Things you cannot do in mmorpgs

I noticed that Aggro Me linked a video with EQ2 players doing crazy jumps around Freeport. It reminded another video that I saw the day before about a totally insane domino setup made in Oblivion.

“Empowering the players”, or: things you cannot do in mmorpgs.

Try for example to do those jump in Guild Wars, or, in the case of the domino example, try to give the players the possibility to dig holes in the terrain. The day after the whole world would be transformed in a Gruyere.

When I was imagining my “dream mmorpg” and thinking about focusing on the interaction, I got the idea of allowing players to “push” each other. Well, a simple feature like this would be already a disaster, but also “magic”. Think for example of sitting near a cliff, watching the panorama. A player passes by and pushes you down the cliff. See ya. It’s already a mini-game!

Add a platform as a limited space, add five players on it and then let them toy with the “push” function to see who’s the last one to remain standing on the platform.

It could be already a fun model that could lead to add some variation in a game and add to the experience. For example those thoughts lead me to imagine the “inferno” zone. A full PvP zone mingled with PvE where squads of players have to move around with flying platforms. Through a simple physics model these platform can bend in a direction (depending on triggers or players’ position) and the inclination would affect the physics model. Add both PvE and PvP combat to this situation and you would have the most crazed experience ever in a mmorpg.

There are lots of possibilities. During WoW’s beta you could create fireplaces to cook stuff, it’s still possible in the game. But during beta these fireplaces had collision on and the players learnt to use them to create absurd piles as ladders to reach unreachable places. I remember insane piles in Ironforge going up to the roof where the gryphon passes right now and people sitting on top of the auction house. The result? Blizzard removed the collision from the fireplaces so that you couldn’t stack them anymore.

While it’s not possible to give the players “control” in a game, all these tools can be extremely innovative and precious *in a mmorpg*. Not in a single-player game. These features aren’t a limit in a cooperative game, they are a potential that must be governed. It’s when you can affect other players that things become interesting, that what you do achieves a meaning. The interaction becomes the focus of the game. A game-world becoming consistent and moving steps away from game-y environments where you can only follow what is strictly part of the game. The overall idea of a “world” as opposed to just a game.

3D is powerful even for that reason. You can look around and turn in the direction you weren’t supposed to look to. Or jump and reach places where you weren’t meant to be.

At the end the driving purpose of these mechanics was the “immersion”. Or the possibility to shape an environment coherently with the expectations of the player. Or: self-consistence.

If it isn’t possible to give the players the control, it’s still viable a modular approach. The video from Oblivion suggested me some interesting possibilities for a “trap system”. Think for example to a PvP environment where the players can conquer territories and castles. It could be possible to build a simple trap system made modular so that a castle would have a number of hook points where you could place triggers and related traps. With a good modularity (different triggers, different traps, linked triggers and traps etc..) it could be easily possible to remove the predictability and obtain a system that still plays within the rules while adding variance to the game. Think about then letting the players set traps in the forests, set alarms and so on.

All these tools would add very little to a single player game, but they could become truly interesting in a game where you have more ways to interact and affect other players. With rules so that these systems cannot be used out of their context.

Adding this type of “variation” and focus to other types of interaction beside combat and enhanced treadmills, are ways to shape an immersive world. Think about going to hunt in a forest, and have the animals not react just to aggro radiuses, but to sound and line of sight, so that you would have to sneak in slowly and pay attention to not scare your prey and let it run away (instead of suddenly charge against you in every case).

These are ways to make the experience richer and more immersive. To create truly interesting and FUN virtual worlds. This is the “variety” I want to see. Consistent and immersive. Not penguins and metaverses.

More time wasted

I noticed on mmorpgdot something about “Mourning”, one of those vaporware mmorpg projects that exist only to demonstrate how people are gullible and that mmorpgs are the new cult (just open a website saying you are working on a new mmorpg and the forums will get swarmed with goons). If you search for “mourning” on this site you can find some fun about its launch a year ago.

Here’s some recent fun:

Nuanced Entertainment to develop Age of Mourning.

Based in Greenville, South Carolina USA , with additional staff located all over the world , Nuanced Entertainment is focused on the development and research of Massive Multiplayer Online Gaming. Nuanced Entertainment consists of a tightly knit group of seasoned professionals which have held positions with such organizations as Electronic Arts , Blizzard Entertainment and NCsoft in the past and have been involved in many of the higher profile titles in the MMOG genre such as Everquest , World of Warcraft and lineage 2 as programmers and artists bringing with them an indispensable wealth of knowledge.

