Last WoW patch

The last World of Warcraft patch is *awesome*.

I’ll see tomorrow if I’m able to summarize why I say so, but they fixed many little things that I report from months and are relevant to the “feel” of the game.

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged:

The forum works

Nice, I just discovered that the forum where I archive lengthy stuff was hidden. Well, now it’s available without an account.

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged:

What a nerf is

Posting on World of Warcraft boards.

So, this is supposed to be just a small suggestion but I’ll add some general comments to explain why I’m asking for something different.

I consider the last patch tweaks as a huge nerf. You don’t usually see me ranting about class skills because I like to discuss the design from a more general level but this time there’s an exception. A “nerf”, as I intend the term, isn’t when the game and the skills are tweaked for balance. A nerf, a real nerf, is when a change wipes out a part of the game (that may or not be unbalanced) resulting in a different way to play that is felt as less fun than the previous one.

I dislike the current changes to the “Charge” ability not because before I could kill more monsters. That’s not the point. I dislike the changes because the charge was fun to use and it helped a lot to play in different situations. It was a nice “tool” that could be used creatively in many situations (I used it to flee, for example). And it was crucial because it offered a wonderful way to face the casters, trying to minimize the impact of the distance and offering warriors a chance to play even during situations that don’t fit with the class (like when two big groups are fighting at a range and warriors can just sit and watch). I understand that the changes were done because the ability was too powerful but the solution took away a good chunk of fun.

So the point is that Blizzard nerfed the most fun skill that my character had. Not powerful. Fun. I’m not asking back the power, I want back just the fun.

As I said the “Charge” was the only creative skill because the rest of the game is more or less about pressing keys along a “fixed” optimal algorithm. The “game” becomes just about pressing keys in the right order when the skills are available with little to no involvement. This means that as the time goes on, the game looses more and more the little tactical depth it had before and it’s becoming just another boring keypressing.

The point is that you can add 100 different styles, but if I’m forced to use them in a fixed order from 1 to 100, you could as well just remove the other 99 because the game doesn’t change at all. Right now the new “Charge” is exactly that: a one-time style that you can use when starting a fight. That’s all, its relevance from a strategical point of view is zero now. The skill was nerfed right into its most important part, the creative and varied use in different situations to become an “opening style” with a fixed use.

So what I ask is what I would have done if I was in charge at Blizzard:
Instead of nerfing the “fun” of the skill, I would have nerfed its power.

But despite all the words wasted by devs on PR stuff about developing the classes to have them all fun and balanced at the same time, the result was completely different:
They noticed a skill too powerful and they nerfed it to a no-use.

So, my conclusion is really simple. Instead of removing the usability of the skill (which makes it fun), I’d nerf its power. The power is that the skill builds your rage and stun the target, the fun is that you can use it when you want. This is how it worked.

This is how it should work to continue to be fun without being powerful:
Since the fun relies on the skill being “always” usable, this should remain unchanged. Instead we affect the power. The skill has three effects, it builds the rage, stuns the target and works as a fast teleport to reach the target.

Of these three effects I’d simply remorve (completely) the stun component. So we’ll basically have a skill always usable that builds the rage and allows you to get closer to enemies.

This way the skill isn’t anymore unbalanced and it keeps all the basic parts that made it fun.

But I’m wasting words as always. The developers of mmorpg, for some unknown reason, seem just able to ruin their games progressively.

Haemish on DAoC

Haemish reviews the new DAoC patch on F13:

My first few nights in DAoC on my own account, as opposed to an account which had a level 50 on it, were not so fun. I discovered the one flaw of all PVP games; if there are no opponents, there is no PVP. I quickly leveled to 4 and found that the level 1-4 battlegrounds were barren of players. Fair enough, leveling up to 5 should take no time. Only when I did, there was no one in the level 5 battlegrounds either. Gritting my teeth, I jumped back on the PVE level treadmill and worked my way up to 10. And since this was before the free level system was enacted, I experienced every one of those levels. The level 10-14 battleground was similarly empty. With a heavy sigh, my mind began to put two and two together.

