Friday, July 17, 2009

A fantastic MMO review

Really seriously a must read review of Darkfall. At Eurogamer of all places. The bit towards the end where the reviewer steps out and gives his thoughts on the entire practice of reviewing MMOs I especially enjoyed.

On Darkfall, it's absolutely not the kind of game I'd get into. Nothing infuriates me more than clunky controls, and even reviews from screaming fanboys make the controls sound clunky. Yeah I guess I'd get used to them eventually. But I could also get used to being blind and crippled. Doesn't mean I'd like to. Further, every single review I have read makes it sound raising your skills is tortuously slow. No thanks.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A-teams, live teams, and LoTRO

In the comments to a post over at Kill Ten Rats, Psychochild linked this article at Elder Game. It's a great read, and I think it yields some insight into what we are seeing in LoTRO right now.

There has been a noticeable shift in design philosophy in LoTRO since MoM launched. The most visible culprit being the radiance system. There have also been a lot of odd experiments, some of which worked out well (e.g., letting designers from DDO create new three man instances that feature puzzles) and some of which frankly haven’t (e.g., the first iteration of the Lothlorian gift box system). We are also seeing a lot more bugs creep into patches than we are used too. Finally, we know that Turbine has gotten a lot of outside funding for one or two “secret projects” that they are going full steam ahead on.

All of these observations indicate that a new team is likely in charge of LoTRO these days, and that the "A team" that designed it is off doing something else. It's also very likely that some of the more experienced "live team" devs from DDO have been been brought over to try and take up slack from the departure of the A team. As an aside, the major revamp of DDO that is underway also implies that fresh blood is likely in charge of that product these days.

I don't see the fact that a new team is running the show as a bad thing in of itself. It does mean that we are likely going to continue to see surprising design decisions come down the pipe, as well as slightly buggier patches than we got in the SoA days. However, bugs in patches don't bother me as long as they get fixed quickly. And surprises can be good or bad.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hostility Towards Raiders

This post about raiding over at Clockwork Gamer is a pretty good summary of why I don't enjoy raiding. It also attracted an insanely judgmental comment from some random poster. The basic gist of the comment was that all hardcore raiders are utter losers that need to get a life.

I don't agree with that at all. MMOs are a huge time sink regardless. I don't think that whether you spend that time raiding, solo questing, or in a crafting hall really changes it. However, the overt hostility towards raiders was interesting to me. It's something you see a lot on message boards and blogs. Now please indulge me while I ramble for a bit....

I personally am not much of a raider. I like to see a raid once or twice, but I don't enjoy doing them anywhere near enough to gear myself and 11-39 of my "closest friends." I'm the guy that will occasionally go on a raid if the guild needs an extra DPS and I happen to be on. I'll have solid gear, but not the best (because, you know, I don't raid). I'm also perfectly happy not to roll on anything. I'm not one of the loonies trying to gear up for raid x in a series of y after all (and to my tastes they are loonies).

However, I also fail to see any reason to get belligerent with others that do enjoy serious raiding. Just because I don't enjoy something doesn't mean that it sucks, or that people who like it must suck. If you enjoy playing a "game" with that kind of focus, more power to you. I certainly put more hours than it takes to raid into much more inane activities when I was a lad (becoming good enough at Super Mario Brothers II to consistently go through the game with any of the four characters the long hard way without dying a single time comes to mind...).

So, where is this hostility towards raiders coming from? It's something you see over and over in "raiders versus casuals" debates on the internet. Raiders usually seem to assume that it's just sour grapes from players that aren't willing to put in the work to get "phat lewts." However, I think it's a little more than that. I'll use WoW as an example, but these comments could apply just as well to EQ or any number of other MMOs that have raid focused end games.

I hit the cap twice in WoW, once at 60 and once at 70. And both times the game fell flat on it's face for me because Raiding was the main activity I was being pushed towards by the game design. Each time I felt betrayed by the designers. The casual friendly game I knew suddenly dried up, and the bulk of the remaining content was for a play style I had neither the spare time nor the desire to seriously engage in.

However, I didn't head out onto the internet with a torch and a pitchfork when it happened. I recognized that I was clearly not the target audience for the existing end game, and voted with my wallet. When a game that did actually have an end game that was enjoyable to my tastes came along, I also voted with my wallet (I've spent more time and money on LoTRO now than any previous MMO).

I can also see where hitting a brick wall at the level cap might not effect everyone the same way as me (shocking!). If you are the kind of simian that hangs out on most message boards, and you hit an endgame that says "screw you casual boy!" in big red letters, it probably seems logical to blame it on whatever market segment the endgame does cater to. Thus you end up with random idgits that troll the web posting "Raiders are teh suxxors! Get a damn life!" every time someone posts on a blog or message board about what "serious business" raiding is.

They aren't jealous of raiders and their gear/ dedication/ spare time. At least not directly. They are jealous and upset that the endgame of WoW, EQ, or whatever MMO caters to raiders instead of them.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Video games in ..1958?!?

Stumbled upon a very interesting article today. Not exactly massive, but apparently the first (or 2nd?) multiplayer "video game" was designed for oscilloscopes in 1958. The first networked computer game with avatars and in game chat was another one that I've never heard of called Maze War. It dates back to 1973 (!).

The video of the oscilloscope game is labeled "the second ever computer game." This doesn't seem technically correct since it's not on a computer. And I really have to wonder what the "first ever computer game" was (and was it for oscilloscopes? televisions? slide rulers?). Of the games on that site, Space War was the only one I had heard of before yesterday.