Time Warp

I’m out for a week to chase other interests.

I “should” be back next Sunday, I’m sure the internet can do without me without major shifts in the Force.

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On topic

Again on topic with the discussion on “Virtual Worlds”.

Quick exhange at F13:

I’ve been craving a GOOD virtual world for a while now, ever since SWG failed to provide it.

I fear you are an endangered species…

No, the endangered species is a GOOD virtual world.

That was already a good quote, but then someone ruined it:

Pfft. That isn’t an endagered species, that’s a mythological creature.

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Walt’s interview

I don’t see often Walt Yarbrough releasing interviews but there’s a decent one on IGN that was able to draw my attention:

Walter Yarbrough:
The landmass of the worlds of Camelot has grown throughout our many expansions. So much so that with Darkness Rising, we are consciously trying not to add additional hunting areas to the game, because it does not need much additional landmass at this time. Instead, we are striving to incorporate as much of Darkness Rising into the existing game area as we can, while telling the story of a mounting rebellion through the tasks that the players will complete.

I quote this as a coincidence. In the last hours I wrote endless posts on forums delving exactly on that concept. In particular to catch up the occasion for a confrontation of ideas with Brad McQuaid. The other thread is here.

So I definitely support and appreciate the idea of consolidating the content and finding a definite role for it, melting it with the fabric of the game instead of chasing a mudflated model that just makes a game progressively crumble. It’s the very first time I see DAoC not chasing EverQuest, and that’s good.

It can also be an occasion to revise and adjust the design of some zones or parts of them. DAoC has a lot of “space”, in particular in the older, dull zones. The expansion could be used as an occasion to join the work of the live and the expansion teams and carry over the result to the basic game.

Which is another point I touched in one of the threads I linked:

And about the development, it would be extremely useful to have both teams coordinated and sharing their achievements. So that a possible new technology for an expansion can then be integrated also with the rest of the game through the live team. Using the expansion team to feed up progressively even the rest of the game.

What worries me is that just after the quote I pasted above Walt said that the content will be instanced. Old zones? Instanced? I just hope we won’t finish with holes in the grass teleporting us in new dimensions…

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(Semi) Linear content progression

This is just a quick note to pin down one of the design issues about my “dream mmorpg” that I was considering. So that I don’t forget about it.

The problem comes as a consequence of the skill system. If the game isn’t built on levels many useful structures simply vanish. In World of Warcraft the levels are extremely useful from many different perspectives. They are used to build zones bundling together the players around a similar level range. This isn’t a trivial feature and it’s instead tied to many core concepts. A zone has its own chat channels, its own offer of content, its own (temporary) sub-community. This allows to “chunk” these elements and the larger community into manageable units. If the players are put in an environment, sharing a similar status, they can also build groups and play together in order to reach the shared goals more easily. This builds the social aspects and allows at the same time to immerse the players in an environment that they can understand and begin to interact with.

But what happens if there is no direct and artificial separation between the players? From a side we solve a huge and consolidated complaint coming from those players that hate to get split from their friends and foreced out of the “accessibility” of the game. In fact we know that removing these “walls” is good. But from the other side we lose the depth of the system along with the whole RPG perspective. The content becomes all relative, all accessible, always, maybe even through insta-ports from everywhere in the world. And it would be extremely hard to recognize an experienced player from a newbie and this would ultimately frustrate the players and directly bring to closed communities that will never accept to open up their “friend list” (A big issue even if it doesn’t seem so at a first glance, the “who cares?” typical reaction).

To manage all these points my (rough) idea is to use the content to give some substance to the world and develop the characters. To an extent this happens already in Guild Wars. The players move and gain access to new zones by accomplishing missions more than just by levelling up. Even without the need of coding a strict level system, the content can still be used to bring along the players on their journey and mark this path in a significant way.

This brings the design back to a “world” model more than an artificial ruleset that strictly imposes its will. Your access to the various parts of the game isn’t anymore defined from external rules but defined instead by logical reasons coming from the game-world. The player will move on its own journey through the story-lines, developing its character and following logical purposes. I’d leave behind the extreme linearity of Guild Wars to open up choices. So instead moving from (A) to (B) and then (C), the player should chase down his interest and explore the game-world following logical ties and interactions (discovering, exploring, making choices as an active element of the system). Instead of a strict linear progression of the content the model is to mimic the complexity of a world, with more complex ties between the parts, more choices and persistent elements that do not systematically reset.

