About the accessibility barriers and the two player “types”

Still the same line of thoughts. But here I archive my comments on the forums (mostly from here). Tomorrow I’ll archive the comments of other players because there’s a lot of interesting stuff.

I already wrote my conclusions here, before the discussion even started. The future of this genre will be for those who can provide concrete answers to these problems.

(about the distinction between “casuals” and “hardcore”)
This dev is, as nearly as I can tell, exactly right: WoW has essentially two sorts of players.

Wrong. WoW CREATES those two sorts of player. That’s a huge difference.

The content defines how you play, not the other way around.

– If the “content” requires eight hours of continuous gameplay, only those players who can afford that will find that content accessible.
– If the “content” requires you to have 200+ fire resist to hope to win an encounter, only those players who have access to it will be allowed in.

There aren’t gaps between the players if not those that Blizzard GENERATED.

Want another example?

How many people here would be interested in 40 person raid content if they could get the same spoils in a much smaller group that would likely contain a higher proportion of agreeable personailities? There’s probably somebody, but then there’s apparently people who get off on having their genitals tortured with woodworking tools too.

So the reason to have the greater rewards for the biggest raids is because, guess what? Without those rewards noone would bother raiding. How funny.

Where are these “types of players” that love so much raiding to the point of doing it even if the mobs dropped jack shit?

The “wrong” part with raiding is not because it’s wrong to have big PvE encounters in a game. But it’s when these raids become mandatory to compete and be part of a guild. The need to “catch up” or be left out from the game. Getting excluded. The social outcast.

The game “continues” in that direction, but at some point you crash against a wall that is not “permeable” for too many players. Those casual players that made this game so successful.

I’ve seen the MAJORITY of the guilds on my server collapse and get cannibalized by bigger guilds because that’s where the artificial appeal of the game is and what it demands, whether you like it or not. Or you adapt to this situation and are able to satisfy those requirements of time commitment and able to join the catass guilds, or you are out and are left watching. Those players will be encouraged to leave a guild if you cannot offer them access to the same uber stuff and remain in the game.

I’m sure that the great majority of the players would like better to stay in their smaller groups and guilds and play with their friends. To find that type of game “viable” instead of ridiculed by the insane, exponential power creep that sets differences of “second citizenship”.

I really don’t know why it’s unreasonable to reward raids in other, different ways instead of through just highly unbalanced power differential that consequently becomes YET ANOTHER accessibility barrier to the content.

The problem IS NOT because there’s this type of content available. Noone would complain about this.

The problem IS when this content becomes selective and mandatory.

One (selective) destroys the guilds and an healthy social fabric, the other (mandatory) destroys the balance and the natural competitiveness of a MMO.

Damien Neil:
So cancel your account, build a bridge, and get over it. Or keep playing and admit that no matter how much you complain, Blizzard has their claws into you well and good.

If I didn’t care I wouldn’t write about it.

If I write about it it’s because things could be better and I have a passion for this genre as a whole. So its problems are what interests me and what I care writing about.

It’s what will drive things forward, so it’s what MATTERS discussing.

As simple as that.

Guilds get destroyed and gobbled up in every online community I’ve ever been in. I don’t see how that speaks for a maligned system.

Because here we have something specific and the design of the game directly affecting these guilds. *Actively* affecting this.

Most of the uber guilds are tightly locked. Even if you eventually have the time availability to join these raids you would still find rather hard to join one of these guilds.

It’s again because the content shapes the guilds. If you can support a 40-man raid, all the players ABOVE or BELOW that threshold are left out. If you don’t keep up with the “pace” of your guild you’ll get excluded because your gear won’t be able to compete with the gear of those who were able to be in 100% of the raids instead of 25%. So there’s the greed for loot. The NEED for loot.

Because if you don’t catch up and start winning the rolls (or pile up DKP or whatever catass point system is your guild using), you’ll get excluded again. Other lucky or with more time available players will get better loot than you and will replace you in those raids.

There’s a continue process of selection and exclusion. And this is BECAUSE of the design of the game.

I don’t think you did an adequate job rebutting Rywill’s conclusions, either Hrose. Like Dannimal said, FFXI doesn’t sound so different from WoW. I’ve heard that they have plenty of mind numbing raid content as well.

I never said that FFXI is a better game or that doesn’t have that type of raid content.

I just brought an example about PLENTY OF CONTENT (two whole expansions) that focuses of interesting, supposedly fun, consequent missions and *whole zones* that aren’t there to make you insanely stronger.

You do them because they are fun, challenging and because there’s a sense of progression coming from the storyline. You DON’T DO THEM because they hand out exponentially more powerful loot.

The point is: raid content can be challenging, fun and interesting WITHOUT this power creep huge unbalance. And WITHOUT creating this huge gap between the two “types” of players.

Again it’s the game that encourages this alienation of the community in two distinct groups.

Blizzard Guy Exec: Congratulations, team, you now have over 5.5 million paying subscribers worldwide. WoW is, by far, the most successful US-launched (and perhaps worldwide) MMO by a huge margin! And subscriptions aren’t going anywhere but up by our numbers – you’ve managed to grow the genre and the industry by creating what may be (arguably) the most important PC game ever made. What are you going to do now?

Blizzard Designer: Let’s throw our whole game design out the window and change everything! Forget this “high end” content crap, what people OBVIOUSLY want is low-end content. Forget the fact that they’re rewarding us hand over fist based on our design that puts hard-won loot at a premium.

Yes, because we all know how those 5.5 millions are there because of the raid content.

I believe that the success of the game is IN SPITE of the raid content and generally awful endgame content. Not thanks to it.

What about handing out good loot as the result of FUN content?

Because till today the alternative to raiding has been about grinding stuff to death.

But you can reverse the question: why the hell we *cannot* have the best loot from content that is accessible and challenging for everyone? What are the reasons preventing this to happen?

Because there must be reasons, right?

Oddly, the game already does this for me. So whose definition of “fun” do we use, then? (or, fuck, whose definition of “good”? There’s plenty of “good” loot available in places other than MC and ZG, y’know.)

