Tag Archive for expansion

Another Slope To Slip On

Continuing this week’s theme of these two posts

Another slope the alarmists warn about is the “now they are selling content that should be given to everyone” argument.  First off, games already have expansions where they charge you $50 for content.  And yeah, while the steed here is half the price of an expansion for probably 1/1000th the content, the steed isn’t required to play the game.  So, the idea that they would just “give” people a sparkly pony is inane.  At best it would be a feature of the next expansion.

I’m actually a fan of cash shop games.  Not because I like buying things, but because I like playing for free.  See, Puzzle Pirates is awesome because I can do everything I want in the game and never pay a single dime to do it, all because someone else is dropping their dimes on doubloons which they sell to me for pieces of eight.  Yes, I do have to play harder to earn the PoE to make that trade, but it also doesn’t cost me any money to play, and I enjoy playing.  Another player is rewarding me for playing more than they are willing to play.

Now, I don’t expect Blizzard to give up their money hats and reduce their subscription rate, but what this has done is show (again) that a subscription game can have a shop that sells vanity items.  Most new games can’t compete with World of Warcraft on a polish and content size level at this point.  Any game with a $15 monthly sub automatically has to compare to WoW, but if a game were to launch that looked interesting with a $4.95 a month subscription and a vanity item cash shop, I’d absolutely be willing to give it a shot and willing to accept that it won’t be at WoW’s level.  I’m paying a third less for it!

And guess what?  All those “free” content updates people say are going to vanish?  They aren’t free!  You pay a monthly fee for them!  The only reason that you get them “free” (really, the word should be “included” but much like using the word “social” to describe games which aren’t, that ship has sailed) is that the subscription fee is making enough profit that they don’t feel a need to charge you extra to cover the development of that small bit of content.  If the game was making less money, you’d get less “free” things.

While we are on the topic of “free” content… if a game releases a completely optional non-impacting piece of “content” like the pets or the sparkle pony of WoW and earns a nice chunk of cash on something that was probably a couple weeks work of a small team at worst (or just a few days of one person at best), it actually allows them to design more “free” content.

As with the post from two days ago, there is a ghost of a slippery slope here, but were aren’t there yet.  Wake me when Blizzard puts gear or a new dungeon in the cash shop.  You know, real content, not vanity items.

Designed to Grow

As an offshoot to the discussion over at Psychochild’s blog concerning Dread and Hope in Lord of the Rings Online, I wanted to expand on something I touched on in my comments there.

Originally, dread and hope in LotRO was a flavor.  It danced around the edges of your play.  You would run into a little dread and have to find a way to combat it, either through adding hope or just by more cautious play, going slow instead of rushing in due to your reduced stats making your character less effective.  However, as the game has expanded and they’ve raised level caps and added new content, they fell into the same trap that has caught every other game.  Dread and hope aren’t just flavor anymore, they are now a core mechanic.  There is content you cannot participate in without enough hope, so people are forced to wear the radiant gear that provides it, limiting choices.  In the future, I expect as people complain about not having choices, more hope gear will become available so that it opens up more choices to the players, which in turn will trivialize hope and it will become like the other stats on items: mostly ignored as long as you keep enough of it around.

The failing here, at least in my opinion, is that they designed something that was pretty awesome as a flavor to the game, that added a narrative and story element to the game that also was based in the mechanics of play, but didn’t, in their core initial design, plan for expansion.  Because they didn’t leave room for the core to grow, they’ve had to co-opt the flavor and make it core in order to give players somewhere to advance that wasn’t just more of the same.  Personally, I liked dread and hope the way they were, and feel they’ve lost something with it becoming “just another stat” that characters min/max.

Of course, I’m also a proponent of games with less “advancement” (usually found in the form of grinding levels and stats, mathematical increases) and more “story” (more places to go, more things to do).  For me, gear in games is just the tool that allows me to pass the artificial barriers the designers placed in game to wall off content.  I’d prefer they didn’t wall off the content and just let me experience it as I came to it.  But then, MMOs make their money off time invested under the subscription model, and if they allowed me to play the whole game at the speed I wanted, they’d get less of my time, but more of my support, which, ironically gets them more of my money as I’m more likely to remain subscribed to a game with lots to see and great story over one that is just a gear grind-fest.

