On MMO Boredom

Before I get in to todays topic I need to remind everyone that they should be listening to my friend Bel’s podcast, especially this weeks because I got to come in as a guest host again (link).

Okay, so today’s topic is one I deal with every so often, and that is hitting the “end” of an MMO. What do you do when you reach the “end”? I know that in reality there is not really any ending to MMO’s. There are usually plenty of things to do such as dungeons, raids, and achievements, but what if none of those interest you? What keeps you playing a game that you feel there’s nothing left to do?

For me this usually comes up around the time that I reach max level in a game. In almost every game I get to that point where my interest starts to fade. I’ve done the raiding thing, and I’ve done the quest for better stats thing. I find these are only temporary fixes, and I’m starting to find that if I no longer feel like I’m enjoying myself then I don’t want to continue playing.

As I mentioned there was a time when I did the raiding thing which meant all of my non-raiding time was spent gathering materials to make enchants for the raid, or food buffs, or any other number of things like researching the bosses. This is fundamentally the reason I don’t ever really feel like raiding anymore. The “end game” content felt like it was a job. Getting online was no longer about me enjoying a game so I made the decision to stop playing. This also tend to apply to dungeons as well. I do enjoy doing dungeons, and I like the group of people I do them with, but my problem is that I don’t enjoy doing them over and over again to get the best gear. I like to do them to see the story, but after the first time it isn’t the same thing.

The first real thing that keeps me going in a game is achievements. Just about anyone I’ve ever played with has heard me talking about this. I love achievements, to me that is the best part of any MMO because it gives you something else to do besides killing monsters and being the pony express mail service. Achievements usually require some amount of effort and are generally fun to do. The only problem I tend to find with achievements is that it feels like an impossible task. There are always achievements that you can’t get, such as ones for raiding or pvp, both of which are things I don’t enjoy doing. I don’t mind them being there since plenty of people enjoy both of those things, I just don’t like it when a pvp achievement is a condition for some overall achievement. That just feels like I’m being forced in to content I have no interest in.  That being said, I still enjoy doing achievements because there are always new ones to do and they provide a nice alternative for more casual gamers.

The other thing that tends to keep me in a game is the people I play with. I’m sure I’ve stated previously that one thing I look for in a game is having people to play with, which for the last few years has been the same group of people. As a whole this group tends to shift from game to game as they come out and I enjoy running content with them when I can. I’ve only recently started to understand that the game I’m playing doesn’t matter so if I feel I’m done with a game this won’t keep me playing anymore. The people in the game still is a good reason for me to keep playing, but there is a limit to any game, especially one that you have to pay a monthly fee on.

Now, since the topic is MMO boredom I should also point out that I don’t make it to the “end” in every game anymore. There have been times that I get about halfway through the content before it starts feeling a bit stale and I play less and less. Another factor might be other games coming out that I’m interested in which draw me away from the PC gaming side for a little while. I feel like if it is that easy to be pulled away from a game, then I might not want to continue playing.

So I’m curious as to what keeps other people playing? Do you stick around for that end game content or achievements, or something else entirely?

On a side note related to my fitness post: Thanks for all the advice. I’m going to try cutting back on a few things, namely sugar and carbs. They won’t be gone completely, but I’m going to try to at least reduce them. This might just mean doing something simple like taking the bun off my sandwich or cutting back on sugary snacks, but small changes can have good results.


On Free to Play Games Vs Subscriptions

This topic has come up a few times lately, well, a couple? Enough that I want to write about it, and this is my blog so “I do what I want”. Mainly this topic seems to come up whenever a new MMO comes out that is either Free to Play or has some form of monthly subscription. The latest game to cause this was ArcheAge and the fear that it will be full of jerks. This isn’t to say that every free to play game is full of them, but it feels that way some times. This might be an over abundance of immature players (ie teenagers, or children) that can’t afford to pay monthly fees.