With the ability to make /level 20 characters for anyone who’d already done the treadmill, very few people bothered to level up a character the old-fashioned way. This hypothesis was proven not only by the wasteland that was the level 1-19 battlegrounds, but by the continuous echo heard in all the old world zones, as well as in the Shrouded Isles zones of the same levels. You could have nuked all the zone servers for all the Classic and Shrouded Isles zones and not disturbed enough people to form a football team. I managed to get a group all of twice the entire time from level 1-20, and that was with a /level 20 character who was trying out an alt on another server than his primary. I’m not going to go so far as to say there are no new players coming into the game, but there weren’t many on my server.

Why I post this? Because even Mythic realized the same issues:

Finally, in any MMO, eventually there comes a time when most of the players online are experienced players and are playing characters that are mid or advanced level. This makes it much harder and tedious for a new player (or an experienced player leveling a new character) to advance their character in levels, as they cannot find other players to group with or to help them.

Now that Camelot is nearly three years old, it is becoming harder and harder for low-level players to find groups, which results in long leveling times and frustration.

This is exactly what Haemish noted. The point is that he joined the game AFTER Mythic deployed their “fixes”.

Congratulations Mythic, you won a “Cesspit Award”!


At around level 23, I maxed out the number of realm points I could get from that particular battleground, and so foolishly decided to level out of Thidranki and into the next battleground, Braemar, made for level 25-29.

And suddenly, the PVP stopped. Braemar was bereft of players, both opponents and friends, and suddenly I was adrift again.

Now, it wasn’t as if I walked into Braemar once at 3 AM, found no one and left. No, I came back three or four times over the next few days, in prime time and on weekends, and never found more than two opponents. I resolved that I would level up again, just once more, to level 30 in order to test out Wilton, for levels 30-34.

It isn’t that I didn’t want to group; but even in the 20’s, finding anyone to group with was next to impossible.

When I finally reached Wilton, battered and bored, I found it only slightly more active than Braemar. In six different occasions, spread over primetime, late night and afternoon hours, I had a total of two fights, and only one which involved more than four people in total. That was more than enough evidence for me. I knew I’d never have the patience to make it to 50, nor would I have the interest in achieving the Master Levels of the Trials of Atlantis expansion, feats which are rumored to contain more catass in them than the entire cast of Cats.

After two months, I cancelled my subscription.

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged:

Eleven hours

I played The Sims 2 for eleven hours, nonstop. Two breaks of a few seconds to run to the bathroom. I simply couldn’t stop and my plan was to fiddle with it just for a few minutes (I had the SWG patcher on the background, waiting it to finish). Well, this game is a masterpiece and Will Wright a genius. He surely knows how to design.

I was already a fan of the game’s concept because I loved “Little Computer People” on my old Commodore 64 (David Crane) and I bought the first “The Sims” right when it was released but I didn’t play it for long. It’s a type of game with no real purpose and it was fun till you discovered the “space of possibilities”. When you have a grasp of what the game allows you, the fun starts to fade away and the simple repetition kicks in.

This new version not only improves on every part that made the first successful (successful beyond what is acceptable) but reaches a “perfection” right in the pure design. It’s a perfect game where nothing is out of place or overworked or ignored. “It fits”. A perfect simulation within simple rules that you can quickly master and a lot of fun.

Yes, the game is still limited because, once again, once you discover all the possibilities the game will start to feel repetitive but what I mean is that it achieved already a perfect status and I’m already waiting the expansions. I love this new version because it fixes my problem with the first: the player was the one choosing what to do, why and for how long. You were the “ruler” of the game and this means that when your interest starts to fade, the game does nothing to keep you in and playing. In this new version each sim will have a real life, the sim will age and transit through various phases, till they die. There are family trees that you can examine and these relatinships have a meaning. The sims have genes and their “features” will be inherited by their childrens, both the appearance and attitude. This to give some depth and continuity to the whole game (you can build a small village and control the different families, interacting with them even if the sims you don’t actively control don’t age), this continuity helps a lot to give a sense to the playsession. It’s not anymore a fun experiment “just because” but it’s an ongoing simulation that stimulates you to go on.

