Looking Back on 2008

A few reflections on my gaming and blogging in 2008 with a few follow ups from last year’s post.

The Blog

On the stat line:

Total Hits: just over 100,000
Posts: 228
Comments: 825

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.

My top 5 referring sites were 1) VirginWorlds, 2) The Ancient Gaming Noob, 3) Tobold’s, 4) Kill Ten Rats and 5) Keen and Graev’s.  Many thanks to them and all who visit and comment.

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!

Can RvR Ever Work?

Been reading a few of the “Woe is WAR” posts floating around like Keen’s and on The Greenskin.  I’m reminded of similar discussions around Pirates of the Burning Sea (technical issues aside) as the struggle for the soul of the game evolved.

I’m left with the question in my brain of whether a primarily Realm versus Realm MMO can really have any chance of succeeding, or whether the MMO genre is really just too poorly suited to this kind of gameplay.

A persistent world with persistent characters comes with a price that may have some inherent limitations or conflicts when brought into contact with most MMO character progression models.  I didn’t play DAOC in its heyday, so forgive the lack of insight there.

I wonder what discussions roiled around the conference room tables when the Mythics and Flying Labs of the world discussed designing a faction oriented pvp game.  Without being exhaustive, I’d think they have to have pretty good answers to questions like these, and more importantly, the answers to any of them can’t conflict with answers to others.  No small task indeed.

What happens if:

  • one side is more popular than another?
  • one class is more popular than others?
  • there are not enough people to overcome PvE objectives?
  • there are not enough pople to overcome RvR objectives?
  • the population is spread across a number of regions?
  • the population is spread across a range of experience?
  • one faction dominates RvR objectives?
  • no one engages in RvR?
  • if RvR objectives are only undertaken when there are no likely defenders?
  • if there are players that don’t want to engage in RvR?
  • if a faction is “victorious”?
  • if a faction is “defeated”?
  • players only have a 2-hour block of time to play?
  • if players are unable to coordinate with each other?

and on and on.  I’m beginning to think that as soon as you replace factional progression with individual advancement, you’ve lost the RvR game.  Likewise, the opposite seems true too– as soon as you replace individual advancement with RvR progression, you lose the MMO game.

A game about “us” seems incompatible with a game about “me” and vice versa.  I’m hoping someone proves me wrong.

Just to avoid any confusion, PvP /= RvR and doesn’t suffer the same conflicts.  “Warfare” in a PvP game like Eve, for example, is an extrapolation of a one v. one conflict to a many v. many conflict.  Though complicated conflicts require specialization and coordination (just like PvE games), Eve remains an individual experience, whether or not you are part of a big corporation, whether or not you are Gallente, Caldari, Minmatar or Amarr.

Ultimately the rewards of the corporate warrior or the doughty miner inure to the individual, and any collective effort via corps and alliances, etc. are at their core still motivated by that individual advancement mechanic.  In Eve, thats mostly pecuniary.  ISK is King, and all good things come from ISK.  In PvE games, that’s levels and loot.

Self selective collaborative group effort is still built on an individual achievement model, just like PvE MMOs.  We run the instance to get the loot for ourselves and for our group mates’ “selves” but not for any conceptualized “us”.

My individual interests may have been aligned with those of Varian Wrynn from time to time, but if the King of Stormwind said “Go slay 1,000 scourge”, the first thing that comes to mind is “What’s in it for me?”  PvP and PvE allow us to keep individual score.  An RvR game has yet to crack that nut.

So can it be done or are we all doomed to me first MMOs?

Getting out of WAR

I’m done. Its just not doing it for me. There’s the core of a great game in there somewhere, but somewhere between the beta and release, it got lost.

The reason I went to WAR was to engage in open RvR. War is everywhere. Except its not.

Scenarios, in and of themselves, are not solely to blame. In my opinion, and its only my opinion, the game lacks the overall balance sufficient to make it compelling for a wide audience.

The open RvR, when it happens, has been some of the most fun I’ve had in an MMO to date. The main problem is it just doesn’t happen enough or perform well enough and mean enough when it does happen.

I’ll probably check back in a bit to see how things evolve, but at the moment, its just not a great fit.