I think the concept of Free to Play is fine as long as it is done correctly, and so far at least Trion seems to be the ones that do it best. They have a nice balance of free content, a cash shop, and an option subscription service that gives you added benefits but does not give you an unfair advantage in the game you’re playing. In fact in their last few live streams about ArcheAge they’ve specifically said they don’t want to make Pay to Win games. I have no problem supporting these games either through cash shops or the optional subscriptions because I know where those payments go. Just like subscription based games it goes to maintaining the network, and paying their employees so that there is ready customer support and content development.

Really the only thing I don’t like about Free to Play games is the risk of having a bad community experience. If games games that have optional subscriptions such as Rift or ArcheAge offered a subscriber only server I would gladly pay the $15 a month for it so that I would be a little bit less worried about a bad experience. Now that isn’t to say having a subscription means there won’t be players that want to ruin things for everyone else. That is a risk of any game that allows you to interact with so many other people from around the world. The only way to avoid it is to play single player games.

I know a few people who don’t understand the whole subscription model, especially if it is a game you went to the store and paid $60 for to begin with. They don’t seem to grasp the concept of the company having to have at least enough of a profit to pay their employees. I would like to think that everyone that is capable of paying for an optional subscription would because that just means better support and possibly content.

That being said, would I choose a subscription over a free to play game or vice versa? To be honest I’m not sure. I like the concept of free to play games because there is no commitment to a pay schedule. If you stop playing the game for a couple months you don’t have to worry about paying the monthly subscription with no personal benefit. The first thing I tend to look at is the quality of the game, and if I find it interesting enough to compel me to want to play it. If I’m on the fence and can try it for free I will be more likely to play it. If I was on the fence and had to purchase the game first I don’t think I would. I would have to wait for someone else to tell me about it or watch videos to see if I would be interested at all. Like I mentioned before, I have absolutely no issue paying for a subscription if I feel it is worth it, even if it is optional. Some people may think that is dumb, but as a professional software developer I understand why they need that money and as a gamer I love having new content and customer support if something comes up.

On PVP – Player Choice or Mandatory

PVP is something that I’ve discussed a little bit before when talking about ArcheAge and that games “always on” PVP. After reading another blog by my friend Ashgar where he mentions PVP I thought that I’d go a little bit more in to the subject.

It is an established fact that I am not the worlds biggest fan of PVP in games, whether it is option or required. One of the most annoying things that can ever happen to me is being killed by another player, in some cases repeatedly. The first MMO that I ever played that had what I’d consider “always on” PVP was Lineage 2. Leading up to the game I thought it looked amazing, the graphics looked great and I thought I’d have a lot of fun playing it. I don’t remember the specifics of their PVP system, but I know that if you attacked another player you were basically red flagged as a player-killer (pk’er). This essentially flagged you for pvp allowing anyone to come and kill you without consequences.

So naturally the first thing that happened when I hit left the starter area? Someone attacked me and immediately disengaged, but I still ended up killing them in self defense. However, since they had disengaged from the fight I got the flag. This lead to them standing there farming me, so every time I would respawn they’d just kill me again. Needless to say I got tired of that very quickly and I stopped playing that game within a day and I haven’t played it since. That’s probably the prime example of why I don’t like a PVP system that doesn’t give me a choice. People are jerks.

As I’ve mentioned the one aspect of ArcheAge that I am not looking forward to is PVP. From my understanding there are areas where you will always have to worry about being killed/farmed by other players, but, you can also be attacked and killed by players of your own faction. That in and of itself is a problem, but where it gets annoying is that the game seems to reward certain types of players for doing this. In ArcheAge players can become pirates by essentially being a-holes. Every time you do something illegal you get crime points, and the justice system allows players to judge you and sentence you to jail. Eventually this will make you a pirate. So what’s the quickest way to be a pirate? Be a jerk.

