The Secret World and New Player Experience

There have been a lot of changes incoming for The secret World that were outlined among the the recent blog, chief among those the Enhanced Player Experience, aka a nerf bat raining down upon the lands. There has been a bit of criticism around this decision as well, TSW is about the difficulty in a way. It’s about learning the skills and creating the right kinds of builds. It is a process most people are meant to go through.

The mmo player in me that’s prone to hardcore bouts of grind and utter devotion from time to time balks at such a thing. Having a certain amount of challenge in these mmo’s is a point of pride. it gives that sense of achievement for me and, it’s one of the primary things within these games that makes me strive for better. Without this element and mmo loses a great amount of appeal, or at least the average mmo does.

For TSW, I’m not so sure. This is the one game I could go casual for, and want to go casual for but there is so much getting in the way. TSW is just not a game I think you can devote yourself too entirely, their just isn’t enough interesting, and engaging content and mechanics to keep your time and with how much they update it never will be. That’s not a bad thing though as what they have their is good enough to make me want to repeatedly come back to try and enjoy but not enough to get through some of the other elements.

The difficulty has never been it’s strong point, in fact, it’s often a point of frustration. I can get by just fine within the game, I enjoy the skill building aspects but all those elements of difficulty and complexity get in the way of the game I want to play. I really don’t care about the combat in the slightest, it is rather average and is rather boring. No, what I enjoy within TSW is the story. It is by far the strongest part of the experience so why they wouldn’t want to create a greater ease around this aspect is beyond me.

In my mind there efforts to balance the game a bit more in regards to skills, time to kill and difficulty of the combat elements is a very good thing. I believe it will bring a lot of people back in who hit that difficulty wall before rather early in the game and then gave up. This way it gives people a chance to get hooked on the narrative first, to get immersed and involved with it. To give enough time and space to learn about the skills, passives and the inherent complexity there without being overtly punished. The difficulty is still there for end game content too but if you have gotten there your probably invested enough to continue at that stage.

TSW has been struggling for some time, Funcom has been struggling, you can see it in their financial reports each time. They are working on a razor thin margin their for running their games and hopefully this will bring people back to the game and keep Funcom going with creating this wonderful title.

Advertisements

Importance of Polish

With playing Final Fantasy 14 at the moment  I’ve got to wondering whether innovation is something we truly want, or even need in mmo’s. By all accounts it’s a wow clone, and while a polished one with a lot of mechanics from elsewhere it really offers nothing of its own to the equation. By all accounts it shouldn’t be succeeding where many others have fallen; Wildstar and ESO just before it that both added nothing as well and paid the price for that yet Final Fantasy has continued to grow, grow to 4 million accounts lately which means box purchases… that’s reasonably impressive in this age.

Yet in spite of that, and with playing another mmo that is but an iteration on the same formulae I’ve become rather enamoured with it. Usually I get bored with these types of experiences quite quickly but I’ve been grinding out the levels and quests for my kitty zerker for a few days now. Playing for many hours at a time. Completing all the dungeons as I go multiple times and having a good time with it. I’m even excited about what’s to come even before I’ve gotten to the cap. I’ve been actively researching and looking at class and tanking guides too: ways to gear up, raid and dungeon videos.. all that boring stuff I haven’t bothered with since rift.

It’s silly but rather exciting to be wrapped up in that mmo goodness again. And it’s not that thirsty in the desert kind of feeling either, well, it was at first but now that I’ve settled in I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would and I think the main reason for this is just polish.

Yes it’s polished in the usual kind of ways now. Graphical purrty as all heck. Ability lag is a thing of the past and rivals that of blizzard making gameplay and combat feel smooth. And just the content and game run smoothly throughout play. It is a game that has gotten the attention it needs to fill itself out and run well… sadly a lot of games can’t say the same lately.

Anyway, it is more than that as well and by polish I also mean they have actually taken the time to figure out what it is they want to do. It is a game that actually seems to have planned itself out in regards to the pace of combat, the styles available, the types and methods of acquiring shinies. Just the way the whole game, each of its components fits together.

Mostly I get the feeling the engaged in a little introspection regarding mmo’s in general. They didn’t just blindly copy what the current zeitgeist is, the populist mechanics and they also didn’t fall prey to throwing out the perfectly functioning components just to appear “edgy”, and “innovative”. They seem to have actually sat down and thought about the usual mechanics of mmos: what works, what doesn’t and figure out why then mold these towards their own vision. There is a level of understanding there in how they’ve designed the components so that it becomes greater than the whole. Greater than the usual.