This idea is a compromise between the two approaches, in order to collect the qualities of both and minimize the limits. From a side the artificial walls (levels) between the players are removed, from the other the content is built in a logic, believable way to bring in a definite progression that can be recognized and used. At the same time moving away from an artificial linear progression of content (as seen in Guild Wars) to chase instead a model where the simulation of the “world” is consistent with what happens and where the progression from a point to another is subject to logic, self-consistent ties. Opening up choices and non-linear (but logic and natural) progress.

Reducing even more: from a side the artificial walls and boundaries are removed, from the other they are progressively rebuilt in order to recreate and respect the natural (complex) behaviour of a “world”.

Ideas need complexity, commitment and some attention

Here below my ideas were questioned again, and I expected that. As I commented, the purpose of that article was to present my ideas, summarize some of the basic points and underline what there is different in them that is not directly present in the mmorpgs on the market. From my perspective each single point written comes from months and years of thoughts, discussions and further developments. Each one is an important point with a long “back story” behind and solid reasons why I believe it is important.

The fact is that the pattern is always the same, and I know it well. If I summarize one of my ideas in one line everyone tells me that it’s trivial. Everyone is able to write that a game must be “fun”, or have this and that, but the point is to figure out how. Find a way that actually works. So I agree and after the critics I write down various pages full of text where I finally explain how I plan to achieve that precise goal. To show that I didn’t simply put together a list of goals without delving but that, instead, each point was already planned carefully, in all the minimal aspects, anticipating all the problems and figuring out in detail how to fix them.

But the point is that everyone visiting a blog just offers it a very little span of his attention. If the blog is able then to tickle an interest the reader could even decide to dedicate to it some more time. Now… NOONE is interested in raving ideas that will never reach an actual implementation. If I put together a small list of goals, *maybe*, there will be something reading them and “nodding”. Sharing them. Maybe a discussion over those points will be encouraged, because as I said many times, ALL my ideas come from crucial points of the design that are common to ALL the mmorpg out there. So they are all actual. Fresh. So they can be considered interesting and this is why, in this case, I decided to put that post on the site instead of leaving it to the PM to Jon.

Now the fact is that I *hate* when someone agrees on my ideas and then doubts about them. Doubts that they are solid, they I thought about them for some time, working and delving in them. I hate this because I decide to spend some time to explain in detail those points that were vague or weak and then noone reads them. Or they are dodged in a similar way. The argument is dismissed. So it’s not that I’m not interested in a less superficial discussion, to write and analyze these core points in detail (because they are important not just for a “dream” mmorpg, but for each, *real* one out there). It’s simply that it’s not a possibility, that it’s often a dialogue between me and myself and because everyone else may be interested more in a short article listing a few, shareable goals, that can tickle the imagination and suggest what the genre may miss, than an endless design document hard to follow and understand.

I know that behind every single point I listed there are pages and pages of reasons, consequences and more goals. I know because all that already passed through my mind, all passed through a careful study. I know that a “realistic inventory system” has strong purposes in the gameplay. It is the result of a design at a low level where the mechanics are all tied one to another. Planning caravans, planning the transport of the limited resources, planning the different types of terrains, planning the micro-management, considering how the players find always fun to manage things beside their character, managing complex and realistic inventory, managing their tools on the environment (think to the managment of harvesters in SWG), take care of pets, organize and prepare expeditions for a real “journey” and so on. Behind a little goal there is a whole world of intentions, of solid purposes that will require pages and pages to go in detail. Pages and pages that are somewhat requested (because people obviously doubt of my ideas) but then ignored (because noone is really interested if not to argue on a superficial level).

Quoting myself:

Because it’s about breaking a model. This is gameplay that has been completely cut away but it doesn’t mean that it cannot be fun.

