Monday, July 28, 2008

When a Ranger Feels Like a Ranger

Through the years I've developed expectations of how certain classes should "feel." I don't know where I've gotten these notions from. Using the ranger as an example, I didn't enjoy that class in EQ1. This was my first MMO, so I clearly didn't develop expectations based on that. The ranger I envisioned as a lone traveler, slaying evil in the woods with a few bow shots, perhaps with an animal friend at their side.

It wasn't until I played DAoC that I fell in love with this class. The Midgard hunter perfectly fit my expectations and the whole Midgard setting cemented the deal. I played a hunter in WoW as my main up until 60, but she really felt more like a cartoon with a bow in a crowded forest. Not that I didn't enjoy it somewhat for a time, but she didn't elicit that ranger feel.

I had a short-lived experience as a ranger in EQ2. This was probably the least I've ever enjoyed a ranger. The bow seemed more like an after-thought and they just aren't set apart very much from other scout classes in EQ2. I also tried one in LotRO. The setting was great for this type of character; however, my limited enjoyment of the game kept me from leveling her far enough along.

After having filled all but one of my character slots in Vanguard, I decided to try their version of the ranger. It's turned out to be a nice surprise. On a rare occasion I can one-shot, but for the most part mobs are nearly dead on arrival. And there is so much land to explore to keep her busy in the woods. Was disappointing to learn my pet only lasts a few minutes and can only be summoned on occasion. It's not perfect, but I'm enjoying it over the other classes I've tried there.

My husband as well has certain expectations when he plays a warrior. EQ1, EQ2, and DAoC all fit the mold for him, while the WoW and LotRO versions were quickly abandoned. And to date, I've yet to play a cleric that feels like a cleric as the EQ1 version did.

Vanguard broke a lot of the molds and created some other very interesting classes. And while they are fun to a point, I also feel some sort of disconnect as if they don't really make sense or fit into the world. Maybe it's the lack of deities and a feeling that your power is drawn from somewhere. Or maybe I've been reading too many books.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Small Group Content - Seeing the Light of Day Once Again

Currently on EQ2's Test Server is the following update:

Kander has lowered the difficulty on Karnor's castle, added a couple of named critters, spread out some of the loot a bit, and thinned some of the population. We'd like to get this zone in shape so that it's more appropriate for smaller groups of players entering that level range. Please take a few friends with you and see what you think of the zone. Do keep in mind that we're shooting for smaller groups of level 72-76 players with average treasured/mastercrafted gear.

If this actually makes it to Live, all I can say is it's about time! And tweaking it for us poor average geared players too! While it existed in the older MMO's, small group content has been absent from nearly all the more recent releases. So you are left with soloing or a three-hour ordeal of waiting for a group to fill and then a long journey ahead. Certainly I can gather two friends to do solo mobs. But really why bother?

I believe many that solo do it because they don't like the only other option available. A large percentage of our guild solos. I can say with certainty that if there was a dungeon three of us could do, and be done in 45 minutes to an hour, the majority would jump at an invitation to do so.

I would really love to see a change to this solo/full group mentality in the future MMO's. Warhammer seems to offer an interesting alternative with their public quests. We'll have to wait and see how that actually plays out. But good to see EQ2 make a change in this direction. It's just one small step, but hopefully there may be more to come.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ding 50!

Our guild hit another leveling milestone! We ran a status contest for a few days, with the winner who generated the most status in that time period would win the shinies needed for a no-drop furniture item. It was a level 80 quest, so good experience for the turn-in as well. Out of our 60 members, 5 signed up. Initially, I was disappointed at the low turn-out but it was amazing what a small group could accomplish. We gained two and half levels during that time. They were all winners to me, so I harvested enough shinies for them all.

But it also made me realize something else. I don't know the majority of members anymore. We grew from 25 active members to 60 in about three weeks. It's become routine when someone logs in, my husband turns to me and says "Who's that?" The majority of the time I reply "I don't know."

When we started this, we thought it would remain just us and a few friends and never imagined that we would have to actually remove ourselves from the recruiting tab. But we did. I've seen guilds explode before due to sudden growth and am trying to avoid people feeling like numbers rather than members. It's a good and a bad thing. It's great that we're doing this well but we really hate having to turn people away and maybe miss out on some great folks. I'm sure there will be some that will move on and we can re-open our doors at some point. But for now we need to get to know the ones we have.

And I still can't wait for those Guild Halls!

Monday, July 7, 2008

MMO Players - An Underutilized Resource

We are passionate about our MMO hobby. We blog about it; we sign on with gaming sites and volunteer our services; we create mods and maps to help other players. We spend gaming-related hours outside of actually gaming. And we do it for free.