This isn’t the only important part. The sims now have short-term goals and fears. This is really an ingenious idea for the game. This is why I couldn’t stop to play. You have always something to do, always something to reach and to work toward. You don’t have a second to stop and wonder “what now?”. It a type of fun that never stops. It was years that I didn’t finish completely kidnapped by a game, forgetting about the time and if I was hungry or sleepy. I couldn’t stop to play. It was a continuous “just another day and I log out”, but there was always something hooking me.

The game is perfectly balanced, at the beginning I felt the time passing too fast and the days between each phases (with the sim aging) not enough. But I discovered that this is again just perfectly crafted. You don’t have to micromanage anymore all the little details. The sims react a lot better and you have plenty of time to try and experiment. You aren’t forced into situations you want to avoid and the age of the sim becomes a mini-game. If you keep satisfying the sim’s desires you acquire points that you can spend on a special potion that pushes back the countdown to the next phase of their life. So this basically becomes the “goal” that the first game didn’t have.

Now I just have to remember to not log in if I don’t want the sims to steal my life and soul. This game is worst than crack.

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged:

WoW vs. EQ2

I’m reading an interesting thread over at F13 and I’ll save here stuff:

As for the other game, I’m just not convinced yet that:

a) I’ll be able to run the fucker as fluidly as WoW. And WoW’s graphics bother me not.

b) With all that I’m reading, EQ2 just won’t meet my needs. It won’t go far enough with solo/casual support (special mobs on dungeon fringes doesn’t count).

I’d love to actually get in the EQ2 beta and be proven wrong. I think I forgot to sign up, so that could be a problem. I think Norath is a much better setting than the War 3 world and would love to be convinced that my time spent in it would be worthwhile.

What are your impressions on the combat, quests and stuff other than eye candy?

I noticed some type of animation was attached. the weapons just go through shit and I can run through enemies, etc etc. It’s crap. For the amount of money they spent – a better product should have come out of it.

Combat feels like horizons. Attacks to match up with the enemies. There are timers for related skills.

Quests? Same as everything else. Choice is neat, but uhm, that never mattered to me anyway.

I haven’t seen any new eye candy that I didn’t already see in Warcraft III.

I think it all comes down to – Blizzard aimed low and hit it’s mark. That doesn’t impress me. Far too much money spent on a refined 1st generation MMOG.

NDA Rasix. Can’t compare WoW and EQ2 now, as much as I would love to. For me there is very little comparison. But I can’t discuss it.

WoW didn’t impress me. Nothing in the world made me think “Holy shit, that’s cool”. Some other nameless game has done that a lot so far. But that other nameless game is not only under an NDA, it is also a lot earlier in their beta phase, and has it’s own problems at the moment.

Bottom line is I am not considering buying WoW. Not even crossing my mind in a dream anymore. I won’t even be back for the open beta.

You guys are the first I’ve heard of actually enjoying EQ2. You know as well as I do that if an opion of the game sucks people break the NDA without a care. Mainly because they think their anonimity on the internet will protect them from litigation. I’ve heard from others in the beta that it’s not worth the time. I’ll still check it out when I get my invite, but It’s got a lot of ground to make up. Eyecandy doesn’t impress me much, gameplay and fun do. If the grind is anything like EQlive I’ll give it a pass without a second thought. I’m done with the pointless treadmills.

People also keep defending EQ2 with “It’s a lot earlier in it’s beta stage.” No, it’s not. It’s at the same beta stage, they just have less time under their belt and got there a lot faster. Part of that is their experienced team. Part of that is SOE at least can turn things around fast when they have to. It also means they rush shit out the door, but we’ve all bitched about that aspect of SOE for years.

Bliz has a glacial pace that I think will hurt them come live. They’ve started speeding up, but they’ll never match SOE’s frenzied pace of 2-3 patches a week. Not if they want to maintain their reputation with their fanbase. (Hell it’s already taken a small hit just on rumors that the game will be live in November.)