It looks like now everyone and their sister has Blizzard devs in their company. Come on, I really cannot believe that someone working for one of those three companies prefers to start a contractor studio to work on that sort of crap that will never get released. Is this really the only way for emergent developers to find a place? Nah, I don’t think it is, the situation isn’t that awful.

This is definitely a complete waste of resources. If you give a look at the website you can see that they are supposed to work on three/four projects at the same time (one is a MUD?) and that “Mourning” is being co-developed with another studio called “Loud Ant”.

But the most fun comes from the description of the game and main goal:

Age of Mourning is about your deeds and continued struggle to carve out your name within the world. Age of Mourning is about your bloodline. Most MMORPG’s claim to be realistic online worlds when in reality they are nothing more than static level treadmills that eventually only cater to the high end player base. Once you have “leveled up” and experienced all the low end content; there is really no purpose for it any longer and it rarely if ever gets any attention so it remains a useless forgotten experience when it could be much more. In Age of Mourning our world is truly dynamic and always changing. Because of our bloodline system, players have the ability to experience not only new high end content but also new low end content because of the endless life cycle of being reborn and dying while continuing their bloodline or lineage. This endless cycle allows us to concentrate on both the low end and high end experience and no longer makes the low end gaming experience useless over time. No longer is there a high end cap. Players will experience all the game has to offer continuously in a changing , endless , real world gaming cycle.

Eheh, yes. You have read it right. Their world is “truly dynamic and always changing” because you have to regrind all over again all the content every time you die.

They are trying to sell this as a quality. It’s incredible how many amateurish projects out there can reach those peaks of design stupidity. It’s really all on the most basic and elementary level possible. And they have no clue. Less clue than a player randomly picked from the community. I’m in pure awe.

I’m writing about this essentially because I already examined this silly point of view. And defined it “selfstabbing”.

See also this other shorter point of view.

That goal they want to reach is actually possible. But you don’t reach it through permdeath. You reach it through sandbox models and a flat power growth on the characters (no levels). Aka: permeable barriers.

Posted in: Uncategorized |

Eve-Online 2006 Battleplan

Even Eve-Online has its own Battleplan. You can read it in the dev blog feed I’ve set up (scroll down).

Oveur is probably the most competent mmorpg producer currently in this industry but the recent announces didn’t please me much (the delay to the Factional Warfare and the support for voice chat, for the most part). With this battleplan he goes in great detail to explain what are the reasons behind those choices and I think I’ll be back already in September if everything goes as they are planning (I expect delays). They haven’t lost the ambition, even if I don’t share some of their choices.

Most of what’s written in the Battleplan is what they already announced at the E3, but there are a few relevant changes about their schedule.

Actually, from the forum posts I read, the main point of Kali’s delay isn’t such a bad thing. TQ is doing well and a good stable Kali release is the best thing for everyone. However, Factional Warfare seems to be the main object of frustration. While it’s great to see such enthusiasm for a single feature within EVE, there is a boatload of reasons for the segmented release.

Yes, there’s another delay. Initially the DirectX 9 engine upgrade was planned to be released around September, with the first segment of the Kali patch scheduled for a late June/early July release and Factional Warfare not sooner than next year.

The new plan pushes back the engine upgrade to April 07, if not later, even if Oveur says that it may arrive sooner. While the first segment of the Kali patch won’t arrive before September and with the Factional Warfare that should be ready before the end of the year.

The reason of these delays, in particular about the first Kali patch, is the launch in China:

China is a very big project. We realized that it would be big, but never this big! The China release was not supposed to have any effect on Tranquility – and to try and ensure that, we doubled the number of developers here at CCP. We’re now up to 96 people.

Still, because of EVE’s complexity, there is a need for a lot of the talent to work on the China release at some point in time, which has caused a cascade of resource shifts. With the expectations of the China market and the nature of the MMO industry over there, you only get one chance (the China MMO market alone is bigger than its entire western counterpart).

We therefore switched the focus points of a number of core developers to make sure we would be successful. And I’m sure you would ask why; how can EVE China be in a position to cause delays for Tranquility projects?

It’s really simple at its core. If EVE is successful in China, the revenue which would become available to fuel the evolution of EVE would skyrocket.

We tried to prevent EVE China from affecting the Tranquility release schedule and diverted considerable sums of our revenue into trying to ensure that. However, it still happened. Fortunately, EVE China will get launched over the next month and the effects of a successful EVE China will bring EVE to new station-dancing, planet-bombing, asteroid-bursting heights.

So the launch is planned for June and they seem to have high expectations about it. I hope everything goes as planned but launching a product in a bigger market doesn’t mean that it will automatically scale with it. We have already plenty of examples of mmorpgs launched in different zones and with much different results.

