Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Can't We All Just Get Along?

No frickin' way, two posts in one day?

Stargrace doesn't understand why we're all so quick to judge the gameplay style of others. Those of us that like to level at a leisurely pace criticize those who race to the top. Can't we understand that that is fun for them? It's just a different play style, like PvP. Right? RIGHT??
Wrong. And she says why it's wrong-headed right in her post. "[T]hey’re of the mind that rushing to the top is the end all be all of a game only to bitch about lack of content when they get there." You should not be allowed to complain about lack of content in a lore-based adventure game if you rush past all the content in a mad dash to be first to the top. It may a valid gameplay style, but it is a poor one. And one which ends in disappointment for the player. If those min-maxing racers get to the top, play the content that is there and then say wow that was great and move on to another game, that would be great. But instead, they whine about how there is nothing to do now. And the game SUCKS! And the devs should do more for them! Which the devs do. Instead of creating more low or mid-level content, for the altoholics (another valid play style), or more battlegrounds for PvP (never thought I'd throw in with the PvPers).

It goes along with the question Spinks asked about using guides for the puzzles in Rift. I suppose it's OK if you do. But what have you accomplished? It's like having the jig-saw outline underneath the puzzle surface and the pieces numbered. Truth in advertising: I did use the book map in the Guardian starting area, but only because I knew I would not be able to get back to that area with my character. I would be somewhat interested in finding out about the existence of in-game puzzles, artifacts, but would prefer to work them out myself.

Oh, and in the end, it may be as much a case of us versus them, Stargrace. Because as often as not, the power levelers and "hardcore" players look down on those of us taking our time and enjoying the scenery.

The WoW Killer?

So Syp is already asking if Rift is a success. People have already chimed in. I'll be honest, I've never gotten in on a headstart. I started playing WoW over a year after it was released. I got into STO a few days after it hit the stores. But I've never seen the polish that this game has, right out the gate. And the enthusiasm players seem to have for it.
It *is* hard to say, at this stage, how successful it will be in the long run. But I hear very little negativity about Rift, other than habitual doomsayers. They are basically saying saying it can't take on WoW because nothing else has been able to.  Others can only complain about the long queues (for some servers, while others are no wait). Few people seem to remember that EQ2 was gonna dominate the MMO genre, until WoW steamrolled over it on it's path to MMO glory. Is Rift a WoW killer? Probably not, but did anyone imagine that WoW would be a EQ killer?

Beau Hindman, commenting on Syp's post, said, "When a game is already being heralded as “nothing new, but that’s OK” then it simply cannot be anything new. We already have old." Going back to 2004, World of Warcraft did not break new any MMO ground, other than perhaps making some things easier. Blizzard took a fairly established genre and gave it polish. WoW was playable on some pretty crappy machines, but looked great on gaming rig of the time. It is still playable on a wide range of systems. Travel was made easier--quicker, but then some complained that Azeroth was too small. Death was less costly, and some said it was less meaningful. But I digress. Blizzard has made an incredible amount of money from polishing older ideas.

Trion may have hit on that formula. The game has some different stuff. More choices of combat mechanics. You can finally have that rogue tank you always wanted. Or that healing mage.Your priest can wear chain. The Rifts themselves are cool dynamic content. But mostly it's the same questing, crafting, and killing as before. Only. With. More. Polish.

That may just be enough.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Once More Into The Rift, Dear Friends, Once More

This post has few story spoilers, maybe some minor mentions. It's really more of a OOC player experience post than a IC lore post. Plus SCREENIES!
So I rushed home after work to jump onto Rift and play with my fellow bloggers and tweeters on Faeblight, and promptly encountered the 6 hour wait. Why did we choose this server again? I say next time we do this, have someone scout it out, and then decide which server. The rest of us can wait on Twitter or the MP forum or something and then jump on when it's "safe." Anyway I got onto Faeblight this morning and created a couple Defiants (Ochroma and Larrea) and a Guardian(Rughaan). Unfortunately "Rowan" was taken on Faeblight and I was disinclined to tag "blaze" onto the end. Look for me there once I am able to get on the server in a reasonable amount of time. As an aside, why do game developers have an aversion to spaces and apostrophes or hyphens in character names? "Rugha'an," pronounced similarly to "Rowan" and meaning the same thing, properly has an apostrophe, but I couldn't include that in my character name. Arrgh!

