Tobold's Blog
Friday, March 26, 2010
Some short answers

Being on holiday I didn't get around to answering all the questions and requests from the open Sunday thread, shame on me. So to make up for that, I'll answer them here in a shorter version:

Void rants that marketing video games with screenshots and trailers is insufficient, what we need is more info about gameplay, and preferably free trials and demos. I fully agree. But then of course the marketing hype often starts before the gameplay is fully finished, so I can understand the screenshots and trailers marketing in the early phase.

Chris wonders whether Cataclysm will last long enough. I do not consider that the previous two expansions lasted long enough, that is they didn't keep me playing WoW for the full 2 years until the next expansion, I took breaks. Thus assuming that Cataclysm will have the same problem is a safe bet. While the fact that Cataclsym only adds 5 new levels might offer the kind of player who only plays one main a shorter experience, the added races and revamp of old Azeroth will provide a longer experience for more casual players. Thus overall I don't consider Cataclysm to be any shorter than previous expansions. And who knows what will be added by patches before the 4th expansion.

Sid67 asks whether we will see full-fledged games on Facebook. I think there are technical hurdles preventing that. And ultimately we don't need the games to run *on* Facebook. Facebook offers a service called Facebook Connect with which you can link your full-fledged game to Facebook. For example the Settlers 7 I just started playing offered me to post my achievements on Facebook.

Pickly asked about the release date for Guild Wars 2, but I'm afraid I haven't got a clue when that will be, nor when we will get more information.

Azzur hopes that "next-gen MMORPG will be "Eve-like", and especially in scale (where it is one large virtual world". I'm not a tech expert, but it was my understanding that the main problem of making huge scale virtual worlds is what happens when many people gather at the same location. I don't know of any game, not even EVE, that doesn't have *some* lag problems reported when hundreds of players turn up at the same spot. I think however that the borders between servers will get more porous, with some games already having chat possible between servers, and there being cross-server battlegrounds and dungeons.

Klelith asks about the MMO itch, and whether I ever *not* play any MMO. Yes, that happens. I do have in-between-games periods, or nowadays more often in-between-WoW-expansions, where I play single-player games, or experiment with stuff like Facebook games.
Tobold: "Azzur hopes that "next-gen MMORPG will be "Eve-like", and especially in scale (where it is one large virtual world". I'm not a tech expert, but it was my understanding that the main problem of making huge scale virtual worlds is what happens when many people gather at the same location."

Yup this is correct (except for text muds).

What I'd like to see is a mass combat mode. In Eve in big fights everyone zooms out so all they see of their ship is a dot. However the game is still sending info about the ship's appearance to everyone else's client.

If instead you had play-as-a-dot mass combat mode for games like AoC, War and Eve that aim to get players into massive battles perhaps the genre could move on. WoW's been pretty successful at getting players to accept play-as-a-dragon mode or play-as-a-steam-tank mode.
My "single player games in between WoW expansions" times seem to have grown. WoW tiredness I suppose.

As to the difficulty problems when a lot of people gather in one place, Shamus explains it best (and with pretty pictures!).
What do you think about a system in which a smaller or more limited level increase period would allow casuals to have easier but still challenging access & gear upgrades to the previous content like ICC, and HC players would have uber-challenges with current content for a short but well-defined period of time?

Since they can shut off XP gains, they could slowly release the ability to level every few months which would create a whole new strategy of playing.

Current difficult content would get slowly easier and easier, ultimately allowing access to all, and giving progression options instead of just gear farming. There might be critical class skills that would become available over time, reflecting adaptation against a particular threat.

The time that an uber-guild had to work on the newest content at the most difficult point (lowest level) would be clarified, and dungeons wouldn't be stealth-nerfed.

It might also address the issue of raising the price and demand of an expansion at release. For instance if they released 3 levels every quarter (or 6 months), having the expansion first would give lots more meaningful and interesting content between those periods of time.

Who knows, there could even be some content that gets permanently changed. If you got the expansion later, you could just power level through.

There has to be a more interesting way to progress than just getting gear upgrades.
I think the 85 level thing was a marketing mistake; levels are all arbitrary. Say they increased the XP needed to level 81-85 by 300%; or reduced it by 50%; The time and effort it takes to level is totally tuneable by Bliz. Levels 1-60 take about as much XP as levels 78 & 79. I think 85 was caused by the Y1C (remember Y2K?) - Think of all the dialog boxes that will have to change when level is a 3 digit #.

I really like the many advantages to the one world scenario. It is really not about the world, but how many people congregate. You just need to have incentives to spread out (e.g. adding the towers in WG) and gates/limits to prevent flash mobs. N.b.: Wow has the same problem. Bloggers did some event and many people rolled a gnome IIRC on one server and played in one starting zone at the same time. The server wept. It is partly because EvE players are much less helpful, but I think you find far fewer crafting blog/tips in games where the author knows that not 1% but 100% of their readers play on their server in their markets.

I think WoW, and most software companies, could do with smaller, more frequent releases. (e.g. Apple OS vs Vista) An expac every November would seem most profitable; worse case, just shoot for 18 months.
Admittedly, the Guild Wars 2 "request" was me being somewhat goofy, as there's so little information I doubt much will get released.

(The FAQ in guild wars 2 wiki has the Beta occurring this year, so we'll at least be getting some information by that point. Assuming it's accurate.)
It seems a very doable thing to design a game that can support say 800 players in combat. Below that kind of number, you get the solvable technical issues. Go much above it, the intractable ones.

Making a 400-a-side battle, or 800-player raid, fun for player #476 is another matter.

On the other hand, playing in a world where such battles can sometimes happen does seem more epic.
As always, thanks for answering. I had fun writing that rant.
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