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Posts Tagged ‘mmorpg’

Last night I got together with Alan and Andrew for our every-other-Tuesday board game night.  When they arrived, I mentioned to Alan that I’d played Rift over the weekend (since he’s a WoW addict) and this sparked a 4 hour long conversation about MMORPGs.

I found out that WoW (by far the largest MMO ever to have existed) is very much a gear grind.  That sucks.  In fact, that mechanic is a”keep them playing, keep them paying” mechanic.

I also found out that WoW has 40 minute long grouping queues.  Suck x2.  This is, of course, symptomatic of building your game around the “holy trinity” of tank, healing, dps.  While it’s definitely viable, eventually world balance is created in such a way that (a) it’s the only viable option and/or (b) everyone can solo.

Questing also came up.  I reiterated the problems I had with questing in general: click on an npc, don’t even read the explanatory text, kill what you need to kill, return for reward.  It gives a direction to the game (which can be good), but it also gives XP, which is bad, and I’ll tell you why: it creates a game of soloists.

One of the problems Alan mentioned was that max level characters didn’t have a clue in WoW.  They’re “still learning” how to group.  Still learning how to really use their characters.  In EQ, grouping was essentially mandatory unless you could kite, root/nuke, had a strong pet, or could charm.  In most of those cases you often spent most of your time in regen downtime.  In this present generation of MMOs, since questing is the most xp efficient way to advance, people quest.  And since you can only do a quest once, and quests open at certain levels or have other prerequisites, not everyone has the quest.  And since you don’t absolutely need anyone else to fulfill the conditions of the quest (kill 10 rats), you don’t even try to find a group to adventure with.  You’re playing a solo game in a persistent online world, but without any real human interaction aside from the dubious quality conversation found on open chat channels.

I’m coming to think more and more than Guild Wars 2 will be just what the doctor ordered.  Quests are created to provide flavor and direction, but as you can see there are downsides to their implementation.  GW2 has a dynamic even system designed to replace quests, and a storyline system intended to provide flavor.  It dispenses with the dps/tank/healer paradigm in favor of a damage/support/control paradigm.  Now dps == damage, but the other two are distinctly different.  Obviously any game like this is going to require DAMAGE.  But there isn’t even a dedicated healing class.

Getting back to our conversation yesterday, we also spoke about such diverse matters as: Diablo II expansion rune rarity, Blizzard and Bioware being top developers, Dwarf Fortress salt water irrigation, FPS game altering bugs that made the games better, strafe-looking, Leroy Jenkins and “more dots” (wherein my new bluetooth portable speakers were employed), and the weight of power supplies being an indicator of their quality.

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So I played Rift this weekend. It’s enjoyable for what it is, and it’s innovative within it’s paradigm.

I liked the Rifts system. At any given time there are usually *some* rifts open somewhere. Sometimes an all-on assault happens from one of the planes and you have mobs from all over the map just marchine to (and through) major towns. Places you sell off in; places you train in; places you spawn might spawn in. Opening up the (M)ap, you can see the location of the parties, their plane affiliation (death, life, guardian, etc), and possibly their level and/or named mobs. If you get near enough to one of these roving bands, an ad-hoc quest will pop up and give you directions on how to kill it. You can close the rifts as well by dealing with the problem at the source.

Of course, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to do so alone. This is where their innovative public grouping system comes in. It’s more like a “public defensive raid” system, since oftentimes, even in beta, there were 10-20 people involved in sealing a rift. It is possible to clear one by yourself, sometimes.

The class sytem in Rift is pretty cool too. You choose one of 4 base classes (warrior, rogue, cleric, mage), and within that archtype you get to choose 3 sub-classes for your character. None of these classes is weighted more than another. In fact, you can respec your point distribution within them on the cheap at your trainers, so you can freely experiment and change how you want to play. Not only that, but you can also gain a second role as well, allowing you to keep a configuration for grouping seperate and easily switchable from your solo configuration. You can do this up to 4 times, though while the first one costs 30 gold, the second costs over 3 plat (my character never had more than 2.5p at level 17).

It’s definitely a “running game”. There’s no quick travel on the maps, though you can get mounts that increase your run speed.

The questing system is definitely a dual-edged sword. On one hand it allows you to level more quickly than aimlessly killing mobs, provides you will currency and item rewards, and gives you a direction. On the other hand, because it’s more effecient than grouping up and killing stuff, people tend to quest by themselves instead of grouping up. This makes it more of a solo game than I’ve experienced in the past.

Healeritis is definitely in effect when in dungeon-land, too. If you’re up against any kind of serious challenge in a small group, you’re going to want a healer or you’re going to get eaten (at least, that’s what my first dungeon experience was like). Our tank couldn’t stand up against a single mob 2 levels above him in the dungeon, even with my geomancer heals (a decent heal, but on a 10 second timer). He just got chewed up and spit out before the mob was even at 80%. And this was a roamer near the start of the instanced dungeon!

A lot of people in game were comparing it to WoW. “This game stole from WoW!” was a consistent refrain on the open channels. It was, of course, retorted all the way back to MUDs. It’s the evolution of a genre, with innovation sprinkled in. The game world is more persistent because of the effects of the rifts.

