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Monthly Archives: April 2011

So, two months ago today I wrote a little post about how Rift might change MMOs back into a more social, community driven game

So, over a month after retail launch – well, there are signs. Some people use the public group system to work together on quests, although there are plenty of others who leap in and grab quest mobs without even thinking of sharing. There may not be the same rush to close every rift as son as it opens, but people still pull together to fight zone invasions (in fact, there’s a certain amount of complaints that there aren’t enough of these as the population has spread out more). The forums are quite poisonous, but the in-game chat channels are a lot more civilised. On that last, one incident that struck me occurred when a non-English guild made a recruitment announcement and someone replied with a fairly irate and ill-mannered injunction to “speak English on an English language server”. So far, so any MMO. What happened next, though was a bit different – several people told the complainer off and it was pretty clear that the mood of public opinion was in favour of tolerance. Compare and contrast how these things usually go in your MMO of choice.

Possibly the best sign, though, is this developer quote that Syp found. While the current world event has had some issues, if you want to build a community then inclusive, all-comers-welcome content is the way to go. If all you have is instanced content designed for these 25 people and no more, then you never will have a server community – just a bunch of 25 person micro-communities with nothing to do with each other apart from waggling e-peens over ‘server firsts’.

So, here’s to hoping. Maybe once another month or two have passed and we’ve a couple of world events under our belts I’ll take a look at this again.

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I’ve mostly stayed clear of the great WoW Rent-A-Tank debate mostly because I haven’t played WoW since the Burning Crusade days, and haven’t tanked in WoW since I abandoned my Alliance warrior and went Horde six months after the game launched. I do play a Guardian in LotRO and occasionally tank for 6 man runs from our kinship, and my cleric in Rift memorably tanked the last boss in Lantern Hook (and got asked if I would tank for another run – so I guess I wasn’t too bad. But the random Dungeon Finder and the current, apparently poisonous, state of WoW PUGs have just passed me by.

I will say the solution is typical of Blizzard’s current philosophy – offer players virtual shiny objects in return for doing things. If players don’t seem to enjoy doing those things, offer them more shinies. It’s as if they think that getting shinies magically transforms a dull or unpleasant task into a fun one… or at least that receiving shinies is so much fun that it makes up for the unpleasantness of being guide and nursemaid to a bunch of over-entitled mouth breathers

Meh. Personally, I play games to have fun. I want the actual experience of the game to be fun – I can get my fill of dull and frustrating at work, and I get much better shinies than blizzard can give me for that. So how about you keep your special virtual party bag, and go back to the drawing board until you can make dungeon runs fun for me to do as a tank. If you do that, I’ll tank. And it won’t even cost you any shinies.

There seems to be a fashion for slating new games with an accusation that they aren’t “different” or “innovative” without any further detail. Usually by the same people who also demand that they game add some feature that is just like one in WoW (or possibly Darkfall…)

The problem is though that “innovative” isn’t enough. “Innovative” just means something that hasn’t been done before in an MMO. There’s an infinite set of things that haven’t been done before in an MMO, in most cases for a good reason. Any suggestions for “different” and “innovative” are going to fall into one of five categories:

1) There are, in fact, games out there already doing this.
2) It’s been tried at least once before and was not a great success – so much so that designers have learned not to do it again.
3) A moment’s sober reflection will reveal why this is such a jaw-droppingly stupid idea that nobody would ever implement it
4) Nice idea on paper, but not technically possible or cost-effective to implement
5) Congratulations, you’ve actually had a decent idea that nobody else has thought of!

In this context, a successful feature is one that adds to the playing experience. It’s a feature that players like, makes the game more fun and boosts retention. If a feature is either ignored by players or universally disliked (tip: you need a better way of judging this than reading forum posts) it is not a success. A successful feature is not the same thing as a successful game. WAR has a couple of successful features (public quests, public grouping) that other games have picked up on, even though WAR overall hasn’t done especially well. WoW has been pretty successful as a game, some of the features it introduced (e.g. the original grind-based PvP rank system) less so.

Likewise, to be clear – Stupid doesn’t mean outdated. Stupid is defined as something that a moment’s thought would show it would not be a success… usually because that moment’s thought should be “Is there a way that ******s can use this feature to grief other players?” A lot of player suggestions on forums fail this test… I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether the person making the suggestion hasn’t thought the consequences through, or if they have done and are looking forward to doing the griefing themselves!

Here’s a challenge back – tell us what you’re looking for. What is it that all current MMOs don’t have that you think the devs should have put in there? Are there category 2 ideas that could be made to work? Category 4 ideas where the tech is catching up? Ort do you have that rare gem, the category 5 idea?

Plenty of successes out there – instanced battlegrounds seem to have caught on for example, and most LotRO players reckon adding the cosmetic appearance tabs was a success.

Unsuccessful – integrated voice chat. Several games launched with it, WoW added it, nobody used it as they prefer their own TS or Vent servers. Newer games don’t seem to bother with it.