Virtual Worlds And Newbies

There was a really interesting article written by Richard A. Bartle over on Gamasutra. It is called “Soapbox: Why Virtual Worlds are Designed By Newbies – No, Really!” and I suggest you read it if you are interested in MMORPGs in any way. I hope the link works. If not, I’ll try to sum it up a little here:

If you have a Virtual World (VW) that people play, people will eventually leave. If old people leave, new people are needed to replace them if the VW is to survive. New people are needed to join at the same (or better) rate than the old people leaving. The new player is critical to the survival of the VW.

Newbies won’t play a VW that has a major feature they don’t like. Even if the old players like the feature, your VW will eventually die as the old players will leave at some point and will not be replaced by new players.

Players compare any new VW with their first one. They demand features from their first VW be added to their new VW, even if those very features were partly responsible for why they left the first VW.

Many players generally prefer a design choice that is good for them in the short term, but bad for the game in the long term. They hate design choices that are bad for them in the short term but good for the game in the long term. Make me happy now!

One of his quotes: “Virtual worlds are becoming diluted by poor design decisions that can’t be undone. We’re getting de-evolution – our future is in effect being drawn up by newbies who (being newbies) are clueless.”

He does offer some possible solutions to this problem:

1. Make a VW so different than any past experience a player may have had that they come into it with no expectations.

2. A good marketing plan or the right license may encourage old and new players to try something different.

3. Take a good look at the VWs being developed in other countries and try to include the good ideas they use. Different cultures have allowed for VW to evolve in different ways.

4. Make the VW so beautiful and amazing that people are drawn to it.

5. Sometimes just the passage of time will allow people to approach VWs in a new light.

6. As VW players mature, they may recognize the bad designs as bad designs after all. They may become more willing to accept a bad short term change in order to improve the long term health of the game.

Well, I think I have covered enough of this. I don’t want to get in trouble so go read it yourself. I think it is a great insight into how VWs have evolved and what could happen to them if it continues. I do not agree with everything he writes (for example I really hate the idea of perma-death, but his observations on instancing is pretty dead-on) but it is worth the read for sure.

WoW Debates Character Wipe After Beta

Here we are, mere weeks away from retail (maybe), and the World of Warcraft devs are still trying to decide what to do about carrying characters from beta test over to retail.

You’d think that with all the previous blunders made by other devs, the option would be simple. Everything from beta gets wiped, with the sole exception of maybe reserving a character name.

But here are the devs: “We have yet to announce our plans for characters at the end of beta testing. We have heard many (many) reasons for both sides of the issue, and when we have finalized plans, we will announce them.” -Tyren

And another: “We have not yet given a decision on the possibility of a wipe from beta to retail.” -Caydiem, Assistant Community Manager, WoW

Make the right decision folks, wipe ’em. Wipe ’em all.

Edit: My brother brought up a good point. Perhaps they are just trying to keep everyone playing. It is possible that announcing a character wipe at the end of beta now could cause some people to stop testing the game until retail starts. *ahem*

Guild Wars

I was playing the free “World Preview Event” of Guild Wars last weekend. I’m not sure if this game qualifies as an MMORPG or not, but I guess it is one. The odd thing is that there is no monthly fee. I’m not sure how that is going to work out, perhaps they will sell expansion packs every few months or so instead.

Anyway, there was one feature of this game I was very happy to see. Occasionally you are given the option to do a mission/assignment/whatever that requires a group. Normally this means you have to start broadcasting for other people looking to do the same mission. However, Guild Wars has added another option. Near the mission guy, there are NPC henchmen standing around that are the same level as the level of people going into the mission. You can click on them and invite them into your group.

I made a group of me and 4 henchmen and did the mission. They have henchmen of every class so it is easy to pick what you want, or if you have a group and want a healer you can just grab an NPC healer. I was suprised by how well they did their job too.

The free weekend was with characters that start at level 15 so I cannot say for sure that they are always as helpful as this, but it sure was a great idea.

I guess I’ll have to pick this game up, if nothing else for something to do when I get tired of other games. No monthly fee makes it worth that alone. The graphics were pretty darned good as well. Certainly there was a few bugs, but nothing overly troublesome for me.

Love/Hate Relationship

MMORPG. That is a concept many of us love. We also hate it. Why?

