Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Market Segmentation

Imagine 5 users and two ways to design your game: Option A and Option B.

I use a scale of 1-10.
10 means a player loves your game. 1 means he hates it.

All users buy a game if they give it at least a rating of 5/10.
All users pay the same price when they buy the game.

"User benefit" on a scale 1-10 of different users depending on design option:

Option: A | B
User 1: 9 | 5
User 2: 8 | 5
User 3: 9 | 5
User 4: 2 | 5
User 5: 1 | 5
Sum : 29 | 25

Total benefit
Option A: 9+8+9+2+1=29
Option B: 5+5+5+5+5=25

To maximize aggregate user benefit you would have to chose option A, but at option B you sell the game 5 times. At option A you only sell it 3 times.

Substract costs, and your profit at option B is much, much higher than at option A.

That is why the number of sold items says nothing about quality of the product! This explains why Hollywood blockbusters make the most money, although nobody sane would argue that they are the best movies possible. This is why WoW is just fun enough to occasionally resubscribe. That is the reason all Star Trek movies only appeal to the non-fans.

Player 1-3 would absolutely love a game developed according to option A - they will never get it.

Only way would be to make (allow !) consumers to pay more. But that is a tricky problem; and don't start talking about item shops!

My suggestion is market segmentation:
It would not cost much to take e.g. the WoW engine and change a few rules. Create different MMOs for different players.

Give the market a choice!


I suggest to build the basics of one MMO with a lot of money. Then I suggest to give this framework, that has everything but rules, to different teams.

These teams cannot add graphics, they cannot add server architecture, they cannot add animations...
But they can change the rules of the game.

That is:
- They can calibrate difficulty
- They can calibrate reward structures
- They can calibrate PvE/PvP
- They can add incentives to explore
- ..

All the things that don't cost much to change.

When Blizzard talks about content, they think about adding graphics/animations to the game.

But when designers are faced with the limitations mentioned above, they will find out that this is not the only way to create content. For example, a story doesn't necessarily need much work.

Move some creatures from one point to another, make a NPC camp bigger. Make a NPC camp overtake a town. These are all examples that cost almost nothing. I wrote about it some time ago.

We need some rivalry between concepts. Not just a rivalry about who can churn out more polished 3D graphics/sounds/animation per month.

Compare it to chess:
The board and the figurines are created once. Subsequently they are given to different developer teams.
These teams will invent rules that they consider fun and eventually the teams with the best rules will have the most players. In capitalism this works especially good if you allow the different teams to charge different amounts of money for their games using different payment methodes.

Some teams will think that making chess easy to win against a computer is the best way. Another team will think that making chess all about PvP, is the best way. Another team will want to add concentrated coolness and allows all your figurines to move like queens.

We need pluralism and competition in this market. This is not only good for the consumer, but especially good for the suppliers(developers).

Actually, it is also a very risk-averse approach!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Immersion and stuff

I am just going to list a few points here.

1) Some people value credibility and (internal) consistency more than other people.

2) Everything depends on the kind of game you want to create/play and the way the player approaches it. (Hard to stress this enough).

3) Credibility and "gameplay flow" most often complement each other and only sometimes disturb each other. To play one off against the other is foolish.

4) The word "realistic" needs to be scrapped from this entire debate. Only thing it has ever done is create strawman arguments, like "Fantasy is never realistic". Yeah, thanks.

5) There is a reason most games strongly assemble real life: It is a wonderful box full of potentially interesting gameplay mechanisms. E.g. smithing in a Tale in the Desert.

6) A MMORPG has to be as immersive, credible and consistent as possible and as little as necessary.
Ergo: Don't sacrifice credibility for no reason. Search for ways to increase gameplay, flow, credibility, consistency or immersion without decreasing any of it.

Fantasy is never realistic. But it can be credible, consistent and immersive. It can also create "flow".

Flow is what Tetris has, but Tetris is not immersive, because you don't even have a 'char' or any entity that you control.

Flow is still necessary for MMORPGs.
But MMORPGs also need immersion: The feeling that you are the char you control; like an actor who plays another person in a different situation and maybe even with a different personality. Immersion is connected with flow, but not the same.

To make you believe to be in the world, to make you ask the subconscious question: "What would I do next if I were him?", you need to be immersed. To immerse you, a game needs to be credible and logically consistent. It does not need to be realistic. The best game I know at immersion is Fallout 3, if played right. (See point (2) above).

