Listmas 2014: 5 Dumbass Decisions in Mmo’s

While the year has seen some huge release within the mmo industry
Games many were looking forward to and expecting to see greater success but unfortunately disappointed for a number of reasons. Now these mmo’s could have been great but unfortunately they’re subject to some of the worst decisions in design and management possible.

So yeh, I’m calling it now. 2014: the year of Dumbass Decisions

Veteran Ranks.

First up is the end game design of ESO that had an alternative advancement system that strangled all joy and interest from the game. A lot of mmo’s do have these alternative advancement systems that let you continue to improve your character but nothing as annoying, as restrictive and as game breaking as Veteran Ranks.

The first issue was of course the only way of attaining these ranks being completing and endless tide of quests from the other factions. The rest of the game gave experience through a variety of means but here there was none gained through kills, or dungeons, or rifts or any other content. It was a ridiculously restrictive system that bored the ever-living shit out of me. Levelling an alt class or faction then meant going through all of the same boring material again as well. It wasn’t even mostly that good, adequate but hardly the type of material you ever want to do again.. Or even once for that matter.

It’s funny but I probably would have gone through a lot of the other factions content eventually anyway but being forced to do it and being forced to do it in an increasingly difficult system where you had to optimise and thus omit any interesting class decisions was the death toll.

Another issue that resulted was that it continued to restrict playing with friends and guilds. The levelling game is hard enough due to the amount of phasing and differences in quest parts that stop group play but you can usually still look forward to max level where there is a breadth of content to try together. ESO said screw that and kept up play restrictions through these endless veteran ranks. Quest restrictions, dungeon restrictions and a few other issues that meant a longer solitary and soul crushing grind to the end.

Then after this was the impact it had on AvA with veteran ranks and the gear allowed giving a huge boost to a character’s abilities. The difference was massive and resulted in rather unbalanced fights and huge grinds to catch up… If you did.

They have reversed a few of these issues now. Difficulty has come down a lot. Dungeons more flexible with levels and experience gain from ranks now coming from a lot of different activities but it went on long enough, and annoyed too many till the point of people leaving instead of continuing with that ridiculous grind.

Hardcore Raiding

The pre-release push for hardcore raiding was an EXTREME-ly self-absorbed approach with Wildstar and the promotional material was rather amusing. The calls from many about its viability was EXTREME and yet these critiques and cries went unnoticed or unheeded and what resulted was quite frankly, a train wreck. It was a game that did have some good points but this focus on the hardcore end game meant most of it wasn’t fleshed out or polished enough.

The process for getting ready for raids, attunement, was prolonged stupidity. Yes, let’s make silly grinds and restrictions for enjoying the content people want. Then there was the 40 man requirement for raids which is no longer that viable. Sure WOW could do it, even if they aren’t any more due to the huge population numbers but from a new and a little niche mmo title that barely gained a decent population at launch… Well, we all saw the result.

Even the dungeons themselves were more tedious and twitch based than difficult. All about instant coordination which for me on a larger ping was all more frustrating than fun. And the rewards from these were completely borked as well. You needed to run the absolute best run possible to get anything decent which meant people immediately giving up at the first problem during a dungeon run and of course being elitist assholes for the rest of the time. With the way they were designed it meant those that had completed it were unlikely to go back and help others too.

I actually think a hardcore dungeon based game could be fun. Tera does pretty well with this after all but with many of the design decisions, the mechanics not matching the content and of course the 40 person requirement it left people feeling rather annoyed instead of interested.

Living story.

I’ve ranted about the Guild Wars 2 “living” story update model before, a few times actually and it continued to be a system that disappointed. Now as much as I rage against gw2 it’s actually because I like the game yet hate the way it’s been managed after release. The living story is the crux of that rage.

I tend to imagine that if they weren’t so focused on it we would have gotten more world changes and new events to enjoy. We would have more pvp development, maybe more and better designed dungeons, some more fractals. A range of new cosmetics to find. Maybe some actual housing. But no, we get entirely superficial content of achievements about grinding widgets and whatchits all wrapped up in a few bland story instances. It’s just seems so far removed from what I originally wanted for gw2. We did see some bigger changes, some new maps but it is nowhere near the fun of the original vision.

The story is absolutely terrible too with characters that are mostly bland and idiotic, with stories and plot points that make noooooo fucking sense. There are glimpses of something larger and more interesting but the way it is being told belay very little of this which is a shame because I enjoy the world and lore of Tyria.

Worse of all is that it has all mostly been temporary content throughout. Go away from the game and you’ll completely miss it. Not that I felt like playing much of it anyway but for those starting out or those coming back they would have completely missed it. The could have so much more content to enjoy. I look at the development of other mmo’s and over 2 years in I would expect far more than this but no, they keep peddling this idiocy instead.