We love the *idea* of MMORPGs. We hate the *way* they have been developed. Every last one of them is horribly flawed, and they keep making new ones to be just like the old ones (except with better graphics). Everyone is calling for a revolution, but no company is able to do it.

An MMORPG could be so much, but in the end they have all been the same. Hopefully some day we can see the potential realized.

Happy Halloween.

WoW Closed Beta To End Tomorrow

The closed beta test is coming to an end. This Friday, October 29, at 3:00 PM PDT, the closed beta servers will go offline as we prepare to run another stress test. All active closed-beta accounts will remain active, and closed-beta testers will be receiving an email with instructions on what to do to continue playing in the stress test.

We will post more information about the stress test in the days ahead, so please stay tuned to

We also want to take this opportunity to thank the closed beta testers for their months of dedicated testing and hard work. Thanks to all of your suggestions and bug reports, World of Warcraft is closer than ever to being ready for launch!

DAoC Hits One Out Of The Park

From the Dark Age of Camelot: Catacombs expansion website, I read the following tidbit:

“Catacombs marks the first time that Camelot has used dungeon “instancing” where players and groups can adventure in their own private adventuring areas – an entire adventure spawned specifically for you or your group alone. Includes private tasks, private dungeons, and more!

For those play sessions where you don’t have much time, you’ll have your own content. Private Adventuring is available to all levels and dynamically scales in difficulty depending on the makeup of your group!”

Bravo!!! I am going to have to give some serious thought to checking it out, just because they are so smart.

EQ2 Rushed Out The Door, WoW Delayed

Everquest 2 is officially going to be released on the 8th of November. Looks like another case of rushing a product out the door before the game is ready. I don’t see this really affecting most people waiting to play as the typical MMORPG gamer has sent a clear message to game companies. Let us play, you can fix the game later. No rush.

The latest rumor has World of Warcraft releasing on the 22nd of November, but I would be suprised by that for a few reasons. One: they have not even started open beta yet and they said that would last a few weeks. Two: they said on the forums that open beta will not be starting any time soon. They do intend on releasing before the end of the year, but I think November is looking unlikely. Heck, they would be better off waiting until EQ2 gets a month in so all the people quitting after the free month can jump right into WoW on the ground floor.

EQ2 not offering an open beta is bad business in my book. I’m not about to pay $50 just to try the game. If you want me to play your MMORPG, you need to offer a free trial or an open beta. EQ2 does not appear to have any plans of the sort.

Popping Pills

A friend told me how much fun I would have if I just tried taking some red pills. He was right, it was fun. I had so much fun I couldn’t wait to get home and do some more red pills. Eventually, I started getting sick of the red pills and it just wasn’t as good as it used to be. So I decided to try some of this new blue pill everyone was talking about. Sure, the blue pill was a little different, and it worked pretty well in the beginning. But it didn’t take long to start feeling the same as with the reds. I then tried some purples and some oranges. Some lasted longer than others, but eventually they all ended up with me feeling the same way. Then I would remember how great the reds made me feel and I thought I would try them again. It wasn’t the same so I had to quit again.

I’m sure this new green pill coming out will be the best ever.

Asheron’s Call 2: Legions

Asheron’s Call 2 has finally announced the first Expansion Pack for the game.

The expansion pack will ship with the original game code, all 20 previously released content updates, as well as additional content and a new storyline.

Turbine says of the expansion pack: “Players will aid the ancient race of Empyreans through a classic tale of mystery and discovery. Centuries before the time of Legions the Empyreans were ushered far away from Dereth for their own preservation. Now these once mighty sorcerers return to rediscover their lost purpose–and their immense powers–as dark evils unite to keep the Empyreans’ history lost for ever.”

The primary features contained in the expansion pack are a new playable race (“the mystical Empyreans, a long lost race of suspicious magic users cast out of Dereth”), new lands in the form of the lost continent of Knorr, and a new hero system that emphasizes player bonding to enhance fighting skills.

This pack will be released in March of 2005, which has prompted some players to cancel their accounts until then. What impact will WoW and EQ2 have on AC2 ever getting back out of the pit? Time will tell. Also, the new playable race looks a lot like the “humans” already in the game. Hmm.