WoW and EQ2 both say they will release this year. I know they’ll both do it, if only out of fear that if they don’t the other guy will. My summation is, I expect WOW to be the winner in the short-term, but over the long-term EQ2 might just win out because of their understanding of MMOs.

Posted in: Uncategorized |

A mmorpg unborn

Here’s how you manage the situation when you know what a mmorpg is:

Final Fantasy XI may have a retarded billing system, an horrid interface and a crappy Windows client but the game is rock solid, deep and interesting. Despite the dubious choice of requiring “world pass” to join a specific server they have done a wonderful work to build a strong and vibrant community with no boundaries between the players of different origin and language. It’s a mmorpg near to its ideal concept: a community trascending the limits.

Right now the game is being launched in Europe and the success is affecting the servers since the population for each “world” was already beyond 4000 players during peak times. But the European release isn’t hindering or messing the plan. Instead it’s helping the game to improve on its success:

The commencement of European FINAL FANTASY XI service has increased the overall population during peak times. Though the servers are able to cope with the added load, we have noticed that the peak population at 7:00 (PDT) has increased drastically, with more Japanese and North American players joining the game.

This is why Squaresoft is launching three new worlds, allowing characters to migrate without paying a fee.

The fact of having players, in the same server, from all over the world helped a lot to mantain the community vibrant. As you can read directly from Squaresoft:

FINAL FANTASY XI provides players with a rousing, non-stop 24-hour gameplay environment. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, you are apt to find the Worlds of FINAL FANTASY XI bustling and active with players, no matter what time you enter the game. This is the result of the FINAL FANTASY XI Global World concept, which has not only melded the PlayStation 2 and Windows PC into a multi-platform environment, but has also successfully bridged continents together while breaking down language barriers between players. Previously, MMORPGs have always had “on” and “off” peak times, which could make finding a fellow adventurer to party or trade with quite difficult. The Global World concept has provided a solution to this issue, and was devised as a means to avoid the depopulation of minor Worlds (servers), which can occur when smaller Worlds are created in different regions around the world.

Taking in the total number of logins from a broad perspective, it is easy to see how this balance is achieved. The workload on the servers generally undergoes a significant increase the longer a peak time lasts (and the shorter the off-peak times are), with the number of simultaneous logins at more than 4000 users during peak time. However, even with the addition of the North American peak times, this does not represent an increase in the maximum number of logins, since the North American and Japanese peak times do not overlap. As a result, the overall operation of the servers is maintained at a consistent high, with the logins spread out evenly over a long period of time. As an additional note not displayed in the chart, the total number of logins across all Worlds is more than 140,000 people during peak times.

You see? This is a major point that for Squaresoft is the heart of their game. The increasing success of the game, despite its flaws on other aspects, is the concrete demonstration of how powerful is this concept.

I’m sorry but WoW performs awfully on these aspects. The game is already quite barren during peak times aside bottlenecks that are created by broken game mechanics that devs are ignoring (like the collect quests). The choice of local servers, the small capacity of each world and the policy of keeping foreign players away will make this issue unacceptable for the normal servers and critical for PvP servers where the sense is to fight opponents.

The perspective is not about a game I’d like to play. Blizzard is doing too many mistakes on the basis of the game. They may realize this or not but it won’t change the result. After a few months everyone will be capped and raiding the high level content.

The new players will find an empty world and an hostile community. The old players will discover how pointless is to play in a mmorpg where the community has no relevance. After a few months the boredom will be the most diffuse feeling.

For a game that didn’t understand how to become a mmorpg.

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged: ,

Leaving CoH

Not me, I never bought it. Sunny the Unemployed canceled his subscription to City of Heroes and this is his interesting “exit application”:

After “Issue 2”, I’ve come to the realization that I do not enjoy City of Heroes anymore. I tried to keep it short, but I feel it is important for your company to understand why this casual gamer has given up on your game.

