A fitting sunset over the Butcherblock docks after restoration of the SOE service. Let’s hope security issues are behind us…
This started as a comment to Wilhelm’s post but the tale grew in the telling…
Regarding SoE’s discussion point about selling max level characters…
As someone who doesn’t raid, I suppose I don’t really care. In my mind, its a bit like hiring someone to carry you to the top of Mt. Everest so you can take a snapshot and put it on your wall.
But still, SoE’s proposed solution raises a more interesting question which many folks have been discussing of late– how do you reconcile vertical progression with a raiding end game and permit a game to grow and thrive? How do you bridge the gaps for new and old players and between new and old content? Or between current content and the “end game”?
What experience seems to show is that shoehorning both games into one does a disservice to both.
An ideal solution in my mind would be something along the following lines:
- Raiding is a separate game along the Guildwars PvP model with limited world interaction
- Leveling unlocks the ability to roll a new character at any level up to the highest level attained
- With the purchase of each expansion, players may roll a character at the base level of that expansion
- Experience curves wouldn’t be compressed, previous content remains intact
Raiders would get what they want and avoid the exercise of leveling through trivial content unrelated to raiding skills.
Levelers new and old could come into a game at any point in the game they desired and be with the pack but still have the opportunity to play previous content as it was intended.
Levelers could choose to level 1 to cap or leapfrog along experiencing a new chapter of content as they saw fit much like choosing which film or book of a series to read.
Completionists can play cover to cover and replayability is preserved.
Whether “expansion” characters would be permitted to visit the old world is something I haven’t fully considered. Locking them out of the old world isn’t very immersive, but probably strengthens the lowbie economy. Forced down-mentoring maybe to avoid the usual problems?
Running around EQ2X this weekend and enjoying working on some tradeskills. Crafting in EQ2 is one of the things EQ2 does a bit better (note I said a bit better because its far from ideal) than many MMOs. There is a bit if a minigame to it, so perfect success is not guaranteed though there is little chance of real failure, the products are genuinely useful, there is quite a diversity of recipes across a broad range of professions, it doesn’t require the generation of many many useless/valueless items to make progress and its an entirely separate progression mechanism from the rest of the game.
Of course, all crafting requires inputs. That means gathering. Ugh.
No MMO seems to have done this part well. So what has the last decade brought us on the gathering front?
Consider the Miner.
Random spawning, mailbox-sized chunks of “ore” that are curiously unevenly distributed in zones the difficulty of which correlates to their relative value. How immersive.
How do we find this resource? Mining radar of course. Sort of Yukon Cornelius meets Aquaman. And how is this oh so valuable ore actually gathered? Take out your trusty pocket pick, give the ore pinata a few whacks and voila. Paydirt.
Not exactly the picture of mining that I had in mind. Why did they bother with Moria or Thorin’s Halls when the dwarves could have just skipped through the fields tapping rocks as they went?
Sure some games try to jazz up the immersion by actually having the nodes spawn in or near hills. Others just don’t bother. How the farmers in Kingsfell manage to plow their fields with all that rich iron popping up in their fields is beyond me.
Eve got it partially right. Mining in Eve is a full-blown progression game in its own right and encourages group play. Yes, its a bit boring with the waiting factor, but to me that is a question of how much, not whether it takes time.
Mining in Eve requires the development of various skills that increase proficiency (speed, mining yield, refining efficiency, etc.) as well as collaborative supporting activities (hauling, group management, even defense).
So why hasn’t any fantasy MMO bothered with truly fleshing out the gathering professions properly? I for one would love to have to go prospecting for ore deposits and constructing a mining operation out in the wilds, alone or with others. Then figure out how to haul it all back to town all the while defending your operation from marauding mobs.
A noob miner would have little but his pick, pan, a trusty pack mule and a bit of luck. A journeyman could construct a proper mine that would yield more, a guild could construct and man a large mine, etc. Like scouting asteroid belts in Eve, prospecting for a good site with lots of the desired ore (to justify construction of a mine, etc.) would be half the battle. Imagine if prospecting was a bit like WoW’s archaeology?