Anyway, back to my original point… most games seem to run into this as they mudflate, as each expansion raises the level cap and they go looking for new ways for people to need to grind out more gear.  They co-opt every element of design and turn them all into points on a scale and suck all the fun and flavor out of them.  I dread games that grow like this, and hope games in the future can avoid it.

Welcome to Town (US) (PvP) (14)

If you don’t understand the title, well, I wouldn’t blame you, I just made it up. But the idea behind is has to do with instancing.

One of the best elements of the game Guild Wars is that as long as you and another player are playing in the same expansion, you can play together. When I see games utilize instancing only to produce an infinite number of copies of Random_Dungeon_X or to produce seventeen copies of “town” to keep the populations low and yet they run a dozen or many dozens of world servers, I see it as an opportunity lost.

Where are the MMOs that utilize instancing as a method to eliminate the need for multiple servers? Worlds where everyone lives in the same place, they simply choose how they want to experience it when they leave “safety”. The title of this blog would indicate that you have entered “Town”, the localization is for the US (American English), its a PvP enabled instance, and it is the 14th of its kind because US PvP instances of “Town” are popular.

Of course, a game like WoW that has worked so hard to eliminate zoning except when going into little pocket dungeons and raid zones, this idea wouldn’t really work. And I realize that putting in a UI chunk that deals with switching instances, be it to join friends or escape crowds, might be off putting to some, but I think the idea has merit if only to avoid playing a game only to discover you can’t play with any of the people you meet at work or a party or wherever without someone (or several someones) having to pay to switch servers or start all over again. People might be resistant to it at first, but overall in the longterm I think it would be better for the virtual world of the MMO.

I hope to see it some day in more than just Guild Wars…

Going Home Again

A time or two I’ve threatened to return to Norrath. Not the shiny new Norrath of EverQuest II, but the original Norrath of EverQuest. The thing that was always holding me back was that when I left there was little to do but raiding. Sure, there was some group capable stuff, but the two most recent expansions (Gates of Discord and Omens of War) seemed to focus so heavily on raid and trial content that the future seemed to be filled only with grinding and gear and raiding. When I left, I left for City of Heroes and to join the World of Warcraft beta. Since then a number of games have come and gone, but recently a bunch of people from my old stomping grounds decided to start back up in the original MMO marketplace monster.

It was fairly easy to reinstall and patch up, even bought the latest box that unlocked the seven or eight expansions I’d missed and started up my 21 days of free play.

Just a quick side here… if a game is going to sell a boxed expansion and offer 30 days free to new players, I think they should offer that 30 days free to existing/returning players too. Would it really kill them to do that? If they really believe their game doesn’t suck, I’d have to hope that retaining returning players after a free month would more than make up for the loss than trying to convince people who quit to buy the expansion AND resubscribe. Anyway, maybe I’ll do another post on that later…

Its really amazing how different games are. To anyone who has the attitude of “they’re all the same” I would really suggest playing WoW for a month, then playing EQ for a month. Its not just the look and feel of graphics and art… the game controls are different. WoW has quest indicators and an accept/decline interface, while EQ still retains the “spoken” quests, keywords, and passive acceptance where technically you are “on” any quest you read about, in game or out, with no limit to how many you can be working on beyond your ability to cart around sacks of quest items. And as I’ve mentioned before, EQ tends to be a more player-lively game. In groups, people actually talk to each other. WoW is so quest focused that people grouped together are usually doing exactly the same thing and often there is little reason to talk, not to mention that the gameplay requires more clicking and button pressing, and combat moves more rapidly, there’s just no time to talk in WoW until you get back to town.

So far, I haven’t gone adventuring into all the new lands, Ishiro Takagi is still just 65 (ding! 66!) after all, and been living in the Silent Fist Retirement Home for Monks for nearly four years. But it feels good to be back… as a bonus, I think I’m going to subscribe to the Station Access which will let me play EQ, EQII, Vanguard, Pirates of the Burning Sea, Star Wars Galaxies, and even The Matrix Online (which I doubt I’ll go back to unless someone can convince me its improved greatly beyond the trash I saw in beta). The future looks to be full of MMO gaming…

The Unfortunate Truth of Success

Last week, Blizzard announced that they are working on another expansion for World of Warcraft… Wrath of the Lich King.

Needless to say, many people were underwhelmed.

I am too. The new expansion looks like its going to be The Burning Crusade part II. Ten new levels, more raid zones, and another couple of tiers of gear. Sure, there is something about hero classes, but from first glance they are either going to be pointless or they are going to be game breaking. In other words, very few people will bother, or the hero classes will be a requirement to proceed in raiding or participate in PvP.

As many in the blogosphere have pointed out, Blizzard has never really been known for innovation. Blizzard doesn’t invent wheels… or for a better analogy, Blizzard doesn’t design new cars, they take existing cars and trick them out in Fast and the Furious fashion.

And why should they bother to reinvent the wheel when they’ve already got 9 million people paying for the old wheels. If only half of their subscribers buy the expansion, that’s more box sales than some of the most successful games in history. This is the Unfortunate Truth of Success… once you have a stranglehold on the lead, trying to further outdistance your competition is a waste of money compared to coasting, enjoying a downhill ride that will net you more money than other people dream of at their peak.

I doubt I’ll be journeying to Northrend or fighting the Lich King. I canceled my WoW account over a month ago because it was clear to me that they are supporting only two types of play: Raiding and Solo casual. Want to PvP? Sorry, you have to raid (or farm gold, or buy farmed gold) to get the gear needed to compete. 5 man groups? Only if you want to grind cash, pots, faction of ramp up to raiding.

WoW lost me as a player, and they aren’t likely to win me back while they continue down this same worn path.

EverQuest… What`s next?

I was going to originally post this in the EverQuest category, but that was really for my ideas for fixing EQ… seeing as I no longer play EQ, its a dead category but will remain as is… and this, this is just comedy.

Over on the message boards for Monkly-Business, someone asked, “Now that Omens of War is out, what do you think the next expansion will be?”

Seeing as the next expansion will come after World of Warcraft’s release, and there are a number of games on the horizon, as well as free content patches for City of Heroes, the following was my reply:

EverQuest: The Twenty Other Zones of Faydwer That You Just Never Happened to Notice During the Last Five Years of Playing.

Featuring zones like: Middle Faydark, Dagnor’s Other Cauldron, The Hidden Lair of Meldrath, The land of LXnmoptgWWjyr, The Brownie City, Randomly Generated Dungeon Zone with Poor Pathing and Randomly Placed Mobs 27, and at least three new Estates none of which will be restful!

With this expansion they will introduce new items contain the new NO LOOT tag – you can view the stats and take screenshots and have the items load to Lucy, but you can’t pick it up and equip it! These items are intended for all the people who like to make Magelo profiles for their non-existant characters by picking items that they’ve never seen for themselves and try to pass themselves off as uber!

Also in this expansion, we will be introducing female giants! Ever wonder where all the giants come from seeing as they are all male? Well, rather than fix class balance, we’ve decided to make a whole set of Lore including new zones, spells for mobs that you’ll never get, and new models (since we STILL aren’t going to do new player models no matter how much you beg) all about the story of the where the female giants have been for the past 6 years! All because we know you care!

And lets not forget that we will be introducing a new class! Following both the arcane and physical arts this player can nuke as well as a wizard, heal like a cleric, tank like a warrior, and dps like a rogue.. from ANY ANGLE! This new class, called the Tankmage is bound to turn grouping and raiding on its ear! Class balance? WE GIVE UP!!

60

In EverQuest, when it was released, the highest level you could attain was 50. Later, with the Kunark expansion, that bar was raised to 60. With the Planes of Power, now that rung sits at 65.

I’ve never been at the top in EQ. When Kunark was released, I was level 29 or 30, I forget which. With Planes of Power, well, I could have been 60 before then, but I had 3 or 4 characters I was actively playing by then and I had let the levelling rush on my primary character lapse.

Its been a long time, but I finally managed to bring Ishiro to level 60. Its not the end of the road anymore, but still a good milestone I think.

Only 5 more levels and about 300+ Alternate Experience points to go…

… someday.