Tobold's Blog
Sunday, April 22, 2012
TERA open beta weekend

TERA is not a bad game. The graphics are good, the characters and monsters different from western games, the combat system a bit different from normal hotkey combat, and they even adjusted to western sensibilities by replacing the G-string panties with shorts. But after playing for a few hours and getting yet another "kill X of these", "gather Y of those", and "go talk to the guy in the next quest hub" quests, I simply couldn't stand it any more. Not TERA specifically, but the errand-based trivial gameplay in general.

It is said that the quest gameplay works by handing out little rewards all the time, which causes a dopamine release in the brain, which we experience as pleasure. I guess my dopamine receptors are dead from overdose. This simply doesn't work for me any more. Reading a quest telling me to kill 10 foozles only makes me want to scream. Because killing 1 foozle is so boring, and adding 9 others and a quest reward doesn't make the activity any more interesting. I would rather play something where I have to think about my moves, where tactics are important, and where my decisions have consequences. Modern MMORPGs just don't offer that.

Guess I won't spend any money on TERA.

I spent more time downloading the TERA beta then I spent playing it for the same exact reasons. The moment I found myself blowing through quest text and figuring out "what next?" from minimap icons, I quit and uninstalled.
I read you for a long time and lately you always say the same things about MMORPG's... you don't want "kill X things" or "talk to this guy" then simple you don't want to play RPG. How else can it be? Call of duty and counter strike it is not like this, because they are other type of game.

So how do you expect things going in an open world RPG game? what do you suggest?Guild wars claim to be different but I don't think so..the only thing that changes is the way they "deliver" the quest to you...

You go to a farm and you see the farmer screeming help. some monsters puting fire to his farm. You need to 1)Kill the monsters, then 2)Extinguish the fires and maybe 3)Defend the farm from a following attack.

In a regular MMORPG, you will go there and see the farmer with a symbol on his head. You talk to him and have a quest for you..guess what?kill monsters, extinguish fires and defend him...

Even the innovative Guild Wars 2 will not change the "kill X", "gather Y" "Defend X". I am also bored about MMOs I just cannot see how this can change and what will be an alternative. You need to kill something right?When I play a Medieval Knight I need to kill things. I don't think that the way they will ask me to do it will change something..

-regular quest (wow, lotro, and many other)
-A nice cinematic (swtor)
-A dynamic event

what is a dynamic event after all?a series of quests that they auto complete without having to interact with a NPC...

My opinions of course, don't want to start guild wars vs olthers war here :P
Tobold said: I would rather play something where I have to think about my moves, where tactics are important, and where my decisions have consequences. Modern MMORPGs just don't offer that.

Answer: In theory this is nice but I don't think it is possible to a modern MMORPG. Your decisions will never have consequences because there will be 100000 guides and another 10000 blogs and sites to "warn" you for your next move and to offer you the optimum build for your character. You can ignore them and play without read them but if you are not efficient your grouping experience will be un-pleasant...

Since MMO's now are targeting large audiences they will never add consequences..see wow for example, my grandmother can play it now. If an MMO with "thinking" and consequences comes out now, they will not have more than 500k subs in the best chance. And a bunch of forum posts that will inform them that this is not like wow (it doesn't have x,y,g, feature e.t.c.)
there will be 100000 guides and another 10000 blogs and sites to "warn" you for your next move

This is only true in the current games due to the monsters being static. Add some dynamic or randomness into the mix, and the predictability would disappear.

If you think that can't work, then explain to me why people are shuffling decks in poker, instead of using a predetermined sequence of cards. Last I checked, poker was more popular with randomness than without.
I agree that randomness would help with the MMO market, if (in say WoW) you couldn't predict what ratio of the trinity you needed for a given dungeon it would force people to move towards versatility instead of specialization...hypothetically of course.

But I do think Giannis is on to something with the point about efficiency in grouping. I think one of the reasons these games get so boiled down is because of the Multiplayer portion...people don't want to perform poorly in groups and as a result they find the optimum builds.
Poker also doesn't have a persistent world with character progression.

The ironic thing to me is that dynamic/random monsters isn't going to make the game any more fun to you. Why would it? The randomized moves would have to be deadly for them to be relevant, which means combat would simply be a string of Quick-Time Events to succeed at so that you could... kill 10 foozles.
What does randomness have to do with Quick-Time events? Many games manage to have deeply tactical combat with random elements, without ever using Quick-Time events.
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I like killing foozles, be it one, ten or a hundred. I know that's what I'm going to be doing when I log into a traditional MMO. To not want to kill foozles would be like playing golf and not wanting to hit the little ball towards and into a hole.