Lineage didn’t go anywhere in the western market, WoW was extremely successful in the eastern market and EQ2 didn’t even manage to successfully launch. It’s extremely hard to find a pattern. Summary: unreliable results.

It will be interesting to see how the eastern market will react to a completely different product like Eve, but at the same time I would keep the expectations realistic. It’s extremely hard to predict how this launch will go and how it will affect the future of Eve.

About the delay to the “Factional Warfare” (announced for next year at the E3) it seems I wasn’t the only one deluded:

Prioritize, dammit! Factional Warfare is God!

As much as I agree with this point, it’s also the most risky project we have done for a while. We don’t want a situation where 120.000 subscribers start doing Factional Warfare only. (Remember level 4 agent missions?)

Likewise, there are a number of core features that need to be in place for us to be in a position to release Factional Warfare. Better Combat Organization is one, the Contract system is another. This simply needs to be taken in steps.

The main frustration comes from the timeline, since the path to Kali spans the next year from now and Factional Warfare would be at the end of that. Well, this isn’t exactly how it is today, but plans tend to change.

“Plans tend to change” and here is the new planned “best effort” schedule:

Kali One Release – September 2006

This is what we’re aiming to release in Kali One. The list is created from a number of criteria, the main factors being a “Prerequisite for future release”, “low risk, short development, big bang” or “we really need to get this done” project.

* Contracts
This is the most extensive addition in this release, something which will affect players of all ages. Gives you the ability to manage corporations offline and create “missions” for players and corporations alike.
* Combat Organization
The new seamless map with new system scanning, new gang features and better facilities for situational awareness.
* Exploration
Rewarding exploration of space, utilizing new system scanning and the new seamless view (see above), enabling you to discover escalating paths. This is a prerequisite for Next-Gen R&D, which will be used for gathering a plethora of R&D items.
* Next-gen Research & Development
We’re opening up this aspect of EVE with Reverse Engineering and Invention, enabling you to create Tech II blueprint copies by gathering knowledge and technology through various means, such as exploration.
* Combat Boosters
Creates regional uniqueness for 8 regions, from 0.0 COSMOS constellations with unique resources to mini-professions and specialized starbase structures. A whole value chain will be created around these items, enabling players of all “ages” to be part of the bigger process.
* Ship Upgrades & Salvaging of Shipwrecks
This instantly creates content throughout the whole EVE universe. By making all destroyed ships – player and NPC alike – drop new ingredients, which are salvageable with the right profession skills and tools, we create a massive market for ingredients and ship upgrades, which the average EVE player can now utilize to further upgrade his own ship.
* Tier-3 Battleships
The third battleship will be added to all races. Battleships are one of the most frequently used ship classes in-game and the class has only had 2 ships for each race. It’s time for the third Tier.
* Tier-2 BattleCruisers
This popular ship class receives its second battlecruiser to all races.
* Eight New Regions
We’ll be opening up the eight existing but closed regions in the “top right” section of the universe (No, not Jove, just below them). They won’t be owned by any NPC faction and there will be no conquerable stations, only ore and stuff. This is done to make room for more players. It will include various rogue NPC entities.

This is our goal for September. Some of this will in all likelihood not make it, but now you have an idea of our intentions and what we want to achieve.

Kali Two Release – December 2006

Factional Warfare. Nothing else.

Kali Three Release – April 2007

Our final graphics engine upgrades and a similar feature set to Kali One.

The “contract system” is probably the most interest feature they are going to add and that I commented along with the Factional Warfare as they are strictly connected (it’s the backbone of the mission system that will be used dynamically by the NPC factions to assign tasks to the players). But I don’t think it will have a so huge impact on the game during this first stage.

The other features aren’t so clear but there will be more dev blogs coming in the next weeks with exactly the goal to go in great detail about each change. In the meantime there’s this older post with some more details. The most important point is to understand how they’ll be integrated with the game and made accessible to the players. They say that some of those features will have an impact on everyone, we’ll see if this is true and how the players will react.

I just wish they took some time to add formations (I’m waiting them since they were promised in beta) and a better combat representation. Those are still my pet peeves along with some smaller bugs and inconsistences that are in the game since forever.

The delay to the Factional Warfare is unsurprising and expected. As Oveur explains it depends on many other systems and it could easily become the most radical change in the game since release. The potential is HUGE and I really hope they get it right. My disappointment about the delay was mostly because this is a system so complicated and rich that it will become more a “thread” for all the future updates than just a system that is being added and then left behind. I see it as a whole new direction for Eve. A new beginning that should become an overall structure where every other part of the current game will be relocated and reorganized. So it was better to start this as soon as possible because I saw it as an ongoing project that will absolutely need to be segmented by itself. There’s a first step and then all the rest to add more “juice” to it (professions, new missions, new relationships, careers and so on).

