Discussing the “instances”

The thread is at F13:

It’s fun because you are all right. Everyone.

Instancing is surely needed and valuable today but not because it’s an evolution. The exact contrary.

Instancing is now required because the genre collapsed on itself and noone has been able to create a world. Basically the genre has failed and it’s going back to “just a game” that requires a better compromise to be fun.

Darniaq has pointed some of the reasons about why instancing is interesting and they are all true. My opinion is that instancing is a workaround because the design of these MMOGs hasn’t been able to valorize the massive value.

The fact that these games are massive is becoming a problem. The design failed. So we go back to try to get the best from both worlds: the quick, tailored fun of the instances (cooperative play) and the social aspect of the hubs (like IRC or the message boards).

This is exactly what Richard Garriott anticipated in his interviews years ago. I find it quite depressing.

Eve-Online and the next update

I started to hate this company during the beta but mostly because of the dumb producer nicknamed Champion. Now he is gone and CCP team has demonstrated some value even if I still dislike the game.

In this case the development is slow because it’s a complex project and they don’t have all the resources they need. Eve is a strong reality even if still a niche product. They have a solid and quite stable playerbase in the range of 40-50k subscribers.

The last big patch (Castor) has been pushed live on December, last year, and the next (Shiva) was espected for June. Obviously the news is that this patch has been delayed, around October and probably it will slip near December, matching a yearly schedule.

Well, this is surely slow. At least they have been busy to keep the server alive to support 8k players logged at the same time and more. Now they have hired 10 more peoples and decided to delay the next patch, instead of releasing it sooner with less features.

And to be honest these features sound quite impressive and interesting:

Now we have to see if they are able to deliver all that, even after the delay.

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Brian Green from M59:

My feelings on the technical side of things are that “photorealism” is what the noisy segment of the market wants. People use SpeedTree because it’s an effective and easy way to get that done. I still think that locking ourselves into photorealism is going to do the same thing that locking the movie industry into recording plays in front of a movie camera would have done. I think we both agree that once technology stops driving game development, we’ll see more interestnig games; it’s a question of what does that.

WoW like an heavy elephant

I’ll go with a cheap attack this time, but still about something that could play a major role in the long distance:

In the last months I’ve been in this beta I’ve seen a very good product, both in what’s already delivered and its potential (which could be improved or not). But the image I have of the game is of a painfully slow and heavy elephant.

Surely the game is playable and most of the testers are having fun on a stable platform, but I haven’t really seen a test environment. More than three months and I’ve seen just a single patch that broke more things than what it solved. And I guess how Blizzard will manage a live environment if this is the pace of a beta.

This slowness is and will probably be a strength of a solid game but it seems also its weakest spot. Other projects can surely have a different, lower ambition but they are also a lot more alive and dynamic. More stimulating and responsive. I’ve read about a live team that will offer new content but I’m really starting to fear that the expectations (at least mines) are set way too high.

That live team could work on more monsters, quests and new dungeons pushed “live” from time to time but this feels to me as more and more of the same that won’t really add anything to the game.

I have the perception of this heavy elephant that barely moves but that also suffers from its weight. It seems tired. And we are just starting to walk.

Perhaps just a wrong impression from a tester (me) that has a lot more interest in the development side of a game rather than playing it directly. I surely feel bored by what is going on and the lack of interesting developments.

Perhaps just a personal rant :)
Or not.

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F00lish feedback

A letter to Mythic:

I don’t like any of the changes coming with 1.70s patch, in particular I completely disagree with the design strategy behind it.

I imagine you want feedback just to tweak the timers in the best way possible and I’m voicing my opinions because, instead, I disagree about the way you are solving an issue, and it’s not about those timers, but about the whole plan you are proposing.

The reasons behind this patch are: “The existing system often results in gameplay with very little strategy, where people mindlessly fling themselves at a target over and over.” These reasons are obviously a gameplay problem. The results (and the issues to fix) are that the strategy is reduced at a minimum, the gameplay is dumbed down and even the realm points are reduced because of this continuous zerging. The perfect and common way to consider all this is very simple: it isn’t fun, because of those issues.

Now, your ideas are about working on timers and immunities so that you give more importance to a death. From a side you boost the realm points that you receive because recently killed characters are worth more, from the other side you cut the realm points that you can receive if you have been just ressed. Your hopes about this system are that “who is winning” still enjoys the action because the enemies are worth something even if recently killed, and, from the other side, you prevent the players from “exploiting” the death as something trivial, getting ressed and thrown again in the battle. From a side you encourage to kill enemies even if they have the res sickness, from the other you penalize who dies, giving more weight and importance to the death, and this by affecting the realm points.