I know it is all semantics. But the semantics are important here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Credibility, Consistency, Immersion vs. Gameplay and Flow

[This is a modified comment on Tobold's post.]

For easy reading:
"Credibility, Consistency and Immersion" = "C/C/I"

Firstly: "Realism" is a very, very bad word in such discussions. E.g. fireballs are not realistic. There is a reason I usually use the words "credibility", "consistency" and "immersion" instead of "realistic". Nobody wants realistic games. Nobody!
"Realism" in these discussions is often used as a straw man.

The only realistic game there is, is real(istic) life and why should anybody want to play a second real life? (Pun intended).

Now, if a fireball hits a wooden door and nothing happens, that is not credible, because it is not consistent with the idea that the fireball is a ball of heat that can burn things. Here, consistency and credibility and therefore immersion are strongly connected. That is very common.

Many people wouldn't care about the fireball, but there are some people who consider the fact that a fireball burns some things, but doesn't burn other things to break the flow. You suddenly stop and think "How stupid!!". Breaking C/C/I can break gameplay flow!

On the other hand, there are people who are not able to find a single logical problem in the latest Star Trek movie. Sometimes I envied them, but I never admired them.

On a scale of 0-10:
Nobody would like a game with C/C/I of 0. That would mean that e.g. your character would want to keep the house he lives in safe. Only to stop at the next McDonalds to eat, while the house is burned down outside the window. After all, he is hungry.
That might make it easier for the story teller, because the guys who started the fire also eat at McDonalds and this way a barfight can take place. But most people would consider it rather stupid or "not credible". They would start talking to other people in the cinema, thus breaking flow.

Also, nobody would want to play on a scale of 10, because that would indeed require the developers/story tellers to make sure, you know that this guy never has to go on toilette, because he has some better way to release his body's fluids.

Most people like a rating of perhaps 3 or 4. I like a rating of maybe 6 or 7. That's all.

There is a reason many games start at the real world and change it. Real world is simply interesting. To have heat destroy things is a fact from real life and not something a game designer imagined. 99% of most games is a simple copy/paste from real life. It is less than 1% that we are talking about here.

In my opinion, a good game tries to maximize Credibility/Consistency/Immersion/Flow/Gameplay. All five of it.
Unfortunately, too much flow can hurt credibility and too much credibility can hurt flow.
There is an optimum here.

The trick, however, is to find game mechanics/explanations that let you increase one or more of these attributes without reducing the rest.

For example, the death penalthy in WoW:
You could imagine a hundrend and more stupid time sinks after you died. But Blizzard decided to use a ghost-running. That is much better than some arbitrary minigame, because there is some connection to the issue. It is not perfectly consistent with the rest of the world and therefore not perfectly credible, but it is much better than some puzzle or a simple timer etc.

EVE has an even better explanation for death that is almost perfectly credible and logically consistent: Clones. I like that as a gameplay mechnism and as a credible explanation.

Often real life mechanics can enhance games. For example collision detection, done right, could replace the silly concept of threat.
Of course, good collision detection is very hard to code. That is why we have "threat" today. But how much cooler would it be to really hinder the evil guys to hit your healers instead of 'taunting' them. LoL ;)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Neverwinter Nights

Interview at Gamespot.

I could like that; even if it is Cryptic. With every passing year I feel like my original vision of MMORPGs just won't come. An EVE-like triple-A fantasy MMO with meaningful travel, exploration, trade, conflict and focus on credible stories, immersive environments, etc. etc. etc.

The movement of the industry is eratic. Dominated by ill-informed short-sighted financial interests that don't understand the appeal of a virtual world in the first place. Talking about Farmville will probably get me more listeners at headquarters than talking about a consistent world.

In that case, I might as well play single player games with added multiplayer options. Here the limits of immersion are well defined at the start and not constantly violated while playing.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Free to play MMOs

Firstly let's talk about this injustice:

Tobold wrote in a comment:
Frankly, I find that Free2Play design a LOT more fair than the monthly sub design where the guy playing just one hour a week pays the same as the guy playing a hundred hours. In the monthly sub model the people who play the least effectively subsidize the people who play the most. I agree with your statement that this is great for the "serious" player, but it is rather unfair for the casual player.

