Daily Blogroll Oct 26: Pandamonium edition

All anyone is talking about these days is Winds of Pandaria. I desperately want to join in, but how? I don’t play WoW any more. I’m feeling a little left out.

But hey, why let that stop me.

I may not play WoW much any more, but I have played another game that was desperately trying to attract new players while keeping old ones — EverQuest. A game that is still going strong. At this stage in its life, where WoW finds itself today, EQ added a race of dragon people, a whole new accelerated leveling path. Later came mercenaries that allowed almost any class to easily solo. All this kind of stuff.

So, World of Warcraft is offering a kid-friendly expansion. This is — and I’m being entirely serious about this — a genius move. Many of the hardcore raiders of today are about to take on responsibilities, get families of their own, take jobs that require their attention and enthusiasm and so on. The kids of today need to be ready to take on the guild leadership and raid management that the previous generation is leaving behind. The Winds of Pandaria is Blizzard reaching out to kids just coming into the hardcore scene.

It doesn’t matter WHAT the new expansion was, people would pan it. Add a kid friendly expansion, then Blizzard is making WoW sillier. Just make another new high end raiding expansion and five extra levels, and Blizzard isn’t reaching out to new players. Completely revamp the leveling path, and Blizzard is ruining everything that was great about WoW in 2004. Everyone is a critic. Everyone could do it better.

Melmoth over at KiaSA thinks the whole “buy a year of WoW, get a new mount and Diablo 3” promotion might be a prelude to introducing some sort of free-to-play plan. That’s a cool idea, but I don’t see Blizzard letting people pay nothing instead of something anytime soon. Maybe when Titan is announced.

Asheron’s Call 2

Stropp has been enjoying the recent series of articles over at Massively about Asheron’s Call 2, the abandoned sequel to the early MMO pioneer Asheron’s Call. Stropp wonders if someone were to bring back AC2, or any other game that had been cancelled (Tabula Rasa, anyone?), would people would really play them? Aside from some hardcore fans, I’d really doubt it. People don’t wax nostalgic about game mechanics or leveling systems or whatever. They remember the community. And the death of a game has a chilling effect on the game’s community. What’s lost can’t be regained. Sure, a NEW community could form — but how likely is that?

EverQuest

TAGN has been keeping an eye on the EverQuest progression server, Fippy Darkpaw. FD is the first server in years and years to get their own dedicated GM. GMs used to be standard equipment for servers; they were an integral part of the server community, running events, mediating between raiding guilds, forming new guilds, officiating at player weddings and so on. When they got outsourced and became little more than call center personnel, something bright and wonderful was lost. Anyway, FD has a GM and the rowdy raid guilds have been forced into a raid target rotation. FD is up to the Velious expansion, and to earn the right to take down a mob, they have to kill Sontikar (the dragon outside the Temple of Veeshan) or Lord Vyemm (the gatekeeper of the North Temple of Veeshan, where all the cool mobs are).

The reason these raid guilds have to have a rotation is because there are no instanced raid mobs in Velious — nor in Luclin and originally, not in the Planes of Power, either. Guilds looking to raid had to race to every raid target, usually with a guild or two on their heels, waiting for them to fail so they could pick up the pieces. Instancing was eventually added to the Plane of Time, and from then on, raid targets were increasingly instanced. Nowadays, no guild progress affects any other guild, so there’s no competition.

Seriously? This is all you got?

Sorry :( Should have done this last night, but it’s morning now and I have to go to work. I’ll do better tomorrow!!!! Promise!

Daily Blogroll Oct 21: Tanks for the Memories edition

Ophiga and friend

The big news yesterday was the dropping of the Press NDA for Bioware’s Star Wars: The Old Republic. I read all the press reviews I could find; I’ll point to some of those later on, but almost all of them credited the storyline for pulling them deeper into the game. The game mechanics may be old hat, and the standard roles, dungeons and raids are present, but the story, by all accounts, is worth the price of admission.

I still fondly remember the story from the original Knights of the Old Republic. I played the game twice, once good and once evil, and the story didn’t change that much, but that was okay because it was a good story.