MEANWHILE, over on Estrael--another PvE-RP shard like Faeblight--DGF and I created a couple Guardians. She was reluctant at first, having disliked the bit of the Guardian starting area she'd seen during beta, but then realized this would be a new experience, unlike doing a Defiant for the third or fourth time. And as Pete has said, the first couple zones are aesthetically more pleasing than the rather dreary Freemarch on the Defiant side.

The new character preset slider threw us both off when we tried to change the height of our High Elves, so that slowed us down. But we finally got in and matched instances to join each other on our adventure.
My character, Rowan, is an ascended High Elf Druid, who recruited a Warden and a Cabalist soul to help in her fight against Regulos. DGF roled as Enura, a High Elf Night Blade with a Blade Dancer and Marksman to assist. She will probably switch the Marksman to a Riftstalker, preferring to get in the face of the enemy instead of standing off.
We followed the secret book map and got every one in the tutorial area. Is there one for the Defiant tutorial, as well? I didn't get many good pics until we got to the tents (Valor Hold), mostly because I forgot to snap any.
As a druid, I have a pet--or maybe companion is a better term--a faerie. Mine is named Eolande (my pick), Celtic/Gaelic for violet flower. She throws life damage spells and also heals me and my party members. Perhaps it balances out over all versus other builds, but it seems like her spells can often be the difference between life and death.

DGF enjoyed the Guardian tutorial this time around, but I didn't explain the past/present/future of the tutorials very well. The Defiant tutorial is early and explicitly depicted as being in the future, the Defiant Ascended are sent into the past through a Magitech time machine. The Guardian tutorial on the other hand, does not clearly state when it takes place (relative to the main game world) until the end of the tutorial, during the cutscene. If your first characteris a Guardian, this is probably not a big deal; though I was confused myself when playing a Guardian during the beta.
We got through the tutorial area and into the second zone, Silverwood. The crowd was thick, making the gameplay much less immersive. Kill-steals and node-steals were rampant; though after a while, the crowd thinned, and we were able to collect the materials we needed for quests. I don't know if the other players moved on and there was no follow-on crowd, or people were just starting to go to bed.

I'll have to think about a backstory for Rowan, not to mention my other toons. I am not clear on how much the Ascended know about their past lives. Obviously the major NPC leaders know who they are, but the dialogue with some of the exemplars of the different classes (in the Sanctuary of Rebirth) imply that the PC Ascended have some memory loss. And are the second and third (and more) souls willing partners? Hostile? Oblivious tools to be used?

This post has been a bit scatterbrained, [Edited to include links]. I also still have some thoughts (and screenies) on the open beta, but I am not sure they are relevant any longer. Tell me what you think, Dear Reader.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bah! Blogger Ate My Blog Post

So I had a longish rant about the Rift beta written and some how lost it. :( In its place, here is a fun forecast for this week. Uh Oh! looks like we may have rifts on Thursday.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How Long Should I Play an MMORPG?

Alex Taldren seems to think that MMOs should be designed for four to five months of playability, tops. And we players should accept that and move on when we are done with the game. He thinks those players who expect to be able to play an MMORPG for years are foolish and should just move on when they done. Yeebo Fernbottom and Anjin, in his bullet points have brought up similar points--though more kindly, I think.
Alex writes "Why is it that if an MMO doesn't supply gamers with years of content, it is viewed as being shallow or pointless?"

