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Hopes and Fears: Project: Gorgon

October 10, 2012

 

After the fun I had with writing about my hopes and fears for Obsidian’s kickstarter Project: Eternity, I thought I’d do another Hopes and Fears entry about Project: Gorgon “an indie MMO by industry veterans” as they market it. This will be a series of entries I plan on doing every two weeks about the Kickstarter projects that have caught my eye. Without further ado I present to you Project: Gorgon, developed by Eric Heimburg and Sandra Powers, who have been previously working on titles such as Asheron’s Call 1& 2, EverQuest II and Star Trek Online.

 

So what first got me interested in Project: Gorgon? Well for one the fact that they market themselves as an MMO with a “quirky old-school feel” (I know drop the word old-school and I am sold… well maybe not quite but it goes a long way in catching my attention). The game is also said to be “designed for players who want to explore a deep world with… a tight-knit community that is friendly enough to actually chat while they group.” Well that sounds like just about perfect for an Explorer/ Socializer like me! So how does Gorgon (can’t be asked to write Project every time in front of it sorry) try to back this up with their game design and mechanics and what are the risks with it?

Well for one Gorgon includes the ability to drop items you do not need on the ground. I like this feature because it allows for the world to feel more “alive” as you go through it and stumble upon something someone has thrown away. Think of it like when you go through an area and you see NPC corpses and you go: “Hey, someone must be here!” and having this kind of experience on top of the “I see dead people” one, enhances the effect that the world feels “alive”. Only problem I foresee, or two problems actually, are: How long will the loot stay in place? Because if we have a lot of loot just lying around in places indefinitely that might cause performance issues. This of course is rather easily solved by giving the loot a “despawn-timer” but it’s something to keep in mind nonetheless. Another problem is that what happens if everybody starts just dropping useless stuff on the ground? I for one would find that very immersion breaking. The estimated low population of Gorgon might take care of that though, as well as an adequate “despawn-timer”. Anyway my hope and somewhat solid belief is that this little old-school addition will be a good addition towards making the game world feel more alive,  something that has been completely of the table in several other MMOs that have newly launched for some un godly reason. Only Guild Wars 2 made an honest effort at it, but it did not quite turn out as expected. In my opinion the every 5 minute centaur raids were more annoying than immersing. The question is also, will this mechanic mean we do not have an auction house or player maintained and stimulated economy, as all items can be “stored on the ground”  for players to pick up instead of an auction house? I hope not.

 

Another very interesting feature Gorgon tries to bring back is non-instanced open world dungeons.  Now what my hope for these are is, that they can serve as immersive locations in the world and ease the transition between the instanced parts of the world and the non-instanced ones, as there are no instanced dungeons. I some games (SWTOR) the instances are not even part of the non-instanced parts of the world, in others TSW (from the little that I played of it and please correct me if I am wrong) the instances seemed to be tucked in remote corners of the map, rather than having a prominent location in the game zone. The latter was something I always like in WoW and AoC, the group dungeons where there to be seen in the game zone, Westfall was built around Deadmines, same with Blackrock mountain being the central spot of Searing Gorge and Burning Steppes and you could not imagine Atzel’s approach without the magnificent structure of Aztel’s Fortress or Thunder River without the Xibaluku dungeon (I am not making these names up I swear) (both AoC). Now in the same sentence the dungeons are said to be large, so large in fact that you can’t really run into other people without seeking for them. While the fact that you can find other people in the dungeon also gives grouping the opportunity to be more dynamic, as it is highly probable that people will look for other INSIDE the dungeon rather than outside, I still hope that the developers don’t go overboard and focus so much on how cool the dungeons are supposed to be and neglect the rest of the game. Or on the flipside totally underestimate the needed size of the dungeons making them seem very crowded with PCs and not NPCs. The supposed size of groups being 3 persons also strikes me as rather small, but maybe it is prudent for a game that aims at a small user base.

 

Deliberately aiming at a small user base also gives me hope, that the game is designed with a lot more longevity, than the AAA MMOs, that seemed to solely base their success on the numbers of user’s they have and not on how “good” the game actually could be with a dose of realism. In other words the game will try to work with the user base it gets rather than throwing the towel in at the first glimpse of lowered subscription numbers. The downside though is that since the game aims for a small user base, it might be considered (and rightly so) niche, which might directly harm their plans on funding the game through Kickstarter, as it is not gaining that much attention (something the floundering fundraising seems to indicate). The small user base also seems to be the “magical solution” to how every problem I could identify with the game at this stage is solved and makes me question: What happens if the user base is significantly bigger or smaller than anticipated? Could the two developers behind Gorgon adapt to that? The fact that there is only two of them also raises the question how bugs and further development will be treated?

 

If Gorgon however gets backed (and I dearly hope it will be) I think t might be a perfect place for some of the older MMO player base to at least casually spend their time with likeminded individuals. I also think it’s laudable that Gorgon is designed with the old school play-style in mind, which in my opinion promotes more patient players and an overall more agreeable gaming atmosphere inside the game. Have I backed the project yet? No, alas my funds as a student are very much tied at the moment, but believe me if I was economically independent I would not hesitate to back most of the interesting and not so interesting stuff on Kickstarter, because hell the more games we get off the ground the better, then it is up for the consumer to decide. Anyway I hope that if not with Project: Gorgon, than with some other game, we can find a place for the more slow-paced and dare I say “old school” type of MMOs inside the modern MMO genre. What is your take on the question; is there place for an old school MMO and an indie at that or should only well established companies make MMOs? Does Gorgon on paper even stand a chance as a niche game?

 

Quick shout out at the end, if the stars are all aligned right my next post will be on Sunday (if not that means Jane Austen is still torturing me with “Emma” and you may send your nightly prayer and well wishes to me). Nonetheless if the next post is not there on Sunday it will be there on latest Tuesday and I will start looking at some RPGs mainly older ones, but starting with the relatively new Deus Ex: Human Revolutions, then I will move on to Planescape: Torment, NWN 1 & 2, KOTOR 1& 2 and possibly Witcher 2 and look at the different things I liked or disliked about the games, what made them good, what should be preserved and reused in other games and how some of the flaws the games have could have been avoided. For all of you that are completely and utterly bored by the topic and long for some more abstract game discussion or are: “Where for god’s sake are the MMO topics??!” don’t worry I will post about them as well. Have a nice weekend if yours like mine starts today!