That’s really the job of an MMO, isn’t it? To give you something that gets you to log in again each day, and then when you shut the game down one last time, to leave you with some memories.

I don’t HAVE a screenshot of SWTOR, so up there is a shot of my DDO rogue with a Favored Soul hireling. We’ve destroyed a generation of kobolds and I made two new discoveries in the Sands of Menechtarum, but in a few minutes, I and my hireling would be dead. Stupid swarm of revenge-minded kobolds and their named chief…

News? We have that.
Continue reading Daily Blogroll Oct 21: Tanks for the Memories edition

Daily Blogroll Oct 19: Time enough to learn to swim edition

If you were given six months to live, you wouldn’t spend it leveling up a new character in some MMORPG. You’d want to do something that gave your life meaning. Six months at the end of your life isn’t more valuable than six months right now. In fact, six months right now is way better. Truth is, your friends and family don’t care that you leveled a character. They care about the time you spent with them. (Fact is, it’s almost certain nobody in the world cares about your achievements in video games, and in a couple of years, neither will you).

People all around me are getting older — old! An old friend died (ten years ago! some friend, eh? but I just found out!). Another friend had a heart attack last week, nearly died. Yet another friend is getting radiation treatment on the west coast.

I discovered recently that I love life and that the world is a beautiful and wonderful place. Years ago, in the depths of my EverQuest addiction, a warm sunny Saturday just meant I’d have to keep the blinds closed so the sun wouldn’t wash out my display (maybe I would type to the guild, “Beautiful day out today!”). Now I bike, I hike, I do things. I don’t play many MMOs, and when I do, I play casually. I want desperately to live in the real world.

It was with some trepidation that I read about Damion Schubert (lead systems designer for SWTOR) and his talk at the recent Game Developer’s Conference about turning casual players into hardcore addicts. From the capsule description:

Hardcore gaming isn’t dead — all of the big ‘mainstream’ successes (WoW, Starcraft, Wizards 101, Facebook games) have a hardcore path, and work hard to convert their casual gamers into hardcore gamers. But doing so may require rethinking your definition of ‘hardcore’, and what it means in your particular game.

I still love games and I still love MMOs and I still plan to write about them — but I’ll have to enjoy the sixteen hour raids and repeated nights after nights of failures against a big boss until eventual victory makes it all worthwhile in other people’s writings.

Time for the blogroll? Sure, why not!
Continue reading Daily Blogroll Oct 19: Time enough to learn to swim edition

Daily Blogroll Oct 12: No time for heroes edition

Magic Castle for Sale: Sold!

A few days ago I was trying to define what I thought of as an MMO. I started off thinking it was just a realtime, online game with other players, but as the day went on, thinking about it more, I felt it had to include a persistent avatar representing the player that could be named and customized. I was pretty confident that nailed the essential nature of an MMORPG.

Well, Zynga’s newest semi-interactive “Ville” game is going to bring MMO gaming to Facebook. Via Massively,

You can build your castle, show it to your friends, and craft things like potions or armor. You can follow the game’s story and its characters. You can trade and barter with friends by visiting their towns. And you have to defend your town against beasts who are outside the walls. The game has more personalized storytelling; players explore the world around them. You meet characters and make them happy and unlock new characters as you progress.

“In short, Zynga is bringing massively multiplayer role-playing games to the mass market,” Jackson said.

If this sort of non-realtime probable clickfest is the future of MMOs, then the genre is dead. It does sound like, after CityVille and Empires & Allies nudged into SimCity and Civilization territory, that it will be returning to the avatar-based gameplay of Farmville and Frontierville. Of Frontierville, the NY Times writes:

Cityville, its biggest game, has picked up a little steam recently with 13.5 million daily users, according to AppData. FrontierVille, however, has been sliding faster than a pioneer bitten by a varmint. Introduced in June 2010, FrontierVille peaked with nine million daily players but now has about 5 percent of that.

So there’s a winning strategy right there, I guess. Zynga has to keep pumping out the games ever faster because people tire of them ever faster. How fast Zynga can shovel new games at us now? They have 2500 people writing them!

But there’s more stuff to talk about than Sims Medieval clones! After the break!
Continue reading Daily Blogroll Oct 12: No time for heroes edition