Saturday, November 28, 2009

Demigod style PvP in Diku MMOs?

I've been playing a lot of Demigod lately, especially since the Demon Assassin update, and I had a thought: Why not put Demigod style PvP arenas in games like Aion, WoW, WAR etc? It would put everyone on the same starting level regardless of weapons/armour/items. It would be challenging and fun, but most of all fair.

For those that haven't played Demigod, you basically choose a god (each have diff skills/abilities), join a team and then fight against another team of demigods. Everyone starts at level one with no weapons or armour and you gain XP and gold by killing waves of enemy NPC grunts that come from gates (in the bases), capturing flags or killing other demigods. Each time you level up, you can spend one skill point. You can also buy weapons and armour with your hard earned gold. Each flag you capture has a different bonus, i.e. +15% Health/Mana, +20% Skill Cool Downs etc. Flags can be recaptured at any time provided they aren't being defended. The ultimate goal is to destroy the other team's citadel, which is defended by destructible guard towers.

Now lets apply this PvP game style to something like WoW. Each class would be the different demigods. There could be 16 levels, with 5 skill points given per level. Everyone has a very basic starting weapon and no armour. You can buy/upgrade these in the game as you earn gold from killing NPC grunts, capturing flags or killing other players. The grunts could start as Murlocs or something and slowly level up as the game progresses. They would spawn from each other's bases and meet in the middle.

I definitely think it would work and it would mean you wouldn't have to grind endless hours for levels and items just to enjoy PvP. May cause a few care-bears with epic loot to cry though ;P

Friday, November 20, 2009

Aion review part 2

The last you heard from me I had embarked upon my great journey to the unknown. Many moons later now I return unto you, broken and scarred from my travels, to delight you with tales from the fabled Abyss itself. (Ok, only one moon later... I've been listening to a lot of Dragon Age cut-scenes lately and accidentally break into melodramatic fantasy monologue from time to time).

In the earlier review I told you that Aion is a game of much polish, much prettiness, and much grinding. I was willing to bear the grind so that I could see the Abyss - that ginormous PvEvP area of theoretical MMO perfection. My thoughts:

The Abyss is the coolest looking area in the game, by far. It's a bizarre, abstract, twisted area that almost feels like you're in space. A giant red sun, asteroids hurtling randomly at you from nowhere, jagged platforms drifting aimlessly around, and stargate-esque devices that recharge your flight timer. When I arrived I felt that it had all been worth it.

This feeling was enhanced when I got my first sniff of RvR. Running around with a giant group of people and being part of a mindless zerg is undeniably fun sheerly for the epic nature of it all.

Unfortunately these feelings of epic grandeur did not last. Being in a massive zerg was a performance nightmare, with framerate dropping to something like 2 fps. I had to turn all my graphics settings to minimum to avoid the frequent crashes that otherwise plague all who would attempt a fortress raid. Bear in mind, my computer is moderately beastly and handles other newly released games on maximum settings just fine. This is the only area where the game does not feel "polished". I'm beginning to wonder if anyone will ever release an MMO that can support a large number of players all doing things at once.

The performance issues were probably exacerbated by my ~700 ping to the American servers, playing from Australia. When I played Guild Wars on American servers my pings were less than half this - I'm not sure exactly what is up with their net code, but it does not seem optimal for overseas types.

Performance aside, fortress raids are relatively few and far between. It is actually advantageous to NOT capture fortresses since one of the best sources for XP and higher levels is to kill the repeatedly respawning fortress guards of the opposing faction. Capture the fortress and you lose that ability.

When I actually did get to go to fortress raids and manage not to crash, I discovered that my contribution to the attack on the NPC's was laughably pathetic. Even at level 32 my auto attacks did literally 1 damage at a time to the elite fortress NPC's. It made me feel so pathetically worthless - the whole point of an RPG is to create the illusion that you're a superstar ("wow, you reached level 12, you can now cast mega fireball of raining death, congratulations!") as opposed to making you feel like an insiginificant gnat. The level disparity is just as bad when fighting other players - when you see one fellow effortlessly slice through a dozen "lesser" players, you just have to shake your head and wonder what the designers were thinking.

I'm sure things would feel better at high levels. But the grind... oh, the grind. If I thought it was bad at the lower levels, that is nothing compared to the situation now that I'm over level 30. Do I want to punish myself that much to get to the maximum level? Is it really that important to me to then be the one that can one-shot a bunch of "n00bs" and feel like I'm so amazingly talented at the game, when in reality I am pushing the same 1-2-3 buttons as all the other players?

The answer is no. If the levelling was faster, if the level disparity was not so important, if RvR happened more often and without crashing my computer, then I would probably be all over it.

Game over!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

MMO commitment issues

It's not you, it's me... I think...

Problem no 1: MMOs require a considerable time commitment in order to get to the higher echelons of the game. If you're not 100% happy with an MMO when you first buy it, it seems like a smart move to pull out early before you commit too much time to the grind.

