Monday, March 17, 2008

The Formula for THAT Game and Improving on It

There's that certain game everyone talks about in some form or fashion and too often every other game is referred to as a clone. Honestly, I have yet see a clone so don't know what people are talking about sometimes. If questing and killing mobs makes it a clone, well okay I guess they're all clones.

So what exactly do they have that the others don't? Obviously, it's not one thing but the combination together that works:

1. Low-end graphics - This is huge yet few take it seriously. An extremely large population buy their systems already put together and keep them for years without upgrading individual components. Even three years after release, people still complain about their computers not being able to handle one of those other games. Yes there are serious gamers who upgrade frequently so there is a niche for them. But if you're seeking to hit the million mark, this is the first priority.

Low-end does not mean ugly. There are certain MMO's that look quite beautiful and can run on older systems.

2. Non-forced PVP integrated with PVE - Only one other game comes to mind that had something similar, the difference being you had to travel to certain zones to engage. In this one, however, you might see the enemy player attacking the guards in town. You can go your merry PVE way or choose to attack them. I've seen many players who never wanted to PVP change their minds when they see their town attacked and the excitement of other players around them running around in the fray. But it's not forced on you. The choice is yours.

Past PVP MMO's have not been overly successful. I have no intention of ever participating in PVP, but obviously its existence in this particular MMO has worked to its advantage because it was accommodating to both types of players and even some in between.

3. Variety of Terrain/NPC's - Most MMO's have their rolling hills, snowy areas, and deserts. But the selection in this one was more than I'd ever seen anywhere - deliciously spooky zones, prehistoric dinosaur jungle, and autumn-colored forests, just to name a few. And mobs are extremely varied and appropriate to their setting. Odds are when you see a skeleton, it is not standing in some pretty field, but somewhere dark and ominous. Also, you don't just kill higher level versions of the same mobs over and over.

4. Sense of Humor - I have laughed from quests and npc's in this MMO more than I ever had. Seriousness has its place too, but mixing in the fun stuff is important. I seriously wondered if they hired some joke writers for some of this stuff.

5. Ease of Play - Leveling was for the most part stress-free and enjoyable. You didn't have to look up quests to figure them out. You didn't even have to figure out what zones to level in as you would eventually be led there. And of course you could solo most everything. Many consider this hand-holding but for folks who are stressed all day, this offers a sweet release.

I've played a large assortment of MMO's and haven't seen most of the above in any of them. So there are no clones as of yet.

So why am I not playing it? Because it's missing some things. I'm not the typical player I guess. I'm part of that "mom factor" group. To get me to play, I'd like to see:

1. Housing - Has to be available to everyone, with even new players able to afford something small. And if we can decorate our yards too as one MMO was able to accomplish, even better.

2. Crafting - I'm not huge on crafting but it's something extra to do when I don't feel like adventuring. So if I'm going to be doing it, I want it to be somewhat interactive and useful such as the current game I'm playing or the one I revisited a few posts down.

3. Better Communities - In smaller MMO's it's not as big a problem but when you start reaching the proportions of this game, I just refuse to deal with it and leave. It's not a simple matter of turning off chat channels. I like helping people and want to be able to hear if someone has a question. I want to be part of a community, not exclude myself from it.

The only way around this that I can see is offering Roleplay-Enforced Servers. By this I don't mean forcing people to roleplay. What I mean is keeping chat clean and restricted to game related chat in general channels.

My tolerance for dealing with rude players grows smaller as I get older. I don't want myself or my family exposed to it. This is a big determining factor in my sticking with a game. Everyone has their bad days and sometimes things slip. What I'm talking about here is those that get their jollies belittling people on a continued basis. Rather than silence them, most of the mature community turns off chat, while others view the offender as cool and join in.

The community in the game under discussion is horrendous and the absolute worst experience I have gone through. Restricted servers is the only way I can see around this and I would bet they'd become pretty popular. And I'm not talking implied restrictions. This needs to be enforced.

4. Casual End Game Content - Raiding has its purpose for other players but not me. Give me something to do, something to work towards. I want nice items too, and if I have to do some solo quests building faction or accumulating some special gems that allow me to purchase one nice armor upgrade after two months of play, then I will have something to work towards for a couple years. At the least, add instanced dungeons that can be done with two people with a chance of something nice to drop somewhere in there.

Forcing full groups on me to get things accomplished is the equivalent of raiding. I don't have lengthy sessions available to me for waiting around to fill up that perfect group. I want to log in and play. If I'm able to do this for 59 levels, I expect to be able to do it at 60.

These are just minimal things I expect in an MMO to keep me playing. Of course there are other things that I'd love to have as well such as being able to set up a shop in your home, attractive armor, having an entertainer class, etc. But that would just be icing on the cake. Currently, I'm still waiting for my cake.

Monday, March 10, 2008

More Abilities = More Challenge?

Lately I've been spending a bit too much time thinking about hotbars. Browsing some forums yesterday I came across a post where someone was leaving Vanguard and going back to WoW. One of the top reasons they listed was they only had X number of skills on their hotbar in Vanguard, while in WoW they had X; and therefore, WoW required more thinking and Vanguard was too easy.

I don't know when giving you a multitude of skills that do the same thing suddenly became the norm, but more complex it is certainly not. It gets to a point where you lose immersion because of those dang buttons. Our guild in EQ2 got together for the final fight of a heritage quest. This involved waves of mobs coming at us which I never actually saw because I was so focused on my buttons. Take a look at these hotbars:

So what I have here are four heals that I use. And the reason for them? Because they each have refresh timers, so I must switch to another heal while the other is refreshing. Now really why not one heal that refreshes right away? Am I more skillful because I know how to use my other heals? The same goes with my cures. I have four cures for various ailments. There is a cure for them all, but it's got a very long refresh so the single versions are better. I won't even go into the other buttons plus the bars you don't see that I keep at the top of my screen.

I've used my mystic here as example, but the same goes for my melee alts. All these damage dealing buttons that do the same thing with varying degrees of damage. I'm playing a button MMO. Press, press, press, keep watching for refresh, press, press.

I especially became more aware of this after sticking my nose back in EQ1. Their recent expansion pack dropped in price and hubby wanted to see what things were like now (but that's another story for later). I logged in my beastlord to see my one lonely hotbar:

Now there is a limited spellbar off to the side with my slow I use at the beginning of the fight and a heal for emergencies. And also there are special abilities on a separate bar I can only use once every few minutes. But for the most part it's attack on and kick. I took her out for a trial run to get a feel for the gameplay again. When things get tough or adds come, you're relying on non-hotbar abilities to get through. The biggest difference I noticed while playing was that I saw everything going on around me because I wasn't having to stare at my bars. I could actually enjoy my environment. What you're really relying on here is your gear and quick responses.

EQ1 may be a bit too extreme as far as limited abilities go in today's market but really I think things have gone overboard in some MMO's. You're getting the same thing disguised with different names and long refreshes so that it "feels" like you're getting more for your buck. I realize not all MMO's are as extreme as EQ2 as far as the volume of abilities go. But I do hope it's not a trend in upcoming MMO's. I'd really like to get back to enjoying the environment around me.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Renaissance - Chronicles of Chronia

Always on the lookout for perhaps lesser known MMO's in development, I came across Chronicles of Chronia. From what I can gather it's under development by some folks based in Hungary. Not my cup of tea since it's open PVP for the most part, but thought I'd pass along the info.

The screenshots and video all seem to be from one particular town, so I assume they are in very early stages at this point. But the town is very nicely done from what I see so far. If not for the PVP focus, I would have kept my eye on this one.