Probably the biggest challenge is about putting player corporations and NPC corporations in the exact same condition and potential, so that the overall Factional Warfare structure will include both seamlessly and without discriminations (in the sense that the “logic” of this system won’t make any difference between a player corp and an NPC corp). If this happens it will be easier to integrate the current corp activities in the new overall scheme without disrupting them. This is how I would plan to solve the problem outlined by Oveur, instead of nerfing the impact and potential of the whole system:

We don’t want a situation where 120.000 subscribers start doing Factional Warfare only.

Instead I think they should. But continuing to do what they are doing already WITHIN the context of the Factional Warfare. I see this system as an overall organization. A “motivation”. Rules and possibilities that will apply in particular to the corps that are already active in the game.

I don’t mind the delay by itself, but I think that the accessibility of the game should have the priority and I hope that the Factional Warfare won’t be limited to just a weak attempt without fulfilling its true potential or really starting to move the game in that new direction. It’s both evolutionary and revolutionary. It’s important that it won’t be rushed out, but at the same time it is important that it can become an overall structure for the game, and not just a sidetrack.

Before it was wishful thinking. With the added resources and the growing playerbase this is becoming a necessity for the game. It needs to evolve to support what will come next.

After having said all this, I’m going to criticize what Oveur says about the voice chat. In particular about the implicit accessibility issues:

Sure, not everyone wants it. That’s one of the main reasons why only those that do want it will have to pay for it. It’s optional. There will be opportunities for a corp to enable it for all its members, which is really our main target group.

Nobody is forcing you to use it.

Well, this is far from reality. Voice chat can discriminate and when you are not alone like in a mmorpg you are never really free. You’ll have to adapt. If you can.

Simply put: some can and want to use it, some cannot. This will become another selective process and it will become another barrier. Who is in and who is left out.

The optional support for the voice chat WILL create reasons for a discrimination and WILL divide. This is never good for a mmorpg, whose main purpose should always be about integration.

As I wrote, selective processes are THE WORST OF THE WORST for a mmorpg.

Quoting Darniaq again:

What actually matters is the rules players set. You can mock and sneer all you want, but if 39 people use Voicechat for Raiding or PvP or just dicking around at the Auction House, the 40th person is going to use Voicechat too.

Players make the rules. Everyone else decides to follow them or gets excluded.

WoW 1.11 patch notes

I gave a quick look at the notes for the next patch 1.11. I guess we can expect this one to go live by the end of June if everything goes well. They’ll need some time to test all that hardcore stuff if they don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the previously released epic dungeons.

The 1.10 patch went live at the end of March. It looks like WoW definitely settled for three-months path cycles. On the positive side I have to admit that they are doing more than everyone else with the live patches and the detail with which they address the game problems and inconsistences. They are still doing a very good work from this perspective. In particular if you consider this insteresting point (from Tigole’s interview at Gamespot):

The exact same team building the expansion is also building the live content updates.

What I strongly criticize is instead the direction of the whole game. The excecution continues to be excellent. And the decision to keep the team together instead of splitting it between live and expansions is another of those ideas that the mmorpg industry still has to learn.

Other two unrelated highlights from the same interview:

The flying mount can run on the ground faster than epic mount speed.

We know that sometime in WOW’s lifetime, we’re going to upgrade the graphics engine.

Let’s continue with some highlights from the 1.11 patch notes:

The cost to unlearn talents will now decay over time.

A good, long overdue change.

After a disconnect from the server, it is now possible to log back in immediately, instead of receiving the message, “A character with that name already exists.”

Asking this on every game since forever. I wish Mythic would copy them here (in DAoC you not only cannot log in if you lag out, but you need to restart the whole client after every attempt).

As a note: EQ2 is still superior here. I can disconnect and then quickly reconnect and the game would recuperate without even disconnecting.

– Chain targeted spells and abilities (e.g. Multi-shot, Cleave, Chain Lightning) will no longer hit stealthed or invisible units unless visible to the caster.

– Fear: The calculations to determine if Fear effects should break due to receiving damage have been changed. The old calculation used the base damage of the ability. The new calculation uses the final amount of damage dealt, after all modifiers. In addition, the chance for a damage over time spell to break Fear is now significantly lower. Note that Fear continues to be roughly three times as likely to break on player targets as on non-player targets. In addition, Intimidating Shout now follows that player versus non-player distinction, while previously it did not.

– Periodic Healing: Spells which do periodic healing will now have their strength determined at the moment they are cast. Changing the amount of bonus healing you have during the duration of the periodic spell will have no impact on how much it heals for.