MMO’s don’t really need to strive to be different, it’s mostly just a marketing buzzword anyway and rarely keeps people around after they’ve grown tired of the same bull shit reskinned with the same mistakes. Innovation can be good too, dynamic events are something I think enriches the genre and were a huge departure from the standard but so many games use this now without really dissecting it mechanically and then integrating it within their game to be cohesive.

I just feel that mmo’s need more thought put into them first and that it seems doing so is far more important than aiming for some kind of new shiny appeal.

Finding the Fun in Final Fantasy 14

As a mmo player away from mmo’s for a while you get these urges. Urges deep down that feel like some kind of deep dark hole sucking up everything else around it, it needs to  be filled but you have to find the right thing to fill it with. (boy it was hard writing all that without overt innuendos)

Anyway, I say this because that’s where I’ve been lately. I have quite a few awesome games I’ve been playing lately but for some reason they just weren’t enough. Sometimes I would just stare at the desktop looking at these icons, occasionally starting one up before turning them off again. The are great games but not the experience I want at the moment. I want a mmo, I want that familiar feeling to fall into once more. It’s that particular style of gaming comfort I’ve found I can’t be without for too long now.

I needed something and there are a few options to pick from. I tried Guild Wars 2 for a bit but it just didn’t click. Didn’t fulfill the particular whole inside. Firefall a little and yeh, not quite there either. Elder Scrolls will be soon but I still don’t really hold much hope in it keeping my interests. I enjoy it to an extent but it just never felt right for some reason. The secret world is fun, and it certainly fills a certain corner of what’s missing but I only need short fixes of that particular part.

That brings me to Final Fantasy 14 which I’m currently playing and filling up that familiar space once more. I still have the same issues as when I tried it way back at release, but now after being through the big modern releases I’m starting to forgive those elements are was fairly critical of before. The modernised mechanics and elements they have are great, but they were just missing in other areas and fell apart as a whole experience. Final fantasy seems to get it mostly right but what it does is very well-integrated and makes sense as a whole experience.

They have cute cat girls too

They have cute cat girls too

I’ve been incredibly impressed with a few other aspects as well and I think this is what has been drawing me more into the game.

First even though I haven’t been watching the game too closely I have been incredibly impressed with the rate, quality and quality of the content that has been added since release. They have offered a wide range of new activities, new fluff items to procure, mini games to enjoy and keep you in-game. New challenges to overcome. More important than that though is what they have been adding seems to avoid the usual pitfall of obsoleting areas of the game. If anything it all seems to support itself.

Following on from this point is that I was rather amazed that most of those early zones still had a lot of activity in them. There were a range of people traveling around. Occasionally High level characters doing particular leves, or whatever that thing they do is. Crafters gathering their wares. Reasonable amount of people doing dungeons as well, even in my own peak time. Those Fates (dynamic events) seem incredibly popular as well. It is fantastic that they’ve created an activity that always seem to be quite useful to all people play. It’s just experience but due to the, what I originally thought of as restrictive,  lack of quests and methods of leveling alternatives keeps these events and the zones active. With this design it also means you have a great activity to do with friends (like the cutest Murf you ever did see) of any level that is useful to all involved, it’s very well done.

A wild murf appears

A wild murf appears

I was a little skeptical about the community too. Many have been saying how great it has been for them but, I still suspected that certain usual mmo troll attitude to an extent. Boy was I surprised when I tested this theory in a dungeon when I said at the start that I was new and my first dungeon run. I mean coming on, I was the tank as well so that was bound to get a rise. Nope, nothing but helpful and supportive the entire way. In any other mmo that would be an immediate party kick or drop group.

The other thing I am thankful for at this early state of play is having a decent trial period. The one failing, I think, of a lot of these sub mmo’s lately  as here it gave me enough room to experience enough of the game to get a decent impression. And here I am now, a day in and already a level 20 Marauder

Ending My Early Entry to MMO’s

I’ve been writing a post about Crowfall lately and outlining the parts I liked in the initial pitch, and it does have a lot of really interesting elements that appeal to me. It was while writing this though that I realised I was trying to justify my own purchase in advance, like i need the idea to be this awesome to cross that certain threshold. I’m guessing that was exactly the plan too. Unfortunately it was here too that made me swear to the great gaming gods, and of course RNGesus that I’m no longer supporting any more of these early access mmo’s, whether they be just an idea or something that will be soon releasing. Not going to happen anymore.

It has been a rather disappointing couple years of mmo’s overall, there have been some great experiences and quite a few games with the potential but nothing that really satisfied my burgeoning mmo interests. It’s no secret to those interested in the pvp that it has been rather slim pickings as well; we can have whatever shit the most recent mmo is dishing out and that lasts a good month or so or, we can go over to the unfinished, unpolished indie games like Darkfall. Yeh, not great options really.

This is precisely why I probably should be excited about Crowfall, and honestly I am. Great concept for constant, but semi persistent battlefields. It’s not the rich, complex virtual world I’m looking for but it will be a game i come back to consistently for some play, much like lobby shooter really. I could pay into that early, and I probably have the money for it but then it’s gotten to the stage where I just can’t be assed even playing these alpha mmo’s. I haven’t touched Repopulation in a long time now. Camelot Unchained is going into it’s alpha soon, which I have access to but I don’t see myself jumping in. I almost got the cheap pack for Skyforge too but it’s all just utterly pointless.

At least for those small indie titles they give you a working game and the development cycle for those that aren’t seems a lot less. Coming back now and then to play around with the new updates and such doesn’t really hurt the experience either, in fact, that’s the optimal style of play there. MMO’s just don’t work like that, they require a bit more focus and dedication, even in these alpha states and to put that much time into something that is terrible unfinished and incomplete kills all the enjoyment for me from then and into the future. I’m done ruining my excitement for games that way. I’m wasting all that time to have it all wiped away. I’m done paying for these mmo’s I’m unlikely to play in a reasonable state for the next few years. And I’m definitely done spending my money on it.

So no Crowfall for me, at least not until it hypothetically releases in the next 2 or more years.

 

Going Back to GW2

So I’ve been exploring Guild wars 2 again and yep, it was news of the expansion that brought me back which makes me wonder even more about why they didn’t do it sooner. The living story just wasn’t for me and it was never something that was viewed in the same way as an expansion from the media either. No hype. No interest. Just an overwhelming feeling of MEHHH.

Continue reading

Signal Static Express

I’m amazed at just how much huge news we’ve had lately within the mmo space. Nothing for months and then BAM… everything hits you at once. I mostly just keep on going with my own rambling but sometimes I feel like I miss out on having my own say. From now on I think I will put some news here, but just quick opinions and recaps, nothing major although I need a witty title name for it.

Anyway Here’s some of the big January stuff so far

Massively Overpowered

First I’ll just highlight the closing down of the Joystiq sites, including Massively. Recently the team just came out with their own kickstarter, with plans for further crowd sourcing from places like Patreon afterwards. There has been a bit of conversation around the validity of what massively did, and I guess will do, but regardless of those (of which I have as well) I think it added enough of value to the mmo community for it to continue on.

ESO buy to play

Elder Scrolls Online will be going Buy to play on march 19, ahead of the June 9 console release. I did write about my own feelings but I’m still glad they went with this approach. The DLC mission pack style of monetisation will probably work quite well with it and I think with being on the consoles it might get a larger influx of new players.

GW2 expansion

Guild Wars 2 is finally getting it self an expansion, Heart of Thorns. There was a lot of talk around it’s possibility beforehand due to the few teaser elements in the last couple of mission packs and it mostly turned out to be true. A decent amount of new mechanics and elements coming that could breath new llife into the game. A large new map plus gliders to traverse the world, new story elements and guild ships. Personally I’m more interested in the new Revenant class as well as masteries, with their new weapons and focus as that should shake up the meta enough to get interesting again for me.

SOE Sale

Sony Online Entertainment, the organisation behind the everquest franchise, Landmark, and the recent HIZZY release has been sold to an outside investment Firm and renamed Daybreak Game Company.. or Day C as I’m going to call it. It was claimed on Smedley’s twitter that nothing will change from it’s current development although there was an interest in creating games for console and mobile.

I’m not sure how I feel about this just yet, it’s a weird move really. They weren’t that much of a drain on sony’s resources although, going by Planetside two just now becoming profitable it seems they’re not so great at the whole project/resource management style of things. I think it was a bad move for them putting all their eggs in the ftp, early access basket but.. whatever, their call. I’m guessing by the end of the month would should get some more news on it.

 Nintendo monetisation program

News currently circulating the youtube crowd at the moment was the idiotic new program from Nintendo regarding Monetising it’s games on youtube. Their Ideas were that you could become a Nintendo Affiliate, and get 70% of all earnings (after about two months though) or 6-% if unaffiliated.. So yeh, I’m guessing they are back to the archaic and rather damaging plan of claiming all nintendo games within youtube for themselves in the aim to get more money, but with the result of completely screwing themselves of free marketing.

