Account-Level Rewards

I am interested in seeing more factors tied to the account rather than the character and in the form of unlocks rather than items.

Most MMO elements are tied to the character. Your level, skills, reputation, achievements: all of these are character-specific. You may be able to trade money and equipment between characters. Some games are progressive enough to let you share a few items like a friends list, chat channel, guild affiliation, or key bindings across characters.

Some of my interest comes from being an altoholic. If I have a dozen characters, a bonus that applies to all of them is more interesting than a single-character upgrade. It is secondarily of use to the hardcore with multiple level-capped characters, less so to players who devote themselves to a single character. It makes it a lower-investment decision to try new character options, and it retains the illusion of progress and permanency rather than making each character feel like something entirely new. Continue reading Account-Level Rewards

Guild Projects

Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO) is coming out with a pretty cool update at the end of this month.  It has a new adventure pack, some new skills and what not, but the biggest feature, in my opinion, are the guild airships.  The guild airships effectively take the place of guild halls and guild banks that appear in other MMOs.  The guild airships feature coincides with a guild leveling mechanic that will also launch with Update 5.  I think that in many MMOs guilds are one of the most overlooked features, and having a guild project will be a great addition to DDO.

Continue reading Guild Projects

Guild Wars 2 Event Pitfalls

There is a thread on Guild Wars 2 Guru forums titled “Go away! You are upscaling my event!”  It is rife with a deconstruction, from the available knowledge, of the Guild Wars 2 event system.  It’s a pretty good thread detailing possible pitfalls of the event system, but most importantly it shows with all the dangers just how big of a risk ArenaNet is taking in stepping away from the standard MMO quest (!) system.  It is a less tested mechanic in the MMO genre, but Warhammer Online’s public quests provide a very good Petri dish to show what ArenaNet devs will have to consider for Guild Wars 2. Continue reading Guild Wars 2 Event Pitfalls

Orphaned Warhammer Online

Thanks to Arkenor, over at Ark’s Ark, I learned that Games Workshop had sued Warhammer Alliance for mostly trademark issues.  First off, Games Workshop is not really the bad guy.    They have a very strong trademark with Warhammer, and with trademarks, if you don’t protect your ranch, the fences start to erode.  Disregarding whether Games Workshop is actually correct by law in its lawsuit, we can assume that Games Workshop believes that Warhammer Alliance is harming the strength and worth of the Warhammer trademark.

We can also assume that Games Workshop knew that by suing a proprietor of a community for Warhammer Online that it would be hurting the community, which in turn would very likely hurt the actual MMO.  Now, Games Workshop, of course, can choose in a timely fashion when to launch the lawsuit, and they did so not long after the whole billing fiasco with Warhammer Online, which according to some caused a not-insignificant decrease in subscriptions.  The bruises have barely healed, and now Games Workshop is opening up another wound.

So let’s get back to basics.  This lawsuit is aimed at protecting the whole Warhammer IP, but in doing so it will actually harm the Warhammer Online portion of the IP because the goodwill towards Warhammer Online will decrease.  I believe that big daddy Games Workshop’s position on the viability of baby Warhammer Online for the long run becomes pretty clear here.  Do I really need to spell it out any further?

a fool’s excuse for failure

Reverse Collector’s Edition

Like any good subject, Blizzard’s latest online purchase for World of Warcraft, the Celestial Steed (i.e., the Sparklepony) created a lot of back and forth commentary around the blogosphere.  Thankfully, some clarity poked through the clouds.  Guild Wars also released another buyable costume set for the War in Kryta chapter of Guild Wars Beyond.  Parallel discussions of item-worth, self-worth, happiness, and greed occurred on all affected forums.

Yet, when a collector’s edition for an untried, over-hyped (read: untrue) MMO drops for $30 more than the commoner’s edition, there is barely a peep.  It seems that collector’s editions can contain nearly any in-game bonus, and unless it provides game breaking balance issues, the bonuses are merely seen as value added to the collector’s edition.

Continue reading Reverse Collector’s Edition

Character Gender

In my experience, and I think the research agrees, male players are more likely to play female characters than vice versa. There is fun speculation about why that is.

The usual in-game reason is a perceived ease in getting assistance, attention, or gifts. A favorite sociological explanation is that our culture treats maleness as the norm, so women already know how all that works but men have this whole alien, Other realm to explore. My wife sticks with female characters because they have more pretty options, while many male options are intentionally and aggressively ugly. Many (heterosexual male) hardcore gamers have decided that, if they are going to be staring at someone’s backside for 40+ hours a week, it might as well be a shapely female backside. And then there’s this guy I know who is a mostly male-oriented bisexual and is married to a woman; his Second Life avatar is female so he can have virtual sex with men and relieve real life pressure.