Of course, one aspect that is key to the viability of Eve’s mining progression is the economy. Even the lowliest of the low minerals (Tritanium) which comes from the most abundant asteroid in the game (Veldspar) is used in nearly everything constructed in the game.
Copper doesn’t cease being useful just because I can wear or wield iron or steel or mithril items.
The same paradigm can be applied to any of the other gathering professions as well: hunting/trapping for hides and leather; farming for food and fiber (thank you LotRO, sort of); lumber mills (with depleting forests) for wood.
Did no one at Blizzard remember the resource gathering part of Warcraft when they designed WoW?
Was an entire civilization built solely on the basis of logs of weathered driftwood that washed up on a beach or random yew branches that the wind knocked down? Did no one think to swing one of those enormous battle axes at an actual tree from time to time?
Even fishing never progresses beyond a string on a stick… No fish traps? No one invented the throw net let alone a fishing boat?
Of course, a key component to making a system like this work is dangerous transport. Without some risk, there would be little excitement to the process and less value in the product. Lets add some transportation for the poor gatherers. Start with a big backpack, claw your way up to a donkey, add a cart, maybe an ox team and wagon…
And of course, a nice big slow transport full of valuable goods invites bandits…
Seriously, I’d do this all day.
I can’t believe its been a full three months since posting. Summer can be cruel.
Please Meet the New Eden, Same as the Old Eden
When last reported, I was hell bent on colonizing a wormhole in Eve which would be populated by my two accounts and a corp mate or two. After an audacious start which involved lots of skill training and planning, I ended up with my entire POS staged and ready to deploy in that ideal wormhole system.
Despite my best efforts, that wormhole system just never showed up. After weeks of searching nightly for an unpopulated Class 2 (even a Class 1, would have done) I was never able to find a suitable system at a time of day that would allow me to deploy the POS and get situated. Nightly, I would surf about 10-20 systems in an ever increasing radius from my usual home system in Amarr only to find most were quite occupado.
Needless to say, it took some of the wind out of my sails, and being summer and all, I had a feeling that I started my assault on this personal Everest too late in the season for a bona fide summit attempt. Eve it seems lends itself to the inclement and inhospitable weather of winter. The long cold nights being a natural fit for the harsh realities in New Eden.
Somehow, fan on, windows open and the smell of barbeque wafting in is anathema to spending time in New Eden. No doubt I’ll rekindle my interest AGAIN this winter. I have a history of ramping up in winter/spring only to park Eve in the summer.
As Wilhelm has been reporting, RL events disrupted our horde-side instance group work just as we were confronting the possibility of having to slog through Burning Crusade. Divine Intervention it might have been, but I’m glad for the break which gave us a chance to return to…
Middle Earth, I Hardly Knew Ye
Yes, several of us returned to Lotro, partly in response to the announcement that it was going Free to Play in early September. Wil has again been the scrivener and documented our exploits there.
Several things struck me about Lotro that I now realize that I had been missing badly in Azeroth. Despite the convenience of the dungeon finder (particularly for old hacks like us who’ve been playing since release), Middle Earth is first and foremost a place. It first struck me in beta that Turbine had indeed taken a vastly different approach to creating Middle Earth than most developers.
Middle Earth is very much a place and I find myself wandering quite a bit just to see what I can see and yes, there are things to see well off the beaten track. With the expansiveness of Middle Earth, however, come some drawbacks. ME, like much off our real worlds, is quite a bit filled up with bits that aren’t that interesting in a footstep by footstep way.
In previous lives, I recall several Vanishing Point quality road trips from California through the high desert of Nevada, over the Rockies and across the Great Plains. And in a not entirely un-Kowalski like state, those journeys and the experiences of traveling those lands were best experienced “caffeinated” and through the windshield occasionally punctuated by bouts of extreme wierdness on a local level.
