Posts archived in bad ideas.

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News Flash

WoW still at the heart of every major MMO debate that pisses me off to no end.
Could be due to WoW being at the heart of almost every MMO debate outside of a small group I follow religiously.

I read this:
50 Million Dollars Are Bad For You – Tobold
Then this:
A Final Trip Into The Mind of a WoW Tourist – Syncaine
Then this:
Darkfall Final Impressions – Ixobelle

Let me get some things out on the table in a sense of fair play. I do not like WoW. That isn’t to say WoW is terrible or that I hate it. It means I do not like it, play it, or have any desire to play it again outside of maybe using it as a colorful chat room to catch up with some people I know and like.
I have played WoW. I have a level 40 Tauren Warrior that has been abandoned for a very long time now. I played a lot of battlegrounds and played the auction house. I was guilded, I did run a freaking lot of pick up group instances, and I when doing so I always played tank to the best of my ability. I quit because I didn’t want to make it to 41, in fact I was regretting having even leveled to 40. When faced with either going another 9 levels to get into workable BG form again, or leveling another character to 39, I seriously examined why I played the game, what I wanted from it, and what it would actually give me. These answers were more than unsatisfactory, I found instead the thought of staying in WoW downright painful.
When I sit down to work on my designs, I do ask what I can learn from WoW. I also ask what the fuck was wrong with it, and whether any particular feature was at all useful to the goals of my design. You can examine for yourself my writings from February and March of ’08 to see what, if anything, actually made it over though I don’t believe it to be very much.
Lastly, I like Syncaine’s writing. His bias is a bit more extreme than mine, but he is funny in how he says it and I generally agree with him on most issues. WoW tourists is not one we see exactly eye to eye on, though certainly closer than Tobold or Ixobelle. I also occasionally read Ixobelle, though our basic thought processes are often too far different for me to follow regularly. Disclosure over, on to the post.

One thought at a time. Yes I’d turn down 50 mil for better word of mouth and opening press. You have one shot at a first impression and three hundred thousand players will pay that back in a year. Three hundred thousand players and growing will net you a great deal more and provide you with much better income and a longer product life overall. Three hundred thousand players left from a massive rush and declining with four hundred thousand players worth of bad press can destroy the game and net your company a significantly smaller profit margin over five years. It’s 50mil up front, but I’d estimate 150-200mil straight down the toilet.
I don’t think Mythic’s problem though was that they were unwilling to say this to the board. I think EA, and perhaps Mythic to some extent, actually believed their own hype and seriously thought their retention would be much better. A mistake I myself was guilty of, and am therefore probably biased towards projecting on them, if you look at my response to this post by Tobold.
Back in August and September, when WAR wasn’t all released and everyone playing were beta participants, and even that first month or so I went through an up swell of optimism. Optimism for WAR, for the MMO market, even for my own playstyle, “this time…” And then the following months came, it was not different. I think if you looked at most of those blogs then, and now, you would see an impressive hardening of people back to their basic concepts prior to release. All of us walked away with a lesson from it, usually that we were right about what we were saying before the optimism caught hold. I can’t tell you for sure who was right on that one, maybe all of us, maybe none of us, probably whoever understands the industry the best, whoever that is.
Back to the “WoW tourists though”. I had a model for dealing with ‘WoW tourists’ before I had ever heard the term, and frankly, I didn’t build it off what ‘WoW tourists’ means. In my model they were called Nomads, people like me who were likely to buy every game that came out but unlikely to stay longer than a month. The way I see it, a vocal segment, minority or majority is hard to say, of that group happens to be people who come from WoW and are simply on tour because they like WoW too much to stay anywhere else. Or rather, they want “better than WoW” but don’t have any working definition of better that is also physically possible for anyone else to actually create. Contrary to what many of those who I would term as WoW Tourists are saying, you cannot bring fewer people, less money and significantly less time to the table and walk out with more content, denser content, better content, fewer bugs, and a team with significantly more experience dealing with your final engine and tool set. Well, unless your name is The Doctor.
Content churn has basically no effect on that, since you can still experience the vast majority of the content churned out of standard use if you want to. Also as I hinted before, new content by people inexperienced with the tools that they I’ve only had finalized for under a year or two will not be able to come close to the polish of people who have spent four to six years working with their tools. Content density will also be higher, which is something that can be seen at a glance and will make people feel more comfortable almost immediately.
I guess I’m saying it isn’t the player’s fault that there is this flood of users in the first month. But also isn’t the developer’s fault that those players aren’t even looking for anything they can actually provide. To use a more homely analogy, it isn’t someone’s fault they associate the smell of shit on the air with cows, but it isn’t the pig farmer’s fault he can’t sell you a side beef. It’s a blameless situation, but one that must be dealt with all the same. I’ve theorized how, but I won’t go into that here.