My opinion is that this isn’t a good way to solve a gameplay issue. You are solving a problem in the gameplay not by addressing the gameplay itself, but just by adding mini-timesinks (“you cannot right now, but in a few”). Since you aren’t addressing the cause of the problem, the system is going to break many other parts of the game. If you read the comments of the smartest players you already have all of them pointed. There are classes like casters that will be even less playable and *fun* than now. You are the first to die, and it’s not something that helps you to enjoy the game. To this frustration you add another problem, even if you get ressed you are still heavily penalized. This is another layer of frustration that you are adding over the first.

The initial problem was that the system wasn’t fun because of the impulse to “rush”, ok? After these solutions what you obtain? You obtain that the frustration is multiplied for 2. Side-effects. The design you proposed finishes to simply break things even more and producing a resulting experience that is less fun and more unbalanced due to the difference of the classes and roles (so you break the core of the game).

The initial issue is the “illness” you need to heal. Instead of finding the cause and solve it, you study the “results” (symptom) and address them. It’s consequent that this doesn’t heal anything and just produces side-effects (and more imprecise symptoms). The result is that you produce even more problems and you finish to obtain a situation that has just grown in complexity. Re-iterate this process over and over and you have exactly what breaks every single online game today. A patchwork. The system become so full of wounds that are never properly addressed and the situation becomes unmanageable. A point of no return.

Try to make a step backward and see the problem from its true side (the fun) and with a more creative approach. Now, you know that I strongly envy you because I’d love to design games and I know I won’t have the possibility, so, in general, I finish just to strongly criticize everything because it’s all I can do among the frustration of someone who is able to just speak and cannot have the possibility to really demonstate his value. For once I’ll put aside the frustration and write how I would manage this problem, and perhaps you could find it valuable, or perhaps I’ll just lose more time.

Firstly I’d split the issue in two parts. The first part is about the problem of players dying, releasing and running back into the zerg. The second part is about the frustration/importance of a death during a tight battle. I don’t know exactly how you determine how many RPs a player is worth. I just logged to ask in one of the biggest guild of Merlin (Mystic Council of Camelot) to ask them how the value in RPs of a player is determined and I wasn’t able to receive a precise answer (and this tells a lot about your rules). Anyway. It seems that the value of a player is determined by your level and your Realm Rank. Plus a modifier if you have res sickness or not. And here is the *center* of the problem, I’ll come on this later.

You should try, for once, to not design the game about frustration elements like timesinks, but around the fun and the concrete gameplay. Those timesinks and penalities you added surely don’t make the game more deep or interesting or playable. They are just workarounds to exploits. Exploits that are side-effects of broken rules. Let’s focus on the second part, about the value of a death in a battle and about the gameplay involved. It’s obvious that playing a caster class is frustrating, you are the first to die and you just expect that. Most of the battles are about you *waiting* on the ground. With your solution you will wait on the ground and wait when ressed again (and with cumulative effects). Why don’t you transform the situation and really shake the system into a more proper and valuable idea?

Stop considering the death as something that needs to frustrate the player to be valuable. It’s not useful, nor for the game nor for the player’s fun. The death has a value in DAoC because after you die the enemies will face “one less enemy”. So you die and you bring with you a part of the group potential. Working on ways to encourage to survive are silly because noone searches a death. Never. My heretical solution is exactly the opposite: let the players earn normal RPs even if dead on the ground. Always. The gameplay and the reward must pivot around the group, ok? If you die you put your group at a disadvantage. But what MATTERS is the overall result. It’s this way that you encourage the cooperation and build a depth into the system. Every single player must be interested in HOW he can help his group, in which way he is more valuable. If the group dies you lose, but if just one or two players in the group die, *the group* can still WIN. In the current system the design is planned around completely egoistical purposes. If you die you are out. Instead, if you let the RPs independent from the single death and dependent on the group as an EMERGENT identity, you produce a gameplay that STIMULATES the teamwork. Every combat situation is a situation where the skill of a group is tested as a whole, it’s about the cooperation and if you die you are still there with maximized attention hoping that you still did your part at best and your friends are still able to prevail. Here is how to fix problems. Instead of solving the damn frustration with more frustration you solve the gameplay INTO the gameplay.

In this case the relevance of a death is boosted at a full level. Impossible? No. It’s simple and true. Because the death has its real, strong value: You lose your ability to help your group and enjoy the combat. You must wait the combat itself to finish or someone to res you. Not because you are eager of RPs, but because you want to play the damn game and because your group needs help!

The death becomes a -gameplay- element. Not a timesink with added frustration. The result will produce not only the “fixes” of the issue of the beginning, but it will also have an “healing” value on many other issues that are tied to this part (like boosting the fun of who always finish with the face on the ground, like casters). What you have to adjust, here, is the RPs flow. You can even tweak the overall RPs so that you don’t speed up the treadmill too much. HERE the process needs to be tweaked and balanced.