– Reflection: Effects which cause reflection will no longer reflect triggered effects separately from their base effects (eg. Impact, Improved Shadow Bolt, Aftermath, etc.)

Good bunch of consistence fixes. In other mmorpgs these would be just “working as intended” and ignored.

Optimization code known as “M2Faster” is now enabled by default. M2Faster can improve performance in crowded scenes when “Vertex Animation Shaders” is turned on.

I had this enabled when they introduced it a couple of patches ago. But on my Geforce 6800GT it barely made any differece.

To enable this manually you need to add the following line to your “” file in the WTF directory of the game:
SET M2Faster “1”

Or type in the game chat: /console M2Faster 1
It should save the variable in the config file automatically.

Alterac Valley
Most of the NPC guard units have been removed.
Creatures that remain in Alterac Valley have had their hit points reduced.

Another long overdue change.

As I wrote a while ago: NPCs in PvP aren’t a bad idea on its own, but only if the respawn timers are really long. This is not the case in WoW.

Overall it looks like a good patch from the game design perspective. Beside what I quoted the patch has:

– New catass raid instance (Naxxramas)
– Tier 3 armor sets for all classes
– Bunch of class changes that I won’t comment
– Key rings
– Some changes to the cooldown timers on potions and items that seem to make sense
– Nature resist recipes with the Cenarion Circle rep for the catasses
– UI improvements to the raid interface (ported some standard features from CTRaid)
– Flight paths added
– Some PvP Honor armor sets upgraded
– Removal of bijous and coins in ZG (?)

This last one leaves me perplex after what Tigole said in the NY interview before the E3. As I highlighted there, he said that a token system + reputation don’t work well together and they were thinking about changing it. I wrote that I was expecting this to be an intention only for the new content that will be added in the future but the changes in this patch refute my theory (which is good). At the same time I don’t understand the logic behind the changes.

This is what Tigole said specifically about ZG:

ZG was supposed to be a stepping stone into raiding. So you take a guild that has little experience and they go into ZG and for a new group, it’s going to take them a few tries to down the first boss, Venoxis. And they finally kill Venoxis and what do they get? Probably one blue item and then this token item. But even using that token item might require Honored reputation, and so they feel like they’re not being rewarded.

I had that happen to me on one of my characters and I was like, “This is just broken.”

Here I underlined the part that Tigole explained not working really well. It looks like the problem is the reputation being a cockblock on the equipment (what a surprise), preventing you to get the loot even if you won the encounter. But what are they changing with this patch?

Armor quests now only require a Primal Hakkari piece and appropriate faction with Zandalar.

They removed the smaller tokens but not the faction.

About the PvP Honor armor sets, it is interesting to notice that they were upgraded, but not retroactively, nor it’s possible for those who have the old armor sets to return them for new versions. You’ll have to re-grind all the ranks all over again. FUN! FUN!!

Btw. I heard a rumor that with the 1.12 patch they are reworking how the groups for the PvP BGs are being made. If this patch will coincide with clustered servers then it’s possible that they’ll create two different queues for those who join as a group and those who are randomly picked up.

Guild Wars anticipated this since the very beginning.

Overall a good patch with a good execution. But it leaves untouched all the problems that plague this game: satisfactory and accessible endgame content, worthwhile alternatives to raiding and a PvP system that isn’t completely fucked up.

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged:

Btw, I’m an idiot.

What I wrote here below about the “bolts” was a complete misunderstanding on my side.

They aren’t talking about crossbows (who still suck, btw) but the spell “bolts”, like fireballs and such.


Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged:

Bring back precasting… on bolts. (another challenge to Mythic)

As anticipated, this year Mythic brought only Warhammer to the show (E3) and left DAoC behind. That the great majority of the resources were moved to the new project is undeniable and obvious. I just wish they would openly admit it and plan the future of both games accordingly, instead of continuing to answer with half-lies and badly concealed resignation.

The trend is also obvious (a year ago they had the launch of the classic servers to invert the progressive downward trend, this year nothing will stop it). No, it’s not the game being old. It’s just the commitment being shifted to Warhammer, with DAoC obviously suffering from a conservative development that just aims to continue to push it forward till it lasts.

DAoC is already dead, and it started to die when Mythic began working on Imperator. I could try to analyze the game design and development to point out where things aren’t working and how they could improve, but at this point it’s just pointless (as it always was) so I’ll avoid to waste my time mourning.

Instead I’m still interesting to write a few words about the upcoming stuff. Despite the absence from the E3, some details were still leaked about the upcoming expansion:

What they would say is that the new expansion, which will be officially announced soon, has one new race and one new class. Anyone, from any realm, can unlock the class on an account by account basis and then make characters using it. The race comes free with the expansion.