“Good” as “comparable”.

The “fun” is easily defined by content. If removing the carrot from the raids would make the players STOP to raid completely (despite this content was available) would mean that “raiding” is unfun. As simple as that.

“Fun” means that you do something because you enjoy doing it. Not because it is mandatory to be somewhere else. It’s again the example of the “journey” compared to the “destination”. Which is the same shit we are repeating from 10 years. So I don’t think I need to explain the basics all over again.

The point is. Raid content can be FUN. I have fun doing it to an extent. Arguably the catass guilds get loot WHILE having fun.

The point is that this doesn’t translates to the casual players. Instead of giving them fun, playable content, they just slap in a pointless faction grind: “kill this worm one million of times”.

As I wrote other times on this forum the problem isn’t that there aren’t alternate advancement paths, but that these paths suck. They are terrible. One player enduring one of these factional grind would need his brain examined. Not rewarded.

Challenging for everyone and accessible to everyone. Accessibility and challenge are, in fact, conjugate variables. The more challenging something is, by definition, the harder it is to do.

No. Because once again “challenging” =! requiring better gear.

Gear in WoW is yet another barrier between the players and the content.

Which is exactly the fundamental point that generated all this discussion.

I want more of *this*

More than a month ago I promised myself to write down some comments about Lum’s book “MMG for dummies”. Then, along with a million of other things, the intention remained there, with an idea about the things I was going to write, but without actually finishing anything.

It’s so damn frustrating when you have a list of “things to do” that only keeps growing, leaving you with the feeling you are doing less and losing terrain every day.

Anyway, I wrote a reply on Q23 after the review on Slashdot and I was able to touch some of the points I was going to write about. So consider it a short version of that review and an idea of what I was going to say.

Of course I would have never bought a book like this if it wasn’t for Lum. And it’s really worth it, imho.

The book is really good because of Lum’s writing style. Then it’s not terribly useful for an already experienced player but this “usefulness” wouldn’t be the reason to read it.

The point is that it couldn’t be better than that. Lum really adds to the book and if it wasn’t for him it could have been rather boring and redundant. Instead it isn’t and it’s a great fun reading it.

You can basically imagine a “MMO for dummies” book and apply to it all the qualities that Lum’s writing style has and you can have an idea about why the book is really that good and worth reading.

It also helps a lot to see things in persepective, out of the momentum. There’s a sense of progression and history that is being slowly built. It builds “community”. While reading the book I couldn’t stop to imagine how absolutely great it could have been if he didn’t have to limit himself to introductory text.

The book is really wonderful in the way Lum approached the topic and wrote about it, but it leaves you wishing all the time he was more free to explore and discuss some of those arguments and MMO history that are only hinted due to the scope of the book.

Think to Tolkien. One of the best qualities of LOTR is that there’s always a hint of a bigger story and setting behind the scenes. A whole world to explore that in the book is never fully disclosed, never “reached”. It builds desire without satisfying it.

Lum’s book is pretty much the same :)

Then you can basically open the book at random and find always some great passages. Two really random examples.

About the “guild drama”:

Romantic Triangles: Bill meets Sue through the guild. Bill likes Sue. Sue likes Bill. Bill and Sue talk. A lot. Sue also likes Bob. Sue and Bob talk. A lot. Sue sends Bill a message that was meant for Bob. Things get ugly. Fast.

Or the anecdotes:

When good evacs go bad

Once in EverQuest, a multigroup raid was using the public OOC (out of character) chat channel to organize their raid, to the irritation of others that were in the zone. One wag decided to solve the problem by yelling “EVAC!” in the OOC channel. Many of the characters with evac did the thing they’d been trained to do by months of gameplay — they immediately hit the evac button when they saw the word EVAC! in the chat channel. The raid ended horribly immediately thereafter…

Lum is a talented writer, he could write about “cooking” and make it unique.

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Get a clue.

Continuing on the same tone.

We always wonder about the magical recipe that would lead to “better games” and “humongous success”. Everyone would like a slice of Blizzard’s pie. The new kid on the block that stole all the market with just one game and as a first attempt. The MMO Jesus that multiplied the number of potential customers like the bread and fishes. Leaving all the other veteran companies to bite the dust and run salvage what’s still salvageable.

So what’s this magical recipe? What did Blizzard’s genial devs to make everyone else feel done? Well, it’s simple. They worked on the accessibility of the game to make it more polished and appealing and introduced a quest system that was partially able to hide the feeling of grind and pointless repetition by adding some convenient variance in the patterns. Which is exactly what our “rant communities” HAVE POINTED OUT FOR YEARS. Ignored.

Blizzard gave a decent answer to a problem. A better answer. Making a game “for everyone”.

We don’t need brilliant and experienced game designer like Raph because this genre is already stuck *at the most basic level*. It needs common sense, maybe, but there isn’t anything complex or arcane to understand.

MMORPG design is really that simple.

And what will be the market of the future? The true answer to this quastion is worth billion dollars. It’s like finding the Philosopher’s stone. It would turn everything into gold. And the answer is just IN FRONT OF EVERYONE’S NOSES. Exactly like Blizzard’s “brilliant” design was already so obvious if just some people at the decision-making level had a clue and woke up before.

The future of the genre is to make these world even more accessible and immersive. Working on the qualities that we already discovered and going to tap that potential that is still dormant. The future of the genre will be about offering *solid answers* to the problems that are now dodged or dismissed. It will be about games that bring the players together instead of apart and that will continue to appeal to casual players, without imposing them unacceptable strains and dependencies. Games that will let you contribute to the “world” without the need to schedule your life around it. Games that are accessible and don’t separate the players in social classes of uberness.

Bringing together, and not apart. Removing the barriers, accessibility. It’s always *the same shit*. We don’t need geniuses or Civ4’s “Great People” to advance this genre.

We just need to pay attention. Observe. React. There are already plenty of hints suggesting where the market is going and what are its true demands.