Now the other part of the issue, with even more creativity. Here I’ll try to reach two results: 1- Reward who is able to survive many encounters 2- Stimulate the players to not just “rinse and repeat”, turning a death just in an annoyance. So exactly the issues you tried to address with the whole patch.

How? Simple. Transforming the combat to revolve around the ability and strength of a group. The idea is quite simple, instead of attaching a “fixed” RPs value to every player (based on the level and Realm Rank) you transform this fixed value into a modifier. For every “x” RPs that the player earns (in a session and without *dying or porting*) you build up a multiplier. So the more you kill AND SURVIVE, the more you gain a “bonus” on the RPs. The more players you kill the more this bonus raises, rewarding your ability by increasing the RPs you earn from killing others (This needs to be test and tweaked, the idea is to never exceed 2.5x of standard RPs and grow progressively till that cap, without ever touching it). From the other side you’ll start to build a legend. An unkilled character (and group) not only gains RPs quickly (so you satisfy my 1st point: reward the ability), but becomes valuable as a new gameplay element. The more he gains the modifier on the RPs the more its *own* value of RPs increases. A group of players killing one of these super-groups will be rewarded because those players will be worth more RPs. To explain: a group can gain a bonus on the RPs that climbs nearer and nearer to a cap: 2.5x. At the same time the RPs they bring with themselves also increase (probably to a max of 3.5x. The bonus of what they are worth should be bigger than the bonus on the points they earn).

What’s the effect of this “complex on paper but easy in practice” system? Simple. The “death rush” becomes unappealing, you get killed and you lose your bonuses, not only you are worth less but you are also going to get less. Instead, who has managed to build a strong group with a strong strategy, is rewarded because he is worth more but he also gains more. This system rewards you for being alive and win the battles. It’s a solid stimulation and it doesn’t pivot on frustrating elements. You HAVE FUN in this system. You have fun because you are involved in the gameplay and not punished. Please note that all this is based on your *group*, not on a single death of a player inside that group. *Only* if your entire group die (or you use /release) the bonus goes back to zero. A single death doesn’t affect this. What you want to reward is again the group experience, not the egoistical play.

All these things need tests to be tweaked appropriately. I’m not suggesting that you need to boost the RPs that are being earned in a standard session. I’m suggesting that you need to tie those RPs to a more valuable and fun system which rewards your ability to play without frustrating you with even more timers(-sinks) and penalities. We are here to take the BEST from the game, not for being punished over and over on something that you have nearly zero control about.

I really hope that you start to design the game so it’s based on more solid gameplay elements, and not just patches over bleeding issues that are slowly killing the potential of this game. At the end it’s always the same: it frustrates me because you can and you don’t do anything, instead I’d like and I can only rant and write insanely long letters that noone will ever read.

Good night, and good luck.

HRose / Abalieno

EDIT: I’ve then slightly modified the system since then. In particular when the bonus to the RPs resets. The details are in the “Battle System” I suggested for WoW:

The idea is to reward group survival. If a group survives an encounter (51% alive) it will gain a bonus multiplier (with a diminished return softcapped at 2.5). The more a group survives the more the bonus builds up (and the same group will be worth more if killed). If the group flees from a PvP battlefield OR is defeated (only if 50% or more of it dies) the bonus is lost and resets to zero.

I’m sick.

And this sickens me. If you want to do something do it by yourself and for yourself.

Now let’s sit and watch the wrecking.

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BMS 2.0 for Falcon4

This is where a community can bring your game:

We have pleaded them to allow us just one, final release — which if not granted would mean throwing away months and months of unpaid, free volunteer work. We have been granted no such luxury — nor have we been denied it. While the situation was initially rather bleak, further contacts with Atari had proven very, very promising. So promising that it was almost beyond belief — and indeed since then we have not seen a single word from them…

The time has come, to release our work to you the community, as always, for free:


For free. Years of work to completely transform a game.

Now the interesting part is to see what will happen from now. The development of F4 will be allowed by Atari? And under which conditions?

On the other side there’s still the vaporware-menacing Fighter Ops that brags to be really a dream come true. Bringing further exactly what F4 is and where it’s supposed to aim.

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David Allen


David Allen is an egomaniac, much like HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED. While I don’t doubt some of the things in the article were true, I also do not doubt that the original Horizons design could not have been made, especially not for some piddling $6 million investment. The game industry is better off without DA.

Of course, we’d also be better off without the released Horizons product, but I’m sure natural market selection will take care of that in the next year.

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