They plan to launch the expansion on their 5 year anniversary later this year.

The official announce is expected for June but the expectations about the announce are really low, I think. This expansion will hardly have “something to say”. Nor it will add much to the game.

For all things that could be tried in an expansion they just decided to go with something rabidly innovative: one new race and one new class. After the huge creative effort to produce that idea they couldn’t be bothered with all the balance problems that could arise, so the wonderful solution: we’ll make the race and class available to all three realms so that there’s only the bare minimum to balance and we’ll avoid all the complaints.

Instead on the forums people are complaining because they see this as lazy work. A demonstration that not much can be expected for this game if not what’s barely necessary as an excuse to kick it forward foe a few more months while Warhammer is being worked on.

It’s unclear if the long delayed rework of the tradeskills will be part of this expansion or if it will come staggered through the live patches. What we know is that both the expansion and the bigger changes on the tradeskills will arrive this fall. And that these changes won’t be anything groundbreaking.

From my point of view another new class is ALREADY WAY TOO MUCH. They aren’t lazy there, just stupid. I really don’t know who feels the need for another class. At this point I really wonder if it’s the case that Mythic wastes even more resources on this sort of stuff. I don’t think the players are asking this, nor I think it will help the game.

You don’t have any good idea for the expansion that is viable with the resources you have available? Ok, don’t do one. There’s so much to do, if the group is small better organize it to make some worthwhile, precise changes on the core points instead of wasting them on stuff that adds nothing and even risks to fuck up the game even more.

Or maybe NOT doing a patch would be already too innovative for Mythic?

Anyway, with the upcoming patch (1.84) they are also focusing on the bolts:

They also plan to focus in on bolts. There is a lot of talk about them and Mythic worries they’re not being used as intended and are having a detrimental effect on RvR. As it finally reached the top of their balance heap, they’re thinking of changing it so bolts only fail when cast on someone already involved in hand-to-hand melee combat. They want them to be an opening gambit, a long range RvR strike. They’re not supposed to be used close up. However, some view them as too hard to use and, as such, refinements must be made.

This is more interesting because I’m going to watch how they’ll solve this, and then I’ll mock them because I can already see the lame direction where they are moving.

It’s true that right now the crossbows are unusable and worthless. The controls are horribly designed. To fire a bolt you need to press the appropriate hotkey, stand completely still for 5 seconds or so (loading the crossbow) and then you’ll be able to fire the bolt, still if you don’t move. On top of this the bolts can miss like a normal arrow. It’s quite obvious that these controls are clunky and it’s really hard to find a situation where the crossbow is worth using. So yes, there’s a problem.

From the few words I quoted, Mythic is looking into the mechanic. Their goals are:
– make them an “opening gambit”, reducing the miss rate
– avoid them being used in melee

Now those two goals hint to a lame solution that they used on the fireballs. An absurd mechanic that I’m sure everyone who played DAoC still remembers and that just MAKES NO SENSE: if you fire a fireball at a target not engaged in combat, the fireball hits and deals damage. If the fireball is fired at a target engaged in combat, it misses.

I don’t know. That’s really a stupid mechanic for a fireball. It’s already deluding the fact that a FIREBALL doesn’t do AOE damage as in every other game that makes sense. You know, the single-target typical magic attack is not a fireball, but the magic arrow. On top of this there’s the fact that you have to check if your target is in combat or not, or the fireball will be uneffective.

It’s rather obvious how stupid and not consistent this mechanic is. It’s just BAD DESIGN all around. It doesn’t make sense, it’s counterintuitive and genre breaking. It has all the possible flaws all at once. What happens now? That they are going to “fix” the bolts (another broken mechanic on its own, as explained) by porting to them the way the fireballs work.

Great plan there.

And I’m writing this because these changes are still being designed. I’m putting my hands forward here and we’ll see how they’ll change this.

Now here’s my point of view.

There are bows and crossbows. There must be some traits that differentiate them and the VERY FIRST THING you have to consider when you design the implementation of these objects in the game is about identifying those traits so that you can replicate them in the game.

– a bow shoots faster but it is less precise
– a crossbow has long reload times but it’s much more precise

Here we have already a basic mechanic that can be easily ported to any game, DAoC included. Not only. It is also consistent with those two goals that Mythic defined above. The crossbows should be more precise (so more probability to hit than a bow) but slow to load (so not really usable if you are in melee).

See? It’s not that complicated. What is left to do is to examine how the crossbows work in the current game (described above) and plan the concrete changes. Which are just two rather trivial modifications to the current system:

1- Preload. The possibility to load a bolt on the crossbow and keep it readied to be fired at any moment and till the character keeps the crossbow equipped.
2- Change the to-hit mechanic. Flat rate 95% “to hit” if the character is standing still when the bolt is being fired, progressively reduced with the running speed down to a minimum of 50%.