Part of the current success of Eve-Online (and, in particular, the “viral” part of it) is the direct consequence of their “one-shard” model. Which lets you “hear” about the game from your friends and join them right away (and as simple as a direct download for a full, updated client not shattered between a moltitude of expansion packs). Its viral success strongly depends on veteran MMO communities that slowly build up interest and curiosity. Letting the new players join the community without having to crash into barriers and discover that all your friends are spread between twelve+ servers and an arbitrary number of levels. Or that require a videocard so “uber” that would suck alone a whole month of real life work.

Things “come to life” in Eve, despite the shallow initial impression, because the game provides the right conditions for the players to organize and create something.

The pattern was really simple:
1- The devs work hard to make the game appealing on certain aspects (In Eve it’s the sandbox mode, the freedom and scope of the players’ interactions).
2- The players arrive and start to grow in number, bringing their friends in and constantly creating more curiosity and interest. The new players aren’t segregated and dispersed into hundreds of servers, but share the same space. Creating “permeable barriers” that don’t isolate them and encourage them to *connect* with the bigger, emergent community.

CONNECT. Get some “hints” from Xfire. Or its clones. That’s where we are going.

The games of the future will be those where the players won’t be fragmented and isolated between hundreds of servers, but those with permeable barriers. Where from a side you create “cozy worlds” where the community can build up still within a manageable scope, while from the other allowing the players to cross those barriers.

In the same way the players should be able to partially bypass their forced dependence on other players. Permeable barriers, again.

Leaving behind the restrictions and narrow design limitations of level-based treadmills. Removing that silliness that segregates the players till the point where there are huge gaps between the catasses and those who are left behind and are kicked out of the system. Excluded because they couldn’t “keep up” with the power creep and time requirements.

Creating more immersive, consistent worlds where the player will be able to interact more directly and naturally with the game world. Without the interfaces growing and crowding the screen till the point that you can’t see past them. Immediate, visceral, direct gameplay and not “try to find and hit the right button between a million others” while micromanaging everything at the most insane level.

Some of these problems were analyzed and explained by Raph brilliantly and in great detail. But we didn’t need Raph to bring those problems up! Our community already pointed them out from a long time! It was already all so fucking obvious. GLARING.

You just need to open your eyes.

And no, we don’t need fancy new genres or crazy Korean stuff. Because fantasy-themed games can be all that and SO MUCH MORE. Can’t you see?

We need *answers*. Practical, concrete answers and not more, endless dissertations wasting time like I’m doing here. I cannot provide those kind of answers because I have no powers on that front. I can only offer ideas opinions for what they are worth. But there are those, out there, who can. And they have this responsibility to start to move things forward. Concretely.

It’s MMORPG design to be stupid and obvious. Execution is still hard. There are no shortcuts for that, I’m sorry.

And the answer to WoW’s casual players is…

…Another 40-man raid instanced slated to launch this spring! Rejoice!

Blog commentary here.

The original “news” starts with a great handjob. Here is a summary of the relevant parts. Plase also notice as Rob Pardo isn’t leading anymore WoW as I rumored many times:

Jeff Kaplan knows what it’s like to try to please all of the people all of the time. Don’t envy him.

As a lead game designer at Blizzard Entertainment for World of Warcraft, the ridiculously successful online PC game that now has more than 5.5 million subscribers, Mr. Kaplan, 33, is a combination of long-term planner, whipping boy, police chief and deity for a rabid global player-base that is about as large as the populations of the cities of Chicago, Houston and Detroit combined.

That ease of play has made the game fantastically successful, but it has also created what has become almost a blood feud in the game and on Web message boards between the game’s casual users and more serious players. The issue is that once players reach Level 60, if they want to keep fighting bigger and badder monsters and if they want to get rarer and more powerful loot, they must start to work in teams, perhaps of 10 or 20 players. The most epic challenges, like conquering Blackwing Lair and its master, the black dragon Nefarian, require 40 players to work together with the coordination of synchronized swimmers.

But because the game from Level 1 to Level 59 is so easy, there are a ton of Level 60 users who don’t know how to be team players and don’t have the time or inclination to learn. And that is the root of the current conflict. Casual players complain that they can’t get rewards comparable to those earned by hard-core raiders, like the Claw of Chromaggus or Mish’undare, Circlet of the Mind Flayer. Raiders like me often respond that casual players just want a handout.

On Thursday morning, Mr. Kaplan took time to discuss World of Warcraft’s high-end content, including new details about the game’s next hard-core dungeon, the Naxxramas necropolis, home of the undead Scourge. (There is also an additional retail expansion expected later in the year, probably in the fall, that will increase the level cap to 70.) Here follow excerpts from the conversation:

Q. Tell me about your general approach to top-level content and how you can appeal to such a diverse user base.

A. What we constantly do is look at the whole picture. We need to address an audience like my mom, who plays once in a while but still manages to get to Level 60 and doesn’t raid, all the way to people who play 14 hours a day who need less sleep than the rest of us. People talk about the game fundamentally changing at Level 60, and they are right. There are people who are seeking that hard-core endgame experience, but to people who casually follow the quests and just ended up at Level 60, it can be very jarring to them. We’re trying to put in more content for them, like the Field Duty quests in Ahn’Qiraj, but the resolution we’re all hoping for is the expansion, which will give those players more WOW as they know it. [Mr. Kaplan also said that the game would soon add a new casual-player-friendly armor set obtained through a multipart quest. The first parts can be completed by a solo player, he said, while the later parts will require a group of no more than five people.]

Q. Why not just let casual players get rewards comparable to those from raids?

A. It would be almost impossible for us to do, and this is a philosophical decision. We need to put a structure in place for players where they feel that if they do more difficult encounters, they’ll get rewarded for it. As soon as we give more equal rewards across the board, for a lot of players it will diminish the accomplishment of killing something like Nefarian. My favorite times in the development cycle are when there are encounters that are close to being defeated but have not yet been beaten. It really creates a sense of awe among the players that there is something big and truly dangerous in the world. But it would be very disappointing if the items found on Nefarian were the same thing you could get in your nightly Stratholme run. [Stratholme is a much easier five-person dungeon.]

