Monday, October 15, 2007

When Monthly Fees Aren't Enough

Money, money, money..... Seems Turbine has been sending surveys to its customers asking how willing they would be to pay extra for the following:

Increased inventory storage
Increased bank storage
Increased housing storage
More character slots
Access to special items and loot
Character customization
Special events
Faster support
Dedicated server
Dedicated forums
Dedicated chat channels
Be advised sooner of downtimes

While I realize they are just putting feelers out to see what sort of reception they get, the fact that they are thinking this is really disappointing. It also has me wondering if LOTRO is not as successful as they had hoped. Likely, they're just seeing how far they can push it.

So let's see here:

Increased storage - LOTRO is already one of the stingiest games when it comes to storage. I had never played another MMO with such limited storage. Players had been complaining about this on the forums. So their solution is to charge more rather than add a feature?

More character slots - This one is not too bad I guess. Currently, if you have used up all your slots on your server, you can create additional characters on other servers. And considering there are only a few classes to pick from anyway, not sure many would utilize this service.

Access to special items and loot - This would cause me to leave immediately. Horrible idea. Someone needs a spanking.

Character customization - Character appearances are a bit lacking. Pay more to finally look better? More spankings.

Special Events - Everyone would like a chance to participate in community events. Depends on the type of events I suppose.

Faster support - All customers should receive the best service regardless.

Dedicated server, forums and chat - EQ1 tried it. Didn't work well. But sure. Let all the wealthys hang out together on a server.

Be advised sooner of downtimes - Not sure what purpose this serves and why you would pay for this. So you don't schedule your day off from work that day? So currently they really do know sooner of upcoming downtimes and just aren't telling?

This is all so disheartening to see. I hope this isn't indicative of the future of MMO's. At least for now I don't believe Mythic will be going this sort of route. As Mark Jacobs stated "What I'm not okay with are games that are designed to be nothing but quarter suckers in the online space." And I'm not okay with it either.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Best Features of Your Favorite MMORPG's

Keen and Graev have had an ongoing probe into what type of games people prefer. If a feature hasn't been invented or experienced yet you really only have past games to go by. So I thought I'd list each MMO I've played ranked in order of which I enjoyed the most and what features about them I recall enjoying most.

1. Everquest 1 - The features that stand out that I missed in later games are having a home village where you start and feel part of; setting up camp and killing mobs for a chance at a nice drop, faction, and experience (I hate quests); being able to pass on items to lower level players and buff them; being able to twink your second character; and also there were the warm fuzzies when you right click an npc of a certain faction and get a message that they regard you warmly (they like me, they really like me!)

2. Dark Age of Camelot - Odd as it may sound, I could spend an hour with my hunter exploring the forests of Midgard listening to the wonderful mood music in the background just plunking away at evildoers. Midgard was a bit dark and brooding, and the music combined with the beautiful viking structures just all came together. You had the option of experiencing in a dungeon or outdoors, doing quests, or doing mission-type instanced dungeons which were very quick with great experience. And of course the housing was great. It took me a year to save up for that Hibernia mansion with the climbable tree growing through the center. Also has been the only housing I've experienced where you can decorate your yard as well.

3. Everquest 2 - A great crafting experience, killing mobs gains reasonable experience as a means of leveling, and I love the collection quests to give me something else to work on. Also, as in EQ1, I like the chance at finding named mobs throughout most zones. And of course I could just hang around the Kelethin area listening to the music there. Just love that.

4. World of Warcraft - Zones were beautiful and manageable on my previous ancient computer. The night elf areas were unlike anything I'd ever experienced in a game. And they had a wonderful variety of zones....enchanted forests, snowy mountains, spooky Duskwood, and even prehistoric-type zones.

5. Star Wars Galaxies - Setting up your house almost anywhere, owning a shop and merchants to sell your goods, entertainers and cantinas filled with players hanging out together (at one time anyway).

6. Lord of the Rings Online - While I didn't like the gameplay, one aspect that I did enjoy was watching the npc's living their lives. This was particularly more evident in the Shire. I can recall one Hobbit in a boat on the river bragging how he just rowed all the way from Frogmorton. A nearby female proceeded to give him a tongue lashing telling him to get out of there before he drowns. The little things like that add so much to the "aliveness" of a town.