The $60 Question: How the world got turned upside down

October 5, 2012

Doone recently posted an entry trying to answer the question: “What should I expect, when I pay $60 for a game?” he argued that looking at the amount of content and features we get now in games we pay more for less. As support he offered a comparison between Torchlight 2 and Diablo 3, interestingly he, from there came to the conclusion that it will be harder for new ARPG titles to sell their games for more money than TL2 without backing it up with content and features, something I hope but remain sceptic to. Doone also implicitly asked the question how this evolution of paying more for less could have happened in the game industry. I thought I’d answer that question.

 

One important point in answering this question that often gets overlooked is the shift in consumer values we have had over the last 20 years. Nowadays we value quality in the form of polish in our games a lot more than quantity in content and we expect games to entertain us longer, ergo be updated more frequently with content that follows the same rule of rather being polished than abundant. If we look at the quality in the form of polish over quantity point I am making, what exactly do I mean by that? Well a simple demonstration would be our impatience concerning bugs or “clunky” gameplay, as well as our obsession with graphics. Example: Who would today have the patience to babysit the broken path-finding that your party members in Neverwinter Nights 2 have? A lot of players would give up in frustration or at least wail about it (I know I do). Mass Effect in its first instalment had horrible graphics (at the very least by today’s and several yesterday’s standards), but they got the job done very nicely, would we accept these kind of graphics today? A lot of games were also rather arduous to install were prone to crashes and bugs and the estimated fix-time for these was long. Would we accept that kind of maintenance and lack of polish today?   WoW launched with a huge number of bugs and was largely unplayable the first few months due to server crashes, people falling through the world etc. Do we accept something like that today in in 2012? I think the answer to all those questions is: No!

 

What does this leave us with? For one the fact that a lot more time and money is being put into to safeguarding that, what little content gets published is polished, that the game runs well on the designated machines and that any future problems are solved quickly. It also shows us something of us: the consumer. And what it shows us fits rather with the gist of our time. We would rather be safe and secure in what we have, than trust into innovations that might prove risky and involve an effort on our part as the consumer in making things work. That was rather abstract was it not? So let me clarify: How many of us have heard/seen/read a game being flamed to the ground because of bad graphics? Everyone right? Graphics should aim to be as realistic as possible it seems and if it’s the case that developers feel that this is the public opinion of course more money and time is going to be put into that, than additional content, after all that can be released later and sold for more profit. Combine this sentiment regarding the graphics with the popular utterance on at least MMO game forums but other game forums as well: “I play a game to be entertained, after a hard day of working I do not want to get home and do even more work in my leisure time!” Notice the first part of the quote “to be entertained”; that is a highly passive attitude towards playing games. It almost sounds like we want to sit there and get everything handed to us like in a movie. With that kind of attitude being ripe in the consumer base of course we are not going to get more content, because all it takes is giving us pretty colours and fancy cinematics for us to be entertained! Ergo all the game companies have to do is deliver us a stable, flashy game that keeps us entertained, there is no need for large amounts of content, our need to have the most polished and flashy gaming experience does not require THAT for us “to be entertained”. In support of that one need to merely look at which movies sell the most and which TV shows have the highest rating, that right there shows us how little it takes to entertain us.

 

But you said we wanted to play games for longer and specifically cited content in that sentence is that not a bit contradicting? No it is not. Our fixation with having a very polished game, basically leads to the trade-off I described earlier: We trade more content for polish and the promise of more content down the line, content we often have to pay extra for. And how is this extra cost justified? By making it be polished and running smoothly and making sure bugs are smashed quickly. So what are you paying for when you pay $60 for a game? You are paying for the guarantee of a smooth and polished medium of entertainment; you are paying $60 for security and safety! It is when this perverse shift happened, when someone managed to persuade the public that it was O.K. to pay for the guarantee that the product you just bought actually works that “the world got turned upside down”. I mean think about it, in what other industry or form of business can you charge extra (and that is what the companies are essentially doing by making us buy the DLC), for the guarantee that the product you are selling works? I certainly can’t think of any.

 

This sentiment of attaching a value to security also explains how Blizzard could launch Diablo 3 and have a huge success with it. In our drive to have security we attach this to certain brand names and having the stamp of Bioware, Blizzard or Ubisoft etc. guarantees us this safety and that’s why we buy their games. And what happens with the money they make? Well a big part of it goes into advertisement, which is why I don’t think TL2 will have such a big effect on the ARPG market. I told a friend of mine, who has also played games for a very long time and who had played the Diablo series as well, that I was playing TL2 and he should try it out. His response was: “What is Torchlight 2?” Maybe it tells more about my friend than Torchlight 2, but it certainly shows that whoever has the power to advertise his/ her product the most wins in the end. If the big masses are kept ignorant of good titles, be they indie or otherwise, nothing will change in the gaming industry. That is why I in the end think that the best solution for us would be to rethink our values concerning what a good game should be like and most of all get rid of this ridiculous notion that it is alright to charge for a game to be playable and to have maintenance, all those things should be self-evidently included in the game free of charge. You should not be forced to pay for a service like that, at least not if the company cares about its customers, but do they? Or are we just shiny bundles of money to them? If the latter is answered with a “yes” and I fear it is, we have a long way before us, before anything is changed in the way games are made. I think our hope lies in the indie sector, the only problem is, is it strong enough to influence the whole industry? I remain sceptic.

Of Barbarians and Engineers A comparison between Diablo 3 and Torchlight 2 through the eyes of an ARPG newb

September 27, 2012

 

So Torchlight 2 has been out for a week now and I have been playing it, according to Steam for 24 hours. If that is little and yes it is kind of little, my explanation is that I am trying to go through Deus Ex: Human Revolution as a pacifist (really fun but very slow) so my girlfriend and I can take up our discussion about technical augments to the human physiology. That being said it is about 10 hours less than I played Diablo 3. For reasons I will come to later, I only played the campaign, but I thought it would be interesting to compare both these games from my point of view, who up until D3 had not played any ARPG (blasphemy I know don’t worry, my girlfriend has scheduled a Diablo 1 & 2 session in my gaming calendar and I also own Torchlight 1 now). Anyway with all the great reviews of Torchlight flying around the net at the moment and comparing it to the older ARPGs I thought it might be valuable to see how a newb in the genre sees things. As I mentioned earlier I had only played Diablo 3’s campaign once. My character was a Barbarian (which I enjoyed). Without criticizing the story (in fact I won’t compare them as I am still in act 2 of Tl2) here are some of the main issues I had with Diablo 3 and why I am able to enjoy Torchlight 2 a lot more:

 

For one Diablo 3 required me to grind my way through the same story line over and over again to get to the interesting bits that were challenging and once you got there (I got my hands on my girlfriend’s father Barbarian and the two of us played on Inferno Act 1 and some of Act 2) the game becomes a gear treadmill, or so I was told. I know it is a tradition of the Diablo franchise to do this kind of ramping up of difficulty and I am not saying they should do away with it, merely that it is not my cup of tea, it got too repetitive. I also do not agree with the challenge being provided by relying so heavily on gear as it kind of restricts player creativity, we don’t have to come up with our own tactics of how to solve situations, the solution is always get more resistance gear. I call that boring! Now resistance gear does serve its purpose and it should not be abolished, but neither should it be the end all be all solution. Something that adds to my sense of feeling hampered in my creativity (Note: When I write creativity it also entails me testing out very inefficient and ludicrous builds that still get the job done), was the talent system. Maybe it is just me but I did not find it that enticing to pick up an ability and choose how I want to augment it and that being my character progression. Sure there were all kinds of different combinations of how you could build your character but it still felt very rudimentary.

Compare this to Torchlight 2 where you can for one chose your own difficulty level at the beginning and change it as you see fit! I really like that I mean why should I be separated from the challenge in a largely single player game by the fact that I can’t be asked to grind? Grinding is good, mostly in multiplayer games where you constantly are being compared and compare yourselves to others by virtue of inhabiting the same world. In a single player game it really does not make sense to compare yourself to anyone! There is just you playing your game after all, the only thing that matters is if you beat it or not. But I am willing to write that down to being a Diablo franchise tradition, one that I merely don’t like, but that’s it.

 

Something I am not going to let go so easily though is the talent system in Diablo 3. Maybe it is just me, but I like Torchlights 2’s system more, here are some reasons. For one the absence of a proper respect is such a godsend. This adds a nice amount of consequence and depth to the character that you are playing as you get to make the choice between getting new abilities and how much you want to enhance them, all the way to how your attribute distribution should look like. Most importantly it adds replayability to the game! Your first character will propably be a screw up, your second character not so much and your third one is a god. It gives you as a player the opportunity to learn something while playing the game and that is, what’s fun about playing games in my opinion; working on your character and improving it over time and not getting everything served up. My first character for instance was an Embermage, effectiveness wise he is a total screw up, but then again I went with what looked fun and I don’t care if I kill my mobs 2 minutes slower than someone else, because while I’m slowly killing mobs I can do my favourite Emperor Palpatine impersonation and that just gives me so much fun in the game. When I feel like it I’ll look up a guide and reroll him in order to make an effective character, but at the moment I am enjoying messing around with him and my bow/ wand wielding Berserker. I will most likely do a proper version of each class in time but at the moment I am getting my fun from being allowed to experiment; Diablo 3’s talent system did not really give me the depth necessary to feel like I could experiment a lot. This further addition of player choice and consequence fuel the more experimentally side of myself and I absolutely enjoy the freedom the game offers me. That being said my main character is an Engineer on whom I follow a guide and the effectiveness of it gives me also a fair amount of joy, it is nice to blast things with a big cannon while my girlfriend is doing the tanking business (even though lately I feel like a very glassy glass-cannon, which means I spend a lot of time lately dead on the floor due to bad placements on the map, ergo don’t stand on stuff that has a skull on it no matter how nice the position is). So while guides do exist I thoroughly enjoy the freedom Torchlight 2 has given the player in his character progression and that they had the guts to make that freedom mean something by the consequence of not having a real respect and thus allowing the game to have countless more hours of playtime extending the main story line.

Quickly going off-topic I also want to say how much I hate and love whoever designed the arena event in Act II me and my girlfriend had so much fun in it although it took us several hours to beat it!

 

Another very big part of my enjoyment in Torchlight 2 comes from sets of gear. While playing Diablo 3 and enjoying the secret cow level I also noticed that at later stages Diablo 3 also had sets of gear. Now I am a bit of a collector and I have always liked to collect sets of gear, even the ones that I can’t use (like the scarlet crusade one on my Rogue in WoW). When I saw this in Diablo 3 I sure was tempted to play it again and start collecting the sets but it somehow did not feel like worth the bother of grinding your way through the different difficulty levels in order to achieve this. In Torchlight 2 gear sets are found by the player throughout the play experience and this is in my opinion a very good decision. For one I get to revel in my joy of collecting every set I come across, but it also gives players an additional choice; how to outfit his or her character. Do I want a set or a unique? Which set combinations work well together? Etc. And it is once again this kind of player choice that I felt was absent in Diablo 3, while both Diablo 3 and Torchlight 2 are very much on rails regarding the ultimate story, at least Torchlight 2 gives me a lot more choice in how to customize my time in that story!

 

That’s all that to me make Torchlight 2 a very much better game than Diablo 3 and what mostly makes me sad about it is that when I look at it it’s not that big things, most of them like the sets and the talent tree could probably have been easy for Blizzard to implement/fix, but they have not and there game ended subpar, where it could have been highly enjoyable. You might have read between the lines that I mostly played Torchlight 2 in a co-op, I won’t go into if it is better than the one in Diablo 3 as to be honest co-op usually is fun and enjoyed t in both games, in Torchlight 2 I enjoy it more but that is because to me the entirety of the game is better for reasons stated above.

 

So as a last summary all I can say is don’t be afraid of player choice,

it is your friend!

The decline of MMOs the rise of MOBAs?

September 27, 2012

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So finally I have managed to find some time to write an update on the blog, apologies on the wait, but university assignments completely took over my life this week. As an added benefit and due to me being away this week-end today’s update will be two posts instead of one.

A bit of background story to this first update: About a week ago the gaming society of my university had a night out and after a couple of pints, we had the discussion of whether MOBAs were “taking over subscriptions” from MMOs. This question was very interesting to me so I decided to write a blog post about once I had collected my thoughts on it (which is now). While I do not support the idea of MOBAs having taken subscriptions from MMOs, as I do believe that gamers are completely capable of playing multiple games at the same time, the arguments of my fellow gamers in the society were so sound that, I after discussing the topic with Doone over at T. R. Redskies, decided to play the devil’s advocate on this one and explain why the question posed in the heading could be true. Doone will then provide you with counter arguments to this. We’d also be very interested to hear what others have to say on the topic so we are hoping for others to catch onto it. A quick reminder before I start laying down the arguments that while the discussion of my society was on MMOs and MOBAs, we generally used WoW and LoL as “champions” for their respective genre.

DISCLAIMER: I realise there are many more types of playing an MMO or MOBA than I list in this post, but for the sake of the argument I focused on the most common forms. For MMOs this would be an endgame focused play style in the form of raiding and arenas!