Here is why, Alex. An MMORPG, unlike a console game, is supposed to be a persistent world that exists independent of my being there, with other players doing their own thing and sometimes (often?) interacting with me in that virtual space. Whether it is in a "themepark" or a "sandbox" we expect that feeling of permanence or semi-permanence to be there. Otherwise we would be content to play GTA, The Force Unleashed, or Assassin's Creed, or whatever the next big single-player RPG turns out to be. But we're not. I have played WoW for almost five years. No other single piece of intellectual property has provided me the hours of enjoyment that game has. If I "beat" it (another thing that grates on my nerves, how do you beat a world? Why are you trying?) after five months, then what was the point?

I'll admit, subscribing to an MMORPG does change the player outlook on that game. We think in terms of time commitment rather than cost when considering a new game.

If you only want to play DCUO or Rift for a few months, you are certainly within your rights to do so, and I do hope you enjoy your time. To me, there is a certain level of commitment for me to play longer, assuming I enjoy it; and for the developers to have built and continue to build on that persistent world, because I have subscribed to their game. Otherwise, they could go develop a single-player RPG with a few levels and be done with it. What's in it for them? If even one million players played WoW, that's $15,000,000.00 (yes I am putting in all the zeros) per month in revenue, beyond the initial $40,000,000.00 in boxes for Vanilla WOW alone. That's a lot of incentive to keep going. Of course there are far more players than that in WOW, enabling Blizzard rake in ungodly amounts of money. I heard they made $75,000,000.00 on the first day alone from the infamous sparkle-pony. Don't try to tell me it cost nearly that to create. So ja, even without WoW's volume, a persistent game can make a ton of money for the producer, if they can keep butts in the seats, so to speak.

So it's a win-win for players who want to escape to a persistent world and for the developers who provide it. Some players will come and go. I don't know how much longer I'll play WoW. But I know that it's been fun. And I probably never would have played it as a SP-RPG. After all, I haven't played those other single-player games I mentioned.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Rifting on a Theme

So, perhaps inevitably, the buzz about Rift is turning a little sour. Pete is a little down because the game isn't the way it was in early betas. Syp thinks maybe Trion should go dark in the last few weeks before launch to stem the over-hype. Ardwulf is gonna sit out the launch, maybe join later. Even GeeCee sees differences in the way the game feels based on zone population. I think Randomessa may have hit the nail on the head when she lays the blame firmly at the feet of the player community itself, especially those who blog (and tweet).
I mean, we can't have it both ways. If a game is to succeed, it has to appeal to enough players to cover its costs and make a tidy profit. Sometimes this means "dumbing it down" a little, which infuriates some of the more hardcore among us. The rifts are too hard, until there are so many people zerging the mobs that the rifts become too easy. What a pleasant problem for Trion. They are working on balance with the rifts. I would like to know how random the rifts themselves are. How quickly can they be ratcheted up or dialed back, based on pax in the zone?

Maybe because I haven't been there since Beta 1, I haven't been jaded to the current game. I'll have to admit here and now that I am one of the unwashed masses who got into beta with the express purpose of trying out the game to see if I would want to buy it. Well, guess what. Trion made me a believer. I have talked in the past about games that draw me in right away, versus games that are just meh, or even unplayable, from my perspective. I also know that other players are delighted with those very same games, while others can't stand playing the games I love.

We can only hope that the MMOs we fall in love with are popular enough to be sustained for a few years. Rift is this for me. I have been drawn in by the gameplay, and the lore. I have to figure out my characters' place in the world though. With my developed TOTG toons, I had been playing for a while before I developed their backstories. With STO I had enough lore knowledge that I could get the RP ball rolling right off the bat.

