Blog Archives

Auction Houses: Pandering to those who hate crafting

This. Elder Game’s The Case Against Auction Houses.

But I mean, what are you gonna do, not have an auction house in a modern MMO?

Sure! There’s no reason every MMO should have an auction house. Lots of MMOs implement it unthinkingly, because they believe it’s a mandatory back-of-the-box feature. Few MMO developers take the time to think about the ramifications of the feature.

I’ve got a lot to say on the subject myself, as a self-professed crafter before anything else in MMOs, but having ignored most of my work over the weekend I’m now forced to actually do some in order to pay the bills. Bah humbug.

Also: I miss SWG. The whole crafter/merchant/harvester thing did sort of turn into a second (and sometimes third) job, but it was the most fulfilling crafting and selling in any MMO, evar.

The Secret World – But HOW is it different?

People keep asking me this and I haven’t managed to put together a satisfactory, canned, 10-words-or-less answer yet. I couldn’t manage 10 words or less if someone was sitting on my tongue, anyway.

However, I did comment over at Scary’s place (go there, it’s very scary), and I’m going to be cheap and paste my comment here because, flippant as the comment is, it does encapsulate some of what makes TSW different.

People keep asking me “But HOW is it different?” and I either can’t answer or have to spout a wall of text. Lately I’ve been keeping it to tidbits:

– I get to blow zombies up with shotguns / magic / napalm / IEDs
– I get to slice zombies into little pieces with sweet-looking katanas & fist weapons
– I get to melt faces with fire magic
– All of this while wearing a corset and a cute baby-blue bra. Or leather pants and a trenchcoat. Or a T-shirt with a kitten on it.
– The music is the ONLY game music I’ve ever liked enough to keep it turned on
– NPCs say the F-bomb. This pleases me in a game, since I use it too. Plus I like pseudo-hippies who sound like Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now (or Blue Velvet for that matter). F*** yeah!

Before someone reports me to the potty-mouth police, I’m not advocating swearing like a sailor. It’s not really the F-bombs. It’s the fact that, so far, the adults in the game talk like… well, adults, and not like… well, MMO NPCs. You know – “Prithee, brave adventurer, I have heard of thee! I needest help riddething mythelf of the awful rats that have infested my petticoats. Help me and I shall give thee a rotten apple core and my dead father’s old boots!”

Hyperbole, moi? But you get the idea.

I’ve added a TSW Screenshots page where, assuming I have correctly figured out how galleries work, I shall be adding a hodge-podge of screenshots. Assuming I can remember to take them in-game.

You can blow their heads clean off.

Other things that make TSW different, for me:

– It’s dark. Not lighting-dark – I’ve been asked that by a few folks who have seen screenshots that all seem very low-light / dark-toned. The sunlight is very sunlight-y, and there’s a normal day/night cycle. Maybe hype-screenshots are more impressive when they’re dark things. But no, the game isn’t dark in a lighting sense (unless, you know, it’s night – and even that’s not too bad – or you’re in a cave or a basement… but I digress). It is dark in a mood sense, while also being a little humourous, at least in the first zone. Things become a lot darker and a lot less humourous in the second zone, and that’s all I’ve seen so far.

ANYway, point is: it’s dark in a moody way. Bad shit is happening in these places and, while the Zombie apocalypse is blackly funny, it’s also very creepy. So far TSW has been pretty good at the creepy vibe.

– The game is beyond chock-full of references. Off the top of my head, John Carpenter, Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, David Lynch, Coppola, various Clint Eastwoods – and they’re just the obvious ones. I’m pretty sure there’s even a Eureka reference.

– EDIT: NPCs have very interesting things to say if you’re after lore & clues & info. Click on the chat-bubble and select a topic – note, however, that each topic usually has at least 3 entries, sometimes more – so always click a topic again! It will get a tick on the line when you’re done with that topic (though sadly the tick isn’t persistent – you may have to write down who you’ve talked to).