In Guild Wars you have to select only eight skills even if your character has 20 available. This to develop a strategy. This idea is here applied to something different. It’s obvious that you cannot take WoW and remove all its bags and expect to have something more fun. Because there’s no gameplay aside “being able to carry stuff or not”.

The limited inventory is there to develop the “world”. On the wargame level you’ll have to move around resources. This is why caravans will have to travel between places and will need protection. If you raid a town you cannot simply pick up all you find in your way. You’ll have to organize an appropriate convoy (and have it exposed to further attacks/counterattacks) or leave the stuff where it is.

In general I want the equipment to have an use. No use = no equipment. In the current games this model doesn’t exist. You need space to accumulate junk to sell to vendors. This isn’t *equipment*. The junk has no value for the gameplay level if not being goods to transform into money (that you need).

The economy is probably the part of the game where my ideas are less defined in detail. It’s the part that I never wrapped up completely so these points about the “inventory” are strictly about the inventory and use of items themselves. No need of equipment slots to carry junk because I do not even plan to have junk in the game. At the same time I don’t want the players to loot stuff they do not need. It’s not like you’ll find a sword by killing a turtle. A realistic equipement system also means realistic loot tables.

So my idea should be seen from this point of view. You cannot carry around six swords because that limit is supposed to give a depth to the system. A choice that is required like in Guild Wars. No cookie cutter equipment. Instead choices and specializations (plus the “affinity” system will prevent you to be effective if you keep switching stuff at will). Carry an heavy armor and you’ll be slower in the combat. Use a light armor and you’ll be able to hold more bags. Drop the bags on the ground (and risk that other players steal them) and you’ll move even faster.

It’s obvious that “less inventory” alone isn’t fun. But if there’s gameplay depending on it, the situation changes.

I love to fiddle around with the equipment, move stuff between bags, organize them. It’s fun. It’s not something I wouldn’t try to cut from the game.

The same about the classes. There are years of “work” and discussions to at least acknowledge most of the problems in the current systems and try to move on a positive direction. There is so much that I wouldn’t be even able to put together all the reasons and goals that brought to my idea without leaving out a good part. Exactly because everything was being though on an arc of time, built progressively through my “experience” and different discussions. I know for example that a CORE problem that I have to face EVERY single time I log in EVERY mmorpg is the “healer problem” (“lack of” and “requirement of”). A problem that if it is so frequent must also deserve some consideration. Or not? So I gave it. To explain the whole process that brought to my idea I’d have again to write pages and pages, from the analysis of how the multi-purpose classes in WoW are way more fun than the strictly specialized versions in DAoC, how in the first game is way easier to build efficent groups (and ease the LFG problem) and so on (more != better). The solution I propose is to create dynamic roles. The class system is rather complex but the essence is to allow the players to fill temporary roles in the case they are missed (and required). Maybe you aren’t an healer, but you can temporarily fill that role in the case you cannot find a player already specialized doing that. And this without considering the ideas I have to not make the actual gameplay boring and dull for the healers, which is another *core* problem and not just a detail.

About the “conquest system”. It is complex. It has many different layers all interconnected. It is the main structure of the game, the main purpose, the “endgame”. Every other system is supposed to converge there because I always wanted a game with many different layers of complexity (and interactions) but without making all independent and unrelated. This is why it’s a “world”. All the elements have a purpose and are not there to be just “fluff”. Whatever you do in the game will finally arrive at that point.

I already vaguely explained some concepts about how I plan to keep the conquest possible without one side “winning” the game. The conquest is open to the whole world but the system isn’t based just on combat but on an “emergent” resource system built to add an RTS layer. So gathering and managing resources, moving them, defending them or steal them, building nodes, improve the power of the guards and structure defence and so on. The game is again not just combat, the combat is an aspect, the most direct, always available. But there are choices to deal with the rest, at least to manage the situation.

Conquering (adiacent) zones depends not only on the military power but also strongly on the resources. These zones (or better, the villages, outposts, castles and so on) need an upkeep. A maintenance cost. Some of the resources that a faction needs (three factions in the game hardcoded – Order, Chaos, Balance, plus player-made factions) can only be produced by the other faction and then transfered through commerce (mostly through the “balance” faction that works as a tie between the other two). The more one side expands its domain, the more the upkeep costs go up. If the other faction isn’t able to product anything the warehouse of resources in the prevailing faction will decrease, till the faction won’t be able to hold that type of expansion anymore. This is a first aspect that makes hard to maintain a control of the whole world.