World of Darkness

I’ll say it right now. The management of this White Wolf I.P was criminal. They had a great background there, a niche but cult property to use and of course an idea that might have been rather interesting. We need some more mmo’s with varying themes and I think another modern times one would have done quite well, and with the interest in the supernatural of late it could have gotten a decent following but no, CCP decided to kill it in order to support its projects that are shit (dust 514) and uncertain (Valkyrie).

Now it isn’t unheard of for companies to shelve games during development. Blizzard announced the end of their Titan project this year as well yet that seems ok. It wasn’t shaping up to be a great title. World of Darkness never got a chance to work. The ideas were never truly realised and the development never progressed due to CCP’s mismanagement of the project, appropriation of staff and resources and of course, just never giving it the attention it needed. It was a team and project that was cannibalized to support eve then used as the scapegoat when issues occurred.

It is admirable that they wanted to refocus on the eve universe but dust has been a disaster so far, failing to meet expectations by a huge margin and I’m still rather sceptical about what CCP can actually do with Eve Valkyrie. After all, Elite dangerous has already beaten them to the market and star citizen is a behemoth waiting behind it. Eve can’t last forever either so it seemed to me that World of Darkness would be their future

Archeage

As is expected from the top spot and well, nothing in particular just everything about its management. I have no idea whether the blame is on XL Games or Trion for this one. Probably a combination of stupidity, greed and indifference from both companies resulted in this good ship of fail. It started reasonably well and the experience was fun but even from release you could see the issues spreading further and further through the game.

The cash shop and ftp system was at the crux of it all and also just an overwhelming amount of greed at the expense of the games many interrelated mechanics. It started off with the tax certs, the currency for paying housing being in the store which meant those paying money at the beginning were able to get large swathes of land and of course many missed out. There was issues with lock boxes, item duping, purchased regrade Scrolls, changing items stats to make cash shop items better and of course the great archeum tree debacle that drastically changed the economy. They were just never afraid to implement an item or change regardless of the carry on effects if it meant making money.

There were many issues with apex, the real world money to in-game game mechanic. It was exploited heavily for gold and a few other things. Of course this got fixed as it cut into their profits but so many issues remained. The main issue with all this though was that, through apex you could officially pay for power. The labour pots helped to but apex was the bigger issue. You could afford to buy, craft and regards to the better gear. You could get the best materials and this had a noticeable real world effect on the PvP elements.

The Levelling of exploiting was massive as well. Exploits of teleporting everywhere which made untold amounts of wealth from trade packs and guilda stars. Exploits around combat, exploits to see things they shouldn’t like the exact timers, exploits for automatic auction house bidding and exploits to grab unclaimed land before legitimate players. The botting was massive too, just everywhere in large numbers and very little moderation around it.

It was a game plagued with hacking and yet Trion seemed to do very little about it. There were a few larger cases of bans but then there were also cases of high-profile users, twitch streamers and even a guilds recruitment video where you could see hacks being used yet no punishment occurred. With being a ftp game as well it was incredibly easy to create mule accounts to do illegal actions and gold making activities and then funnel it towards the main character. Trion did try stopping this but then it mostly seemed to hurt legitimate players who had sold items and got that gold taken away by Trion and yet items purchased with exploited gold remained in their hands.

Aurora was the dumbest shit ever. Huge log in issues screwed over a lot of guilds that could have owned a castle and now it’s almost impossible to win the castle siege due to shitty balancing of walls and other mechanics. It is also a mechanic that rewards a lot of gold to the owners too increasing the wealth of these guilds.

Another recent case of Trion being Trion is them outright lying about a 10% discount in stores with pre-order packs, not delivering on that promise and then lying about ever making such a claim. Of course it was proven wrong.

After all of this I think the worst thing is that they neither have the capabilities or the interest in solving most of the issues unless of course they might harm earnings from the cash shop. And I think XL games, the developers can’t be assed either and have been busy developing their next scam instead of supporting the title.

It is honestly the worst managed mmo I’ve ever witnessed. Levels of dumbassery unheard of in this year, the years before and probably of any years to come. It is a black mark on the industry and on Trion that I hope they learn from… Or that we do and never support such blatant disregard for players again.

Runners Up

I think for the runner up in all this I would have to say Early access that’s too Early. Getting in and being able to help shape a game is rather admirable but this can be done in other ways rather than paying hundreds of dollars. I also see many of the experiences offering this lately and yet, what you get in to play is nowhere near a game just yet. Landmark is the prominent game for this that has been in what they call alpha for going on a year now. Yes they now say beta but come on… really?

