Monday, June 30, 2008


When Blizzard made the Diablo 3 announcement, I started get a little excited about having an age old LAN party. I'm not talking about the type of LAN parties where 100+ people rock up to a hall and all play CS, WoW and Battlefield. I'm talking about having five 5 mates over for a long weekend, lots of junk food and caffeinated drinks and very little sleep. In my opinion, there hasn't been a good LAN worthy RPG released in over five years. My favorites being Baldur's Gate 2, Never Winter Nights and Diablo 2. I actually thought that RPG LAN games were being made extinct by MMORPGs. Is it possible that Blizzard has identified a niche in the market for an old school LAN RPG with Diablo 3? I certainly hope so.

Hands up those who were hoping for a Diablo MMO? Are any of you disappointed that it will most likely be a LAN / Online small group RPG? I'm not, for two reasons:
  1. There are to many MMOs coming out at the moment and the last thing I can handle right now is another WoW.
  2. LAN Party!! woot!!!
Although my love will remain with MMORPGs, I will always have a soft spot for LAN style RPG games. I just hope the genre isn't completely wiped out by the MMO market. Diablo 3 looks awesome, an I'm sure it will provide a welcome respite from the MMO world.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

MMORPGs need more statistics!

Viewable statistics are the polish that's lacking from most MMORPGs. I'm talking about the millions of tiny statistics generated from performing actions in an RPG world. For example, some PvE statistics could be:
  • Number of bears killed
  • What monster class has done the most damage to you
  • What monster you have killed the most
  • Your favourite weapon
  • Number of Dungeons completed successfully/unsuccessfully
  • Number of treasure chests opened
So whats so cool about all these statistics and why do MMORPGs need to capture them? In my opinion, being able to view these stats about your RPG character gives you a greater sense of achievement, as well as adding an extra layer of coolness to the game. It can even give you bragging rights if you were able to show these stats to your other online buddies. MMORPGs could take it one step further and provide your character with bonuses once they reached certain levels of statistics. For example, if you kill 1000 bears, you get the title of 'Bear Killer' and will forever do 5% more damage to bears. Kind of like the Guild Wars title system.

I think viewable statistics on a guild charter for each member would also be very cool to have. Here are some examples:
  • Number of hours online since joining the guild
  • Number of guild battles won/lost
  • Number of raids participated in
  • Gold donated to the guild
  • Quest assists you have provided to buddies
Viewable statistics could be made local to a particular raid/mission as well. How handy would it be to be able to see how much damage/healing your team mates are doing in the raid/mission? You could press 'Tab' or something and bring up a list showing you exactly who was doing all the work and who was slacking off. Maybe even provide the leader with the option to boot the lowest participating player on the list. I think this would definitely improve the quality of raids and mission in the future of MMO gaming.

The greatest area for viewable statistics would be in the realm of PvP. WoW already shines in this area, providing PvP players with an easily readable list of who's doing the most damage/healing/kills/flag captures etc on the battleground. Sadly, Guild Wars, which is renown for it's PvP doesn't have anything of the sort. It would be great if the game had a reward system for the player who finished top of the PvP list. For example the player who finishes top could receive double honor/faction points or get a special token that could be traded in for elite PvP gear.

Viewable statistics are the kind of polish that would make any MMORPG that little bit better. It's not a new concept, I remember being able to view stats about my character in Baldur's Gate. I just hope to see more of it in MMORPGs in the future.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Let the gamers build the MMO content!

At the speed that MMO players churn through game content, game devs have no chance of keeping up with demand. The answer is simple, let the gamers assist with adding new content to the game. If adding game content was treated the same way as open source programming, then it would be a simple matter having one (or more) quality control game dev experts that regulate the contribution from gamers. Obviously not all gamer contributed content would be added to the game, just the stuff that was deemed acceptable by the game company.

If gamers contributed their own content to the MMO, then other gamers would be happy for the extra content and game companies would be happy for the cheap labour and gamer retention. I only see a win-win scenario. The only thing that the games companies would need to flip the cost for are the editors required to produce the extra content. Technically the editors are created before the game anyway, they would just need to by made 'user friendly'.

Player created content is not a new concept, it has been around for decades. Me thinks back to my Command and Conquer level editor. As games have become more complex, so to has the tools to create them, and the thus the reduction in editors for creating content. One solution would be to make very specific editors that only target specific areas of the game. For example, a character model editor for WoW, that would allow you to submit different hair styles, faces, bodies and extras. This would enhance gamer experience through greater customization of their characters. Some other examples would be weapon editors, clothing editors, quest writing editors, combat animation editors, PvP map editors etc.