Personally, I tend to have a balanced stable of characters. Continue reading Character Gender

Early, Middle, Late

For a game that depends on a stream of income from subscribers or RMT shoppers, the first hour of play must be the top development priority. This is where you hook players. After that, the endgame is important because that is where your players will be spending time indefinitely and where your game’s chatter will come from in the long run. Next is the early game, when you build momentum. The mid-game has already fallen this far down the list, as you have certainly seen in a lot of MMOs, and frankly few care much how good the late-game is because they are already fully committed and racing for the end-game.

I stand by my repeated claim that optimizing the new player experience is of paramount importance. You must grab my attention within five minutes, and you must deliver a satisfying hour or two for my first play session. Without that, any free trial is worthless, and you may even lose some people who have thrown down $50 for a box. This is the part of the game that every single player will see on every single character, and if you cannot do a good job here, I have no hope for the rest of the game. Yes, it is hard to make things interesting while giving the player only a few buttons to play with. Suck it up, we all have hard parts in our jobs. That’s why they pay us. Continue reading Early, Middle, Late

rand(Loot Pinata)

As soon as any MMO player hears the word random applied to the MMO genre, as it has been throughout random week, thoughts of the loot pinata spring to mind.  Every time a little dirt weasel falls to the ground a right click tears that sucker open to reveal: a melted candle, a shiny red apple, a handful of copper coins, and a 1 in 1000 chance at a small brown pouch.  Now anybody can gain a few levels and slaughter lower level mobs with impunity, but the loot pinata takes on a revered glow when there is one big pinata for 25 people at the end of a 3-hour raid.

Either way, opening up dead mobs like paper mache is an addictive part of vanilla MMO play.  One lucky kill or resource node can provide a player with the feeling of elation.  This “windfall” granted by the random number gods seemingly puts a spike in the efficiency of time versus reward.  Suddenly the lucky player is beating the system (and other players). There is a heavier term MMO lexicographers use to analogize the loot systems found in the big MMOs.  Instead of a colorful, lively pinata used at children’s parties across the world, these wordsmiths liken the system to a slot machine. Continue reading rand(Loot Pinata)

Thousand-Year Achievements

This last weekend during the Canthan New Year for Guild Wars I made it to multiple celestial summonings (where I got goody bags for our district feeding the beast things like half-digested boot consomme) and completed the festival quests on multiple characters (netting more goodies).  I tore apart countless fortunes in the hopes that one would contain the elusive – elusive to the tune of 0.3% chance – celestial tiger mini.  I would’ve been out of luck if not for a sultan of a man in my alliance who had some extra.

Still it was a productive weekend in terms of gaining wealth.  I received boxes and boxes of fireworks and some shiny new celestial summoning stones.  Between this festival and last week’s Wintersday redux, I advanced some titles by possibly up to 10%.  These titles are paramount achievements filled in the vein of the purest grind.  That is, unless one takes in to account festivals. Continue reading Thousand-Year Achievements

MMO Restaurants, Again

I walk past Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli twice a day on my way to and from work.  I don’t work in New York.  The Deli opened with much fanfare about a year ago, and I remember going there on opening day with some co-workers.  The management and staff were excited with the turnout.  I could see some sparkle in the owner’s eyes as he tried to get his staff to churn out New York/Jewish deli style sandwiches.

Having actually had a Jewish-deli sandwich in Manhattan, I was not impressed.  The prices were not very good either, but the worst part was for the two-block radius around my workplace (my campus has 9000+ workers) there are six other sub shops.  Heidi’s brought absolutely nothing, except a shadow of a New York reuben, to the lunch scene.  I could get a cheaper lunch at the two equi-distant Subways or the Potbelly’s, a larger lunch at Jimmy John’s or Quizno’s, or a meatier lunch at that cheese steak place.  What we needed was a McDonald’s, or an Indian buffet, or a BBQ place; not another deli-meat sandwich shop.

So is it any wonder that they closed yesterday?  I walked past the shuttered windows this morning, and I felt some sadness.  I was there at the start, and all that is left is a show of failure.  I knew it was inevitable though, the stink of death had been there for weeks.  My only hope is, as always, the next risk-taker doesn’t just copy what is already permeating the successful local lunch culture.

on the other hand, you have different fingers