Now, I don’t have a problem with responsible PVP. If you want to do that it should be up to you. I don’t want it forced on me when that is not something I enjoy. In my opinion games like World Of Warcraft and Elder Scrolls Online have it right because, while they have PVP, they don’t require you to do it. There are certainly benefits to it such as titles and other rewards, but you certainly don’t have to do it. World of Warcraft has specific server types that do allow for “always on” PVP, but you don’t have to play on those servers. Personally I prefer RP servers because the communities are generally more mature, not guaranteed but at least more likely.

Now there are also games that are specifically designed for PVP and they are gaining in popularity. These are games like League Of Legends and the upcoming Heroes of the Storm from Blizzard. These types of games are called MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas). I’m not to familiar with the objectives of these games, but I would consider them PVP based so these types of games will probably never be installed on my computer.

So to summarize, I don’t think PVP should be required in a game. If it has to be there then I think it should be optional either by having non-required areas set aside for it, or servers where you opt in to always being PVP flagged. I can guarantee if I play ArcheAge the minute some jerk starts farming me just so they can become a pirate I will quit the game.

On Character Defense – Active Dodging And Stats

This subject came up the other day when I was filling in on the Aggrochat podcast for my friend Belghast, and I thought I’d expand upon my thoughts a little bit.

For a bit of background, I’ve been playing MMO’s for many years now starting with Star Wars Galaxies. Before that I dabbled in MUDs (Multi User Dungeons for the youngins’). So you can say I’ve been around the block a few times. Most of the games that I’ve played up till this point have used stats for determining how much damage you take, and how much is deflected. Recently I’ve played several games that have started implementing “Active Dodging” systems. “Active Dodging” sits on top of your defensive stats, but introduces the ability to try to avoid taking damage by timing your dodge and moving out of the way. This is usually accomplished by double tapping a direction which makes your character doge in that direction.

The first game that I played that had this system was Guild Wars 2, and it is currently being used in Wildstar and Elder Scrolls Online. I’m sure there are others I am not aware of, and I couldn’t say for certain Guild Wars 2 was the first game to use it. These are just examples from the games that I’ve personally played.

Now as far as I can tell, the act of “active dodging” is optional. You can stand there and take it if that is what you want to do, but I think the fact that the system is implemented is a good indication you should use it. You still have defensive stats based on your armor class, and attribute points, so you don’t have to rely purely on your double tapping skills. Personally I kind of suck at it. If I had to rely solely on my ability to time a dodge I’d die a lot more in games.

I have mixed feeling about “active dodging” still. The more I use it the more I adapt to that play style but there are times I do miss not having to worry about it. I’ve played World Of Warcraft so long that I am used to the stat based defense where you just look for better armor ratings and let the damage be mitigated by your stats.

That being said, I do think the new dodging system is pretty interesting. You have to have some actual skill to avoid attacks as you cannot simply rely one your armor anymore. This requires the player to be attentive and know what they’re doing. Most of the games I’ve seen with this system show you a sort of attack area that you need to get out of, similar to the area of affect graphics (or poo on the ground) from older games such as WoW. Of the games that I have played recently Elder Scrolls Online handles this the best. There is a nice combination of dodging skill, but there is still a fair amount of mitigation based on what type of gear you’re wearing.

There is an added benefit that I thought of while typing this up, and I’m not sure if it is as effective as I’m thinking. But, in games like Elder Scrolls players who do not actively dodge might have a harder time surviving solo play. This might be an effective bot deterrent since I’m not aware of any bot smart enough to block/actively dodge. This might be why you always see them in clusters though. A solo bot at least would have a harder time.

So to end today’s post I will say that I think that I’m starting to enjoy the new “active dodging” system when it is done right. I might not be very good at it, but I think that is is a welcome addition to the genre and requires people to have actual skill.

I do understand that this system might not be for everyone, and I believe this is discussed in the podcast linked above. For some people this might be enough of an issue to prevent them from buying the game. That’s fine though, every player enjoys different things. It doesn’t bother me enough that I wouldn’t at least give the game a chance.