I like my Eth Rogue, and my High Elf Cleric. While I loved the spells of my Bahmi Stormcaller Mage, he died way too much for my taste. I may have to tweak the build, before he is viable. Because I still like the idea of the Big Giant Clothie.
I was the first on the scene when a rift opened up on Sunday evening, and was able to click on a gravestone to get NPC assistance until other players arrived. (I still died.) We managed to seal the rift and I went on my way, I thought it was fun. I am definitely a "stand back and use ranged abilities" kinda guy in large groups. Against individual mobs, I am much more melee oriented (this with an Assassin/Riftstalker/Bard). I find rifts and large public groups to be very chaotic, but then I find large raids in TOTG to be similarly chaotic, no matter how much "strategy" goes into them.

OK, so this has rambled on a bit. It could have been two posts, but it's what I am thinking about this evening when I intended to play my poor neglected STO. Anyway, I hope everyone finds what they are looking for.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

STO Anniversary

Since this blog has primarily been about Star Trek Online and stories based on characters I created there, I would be remiss if I did not commemorate the First Anniversary of the launch. Congratulations to to the dev team and all the players who have been along for the ride. Things just keep getting better!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Meaning of Community in the Modern MMO

In ages past, gamers would gather around a table on a Friday or Saturday evening, listen as one designated Dungeon Master wove a tale of intrigue and hidden treasure, then assume roles as they explored a virtual world in their collective minds. Friendships were formed that lasted years, some to the present day. People still play tabletop RPGs, but even more play MMORPGs. The first MMOs developed solid communities (supposedly; I wasn't there) that helped each other. I never realized all the different sub-categories of MMO. Fast forward to the modern era of MMO gaming, and you find a group of codgers looking back through rose colored glasses at these "wonderful" games of the past, and wondering what happened to the community spirit they fostered.
The incomparable Tobold has once again given a wonderfully ironic vision of a dystopian future where players of WoW are stuck ensconced in their own little worlds of warcraft and the community is dead. This was preceded two weeks ago by his proclamation that the only truly socially responsible thing for DPS players to do was to role as tanks or healers. Gordon of We Fly Spitfires exults in laments his status as a Conquest Point whore (OK, he said "prostitute," but I didn't see any mention of payment) and says somewhat sarcastically, "[A] sense of community doesn’t matter so long as every individual is getting their progression fix." Larisa on the other hand, would rather play with "a complete moron . . . than an ever so skilled and polite NPC." She's obviously never played STO. Raph Koster insists, with evidentiary backup, that building community is integral to good MMORPG design. Scary Booster said on Twitter yesterday that WOW is dead to him, given some of his recent experiences with douchebaggery in that game. Psychochild feels that much current design discourages and even punishes grouping behavior. Tesh, who beat me to this punch, says that Tobold's prediction actually sounds good to him, bonus points for echoing my feelings of the numbers grind at the end, both of his post and the game.

I have helped and been helped by random strangers in WoW. Some have become friends. Just this last Sunday evening, another player asked me to help him kill Chet the Slime Breeder in the ruins of Southshore. I helped out, even though I had just turned the quest in. I say this now only because it makes me look good.

It comes down to this. It's easy to have a sense of community when your game is roughly the population of Walnut Grove, it is another thing entirely when it boasts the population of a major world city, or minor country. How many friendly faces do you expect to see in New York or Beijing? Why do you expect to see more in WoW? As a commenter on Tobold's post said, there are still a million people in WoW who want to be community-minded. But there are another 11 million that don't give a bear rump about you or your gaming experience. WoW really is a victim of its own popularity. (That's not to say the devs don't share the social responsibility.)
So do your best to seek those people out if you want a sense of community, join or form a guild of like-minded players, that is probably the best way to find the community you're looking for. And turn off or ignore general and trade chat. I have ignored it for years, separating out guild and party chat into a designated window that I pay attention to.

On a tenuously related side note, Muckbeast wonders about couples content, something that is near and dear to me and DGF. I hope that designers (please, Trion and BioWare) can include elements of the game that cater to this perhaps small segment of the population that wants small-group content. The rifts in Rift may help this a little, we'll see. And now another evening has come and gone, and I haven't played STO. : /