The second aspect is that one type of the resources needed (mostly about the power of the defences, the possibilities of upgrades, guard costs and so on) is fixed. A fixed pool that cannot be changed in any way. Hardcoded. These resources can be spread around in order to support a high number of zones, or consolidated in a few in order to keep the defence at a very high level. So the more you expand your domain and the more you offer weaknesses, like the possibility for the other faction to attack you from the flank, in an undefended zone, where even a small strike-team can quickly conquer an outpost and force all the resources on that point. This would create a powerful node that the losing faction can use to disturb and progressively weaken the expansion process of the prevailing faction. So gameplay dynamics and tactics.

Finally, there’s a third system in place. There are three main hubs-cities (one for each faction) that cannot be conquered (and so managed and transformed as a property like it happens in the other cases). In this case you can think to the dynamics in WoW. The Alliance never held Orgrimmar for hours, not the Horde was able to do the something similar with Ironforge. These three hubs are strongly defended and while the mechanics won’t be based too much on continue respawns, it will be still extremely hard to maintain a presence in these places. The best you can do here is a permanent siege.

Now there’s a system applied even here. Think to the RvR dungeon in DAoC interconnecting the three realms. I carried over a similar concept. In the case the main hub of a faction is under constant siege, the players can still organize to use a system of tunnels to sneak behind the enemy lines and coordinate attacks to the supply lines of the opposite faction. As I wrote above they’ll need to move resources constantly in order to maintain the upkeep, so the players can organize attacks to these caravans in order to disrupt the supply lines and weaken progressively the defences of the other faction.

This guarantees that noone “wins”, that there’s still a huge role for the persistence and that there’s a space to develop tactics and interesting dynamics, involving even politics and diplomacy. That depth that I claim back and that is missing currently in other mmorpgs. The essential (philosophical) design is that the three factions are dependent on each other. One can decide to wipe the other but ultimately it will fail in the measure it needs the other in order to exist. So a balance (also impersonated by the appropriate faction) always exists as an inner need of the system. There will be strong shifts in the overall situation, but never definitive, never permanent. The ultimate risk here isn’t the possibility to “win” everything. It’s the opposite, the fact that through diplomacy and politics a realm could settle down and reach a perfect balance (which is definitely a new concept for a mmorpg and something I want to test to see if it can be interesting).

I don’t fight this possibility directly. The game is supposed to be fun and compelling *beside* the combat. This is my goal. A paceful realm is a possibility that I contemplate. Why not? There’s always space for politics. You can try to get what you need with your strength, so you can conquer a zone in order to reach a resource node that you absolutely need. Or settle down an agreement through the diplomacy and the commerce in order to “buy” or “exchange” those resources without fighting for them. For sure there will be “baits” in the game. Both at the personal and communal level. So there will be needs to satisfy that will require to get precious resources (RARE, but not as grindy-rare, just as gameplay-rare) that are deep in the land owned by the rival realm. And you’ll definitely need a way to get there.

There are all of these elements. Reasons for the conflict, alternate paths thorugh diplomacy and politics and interconnected systems to give the whole structure a depth. The real goal is again to “give back the world to the players”. The goal to finally develop a complex world where the players, together, have an impact, where they “care” about what happens and get entangled into an enriching system not “sterilized” in a pointless grind to transform the player in a robot hitting endlessly the same key. Where the actions have consequences and where the lore and the backstory exist at a radical level and not as useless, detached words on a website.

I want to give back importance to all those elements that are now being systematically removed from this genre. To not forget that it’s there the strength. And that we are losing all this to chase arid models.

“Dream Mmorpg”

This is a PM I wrote to Jon Carver where I tried to summarize the key points of my “dream mmorpg” project. It definitely needs a lot more iterations in order to become more complete (it misses most of the features like the factional system, the mechanics of PvP, the role of the artifacts, the geomancy nodes, the progression trees of magic items etc..) and more concise and precise.