This happened with me and Warhammer Online. There were some issues with the game I wasn't happy with, so I quit at the one month mark. The same happened with Aion. Issues, quit. Both games were not horribly bad, but because they used subscription models, I didn't feel like I should keep paying when I wasn't 100% happy. Why waste $90 US and 6 months of time, when you can be playing something else more enjoyable.

Some people like to refer to this type of behavior as MMO tourism. Well, I honestly don't like to tour anything, I just want to be certain that I'm getting a good source of entertainment for my time and money investment. You could think of it as an MMO shareholder really. If the entertainment value is potentially high, then I'm happy to invest.

Problem no 2: All the 'good' content in an MMO these days is at the endgame. When a new MMO is released, nobody knows what the end game is like. Should I take a risk and invest my time/money or should I move to something with a proven entertaining endgame (i.e an older MMO)?

To me it seems smarter to hang back and wait for the MMO to prove itself before making a commitment. This can be a little difficult when you see shiny new graphics and your friends are telling you how cool the battle animations are etc. There is also the fact that you don't want your character to be 6 months behind everyone else's.

Problem no 3: MMOs always release full of bugs and design issues. This does nothing to bolster confidence when determining whether to make a commitment.

Problem no 4: MMO companies love to slap you with that $15 US credit card fee right off the bat, before you've barely tested the water.

This always pisses me off, especially when I've just paid $50+ US for the game. A reward would be nice, since I just choose to buy their game over many others out there... but nope... more money please.

Problem no 5: When the meter is ticking, it feels like you need to get your money's worth. This sux if you're a casual gamer or even if you want to play multiple MMOs at the same time.

What happens if I want to play a new MMO casually? Is such a thing sacrilege these days? I don't like the feeling that my money is draining away when I'm not playing...

Solution no 1: Don't charge a subscription fee.

Solution no 2: If you are going to charge a subscription fee, don't start doing it until players have made a considerable time commitment to the game, or at least felt like they've had their initial money's worth (like 3 months). It's harder to leave when you've invested more...

In summary, the MMO companies need to lose the subscription fee or their MMO will struggle greatly to get off the ground. I'm sure I'm not the only one having commitment issues.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Guild Wars 2 Art Book

After I got back from my Europe trip, the Guild Wars 2 RSS news feed was the first one I looked at when firing up my google reader for the first time 2 months. Apologies to other bloggers (you come second). Unfortunately there was no mention of a beta or possible release date, which was little disappointing, but all was not lost. There was news of a book containing the artwork of Guild Wars 2. I'm a big fan of fantasy art and an even bigger fan of Guild Wars, so I jumped onto the NCSoft store and ordered me up a copy. The book itself cost $30 US, and the postage to Australia was about $18 US. Still sounded like a bargin to me.

Fifteen days later the package arrived. I hastedly opened it and began scimming through...

Well, impressed would be an understatement. The book is 128 pages of pure unadulterated GW fantasy concept art goodness. As an added bonus, the book includes artist notes and considerable lore about Guild Wars 2. Drool..

All I can say is that if you love GW, this book is a must. Knowing now what the book contains, I would have payed twice that price (probably 3 times). If your not a die hard fan however, you can still view some of the concept artwork for GW2 on the official site. You can also get your hands on some GW2 info over at the wiki or FAQ. Now back to the waiting game...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Aion out, Dragon Age in

Yup, like what the title says. Aion wasn't fun, so I stopped playing. Dragon Age is RPG heaven! Every time my Rogue performs a backstab, an angel gets it's wings!

If for some reason I ever decide to play a Diku style MMO again, it will be WoW. Although I despise it for it's business model and grind-o-time-sink type leveling, it still does it better than any other Diku style MMO out there.

You don't need me to tell you about Dragon Age, because if you were serious about RPGs you would already be playing it. Love that backstab!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Aion: Bad Quest Design

Well... just about all quests in Aion are badly designed, but there is one that stood out more than the others. I received it when my Cleric reached level 17:

Yup, that's right, I have to resurrect 100 fallen allies. If you are wondering what the problem with this quest is, then hang your head in shame!

What's the fastest way for a Cleric (healer), who is responsible for keeping the entire group alive, to get 100 resurrections?

"Oh jeez, sorry buddy... went afk for a sec... here let me rez you.."

"Sorry phone rang, don't worry I've got rez"

You get the idea...

A good cleric would never let a team mate die (on purpose). So in actual fact, the quest is punishing the player for being a skillful healer. Furthermore the reward of 20,000 kinah is only really a large sum to a low level char. Once you pass 25 or so, you are making 20k or so off every quest run (drops alone). By the time I credibly resurrected 100 team mates, my character is likely to be level 40+. At which point the reward is useless.

Like I said, bad quest design.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Very, very jealous...

Emily got to play Guild Wars 2 for a day.

She's my hero!

I honestly couldn't think of a better wish. Nice work Emily!

Hat's off to ArenaNet for being so awesome as well.