Pirates of the Burning Sea provided the ability to submit your own ship, flag and mask designs. What a seriously great idea! I could only imagine how happy the gamer felt when he saw his ship design being sailed around by 5% of the online population. What an awesome feeling of achievement! I just wish I could submit my own cape design to the devs at ArenaNet so that I could have it on my Guild Wars characters. It would certainly make my guild that extra bit cooler. I remember back to the days of Never Winter Nights when I would often play on the gamer created persistent worlds. A lot of the time, they were better than the actual game.

I just hope that in the future MMOG companies make it easier for players to create their own content, because it would make for one hell of a better game.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Hardcore Gaming and Fitness?

If I spent as much time at the gym as I do playing MMO games, I'd look like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime. The trouble is that it's very difficult to be a hardcore gamer and keep fit at the same time. This is usually due to the fact that my brain and body would much rather be playing video games than lifting heavy weights and jogging long distances. It's a pity there isn't a Wii fit MMO or some kind of RPG linked to a body suit, where you actually have to fight with real physical movements to level your in-game character. I think it would solve a large portion of the worlds' health issues.

In the meantime, I still need to solve the issue of balancing fitness with gaming. It occurred to me whilst I was eating my take away Chinese noodles for lunch today, that since getting fit is just a matter of willpower and the proper mentality, why don't I just apply my hardcore gaming mentality to my home gym equipment? I'm talking about the same willpower and state of mind that I used to level my WoW Warlock to level 70. The same willpower I used for farming 200 Guild Wars platinum from the Troll Cave. I simply need to treat my own body like my in-game character and add a few points to my strength and constitution (and maybe a few to willpower to begin with).

Naturally this is just a theory, but I'm willing to give it a shot. I'm kind of in between MMO's at the moment, and WAR is still months away, so I think its a good time to start. Here are the rules:

You get 5 XP for each sit up, 7.5 XP for a push up, 10 XP for a bench press and 15 XP for a chin up. For jogging, its 75 XP per kilometer (120 XP per mile). You start on Level 1 and need 500 XP for Level 2, 1000 XP for level 3 etc.

The plan is to be at level 10 within three months, so I think its time for some power leveling... gulp ;)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Some PvP Insight

Recently while reading an article on Slashdot about Massively's article on PvP systems I gained some minor insight. The insight didn't come from the article, but instead from one of the comments near the bottom. Here it is:

The problem in my opinion is that players have the "Diablo" mentality where they want to level every 30 minutes and constantly get new, godly equipment.

The only way that I really see PvP working correctly is to have a system where leveling isn't the goal, but is a factor. For example, after you complete so many dungeons, explore so many places in the world, have more personal experience playing the game rather than "xp points"...then you advance a level. The level's wouldn't increase your hit points, mana point, etc. Rather they would allow for new, more difficult game content to be unlocked and possibly alter enemy AI to be more difficult and loot to be scaled to be suitable for new encounters. Of course, you would also be able to learn new abilities at the new level that wouldn't necessarily raise your power to a huge degree over the previous levels spells but, instead, would increase your utility and efficiency.

The key thing that the new levels would do would be to protect low level opponents from being attacked by much higher level opponents. The game would also have to be much more strategy oriented than current games.

I'm not really sure how relevant the comments are to PvP systems, but it does describe a 'better' core MMORPG system.

I built my blog in a hope that I could eventually nut out 'what makes the perfect MMORPG'. MMO Game Design is still a baby in the world, and it will be at least another 15 years before they work out the formula for the ultimate MMORPG, but it's insight like this that helps to move things along.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Is Gold Farming a Bad Thing?

MMORPG gold farming gets a lot of negative publicity, and I agree with 99 percent of it. The idea of getting a bunch of kids to repeatedly farm in-game gold for very little real money is disgraceful, not to mention the damage it does to the in-game economy (WoW and EVE are prime examples). I despise the gamers that purchase gold online, as it only makes the problem worse. So why bring up the issue at all if I hate it so much? Solo farming in my opinion is one of the most challenging experiences that you can find in an MMORPG. It can be great fun (until you get that the repetitive feeling) and highly rewarding. Efficient farming techniques can lead to big bucks for your RPG character giving you the edge over your fellow gamers. Other gamers may argue that you are exploiting the game and destroying the in-game economy, but that's a problem for the game designer's, not you.

I've read hundreds of forums about farming in Guild Wars and it amazes me at the creativity and thoughtfulness that goes into creating successful farming builds. Its like a whole other dimension of the game that the game designers didn't foresee. It made the game just that little bit more challenging and rewarding.

It was a sad day when they introduced the anti-farming code to Guild Wars, but it drastically improved the in-game economy making it a much better game for the casual gamer. Did the anti-farming code stop people from farming? Hell no! It just made farming all the more challenging and possibly more popular.