The added advantage of the Free2Play model is that at times where you don't play at all, your cost is zero. In a monthly sub game you'd need to unsubscribe and resubscribe for breaks, and often keep paying for time you never used.

In my opinion, if you look at how much money people waste by subscribing useless insurance policies every month, this more.justice.for.MMO.subs argument appears absurd.
Add to that the low costs of playing MMOs in the first place; especially for players with some income.

And if you are still not satisfied: It is perfectly possible to have players buy points with their credit cards that can then be spent on accessing the game for
1) a day
2) two days
3) a week
4) a month
5) a year
6) ..

Just consider that people who constantly have a look at their watch don't have fun (and are not fun to play with!). So don't offer a sub for 5min and don't make players pay in retrospect.

Thus, this grave injustice, even if you think that it must be removed, can easily be eliminated completely with a slight modification of current subscription models.

Now, the only reason left for item shops (that I am aware of), is that players with a good job and much money should be able to substitute that money for in-game time, because the unemployed otherwise are better in-game than they are.

Firstly, I consider it immersive and credible and actually quite natural that characters who accomplish a lot of deeds in a virtual world progress more. They progress by those deeds.

Secondly, that ansatz implies that playing the game is not fun and it should be possible to skip it to have more fun. If that is what your favourite game is like, you should really stop playing now!

Thirdly, I just don't want a virtual world that allows character progression based on real-life wealth. The equation (more money = less time, and vice versa) is not realistic. The correlation may be positive, but it is far from +1.

Finally, I don't think a MMO should focus so much on exponential character progression. People usually 'get it' after a while and lose all motivation. (See T-Sets in World of Warcraft). Often they burn out. Sometimes they become addicted. It's just not fun in the end. It's not even admirable game design. It is based on greed.

Future MMOs will focus more on what you experience while you play the MMO, instead of how you build that 100,000k-crit numerical demi-god. This will also solve a lot of issues with players (high-lvl/low-lvl) playing together. Not even speaking about immersion. I can't wait.

MMORPG near future

In recent years I had been convinced that the only way for MMORPGs to move forward were sandbox approaches. The reasoning was that to create a diverse, interesting and in parts unpredictable world this would be the only way. Content creation of even hundreds of designer would never be enough to satisfy the consumers.

Now, I still think that that is the final stage of MMO evolution, but I am not so sure that it is the next one anymore. Players have a hard time role playing a fantasy character. There are a lot of problems that arise from the fact that you are actually playing a game (perhaps a fun simulation) and often have obligations in real life that require you to play only for a limited (non-epic) time frames. There are also conflicts of interest. Min/maxing is a result of the most prominent one.

The next generation of AAA-MMORPGs will consist of games like ST:ToR or GW2 (among others). These games try a different approach and got me thinking about the limits of that approach.

What are the limits designing a (more) credible MMORPG? What are the limits of dynamic questing?

Dynamic questing in this context means less static quests. In the past you had a quest giver who would ask you to kill, collect or transport things. This system was kept very easy, because it evolved from MMORPGs that only offered mob grinding as a way to progress ones character. It is also very easy to keep bug free and resistant against bugs that still get thorugh.

But the world keeps rolling and at this time, with today’s budget of AAA-MMORPGs we can have a look at more complex solutions. In fact, we must, because in the MMORPG market the winner takes it all.

Guild Wars 2 seems to make a great step forward, but they also make a mistake: They focus on the individual player. No immersive world focuses on the player. Otherwise, however, I like their approach a lot.

To explain what I would like to find in my next generation MMORPG, I will describe a dynamic (less static) questing environment that would be technically feasible and a big improvement over today’s quests.

• Orcs are landing at a beach somewhere in a world where you cannot teleport everywhere at will. There is friction of movement.

• The Orcs act on their own using scripts to try to follow orders of a game designer. The game designer needs to spend some hour every day to look at each server.

• The developer tells them to set up a very strong, but small camp.

• He orders them to march into the land and conquer a small NPC village.

• He sets sets up supply routes from the coast to the village and patrols the near land.

• He creates small quests from less-important NPCs who askes players to find out more about the Orc presence. The quest descriptions include a guess at how hard the quest will be. These quests can often be done alone, if you are careful, because you will only meet very small patrols that you can attack at a time and location of your choosing.