1) The botched Respec Trial. Why was this trial, eagerly anticipated by players with “gimp” heroes, made into one of the most difficult missions in the game? Do the developers enjoy investing 2+ hours into a mission, only to fail it at the very end due to overwhelming swarms of enemies? This trial was quickly tweaked after the public outcry, but the damage was done. I simply couldn’t understand how this awful mission design was released from the Training Room. Casual players like myself do not enjoy being locked into playing for several hours only to fail in the end. This is NOT fun.

2) Death penalties. Punishing the player for death is a toxic MMOG paradigm that needs to be done away with. After trying to complete the Respec Trial and dying repeatedly, I’ve come to the realization that I will never play another MMOG that uses a death penalty. Players of MMOGs enjoy watching their character grow and mature, and death penalties 100% interfere with this. Staring at your experience bar with loads of debt is not very conductive for having a fun time. The frustration is simply not worth it.

3) The game’s mechanics. I played a Kinetics Defender up to level 36, and I had a lot of difficulties with the powers and class throughout my time playing. Some of my powers, such as Intertial Reduction or Siphon Speed, were very limited in use. Others like Speed Boost were a total pain in the ass to use. There is little fun in individually casting Speed Boost on every team member every 2 minutes. It becomes quite a chore. Fulcrum Shift, the highest level power in the Kinetics pool, has gone from imbalanced highs to a new horrendous low. The power as it stands now is downright awful.

Additionally, I was often discriminated by players because I had chosen the Kinetics pool as opposed to more popular Empathy. Time after time I would get tells asking if I was “a healer”. Since Kinetics is a melee-oriented powerset, and the game is COMPLETELY dominated by the Blaster archetype, I was often kicked out of groups. My powers, aside from the tedious Speed Boost, were not considered very useful by a majority of the population. After being largely ostracized by the community, and unable to complete missions solo in a reasonable amount of time, I had few options.

4) The game’s atmosphere. To put it bluntly, there is simply very little to do other than arresting thugs. There are no real items, there are no tradeskills, and there are no side distractions for the player. The idea of the Dance Club is nice, but in truth, that sort of activity isn’t interesting to me. City of Heroes, although very playable for a short while, quickly become bare of content. Although the launch was very successful and stable, this game needed more development time to flesh out the game world and give the player something else to do. If there’s one word I would use to describe the non-combat content right now, it would be “empty”.

5)Badges. I have nothing wrong with the concept of badges. It’s a decent enough idea to motivate players to do things in the game world other than arresting thugs. However, I have no intention of going back to old missions to kill level 8 Bone Daddies or other low level mobs just for some fairly meaningless reward. I simply don’t find the prospect of farming a mission over and over to kill X amount of some mob to be enjoyable. Things might have been different if I started the game with badges implemented; that way I would have naturally earned them throughout the course of my time played. At 36 however, I feel as if most of the badges have passed me by. Arresting grey mobs over and over again is not fun for me.

I think playing the World of Warcraft Stress Test spoiled City of Heroes for me. It was nice to play a game that didn’t punish you for death. The questing and leveling system was a mildly refreshing change of pace from CoH’s “thug grinding” too. WoW also didn’t have CoH’s very sluggish leveling curve either. Ultimately, the game (even in its beta state) was a more enjoyable and less frustrating experience for me. I made the decision then that WoW was the MMOG I was going to spend my money on.

Despite its flaws, I still feel CoH has some great potential. I hope that, given enough time, the developers will be able to address some of these issues with the game, and provide its players with a satisfying experience. Good luck to you in your future endeavors.

Posted in: Uncategorized |

The magic is vanishing

I spent a few hours playing World of Warcraft and dinged level 35. My faith and passion for the game is slowly drifting away. Partly because of the disaffection resulting from their choice of local servers, partly because of my mood, partly because I logged in the game to find that the 50+ bugs I reported in the previous phase are still there. Well, there’s a lot to discuss but I feel again like just wasting my time.

Anyway, all the new parts of the new PC have arrived aside the case. Something changed in the configuration, I hope for the better.

Now I’m heading off to buy the Sims 2… while I keep downloading bits of the expansion for SWG.

You know? With the disaffection from WoW I may go back to DAoC. At least I’m able to play without committing credit card fraud.

Posted in: Uncategorized | Tagged: