Tobold's Blog
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Open Sunday Thread

Sunday again, my "day off" from blogging. So the floor is yours to discuss, or propose subjects for discussion.
Ok.....Patch 3.0 for WoW. Should Blizzard introduce these pre-expansion or on release?

Personnally I find it almost takes some sheen off the new expansion (as it did BC) as the forums are filled with people whinging about their class. Thoughts?
One thing I noticed with Blizzard adding the "Brew of the Month" club and the achievement attached to it. If any doubt is cast about MMO's being a business and trying to pull in money, then use this cheap ploy to get someone to log in once a month for this (and paying for that month). Same thing for the Consortium gems. Clever way to keep people subscribed.
I wonder if I ever see the day where a developer/publisher is brave enough to have an official ending in their MMO. At least we'd see the end of these cheesy time sinks that do nothing but pollute the overall quality of the product.
I wonder if I ever see the day where a developer/publisher is brave enough to have an official ending in their MMO

A Tale In The Desert has a definite end. When it is reached the game is reset and everything starts all over again.
I don't know what you complain about. Most people playing MMO's stopped playing other "single player" experiences. Why shouldn't they, its boring. You don't play anymore because the game is great, you play because you know so many people. Its more fun playing that way. It doesn't matter which virtual world it is as long as playing with them is fun.

And yes its a business. But imagine what it costs to run it.

And compared to other "entertainment" the monthly fee is harmless. I pay more for a single movie night than a month for WoW.

Getting the same fun from single player games I need to buy one per month. Thats more than 4 times what WoW costs per month.

And yes, keeping people in game is part of the business. If you would run a MMO you would do the same.
I second the anonymous poster who suggests talking about "an official ending" to an mmo. I joked about this back in the LOTRO days because logically the mmo should end when players get to the end of the books.

Increasingly though I have come to think that something like this may be needed to save the mmo industry. There are too many mmos out there. They each demand too much time for people to play more than one. If each game had a definite end goal that could be reached in say 3 to 6 months then the market would, I believe, be much healthier with a regular turnover of players between games.

I can see problems that would have to be overcome to go with this model: How could developers ensure they get enough revenue? Is three months long enough for the complex social structure of guilds to form? Perhaps we could discuss ways of dealing with these issues.
official ending in their MMO

Great subject. I think due to the fact MMO's do not have this mechanic, we get stuck with so much "filler" as well.
A developer runs out of ideas how to keep the gameplay fresh for 60-80 levels, and then we get the boring grind aspect.
Could they not have an "ending" with one particular story progressing through the game, and then have campaigns as content updates, with a minimum price to get the new content to pay for production costs..
It could even lower the cost of development.

Think if Age of Conan would have fleshed out the 20 levels of Tortage, and called it good.
Even left you with a cliff hanger, and left in PvP mini games to play or other types of objectives ..
While this sold, then work on a "2nd campaign" for levels 20-40 could have commenced?
And look at Guild Wars with the buy once and no monthly fee systems with campaigns every six months (where it also has an ending btw..)
I think we would definitely have more innovative games, instead of more releases with kill 10x, fetch quest adventures..
Whilst I like the idea of games ending, I'm not sure how it could be implemented in practice. The question I can't work out the answer for is: "ending for whom?"

Does the game finish when the fastest progression guild reaches the end? If so most people will be less than half way through and will miss out on the remainder and be seriously annoyed. If you wait for everyone to finish, it will, for all practical purposes, never end and you'll end up with a model not far different from the one that exists now.

How do you get around that?
Getting the same fun from single player games I need to buy one per month. Thats more than 4 times what WoW costs per month.

Which single player games are these? The ones I get tend to last for much longer, but perhaps it's because these are strategy type games that can be replayed to try out a bunch of different strategies/sides, while you play more storyline games that loose a lot of interest once you finish them.
I dont think there should be an "end" to an MMO. Most MMO's are designed to be perpetual where content consumption is concerned. The problem lays with players perception of "the grind", and is where the real problem exists.