I need to do a lot of work on the presentation and effectivity of what I write. At least this time it isn’t too long.

I need to do a lot of organization in order to build up some sort of clear and schematic plan as you did. For now there’s nearly an infinite list of features coming from direct needs, problems and discussions but all so bundled together that I often forget why I decided about something. Basically I’m really trying to address ALL the problems I see around in other projects since it’s a “dream mmorpg”.

A few points I gathered are (far away from covering everything):

– Problem of catering hardcore and casual players
– Problem of load balancing the server, cross-server travel, factional balance
– Problem of PvP and PvE clashing together (repositioning)
– Smaller, manageable communities – “There were a lot less of us back then, so it was easier to get to know most of the folks around you. Since there were so few players reletive to current community sizes, you become friends of friends of folks and a lot sooner you really end up knowing virtually everyone whos playing, or at least are familiar with guilds.”

The rest is about going back to a skill system that has also lot of depths for “achievers”. Realistic inventory system calculating precisely slots and weights (and the need to use horses, carts etc..). No strict classes nor min/maxed templates. All classes are respecced “on the fly” so that a player can cover a specific role dynamically (and adapt irtself to the need of a group) instead of being caged in a fixed model/spec/class.

Plus the separation of elements of PvE (In instanced “planes”, arenas and odd combinations of events) from PvP.

The main world is completely based on PvP and in the hands of the players. Everything works like in wargames so you can conquer the land, expanding to adiacent zones (and manage your resources). All the world is in the hands of the players, there is nothing with the pretense of being “static”, fixed, given.

The players cannot really build towns but can conquer everything that is already in the world (and update/upgrade it to an extent). From single houses to the biggest cities and castles.

The NPCs will then also be controled by the players. The players spawn them and “program” them with simple schedules. So they are used both for the crafting system and to pruduce resources that will then be used (and moved between towns through a commerce system) at the RTS level.

Ultimately the focus (of these PvP lands) will move from the combat to embrace new types of activites. All the interactions of a medieval world are supposed to be simulated to an extent. So we’ll have farms, mines, sawmills and so on. Similarly to a “Settler” game and with the goal of simulating a deeper environment that is supposed to involve more the players in its fabric and mechanics. Less obsessive about combat and infinite treadmills only affecting the single character. Providing communal goals and shared mechanics that should finally put back the focus in the community as the real “endgame” (and where the fun of a multiplayer environment is supposed to be).

That’s the shape. The implementation idea is to go back at the old 2D style of the early Ultimas (but with an advanced UI) in order to cut out directly the production values (graphic, content etc..) and focus exclusively on the accessibility and mechanics. No infinite text to read, just direct gameplay and feedback. To experiment dynamically with the pure design level and discover what is fun and what is not.

Basically the opposite of a MUD.

In Europe, someone knows how Honor Points are calculated

A guide to the Honor Points has been published on the European site as result of this thread (horror! The CMs in Europe are actually useful!), and then carried over to the american site as well.

The guide is clear and well written for the most part and it adds more details to what I aleady knew or deduced from the obscure rules.

Here’s a few points of interest:

Battlegrounds objectives are intended to be a substantial part of your Honor for a week. Don’t ignore them if you want to attain a high Rank.

False. The BGs objectives are badly broken and do not give the supposed reward. There’s a thread on the official fourm spanning 45 pages and growing. This affects both Alterac and Warsong and has been clearly proven to be not just a display problem.

As kills in raids give fewer points to you personally but still count toward your subsequent kill ratio, try get some kills alone or in a small group earlier in the day / evening, then join a raid to collect more kills to meet the cut-off.

No comment here. It’s really THAT stupid and I already explained extensively my stance on these “diminished returns”.

There are 14 Ranks. Behind the Ranks is a hidden number scale, each Rank representing a range of points. These points are not your Honor points for the week, but something we’ll call Rank Points for the sake of this guide. The exact points and scale will not be revealed here.