On Different Graphics Styles

Lately I’ve been talking about various aspects of player preferences, housing, and character customization to be specific. Today I plan to talk a little bit about preference in graphical styles. In my opinion these styles can be broken down to “cartoonish” to “realistic”. That’s a fairly broad description but I think it’s fairly hard to judge because most games fall more in the middle.

I’ll probably catch some grief for this, but when I say “cartoonish” graphics the game I would use as my primary example is World of Warcraft. Though with the upcoming release of Wildstar I’d say that this title may soon be transferred. When I talk about “realistic” design I’m talking about something that looks like Elder Scrolls Online.

When I look at graphic styles I tend to look at three main characteristics, character design, and color palette. I can’t really count world design in this because I have never seen a game that didn’t have what I’d call standard terrain. Character design and color palette are a bit more unique depending on the look that the game is going for. Now when I talk about character design I’m not talking about “Eastern vs Western” character designs, I’m talking about design.

When you compare character design between Wildstare/WoW to Elder Scrolls Online you can see the obvious differences. Body proportions and physical appearance. It’s hard to describe this in words so screenshots.  The biggest difference that can be spotted is the hands.

WoWScrnShot_051114_103140 Screenshot_20140511_103922

The other noticeable difference is the color palette. Just saying a game is cartoony based on brighter versus darker colors is not entirely accurate. I think this more of a personal opinion than any definitive proof, but when I think realistic I think of a lot of shadows and darker tones. When I see bright colors I think of all the cartoons I watched growing up in the late 80’s & 90’s.

So this whole thing boils down to what do you, as the player, prefer when you play a game. Personally I would go for a middle ground. I like the brighter/cartoony colors, but I like my characters to be more realistic. I think the most accurate representation of what I would like graphics wise is Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn, and from what I’ve seen of ArcheAge. The character models are what I would consider realistic. Neither of these is a make or break factor for me though.  I prefer the realistic models over the cartoony ones, so if you offered me a choice between one or the the other I’d pick the realistic one.

A Wild Podcast Appears

So to close this up, I have a special treat. I’ve mentioned my friend Belghast a few times, and if you follow me on twitter I’ve been linking his podcast. So this past Friday I was laying around watching Netflix when I got a chat message from our friend Rae asking me if I’d fill in for them. Two of their regular co-hosts were out this weekend for family stuff and could not make it. So I got to be on their podcast. We talk about a lot of different topics, and I had a really good time. So feel free to go give it a listen.

On Player Housing

I’ve read various blogs lately discussing player housing and whether or not the presence or absence of might be a deal breaker for some people. Personally I think player housing is purely optional and if it’s there great, but if it is not then that isn’t going to keep me from enjoying a good game.

I know there are plenty of games that contain some form of player housing, the ones that I’m aware of are Everquest 2, Rift, and ArcheAge. I’m sure there are more, but those are the ones that pop in to my head. Each of these three games has its own take on how much customization they allow. Star Wars Galaxies also had a form of player housing, but to be honest I don’t think I ever got that far in the game to know anything about it. Galaxies was the first MMO I played, and it was before I met any of the friends I have now that helped me get more in to the genre.

Everquest 2 for example lets you add items to your house that you collect through playing. The houses themselves are more like apartments in the capital cities, the more you pay for the apartment the more space you can get. At least, this is the way it was back when I played, and I’ll admit that has been awhile.

From what I know of Rift it allows you to build your own “Dimension” that you can share with other players. A good example of this can be seen in a video posted by my friend Bel showing off the dimension made by our friend Rae.

The last example is ArcheAge, from what I can tell this game has a large amount of customization as well as an interesting system to keep space opening up. Player housing in ArcheAge is player built on plots of land claimed by players. Each player, once obtaining a plot you have to pay rent on the property so that you can keep your land. If you stop playing the game and stop paying your rent eventually your house will be destroyed and you’ll be sent the items. I think this is a good way to keep to many empty houses from cluttering that land.