So why would it be true that MOBAs are taking over MMO subscriptions? Well for one both games are, if you get into them and don’t just want to be very casual about it, very time-consuming which leads us automatically to assume that by playing the one it would be difficult to play the other on the same “level of play” due to the time constraints we all have. What do MOBAs then have that makes them more attractive to MMOs? For one the activity of playing a MOBA is far more flexible than that in an MMO. What do I mean by flexible? Playing for instance LoL you can just hop in for an hour or 2 and play a few matches and feel like you have accomplished something, whereas in an MMO you might have done something like 2 or 3 dungeons, but at the end of the day that was not as consequential to the game at large. Doing 2 or 3 random dungeons is after all a time-sink, something you do when you don’t really have a lot of time. What at the end of the day most MMOs are about is the raiding or Arenas if you are into it and doing a bunch or random dungeons or battlegrounds does not really make you feel like you are progressing in your goal of raiding/ arenas. In LoL however the activity of doing your random matches directly contributes to the main goal (winning matches and making a more powerful character). In that sense MOBAs while requiring you to invest a lot of time into them still allow for the feeling of progress even if you only have a few hours to distribute every day to play the game and are more flexible in what you can do with that time, than MMOs, where progressing in endgame content requires larger chunks of your time (or usually at least did). The self-evident conclusion of this is that MOBAs can attract a wider audience, for example MMO veterans, whose real life duties give them less time to play.

The “flexibility” in how you much time you can distribute in order to feel an effect in the main goal of the game, brings me to my next argument. MMOs are generally divided into two stages of the game: levelling and the so called endgame. The activity of levelling being far different from the endgame activities, thus creating a disconnect between the two stages. While MOBAs also have a character progression one could equal to levelling, the activity required to do them is the same as what you do when you have reached the end of the character progression: win as many matches as you can! This makes the invested time into MOBAs seem more efficient as you are not “wasting” time doing an activity with no relation to what you really want to do in the game (raiding/ arenas) and what the game expects you to do once you have reached level-cap. Not only does it feel like you can “play the game” sooner in MOBAs, the activity of playing fast paced matches is also far more engaging, than the far more long term oriented levelling process. In other words MOBAs allow you to get that adrenaline kick in every match you play, whereas levelling really fails to do that as it’s a lot more slow-paced in the form of kill X/ Y rinse and repeat. The opponent being a fellow human instead of an AI in these activities also make the base activity in MOBAs more challenging and varied and make the whole process much more competitive than levelling. And competition is something most gamers enjoy a lot and it is a big reason why we think games are fun. Evidence to support this for instance is the CEO of EA stating that “I have not green lit one game to be developed as a single-player experience. Today, all of our games include online applications and digital services that make them live 24/7/365.”. So all in all the base activity of the game is more engaging due to its competitive nature in MOBAs, meaning they could be perceived as more fun than MMOs.

On the thought of a game being fast paced equalling more players it is also worth to note that WoW and MMOs in general are evolving into becoming more fast paced, Tera’s combat system as well as those of GW2 and TSW being one such evolution, or the fact that Dungeon and Raidfinders seem to be more and more implemented into the games to allow for a smoother time distribution. All these developments seem to point at the fact that that is what the consumer is looking for: A fast paced gaming experience with little to no down time. Making MOBAs for reasons stated above more optimal than MMOs at this.

Now one of my counter arguments in this discussion was that MMOs allow for me to be more social than a MOBA. I’d for instance only play MOBAs with previous friends and find it very daunting to find new ones in for instance LoL (or SC2 which is not a MOBA, but that is similarly to LoL a lobby based game in which the main objective is to win as many matches as possible). I was quickly countered by the fact that many players had met new players in LoL, who quickly became their main gaming partners. And while LoL does not encourage social behaviour much, in order to fully enjoy the game you do not play in the random queues but in organised teams. Meaning it is needed to be social. Smaller teams, as opposed to guilds, also involve less drama making the game experience more relaxing than in a guild of often over 30 active members (and that is still a small guild). Even in my guild of 10 members we had plenty of drama. So MOBAs could provide a haven for all those who have gotten fed up with the drama that ensues of a very social game. On the other hand the question was posed if players really want to be that social? Recent (and not so recent) changes in MMOs like the cross-realm-systems would indicate at least that the developers don’t think so. Once again meaning that MOBAs have been a step ahead and in order to accommodate this problem MMO developers try to make these changes into their games, leading us to believe that there might be some connection between MOBAs grabbing the subscriptions of MMOs.

Another aspect as to why the question in the heading might be true is a financial one. Doone pointed out to that while LoL is free to play and WoW for instanced is not it will always have a larger audience in being free to play. The fact that many MMOs have adapted free to play options also seem to indicate that this is true and a viable way of getting more subscribers or grabbing the subscribers of other games. But LoL is not exactly free is it? In the gaming society we call LoL a “freemium” game: Meaning that once you have the game you almost without noticing start to spend money on new heroes and skins and what not, making you get the feeling that your account has some kind of value attached to it and making it harder for you to leave the game. But wait a minute the same guy who offered this argument in the discussion owns 5 WoW accounts (at least one of the m active) and plays mostly LoL, would this not mean that the financial aspect of the games is rather insignificant? Well yes and no. The argument why MOBAs might win subs through this “freemium” mode of games is that you as a consumer are far more in control of what you spend your money on, one month you might buy a new hero and then play two months without paying for anything. It is this choice which players like, not being forced to pay in order to play. The fact that they very often do pay for stuff in the game only further cements it as it adds value to their account, but at the same time they can say: “well I don’t have to pay I chose to and could quit paying at any time and still play” (like that’s ever going to happen). It is this choice that (very rarely is used) that makes them more attracted towards the “freemium”, while at the same time being just as financially hooked to it as if it was a pay to play one.

Doone also objected that MOBAs were a far more niche type of game since only the really dedicated were good at it and thus experiencing the real game. Whereas in MMOs everybody could be at the endgame by virtue of reaching max level and do whatever they wanted and experience the game. But was that not what we praised about WoW (at least some of us), that it was great how effort and reward were being given in raiding for instance in TBC? And let me remind you according to Blizzard only 1% of the player base reached the Sunwell raid. Would this not mean that while MMOs today seem to be trying to give everyone everything, MOBAs still have this form of rewarding effort, which we want from the “good old days”, by only having a select few who are very good at the game? Are MOBAs not giving us back something that a lot of players seemed to enjoy in MMOs and would it not be conceivable for those players to have moved to a game that provides them with that kind of reward system for effort?