As for randomness, you can keep it. Predictability is the one of the key selling-points of traditional MMOs.

Is there room in the market for other kinds of MMOs? of course there is, and they exist. Hundreds of them. Good luck to them and those who enjoy them. I play EQ-style Diku-MUD MMOs because that's what I enjoy, not because I can't find an alternative. Tobold may have burned out on the genre but after a dozen years I reckon I enjoy it more now than I ever have.

That said, I'm passing on Tera
To not want to kill foozles would be like playing golf and not wanting to hit the little ball towards and into a hole.

What about a game of golf where the balls have an iron core, and there is a strong electro-magnet in the hole, so regardless how well you hit the ball, it will most probably end in the hole if you just get the general direction right. Would you want to play that game, or would you want the magnet to be turned off and have a less predictable outcome?
@Tobold: you have a simple way to test your "randomness > predictability" theory: do it with your D&D group. Create an encounter which is randomness-driven (divine intervention based on a roll of dice, for example), or don't balance the encounters: generate them with dice, which could make them from faceroll to near-impossible.
Then let us know if your players loved it or not.
What would "don't balance the encounter" have to do with them being random? Random doesn't mean that you can get everything from a level 1 mob to a level 90 elite mob. You can well create a "random encounter table" on which difficulty ranges from relatively easy to relatively hard, but not beyond that.

And to my players, all encounters are essentially like random encounters, as they usually don't have information about the strength and abilities of the monsters before combat starts. They like that. I would think MMORPG players would also like it.
I'm kind of curious Tobold, which MMOs (or single player games) do you think have come closest to the sort of thing you'd want to see? Are we talking random as in procedurally generated mobs/ environments like Diablo? Or dwarf fortress?
Procedurally generated mobs would work. As would dynamic spawns with some sort of virtual ecosystem.

And on the monster ability side I would like to see things like they exist in Final Fantasy or Pokemon, where monsters are strong against one element and weak against another. Anything really which makes that you can't just use the same sequence of button presses against every single mob.
One big problem with MMO's is that there are only so many ways to interact with a virtual world through our current computer interface. The interface severely limits how you can control your character. So many of the games end up 'feeling' the same, because of those limitations. Not sure how to get around that until (if) the interface gets better.

Some degree of randomness in the open world would definitely be welcomed. Perhaps give the player a 'difficulty' knob that individuals can turn up as they please? One that would increase the chances of random events around them in particular? (Packs of mobs, or a mini-boss, appearing at random and agro'd on them only, more difficult quests, etc.) This is easily implemented by competant programmers.

I'm also a fan of procedure-generated and randomly populated (fairly, depending on the class or group) mini dungeons - like City of Heroes. Available from level 1 and always a challenge for your level, solo or grouped. In conjunction with a good random quest generator they provide a lot of play options. Also easily implemented by competant programmers.

Finally, I really, really, want the MMO to focus on ME. I want to be THE hero - not just another random noob. I want to know why I am fighting, and be given emotional motivation to fight on. SWTOR did a good job of pulling the player into the story with their quest lines. The main story lines in the original Guild Wars series also did a decent job. Most other MMO's fall flat on their faces in this regard. They simply don't do enough to draw the player into the game and give them motivation from a story perspective. Tera has been horrible at it so far. I have no real good idea why my character is in the game (the opening cinematics just don't cut it), why anything I do really matters, no emotional involvement (other than drooling over my hot female character), and no glimpse of greatness for me in the future.

Anyway, Tera looks good. The fighting is different. I'll play it when I'm not raiding in WoW and have some mindless foozle-killing time on my hands, until Guild Wars 2 and Secret world comes out. Then it will get uninstalled.
I have 3 suggestions then:

Option A: go hardcore and go for EVE. It is unlike any other MMO you've played, period. Plus, it's as tactical as it can get.

Option B: Dungeons and Dragons Online. The fights are a lot more tactical and teamplay is required. There are no kill-X quests. Downside: to really get into it you need a sub.

Option C: Star Trek online. The (very casual) levelling content is all one giant story arc. Endgame is non-existant, but the levelling process is nice if you want a change from gather/kill questing. Plus it's F2P.
I fear you are simply done with MMORPGs, Tobold (as I may be).