Middle Earth of course has yet to experience its Eisenhower and build its network of highspeed interstate highways. Thus while I am continously enthralled by the feeling of place pervading Middle Earth, I find myself chafing a bit at having to travel quite so much.
I’ve long argued that sensible travel time is critical to creating both a sense of place and an opportunity for emergent gameplay. However, what makes that travel interesting is the potential for interesting unpredictable outcomes. Where that doesn’t exist yet the time factors does, you end up with something more akin to a time tax rather than the opportunity to reinforce the notion that you are resident in a vast untamed world.
Still, this time around I’m generally having a good time and even with our group of four, I’m looking forward to the advent of the F2P system with skirmishes available at level 20 to facilitate easy group play.
Return to Norrath
I might even be jumping the gun for Wilhelm’s annual Norrath Nostalgia fest that tends to arrive in the fall. Exactly unlike Eve, the deepening golden twilight of shortening summer nights and the increasingly cooler winds which carry that slightly sweet sense of decay beckons to return to Norrath for perhaps, yes, one more turn on the nostalgia carousel.
Unlike many others, EQ2 has never been my “main” MMO. Not that I don’t like it– au contraire. In another universe, I could easily have spent the last 6 years in EQ2 rather than WoW. Like Lotro, I’ve longed for the F2P option for EQ2. This fall, they’ve decided to deliver. Sort of.
This weekend (double xp weekend no less), I decided to drop into the EQ2 Extended “beta” (as Wil says, in a post-Google world, v 1.0 is “beta”– by that criteria, most of my life has been a beta– which is good because I can then think that I’ll correct all those mistakes on “release”….).
My overall assessment is positive. If EQ2 has the potential to captivate you, EQ2 Extended could easily scratch that itch. If you have deeper needs than that, you may run into what I call the EQ2/SOE dissonance, namely how can such a bunch of business asshats be responsible for the great game that is buried within EQ2?
I think Gordon from We Fly Spitfires has hit most of the issues and I can’t say I disagree with him. Frankly, I woke up Sunday on a three day weekend and said, hrm… maybe I should check out the EQ2 Extended beta… I tend to try to pretend that I’m just a somebody seeing what its all about and what the “everyperson” experience would be like.
After reading WFS and Saylah’s posts over at Mystic Worlds, I decided to see whether Bronze (aka free cheap bastard) level would allow me to enjoy myself in game. Races limited, classes limited, so I ended up with an Erudite Inquisitor to start.
Based on Saylah’s posts, I too decided to roll out in New Halas, mainly because I had never been there in any previous EQ2, but also because of the good things she said about the layout of the town and the housing.
With double XP weekend, I managed to rocket through to almost level 20 in a day, pick up the New Halas Courser noob mount and get to New Halas to start decorating my new apartment.
Man, housing in New Halas is WAY better than the ghettos of Qeynos. Thats a big plus. The basic noob apartment with the various bonus items from previous purchases and the many housing item quest rewards from the starting quests definitely had my new diggs looking fairly spiff. And the EQ2 housing seems pretty much quite a step up from Runes of Magic.
Of course, with Bronze level, there are some glaring omissions which may or may not be a complete pain in the ass. First, I was jazzed to get a Legendary quality cloak item as a quest reward. To bad that Bronze cheap bastards can’t equip anything north of mastercrafted.
Likewise, Bronze cheap bastards are limited to basically no storage. This wouldn’t be that big of a deal if it simply meant that I had to grind gold to buy bags/boxes/bankslots. But that would be too simple. Bronze, of course, can’t access the broker (aka auction house) without purchasing broker tokens in the cash shop.
Now that sucks. The kind of F2P model I like is agnostic as between time and dollars. In my world, everything in the cash shop should be available for some expenditure of gold. Eve, in my view, has got this figured out. Plex can be purchased for in game currency via the market or for cash. Players who have more time than money can choose accordingly and vice versa.