So while I definitely do not think MOBAs are stealing, at least a substantial amount of the subscriptions of MMOs those were arguments that in my opinion did a good job of explaining why it still might be the case. As this was a rather long post I shall quickly recap the main arguments: MOBAs allow for a more flexible distribution of time and target thus a larger player audience. Its “freemium” mode of play combine the attributes of player choice in the non-obligatory payment, with the perceived value of an account, as playing the game without paying anything is quite a feat, keeping the player financially hooked. MOBAs do not have two distinctively divided stages of the game, making you feel like your time spent in the game is more effectively spent. While it still manages to be social it is not so social as to incorporate the ever persistent drama that “more social” games like MMOs have. MOBAs also provide a system where effort is rewarded, something a segment of the MMO player base miss (just look to the endless TBC/ Vanilla was better than WOLK, Cata, MoP posts on the forums). Due to these reasons and recent development made in MMOs in general and specifically WoW it is conceivable that MOBAs in fact are grabbing subscriptions of MMOs.

Your turn! Any comments, thoughts, objections etc.?

I’m looking forward to hear from you!

Ascension of player avatars and the problems it brings, Or how life was simpler before someone told me I had a story of my own

September 20, 2012

 

 

 

Stubborn over at Sheep the Diamond posed an interesting question in his entry “The Where is the Boss of Me” asking whether it was better for the questing experience to help a geographical area, like in Guild Wars 2 with the “heart-system”, where you do not get your quest from an NPC you rather wonder around and “observe what needs doing”. Or if the traditional WoW approach of talking to an NPC and then knowing what needs doing was better? Arguably you can also throw in the question if the SWTOR system of having standard quests (picked up from NPCs) and bonus quests (randomly discovered by killing things, mostly kill Y of X quests) is better.

 

 

 

My stance on the question is that helping a geographical region can be far more stimulating, as you are given the impression that your actions were worth something, an aspect which Guild Wars 2 enhances with its dynamic events system, where your actions have some form of consequence to the region and advance the event (even if it’s  only in the form of keeping the Centaur War council busy with drawing new battle plans and electing new leaders or blowing up the rubble of the mine that has been bombed for the umpteenth time) or WoW with it’ quest phasing (which faces its own problems). But this kind of system, which involves helping geographical regions by stumbling upon quests, has some problems, which in the end let me support the old style of NPC questing more:

 

 

 

A tiny issue I had is how to convey story through you randomly stumbling on quests. If you get them from an NPC you at least are provided with some background story as to why said task needs doing and most likely also where to go next. If you randomly stumble upon them how do you know why something needs doing? Of course you can say well I see the farm is beset by animals so I kill them, but still no story is conveyed as to why the animals are there in the first place, nor if they actually needed killing. This was one of my bigger problems with Guild Wars 2, I was doing stuff and that’s it I never really knew why and I only had a very tiny idea about the general story in the zones outside of the big general one. I also never really knew when to leave a zone because there were no indications what so ever on where to go next. It seemed to me the game gave me so many mixed signals with their quest system, by telling me to go explore in order to find quests as the story did not give you any hints on where to go, but at the same time exploring your entire map for you showing all the points of interest and giving you teleports close to them completely ruining my incentive to explore. I am not saying that I want a path that I have to follow while questing merely I want the option to always have a path to follow and never feel lost. But those things at the end made my game experience very shallow, when it could have been anything but. So all I’m saying is give me a reason as to why I have to be here and tell me about how the zone fits into the word we play in and if you want me to explore give me a blank map! And why is this story so important you might wonder? Because in its essence it’s what makes the world come to life; neither WoW’s nor AoC’s nor SWTOR’s game world feel alive without the compelling stories the franchises and especially Star Wars has crafted over the years (this is not me saying original franchise can’t do MMOs, merely me saying if you do, convey the story well and properly). In order for the game to be fun and entertaining we need the stories and the conflicts it describes in order to keep us going. If the game was only about helping mundane people in a world without a compelling story, the game would quickly become boring. So if you give me dynamic events and geographical regions that I am supposed to help through quests “I stumble upon” (I’m still looking at you Guild Wars 2), give me the story behind all these things as well!

 

 

 

Yet the overarching issue that I have with quests that help geographical regions is that they so easily fall into the trap of making you the hero of the entire zone or game for that matter. A factor that is so immersion breaking and also invalidates the epicness of helping an entire region, I mean how epic does it not feel to be the chosen of Aessina (Hyjal quest line in WoW)? Well it certainly crumbles when you realize there is a whole army of those same chosen avatars sharing the world with you! I mean I was supposed to be special but I guess that is a shared position. Same issue with SWTOR; the Dark Council consists of what 12 members yet every Sith Warrior and Inquisitor get to be one, suddenly the population of the Council is bigger than the population of Korriban, the original home planet of the Sith, and the whole notion of you being special falls apart. This ascending of avatars into the realm of heroes and legends works only in single player games as it’s just you playing the game and that’s what makes it feel epic. If you have thousands of copies of chosen ones running around the ascendance is not elevating the quality of the game (story wise), it’s rather cheapening it. It dares to repeat itself I guess; rule number one in making something valuable or “epic” is making it rare! A story that everybody can complete is not rare, therefore saying it is epic is a lie! It might be epic standing on its own but in the perspective of an MMO, where you see a lot of people doing the same things you do it is not!

 

 

 

Back in the day when the title of “the hero of the game” was only given to NPCs and the PCs were merely classified as “a (potential and nameless) hero in the game” things were far simpler. Sure you required some leaps of faith to believe Onyxia’s head got stuck on a pike every week besides Nefarian’s, but that’s what you got to live with if you want everyone to have the chance of experiencing bosses instead of making them into a “one-kill-only” business. But what made this system better in my opinion was the fact that even though there were no visual consequences to you questing around (something that is not impossible to achieve via a similar system as the dynamic events) it gave your character (especially if you like roleplaying) the opportunity to be anyone you wanted, you were most often than not tied to this image of you being the hero of this and that. No, you were just a Rogue killing kobolds to help a poor merchant get his gold dust. Because a personal story line is heavily restricting your path of levelling and in that sense restricting player choice, one of the things MMOs especially nowadays (SWTOR, TSW), but any RPG pride themselves on giving. Suddenly you find yourself forced by the game to rescue your imbecilic Sith apprentices on the noxious world of Quesh (only to see them die in the end), one of the most boring planets in the game, that is really tiny and always feels like such a speed bump and makes me want to put auto pilot on my character, without any regard to the fact that I might want to go to Belsavis or Hoth! I mean it is not as if the class quests were a one quest thing either, no they span the entire zone! That pretty much means you can’t really skip zones. So thanks for throwing my wishes of how to level my character out of the window and telling me how I am supposed to do the levelling of my character!  That’s one really huge thing I loved about the way questing was merely helping NPC’s in the old WoW and AoC, how I could pick and choose which zones I wanted to do with my character: “Oh I really hate Duskwood (I can’t stand creepy places with zombies sorry, don’t ask me how I did Western and Eastern Plaguelands I honestly don’t know ), but I’ve never been to Ashenvale or Wetlands, so yeah let’s go there and see if I like the zone more” or in the case of AoC: “I really don’t like the Egglyphian Mountains with all its cannibals (just another form of zombie if you ask me) and frozen tundra, let’s just go to Thunder River and do some river rafting (at least there the mobs won’t try to eat me!)!”. Nowadays it’s more like the minute I press “Enter World” I’m given a road map on how I am going to get to max-level. Instead of giving me a world to roam and immerse myself in and with the personal storylines you are only aggravating the problem.  Part of the fun of MMOs and RPGs for that matter was the choices they at least used to offer you, now that choice seems to be a relic of the past.