• A big army of players could attack the Orcs and decimate them below an (unpredictable, but guessable) number. Alternatively they could kill some important bosses of the Orcs, like an influential shaman or a chieftain. They could poison a well, if they are especially evil (the well might still be poisoned after the Orcs have been defeated). For obvious reasons this shouldn’t be possible for single players. A forth option would be to disrupt the supply routes of the Orcs. If the players succeed, the Orcs will retreat back to stage one: The coast in this case. If the designer wants, he can order more ships full of Orcs to land at the coast.

• Should the players not succeed in driving back the Orcs, the designer will order an attack and perhaps conquer another village after some weeks.

• A big Orc camp at step 4 could be weakened by defeating the chieftain at step 2, thus disrupting supplies. It could make the Orcs at step 4 go back and try to re-conquer the location at step 2 within a week. It is the game designers work to do what makes sense and entertains the players with a credible world.

• The designer looks at his screen every morning and decides that the Orcs will now move back/forth. He places a few buildings the Orcs will try to build with resources they transport via supplies or farmed at the location (wood). Finally he creates a few simple quests. It is very similar to a strategy game and might even eventually evolve into that direction.

Will this be fun for the individual player? You need to make it fun!

Players can ‘grind’ Orcs, collect their ears (or whatever) and go back to receive a reward. They can hardly be the great hero, because the Orc camps are too well fortified, but by chance they might attack a specific supply caravan of the Orcs that contained really valuable items (for them, for some authorities, etc).

While the invasion goes on, players can play this MMO like they played any other MMO. But their actions will have a meaning, will be much more immersive and if they want to make a substantial difference they can band together. There needs to be limits of banding together, as there are technical limitations. Players understand this. Give those Orcs AoE spells and it won’t even make much sense to attack a camp with some 200 players, depending on the terrain.

There will be little whining about ‘I cannot do this quest alone’, because it will seem natural to the players that 'accessing' the very well defended supply caravan requires support by other players. However, there always needs to be enough to do for solo players.

Several events can happen at the same time at different locations. Make it worthwhile to migrate to a location that has few players and the friction of travel will solve many problems with too many players at one location. Now you can try to introduce trade in a feasible, fun and still immersive way. Etc. etc. etc.

Today designers constantly update their online worlds. The worlds are not left alone today, either. Instead of creating a new raid dungeon all I ask from the developers is to guide their online worlds. If they are given the right (bug free, tested) tools they should be able to do this with ease. All they need are ways to order mobs to move from X to Y, to try to transport stuff from X to Y using route Z. To try to build something that requires X wood at location Y…
These things are possible to code nowadays. Given enough time and money they can be relatively bug free.

Today content creation means creating new mobs, new graphics, new dungeons. Tomorrow new content means more stories and more entertainment.

Concluding remarks:

1) There still is a lot of potential before we really need sandboxes to simulate a fun virtual world. Where a sandbox approach is feasible, however, it should always be used. If only for the reason that they are so much cheaper than developer interaction/scripts.

2) Instead of an exponential character progression, I suggest to create an interesting world that offers predominantly credible advances of character power. I.e. The difference of a high-end character and a new character (after tutorial) should be some 100%. No more. The world keeps players playing for the same reason we like to watch those TV series (e.g. Lost): We want to know what happens next.
The story can be supplemented by messengers that bring news from the front or even a newspaper/video, depending on the setting.
We have a unique character that can experience the world and could even be part of something larger than himself if the player is willing to use his saturday evening on it.

3) For the family guys: What is better: Watching Lost with your family or watching/playing that fantasy story that you can even be part of?

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Left and the Right of MMO Space

Since this blog post got a hell of a lot of coverage (compared to the usual coverage the blog gets :), I'd like to say one thing first:

I do not think that the ideas of left and right I mention here are related to the political left/right of any country. It was just a nice wording to describe 'welfare epics' as 'left'. That's all. Actually I thought about reversing the left/right, just to confuse people, but didn't do that in the end.

Here's a hypothesis:
As most of us know there are two groups of MMO players: Let's call them Left and Right.

Likes welfare epics
Wants easier content
Everybody should be able to access all content
Downtime sucks
Vanilla WoW sucked
Gameplay >> Virtual World
Theme Park >> Sandbox
Likes Instances
PvP has to be balanced and instanced
Group content should be optional. Players should not depend on each other
Anonymity is not a big problem

Hates welfare epics
Wants harder content
Wants only some people to beat the hardest content
Downtime adds to the experience
Vanilla was nice, Original Everquest even better
Virtual World >> Gameplay
Sandbox >> Theme Park
Disklikes Instances
Why shouldn't I be able to hit the guy in front of me?
Group content is important and requires players to depend on each other
Anonymity is a big problem

Now, most people belong to one of these groups. This is also true at Blizzard.