The point here is: why? There are absolutely no practical reasons to keep these mechanics hidden since they would just help the players to understand how the system work and play with it (which is exactly what games are about). The only two real reasons I can imagine are:
(1) so that adjustements can be done behind the scenes without the players mounting a revolt
(2) so that the players cannot gather solid proofs about mistakes into the claculations that seem to happen quite often.

And finally the most important part, a better explanation of the rank calculations:

– Adjusting your Rank Points and thus your Rank.
# This is done by comparing your points for the week with your Rank Points. If the points for the week are higher than your current Rank Points, your Rank Points are adjusted upwards by a set percentage of the difference. If your points for the week are lower than your Rank Points, your Rank Points are adjusted downwards by a set percentage of the difference. The set percentage is higher for upward adjustments than downward adjustments.

Adding this to what I knew already I think it’s possible to finally figure out how the system works. There is no cumulative pool of points building up with the time. There is just two different “progression bars”. The first bar is the one you build up for the week and that is wiped to zero each week, so with no progression over time. Then there’s a “Permanent Rank” bar that actually determines the Rank threadmill that moves you from Rank 1 to 14.

As you gain your “weekly Honor” your weekly status (the first progression bar) is compared to your Permantent Rank (the second progression bar). If the first is greater than the second you gain an increase in percent over your second progression bar. Till the point where your weekly status is exactly equal to your permanent status (but this only happens in an artificial example where you gain the exact same amount of point each week).

So while the first progression bar is wiped weekly and goes sharply from zero point to whatever you are able to achieve in one week, the other is only moved in percent bonus and malus steps. As you gain up ranks these percent bonuses will become smaller and smaller till it will become mathematically impossible to gain one rank per week, no matter if you transform into a pure PvP grind entity.

That brings to more precise details about the rules:

# Gaining two new Ranks in a single week is possible, but only likely below rank 6.
# Rising in Rank every week is possible until about rank 11. Above that each rank is expected to take two weeks or more, each week with the same high performance as the last.
# Getting to rank 14 is expected to take about three months even for the most efficient and active players. Staying there is also quite a challenge.
# About 5% of the players participating in PvP are expected to have a Rank of 11 or above when the system settles itself after some months.

Which we knew already, even if not about the specifics.

This explains one of the most popular complaints about some players not gaining a rank even if they achieved a sensibly greater standing as opposed to one of their friend that still finished at a rank above. How it is possible to finish in a lower rank and not gain anything even if someone else had a way worst standing and still an higher rank?

It’s simple. The guy at the higher Rank that got a crappy standing position probably went backwards in his progression on the “Permanent Rank” but not enough to lose that rank (since you gain faster than what you lose over time). While the other player that started at the lower rank and had a better standing probably wasn’t able to gather enough of a bonus to jump to the next level. Even if he surely progressed toward that point.

Ultimately this means that the system (albeit still horrible in its gameplay) will remain fair over time. Since there isn’t any accumulation of points you can start to grind it years from now without being at a disadvantage. Roughly it seems that you’ll need at least three months at maximum catass performance to go from rank 0 to 14, and possibly around six more months of inactivity to go from rank 14 back to 0. This is the basic life-cycle of the system that should remain constant over the whole course of the game. So, while definitely and undoubtedly insane, it won’t get worst.

With a clear explanation of the mechanics in this FAQ and the upcoming tweaks to the UI, like the progression bar, one of the most radical problem of the system will be solved. So a significant step forward. The problem remains in the gameplay and in the overall design:

– The system still rewards a pure catass mode completely inaccessible to the casual players since it depends on “time” as the main variable (endless grind)
– It is still at the roots a “race”, so forcing the players in a min/maxing process in order to maximize their performance over time. Which requires directly a complete dedication that erodes the potential of the game instead of expanding its possibilities (scope) and appeal
– The reward is still based on “maintenance”, which is directly an unfun mechanic since it’s just a struggle to “catching-up” instead of “achieving”. You are always at loss, always fighting to not lose
– No guild ranking or involvement in the system
– No goals to accomplish outside the battlegrounds
– No public ranking system and ladders
– No dynamic rewards and mechanics (like suriviving many encounters, fast kills and so on)

My proposed Battle System (July 2004) still looks better than this.