As to the undertones of Syncaine v. Ixobelle… Listen, I know if you like WoW you’re going to get tired of people bagging on it. Too bad. Unfortunately there comes a point where you have to learn someone’s bias and tune them out, most of us on this side have already done it to you. WoW is the big kid on the block, which means the rest of us have to deal with little shitheads bitching at us about WoW this or WoW that. Personally, I think WoW is one example of something that when taken alone is interesting. Outside that small field, MMO dungeon crawlers, it isn’t any more applicable than a bolted down electron microscope is applicable to bird watching.
All of this being said… in my own tainted view I rather feel like Ixobelle got a free pass from most of their own readers for flat out stating:

I think this is an unexplored genre in the MMO department that needs to be fully tapped. If you could make a game cheaply enough, with few enough people on the dev team to just implement a character creator and maybe one town and one dungeon, you could probably sell a few hundred thousand copies of the box alone to the ‘at least it’s not WoW demographic’. You wouldn’t even need to set up a billing department, since no one would actually SUBSCRIBE to your game, they’d just buy the box, spend a week with it, then move back to whatever they were playing before.

Darkfall and Age of Conan fit that description perfectly, and Warhammer got maybe one month out of me. LotRO is probably the only other game I really respect out of the ‘non-WoW’ batch of MMOs I’ve played (but I never subscribed to LotRO, so there you go), and I have yet to actually even make it to the character creator in Coh/CoV. I signed up for a trial, and the downloader was so fucking slow that my free trial ran out before I ever actually got the game installed. Don’t even get me started on EVE. Hoo boy.

People in Darkfall are doing the same thing I saw people doing in AoC, and it won’t be the last time I see people do this. They’re punishing themselves, and forcing themselves to play a sub par game, BUT AT LEAST THEY AREN’T PLAYING WOW. They repeat this mantra over and over on the game’s official forums, in the game’s public chat channels, and somehow decide this makes it all worth while.

What kind of putrescent bullshit is this? It’s not good in the ways I like so it’s all one big scam to sell bullshit to people. And of course all those player’s are just poor masochists who hate themselves only slightly less than they hate WoW. And this doesn’t sound even slightly… condescending, assholish, flat out stupidly wrong, and impressively myopic to you as you’re writing this? I’m not going to give Syncaine a free pass on his response, since he does go overboard a lot in a very asinine way, but when I see what he’s responding too… well I can tell you which one seems like the worse offender here and it isn’t him.
What can I even say to this. Thank you god master of all things fun, I had no idea that by preferring certain things above others I was so punishing myself. How dare I play EVE and be glad that it isn’t WoW! What a terribly masochistic person I could be, think of all the FUN I could be having in WoW if I only listened to you. Perhaps I’m reading your comments strangely, but I actually understand how you can say both that and this “I guess I’m a bitch, because I prefer the WoW ruleset. it’s not *better*, just different… and the one I prefer. : /” and not be really contradicting yourself. Since you can say ruleset, and all of a sudden every other thing that is so big, important and terribly done to you, but that so many others may be quite happy to forgive or even enjoy, is right back on the table as somehow more objective.
Quick lesson here, EVE doesn’t have WoW’s UI for one very basic reason, it doesn’t work like WoW. It has a totally different set of information it needs to show. A whole lot of it has intricacies so deep that it needs to fit a ton of information that can be entirely useless or vitally important to your present situation side by side because the designers can’t tell which it will be at all times. Some people enjoy this, it may just work well with how their mind solves problems, or they just might honestly prefer the feeling they get from working to learn something more than they do from not having to put in that particular kind of work. You don’t prefer those sensations, great, doesn’t make them a masochist. I haven’t had the chance to play Darkfall, but a lot of what I’m hearing about the UI is stuff where even when it’s something you would just as soon need to do in WoW, it can’t be done the same way or your own rule set would eat you alive. This is why we use different UIs in the first place, sometimes you just can’t do it the other way or the core of your own game will kill you. Instead of ascribing this to designer idiocy or arrogance, you may want to take a few steps back and realize just how brilliant and sublime some of their choices were. Of course this would require recognizing that not only is their core goal different, but worthwhile.