Different gaming companies here and there have programs that take some small advantage of this. EQ2 has a guide program; however, you aren't permitted to do it on your own server and are randomly assigned another server. I had considered applying at one time, but I want to make my own server a better place, not someone elses. SWG took on player volunteers to silence the gold spammers. But so much more could be done to put players to use that would enrich the gaming community, create a reputation that brings in more players, and retain the ones you have. You can create a good game, but you need a community to build it up.

One idea would be someone leading weekly dungeon groups with an emphasis that those who never grouped before would be welcome and given guidance. I have come across so many who avoid grouping because they are afraid of doing something wrong. While players could undertake this task and start this up without developer involvement, odds are slim they will. Give them a special title while on duty, make them feel like they are part of your company, and give an occasional pat on the back and you'd be amazed how many would step forward to fill roles. And likewise, when players see an official representative getting that group together, they feel a bit more safe joining up.

The same goes for raiding. Many would love to try it once in awhile but do not wish to join a raiding guild. Why not company-sanctioned events and "hiring" on volunteers for the job? Or what about roleplay for beginners groups, particularly on the roleplay servers which can be intimidating when new. Or how about tours through zones, pointing out little-known lore and locations. These are just a few thoughts and I'm sure there are great ones I haven't thought of yet. Just like the guide program, there would need to be some accountability to be certain volunteers remain courteous and helpful. Expand on that guide program but please don't send them to other servers. We're more likely to volunteer and work hard for you when it benefits our own server and community.

This would also be a way to get guild leaders more involved in the community. The majority of players don't read forums or pay attention to official notices. So when your fancy titled group leader wants to lead a heritage quest group next week, how does that information get out to the community? Either the guild leaders can sign up for a mailing list to be notified of events which they then message to the guild, or make it their responsibility to keep up with a section of the forums for these events.

Now here's an example of how not to handle your company-sanctioned events. Recently, EQ2 advertised having a Guild Recruitment Fair. Guild leaders were asked to sign up, which I did, and we were told it was taking place at the Claymore Monument. So what was it I signed up for? Nothing. We were basically just given a time and date and told to show up. As I said, the majority of players don't read forums and didn't even know about it, and there was nothing there to signify any event. I showed up prime time evening on a Saturday night and here was the fair:

So much can be done to take advantage of our MMO passion and benefit all of us all the way around.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Older, Older Gamer

In most games you will find guilds targeted for the older gamer. Usually their requirements will be 30+ or sometimes 25+. I was once in one of those guilds but found my play style didn't quite fit in with the guild. I was older than everyone else but at the time just attributed my differences more towards me in general than my age.

While our guild in EQ2 doesn't have an age restriction, we advertise ourselves as most members being 30+. But actually we've evolved into a 40-60's guild. As we've grown, I've noticed that there tend to be certain differences in the 30's crowd compared to 40+.

When a new member joins and they tell me they have a Ventrilo server we can all use, in all cases it turned out they are in the 20's-30's. The first couple times I received the offer, I asked in guild chat. But there was absolutely no interest in it, so I've gotten in the habit of declining up front. I can't speak for the other members' reasons, but I know I have no interest in hearing voices while I"m playing. I actually like the ambient music in games and would much rather hear that. EQ2 will be implementing their own voice chat which is currently on test server, so we'll see if this changes anything for us.

When a new member joins and asks how they move up in rank in the guild, in all cases they were in their 20's-30's and male. I specifically set up the guild to give little weight to rankings. I turned off promotion announcements so guild members don't see when a promotion occurs. Having a higher rank doesn't make one better or more valued so I place no emphasis on it.

Something I've noticed specific to the older female is a strong dislike for PvP. There are a number of couples within the guild, and while the husbands were very open to PvP, the wives wanted no part of it. As I said, this applied only to the older female player. We have several under 40 couples and in most all those cases, the wives did participate and some even enjoyed PvP.

The older females tend to be more social and community driven. While the game may not be perfect for them, they are more likely to stick around because they like the people around them. And often they are the driving force behind which game the couple is playing, so the husband is there by default.

Keep in mind these are my observations in EQ2. Older gamers in another MMO may very well have different tendencies. But what is it that happens somewhere around 40 that changes gaming perspective? We are not all gaming vets from EQ1. Some played WoW as their first MMO and for some EQ2 is their first gaming experience. So it has nothing to do with number of years played.

Maybe after so many years of working, dealing with teenagers, or going through life in general, we're seeking less structure and more camaraderie? I honestly don't know why that dividing line occurs, but I do know the 20-30's tend to eventually move on, while our 40-60 bracket grows. Will be interesting to see how MMO's evolve in 20 years to accommodate the interests of the aging player base.