I’m also unsure just yet if such a thing is even good for the genre. MMO’s are a type of game that needs people to be invested for longer and yet with this model they are splitting the playerbase by large amounts of time and I see many burning out on a game before it even launches. And come one, do we always need to have everything about a game ruined before it even comes out. Sometimes a little mystery is a good thing. And come on… lets lower the price of these a little, after all we are paying for the lesser experience and helping you cut costs on QA staff.

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7 thoughts on “Listmas 2014: 5 Dumbass Decisions in Mmo’s

  1. I can’t really comment on the fourth or fifth items but certainly agree with numbers 1 to 3. Guild Wars 2 is especially painful as I enjoy playing the game casually but I’ve not liked any of the Living World bar the original Festival of the Four Winds update (which was temporary of course, doh!). A massive wasted opportunity to have just one MMO that wasn’t all the same achiever, rush to the end, gogogo madness we’re stuck with everywhere.

    I could add another, rather older, runner up of Rift. It was a pretty good game at launch but could have been very different if they’d stuck to their guns and kept in the ability of invasions to lock down zones. I’ve read that in beta the invasion system was more complete with longer times between resets but there were too many complaints about questing being disrupted. Honestly I never considered the questing good enough in that game to justify the lost opportunity of having something a bit different on the market.

    • As Bhag said, that’s how it was in beta. Absolutely huge invasions of enemies wiping out entire zones and it took a coordinated group.. actually multiple group efforts to succeed and push it all back. Personally I loved it and it was playing in the open beta and seeing this that hooked me on the game. I don’t want to worry about questing when this large world invasion style stuff is happening that we are all cooperatively completing. That’s what an mmo means to me, not solo questing.

      gw2 had a similiar story. Early game testing and it originally had no hearts, just all dynamic quests but there was a bit of confusion and complaints around that by people who didn’t know what to do. I don’t know, that would have been far more interesting to me.

      I liked some of those large world events too and yeh, that four winds on e looked excellent but my puter couldn’t handle it at the time unfortunately but there were a few other that looked fun too that i wish stayed around. Just the whole tixx workshop was cool enough to hang around. I also don’t see why the super adventure box had to go. ALl that is stuff you can do just to fill time or work towards varying goals for fluff things. Would seem better to fill out the game in that way over time till you have a huge breadth of content to enjoy and work through.

  2. @Telwyn What you heard about Rift in beta was true. They nerfed Rifts and particularly Invasions in late beta and again, hard, soon after launch. I preferred the earliest version which seemed the best-balanced but there were a lot of complaints that quest hubs became unavailable during Invasions, which was rather the point, and Trion bowed to the pressure.

    As for GW2 and temporary content I feel that the whole game was designed with that in mind. ANet have spent most of this year making sure no-one ever has to miss out on anything, which I think is a truly terrible idea.

    I love temporary content in MMOs. I am 100% in favor of “be there or miss out” events. If they mean people end up re-arranging real-life commitments to be in game when a big event happens then that’s a good thing to my mind. ANet tried it once with the Karka event, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and then caved. Trion did exactly the same with the first big Rift event.

    I’d love to see an MMO that was based around big, one-off event play, where the whole point was that you either made the time and effort to be there or you didn’t get to experience the event. If I want to see a band I have to make the effort to free up time when the gig is scheduled. I can’t see why it’s unreasonable to expect me to do the same for an event in an MMO – especially since I don’t even have to allow for travel time.

    • I second the love of temporary content (most notably the events of Ultima Online), but I think a larger sentiment behind Eri’s rant is how horrible temporary content feels when there’s so little permanent additions or serious overhauls/fixes.

      Then again, I don’t know much about Guild Wars 2. After the first month, I left and have never considered looking back!

    • I don’t mind temporary content as well but I want to see the game grow as well. I actually like to see the world change things where parts, or even whole zones change.

      As for one off style things I think that”s a little unfair. To say you have to reorganise your life around a game. That’s how arguments happen… trust me =p It’s also something that conflicts with the international nature of these games. If you had servers in the major areas like uk and oceania as well then maybe but as it is with everyone piling into the NA it doesn’t work. It is something that is designed around the NA crowd and everyone else is stuck with shit times for things.. This causes conflict. Personal I won’t even play a game that doesn’t at least make allowances for the international market. Age of wushu was interesting but the warring mechanics ere in my early am…. Archeage and castle sieging too although that was on a monday morning. Why would I play a game just to miss out on the major content? I think that’s why the whole Kharka event in gw2 went down badly. It was a weekday for the rest of the world and an event that happened during the work hours. Of course people are going to miss out except for the NA crowd and that goes against our ideas of fairness. PAying the same money, should get the same treatment.

      Now if a game switched around the time for events … sure. Or just design events to go on for several hours so the most people who want to can participate.

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