Could someone please explain to them how the internet works…

Crowfall

New interesting PVP focused game from a few developers who were involved with all those great sandbox games. Looks interesting and they are saying all the right things to get people excited but it’s probably a couple years out at least and so I don’t really give a shit. We’ll see what the reality is when it’s more of a game instead of a bunch of ideas later on.

I might do a recap of info though… hmm.. dats a lot of work though

Nexon vs Nsoft… FIGHT 

News I didn’t see many places was That the all powerful, evil entity that is Nexon engaged in a hostile takeover of Ncsoft. Hopefully battle royale style so we can atleast get rid of one of those monstrous entities. This is pretty much the result of Nexon purchasing the majority share in Nsoft during 2012 and recently changing the status on this from investment, to business participation

I just find it funny that it sounds like it occured due to a marital dispute.

Free to Play Fuckery: Trion’s love for Lockboxes

I’ve been debating whether to do this one since the source material is gone but FUCK IT, lets roll with it anyway

In a recentish stream by Trion for rift on the 23rd of January they were answering a few questions the players had and one about lockboxes popped up. Daglar answered with something along the lines of, selling items directly in the store isn’t as profitable as Lockboxes. The data shows it’s just more profitable.

Hmmm.. I think what I mostly have to say to that is

stop-it

I don’t think anyone has ever argued with them that it isn’t more profitable, or the better earner than putting items directly in the cash shop. The question has mainly just been is it actually better to use such methods.

I’ve talked about the human cost before and the ethical issues involved with using such methods as what they come down to is being a form of gambling. Something that preys on one of the weaker elements of human psychology.

And then, regardless of the short term gain that can come from lockboxes I mostly worry about the long term potential and effects. Spending so much on this, and often for nothing, fills people with regret and in the face of this often becomes a far more sceptical outlook. Increasingly because of this people become further removed from the practice, opting out more and more. The interest in ftp design was rather positive just a few years ago but now I increasingly see people filled with distrust, bordering on anger. Is that really the type of market you want to create?

Bad ftp makes owl sad

Bad ftp makes owl sad

I partly Blame the mobile scene for this and the design around artificial time gates and restraints, it is something that has impacted on the whole industry but seemingly far more so on MMO development, much to it’s downfall. Design around cosmetics can and does work, and doesn’t impact on people’s understanding and interest of a game but instead many have fallen into the trap of profits without thinking of its other effects.

I also wonder what exactly it does to the reputation of these games and companies due to such abhorrent practices. Trion, a once great companies image has been increasingly tarnished due to their practices. It wasn’t just Archeage here, I remember the outrage with how they created a specific world event to push a new lockbox type and have increasingly used such disingenuous methods to peddle these, more and more.

And come on, it’s the principle of it. Do we really need to treat customers as cattle, something to milk as much as possible. That’s the kind of thinking that ruins an opinion of a game and company. Maybe even the industry as well.

milking the cow

MMO’s are supposed to be long term endeavors. Something where you should be striving to gain and keep long term interest. Thinking about this long term interest, the reputation of your game and company, and just having some fucking respect for your players is how you maximise these profits. So please, let’s stop marketing these cheap, ridiculous gambling tricks.

 

New Year, New Adventures

It’s seems like this is going to be a weird year for mmo’s. So far there doesn’t seem to be any, truly huge releases to look forward to for the first time in many years. I see many around the blogs that seem rather disjointed and saddened by this but, this actually makes me even more excited.

Continue reading

Repopulation Preview

My initial thoughts of The Repopulation have been a while coming. I’ve been playing a lot lately and even jumping in and out of the alpha clients of late but being a sandbox there is a lot to get acquainted with and I wanted to get a fuller picture of the game first. Now I still haven’t experienced everything yet. The nation management and open world housing is not something I know much about and isn’t really implemented fully. I haven’t been involved much with the player conflict yet either.

What I have done is just check out the foundations of play. The combat types and methods of progression. The elements of the economy like gathering and crafting and well, just what the experience is going to be like.

So far I’m rather impressed although I’m not sure if that’s just the experience of a person stumbling through the desert and finding water, or someone that is actually enjoying what they find on its own merits. It’s a strange feeling.

Continue reading

Listmas: 2015 in MMO’s

Welcome to a 2015 list of all that is awesome and mmo, and maybe a little PvP as well.. you know, I needz me my killing. I should preface by saying that star citizen won’t be included… it won’t be released this year, or probably the next unless of course the sacrifice a few more virgins to the god of feature bloat and development hell. Either that or get him out of the scrooge mcduck style money bin he’s currently swimming in long enough to get the development on track.

Ahem well, enough with the pleasantries for now and lets begin with some more Listmas cheer

Continue reading