When I played EVE Online mining ore was the most effective way to get money. Was it fun? Absolutely not! It was extremely boring, because there simply was no challenge. Obviously the better the ore, the more the challenge to mine it, but it still wasn't fun because you couldn't be creative in your farming builds, and it was almost impossible to solo (the hard stuff). I only did it because I needed the ISK - boring!

The sad reality is that gold farming will always be rampant throughout MMORPGs present and future, so maybe game designers should work it into their design plans so that everyone benefits. There is fun to be had in gold farming, but it needs to be incorporated with minimum damage to the in-game economy. Game designers need to treat gold farming with caution and respect, because it will make their MMORPG just that little bit better.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Monk Build: WoH Ninja

This is Monk build designed for PvP that works well in RA, TA and Alliance Battles (AB). The build has everything a monk needs and has proven extremely effective for myself in obtaining my gladiator titles.

Template Code: OwcT0Yo+RSjoB0fICECklQgpBCA

Divine Favor: 11 (10+1)
Healing Prayers: 16 (12+4)
Shadow Arts: 8

Word of Healing [Elite] (Healing Prayers)
Patient Spirit (Healing Prayers)
Vigorous Spirit (Healing Prayers)
Spotless Soul (Healing Prayers)
Spotless Mind (Healing Prayers)
Contemplation of Purity (Divine Favor)
Return (Shadow Arts)
Dark Escape (Shadow Arts)

This is a high powered healing build with a large amount of cheap condition and hex removal. 'Spotless Soul' will remove 7 conditions and 'Spotless Mind' removes 4 hexes, each for the cost of 5 energy with a quarter second cast (works over a period of 19 seconds). 'Contemplation of Purity' (CoP) is your only self condition and hex removal, so be sure to use it wisely. Always keep 'Vigorous Spirit' on yourself at all times. It will keep your health up during degen and provide a cheap enchant for CoP to remove. Use 'Patient Spirit' as an extra enchant to CoP off, and it will heal you for 126 health as well. 'Return' is an extremely effective way to get out of heavy melee and other tricky situations. Use 'Dark Escape' if you being spiked or taking heavy damage. It will provide you with some time to get back on your feet. The rest of the time, just use Word of Healing (WoH) to keep everyone's health high. The best part about this build is that all your spells except WoH are a quarter second cast, which is extremely helpful versus interrupters.

I use a +5 energy sword with a 20% enchant bonus on it and a HSR +30 healing focus. The important thing is the 20% enchant bonus because it means Spotless Soul and Mind remove an additional condition and hex. For extra health you can run Survivor's insignias with a major or minor healing rune. I prefer Blessed insignias with an expert healing rune. A 'Recovery' rune is also handy to have on your armour to reduce daze and deep wound.

WAR - A PvPer's dream?

I have to admit, when I first read about Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR), some little voice inside me screamed "WoW clone". The first screen shots and game play videos looked awful and the lack of information when it was first publicised, really didn't help. A year ago I would have predicted the game would only appeal to the Warhammer fans and a few hardcore MMOers. All that has changed now, as Mythic has been releasing a plethora of information about the game. In fact the game is sounding so good, that not only have I joined the hype train, I've already started trying to figure out which character class I'm going to play first.

In a recent interview with EA Mythic's Jeff Hickman, Senior Producer for Warhammer Online, a lot of details were spilled about the philosophy behind developing WAR. In my life time of playing MMORPGs, the one thing I've come to enjoy most is the PvP action. It's the main reason why I preferred Guild Wars over WoW. In the interview, Jeff Hickman says:

"We generally start everything in our game with a thought toward PvP. PvP isn't the first thing we think of, but it's one of the first things. We think of Warhammer Online as a PvP game that also has monster and PvE content. So, when we balance our careers, we balance the content around player verses player, not fighting monsters. We balance the classes against each other. Then, instead of balancing those classes against the monsters, we balance the monsters against the classes. Our philosophy is to make the best PvP game in the world and build the PvE content around it. We know how much damage each class can do and take, plus all the utility each class can provide. So, instead of balancing each ability, we just need to modify the overall damage output and absorption of each career."

ZOMG!! I could not have created a better philosophy for developing an MMORPG myself! Jeff Hickman has just been boosted to instant legend status in my books. When WoW was being developed I can guarantee you that they built a PvE game with some PvP thrown in. I actually think this is WoW's achilles heal. So if any game is going to knock it off its mighty pedestal, WAR is looking like the front runner. Mind you, i don't expect it to happen over night as WoW has one hell of a fan base, but I bet a large percentage of those fans are sick of grinding the same old crap.

With RvR combat, Living Guilds, Public Quests and six different races, each with four archetypes, WAR is sounding like one hell of a game. It promises some MMO innovation, which I'm deeply looking forward to, I just hope the graphics do the game play justice.