7. Horizons - Great crafting similar to EQ2 and again as with other games I loved the music in certain spots. And of course who can resist trying out a dragon, and a pretty neat looking one at that.

8. Anarchy Online - Quick dungeon missions for leveling. The Shadowlands expansion actually was pretty neat to explore and experience in for a time. Even without the expansions, playing the free version is not too bad and can easily be played for a few minutes at a time.

9. Dungeons and Dragons Online - The one thing I did enjoy was the class structure and the dungeons themselves. However, the group reliance and no sort of alternative play had me leaving fairly quickly.

10. City of Heroes - The only thing I enjoyed was character creation. The slummy cities were depressing to me.

I think that covers all that I've played for more than a quick trial. I'm curious how others would rank the games they've played and what features they enjoyed most from them. Would love to know!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Knowing Your Player Base

Anyone that's spent any amount of time in a particular MMO gets a pretty good feel for the type of players that reside there. And if you spend any amount of time reading up on future MMO's and seeing what players have to say on the forums, you can get an idea of what type of player will be playing in the future.

But sometimes companies make decisions that have me wondering if they spend any time at all playing their own game and mingling with players. So many times I've heard that some developers belong to raiding guilds. But this does not represent in most cases your typical player. Do they know who the majority of players really are? Or are they making their judgments by the complainers on the forums?

Putting the NGE aside and going forward, I've been looking at the most recent SWG expansions as well as the upcoming chapter and I'm just really baffled. My experience in both original and current SWG is that it consists of a lot of players who like to do their own thing. Back then people grouped up to get the mission bonuses, but everyone spread out and did the missions solo. We chatted together while grouped, but we were all on our own. Currently, when I'm out and about, about half of the players I run into are on their own. This is not to say there isn't a group presence because their certainly is, but I think the strong solo presence has been forgotten. These latest expansions have no resemblence to the existing content in SWG and the upcoming chapter will be adding yet more heroic encounters. Alienation of the casuals -- it's like witnessing EQ1 all over again.

Speaking of EQ1, I was going to add them to the pot here of not knowing their customers, but I've had a change of heart. Originally I had thought the progression servers were added to attract back the old casual players. And I thought clearly they don't know those players. I was one of them. Why would I go back to a server that raiders would flock to so they can be the first to unlock the content? In a short time, these servers would be no different than the rest once everything was opened up. But then the light bulb went off. I don't think we were the target at all. It was the existing raiders they were attracting all along. It gave them something new to do and I guess it worked.

Another company I think needs to be careful here is Turbine. LOTRO has a very strong pure PVE player presence. I recall talking about monster play in guild chat one day. Turned out my husband and I were the only ones in the guild who had even dabbled with it. The rest of our guild mates had absolutely no interest in it and no plans to participate. This was the case for the majority of players I met in game. However, if you were to read my server's forums, about 95% of the posts are about monster play. Turbine has responded to the complaints by adding some features to monster play. To their credit, they continue to push out content for the majority players but I think they really need to be careful about how much focus they put on PVP. People say it all the time but it often gets ignored -- the majority forum posters do not represent the majority players.

As I said, regarding most upcoming MMO's I have a pretty good idea who their target player is. However, one game I can't quite figure out is Chronicles of Spellborn. This will be a questing-based game with very little experience gained from combat. You will belong to one of five houses and it's been recommended that guild members all belong to the same house as they will all be in conflict with one another. Most zones will not be PVP-enabled; however, from what has been stated recently, you will be required to enter PVP zones to gather crafting materials and access certain content. This type of setup is slightly similar to Ryzom which hasn't fared well. So clearly they are not aiming for the PVE crowd. But I don't hear the PVPers talking about Spellborn. What about the folks in between who want to dabble in both? Most of my fellow bloggers fall into this category and I don't hear them talking about Spellborn either.

Spellborn has a lot of really really neat features. It had been on my radar for a long time but I just don't want PVP forced on me in any form. So who is their target player? I've heard it said several times now that many believe Spellborn will be a sleeper hit. Maybe it's unique enough but I think they need to define more clearly who they are to avoid becoming another Ryzom.