IMHO I would like to see MMO's incoporate "dynamic" content generation rather than the stale, "static" system that is so prevalent in todays MMO's. The technology has existed for some time that would allow for dynamic instancing to be used where players could have an almost endless supply of fresh encounters to enjoy.

I think that dynamic content generation will be the next big thing in MMO development.
Having WoW end would be very aggravating for me because I have never gotten to play more than 10 hours a week, often much less. It is comforting to me that if I can't play this week (due to work), I can always pick things up where I left off the next time I play. For dungeons, I am stuck with PuGs, which I am okay about. If they were going to do regular resets of WoW, at least there should be servers with different length of time resets, such as 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, no reset, etc. At the same time I support the idea of the world being more dynamic and changing around me. If I am stuck at level 15, I expect that those who have run various dungeons and killed bosses in my absence would have affected the world somehow. I am not troubled by that. They may have taken some of the richest rewards away because they are no longer accessible, because they got there first. So long as the designers are still introducing new content over time, that would not bother me.
What do all of you think about this 2% guild tax in WAR? Considering my main is still below lvl 20, I see no reason to join a guild at this point in time. Even if it's 'only' 2%, I don't see why I should pay it to a bunch of people that I don't know yet. Or aren't even at the same level as me.
The guild leader can raise or lower the taxes :)
Join a guild without tax
Joining a guild also gives advantages. Your guild levels and gives you bonusses. Example: 5% more XP from PvP or questing. That slone is worth 2% tax anytime.
"Which single player games are these? The ones I get tend to last for much longer, but perhaps it's because these are strategy type games that can be replayed to try out a bunch of different strategies/sides, while you play more storyline games that loose a lot of interest once you finish them."

Unfortunately, strategy games only compose less than a fifth of the market ATM. He's probably talking about the typical FPS; the storylines lasting for about 10 hours, at the maximum. You do right to play strats.
Let's do apples to apples, or at least closer than apples to buicks. MMORPGs compared to offline RPGs. Offline RPGs give you much better ROI than any subscription model ever could, and will have stronger narratives and player power to influence the world. At least, given current design mindsets.

If an MMO were to leverage the true multiplayer and persistent data aspects of a "virtual world", MMOs might live up to the hype and the expense. As it is, we generally have single player RPG DIKU mechanics mashed into multiplayer static worlds (or instanced dungeons). Most "Massive Multiplayer" aspects are either 40-man dungeons, town sieges (a cool idea), or the auction house. There's a whole lot more that could be done.

WoW, for example, could be played completely solo offline, only logging in if you want multiplayer or an auction interface. There's no good reason to pay a sub fee for that.
Tesh, you assume people play WoW because they want to play a RPG. Thats wrong.

They play WoW because first your data is persistent, comarable to other players level and non cheatable as the data is not on your machine.

Second they play due to the social network.

Re: Instances. WoW did instances due to the bad experience of open raids from everquest where 12 hour camping could be destroyed by a single bad guy pulling the spawned mob.

So instances are challenges where groups of people can try it without interference of griefers. Open world bosses are for everyone, and people like to grief with them (if you ever tried one in WoW).

So there are reasons why WoW is as it is. It's certainly not the end of the design of MMO's, but it did very well in the natural evolution of UO->EQ->WoW.

As for PvP: contrary to public belief less then 30% want wild PvP, most people want controlled PvP if at all.
End Game - No Thank You.

Dynamic Content -

I've already suggested Bliz hire a team of 4 content writers to publish content on a weekly basis. However this was deemed impossible by the naysayers.

The naysayers here know more than me obviously.
I like the idea of having an MMO "end", but the only way I can really see it happening is if there was a sequel of some kind. For instance, if/when Blizz comes up with Wow 2.0 (or whatever it's called), they might give WoW a definite ending in order to make more people move over to the new game.
I can't see many other situations where people would pick a set-lifespan game over a game with periodic content updates, especially in the subscription based model. Once the game had run its full course, then it would get treated like a non-MMO, getting picked up, played, then tossed down. (I don't even want to know how microtransactions would work under such a system.)
Teut, it's not so much that the players are looking for single player RPGs, it's the game design itself that I'm talking about. The "kill ten rats" and other quests rarely bring anything truly Massive, Multiplayer or even Online to the table, at least nothing that couldn't be done offline. Endgame raids are multiplayer, but as they are instances anyways, they could easily be just the multiplayer suite of the game.