Q. What can you tell me about Naxxramas?

A. Naxxramas is going to be the most difficult thing in the game until the expansion pack comes out. It will be the pinnacle, and it’s absolutely massive. You’ll see this big necropolis floating above Eastern Plaguelands. It’s a 40-man raid zone, and it’s bigger than the Undercity [one of the main cities in the game]. Things could change, but we’re up to something like 18 bosses in there, and they are really cool, too. But it’s going to be hard. Really hard. We’re hoping to release it in the spring.

Btw, I love how he quotes his “mum” as an example of the casual player who cannot access raid content when this October (Blizzcon) he used her again to demonstrate pretty much the opposite:

By making sure that there is “unbeaten content” in the World of Warcraft, it not only enriches the world for the people the ‘high end guilds’ that strive to beat it, it also makes the world feel bigger and more alive for everyone else. It gives people something to strive for. Blizzard take issue with the charge that endgame dungeons are designed for the ‘1% of the game world that will actually see it.’

Jeff Kaplan (Tigole): My mom has two level 60’s and a level 40, and she gets MC raid invites.

The solution for the casual players? Straight from Tigole’s mouth:

but the resolution we’re all hoping for is the expansion, which will give those players more WOW as they know it.

Which is exactly what Tobold commented (and I quoted many times already): “pushing the unfun further back”. That’s the solution they have, stretch the treadmill and temporarily dodge the bullet because they have *no clue* about how making WoW more fun without resorting to the same patterns they copied and refined from other games. Here we go with the mudflation. You’ll love it.

I also love this part:

There are people who are seeking that hard-core endgame experience, but to people who casually follow the quests and just ended up at Level 60, it can be very jarring to them. We’re trying to put in more content for them, like the Field Duty quests in Ahn’Qiraj.

So, your role as a casual player is as a worker for the uber guild capitalism. You grind and farm stuff so that the patrons can access content while you sit there staring and drooling on their shiny armor.

If all the players could access all the content “it would diminish the accomplishment” (Tigole’s words) for the catass uber guilds. So there must be a gap between you and them so that they can feel cool and mock you with their uber superiority (laughing at your dead body in PvP while dissertating on how much more “skilled” than you they are in their deep purple suits and epic mounts).

That’s pretty much the same design phylosophy of Brad McQuaid (first paragraph quoted), you can see clearly their “shared background” (Tigole was a famous catass guild leader in EverQuest).

Enjoy your second citizenship and the “MMO social pyramid”:

They are doing a pretty outstanding work at demonstrating that they have no clue. And that they don’t deserve that success they are seeing now.

Things will change, albeit slowly and depending how much more fucking *asleep* the other MMO competitors will remain instead of waking up and take advantage of all the mistakes that Blizzard is currently doing. And instead of contributing to its success by being more clueless than them and copycatting them while dying of envy.

Don’t chase the tail and bite the dust. Solve the core problems. Anticipate!


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The “healer” problem

Today I was trying to clean my desktop to make some space and I found a text file sitting there from a long time (along with tenths of others) with some quotes that I must have saved from some forum:

But healing really needs a revamp in terms of keeping track of the group. One of the most boring things ever is staring at health bars 90% of the time instead of actually seeing the world.

Would be cool to have a system in place that would allow you to keep track of everyone without having to stare at health bars. It would have to be some extremely innovative shit, tho.

This is a screenshot showing what our guild’s main priest sees in WoW (I hope she doesn’t kill me if she finds out I’m using it, noone knows of this site, anyway):

Not so different from a browser-based game. Are we sure we are actually using the potential of three dimensional worlds?

It’s definitely not a superficial problem and one that seriously needs an answer. I also believe, as the comments I quoted, that we should move away from UI-intensive gameplay and focus more on the immersion, realism and even a simplification of the combat mechanics.

Something to think and write about in the future. Consider this a memo.

“Prettier Cotsworld” patch: part 3

What “Class Changes and Cross Cluster Guilds and Alliances”. This is “Prettier Cotswold” patch! REJOICE!

Mythic is pushing out patches on the test server at an incredible speed, so the week isn’t ended that we have already the third part just two days after the previous.

Most of this patch focuses on more class changes to the assassins and some adjustements to the previous changes to the hybrids. I noticed they moved the proc heal styles to the enhancement line instead of the healing one, solving at least one of the problems I pointed since the other line usually doesn’t have a lots of points into it, making those skills too weak to be worth the space they take on the quickbar and still not enough to justify a respec. I won’t comment further the other class changes and fixes because I don’t find useful to try to explain those changes if I cannot offer worthwhile comments. I just don’t know the classes well enough and instead of gathering some superficial comments I decided to just shut up. I’m also having an high degree of frustration writing here in the wider context and not being able to say anything incisive (I’m at loss about this site for some reason. I cannot gather my thoughts, I find hard to explain things and even writing a few lines is a pain and takes me too long).

All the changes appear to be solid, though, and make sense.

On the other side there were many changes behind the scenes to the recent overhaul of the starting villages. Some of my complaints in the other post were solved and running around the village to check all the minor changes made me remember how much I love this game and how much I’d like to see it more popular, successful and evolving. In fact the main reason why I hate to write about the class changes it’s because I always feel that six months from now we’ll still be at the starting point. You seem to never achieve anything and most of the class redesign are circular movements. You never make a step forward, it’s all redundancy.

Instead the little things and fixes, the graphic updates, the reorganization of a zone, streamlining the newbie experience, enhancements to the UI, client and controls… All these are small, always understimated changes that instead always go in a positive direction. They are always definite improvements without the gain/loss scenario of the class changes where you always gain some and lose some as if you can never achieve anything satisfying and are stuck permanently in a sort of “meh” status.