– Making notes is a great asset in this game. I like this. I had notebooks full of notes for Asheron’s Call, and I miss having to pay attention like that. Yes, you can play the game like a WoW-jock, but if you dig you’ll find all sorts of interesting corpses. Er, info.

– This one-server many-dimensions thing the Nazgul kindly linked for us last week (here it is again) is a nice twist. No need for alts on other servers – just hook up with your buddies, regardless of what “dimension” they’re in,  and you can play together. The hardest part is fitting this in with the jargon & concepts we already have. A dimension is not a server and it’s not really an instance – and if we call it that, people are going to get awfully confused. I’m going to think of them as Bubbles, because I’m odd that way.

– I can advance at my own pace. Yeah yeah, I know many games purport to have that. But take the first zone, Kingsmouth, for instance. There are probably 30-40 different missions you can do there (I pulled that number out of my backside, so don’t go hating on anyone if it seems low). They’re scattered all around the zone and if you don’t explore you won’t find some of them. Point is, almost all of them are repeatable after a few hours – it comes out at more or less once a day for most of them. If you’re a content-devouring, get my shit and move on to the next place kind of player you can do that – but if you’re someone like me who has trouble leaving their comfort zone, or who likes trying out new weapons and whatnot, then you can keep redoing stuff (at diminishing returns) until you’re comfortable enough to move on. I like that.

Enough for now. I have a day off (I hope) and I intend to spend it playing, not blog-posting. Even if I should be installing an air conditioner for my office and a CPU cooler for my computer. Meh – tomorrow.

WoW 4.2 Firelands dailies pro-tip

This is only going to interest those who are actually playing WoW and working through the Firelands dailies content, but I figured I’d post it anyway because it’s been irking me for a few days now.

The dailies come in several phases, and one of those gives you the choice of unlocking either the “Druids of the Talon” quests or the “Shadow Wardens” quests. You’ll end up unlocking both in any case, but since I have 2 level 85 chars I decided to pick different ones to open first on each character, just to compare what they were like.

It may be just me, but the Druids of the Talon content is a pain in the ass. The initial daily requires you to talk some druid type through some really nasty fire, said fire being stupidly deadly and full of mobs that want to tear your poor escort druid to shreds. Deaths the first time: 3. So maybe I suck at that – the point is, the initial daily for the Shadow Wardens just requires you to fight your way up a slope, and if anyone else is also fighting their way up you can jump in at any point. And remember, you’ll be doing this one too every day.

After that, the Druid dailies include ones that have you jumping across a chasm on little platforms — or, in my case, just jumping off the edge because I know I’ll get caught by an NPC and whisked to where I need to be. Why put in elements that nobody in their right mind wants to do once, let alone for 20-odd days? Once you’re over the chasm you have to use various hot air flows to get up and down ledges — again, interesting the first few times, yawnsome and irksome after that. In comparison, the Shadow Warden quests just require you to squish spider eggs or save spider victims, kill said spiders, and mess with a few tough (but handleable, certainly for my pally) evil droods.

Aside from all this the Druid dailies aren’t as slickly designed — I had to spend an inordinate amount of time looking stuff up after my third head-scratching “WTF? Did we do something wrong?” moment (I was duoing with a friend at the time). I didn’t have to look anything up for the Shadow Warden dailies, which is as it should be. Give me quest text that is sufficiently descriptive and a map I can consult and I’m good to go.

These are dailies we’re talking about, not dungeons, and they shouldn’t take all day or make me grind my teeth at the unnecessary level of “Look what we did! Aren’t we clever?” inserted into the quests at every conceivable opportunity.

So here’s the pro-tip: if you haven’t yet unlocked those 150-mark Druid or Shadow Warden lines, do the Shadow Warden one first. You’ll end up doing the dailies for both, but if you pick the Druids first you’ll have do those dailies twice as long as you’d have to if you picked the Shadow Wardens. I realise people’s mileage for this kind of stuff varies, and some folks might love the platform-like feel of the Druid dailies. Me, I just find them tedious and I really wish I hadn’t picked them first on my hunter. Bleh.