I agree, the biggest draw is the "persistent online world" mentality. The promise of an "always on" world and other players rummaging around in it is a good one. I just don't really see much of that realized in current MMOs.

Part of it is that designers heavily lean to static worlds, keeping players as tightly controlled as possible. Part of it's governance of inevitable idiocy, part of it is controlling the flow of content so players don't burn through too quickly. Giving players power to actually affect a world permanently (the draw of a persistent world, again) is a very tricky thing to balance.

You're right, the EQ lineage has been refined in the current MMOs, but what I'm talking about is something that's a leap beyond the same old DIKU mentality. There's the "world" of Second Life, and the "game" of WoW. They each touch on the potential of MMOs, but there really is a long way to go, and many other things that could be done. It doesn't mean that what we have right now is terrible, just that the genre as a whole has stagnated somewhat, and needs to try out some new things.

We have some pretty good options out there, but most share the loot/level paradigm. Even something with a cool new twist on combat, like Atlantica Online, still has the same old level treadmill and FedEx/collector quests as the core metric for advancement.

It works, sure. I don't argue that. I just wonder where the alternates are, and when someone is really going to fulfill some of the great potential of MMOs. I'm also not talking commercial success as a prime metric. As has been noted here and elsewhere, McDonald's is commercially successful, but not really all that satisfying. When will we see someone build something that really makes a persistent online world vital and interesting for what it is, rather than as a framework for DIKU mechanics and chat room antics?
Oh, and while I'm here, regarding the "giving players power to alter the world" thought that I alluded to is another good reason to have an "end" to an MMO. Give players power to alter the world, let them go crazy... and then wipe it and let players start over. End that era, and start another one fresh.

That way nobody can get too out of hand and destroy the game for others, but players can feel like they made a difference. Of course, whether or not such a larger "groundhog day" mechanic would be something players would want is another question, but it's at least something that I've been pondering and designing around for a while. I like the idea of giving players power to really alter their world, but trying to find ways to limit abuse is the key. Periodic wipes and "ends" of eras can be one handle to keep things from going too crazy.
Arguably WoW has an "end" to the various expansions. Defeating the final bosses of the true final raid dungeon is pretty damn close. Sure no credits start rolling but once you down Kil'Jaden or cleared Naxx what else did you have to look forward to?

The real question is why does less than 1% of the player base ever get to accomplish this and is this a good design philosphy going forward?
The problem is when you defeat the final end-game Instance, maybe 25% of your Raid will have received rewards. And your Raid is not everyone in your Guild, so what you're looking at is only a handful of people in your Guild receiving rewards for "beating" the game. What's the point of "beating" the game if you don't get a reward for doing so?

Based on one of WoW's most visually impacting scenes (on the Alliance-side), being the culmination of Jailbreak and the confrontation with Onyxia in Stormwind Keep, I propose this change:

After Windsor is killed and Lady Prestor/Onyxia summons her guard then takes off, immediately following the death of the last dragonkin, you would be treated to a cut scene where you're automatically and irreversibly teleported to a parallel realm where Lady Prestor remains conspicuously absent from Stormwind Keep, forever.

It really makes no sense that your toon reveals one of the King's closest advisors to be an evil dragon, and five minutes later she's back and nothing has changed. So when events occur that by all rights should be world changing events, your character should be automatically transferred to another realm where that event is acknowledged to have occurred. Perhaps there's only a handful of these events in the game, but at least you'd get a sense of living (albeit virtually) in a changing world.
WoW is introducing limited persistence via phasing.
What your proposing Capn jon would destroy the number one reason I have played WOW for over 2 years. Being transferred to a different server would cause you to have no lasting friendships and rid the game of all the social aspects.
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