Running around Cotswold makes me content and I wish that these types of enhancement would never stop. The place is so cozy and pretty now. They added “pathway” textures to lead to the various places and this alone makes the zone so much better. The newbie Darkness Falls dungeon now has a path leading to it, even if it’s still located outside the town. It’s still hard to spot but I changed my mind on the critics I made. The orientation of the cave entrance, away from the village instead of facing it, is good after all because more coherent with the sense of story. You move out of the village to find a place that doesn’t belong to it like if it was just another building or the entrance to SI. They added a new NPC that is easy to spot. It gives a funny quest (ooh, “spin the elixir”) that will drive a new player naturally inside the dungeon. So this NPC along with the new pathways on the ground will do a very good work to direct the players without making them feel lost. I truly approve these changes :)

These pathways added really add a new dimension to the game. No, I’m not crazy. This is the major difference between how the great zones in WoW are compared to those bland and dull in DAoC. In WoW each place is planned and modeled to have its own identity. You can take a screenshot and I’m able to recognize the exact spot. These zones build a seamless world with its own consistence and this is one of the things that WoW did better. In DAoC, instead, the zones are usually flat and featureless. There’s “terrain” but there aren’t really “places”. Pretty much all of the starting zones are about a mix of hills and plains bundled together just as a “space”. A “case”. It’s a box for the players to move within, but it doesn’t really have environments or “places”. There’s the grass, the hill and the trees, mixed together at random and failing at creating an immersive environment. It’s only a simulation of an environment without an actual content that gives it a quality.

The pathways instead are a perfect example of that dimension that DAoC missed. It was enough to add a few textures to create paths and some wood fences here and there that the game space acquired some direction and personality. It’s hard to explain in words what I mean but it’s enough to look at the new path that now connects Camelot with the housing zones that you easily understand what a big difference it makes (Mythic, consider this while developing the zones for Warhammer, these are the important “details”). See how the trees now border and follow the road instead of just being scattered randomly? See how this is already enought to bring some life to the place? It’s not anymore just a space connecting two points (the capital and the housing zones), but an environment with its own consistency. It’s not anymore “filler” space (see how it looked before) with a bunch of hills and trees distributed randomly, instead it becomes an handcrafted environment that has something to offer. A quality that gives a new dimension to game space. Making it interesting and helping the players relating to it (both for the immersion and to not feel lost in the continuity of the randomness of trees and hills). The terrain cannot remain just terrain as a space to hold something. It must be modelled and created. Shaped so that it can acquire its own quality that adds to the rest of the game. The terrain isn’t just a functional backdrop, it’s the fabric of the world. And that world need consistence and value already on its own.

Beside the paths I think they added some more objects inside the houses and slightly tweaked the lightmaps (they look more consistent now even if still not perfect). About the lightmaps: I hate DAoC’s engine but one thing that it does wonderfully is the rendering of the lights and colors (Morrowind is the same). I would really suggest this truly revolutionary idea. Why not get rid of the faked player torches in the game so that you could build an environment without having to tune it for both possibilities? This could even join another idea I suggested a while ago. This is another of those innate qualities of the game that could really be better used. Removing the player torches as a triggerable, artificial light could make all the zones and dungeons much more immersive and good-looking. As a compromise between a place too dark and one too bright, so that the colors would *really* come to life. Adding then dynamic, colored lights to all spells and effects (like the glowing weapons) would transition the game into a visual MASTERPIECE. Of course this isn’t a simple task and would probably require a huge work on the programming side, but then you could take advantage of the Warhammer fork to justify this work and integrate it with both games. It would be really an unique feature that no other game will be able to mirror in a long time.

Finishing the comments about the latest changes to the new starting village layout: I think they added a new tree type that looks nice and adds some variety and it’s now possible to see outside the buildings through real windows. New players now spawn in the world near their class trainer instead of inside an empty house (as I ranted about in the comments to the previous patch), and the Shrouded Isles portal has now a new look. It looks better in fact and, as I said above, contributes along with all the other tweaks and changes (pathways again!) to make the village so pretty and welcoming. If you try to log in the old version after getting used to the new changes the difference seems rather big.

I so love it! You did a great work Mythic.

(I collected some more screenshots)

Make some of the emotes reset if the player moves. /worship while moving looks just too silly.





































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A guide to crafting in Eve-Online

This is the result of a thread I opened on F13 a while ago to ask the details about the crafting in Eve-Online, the guide is not written by me but here I archive the article slightly reorganizing it. The original posts are still in the original thread. Thanks to Yoru to have written it.

The crafting system in Eve is rather complex and not really accessible if you don’t read and learn about it somewhere. It’s one of those parts of the game with a lot of depth and complexity but that you have to discover all by yourself and without any help from the game. It’s completely missing from the tutorial and I don’t think you can build a character that can “craft” right out of the box. So it’s one of the advanced parts that you usually discover only when you have already invested a good amount of time in the game.

Basically everything you can use in the game is craftable. Ships, ammunition, modules. You can buy these right off the market already ready for the use or produce them yourself. In general the crafting is an highly specialized activity that also depends on other parts of the game, so it’s actually not really possible to build all you need directly without depending on anyone else. That’s one myth that doesn’t work in Eve and to be a good crafter you must be already deeply involved in the game on other levels, or have a player corporation supporting you.

There’s two big parts to crafting: manufacturing and research. For basic tech 1 stuff, these involve two components: minerals and blueprints.


Blueprints are recipes; they let you combine a given quantity of minerals and produce something. There’s two types of blueprints: blueprint originals (“BPOs“) and blueprint copies (“BPCs“).

The difference between the two isn’t about the final product (that is always the same) but about the process to create/craft it. BPOs can be “researched” to optimize the crafting process (time and resources consumed) and can be used an unlimited number of times. While the BPCs have a limited number of runs and cannot be used in research.

Blueprints have four basic stats:

* Number of runs – This dictates how many times you can use the blueprint. (only for BPCs, the BPOs are infinite)
* Base Production Time – How long manufacturing will take for one use of the blueprint.
* Mineral Efficiency (“ME”) – This dictates how much material will be wasted. Higher mineral efficiency means less waste, but the effect of higher mineral efficiency increases at a logarithmic rate (that is, as the level of mineral efficiency increases, each additional level eliminates less and less waste).
* Production Efficiency (“PE”) – This dictates how long manufacturing one run of the blueprint will take. Like mineral efficiency, the benefit has a logarithmic dropoff.