 

 

 

This streamlining of the levelling experience through personal stories and ascendance of characters into heroes through helping zones, has also another far wider reaching effect, than merely forcing players on specific set paths, that cannot be altered. The psychological effect of a streamlined levelling process is that the game is far more fixated on the goal of getting to the endgame; I mean it’s even supported with your own storyline most of the time that is propelling you toward it by rewarding you with an epic conclusion to said storyline. This focus in turn enhances impatient and success fixated player behaviour, by virtue of from day one telling them to be fixated on the goal. A far more slow paced game would and has in the case of WoW Vanilla and TBC, as well as the start of AoC taught its playerbase to be more patient. Something that is evident by the fact that nowadays a wipe in a PUG means the group is disbanded or at least harsh words fly around. I get it though, levelling has got this “bad reputation” of being boring and what not, a chore on the way to end game; the real game to most players, so in order to lessen this ordeal developers invent incentives to keep us going, like a personal storyline or one where you feel your character was really important and that made all this hard questing worth it. In a sense the whole invention of personal story lines is there to invalidate the levelling process, “because it’s all about the endgame” you are not supposed to care about levelling, so we make levelling fast paced and always focused on what’s to come at the end, be it the epic conclusion of a storyline for your character or your character being made the hero of the zone. The question then is why do you have something called levelling then if you do not feel the need to let it stand in the game out of its own right, but have the need to pamper it with all these “sweeteners”? Make levelling rather something that is about exploring the world and your class and your game experience suddenly feels far more fulfilled and you won’t have the issue of the two games within the game, levelling and endgame as it all fits together. To do this you must also make sure levelling takes a bit longer than just 15 days, not 15 days /played, but 15 days of 6 to 7 hour sessions played. Because it is mostly through time spent on something that we learn to appreciate it but I know it’s hard with the new impatient gamer mentality (even I qualify for that), but at least we should give it a shot.

 

 

So yes in the end it’s not about whether helping zones or NPC is better in my opinion, it is more about if you want to help entire geographical reasons then please don’t make me into the hero, saviour, reincarnation of ages lost, or what have you, let my character stay mine! After all the personal story line and you being the hero are only fun once! Every succeeding time you do it, it feels more and more boring. Let players have the choice of how and where to level, by providing them several zones and the replayability of your game is far greater. And for those who only play one character, nothing prevents you from doing the zones you missed out after max level. Make levelling fun in a way that does not invalidate the whole process of levelling! Or put into broader terms make the MMOs levelling experience about exploring the world, like in a world simulator, and not about rushing to endgame!

After what seems like an eternity dreams come true! Hopes and Fears about Obsidian’s Project Eternity

September 16, 2012

 

Thanks to   lovely Milady over at Hypercriticism, I stumbled over Obsidian Entertainment’s newest project dubbed “Project Eternity”. Currently the project is funded through Kickstarter and has already reached $1,282, 377 (as I am writing this), meaning the base goal for the game (“Base game includes three races, five classes, and five companions”) has been achieved, and it still has 30 days of the Kickstarter fundraiser to go.

 

So for those of you who did not follow the links above (you should really do that!), I’ll give a quick recap of what Project Eternity is other than it being developed by the awesome company named Obsidian Entertainment. Project Eternity is trying to give us back some old magic from great RPG titles like Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment (also by Obsidian and the developers working on this game). It promises and this is me quoting from Kickstarter:

 

Project Eternity will take the central hero, memorable companions and the epic exploration of Baldur’s Gate, add in the fun, intense combat and dungeon diving of Icewind Dale, and tie it all together with the emotional writing and mature thematic exploration of Planescape: Torment.

Combat uses a tactical real-time with pause system – positioning your party and coordinating attacks and abilities is one of the keys to success. The world map is dotted with unique locations and wilderness ripe for exploration and questing. You’ll create your own character and collect companions along the way – taking him or her not just through this story, but, with your continued support, through future adventures. You will engage in dialogues that are deep, and offer many choices to determine the fate of you and your party. …and you’ll experience a story that explores mature themes and presents you with complex, difficult choices to shape how your story plays out.”

 

So why am I so excited about this (other than being a huge fan of Obsidian and their games)? First of all a Kickstarter fundraiser is really a great opportunity for us gamers to show what kind of games we like and it gives Obsidian free reins in their development as their funders are not money hungry suits, but gamers like you and me! So finally we get a great game made for gamers and not the money hungry suits! It also very much ties into my desire of wanting a more “old school” RPG to play that is not only about action (DA2 and ME2 & 3) and with a complex character advancement path like in the NWN-series (just please add a good tutorial and help panel for it!), probably why I find myself (re)playing NWN2 and Civilization 5 Gods & Kings, while everyone is drooling over Diablo 3 and what have you (not that any of the choices is better than the other mind you).

 

So needless to say I have some great hopes, but also some fears about Project Eternity. The switch back to some more “old school” RPGs is something that I hope will revive the interest of other developers to make these kinds of games (so that I shall not always be stuck babysitting Bishop and Khelgar in NWN2 as they insist that if they try walking long enough through that wall, a shortcut will open up to them) and thus giving us a wider variety of games in the form that we have heavily story-focused games and more action-focused games in the RPG genre. The more different games we have to choose from the better in my opinion as it enriches the genre as a whole. My fears of course are that Obsidian might overestimate the success of their Kickstarter fundraiser and their previous titles and end up with a game that was supposed to be more of a niche game, due to it by its design choices at least at the moment seeming far more tactical than action oriented and being “old school”, but everyone wanted it to be something more, thus damaging future efforts of bringing “old school” RPGs back, because a great company like Obsidian failed at it. Kind of like most seem to refer in WoW to Cata’s so called “failure” in the first months, trying to introduce a more TBC like dungeon environment, which ended up back-firing as many people seemed to leave the game, when explaining how a TBC styled WoW will never come back (something I don’t agree with).

