain aspects of the world depending on where you are in a quest chain, for example: building a fort starts by securing the area, then help gathering materials and then the fort is ready. However, this limits the social mechanic because people cannot see each other in the phased zone if they are in another part of the story.

Grouping is social, so social is grouping?

Social interaction can happen on several levels:

Presence: while playing you see other characters active that are not NPC’s and as such are not predictable. This makes the area less static and helps convince you that you are really in a living world.

Communication: talking to others about the world, but also about real life. However, there’s also a negative side in the form of spam.

Cooperation: playing together, trading to mutual benefit, PvP, Roleplaying

Competition: having other real people in the world is not always beneficial, there’s the risk of kill stealing, ganking, killing quest givers etc. On the other hand, fighting against real people in PvP adds a level of unpredictability and learning ability that no artificial intelligence can mimic so far.

Thus social does not mean grouping.

Flavors of grouping

I never played Everquest, but people who did told me that you could not get anywhere without a group. My first MMO was World of Warcraft and I could do most things on my own. However, the best items required playing together with others to conquer the 5man and 40man dungeons. And that made sense, because the scale of the dungeons showed that no single person would be able to fight through the armies and giant monsters that awaited there. Super heroes too a have long history of teaming up to defeat powerful foes. My characters that did not group could get adequate gear for the content they did and PvP provided its own rewards.

Playing in a group demands different skills and poses a different challenge to playing solo. If an MMO wants to have grouping at end game there should also be grouping while leveling, because otherwise the endgame will be filled with people who have no idea how to behave. The many complaints about pick-up groups in World of Warcraft are caused exactly by the fact that one can go to maximum level without ever grouping. A game should teach people to group by making it worth their while to group. WoW’s Dungeon Finder has done exactly that. The epic quest line in LOTRO does require grouping while leveling and this is fine because it is just one quest line, but everyone wants to do it, because it is truly epic.

Five heroes banded together to take down Shadow Destroyer...and I'm still the one getting hit.

On the other hand, public quests in Warhammer and in Champions Online allow a kind of non-communicative grouping: everyone in the quest area contributes to the quest objectives. The quest gets progressively more difficult and that should, in theory, let people cooperate to finish the objectives. I like the idea of public quests, but I have not noticed much coordination and communication between players most of the time. Still, I think that public quests will be the way forward, especially if more storytelling is added to them to really draw players in.

Team vs Team PvP. Playing together in a team against other players is basically the same as grouping for a dungeon.

Roleplaying is also a form of grouping. Developers cannot control where RP happens, although they can facilitate by providing locations without opponents where people can RP undisturbed.

In conclusion

Social interaction does not require grouping, but grouping allows for encounters on a larger scale and demands different skills from players. While players should not be frustrated in their progression, they will have to accept that not everything is soloable as long as they can get gear appropriate to their level of play. Playing in a team is not a skill that everyone has naturally and thus the developers have to encourage, teach and reward grouping.

Categories: General MMORPG Tags: ,

B.A.S.H. Talk

December 27, 2009 Leave a comment

All action is happening in the chat box this time

PvP’ers tend to be more competitive than PvE’ers. Of course, there are the guilds that vie for ‘World First’ boss kills in World of Warcraft, but in general PvE’ers have less drive to prove their superiority to other human players than PvP’ers. On the other hand, programmed routines are easier to deal with than other humans when you get to know their pattern. While people do follow patterns (conscious or not) they are able to change them and adapt on a level that cannot yet be reached by Artificial Intelligence.

Emotions tend to rise in competition, turning mild-mannered people in real life into screaming maniacs when they lose. Especially in the safe anonymity of the internet. Not so in Champions Online PvP. While the PvP community has shrunk over the past months, it has also grown tighter. My last B.A.S.H. game before the holidays was spent talking to several people about a variety of topics including which red wine should be bought for an X-mas party. This is not the first time it happens. B.A.S.H. is a great place to cross swords (because almost everyone has a sword to apply swallowtail cut), but also for a chat or asking about builds and play styles.

Sure, people will lose their temper in CO like in any other game and most of the regulars will have at least a few broken or overpowered powers (we do like to win), but I have seen very little true abuse. Of course, seeing someone throw a tantrum is just a form of entertainment as well.

Cryptic’s decisions over the past months have caused the community to shrink, but I expect that a friendly group will be better in retaining new people than a bunch of cursing CAPSLOCK addicts. The general laid back and friendly atmosphere in CO gives me good hope for next year.

B.A.S.H. Etiquette

October 11, 2009 Leave a comment

B.A.S.H. Westside is a free for all PvP map that’s available from 21 all the way up through 40. Everyone is fighting each other until one person gets ten kills or until a stalemate occurs. It is a very dynamic arena where duels can instantly into chaotic group combat and vice versa. One may expect that ganging up is at the order of the day and while it does happen, many people are also looking for fun and challenging fights.

A few days ago I realized that I had unconsciously formed a pretty extensive set of rules for myself while fighting in B.A.S.H. In no particular order:

  1. I don’t interfere in duels. The real ones, not the random 1vs1, those I’ll cut in.
  2. If someone interferes in my duel, I will attack that person and not my original opponent unless I’m about to get a kill.
  3. There’s nothing wrong with ganging up
  4. If I can escape, I will most of the time
  5. I will not teleport away if someone is about to defeat me 1v1 unless he’s using a known bugged/overpowered ability.
  6. I will go out of my way to make the life of cowards miserable
  7. I do not farm weak people, but if they attack me I will kill them
  8. I keep my rage private.

BASHwaiting

About point 5: some abilities are known to be bugged. The worst of these are Mindful Reinforcement ranks 2,3 and Swallowtail Cut. That said, if one of my own key abilities ends up overpowered for some reason then I will not abandon it either, nor will I skip such a power if it fits in a character’s concept, e.g. my healer is full telepathy so she does have MR ranked up.

About point 6: I consider people who run away if they get even a bit of health loss a coward.

About point 8: some things will make me angry for a moment, but I’ll never give my opponent the satisfaction of knowing that. Abuse in whispers is very rare, but if it does happen, I’ll put the person doing it on ignore for a while.

I am definitely not saying that everyone should follow these rules. I expect that everyone has made their own. However, it should be clear that free-for-all is not that free, because people set their own limitations.

Picking up a pick-up truck

Picking up a pick-up truck