(Math: Both efficiencies are basically used to calculate waste by taking the base waste and multiplying by 1/(1+x), where x is the ME or PE rating. 1/(1+x) isn’t the exact formula, but it’s a close approximation.)

As already explained, only a BPO can be researched. So the last two stats are fixed in a BPC, while they can improve through research in a BPO. A brand new BPO is supposed to always start with both ME and PE at zero.

BPOs also have three additional stats:

* ME Research Time – How long the BPO will be sitting in a lab when researching 1 point of ME.
* PE Research Time – Same thing as above, but for PE.
* Copy time – Same as above, but how long it will take to create a BPC with 1 run from this BPO.

How to acquire BPs in the game:
– Tech 1 Blueprint Originals can be acquired either as a reward for running agent missions, purchased off the standardmarket from NPCs or (rarely) purchased off the escrow market from PCs.
– Blueprint Copies are acquired either as a reward for running agent missions or via trade with other players (either directly or via the escrow market). They can be created by players; a BPO is put into a ‘copying’ research slot and produces a BPC after a given amount of time. BPCs inherit the basic stats of their BPO parents if they’re manufactured; otherwise, the stats are determined by the mission system.

– Tech 2 BPO Lottery (note from Dave Rickey): You have to work up your standing with the companies that have R&D agents, and with the individual agents, and have high enough Sience skills yourself. Once you have, you can tell the R&D agents to start researching. They accumulate Research Points, which are basically tickets for a lottery. When you win the lottery for a BPO, you don’t have to take it, you can choose to hold your points and keep trying. Even a marginal T2 BPO is worth more than a billion, the really good ones (like those just coming out for Interdictors and Recon ships) are worth upwards of 20 billion isk. But it takes a lot of time and money to get into the running, you have to work up your Science skills, some of which are very expensive, as well as run all the missions to get your standing up with the agents and their NPC corporations.

But it takes a lot of time and money to get into the running, you have to work up your Science skills, some of which are very expensive, as well as run all the missions to get your standing up with the agents and their NPC corporations.


Raw materials that come from reprocessing items at the stations or mined ore. ‘Nuff said.


Research is a time and money sink that slowly improves MP or PE values of the blueprint being researched. Only a BPO can be researched since a BPC has fixed values for MP and PE.

Research is meant to help you improve your BPO before using it in production, since a ‘raw’ BPO off the market is generally quite slow and wasteful. Research is performed at stations (NPC-owned stations, PC outpost stations; I believe the POS research arrays are currently bugged). Any given research-capable station will have a fixed number of slots, usually 20. You can search for research-capable stations by clicking on the ‘science & industry’ button on your UI, going to the last tab (‘Installations’), and setting the filters to search for whatever you’re looking for.

When you have a BPO you want to research, you first look for a station with open slots for the research type you want to perform. For manufacturing, PE research and Blueprint Copying, you should be fine – in empire, I rarely see a shortage of these. Mineral Efficiency research slots are almost always clogged up in the main regions, so you may have to travel around to find an open slot.

Once you’ve found a station with an open slot, you physically take your blueprint to that station and drop it in your hangar (or your corp’s hangar). Next, you install your blueprint, either by rightclicking on the blueprint and choosing the type of research you want, or by navigating through the science & industry UI. You’ll be asked where you want the blueprint to be taken from and placed into, as well as asked for a number of runs through the research facility. Punch in your info and hit OK, you’ll be presented with a price quote. Generally, only ME research is particularly expensive. Hit OK and your BPO will get sucked into the system. Your science & industry UI’s ‘jobs’ tab will now show your job as ‘In Progress’ for a while.

As an aside, when doing research, it’s usually worth it to specify multiple batches at a time. This allows you to keep your slot for multiple runs and avoid having to run around looking for a slot each time you want to research the BPO. For low-end stuff, like ammo and frigates, a ME of 10 is probably enough. Generally, as the item’s expense increases, the more valuable higher ME will be.

Wait a while. Your research will probably take hours, days or even weeks. Go do other stuff. Once your job is done, it’ll be shown as ‘completed’. You then have to go back to the station where the completed job is and hit ‘deliver’ in the science & industry UI. The blueprint, now improved as you’ve specified, will pop out into your (or your corp’s) hangar, ready to be researched again or used in production.

In order to do research, you will need the skill Laboratory Operation, at least at level 1. This will require the skill Science at level 3. There are skills that can be used to speed up the research process (Metallurgy for ME; for larger blueprints, having a good Metallurgy is recommended), but they’re optional, especially for low-end BPOs.

Research generally has no material requirements and tends to not cost too much; the exception is ME research. (Research is priced by the hour. Most research costs a few hundred isk per hour, whereas ME research can cost upwards of 2,000 isk per hour.)


Okay, so you’ve got your nice, researched-up BPO, or your shiny freshly-acquired BPC and now you want to make stuff.

Manufacturing is just like research in that you take your blueprint to a station with the proper facilities; in fact, it uses the same UI, as you’ve probably noticed by now. Instead of Laboratory Operation, you need the Industry skill to run manufacturing jobs.

The main difference is that, for manufacturing, you also need minerals. Rightclicking on your blueprint and opening the ‘show info’ window will reveal that there’s a second tab on the blueprint’s info, containing the materials required to run the blueprint once.

Two numbers will be displayed, an ‘ideal’ number and ‘your cost’. Your cost is primarily determined by your skills, in particular the ‘production efficiency’ skill (this is different from the stats of a BP), which requires an Industry skill of level 3. It’s a very good idea to get your own PE up at 3 or 4 before you start manufacturing anything more expensive than ammo, as you’ll save a lot of expensive materials. If you want to focus on industry, PE 5 is almost mandatory in the long run; start worrying about PE 5 around the time you want to manufacture stuff larger than cruisers.

Anyway, once you’ve found a free manufacturing slot (shouldn’t be hard), take ‘your cost’ in minerals and the blueprint to that station, and dump them either in your hangar or your corp’s hangar. Set up a manufacturing job in the same way you set up a research job. Select the installation, set your input/output hangars and choose a number of runs.