Oh, and here’s another tip for those doing the Break-the-Blue-Marks Enduring the Heat Shadow Warden daily. I died a couple of times the first time I did the quest because, duh, I didn’t realise that fire is bad and will burninate even my paladin if I stay in the lava pools long enough. I also had to learn that the critters in there aren’t supposed to be fought – there are too many of them and they respawn too quickly. The idea is purely to run around breaking marks (which also kills any fiery critters in range), and in the last couple of days I’ve developed a pretty good route for them. It’s by no means the only way to do the cave, but it keeps you moving steadily and doesn’t involve any backtracking except for one unavoidable dead-end, which minimises your exposure to the fiery critters chewing on your ass.

Here it is:

1. Head inside, hit the first blue mark;

2. Hang a left and run past the next blue mark (you’ll hit it in a bit and destroy all the fiery buggers on your ass), hanging a left again up the ramp to the blue mark that’s hidden in a corner. Destroy it.

3. Backtrack to the mark you just ignored; destroy it.

4. Run up the ramp to the platform in the center of the cave and destroy the mark up there.

5. Bear left (at least on the pic below) down the ramp and hit the mark at the bottom.

6. Look to your right as you’re facing the cave wall, and you’ll see a mark in the distance on the other side of a lava pool. You can reach it by running to the edge of the pool and finding the hot-air updraft. Stand near the draft (if you’re in range you’ll see air-effects around your feet), make sure you’re facing where you want to end up, and jump. Whoosh, you’ll get carried over. Hit the mark on the far side.

7. Keep running forward and hit the updraft on the far side, aiming at the seventh mark which should be visible. Destroy it.

8. Follow the path with the cave all on your left and hit the final mark. Run like hell to get out.

Elder Game sez I’m dumb

Not really, but it was tempting.

Elder Game actually says they’re tired of punditry, which I can empathise with, and I don’t even have actual MMO-developing skills to fall back on. Hence the echoing non-postiness of this site these last few months.

I’m sure I could find things to say about MMOs, but the inspiration balance is more delicate than I realised. I’m doing it for cold hard cash once a week already (writing, you pervs!), and every week I sit there thinking OMFG what am I going to write this time? It’s different when someone’s paying you, which I should have known from the start, and I’m not certain it’s different in a good way. I’ve got a whole lot of other stuff going on too, some of it pleasant, some of it less so, which distracts me from spending 30-60 minutes posting on a regular basis (i.e. more than twice a month).

And, as EG so rightly points out, there’s only so many times one can say the same thing before it becomes boring to write. It doesn’t matter whether the audience likes it or not or whether they mind the rehash — I don’t have any objection whatsoever to reading rehash on my favourite sites, but writing it is a special kind of pointless tedium that might be better spent picking one’s nose.

Blog hive-mind synchronicity in action. I’ve just spent the last few days telling myself I really should post more to this blog, because I miss it, but then stumbling on the actual content-creation part. I just don’t have much I want to write about here, not that I haven’t written a million times already anyway.

Someone get me a beta spot on TSW already. I could use the distraction. Ahem – once the NDA comes down, anyway.

Quest design – ur doin’ it rong

Here’s an example of how not to modify a quest that’s already in the game.

In WoW, there’s a daily cooking skill quest, one instance of which requires you to find 4 sacks of sugar for the poor orphans of the city. Up until about 6 weeks ago, these sugar sacks spawned in about 5 or 6 buildings around town, in a single location — it was a bit of a wait to get them all, sometimes, but mostly people would queue good-naturedly and just wait their turn. (You could also buy a sack or two at a time from certain vendors, though respawn is fairly slow. This hasn’t changed.)

A few weeks back, this was changed. The sugar sacks still spawn in the same building locations, but now they spawn in up to five different spots in each building, and they don’t spawn any faster than they used to. Which means that now everyone is running around like a loon  trying to be the lucky bastard who catches one of the 1-5 spawn locations in a given building. Any sense of good nature is gone as people snarl at and elbow each other out of the way — it’s like Sale Day at Bergdorfs, only with more F-bombs. Camping and queueing is more a case of spitting and clawing.