Your complaint about quests is essentially that they mask "the grind," and you are no longer fooled by that mask.

Yet dynamic events and such are simply another mask. I think you will rather quickly see that even dynamic events or randomized spawns still boil down to "go to area, kill some bad guys, get reward."

The grind isn't going away for MMORPGs. Developers need to keep you playing for hundreds of hours, but creating hundreds of hours of unique content is simply not feasible. Even SWTOR with its bloated budget felt much more repetitive than I expected it to be.
@Tobold: I don't mean an unbalanced encounter to the point of being a faceroll for the monster, I mean an encounter with random-based mechanics, where you die if you don't react in the right way. What you seem to be missing is that your description of the golf game with the magnet applies to D&D a lot more than MMOs: the DM is there to fiddle and ensure that whatever happens, the players win (reminds you of anything?).

There are several ways you can try this without resorting to the dragon which one-shots anything. It could be a monster which, when hit, rolls a dice: odd, takes damage, even, is healed by the amount inflicted. A monster with random abilities (a bit like the good old beholder), and you get to know which one it has only after you've eaten one. and some kill you if you fail a roll. A monster which subverts some player statistics, and on hit inflicts an amount of damage equal to one of the player stats chosen at random.
Try and let us know, and also let us know the details: because if it has a 1/1e10 chance to kill anyone it's not worth much in terms of "random".
I can assure you that my D&D players have a significantly higher chance of dying than anybody doing a kill 10 foozles quest in a MMORPG.
It's deja vu all over again.

When I read these frequent (on this blog) laments about 'kill ten flozies'. I wonder if it's not the just the quest but the whole gestalt about what the quest and associated game play represents.

Many learning personalities rebel against rote learning and memorization of facts. Those same personalities usually are on the high end of the intellect scale.

What the anti kill ten x people may be looking for is a whole to experiential expression of gameplay that has not yet been conceived.

I myself have only been playing MMOs for only about four years... I too sense there will come a day when a quest marker over an NPC fills me with dread of the known instead of the delight of the unknown.

But right now I get the sense that there is no way to answer the anti-mmo player short of major new ground breaking innovations in multiple areas.

Areas like:
Reward system revamp
Leveling experience
Non-linear story telling
Very Large virtual gamefields
Large group player interaction
Large Dataobject management

etc etc...

As a technologist I know (A)these are HARD problems (B) There a near zero chance that any investor will fund these existential flights of fancy near term.

It's an incrementalist world folks. Even Steve Jobs walked with the iPod before he sprinted with the iPhone.

But there is some hope...
A little birdy told me that Titan may have something meaningful to say in a couple of these areas.
Anyone remember the early-launch portion of Rift? I thought it was great, but I also remember talking on vent with one of my friends trying to understand why the general chat was so negative. Yes, most of the newbie zone has been overrun? So what? Go kill invasions you can manage, get stronger, join the public raid, and take the hub back. One of the things that turned me off on Rift was how transitory this was; by the time I left (before 1.7) you never saw a town overrun. It made it more predictable and easier, which is what most players seem to want.

Look at Diablo 3. The normal difficulty level is basically hand-holding and easy, guided content. Why? Because Blizz knows that most of the people who want that sort of thing aren't going to play past normal. Those of us who do not will blow through it and race on to Inferno. That works for D3 but can't really be done in an MMO. You can argue that PvP is (somewhat) self-regulating and there are multiple raid difficulties but both of those occur in a closed environment. I cannot see a company coming out and saying "this starting zone is easy, this one is hard, and this one is suicide - all with the same rewards". It would be fun to see the forums but I would not want to be the PM trying to justify my resource allocation at the next senior review.
I think the fundamental problem in this argument is that people really do not know what they "want". And you can split hairs ad infinitum & nauseum with what you might want right this instant vs over a period of time, or what I want vs what's good for the game overall.

With your poker analogy, yes, the game does not function "fairly" without randomly distributed cards, but when I'm playing, I "want" to know what the next card is likely to be. Badly.

So intuitively we know the game only works randomly, but players will work as hard as I can to subvert that. And that becomes a game unto itself.

When we think about games from a developers viewpoint as opposed to a players perspective, the conversation about what we "want" changes pretty drastically.