You’ll be given a quote for the material and ISK cost for the job you’ve submitted; annoyingly, they only give you an itemized list broken out by materials-used-for-production and materials-used-for-waste, with no aggregate total. Hit OK and the minerals and blueprint will disappear from your hangar. Note that the material costs listed on a blueprint are usually a little bit of an overestimate, so don’t panic when you have stuff left in your hangar.

Manufacturing takes much less time than research, usually on the order of minutes or hours. Once it’s done, hit the deliver button on the science & industry UI. Your finished items will be deposited in the appropriate hangar. If you were using a BPO or didn’t use all of a BPC’s runs, it will reappear in the hangar it was taken from.

Congratulations, you’re now a basic crafter in Eve. There’s a lot more skills you can add on beyond the four I’ve mentioned; most of them let you run multiple jobs, let you run jobs remotely, or speed jobs up. They’re beyond the scope of a noobler’s guide to crafting, though. Browse the market and read the skill descriptions, they’re mostly self-explanatory.

Mythic feeds me more patch notes

I just finished to comment the latest patch notes from DAoC that a new one arrived on the test server. And no, I won’t follow Sanya’s “suggestion” (Read, Test, THEN Post) :)

I pretty much confirm the comments on the previous notes, the patch looks solid and well thought. I could go nitpicking but overall they are doing a good work.

The most relevant changes are about the classes, as expected, with another MUCH NEEDED change to the UI so that the effects on the armor and weapons could be actually usable. This last change is one I ranted about for a long time and some of the work already began with the previous patch, even if the system wasn’t finalized.

Before the change in order to use an effect/power on your equipment (think to the usable trinkets in WoW for an example) you had to exit combat, target an enemy, open the inventory, right click on the item with the effect, type “/use” to finally fire the effect and reenter combat to resume your normal attacks. While it was possible to cut some of this “micromanagement” by adding an “/use” macro to a quickbar you can still clearly understand how absolutely broken, unusable and frustrating was this system. I never tolerated it because this is one kind of design that should have NEVER made to a live game.

With the new change they streamlined the whole process and even tweaked a few other elements of the UI. The effects/powers on item can now be used simply by pressing the correspinding icon, as it should have been from the start. I’m not sure about the combat/out of combat thing because I never actually used these powers (I always refused to waste my time on ToA artifacts). Other minor, but appreciated, changes are about the addition of an “info” button to the items mini-window that would open directly the complete ‘delve’ window with the detailed informations. I still think that using three different windows (tooltips, mini-window and ‘delve’ window) to have complete informations on a item or skill or spell is a bit too much and the UI could use a more consistent and radical rework. But at least, even if not perfect, these changes make sense and are serviceable. It’s always better to clearly show buttons than requiring the player to know the keyboard shortcuts. In this case the ‘delve’ window could be opened only by pressing a key.

Beside the UI and minor bugfixes there are the class changes as I said. Here I’m cautious to make comment because I don’t know the classes well enough and I don’t have the competence to comment about the balance.

In the case of the assassin classes (Nightshade, Infiltrator, Shadowblade) the changes are exactly as largely anticipated by the community. They mostly affect their performance Vs caster classes since the most relevant and shared change is the possibility to “destroy” with a stealthed attack the bladeturn defensive spell (and “brittle guard”, a ToA skill) that some casters use. Beside this, the damage of these stealth attacks has been raised “slightly” and the damage of the Shadowblade when using these skills with a 2H weapon increased “significantly”. The “Remedy” skill of the Nightshades was also nerfed but this is tied to more upcoming changes so it’s actually pointless to comment it while it’s still unfinished.

So pretty much what everyone was already expecting, without many surprises or new interesting possibilities.

There were other “minor” tweaks here and there. Some changes to some Master Level skills that I have no clue about and a “nerf” to the Warlocks by making it chain spells on a longer timer (three seconds instead of two). There was also a change for the Bainshees, instroducing fall-off damage the further you move away from its cone spells, which makes sense.

The rest is about the three hybrid classes. Even here it’s easy to group the changes. Friars and Wardens got two new instant spells with a duration of 30 seconds and recasting time of 30 seconds, also. Yeah, it’s odd but it may make sense. Why add an instant spell that, with those recasting and duration timers, can basically remain always on? My guess is to add a degree of “twitch” since using and keeping these spells alive will involve directly the player instead of remaining a passive effect to cast only in preparation of a battle. The second reason was coming from a misunderstanding of the mechanic that could actually make a fun idea that I’ll explain below.

These instants give the caster a 15% of possibility, when hitting a target in melee, to heal for a really low value his allies within a radius. There are two versions of this skill, one working within a 1000 unit range (only on the group) and the other within 250 (for every player within the range), but with a bonus on the healing varying from 40% to 20%, depending on the level of the spell.

I always welcome defensive skills because DAoC TRULY needs to slow down the combat and make it more satisfying. So every buff of the defensive skills is always appreciated. In this case I’m kind of sceptical because it happens rarely that Friars have many points on the rejuvenation line and the odds of this spell having an actual relevant impact are very, very low. I’m not even sure if I would bother to use it if I was a Friar.

My suggestion is to give some depth to the system, also following the misunderstanding I had while reading the patch notes. So the idea is about making the change in the way I wrongly assumed it worked. There are two different possibilities:
1- Make the two spells stack together, raise both recasting times to 60 seconds and boost up the healing effect.
2- Do not make the two spells stack, raise both recasting times to 60, and “double” each spell, making each copy stack together but not one with the other (the PBAOE and group heal).

The idea is to give really a “twitch” choice to the caster. Instead of just cycling the spells to keep them alive, the caster has now a tactical choice: use one after the other to have the effect “always on”, or both together to have them stacking, but expiring after 30 seconds without the possibility to “restart” them (due to the 60 seconds recast timer).

In the first case both would have a recasting time of 60 seconds and a duration of 30, so you would need to trigger one and the other only as the first expired to have an “always on” effect. With the alternate possibility (the choice) to use them all at once to have them stack but for a shorter period of time. The second possibility I suggested is a little more complicated but does just the same, it only doubles the spells so that the player could still have the choice to use exclusively one version or the other (PBAOE instead of group heal).