When working on WotLK the two groups made a deal:
One group would design WotLK and the other will design the subsequent expansion. The management liked it as they could use some social experiment data for the new MMO. So the groups threw a coin and the Left got to design WotLK.

They made raids accessible to everybody. They turned heroic dungeons into AoE theaters. They made outside mobs hit for 0.5% of players health. Etc. etc. etc.

Now .. CATACLYSM comes around and the RIGHT is back:

Outside mob damage is increased 400% !
Outside mob health is increased 100%.
No AoE in dungeons. CC is back!
Considerable downtime is re-introduced.
Much less itemlevel progression this time.
Slow mounts for the dead.

Let's see what else they have in store.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Easier Content

It seems we finally reached the far end of easier content. Was about time.


Creature damage output has been increased from roughly level 65 and up. These increases scale upward with level. Creatures in exterior zones at level 80 now have 2.5 times the damage output they did previously in beta, 3.2 times at level 81, and 4 times at level 82 and up.

We’d like to get your feedback about how combat feels with creatures in level 80-85 exterior zones, including spawn rates and numbers of creatures in specific locations in each zone. Please let us know if this feels adequately challenging, or if there is a little too much face rocking going on.


The idea isn't for you to be in Godmode, mowing through everything in your path. The idea is - in fact - for you to have to stop to rest, bandage, heal, every once in awhile.

If you are reckless you will absolutely die. This is intended.


We're currently investigating issues with creature spell damage scaling. The intent is definitely not for players to have to rest after every single solo pull.

Melee damage, on the other hand, seems about right, but may undergo some fine tuning.

Keep the feedback for specific lethal creatures and deadly points of interest coming. We're looking at everything submitted. 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars 2 looks very nice and even seems to have some interesting ideas about how to change the MMO industry. Unfortunately it also has a lot of properties that I dislike. I collected some quotes of the web page and commented on them.

But what if you don’t want to read flowery language and pick from a lot of dialog? What if you just want to simply kill everything and hand in some heads for a reward? No problem! We understand that not everyone wants to hone their interpersonal skills with NPC banter, but we recognize they don’t want to miss out on all the benefits either. Well, have no fear because the most rewarding NPCs will, as an alternative, also sell their services for some gold if you haven’t developed your personality or earned enough karma. And if you truly don’t want to be bothered reading at all, we make clear the shortest path through a conversation so you can get back to the fighting.

This is a prime example of trying to cater to really everybody. Understandable, but doesn't really work well from experience.

First off, we set the level cap for the game at 80, but we made the time between levels rather short. Instead of taking longer and longer to reach each level, it takes about the same time to go through each level. It’s pretty simple; if we expect you to level up every few hours, then why shouldn’t it be that way all through the game?

80 levels. What a coincidence! And then you will get to cut through them really fast, because: Let's face it, nobody likes leveling or playing MMOs in the first place.

Defeat in Guild Wars 2 is intended to be an experience, not a punishment. Let's face it: dying never feels great, even without a death penalty. As weird as it might sound, we decided to look into what would make dying a more enjoyable and memorable play experience.

Finally a game where it pays to fail. Even Gevlon wasn't that pessimistic about the influence of M&S on MMOs!

Much like in Guild Wars, the skill bar in Guild Wars 2 is limited to a set number of skills. Like a collectible card game, we provide the player with a wide variety of choices and allow them to pick and choose skills to create a build that best suits their particular play style.

Tobold will love this. Let's see how many builds will be played in the end..

The core of this evolution is our event system, which allows the world to dynamically change based on actions and decisions made by the players. A single player decision can cascade across a zone, changing the direction of a chain of events until they dramatically alter the content played by players in a map.
All of these events continue to cascade out into further chains of events where cause and effect is directly related to the player's actions.

I just don't buy this. Sorry. It's too good to be true and I cannot even think of how it might work. Either all players are constantly completely changing the world (ridiculous) or only a few will ever do it.