And Las Vegas has it right. What we really want are slot machines with an occasional game of thought, lots of little rewards, and a few big ones.
What I hate is how games have gotten nerfed to this point anymore... I can still recall the first days of eq n later eq2 how hard it seemed ie body/shard reclamation after death, XP debt from death, repair bills, can I kill that color con mob?, getting better spells, crafting parts from bodies, crafting skills to make better stuffz. To now everything is thrown at u with care bear mode on. When waa the last time u thought to urself while questing "man would it suck to die here" for other than the run back lol Cripes heaven forbid working for that item we will just let buy it. I just wish development wouldn't listen to all the Whiney ppl saying its too hard
I can assure you that my D&D players have a significantly higher chance of dying than anybody doing a kill 10 foozles quest in a MMORPG.

How many times it has already happened?
How many times it has already happened?

Players down, doing death saving throws: 3 this year. There was no intervention from my part, and it is just a question of time until that results in a player failing his death saving throws and having to roll a new character.

Of course while the probability expressed in likelihood per combat is higher, you need to take into account that we only did maybe a dozen combats this year yet. In a MMORPG you would do a dozen fights in less than one hour.
Many words to say 'zero'.

BTW you cannot really compare a pen-and-paper RPG encounter with killing a mob, an encounter is more like an entire heroic dungeon.

It'll also be interesting to see if you stick to the same approach (letting the dice decide) when the characters are high-level and some played-years old.
You're just using a straw man argument because you are unwilling to admit that so many MMORPGs today are faceroll easy up to the level cap. Or are you saying that leveling up these days is still a challenge for you?

Even if they don't die, a player makes more interesting decisions in one D&D combat than in 10 levels of WoW or Rift or SWTOR or TERA.
You don't understand where I'm coming from and where I'm going:

- the leveling is faceroll easy, because noone has come up with a meaningful way to implement death. Death is always "here, waste more time doing the same thing over". This is something where pen-and-paper can do a lot better, because due to the small group the experience is personalized. You have a player worried by death? Don't kill him. You have one who doesn't care that much about his specific character and wants to be in the front lines, maybe just because he wants to play different characters over time? Fine kill him instead.
This is not something you can do in an MMO. But, guess what, personalizing/adjusting the adventure provides the best experience and is exactly the opposite of randomness.

Players make more meaninful decisions in one D&D combat where you are the DM, because you deliberately design them to work that way. A novice DM going blindly by the rules will not have the same result. And, guess again, this also is because you keep control of the situation and adjust it to challenge the player, again exactly the opposite of randomness.

Removing a script from an MMO and adding randomness does not move it closer to D&D. The difference is that D&D content is unique and not meant to be replayed. It constantly has the challenge of the "new game", something which an MMO can only deliver the first time yoyu play it, and this only if it's not a carbon copy of WoW.
I don't know how you played pen & paper RPGs, but what you describe is very different from my experience and what I've seen elsewhere. Death in pen & paper is NOT tailored towards the group or targeted by the DM. The DM only balances the encounter, and if he fails at that has to fudge stuff to keep combat overall balanced.

But an individual death in my games is always the cause of a combination of risk-taking from the player, and "bad luck" aka randomness in the dice rolls. A player playing it safe dies less often because he doesn't expose himself to the risk as much as the player who storms ahead.

The logical chain of "I did something risky and stupid" and "I died / came close to dying" is an important one for a pen & paper roleplaying combat to succeed. It is *because* the DM *could* cheat and kill a character that it is important that death is always visibly fair and a consequence of the player's actions.
Tera is beautiful, the combat is great, endgame PvP is really fun, BAMs are fun, instanced zones are great.......its a awesome game with a nice feel.

BUT as you mentioned the questing is boring, repetitive, lackluster, and void of imagination. The game is built on quests and they should have made them more interesting. More in depth longer quests with higher rewards would go a long ways to make the game more enjoyable. Island Of dawn is very boring and I also dislike the instanced zone you start on at level 20 on your first character. Also bots are already running rampant and I see Tera going down the same road as Lineage 2 which really hurt the official server. I quit playing OFF servers and went to bot protected private servers for exactly that reason.

Private server will be coming for Tera and if the bots are not taken care of on the OFF servers they will merit serious consideration. Also on private servers the ability is there to make the changes that enmasse/blue hole won't make to make the game more enjoyable such as reworking quests among other things.

It has already begun
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