And back to the principle I brought up many months ago:

“Designing a game which allows players not to HAVE to play regularly. A possibility, not an obligation.”

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Leaked patch notes, again (1.6.0)

From “one of the best MMOG discussion sites on the internet” (and I agree), here are the leaked patch notes of World of Warcraft, planned to go live this week or the following.

(press button)

Saved in the case the censorship reaches again the FoH forums (which went directly down, how fun).

Btw, after having read carefully everything I can say that at least the Warrior changes (the only class I know well) are really smart and outstanding. Kalgan may suck greatly at developing interesting PvP models but he is really that good when planning classes. With a few minor tweaks here and there he addressed a bunch of problems at a radical level that seemed just too complex to solve without breaking everything else. Impressive.

Also good the changes to the instances (and the integration of the indispensable CT_RaidAssist). I just wonder, if new creatures detecting invisibility/stealth were added to Strat, why nothing is being done to LBRS? That raid has been DESTROYED thanks to groups sneaking in and bypassing the whole instance just to farm the boss mobs. It’s just impossible to find druids and rogues to join a raid, which makes the whole thing really annoying since the healers are rare even in normal conditions.

Isn’t that issue serious enough to get solved?

And finally the possibility to access the BGs from the capitals. Noooo, I didn’t see this coming from miles away. Quoting myself:

Who wants to bet that the next step will be the possibility to enter the BGs no matter where you are?

And the longer comment where I explain why this decision is just the result of a big flaw in the game:

WoW’s battlegrounds are the manifestation of this process. The game needs insta-ports because the principles on which the game was being built have been eroded to a point that they became completely unexcused. I need to fly from Ironforge to Ashenvale but …why? At the end I’m going into a portal and join a specific instance completely cut-out from the game-world. I do not care what happens in other instances, what I do in mine doesn’t affect the world outside, I do not care who is going to win. The key here is “I do not care”. Everything is contingent, the space is negated, the purpose doesn’t exist. The player isn’t anymore put in a context, he is outside that context, he makes the context and uses it. He makes it up, he hallucinates himself. And, outside, nothing exists, nothing has consequences and nothing “breathes”.

What is left of a mmorpg? The time I spend flying from Ironforge to Ashenvale and vice-versa. What is left of a mmorpg is an unexcused burden that will be ultimately removed. Even in WoW (you’ll see).

I was right again.

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There is gonna be a burnout?

Again from Dave Rickey’s interview:

The big news is going to continue to be EQ clones. Fantasy themed clones will get ever more insane budgets and continue to be the biggest games. We’ll see more variation of setting, like we already have seen a little of, EQ with guns, EQ in space, EQ in giant robots, and those games will dominate the middle third of the market, running a step behind the fantasy games on budgets. The bottom of the market will run the whole rest of the range down, and is where we’ll see the real innovation.

There are so *many* possible MMO’s to make, and I really believe that in the long run the current run of ever-bigger EQ clones will burn itself out. Once every potential player has already played one to the point of burnout, we’ll need to do something else.

To which Anyuzer brought his attack that I slightly “time warp” here:

But, in my defense though, there is something interesting about the whole thing. The first is the future of the ‘EQ-Clones’. I mean, personally, I’m getting sick of the terminology.

EQ Clone? Why is it an EQ clone? Because it’s an Online RPG that works on fairly logical progressional elements? C’mon people, wake up and stop bitching. EverQuest was not the devil, it was simply a game that had enough psychological hooks in its design to keep players going. ALL VIDEO GAMES WORK ON THE SAME PRINCIPLES.

And the next big MMOs that come out (Vanguard, DDO, LoTR, Imperator, etc) will simply either be very good at this (in which case they will do ‘decently’) or they’ll be the best at this (in which case they will eclipse even WoW) or they’ll totally ignore these basics of human nature, and fail miserably (woooo Horizons!)

Which brings me back to Rickey’s comments. He is spot on in pointing out that ‘EQ-Clones’ are going to be the future of the industry. But what the hell is he thinking when claiming that players will get burnt out, and look for some innovative indy game? A more realistic comment would’ve been throwing away the retarded: “EQ Clone” label and pointing out the fact that the way the industry is likely to evolve, is being better at placing the progressional hooks, and being innovative in the design of those hooks.