 

I also really hope for the combat to be as tactical as the developers sound it to be, as I am a huge fan of strategy in my games and always like to experiment with the pause option in mid- combat. Though I fear that we either get a very action oriented combat, where the “pause” is rarely used (ME2 & 3 as well as DA2) or where you by using it can trivialize the game. In Dragon Age: Origins where the latter was the case I could easily do all of the harder thrash packs and bosses by letting my characters “run the treadmill”. Whoever had aggro on the boss would be running and kiting the boss and or adds while the others dealt the hurt. This ended up making most of the fights monotonous and rather boring. So my hope is that the combat finds a nice middle spectrum between both of these extremes, yet I can’t say I am not worried about it not happening. A good and fun combat is after all very important to the game as even in story-focussed games there will be a lot of it. An example of why this is important was during my beta sessions of TSW where the investigation missions (basically really, really hard riddles in multiple steps that you have to solve by using bible references or off hand comments). It was really fun to sit and try to solve this riddle for 3 hours but once you solved it the reward of solving the riddle was just not tangible, as instead of playing the game actively you sat there passively trying to solve the riddle. Whereas if you have a really tough boss fight or trash pull you are actively playing the game while trying to overcome your adversary, which in the end makes it more fun, by virtue of being active and not passive.

 

For the story my hope is that it really features choice and consequence on a never before seen scale (something I admit is very unlikely). In a perfect world the story would not consist of one story but of several stories within the main story. Modern and older RPGs usually have tried giving us this promise that our choices in the game matter and change the story, but usually it ends up being quite the opposite. For example it has no real consequence in the game which choices you made in DA: O while recruiting the nations to your cause. You either kill one of the dwarven throne proponents or your elected King does, either you kill the mages by annulling the Circle or you save them etc. all it changes is which units you have at your disposal in the last battle and the epilogue at the end. Now I shall not bash at the epilogue, I had a very beautiful funeral (I cried, thank you Allister for you wonderful speech I forgive you for being such a big whiny fool) and all that but making all the consequences of your choices appear in the epilogue is a bit cheap. Even my beloved NWN2 does this by making you for example always fight Lorne after your trial whether you win the trial or not. I would like to see an option where your choices in game make you take different paths through the game’s story not available to others, who made different key choices. Of course this would mean the game’s budget would shoot through the roof and thus it is unlikely to happen, but something I really yearn for as it might be one of the first RPGs I really enjoy to replay after my first time of completing the story. Of course my fear and probably the reality is that these choices we are promised in the story are in fact no real choices with real consequences but merely something I like to call choices with a “cosmetic consequence”, like do I have elven archers or werewolves fighting at my side in the last battle. A choice, which at the end of the day does not really influence the storyline at all.

 

Thinking about the future I also hope this games sequels will not do the idiocy other sequels namely Bioware’s have done by completely ignoring and eradicating player choices from the prequels (Rachni queen in ME3) for the sake of symbolism, as was done in ME3, where we walked in the footsteps of Mass Effect (1) on Feros and Eden Prime for instance. Or that they try to change the gameplay into something the previous title was not. I’m here thinking about the far more tactical gameplay of  DA: O and ME that got changed into a fast paced slaughter of enemies in the sequels and in my opinion cheapened the story and is to blame a lot for the absence of really hard decisions in the story line. Dragon Age 2 particularly was like a movie in that regard, in that I do the combat and then enjoy cinematic conversations with no choice in how the story pans out. And the same can be said of ME2, where the only really interesting choice like in DA2 came at the end, do I destroy/conserve the Reaper prototype in ME2 and do I side with the Mages or Templars in DA2.

 

But right now it’s a bit too soon to worry about those things! I can merely recommend that if you are a fan of the “old school type” RPGs you head over to the kickstarter site and help with the funding of Project Eternity, the more money they raise the more things we get included into game (like a player house and new races)! Here’s for hoping our resurrection of “old school” RPGs is here and that they avoid some of the past mistakes in the RPG genre! And hopefully Obsidian Entertainment makes the best out of this opportunity!

The eternal lie of perfect class balance in a multiclass-system and how to solve it

September 12, 2012

 

In my last post I wrote a bit about the topic of why it is important to have distinctively different classes with set advantages and disadvantages. To summarize my main point from that post, my argument was that it entailed a “graspable consequence” for the player and furthered respect between the players due to everyone having some tools no one else had. In this post I am going to write about the problems that arise, with a game having very distinctively different classes and how to potentially solve those problems. As this mainly as the title of the post suggests is a post about class balance I will be dividing the post into three parts: Problems that arise in PVP, Problems that arise in PVE and the proposed solution and its effects on both PVP and PVE. I will start with the Problems that arise in PVP.

 

Problems that arise in PVP

If anyone has ever visited a forum dedicated to PVP, how serious or not it may be, a big recurring topic is class balance and how class X has an, or  several abilities that are unfair against class Y. Most of the time the developers of said game do not do much about the problem expect maybe a nerf or two followed up by buffs and so on and so forth. With the coming of expansion more often than not something more decisive is planned as a solution through new talents and abilities.

 

So the problem we have at hand is the fact, which many PVP-players grudgingly accept, that perfect class balance (by perfect class balance I mean the occurrence that every class has the necessary tool set to defeat any class and only player skill is the deciding factor) in a game that features several distinctively different classes is inherently, due to its system of classes being different from each other, always unbalanced. And the developers seem to have two solutions to this. One: buff and nerf classes in order to do some “fine-tuning” in the balance. Two: do broad changes through new abilities and talents. Number one means that the game is permanently in rollercoaster of so-called “flavour of the month classes” in the throes of buffs and nerfs and class balance shifts every month or so in wait for number two in the form of an expansion. Number two seems to consist of distributing abilities between classes, which comes in the form of for instance Rogues getting a self-heal, Hunters getting stealth, Druids getting a teleport (MoP talent) etc. This leads to the classes all feeling the same, something that is supported by the different healing classes. They all follow the same premise of healing; where you primarily and simplified have a slow big heal, a slow small heal, a fast big heal, an AoE heal and something you want to keep on the target all the time for mana regeneration purposes. This makes the game essentially boring because once you have learned one healing class, you have learned them all. At least that was how it was for me as I have healed on a Discipline Priest, a Paladin and a Druid. I left the Shaman at level 35 due to it feeling just like the rest of them. So what we get from this is that perfect class balance with multiple different classes is impossible, because the imbalance caused by the difference is fixed by either constantly redistributing the imbalance or by removing it and with it the differences of the classes. Something we wanted to keep because it makes the game more fun. So the problem in PVP is that many different classes make the game fun but unbalanced, and the fix to it makes it boring but balanced.