Strange, I’ve managed to talk bad about WoW all this time and never do it for street cred. Insanely enough I did it to let people know my opinion on it, and how it would effect my views. Perhaps it’s because WoW wasn’t my first MMO, and in fact my first MMO had peaked at 10k players and had no 3D modeling in it, at all. So not having any honeymoon feeling, not having it as a first love, or even a second love since I played a UO trial for a couple hours before I ever got around to playing WoW hopefully comes across in my post. When I talk about it, it’s just because it’s the biggest elephant in the room, not because I could give two shits if it’s good or if it sucks. I don’t see how it could ever give me that feeling of being a soldier sacrificing for something greater like Neveron did, and it did it without scripts, it just gave me the chance to serve under a commanding officer and sacrifice everything protecting him in battle. Was that fun? I wouldn’t say so, but it was a thousand times more valuable and a precious memory to me that I have never forgotten and in fact remember in exquisite detail.
But then, what do you care if one jaded misanthrope proves you wrong, you’ll just keep generalizing out to everyone because it’s easier than being honest and specific. It’s easier to say, “well I was only talking to people who think that way,” than to say you’re sorry and actually challenge your own thoughts on the matter.
Final thoughts, more aimed at Syncaine here. I don’t think it’s about how WoW something is or isn’t to them. It’s about their measure of quality, though as you are probably lampooning, it is more than a little warped by what they happen to like about WoW. I’m not sure I blame them though, it took me a long time to unwrap my preferences from my objective examination, and I still don’t always succeed though I do try to mark and learn from my failures. It wouldn’t surprise me if they are a little new to the game.
We all suffer from some amount of perception distortion, it’s a requirement of life. I don’t know how to fix that, or even if it’s truly that bad of a thing considering what it enables us to do. Unfortunately, this whole pile of shit stinks of terribly distorted perspectives being laid down as some kind of objective factual base. That way lies a few yes men, some bad arguments, and a whole lot of regret. I don’t recommend letting it continue, doctor says take some introspection and self cross-examination and let the world know in the morning.

So before the EVE bomb hit, everyone was discussing the announcement of the 300k subs in WAR. I would have said more earlier, but I didn’t quite feel like making a one line post consisting of “I fucking told you so!”

Actually, my views have shifted a little, I’m not so down on PvE these days. And arguably, the relative inadequacies of their PvE may have cost them the most. I still stand firmly by the simple truth that you won’t get WoW’s numbers with a new MMO. And a large part of that is something that I had already put in words sometime around the end of GDC ’08. “Any new game will be, on release, a categorically worse game than every other game on the market.” Of course, I didn’t account for releases within a short period, but basically a new game simply cannot hope to stack up to a mature game in terms of quality and quantity of content, it’s impossible.