Unfortunately, I haven’t seen anyway short of an upgrade to solve the access to the broker problem. And the truly unfettered access to the broker appears to only come at Gold (aka subscription minus) level access.
I think this is a huge mistake. Frankly, one of the thing that is a big draw to EQ2 is the depth of its crafting system. And, more importantly, its balance with the rest of the economy, i.e., crafted gear is quite desirable throughout much of the game.
At a MINIMUM, everyone should be able to participate in the consumptive economy. A game’s economy via the time shifted purchasing and selling of items is really the heart and soul of a virtual world. In it are buried the sum total of the populations varied and sundry activities, across experience levels, across time zones, etc.
Maybe I’m a noob, but quite often I’ll see something on the broker or auction house and wonder “holy crap, where did they get that?” and the pursuit of such an item then fuels further adventures in the wide world. By locking out Bronze and Silver, I think SOE is missing a huge hook to get players to commit.
On the plus side, I see that crafting raws are available via the cash shop. Whether the price is right is a matter of debate, but the concept is simply time versus money and with gathering, I tend to agree to that. I enjoy crafting as a progression game in itself and gathering time is often merely a tax in time or gold. This solves both. I was amazed briefly when as a wee member of Jaye’s Revelry and Honor they’re gathering bots in the vast guild hall was able to provide raws as needed (within reason) to allow people to play the game they wanted to play. Having mats in the cash shop is a reasonable subsitute IMHO. I can choose time or money as desired.
I’ve got to say, there is simply something about EQ2 that either grabs you or it doesn’t. What grabs you (me at least) tends to be something that doesn’t lend itself to lists like the many things that bug me or downright piss me off. Nonetheless, I’m pretty jazzed that there is a F2P way to play EQ2 now.
I’m sure we’ll reconvene as a group for Cataclysm whenever that arrives. In the mean time, I suspect our of time in investment in Lotro will keep us headed toward Moria. No promises whether we make it to Mordor.
A backup plan for the group might be to roll on F2P in EQ2 Extended. I know at least 3 of our 5 group would dig it, and the last two might be convinced particularly if the cash shop could smooth out some of our disparities in play time budgets, etc.
What I’m really looking forward to is Guildwars 2 though… but that’s another post.
A few reflections on my gaming and blogging in 2008 with a few follow ups from last year’s post.
On the stat line:
Total Hits: just over 100,000
My blogging has been a bit uneven this year which coincides with my equally unpredictable work pattern. Feast or famine it seems, coupled with a few periods of just plain nothing much to say.
While the pace of my posting has remained about the same, its nice to see many more comments coming in. Something I attribute largely to getting picked up on the VirginWorlds feeds and cross traffic from other friendly denizens of the blogosphere.
Games in 2008
World of Warcraft. Our instance group slogged our way through The Burning Crusade to cap out at 70 just as burnout set in and before Warhammer released. The group has been diligently pursuing its ultra casual, keep everyone together approach for more than two years at this point playing together just a few hours each week. After diverting to WAR briefly, we are back in Azeroth with the Wrath of the Lich King where we’re having a good time. I’m looking forward to continuing our weekly adventures with a great group of friends.
So far, Lich King has been much more of what I loved about the WoW 1.0 and much less of WoW 2.0. Still, progress is fast and even for our group, we’ll likely cap long long before there is another WoW expansion on the horizon.
Eve Online. I’ve been mostly diligently pursuing my two box strategy with Eve having built my miner up to Hulk-capability and my hauler up to an Iteron V. Along the way, I managed to get both pilots into Drake battlecruisers and have developed their social skills to the point where mission running and mining the mission spaces is a fun hybrid way to experience the game.