My guess is that in Mythic’s implementation and purposes the skills don’t stack and the player will only have to choose between one or the other. My idea (the first) could be simple enough to implement and offer some more “active gameplay” (the choice to stack the skills together OR use one after the other). So possibly more fun.

All these comments were about the shared changes between Friars and Wardens. Beside these the Friar had its heal over time spell boosted up (both in healing done and double duration) and a self-buff heal proc added.

The Thanes had the casting times progressively lowered and the ranges progressively increased on some offensive spells (bolt, AOE and instant DD) and three spells added. The first is an energy debuff, the second is another energy debuff but castable on its weapon and the third an odd high level energy DD that seems to disarm the caster for 10 seconds (it basically throws its hammer on the target, but working like a ranged spell). Plus some tweaks to the RR5 skill, removing the casting time and making it another instant while nerfing its damage after the first target (it’s a lightning bolt that jumps from a target to another).

This should be everything. As I said at the beginning the changes look good enough even if they don’t really add much to the game. Lots of retooling with the same stuff, lots of mixing, but not much when it comes to add some consistent new systems, so I’m not sure if these changes will actually bring some more *fun* to the game. I think the changes to the heavy classes in the previous patch were more creative and offered more direct gameplay, while what we got for this patch is more in line with the old balance tweaks, offering less occasions to actually enrich the combat system.

Beside this I actually found some time to log in Pendragon to test the newbie stuff I commented in the other entry. I have so-so feeling about it.

As I logged in the game with a new character I was basically dumped into an house from the roof, in Cotswold. Not exactly my idea of “polish”. The house is small and you have an NPC right beside you. You would expect it to give you some newbie informations but the NPC is just passive and it does absolutely nothing. The house is empty beside that NPC. The lightmaps work this time but they aren’t really well done. There’s a fireplace and if you turn off your torch the fire seem just sitting there, in the middle of an absolute darkness and without casting some light itself. So the lighting with the torch on is good, while the lighting with the torch off is broken.

As I exited that house I saw the new layout of the village, which is good. All the buildings now are put at the perimeter of a circle, so it’s better organized, with a new, pretty bindstone in the center. I still wish I had some more indications because again, as a brand new character, there was nothing leading me along the way. I was just dumped in one of the houses with no clue about where to go. Which is very bad for a newbie experience. The trainer for my class (and starting quests) was actually inside one of the buildings. Here the lightmap with the torch on is broken again (the floor is too dark).

I looked around for a while, since I was looking for the Darkness Falls new mini-dungeons. The entrance is actually just by the village but not so easy to find. It’s right behind a building so you have to bump against it to notice and there aren’t any new NPCs leading you there. Plus it looks more like a pile of rocks than an entrance to a dungeon and its entrance is not even facing the village. I don’t think that a new player would find it easily.

All these minor things could use some more work. The player dumped by an NPC who can give some directions, the lightmaps fixed in those few cases and the RvR cave moved in a more visible place, with its entrance facing the village and with some dedicated art so that it actually looks more like a portal than just a clump of rocks.

The dungeon itself is really beautiful since it uses the Darkness Falls art that was redone for the last expansion, even if I think you can see the new art only if you have the expansion. I think the idea is wonderful overall. You won’t hear anymore the players complaining about having to kill rats. In fact the environment is rather intimidating for a new player, even too much.

In this case the lightmaps are really, really well done, both with the torch on and off, but I still have a few critiques to make on different aspects:

– The first is that the dungeon is way too big. Mythic always exaggerates when planning the new zones and here they repeated the mistake once again. It’s not huge, but I would remove at least some of the rooms to make it more streamlined.

– Another change I would suggest is to make the mobs drop some loot instead of just gems to resell to vendors. In the first levels of every game the loot is really important for a new player because it provides incentives to continue to play and explore the game, instead of just focusing on the repetition of the combat (since you basically have no skills to use). So I would work to add more interesting loot tables to ALL the mobs in the dungeon (not just the leet stuff noone will ever kill in a newbie zone) and let the players equip themselves without the need to buy junk from vendors.

– The third suggestion is to add a bind point inside the dungeon so that the players don’t have to zone in/out when they die. This may be a minor point since the entrance is so near to the village but I think it would add to the fun, in particular when these newbie zones are so terribly deserted. You definitely cannot plan them as expecting hundreds of players within.

I also noticed that there’s a deep purple named mob inside. All good, but I would tone it down so that it’s actually doable with not more than four players. It just won’t happen that the dungeon will regularly see more than an handful of players. And I would consider already rare the fact that you aren’t alone. So, for god’s sake, plan the content and the spaces accordingly to the players that use them and not on an arbitrary preconception so distant from the reality. It could have been also interesting to reuse the same art but “recompiled” and rescaled to not just use the same sets of DF. Like a poket version of DF not only in the number of rooms, but even in their scale. Making these dungeons more unique instead of simply reused art (which also kills the variation and the expectations of the players since you play in DF at level 1 in the same way you’ll play in DF at level 49. Guess why DAoC’s PvE is boring?).

It’s still a very good idea since the game would show its best profile right out of the box. With the possibility to get involved in RvR from the first level in the case you happen to find another player lost in there.

So, overall, these newbie changes are very good ideas that could still use a more careful and polished implementation. It’s mostly about tuning and reorganizing what is available more than creating new stuff. Mythic is doing a decent work, but they could improve when it comes to the actualization of these ideas. Too often these things are thrown in without much thought.

Uff. I write endlessly again without saying anything. I also collected a few screenshots that I’ll add here. The new layout in Cotswold and that newbie dungeon. I still love DAoC’s artists, I wish Mythic would use their talent better :)


































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OMG, Smed has a blog

I was reading this on Lum’s blog, I read the line and then continued to read, then I blinked and read it again: now even Smed has a blog.

After all he loves to send e-mails to Cosmik and publicize Aggro Me on the community pages of EQ2.

Let’s face it…farming does happen.

And where are the design responsibilities of this?

RMT is an useful diagnosis for the integrity of game design. Lum wrote the rest.

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