That’s all.

Those two simple changes achieve prefectly the goals that Mythic set. They are balanced in the game and are also consistent mechanics with how a crossbow is supposed to work and how people expect it to work in a game. Without the need of the lame solution that makes the bolt miss if your target is engaged in melee.

With those changes the crossbow will REALLY become an “opening gambit” for the tank classes, because they would be able to load the bolt and then fire it later. At the same time the long reload times (cannot reload if you are interrupted) would make it impossible to use a crossbow if the character is engaged in melee. Which is what makes sense in a situation like that.

Take this as another design challenge.

Want to bet that Mythic’s solution will be much worse than mine? I even gave them the advantage of the forewarning ;)

EDIT: I later discovered to have misunderstood the whole thing. Mythic isn’t talking about crossbows but about fireballs (and that quote from tricked me with its mistakes).

If, as announced, they remove the in-combat check on the fireballs/bolts, then it is all good. It should have been like this from the very beginning and I passed a full year arguing with Therrik (former Wizzy TL) about this.

If it’s too overpowering just rise the recast timers and add a minimum range. I expect to hear complaints from the players, though.

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged:

WoW’s lore officially fucked up

Wrote and mirrored on Q23, Metzen admitted that he didn’t do a very good work with the lore for the upcoming expansion.

My point of view isn’t about being picky on the details, but more on the stylistic choices being made. While I really liked the WoW’s universe even in its cartoonish traits and use of humor, I also think that there was always an epic theme that drove things forward. A thread. From my comment:

My opinion is that the use of odd bits like technology or other elements not consistent with the setting is good when it remains CIRCUMSCRIBED.

The problem is when it becomes the main theme.

The same about the use of “humor”. It’s all good till it remains a sidetrack, but it becomes much more annoying when it’s all about that. Overdone. Too emphasized. It’s not anymore an added flavor.

It is not directly related to the “lore”, but for example I really, really HATE the look of all the new armor sets. They aren’t anymore consistent with any setting. They just look like colored plastic and completely miss any sense.

Where’s the metal, bones and leather?

Now we have Voltron.

The point is when it isn’t anymore “epic”, and it becomes just “goofy”.

Here I’m commenting things from my personal point of view and preference but, as we move forward, WoW is becoming more and more goofy, that’s what I see. It’s moving closer to a childish point of view on the setting instead of carefully balancing all the different elements as they did before. Concretely the setting is losing its appeal. It doesn’t “communicate” much anymore to me.

It’s useful here to make a direct comparison because while what Mythic is doing on Warhammer isn’t perfect, at least it gave me an occasion to explain the way I see at the fantasy setting and the elements that belong to it.

I’ll return on these arguments because the “style” of the graphic is only the tip of the iceberg. What is relevant is below, but still strictly connected with what I’m saying on the graphic and what I said a while ago about the level of the “metaphor”.

“Mature” mmorpgs are opening a gap between the game mechanics and the level of the metaphor. Evident examples of this trend can be seen in Vanguard but even in Guild Wars, EQ2. The same WoW and Warhammer, which is being mimicked on the first.

In fewer words: we are losing the “immersion”.

Imho, the immersion is THE MOST important element in a RPG. And it’s the one more overlooked in ALL the current mmorpgs and ALL those currently in development.

Put in another way. A warrior class in a mmorpg doesn’t have anymore ANYTHING in common with its ideal prototype.

What’s the prototype? A source of inspiration.

The gameplay in the current mmorpgs isn’t even remotely close to the fight you see in the video between the dwarf and the orc. Nor it even try to move closer. You don’t see the two characters applying semi-ranged effects, debuffs, DOTs, AOE bolts and all the other fancyful powers that are now “default” of a warrior class.

Math-intensive games that forgot how to “communicate”. How to “reach”.

I commented something recently on Raph’s blog:

It’s about myths and suggestions we all share, that’s why a game world needs to “reach”. There must be both something familiar and unfamiliar.

Games are successful because they relay the “message” much better. More efficiently. They are the most powerful way of communicating.

Why? Because they can be immersive, and being immersive they become even more accessible. Plus they can be both authoritative and empowering.

In all the current mmorpgs that immersivity is the trait that is being slowly forgotten. This is why future games need to look behind and forget the faulty “evolution” we are seeing right now.

This is what I think.

Shadowbane not dead yet (but not joyful, either)

I have a long list of stuff I forgot to write about.

Two months ago Shadowbane went naked, erm… free. We were wondering what could be the consequences of this. The most positive expectation was that the game could have been used to promote a possible sequel that we knew was in the works.