All players that fully participate in an event are rewarded for doing so; everyone who helps kill a monster or blow up an enemy catapult will get credit for doing so. There is no kill stealing and no quest camping.
If a bunch of players leave the event, it will dynamically scale back down so it can be completed by the people who are still there playing it. This careful balance created by our dynamic scaling system helps ensure you have the best and most rewarding play experience.

So you try to do that quest, but there are those guys who just don't do anything. Unfortunately the quest has scaled ...
Besides: This is about as unimmersive as it gets.

Finding an entrance to a secret cave deep at the bottom of the ocean and removing a glowing orb from the cave could let an evil creature loose from its ancient prison and kick off a chain of events as the creature terrorizes the ocean shipping lanes.

This will become the most crowded cave in history.

It's time for the genre to take the next step, and explore the idea of a truly dynamic, living, breathing persistent world where the player's actions really make a difference, and everything that occurs in the game world has cause and effect. The event system in Guild Wars 2 is going to bring this concept of a dynamic world to life for our players and we cannot wait till you all get a chance to play it with us.

I always thought that the only way to make an MMO feel alive is to allow players to generate content, like e.g. EVE. And I still think that way. Even a hundred developers will not be able to entertain me in this way for more than a few days.

We believe that telling a story begins with creating a deep, realistic world. Player characters should be the focus as much as possible, and be offered choices and decisions that meaningfully impact the world around them.

No no no. A deep, realistic world cannot focus on the player. If it does, it is not deep or realistic anymore. These guys know not what they are talking about!

Every character experiences an interactive, distinct tale. We want you to build a character, not a character sheet.

I always loved character sheets. But maybe this way to build a character works too. We will see.

When the player gains an emotional investment in the personal story, they gain meaningful reasons to step forward and take the battle to the enemy - to defeat the dragons before everything they love is lost. No matter the character's individual background or choices, their city, race, friends, and companions are all threatened by the rise of the Elder Dragons.

You want me to believe that all those cities, friends and companions are threatended by the Elder Dragons (very creative)? So I assume that should I fail or log out for some time, the persistent world is consumed by those dragons. Right ?

Destiny's Edge was once a brave alliance of heroes dedicated to preventing the dragons from destroying the world. They have been torn apart, and old wounds prevent them from unifying. These heroes must be gathered once more, by the player character, for a final assault against the dragon of Orr.

Gather the heroes to defeat the big evil dragon. How much money did you pay the guy who came up with that completely new RPG plot?

Although we publicly beta-tested the original Guild Wars® while it was still in early development, with Guild Wars 2 we will commence beta testing closer to the game's release. Guild Wars 2 is a very large and ambitious game, and Guild Wars players rightfully have very high expectations. We want players to be absolutely blown away by the game the first time they experience it.

Be careful with your pride here..

Nope. Like the original Guild Wars, there will be no subscription fee for Guild Wars 2. You just buy the game and play it online without paying a monthly fee.

So you put it right into my face that you don't care about player rentention? Understood.

While Guild Wars 2 adds a persistent-world experience, it retains the unique characteristics of the original game, including strong narrative, extensive instanced gameplay, anti-grind design philosophy, and strong support for competitive play.

Anti-grind philosophy .. I always liked grinding, call me strange. Was a good activity for Friday night when you came home late.
Strong narrative .. The one with the heroes you need to gather to defeat the big dragon?
Extensive instanced gameplay .. Yeah, right .. add that to the persistent world.

Also, to allow players the freedom to play together even if their friends are at a much higher (or lower) level, we are planning to implement a strong sidekick system, similar to that used in City of Heroes™.
We're applying this same philosophy to competitive play. Players will be able to engage in organized, balanced PvP (similar to GvG in the original Guild Wars) without first leveling up characters, finding equipment, and unlocking skills. While inside the organized PvP area, all characters will be the same power level and will have access to the same equipment.

So, you first introduce very strong character progression and then remove it again, because it is too strong! Very convincing. Now, the world may be persistent, but my character is not !

We want to make underwater exploration easy and exciting for players and eliminate some of the traditional limitations (i.e., drowning) to aquatic travel found in many games. The underwater zones open up exciting new possibilities and greatly expand the explorable areas in Guild Wars 2.

I know it is the new hype, but I really don't think walking around under water is immersive or credible or even interesting. Ever tried to dip underwater for more than a few minutes and walk around? If I played an aquatic race, ok. But I am not!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Playing World of Warcraft, WotLK.