Fixing WAR RvR Redux

As reported on the Warhammer Herald , open RvR XP is now double that of scenarios. This is after a previous boost last week of 50% which, in my excursions, still doesn’t seem to have dramatically increased open RvR (i.e. blasted people out of the scenarios). So continuing a trend of suggested improvements to open RvR, here are a few more I think would be helpful in addition to the many good ones floating around the blogosphere.

As I mentioned in my Five C’s post, and others in the commentariat have mentioned, scenarios are just so damned convenient. Queue anywhere, wait a bit, and you’re magically whisked away to the scenario and delivered back where you were when you’re done. Hard to beat. Maybe impossible.

Somewhere among the 20 or so blogs I surf almost daily, someone mentioned people still queuing for scenarios while engaged in open RvR and getting teleported out of battle into a scenario (!). Definitely a symptom…

The image of someone disappearing from a keep defense to go to a scenario struck home with me. It just seemed wrong. It seemed like it should actually be just the opposite (or at best, no worse or more inconvenient). This coupled with our own group’s frustration at looking and not finding any RvR got me procrastinating thinking… How to make open RvR as convenient as scenarios….


This has got to be the hands down biggest hurdle. When a scenario is “ready,” players that have expressed an interest in participating are given an option to be teleported from wherever they are straight to the scenario.

Lets even the playing field. Players that want to open RvR should also be able to “queue” for open RvR. A similar queue-like mechanism could be added– call it King’s Militia, or Guard Duty, or Defense of the Realm, or Goon Squad or whatever. When some kind of bona fide* attack occurs somewhere, the King sends out a call to arms– “Help! The Bug People are huffing and puffing and blowing my keep in! Mr Watson — Come here — I want to see you” etc.

If you have “signed up” for Defense of the Realm(tm) duty, then you get an oh-so-scenario like pop up that asks you if you want to answer the King’s call and go defend keep X in zone Y. Answer yes, and you’re whisked away to the warcamp nearest the battle. To keep things in balance, only a limited number of folks would be allowed to teleport in for defense. The rest would have to hoof it like now.

Yes, this makes taking a keep more difficult, but at least it fosters actual RvR and evens the playing field with scenarios on the geographical convenience angle.


Queuing and Teleporting works great for defense, but doesn’t help so much on O. Well, the increase XP given for killing other players unfortunately doesn’t really create any incentive to do it if there is no one there to fight. Providing a defensive scramble response would help ensure that there are some punching bags to hit when you do go on O.

Decide where you want to attack (or multiple coordinated attacks? oooh stategery) and poof, XP pinatas start zoning in.

Still that might not be enough to populate the RvR lakes. One problem is that once the BOs and keeps are taken, there’s no reason for the controlling side to set foot anywhere near the place unless there are other things to do in there that don’t require the enemy to be present.

Enter, the PvE Bait Quest. Something, anything, to do inside the RvR lake that would yield significant XP/Renown (over regular PvE) to attract [unwitting] players into the zone [to be squashed like bugs]. PQs in the RvR area as well as ordinary but enhanced PvE quests would at least create some traffic that might end up getting enough people in there that the light bulb might go on “hey, there’s two whole warbands of us whacking foozles, why don’t we go take that keep back…”

Again, not perfect, but anything that raises the chance that a critical mass might be present in an RvR lake would be a good thing.

Auto Warband

Communication and coordination is still a pain across groups, zones, etc. Step into an RvR lake and you should get dumped into a default warband just like a scenario. Everyone can see everyone else, you can see where they are in the zone. Of course, that whole zone boundary down the middle of the RvR lake issue is still a bit problematic (I mean, WTF, who made that fucking crosseyed hityourself in the nutsack design decision?).

If I’m solo or a small group, but as soon as I step into an RvR lake and see there are others already there, I’m much more likely to start something or participate in something.

Who knows, probably shouting in the wind, but the WAR bathwater is starting to get lukewarm, so unless things heat up, its getting close to the time to get out.


*bona fide, as in there has to be some kind of “real” attack going on. One dude plinking an NPC guard at a keep does not an attack make.