(By the by, the friend I told that too said that he had been told almost exactly the same thing by Scott Hartsmann while at GDC that year, thus how I know the time frame. Which reminds me, I consider oHai the next big project to watch. The last one, with audio verification to prove I’m not changing my mind in hindsight, that I considered that way was Metaplace, and lately they’ve completely blown me away. And that also reminds me, there is a beta and I have 10 invite keys if you want in too.)

I’ve had some distance now to try and look back at my days in WAR objectively. I don’t claim to be critiquing the whole game, just the first twenty levels or so, before the leveling pace dropped off enough to halt my apparent progression. This is to be a critique of the game, so if you’re looking for fuzzy bunnies and rainbows… why are you even reading a post about WAR?

There were a few things that WAR did that set it well ahead of the curve. The first, and probably least obvious, is that each stat had a dual function. This didn’t entirely prevent dump stats, nor create a viable mechanism for balanced characters, but it was a step in the right direction. Second to that is combat capable, if not overpowered, healers. It’s really a shame that the player base fell into pointless bickering and shortsighted complaints of players not doing their job. It would have been an entirely different game, in many ways, if the player base had instead solidified behind their healers making them the comparative rock stars of the game, rather than the tank as is usual of cooperative dungeon play.

Despite their having excellent stylistic feel for their environments, WAR, ironically, lacks much sense of warfare beyond a few exceptions, all in PvE. Warfare is governed by a few simple rules, it’s the effort to place out a significant force of trained and equipped personnel into an enemy territory to take and hold points of logistical and tactical importance, or the same but in defense of your own territory. Skirmishing experts, like the elves, seemed to make sense, with their prolific use of ambushes and attacks along the flanks… but pretty much every other army seemed to be of the opinion that throwing out warriors one at a time would somehow turn the tide of battle against an organized foe. In fact, if not for the player’s godlike status, and the AI’s relative stupidity, every battle the player engages in should result in their side’s complete and utter defeat. What makes this a true failing of the game is that it spawns from a war game, even if a particularly tactical one.

Before I move on, the only ways to fix that particular failing is to implement a system of logistics. WAR was remarkably lacking on the logistical front, with severe limits on crafting, but also without any significant sinks to encourage organization. While an organized war band may be more effective, a disorganized war band doesn’t really face any significant challenges so long as it can outnumber it’s opponents, and they are also disorganized. With the proliferation of pick-up war bands and general disinterest in open RvR this was hardly an uncommon feat. This would often cause the teeter totter effect where one side would be forced back into their static defenses, but then gain so much power from their defenses as to then wear down the opponents morale and allow them to safely wait out a shift in numbers. In a more logistical system, each side would have to make other considerations, for example would it really be of any worth to wait outside an opponents camp and be worn down, when moving your lines of defense back to the strategically important points would allow for greater tactical flexibility, but also allow you to maintain a larger overall force and better defenses. Likewise, would it be wise to fall back to in-place defenses if you were then to consume the logistical advantage that would allow you to attack. Much like in real warfare, logistical considerations add a significant amount of planning and down time, but they also add weight and decrease the uncanny nature that surrounds wanton skirmish warfare.

The classes in WAR rarely seem to scale well. Their specialties and usefulness seems to undergo mercurial shifts from bracket to bracket, or even level to level. Back lines dps becomes front lines dps, becomes crowd control, then finally shifts back to dps. A front line healer goes from healing/buffing for the front line, to becoming a veritable tank in itself, to a slightly longer lasting front line dps, to a back line healer. None of this would be so significant if a player could choose to stop leveling and settle in a bracket they feel comfortable with, but instead it’s inevitable that a character will go through all of those permutations, and possibly even more in the twenty levels I hadn’t had a chance to investigate. Overall, these strange twists serve to punish a player for leveling, as they find out that the role they have spent the last 8-10 levels learning to play is suddenly no longer viable, or is simply so much less effective that they are forced from being on top of their game to being on the bottom of their game.