Phase 1 (Starting):
It is not very hard to get me to buy an MMO. It is trivial, unless you cheated me before (FunCom).
I love fantasy worlds. I want to make a powerful avatar. The developer is big, so the game must have some quality. Character creation was nice, even if a bit shallow.

Phase 2 (First 15 minutes):
I like the interface. Very responsive – I feel like I am in 100% control of my character. I like the GUI; very organized. It is relatively easy to make my character do what I want him to do. Enemies are too weak, this is silly. But it may become harder later on. It’s probably a tutorial.

Phase 3 (Up to level 10, two hours):
I gain new skills, new stuff. I am learning and exploring a tiny part of the World of Warcraft. My character evolves at a very fast pace. I look forward to the next level. Lore is also well presented in those quests.

Phase 4 (Level 10-80):
Talent trees. Yes! So many new skills that I could learn. When I look at the trainer I can see all the skills I will get; up to level 80! I am curious. I want to wield these skills: A fiery blastwave that knocks enemies back, a water elemental, arcane power, …
Hopefully there are also some yet unknowns skills. Would hate it if there were no surprises at all.

Phase 5a (Leveling battlegrounds):
I can participate in battlegrounds. Instant teleport doesn’t make much sense – not very immersive at all. But instant action!
I am terribly weak. Hunters literally one-shot me. But I will become stronger; no problem yet.
At the end of the level bracket I become very strong. Level 19, 29, 39 .. It is fun playing BGs, but I need equip. More equip!

Phase 5b: (The Dungeon Finder):
I can get into a queue for dungeons of my level. A group of unknowns is assembled automatically. They know exactly where to go. Sometimes the tank, who leads, is very slow, sometimes the whole instance in cleared with a few big pulls and AE. It becomes old fast, but I get equip. The equip I will use in the battlegrounds.

Phase 5c (Questing):
Pure questing was fun at level 1-10, but really: The rewards suck and the enemies are a pushover! I find myself waiting in some major city near trainers and auction house, waiting for dungeons and battlegrounds to open. The only quests I do are some dungeon quests that people shared or a class-specific quest. The rewards suck, though.

General thoughts:
There is no community in World of Warcraft for me, every player does his own thing. I can even just leave battlegrounds or dungeons – a replacement is found very fast. Nobody cares. I care about my skills and my equip.
I wonder why there is not a single battleground that takes longer than 20 minutes.

Phase 6a (Level 80, battlegrounds):
I hit 80 and my character got all skills, but there is so much more loot to gain!
In battlegrounds I am weaker than ever. Somehow the loot of dungeons doesn’t help at all. I need specific PvP equip. I can get it by doing PvP. Little bit stupid. I liked the occasional dungeon and equipping my own individual character. Suddenly everybody looks the same. By the way: Does anybody know why the level 80 equip is pink?

Phase 6b (Level 80, raiding):
Here we are doing dungeons again. For emblems. Pretty boring. The dungeons are 100% linear. The loot is irrelevant. I need some thousand badges to be competitive. Well .. a few weeks later I got them. Let’s go raiding. There is only one raid dungeon with worthwhile rewards. I PUG and eventually kill the Lich King. Great. Now, .. let’s do it again – next week. I still need equip .. do I?

Phase 6c (Arena):
What a piece of shit! I join and get devastated. Again and again. They have better equip, but, honstly, they also are much better. My randomly assembled team is in bad mood all the time. After doing this for one evening I quit. Arena, my ass. Doesn't even make sense lore-wise.

Phase 6d (Questing):
Questing at 80 is so trivial it hurts. All enemies are super large, but die like a fly. The rewards suck big time.

Phase 7 (Burned out):
The 'world' is empty - is there even a world? I haven't left Dalaran for weeks. There is no community. There are only rewards and anonymity. My character is not powerful and will never be. I look like everybody else! Heroic raids are way too hard for the PUGs I joined! The 'old raids' are an AE-fest pushover. I silence the game and listen to music while the AE goes. I could just as well watch the endboss movies at youtube.
In battlegrounds people seem not to care about winning at 80. Resilience makes my crits extra small. Why don't they just give everybody more health? Healers are unkillable. Some players die in fractions of a second.

Phase 8 (Doing the fun stuff):
I reroll. Leveling was fun, endgame was a scam, but battlegrounds at level 35. Love it! They also open up much faster than the level 80 ones!