I already commented those points on his forum but let’s give this topic another twist:

OF COURSE there is going to be a burnout. And not because I’m here predicting the future for all of you but simply because it is happening already. Just open your eyes and look around with some critical ability. Let’s put aside for a second the considerations about the design and focus instead on what is relevant about this argument. The fact is that this bunch of games like EQ, EQ2, DAoC, FFXI, WoW and all the minor ones… all aim to the same audience. They aren’t just “EQ-Clones” because of superficial classifications. They are, at their core, products aiming to get slices of the exact same pie.

Despite the numbers are hiding what is happening, the fact is that the release of WoW is strongly impacting the subscriptions of other games. Noone can expect the players to support and play all these games at the same time, so what happens is that there is going to be a choice. A choice that in this case is about comparing IDENTIC products. So an obvious, objective choice that is moving away from being a personal, subjective choice. There is no subjectivity when you can choose just between identic products. There is absolutely no differentiation between the largest commercial mmorpgs and the result of this is that the best product is going to stand out “objectively” and conquer the whole market. It’s exactly when there is ZERO differentiation that you can compare the products head to head and right now, honestly, WoW is the best game out there with a relevant advantage. It is successful because the game was able to improve the design we already know under a good number of important aspects, so the players moved over and liked, for the most part, what they found. At the same time the other games, while suffering the impact, were still able to hold because of (1) strong communities built wilth the time, (2) time investment from the players that do not want to throw everything away and (3) specific aspects of the game that remain unique and valuable for those with a deep knowledge of the game.

This is the real “burnout”. The players are getting tired of looking at a bunch of identic games all trying to compete on the same goals. Is really this genre so narrow in scope and possibilities (from a commercial point of view)? I know a good numbers of players that already left the previous incarnations of this same-game that have now absolutely no interest in WoW. This is the burnout. It’s the common “been there, done that”. When you keep finding the same thing, slightly improved, you get tired, because the novetly vanished long ago and you have no interest to commit to it again. It’s a perspective that hasn’t anything anymore to offer.

The point here is that there will be always just one, two at maximum, juggernauts out there. And they’ll crush everything in the market because all these games just overlap trying to conquer the same audience. And the audience will choose that one product that does the thing better. In this case the new, better mmorpgs “mudflate” the old mmorpgs that weren’t able to manage the progress and solve their own quirks. WoW capitalized on the design mistakes of other games, on those problems that the devs didn’t care to acknowledge. So it used those weaknesses as an hold to throw the new competitors out of the path. It is possible for an old game, with a consolidated community to hold for a long time even after being cut out of the relevant market, but this isn’t a possibility for the new projects that do not have the resources to go against the juggernaut but that still pretend to do so.

In the future the communities will become more and more “portable”. They’ll move naturally to the “next big thing” exactly because it will be easy to recognize. What we know is that the success never comes from the same source. All these game worlds reach a peak when they are able to observe the situation from outside, consider what works and what doesn’t to then enter the market and bring in some innovations. Mythic was successful because of this, Blizzard was successful because of this. They capitalize on the mistakes of others but then they become themselves gears of the same wheel and just freeze (“thick as a brick”), unable to understand their own errors just to become fresh preys for the next big thing that is going to backfire the process against them.

You cannot expect to sell the exact same food, at the exact same price but of a less overall quality and hope to survive the market. It simply doesn’t make sense. So this is why the focus should be about delivering something that the super-large company of the moment cannot afford. Yes, because those companies have also serious weaknesses that can be exploited. There is a space for interesting products which can afford a more aggressive and creative development and exactly because the largest projects will finally become juggernauts impossible to move. So you “win” the disadvantage by competing on an agility that those other projects cannot afford.

There are spaces, this genre is wide and accepts all sort of things you can imagine. What is important is to not chase the trend of the moment in order to survive with the crumbs left by the big one ahead of you. That will just get you stomped on. Use some wit, be able to understand where the market is going and anticipate it. Compensate the lack of money and resource with some creativity and passion. Just take the challenge for what it is and have some fun already in the development process.

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