Then we got the news that Wolfpack was blowing up. Goodbye optimism.

This week something appeared on the official website of the game:

I am not at liberty to say much at this moment. There is currently an official announcement in the works that will explain things at greater length and detail. At the same time, we know the community has many questions and we do not wish to just ignore the situation. What I can say at this point is that come tomorrow, Shadowbane will still be running and you’ll still have Sachant and myself here to do what we do best. You will also see Jinx, who is new to the Shadowbane Team but an old member of the community itself.

Let me dispel any rumors before they begin. Today Wolfpack Studios has been dissolved and is no more. With that said, members of Wolfpack are reforming under a new group. This group will be working with Ubisoft to help usher in the next era of Shadowbane.

In other words, do not go anywhere! The Saga that is Shadowbane has many more chapters to be written and read!

And from Ubiq:

So yesterday was my last day at Wolfpack Studios, which is I believe now officially closed down. Yesterday was an odd day, with basically two dozen people sitting around chatting and playing Magic, waiting to be fired. Er, “downsized”. Whatever.

As it stands now, it looks like a new studio will arise phoenix-like from the ashes of Wolfpack. That new studio will initially work on providing contract service and support for other MMO developers, and use the earnings to pitch a next-generation MMO. Some of the contract work is lined up already. As for the original title, it’s far too soon to say what it will be.

As for me, I’m not joining in on the above adventures. I’m pursuing an altogether different alternative, which will be revealed all in good time.

It sounds like a split. Some guys in the studio will stay and pass to the new one and hopefully work on a new mmorpg when the times are mature (unlikely, imho). While Ubiq and maybe some of his mates are moving to something else.

On Corpnews they say SB will need to find an alternate revenue model. It will be interesting to see how this goes as well.

EDIT: The new studio formed is named “Stray Bullet Games”.

The soap opera continues.

And more precisations about Warhammer

So, lets conclude.

It seems that my guess about the “packages” system wasn’t correct. This new interpretation says that every character will eventually unblock all the skills and packages the class has available. As the character reaches the last rank. So this means that the customization and use of templates are true only as you “rank up”, while the packages you have available will be all flattened at the endgame.

This IS GOOD. In fact I suggested it for DAoC. Even if in that case it was a step forward proposed for the support classes.

I support this choice if it reveals to be how the game actually works. It would solve the accessibility problems I underlined and would give a more unique role to the “tactics” system (the specialization of your character). So it’s a more solid design choice.

If the earlier reports are still correct, there’s also to consider the four tiers that should make you specialize your class (branching classes). Determining the preset packages you have available. In this case the number of classes will raise.

The other precisation is about the design of the package system that I discussed on F13 and that I report here.

But Hrose, you are ignoring the biggest thing about this. No levels means (or should mean) very little to no power differentials.

I’m not ignoring it just because you are convinced I am. On my site I wrote:

Considering everything together the “no level” claim is pretty weak. It’s possible that gaining ranks doesn’t scale up your stats, hitpoints and mana (at this point it would be the only real difference), but add a rank-based itemization and you basically have the exact same mechanic that drives DAoC or every other level-based game.

Explaning better, it sounds like you’ll gain a “rank” every “x” skills you unblock in a package. The stuff available in these packages seem to not be only in the form of skills you actively use, but even bonuses to stats and all the rest. Just more manipulable since the players have a more direct choice in what they pick.

But from every point of view you observe this, there’s still a “level up” mechanic that lets you pick +5 to Strength or more Constitution, or bonuses to damage and so on.

What’s this if not “power differential”?

The raw mechanic here doesn’t do anything to flatten it. Which is the process I described:

In DAoC: level up -> allocate
In Warhammer: allocate -> level up

Allocating not only the skills, like in DAoC, but even the bonuses to the stats. I just don’t see a concrete difference in the mechanic used at the base.

Segmenting zones by tiers should also help that a bit. In other words, it sounds good.

This is my guess (level capping the zones in four tiers), I still have to read Mythic confirming this. The doubt is whether the gap of 10 ranks hasn’t already a quite significant power differential or not.

Which is also what I wrote the past Sunday:

Here the game mechanics are extremely important because if they divide the zones accessibility in four (as the four tiers of ten ranks, for a total of forty levels) the PvP could become just a matter of who’s closer to the zone level cap. It’s important here that each new rank isn’t a huge leap over the other

Short version:

You say that Warhammer design is good because the power differential between the ranks is small.

I say that I agree that the power differential being small would make the design of the game “good”.

But at the same time there is no evidence, from the descriptions of the mechanics we have, that the power differential is, in fact, small.

That’s all.

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged: