Tobold's Blog
Sunday, September 21, 2008
 
Open Sunday Thread

Time flies, especially in weeks where a new major MMORPG gets released. Sunday brings the open Sunday thread: Suggest subjects for discussion, or just tell us what you would write about today if you had a MMO blog.
Comments:
Question for people who have played warhammer and guild wars: How similar is the warhammer RvR, scenarios, etc. to Ft. Aspenwood, jade quarry, alliance battles, etc. (These seem to be my closest points of reference for this sort of PvP.)
 
Is it just me or are MMOs absolutely not evolving? I mean - yeah, the RvR in Warhammer Online is great and the public quests are neat, but those well known flaws in the fundamental machanics of MMOs prevail. Compared to other genres the gameplay is repetitive and simpel, most of the time players don't even have to use their brains and I don't see any upcoming MMO that wants to fix this.

Some time ago Neil Sorens published his excellent text "Rethinking the MMO" over at gamasutra.com (http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20070326/sorens_01.shtml) - he is right in quite a lot of points. Seems like developers do not care, do not know about those flaws or don't have any pratical solutions.

It it just me and Neil who feel this way?
 
@max
As long as we the player continues to support the same quality of game, then we will continue to have to wallow within this genres "cloniness".

Since Vanguard the quality of MMO's has fallen with each release.
I am not stating stability, launch, etc.
I am talking evolving the mechanic.
Why?
Such a disappointing conundrum really.

For myself, I aim to try every game that at least is willing to make some break from the norm.
If we as players would support more indy developers trying something different (like Spellborn) or even different settings (look at how many GOOD sci-fi MMO's we have...bah!), maybe the developers would get the picture that we want something else.

Sales of Warhammer though give a whole different story. It makes me worry that we will continue instead to live with everyone trying to reach Blizzards success.
 
They have evolved as much as anything else has. The RTS of today aren't really much different than the originals, the FPS of today aren't really much different either.

WAR plays a good bit different than DAOC did so there was definitely some evolution in there. Still way better than the vanguard/AOC type games that have come out recently.

There are definitely some niche games that break the mold. CoH to a degree, Eve does for sure.
 
Mainstream evolution rarely takes big steps. The niche usually takes the big steps, and then the mainstream slowly adopts and adapts them.
 
Quiz: Name a MMORPG that was both a huge commercial success and changed the genre in a revolutionary, not evolutionary way. Well? I can't think of one. WoW certainly was only evolutionary. Even Everquest wasn't revolutionary. The genre evolves, it doesn't make huge revolutionary jumps. Get over it.
 
Heres a topic that burns my arse. Last year, Brewfest (in WoW) was half-way enjoyable. You had to actually participate in brewfest quests if you wanted to get the "big" item, the brewfest mount. It wasn't too hard, but it required doing all the little brewfest quests to max out tickets.

This year, Blizzard decided last minute that -gasp- Alliance can now get Kodos...but this year, you have to run a boss in BRD. The boss can only be summoned by each player once a day, so repeat tries require a set group. And...the drop rate is atrocious. Not to mention, only a level 65 can pick up the quest.

My point: Brewfest is now just a waste of a holiday event. Last year I busted my arse doing all the quests, you know, participating in Brewfest. A lot of other people did too. But this year, everyone is just going to BRD and begging for a group to grind some boss. Doing the actual Brewfest events now is rather pointless.

I think Blizard should have kept the boss for the trinkets and crap that it drops, but made both Rams and Kodos like last year, obtainable through tickets from the quests.

Why does Blizzard always seem to make you have to grind something meaningless for an item? This is a holiday/event that actually has a special mount, but you don't have to actually do anything but grind an elite for it. What a waste.
 
Seems like developers do not care, do not know about those flaws or don't have any pratical solutions

I think a number of them are quite aware of that. But with the current big titles they spend a couple of years developing a title; for the titles that are released today this is something developers would have had to realize perhaps 3-5 years ago.

Restarting the development may be expensive and is not certain that they will succeed anyway - just look at Tabula Rasa as an example.

There are games that do things a bit differently though; but one need to look at bit further than the current flavour of the month titles.
 
Again Tobold you champion stale games!

If we are gonna talk evolution... (I am a biologist)

Why should games follow tiny steps? Call it 'Phyletic Gradualism' if you will!

The next big unplanned MMO will be a result of 'punctuated equilibrium'.

Some brave dev team, a tiny budget and a core group of creative individuals with passion will break the mould.

Many teams may fail but one day one will succeed.

You speak as if you are in a position of absolute academic authority Tobold. You are wrong.

What makes you think this genre is any different from any other game genre... or any other aspect of life?

Does a form of music or dance never break out of left field and shock the world with it's novel concepts?

Does some inventor like Dyson for example never throw out the rule book to dare and design something completely differently?

You are wrong!

I agree with you Max... the fundamental mechanics haven't changed in a single fundamental step since Gary Gygax and his ilk set this ball in motion.

This is Phyletic Gradualation.

Like you Max, I want someone to be brave enough to do something we can call Punctuated Equilibrium.
 
Why does Blizzard always seem to make you have to grind something meaningless for an item? This is a holiday/event that actually has a special mount, but you don't have to actually do anything but grind an elite for it. What a waste.

My more sarcastic side's reaction is "Because that's how the entire rest of the game is designed." My less sarcastic side as well thinks that could be true as well, but perhaps someone thought that killing a boss would be fun, or that attracting people to an unused old world instance would be useful.

The "Attract more people to the old world" problems Blizzard has seem to flow from the "don't plan very far ahead" mentality, in that instead of anticipating or noticing a problems and over time thinking up a good solution for it, they come up with bandaids like this, even though the "abandoned lower levels" issues is one that really doesn't work well with bandaids.
 
As for something else I'm interested in seeing a discussion about; Ways to balance server ad level populations effectively.

Recently there was a thread on warhammer alliance along the lines of "start on a high population server, otherwise the game won't be fun", and I remembered all the discussions about public quests needing people, lower level areas needing people after a lot of them had levelled up, etc., plus similar issues for WoW. It seems that in warhammer especially, but also to a lesser extent in any game with the "separate servers" organization, that these sorts of peoblems will appear, and that player responses to them will make them worse instead of better.

What would you, or anyone else, do about combating these issues?
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
I didn't jump on the Warhammer bandwagon yet...

I'm still playing spore. I play a few hours, 2-3 times a week.

I'm really enjoying the space phase.

If EA ever offers a DRM-free version of the game, I will buy it too. =^)
 
@Tobold
The genre evolves, it doesn't make huge revolutionary jumps. Get over it.

This is why we continue to be inundated with the same old mechanics.
Thinking like this will continue to give the developer reasons to just continue down the same path and make "baby steps".
"Why change when people will buy the same old thing?"
Thinking like this is why we are also bombarded with
"Saw IV"
"Friday the 13th: Jason X"

We as a society are so mediocre in our own likes and dislikes.
As such, we will continue to accept eating at the "Mcdonalds" of MMO's.
Why have a Taco or a Sub if we can eat a hamburger every day.
Guess we are just boring.
 
After 3 1/2 years in-game, this weekend I finally let my WoW sub expire.

What might have kept me playing would have been the ability to buy a block of hours, instead of being able to only subscribe by the month. I realize this is how WoW is played in the East, so why not in the West, too?

Are Blizzard & Vivendi losing many customers like myself, who would have remained loyal to their product with the option of an alternative pay-as-you-go plan? Or is there only a handful of us who would choose to pay & play this way?

There are advantages & disadvantages to both.
$/MONTH
+ you can log in and bum around in Shattrath all evening, just chatting with Guildmates. Unlike the $/hr fellow, time =/= money.
- You need to play, you need to log in; You need to feel like you're getting your $15 worth of fun.

$/HOUR
+ you can play for a few hours on the weekend, or not even log in for the month, you only pay for the time you use.
- you need to be a truly casual player. If you log too many hours for the month you'll pay more than a regular sub. You also feel the need to be productive when you do log in. No sitting around and chatting in Shattrath; you've got Primals to farm!
 