Wilhelm and Gaff and I were going great guns for a while but Gaff ran of to Norrath and then Middle Earth while Wil has caught the EQ2 bug on Guk. So for now, I’ll continue to pursue my Eve objectives since it can be so forgiving of RL scheduling conflicts (the game you can play off line!). Real time skill training FTW.
Everquest 2. I was convinced to fire up EQ2 again as an alternative to WoW burnout and WAR disappointment. Mrs. P and I followed multi boxing Gaff and Wilhelm to a new server and new guild where Jaye and Darren are resident. Revelry and Honor is a wonderful group and they have a gorgeous guild hall.
Leveling is much accelerated since my last visit. I was enjoying myself with this year’s offering The Shadow Odyssey until RL conflicts and the inevitable schedule chaos that are the holidays interrupted our adventures. I’m on the fence whether to keep our EQ2 accounts going since I’m not playing very much and the horizon is a bit fuzzy in that regard.
Warhammer Online. I had little enthusiasm for WAR until the open beta and then I fell for it. It was certainly something quite different from WoW and EQ2 at exactly the right time for me. Unfortunately, as the month wore on, performance issues and dubious design choices made clear that it just wasn’t going to be the next big thing. The open world RvR, when it happened, was great, but the performance of the client and the incentives were too undeveloped or misconceived to make it a good fit for our group.
Pirates of the Burning Sea. I beta’d PotBS and gave it a luke warm reception. I really wanted to love this game, but it suffers/ed from a few serious design problems. When I left the game, it was apparent that the fundamental port contention system was in desperate need of a complete overhaul. Its a beautiful game and I intend on checking back in a bit, maybe with Station Access. The thing that really killed it for me despite the rocky state was the the lack of a real open world feel to it. Instanced battle rooms with questionable entry mechanics made it feel too much like a game of boxes.
Likewise, the much vaunted economy was seriously out of balance and, imho, poorly executed. I’m still secretly hoping someone makes an MMO set in something like the 1600-1700 age of exploration/fighting age of sail era. Eve with scurvy please.
Age of Conan. I beta’d AoC and while parts were promising, it became clear that Funcom was rushing it out the door. PvE underdeveloped, system requirements too high, PvP not really implemented as well as game breaking bugs meant I was going to pass before release.
LotRO. Generally unplayed this year. With Moria out, I’m almost convinced to hop in and join Gaff in his return to Middle Earth. Time will be the limiting factor, but I do intend to see Moria at some point.
Games in 2009
I hate to say it, but after the disappointment of 2008, I’m not really looking forward to anything in particular. I’m interested in what 38 Studio’s has going on. I’m interested in what Guildwars 2 might be shaping up to be, but details on both of those have been scarce.
Likewise, I’m somewhat interested in watch the two most cursed IPs develop as well– Star Wars: The Old Republic and Star Trek Online. Both seem to be in capable hands, but if past is prologue, we’re doomed.
Goals for the Blog
Keep on keeping on. The key to any kind of writing is to actually do it. It gets easier and it (hopefully) gets better the more you do it. I’ve been less concerned about my frequency of posting and generally pleased with quality and the type and number of comments I get.
A blog is a blog. It doesn’t need to be a daily news feed unless you want it to be.
Goals for Gaming
I’ll completely rehash my last year’s goals because they STILL apply:
“New Game #1. Find a game other than WoW in which to continue our group adventures. I love Thanksgiving, but I can’t eat turkey sandwiches everyday all year long. Some of us have a one game time budget, so it needs to be accessible and afford the opportunity to progress through the game in relatively small blocks of time– the mythical 2-hour casual gamer block maybe once or twice a week. If its that accessible, consider roping in some new blood for more fun and adventure. I’m not necessarily seeing anything on the horizon that fits the bill, but I’m willing to be surprised.
New Game #2. Find a game #2 that offers me a different experience than game #1 but that grabs me enough to cap out. I think you need to have a #2 that you can integrate into your game life in order not to burn out on game #1 or life for that matter.”
Thanks for visiting and Happy New Year!