Friday, June 22, 2007

Genre Barriers

Pixie Styx over at Strangelands posted on the possibility of designing an mmo that is not restricted by genre. This was something that really piqued my interest as it is something I often thought about. But as I stated there, I had always envisioned some sort of time travel mmo, or as Damianov suggested perhaps even alternate realities. The possibilities would be absolutely endless.

Feeling in a gothic mood, go slay vampires for a bit. Reruns of Jurassic Park inspiring you to take on a T Rex? Although I guess you could incorporate the elves and dwarves into an alternate reality universe, I'd love to see some unique races instead.

Why exactly is it that there is nothing on the horizon, even if only a couple different genres packaged into one game? I had assumed initially it would be an expensive undertaking. But I honestly don't know.

Regarding concern for immersion and connecting the various environments, Brandon was really on to something:

A character should transcend the setting he or she is placed in. Don’t get me wrong, moving a character from one setting to another will no doubt cause that character to get some details changed here and there, but the core of the character needs to supersede where that character is. If you cannot simply place your character in another context than your character is not “real” enough to be role-playing with. Character creates story (plot), creates setting. That’s the flow. Anything less than that and the character is not strong enough to stand on it’s own.

Aren't mmo's in a way like books? You have a character; you're in a world performing heroic deeds or whatever it is you wish to pursue. Just because most authors choose to keep their forest nymphs in the forest, can it be written no other way? If someone had already written a story about a druid's rowdy adventures in the wild west, would it only then be immersive to do so in an mmo? We are writing our own stories with our characters, and we are limited only by our imaginations.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Raidin' We Won't Go

The raiding vs. casual thing really gets people talking. And boy are there lots of opinions out there. I read a pretty interesting post at The Common Sense Gamer. Villainelle expressed a lot of my own viewpoints regarding the matter. While I would definitely flock to a game that had absolutely no raiding, I'm not certain that the two can't co-exist happily.

I am more casual than what most define as casual. I have a handicapped son, and I play/work with him until he goes to bed at 8pm. By 9:00 or 9:30 I'm tired because we all have to be up at 5:30am. Some nights I'd rather watch tv or read a book so don't game at all. Weekends I have more time to play, but my body's clock has gotten in the habit of waking up at 5:30 so there is no way I'm staying up late to play games.

But I do like having nice stuff that makes my game play easier. I always thought one of the best ideas I'd seen in any game to address this was the LDON expansion in EQ. You take a group mission for one of several dungeons and when you complete your mission, you are awarded points. These missions generally took about a half hour to forty-five minutes. Accumulate enough points and you can buy a stat gem that can be added to a slot in your armor. It took me several weeks to obtain one item, and a couple months to fill the three slots on my chest piece. The resulting chest piece was not quite as good as a raid item but miles better than regular random drops.

I didn't have to have THE BEST and didn't care that raiders did. But what I got was pretty darn good and made a noticeable difference in fights. Given today's more solo-oriented gaming, I guess you could expand on this and provide solo or two-person missions that would give only a fraction of the points. It would take you much longer going this route but at least you're not completely closed off to it. Or have a system that adjusts the dungeon to the number of group members so you don't have to sit around trying to fill that group.

I always wondered why I never saw that concept in another game. It was one of my favorite aspects of EQ and everyone benefited. And it didn't matter if you'd done one particular one already, you always got the points, so grouping up was easier than today's current trend in mmo's which involves being on the same step of the same quest before you find someone to group.

Let the raiders continue raiding, just give me something more than scraps, even though it might take me months.

LOTRO: 3 Months Later

There are so many nice things about this game. Even though my husband and I both started off with a lukewarm feeling about it, I was really hoping that as we leveled the positives would outweigh the negatives. My viewpoints on my experiences so far:

Classes - Even though there are only a few classes available to play, I have found a couple that I have enjoyed. My loremaster and captain are my favorites. At 39, my minstrel is my highest level, however. I had enjoyed her initially and still do to some extent, but getting killed by a few green mobs because you can't channel off a heal when you're being pounded was very aggravating. Although I never play tanks, my husband usually loves them but abandoned his guardian in this game (also 39). On the other hand, he usually doesn't like hunter classes, but is enjoying the LOTRO version.

Setting - The world is beautiful. I'm especially fond of the shire and listening in on all the chatter of the npc hobbits. The world definitely feels alive. Seeing Rivendell for the first time was breathtaking.

Music - I really like what they did with the music system. Instead of the musically-uninclined mashing random buttons in an attempt to play music, they've made it so you can load up a music file and voilla!! you can play! No more long hours studying Esteban tapes.

Money sinks - After an hour of play, I often have this three steps forward, two to four steps back feeling. The armor repairs are more than I can bear sometimes and one of my biggest sources of frustration. In order to stay ahead, I am forced to either take up a harvesting profession and spend a few hours each week looking for nodes to sell or head to a humanoid camp of gray mobs that will minimally damage my armor and kill them for hours for vendor trash. I passionately hate money sinks in a game.

Armor and drops - Armor drops are extremely rare and they really need to up the rate as well as the variety of armor that drops. I am a big fan of the randomly-generated drops where an item can drop off of any mob and the stats are random. Pretty much everyone is wearing the same thing and they are all from quests because the dropped stuff when it does in fact drop is often crap. Which leads me to:

Quests - We're probably in the minority regarding this, but I am not a fan of quest-based leveling. I don't mind doing a few here and there, but it is a requirement here. I'm finding the solo-designated quests are not very soloable at all. Go kill so and so....oh by the way he is surrounded by four friends and a few other buddies who you already killed but are beginning to respawn already. Grrrr. But even worse in my opinion are class quests. At 45 if you want your skills, you better find 5 people to do a very difficult quest to help you. Class skills should not be dependent on gathering forces in my opinion.

Experience - In most games I've played mobs have a set amount of experience they grant. That level 20 mob gives 100 experience whether you are level 19 or 23. Of course, you have to kill more level 20 mobs at 23 than you would at level 20 to level. But in LOTRO, the experience you get depends on what your level is in relation to the mob, or the con color of the mob.

At level 20 in order to gain the optimum experience, I need to kill level 20 mobs. Let's say I get 100 experience killing level 20 mobs. If I kill level 19 mobs, I will get about 65 experience. Now if I kill level 21 mobs, I will only get about 106 experience and maybe 108 for level 22. So there is absolutely no reason to get a bunch of friends together to kill higher level mobs. Also white mobs pack a punch to your armor, and we either lose money or break even killing whites.

Now, that level 20 mob which gave you 100 experience will go down to about 65 when you are level 21. It works this way for quests as well. Depending on what color the quest cons, you will get a certain amount of experience. Traits and deeds also work on this system. Unfortunately, though, they have no level associated with them so your best bet is just to do them as soon as possible to get the most experience points.

So there it is in a nutshell. My husband is logging in just to keep me company at this point. He lost interest after the first week. But we may be here awhile yet since the games coming up aren't promising for our play style, and I still keep hoping it will get better. I'm almost 100% certain Age of Conan is out of the question based on the community I've seen (last post I saw discussed how cool it would be to have prostitution as a profession.....ermm). Warhammer looks pretty neat with a sense of humor, but being pvp-based our stay would likely be short. PotBS and Spellborn are possibilities.