Capn John, I'd advocate a hybrid model if hourly is going to be used. Something like $15/month for unlimited playtime, and $0.50/hour up to a limit of $17, then time is free beyond that for the billing month. That could give casual players flexibility at the slightly higher cost of a monthly sub "conversion" if it comes to that.

Of course, I think that the sub model itself is ill-advised, abusive, and bad for design, but that's tangential.
 
@Edge: As such, we will continue to accept eating at the "Mcdonalds" of MMO's.

Speaking of McD's and MMOGs... before you wiped your site clean, isn't that what you called AoC before you now find yourself enjoying it?

My point is, we (the collective we, not just us reading and commenting) can clamor for the new and revolutionary all we want. But in nearly 20 years of gaming I've not seen a single sign to tell me that we'll ever get something "revolutionary".

Even the fastest selling console of all time (the Wii) is essentially evolving by changing the way we manipulate our games. It's not a revolution, not at all.

A revolution, implies coming full-circle. So by that line of thinking, wouldn't we only see a revolution in MMOGs, when we go back to the glory days of forced grouping and endless time sinks?

I for one am glad we haven't as of yet.

PS- You'll have to excuse me from dragging this thread back to life on a Monday night. I'm bored while the WAR servers are down for a hotfix.
 
McDonalds is actually a good comparison. Because just like in the restaurant world, in the MMO area there *are* little gourment restaurants, innovative ideas, revolutionary gameplay. Only nobody plays them, they all hang out at McDonalds. I'm not "championing" baby steps, I'm just observing that nothing else works. Why aren't you playing A Tale in the Desert, or Puzzle Pirates, or one of the thousands of small MMORPGs with radically different gameplay? Why do you sit in the McDonalds and whine that they aren't serving fois gras?
 
Two things I noticed with WAR:

1. The concept of open groups eludes many a person. They don't understand that they can join my group without having to ask for an invite. I think people need to learn how to use the system.

I know this is the Sunday thread, but I noticed it today. Lots of messages from developers in game about the number of gold seller accounts, literally, like hourly updates.
 
@tobold

I do not play those games as the setting is not any fun or is a kiddy game to me.
Just because I wish for a game to be innovative does not mean I need to resort to a game that has a setting that does not interest me, or the majority of players.

EvE is a good example of a game trying something different. But, why would I want to play a space "simulator" where I am sitting around in a space ship?
I do not connect with a hunk of metal.
I need an avatar.
Now, take the mechanics of Tales in the desert and apply it to a setting I like, then I would buy it or try it.
(Tabula Rasa had a cool setting as an example, but was ruined by horrible mechanics...i.e: WoW mechanics)

Age of Conan at least TRIED to do things different. It still resorted to the old ways and this is where it falls flat. It resorted to McDonalds questing. (@Bildo: Yet, thanks to a story mechanic and a different style of combat with better visuals than most games out now, helps slightly differentiate itself. I am also stuck playing it as nothing else more unique is available.)

In so many words, the "innovative" games are not my type of game as none have tried it with a setting I enjoy.

Chronicles of Spellborn looks to make some changes to the genre.
I will be there for that one.
I will support those games that at least try.

WAR as an example for me... did not try.

And now we must continue to wallow in that type of structured game as everyone else bought into WAR and sent a message to the developers..."Hey, we do not want a change."
 
Tobold how can you say EQ wasn't revolutionary, now some may say Ultima but EQ was first person and thus brought a totally different perspective to mmorpg's.

To the person that mentioned Vanguard I say come back and try it, it has improved in leaps and bounds and is the only MMORPG that you can actually just ride or fly around and take in the wonder that is Thelon it's truly amazing.

I have tried War but graphically there is nothing to marvel at and I can guarantee that in 6 months you will not get through a public quest at early levels unless you play during primetime.
 
Openedge1 And now we must continue to wallow in that type of structured game as everyone else bought into WAR and sent a message to the developers..."Hey, we do not want a change."

Well spoken!
 
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