So the designers basically did one of two things: either they did a very well-meaning but insanely stupid thing, or they’re downright sadistic and someone thought it would be fun (for them, anyway) to make this irritating daily quest even more frustrating and time-consuming. If the former, then I’d have thought they were paid to be smarter than that, unless this got shoved off onto some noob designer; if the latter then thanks, and if I ever meet you, I will not be buying you a beer. Count on it.

It’s aliiiiiive!

It’s Psychochild’s project — and not a few other people’s too, actually, but he’s the name on the front of the packet.

It’s called Fae’s Wyrd. It haz online availability. Check it out.

I know, I know, I’m not as absent as I claimed to be. These days, even fishing doesn’t put you out of reach of communications, you know. Cute animal pic should distract you.

Blogging: the Chinese whipsaw effect?

Sometimes I love the blogosphere: it binds us together, it enables us to share and circulate ideas, and it allows us to have far-reaching and far-branching debates about all manner of gaming things under the sun.

Sometimes I loathe the blogosphere, for exactly the same reasons.

So as I read the various posts and discussions spawned by Eric of Elder Game’s original post — including my own (Eric link at top, everyone else at the end of the post) — I end up wondering: do we actually read each other, or do we just use each other as opportunities to bang on our own drums, grind our own axes, and stand on our own soapboxes?

I’m bemused and almost irked enough by it to be doing one of these petty, self-justifying set-the-record-straight posts, which in itself irritates me even further. (Doesn’t help that I’ve only had one cup of coffee, come to think of it.*) On the bright side it’s the weekend and nobody reads blog posts over the weekend, so I can mutter quietly and mostly to myself in my corner.

Record–straightening #1. I never said classes were better than not-classes. I said Eric said skill-based is hard, and I agreed with him based on my personal gaming experience. Actually, I do believe I said once or twice that classless is very rewarding, but it’s a lot more work — granted that my only “development” experience of that is for tabletop games, but while I didn’t mess about with million-dollar budgets, I do have some idea of the relative amount of work-time required between managing a classless, skill-based campaign and managing the opposite.

(For those who like this kind of thing underpinned by “evidence,” the tabletop game I ran for the longest time — about 8 years — was Ars Magica, which is pretty much a skill-based game with incredibly messy and open-ended rules, at least the ruleset we used, which was mostly 3rd ed with a smattering of 2nd, 4th and house rules.)

Once again. In a purely theoretical sense I still don’t see what’s so contentious about “skill-based is harder to design and balance than class-based” — I really don’t. As an extremely general statement, it seems pretty straightforward to me. Given the perils of speaking for others at this stage, I won’t — but I certainly never said that just because something is more difficult to design, nobody should bother with it.

Record-straightening #2. I never made any comments about easy/hard and choice/not-choice. Other people’s drums. Sure, I have stuff to say about those things, but I didn’t say them in that post.

I’m still boggling at how this has, once again, become a debate about easy-mode versus iron-man Mr. Real Player, even in terms of development. If you like structure, you’re a sheeple. If you like to be able to screw up your character without hope of recovery, you’re a brave pioneer forging ahead into the wilds of game adventure.

Yeah, whatever.

Yes, I’m paraphrasing rather inaccurately. I felt it was my turn.

I’m definitely starting to think it would be useful for the gaming community as a whole to lose the “if it made me want to chew my arms off, it was BETTER” elitist attitude we’re dragging around with us whether we notice it or not. There are arguments to be made for both simplicity and complexity and they’re a great deal more, um, complicated than simply saying one is better than the other, which is a pretty meaningless assertion without context, actually.

I’m done griping now. Move along. Nothing to see here, classy or otherwise.

~

* Please. No advice on how I should quit drinking so much coffee if it makes me that grumpy. Can’t a person even use hyperbole on her site anymore without being adviced-at? I’m really just grumpy by nature and coffee has nothing to do with it. Now get off my damn lawn!

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