Sentence of the Weekend

Once a MMO embarks upon the “new expansion, gear reset, more love for raiders” road, the danger is that the game becomes so linear and focused on the end game that players new to the game may feel they can never catch up — and that even if they have the desire, the largely unpopulated lands between them and the bulk of the playerbase could be very discouraging.

Most Typical Member

Prototype theory holds that we conceptualize through categories in which some members are more central than others. If I ask you to name a piece of furniture, you are quite likely to come back with “chair,” “table,” or “sofa”; if you immediately thought “armoire” or “ottoman,” you are weird; if you went with “Charles, or Susan if it’s a girl,” you are very weird. If you asked an American for the best example of a bird, the most bird-like bird around, you will get far more robins than penguins and almost no emus.

The usual concept of a western MMO seems clearly descended from DikuMUD, through EQ and terminating in WoW. I would tend to insert DAoC in there, sometimes described as “EQ without the parts that suck,” but I may be atypical. Perhaps I am uncreative, but I do not see much more room for the Diku model to evolve. It has reached its full flower in WoW. You can have refinements and variations (-raids, +PvP, +story, -classes, +Tolkien, -fantasy, +F2P), to say nothing of lousy clones, but it will take something massive to change the view of the most typical member. There is a lot of room (and money) in WoW’s orbit, but if you do not want to be (seen as) conceptually subordinate, you need to head a good distance away.

We have some less typical members, most notably EVE Online. You all know how I love to pull out “here is how City of Heroes solved that problem,” or how I mix a dozen niche games into my bloviations. These can be annoying in the MMO blogosphere when commenters contribute them independently, not in the sense of “here is an alternate way of implementing that” but rather “your entire argument is invalid because it does not apply to my game (or playstyle).” It is as if you were complaining about birds pooing on your car, only to have a passerby disdainfully remark that there are not any penguins in the area and they could not have flown over your car anyway. Well, no, that is not what I meant by “birds,” but thank you for contributing.

Continue reading Most Typical Member

Boatorious on Bonding

Bad/Unforgiving games tend to have very tight communities in a Stockholm Syndrome sort of way. You join a guild in WoW to raid some dungeons and get some loot. In old EQ or UO a guild was more like AA or a cancer survivor’s group or something, and naturally tight bonds formed.

So I guess the question I have about UO, and FFXI, and EQ, and all those great old “social” games is this : did those games have great communities because they created social interaction, or did they have great communities because they eliminated non-social players?
— Boatorious

Free to Play Future

First it was Dungeons and Dragons Online. Then it was the Lord of the Rings Online. And now we know Everquest and Everquest 2 will be going down the path of free-to-play as well. It was a massive money maker for DDO and promises to be a huge money maker for both Lotro and EQ2. But how free is free to play? If you want to reach max-level, create a guild, or complete the main quests, you’re going to need to drop down some cash in these games. Both Lotro and EQ2 are putting hard maximums on the amount of gold a free player can acquire and both are restricting classes. In EQ2, if you win the roll for some rare armor, you best reach for your Visa card so that you can upgrade your account and be allowed to wear it. It seems to be part of the business model to create a game where you eventually feel forced to pay cash in order to participate in end-game.

DDO has set the stage with a potentially lucrative business model that encourages players to play free until they are hooked enough to spend massive amounts of money, but it’s only the beginning. All the MMORPG companies will be watching these two titles to gauge their success, including SOE. If both these titles are a financial success, expect to see all of SOE’s other titles, as well as the rest of the MMO market, follow the trend.

Oz Does Free Realms Beta

For the past few weeks I’ve been heavily playing Sony’s new MMORPG offering, Free Realms. I’ve been working on a review for here for a while, but had refrained on posting it until I had confirmation that the NDA was lifted. Tonight, while wandering through the forums, I read that they lifted the NDA on April 22nd, although they really didn’t make a lot of noise about it. I also found out that they are now going to launch on this Tuesday the 28th, after just under two weeks of a single round of closed beta. I was stunned, and can only imagine that the people behind the Vanguard launch are making the decisions. That said, what follows is a review from the prospective of both a long time gamer who has played nearly every MMORPG that has come down the pike, including beta testing launched and shelved products, and also a father of a pair of pre-teens, who are clearly this game’s target market. If you’re not interested in the long breakdown, here’s a one sentence summary:

Ever wonder what the child of ToonTown and Everquest would be? Wonder no more.
Continue reading Oz Does Free Realms Beta

Everquest Turns 10 – Oz Reflects

In celebration of Everquest turning 10 this week (well, actually last week, but as the always entertaining Sanya Weathers points out, the first week was largely unplayable so counting from week two is accurate enough), I invite folks to post their EQ memories. It was my intro into the world of online gaming, and like one’s first love, gets looked back on with rose colored glasses. Ah memories…

Continue reading Everquest Turns 10 – Oz Reflects

Giveaway: EQ or EQ2 In-Game Items – CLOSED

I have two codes from my recent issue of Beckett Massive Online Gamer magazine that may be used in Everquest for an “Aqua Goblin Familiar” or in EverQuest II for a “Nagafen at Rest”. It looks like the codes are good for either item.

I don’t play EverQuest or EverQuest II so these codes are burning a hole in my virtual pocket. If you are interested in getting one of these codes, reply to this post with something about your EQ or EQ2 adventures. The most interesting (or funny … or ANY) two responses, chosen by me, will be awarded a code. I will give the codes away tomorrow so get cracking. If nobody enters, I will burn the codes slowly and painfully until they have left this mortal realm forever. The choice is yours.

– Ethic

Vicariously Expanding

Some time ago I bought the pre-order expansion for LOTRO, filled with great excitement at seeing the first expansion for a game. This tends to really set the tone of the growth of the game in an MMORPG world. Look at EQ – Kunark was probably the most solid overall expansion ever for an MMORPG game. It had not only 10 new levels, it had a new playable race, great lore, and experience content for every level out at the time. I knew a lot of the beta testers and they well knew the sheer envy I had for them and a burning desire to know things they took to their virtual NDA-encased graves (those of us who did serious beta testing for Sony have everlasting NDA’s…there’s a great many things I can never every talk about, sadly). Later expansions were good and bad, but the first one…magic. Move up to WoW – an expansion that was very much like a fireworks display in that it was very flashy but unfortunately faded out quickly. Not that it hurt them, as they continued to slowly keep content dribbling in, but not all we’d hoped for. For my friends still in WoW, I hope WotLK is everything you wanted.

All that said, I await the launch of the first expansion for LoTRO in a mere 5 days. While I sit in my hotel room, a bit over 100 miles away from my gaming computer. For the next week and a half. Are we having fun yet?