There is going to be a finite amount of land available, so if you play the game and get a house but quit playing then I think it’s obvious that someone else should be able to use the space. If you’ve seen the video by Trion Worlds they state that housing is a premium. If every plot in the game is taken then no new players will be able to build a house. This also encourages one of my favorite aspects of any game, which is exploring. From what I understand you can find some fairly remote places to build a house, so it might take a long time for every conceivable spot to be used up.

The one feature I think it really cool is the amount of customization you have for items placed in the house. You can import your own images in to the game to create textures. I’ve seen videos where people had soda machines, stereos and family photos in their house.

I think rather than trying to explain this all correctly I will just embed the video. The developers do a good job of explaining it.

On The Importance of Character Creation

So this morning my friend Belghast made a post discussing his first impressions of the ArcheAge alpha, part of which was covering the character creation system. This made me think about what kind of things I look for when playing an MMO for the first time, and how important the customization was when creating a character.

Most of the MMO’s that I’ve played in the last few years offer at least some amount of character customization. Whether that is the basic amount of information such as race, sex, hair color, or allowing details that most people don’t even think about such as nose length, depth and things like that. The question is how much detail should be required as the bare minimum and how much is to much?

Personally I think a good example of what I would consider “bare minimum” would be World of Warcraft. The character creator there allows you to pick race, sex, hair style, hair color, face and a couple other things. There are not really any sliders, except maybe height, so you can’t get super detailed with your personal character. On the other end of the spectrum is Elder Scrolls Online that gives you a lot of options to personalize your appearance. This makes me wonder if there is any kind of middle ground that is more than minimum, but not so detailed that you don’t care.

Facial Customization

Don’t get me wrong, I like the ability to be that detailed, but I don’t tend to spend a long time on features that are going to be covered up. I would say extreme amounts of individual limb customization might be a bit much, but I would say that extra detail when customizing a face would be something I’d want. Back to previous references, Warcraft only lets you pick a standard face, and some features such as hair, facial hair and jewelry. Elder Scrolls allows you the same options but you can customize your face with even greater detail. Both games allow you to hide your helmet slot allowing you to see those details. So in this instance to much detail is the right amount.

The one thing that bothers me about all MMO character creators is hair. Depending on the genre of the game (Medeval, Fantasy) the hair styles tend to vary but the options are always limited. I know that you can’t really allow that much customization here, but I just never really like the hair styles. They never seem to fit the character that you’re wanting to make.

The same can be said about the facial hair, what kind of options do you expect? The article that I linked above talks about not having the ability to make a full/thick beard. I’d tend to agree with this, I would think that it if you are going to allow beards, you should be able to have a Santa Clause beard if you want.

Body Build Customization

This is where you get in to more of a personal preference area. I think that you can easily allow to much detail here that doesn’t really matter. Personally all I need is a height modifier and build selection. I’d be okay with some extra amount of sliders here though, just to tweak the exterior appearance to make sure everything fit. But I don’t need options like torso length or foot size. Bare minimum would be just picking defaults, anything less than that I wouldn’t be okay with.

Now would I skip over a game because of any of these things? I guess that depends. If a game has more customization than I think I’ll need that wouldn’t stop me from playing it. That is there for the people who want such things. Just because they are there does not mean I have to use them. Now, if a game has less than I would consider bare minimum, I can’t say I would play it either. The game itself would have to be able to make up for the lack of customization whether from content, or exterior customization options such as gear or vanity items.

Personally I don’t know where newer games like ArcheAge or Wildstar fall on this spectrum yet. The only customization I’ve seen for ArcheAge was facial features, and I have not had a lot of time to look over the Wildstar character creator yet. From what I’ve seen of ArcheAge though I think that I would probably be absolutely fine with the options available.