I’m not going to get into a debate on the good and bad points of a mud inherited loot based system. I’m sure there are plenty of those out there, somewhere. I will simply say that WAR does, as it must, suffer from all the problems inherent in such a system. Likewise it does, as it must, benefit from all the advantages of such a system.

To close the “bad” points segment, I’d like to briefly touch on Richard Bartle’s comment, “I’ve already played Warhammer, it was called World of Warcraft”. I’m sure I’ve already publicly stated that in general I agree with him, but it’s worth repeating. WAR and WoW are incredibly similar games, with most of the differences being in the fine detailing. It isn’t even so much comparable to saying that a pair of chairs are alike, so much as saying a pair of finely crafted Victorian rocking chairs are alike. Sure to someone who spends all day in one and then moves to the other, or to a true connoisseur, they seem very different, but to most sane outside observers… their both finely crafted Victorian rocking chairs, and it isn’t really that important which one you find yourself sitting in, if any at all. (After all rocking chairs may not be your thing.) But also to add my own thoughts on it, the problem I see is that the two are uncomfortably similar in a fashion which tells me many decisions were made because “it’s an MMO, that’s just how it’s done.” This can be seen in the UI, the skills set-up, and the dungeon system. There have been many good examples of how to break from all of those, some of them would have worked especially well with their flavor of game and setting. For instance a Guild Wars style mission system, balanced more around war bands, would have been a better selection than their limited dungeons in most cases. It would have allowed them to fill in the story better, as well as allowed the players to interact more with the iconic armies of the game, such as bloodthirsters, war bosses, and steam tanks.

Finally, I can’t talk about WAR without bringing up the public quest system. It is one of those sublime systems that keeps the player wondering why anyone hadn’t done it before. While I’ll admit the balancing on some needed some work, there was a certain charm to either pre-arranging a group for them, or just picking up a group of random stragglers to complete one. Their level design and placing of them was also generally quite good, both space efficient and relatively intuitive.

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Dueling in WAR

Ardua wound up pointing me at a post on Wizards & Wenches pertaining to a comment by Magnus(GOA) on GOA’s take on pre-arranged duels.

I don’t play WAR anymore, but I still feel pretty safe calling bullshit on this one. Dueling is a very social thing. While I’m so sorry that Mythic and GOA actually have to deal with people playing their game not a bunch of mindless robots who live only for the thrill of battle, society and MMOs kind of go together. No Mythic, not making a dance command does not somehow prevent your players from displaying humanity while playing the game.

But back to GOA, for whom I have one question… Really!? I mean people having duels is somehow going to break everyone’s precious illusion of WAR being about warfare? Gee, I think if they can get past major strategic landmarks being defended by a handful of troops and conquerable by under one hundred of the worst soldiers in history, engaging purely in skirmish warfare without the benefit of formations, supply lines or fucking army leadership, maybe, just maybe, they’ll get past a few people fighting by themselves off in a corner! Or am I the only one who thought it was strange that the great and terrible armies of destruction and the majestic defenders of light are pretty much off duty outside of prime time, and when their on duty they run around like chickens with their heads cut off without the barest hint of discipline or leadership. But then, I also find it strange that we’re fighting in cordoned off areas for the ownership of three bedroom apartments keeps, with weapons and armor that our enemies not only don’t steal from us, but that are spiritually welded to the core of our being such that even in death they don’t come off.

All of this shouldn’t ruin the fun of most people, it sucks mine away like a fucking chest wound but then I take the time to ponder military tactics and grand strategy. In and of itself it’s all fine, but when you start telling people trying to have fun that they should fuck off because “it doesn’t go well with the WAR setting” you should be more than willing to eat your own god damn medicine. Not that anyone at GOA or Mythic is ever going to read this.

***

With some time to think about it, the tone of this post is probably too strong… but I think that improves the writing and I don’t feel like pussifying it. Suffice it to say, I do realize Magnus wasn’t being terribly absolute and was trying to be diplomatic. That does not, however, make the argument any more sane in my mind.