 

Problems that arise in PVE

Balance is not something as straightforward as “class X has unfair abilities that make him defeat class Y too easily” like it is n PVP. Still it follows the same feeling of “unfairness” that the differentiation between classes brings to light. Rogues for instance never used to have a real AoE only a “Blade Flurry” that hits 2 enemies with your strikes for 15 seconds and has a 2 minute cool-down. Nor did Hunters or Rogues have heals, or Warlocks anything besides really “Shadowbolt” to deal direct damage, or Mage’s Heroism.

 

Part of the reason this is so is the same reason why buffs got streamlined. Blizzard made the active decision to support their smaller sized raid content of 10 player groups, but in order to keep it as challenging as the bigger sized groups of 25 players, had to redistribute tactical cool-downs and buffs to other classes as well or streamline them. Another part of the problem surely also was player envy at not having certain abilities. I know I envied all AoE classes and was ecstatic when I got my Fan of Knives. Until I realized the problem it entailed.

 

Because the problem was that once I had received my AoE ability a huge part of what made my TBC raiding time fun vanished. I used to love the challenge of staying on top of the “Total Damage done list”, which meant that I had to push myself on trash mobs so that the inevitable loss of damage compared to say Mages or Hunters, that had a few forms of AoE, was not too big and then push myself on bosses in order to make up for the loss of damage and still keep the lead. The distributing of tactical abilities also meant that the roles the classes could assume in their role of DPS, Tank or Healer vanished as everyone could do everything. Gone were the days when Shadow-Priests acted as mana-batteries (which albeit being boring to some, was enjoyed by others as they had a unique role to fill), or Rogues had nothing to look for in those packs of mobs that had to be AoE’d down. In essence after getting my AoE ability I lost what made my class feel special with all its advantages and disadvantages, I felt just like another DPS easily replaced by someone else and the only thing keeping me in the group was a number dictating my performance in relation to others. I understand that this was a big part of Blizzards “bring the player not the class”-policy, but its consequence was devastating as it removed most of the things that made classes unique. Because at the end of the day I think player interactivity can always solve the problem if your class is not needed for a raid. In my guild for instance we switched classes that would raid, made separate raid teams or levelled a group of alts to make sure everyone could raid with the character they wanted, which often was not the main thing anyway everyone just wanted to raid with some fun people they enjoyed playing with, the character they chose to do that on was secondary and this was still in TBC.

 

So the problem in the spectrum of PVE is that the differentiation caused the will to balance classes in terms of their tools and what they could perform, which in turn made them stream lined and boring just like in the PVP spectrum of things.

 

Solution

 

So as I, hopefully with some modicum of success, tried to explain before, the problem that I see the multi-class system having, the aspect of it being unbalanced, is overshadowed by the consequence of its nowadays accepted solution of streamlining as it makes the game less fun, because everyone is the same. And therefore we need to realize that perfect balance in a multiclass- system is a lie, a fancy that is never going to happen and we need to detach ourselves from that thought of it being desirable.

 

My solution therefore is to create a completely different balancing system. Using the base of “rock-paper-scissors” found in most RTS games today, we would embrace the imbalance in the multi-class- system and make it balanced in a mathematical sense. Let us do the simplified form of such a system first. We have four classes: Warrior, Rogue, Mage and Priest. Every class has one class that its toolbox is strong against, meaning the other part has to be more skilled in order to defeat it and a class against which its toolbox is weak, as well as two classes it has no real advantage or disadvantage against.

 

The way this system would work if is the following, I will use the signs of >, < and = to indicate strengths, weaknesses and no real strengths or weaknesses against the class after the sign:

Warrior:

>Rogue, = Warrior, = Mage, < Priest

 

Rogue:

>Mage, = Rogue, = Priest, < Warrior

 

Mage:

>Priest, = Mage, = Warrior, < Rogue

 

Priest:

>Warrior, = Priest, = Rogue, < Mage

 

At first sight this system is no different from the imbalanced system trying to be balanced. The difference though is that, if you work from the beginning with this system, you can craft the individual strengths and weaknesses of the classes with this system in min and won’t have to justify as much why a certain imbalance exists as it is intentionally part of the system. You can also easily transport this system into specializing classes into being more AoE, Single target, burst or steady damage focussed. I opted to show you the PVP system as it is easier to grasp. And of course the system maybe expanded upon by adding more classes. A Paladin might be a Priest-Soldier in the system inheriting its strengths and weaknesses for instance.

 

The advantages of this system are, out over the already mentioned once, its focus on encouraging world PVP through its advantage/disadvantage system and thus making the world feel more dangerous, encouraging player interdependence, adding a strategic layer to group PVP and PVE activities and thus challenging its players, but most of all it empowers the players choice of class by making it a defining choice and thus making the player feel needed by virtue of him having a unique class. The world PVP is encouraged by the fact that if you see an enemy class, which you know you are having an advantage against, the incentive to attack him beyond mere competitiveness in enhanced and I believe few players would resist. Thereby the world will feel more dangerous and realistic with the potential chance of dying to some chance encounter with a Warrior as a Rogue. It also provides the competitive PVP scene with the incentive of beating the classes they are weak against thus furthering effort. Or if you are not at all interested in PVP and fear for your life to go outside because maybe there is a Rogue in the bushes looking to ambush your Mage, the incentive to band together and socialize is given by the challenge presented by the system and needed to be overcome by the players. The strategic layer in group activities is also there as fights emphasize on team-play by synchronizing your group’s strengths and countering the opponent’s. In PVP this could mean having a Warrior escort a Mage to which the Rogue seeking to kill the Mage has to respond in some manner. This kind of system focusing heavily on player interdependence would in my opinion be perfect for an MMO, which main selling point is to be played and experienced by players in a world together with other players.

 

Of course like every system there are disadvantages to this one. For instance it relies more on the class than the player, but gives the player and avenue upon which to improve, which in my opinion is more important. The system would also require some tweaking and a definition of which kind of advantage/ disadvantage is fair and which not. Pick up groups or randomized groups in PVP might suffer if they have a too big focus on one class. But all of these problems also provide the players with a challenge they should be able to overcome through teamwork and that is once again the systems greatest strength, it promotes and sometimes forces players to play with each other and not alone or against each other, something modern MMOs seem to have forgotten.

 

I would be delighted by any comments or views and of course critique you have to offer on this system of balancing classes in an MMO!