Death was nothing. No real loss; just a bit of coin, a little inconvenience. You spawn back up at the nearest shrine, and have to pay the piper (I mean “healer”) after a certain number of deaths. Once I got blown off the edge of a cliff fighting a rift, and died. Trying to get my corpse, I couldn’t get back up to the top, so I just drown myself (which took a while) rather than try and find my way back (I’d been down there before in previous explorations and wasn’t inclined to do it again). I’d say there are only two death penalties that make any sense: item loss, and experience loss. It’s a mistake to give any way to soften those blows if your game gives them, because then you have people begging for/demanding a rez. Dying in Rift is not a risky proposition. I suppose you *can* thank WoW for that. The death penalty in Guild Wars is kind of a happy middle ground: % power loss until you retreat from the instance, which will slowly regenerate (and stack, should you die again).

Lots of people had pets. I think there’s a class in each archtype (except perhaps warrior?) that has one. My dom/chloro/warlock didn’t have a pet. I was able to solo fairly effectively as each of those classes (though my dom was 1/3 chloro, and not maxed dom). As a Dominator I never had mana problems. Warlock and Chloromancer did have issues with running out of mana.

I suppose at this point I’m not really interested in a “must have healer” game. I’ve played a healer in DAoC and GW, and you mostly spend your time looking at those little green bars. That’s your game: filling up those bars. No situational awareness like CC, no real regard for what’s around you: just filling up those bars. It’s not a bad minigame, and you’re certainly appreciated/required, and you can allow a group to do things (especially if you’re skilled) that they would have no chance of doing otherwise. So you get some appreciation factor as well.

There was a main questline for the Defiant faction, but it wasn’t like what you’d find in Guild Wars or DDO Online. No cutscenes, spoken word, or driven story. More like a golden-colored questline you’re free to just click-through on and do whatever “kill or collect” quest they set you about. Speaking of collections, they have sparkling items on the ground similar to what you’d find in EQ2. You pick them up and can put them in some kind of collection, which you’ll get some kind of subsequent benefit from once it’s complete. No control over what you get though: what’s the point? Completely driven by luck of the draw.

I wasn’t walking into Rift with any expectations (I thought it looked cool and heard some cool things about it, so I signed up for the beta and got an email), so I’m not disappointed in it. No hopes dashed or anything. I’m still looking forward to Guild Wars 2 and Firefall though; both of those seem to have promise.

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Here are the suggestions I made on the beta forum after my time in game:

  • “fill your inventory drops”: get rid of any item that doesn’t have a legitimate purpose other than to sell it off. This just makes you go back to town to deal with the administration of your character rather than enjoying play. Perhaps this could be controlled via a player-level preference flag (it strikes me now that some of these may be used for crafting).
  • training skills: this is a simple money sink. I was out adventuring, feeling like my character was underpowered. I went back to town (finally) and trained my skills and now I’m more on par. Why should I have to do that? It’s another money sink. Decrease mob coin drops or GP quest rewards if you need to balance the economy. Reduce character administration.
  • mounts: as any hiker knows, the speed of your group is the pace of the slowest member. If you’re travelling as a “real” group to combat rifts or simply adventure, if one player is without a mount they get left far behind. Having mounts with different speeds exacerbates this problem. Allow mounts to hold 2 players via a “climb on” command; this should help in 80% of the cases, at least.
  • Quick travel: I’m ambivalent on this one. I can see the benefits of no quick travel when rift invasions are up. I was expecting a guild-wars-esq instant travel to known locations. I think a happy medium here would be something similar to EQ2’s Griffin system, where you have to get to the nearest station and that would bring you where you want to go (any town or dungeon location on the map); the griffin would then depart, conceptually towards the nearest griffin launch point.
  • LFG system: needs to be implemented. I’m sure it’s been discussed before. Flag by level, role (tank, backup healer, primary healer, melee dps, etc) on both sides.
  • Respec/etc: When buying your second role slot, allow a new class to be selected/obtained at that time. When I did mine, I found my Dom/Chlo/Warlock had access to the fire mage class (which honestly could not nuke hard enough to solo well at 17 full spec), but I liked that idea. Let me choose if you’re going to give me an extra class to play with (which I liked).
  • Regen: buying potions to increase resting regen is another admin/money sink. Simply allow a character to sit to give a %bonus to regen.

Instance hirelings

One of the gripes I had about dungeons was the necessity of a healer. I had a pickup group disband because we couldn’t find a healer for the dungeon.

At the start of each dungeon, allow a single, level appropriate hireling to be acquired for free. This member would be AI controlled, added to the group, take it’s share of XP and coin loot. Dedicated healers, nukers, and tanks would be available.

Questing

Allow players to flag themselves as Questing. A player thus flagged would be open to group invitations by other players who have the same active quests on their screen. Facilitate a quick-match system in the LFG screen to pair players. Allow players to visibly see these matches when another player is within view. Right click on target portrait to “join/invite group” > for quest > active quest list. Sends party invite/add request to player with quest info added. eg: Thufir wants to join your group for the [Quest Name] quest. Accept? [Y/n]

Allow group leader to query party quest info, automatching on Questing party members that share the same quest. Suggest based on active quest, proximity, level. Select to send /party message linking quest. Players can click on quest to make active on their screens. Possible voting interface.

Rift combat rewards
Increase drop rate of quality, level appropriate, random gear. While rift combat is cool, the benefit simply isn’t there. Adding class-appropriate item drops as rift quest rewards will increase participation going forward. Make these better than standard quest rewards. Generate items better than current equipment: reduce the gamble, tweak the drop rate. Let people know by participating in rift combat they’ll have a chance to get something they can actually use.

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