Friday, August 28, 2009

Where is Global Agenda?

I'm getting a little curious about why there has been no Global Agenda news for the last couple of weeks. Before and after the first closed beta test (CBT-1A, 7/24-27) there were a couple of interviews with different gaming sites and a some information was released. But last weekend there was supposed to be another closed beta test (CBT-1B, 8/21-23). We're gotten absolutely nothing since then.

Global Agenda was shown at Quakecon 2009 and is scheduled to be shown at Dragon*con and PAX in September. So maybe they are just in a news blackout until those 2 conventions, but I'm really itching for more info on this game!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

One thing I don't get...

One of my pet peeves is when people talk about a certain game, or game design idea and flatly declare that it won't work because of some obvious technical or game design issue. Consider Dust 514 for example. Suzina over at Kill Ten Rats declares that because Planetside wasn't designed very well Dust 514 is going to fall into the same trap.

To which I simply ask, "why?" Why can't the progression be horizontal, allowing you to use different types of weapons, and giving you more options. Why can't players of similar progression levels be automatically matched against each other so that whatever vertical progression there is will be mostly irrelevant anyway? Oh wait, the people over at Hi-Rez studios have already come up with those solutions for Global Agenda. Who is to say that CCP won't come up with even better ways to meld the FPS and MMO worlds?

Again, this isn't to say that the developers will do a good job and avoid the many obvious and subtle pitsfalls of their idea. But to declare the idea not fun because another game didn't pull it off seems silly.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Guild Wars 2

Wow. We finally have news about Guild Wars 2. I have to admit that I never played the original Guild Wars and I really feel like I missed out. They have a 14 day free trial which is awesome for a game that doesn't have a subscription fee. I might check that out.

Really though, I feel like its too late for me to get into GW1, and there simply isn't enough information about GW2 to get me excited at this point.

Update: Okay, after reading this article over at IGN I have to say I'm a little more intrigued. Before WoW came I out I really thought that MMO games would become more and more dynamic. Even in DAoC there were quests where you would talk to NPCs and a whole bunch of monsters would spawn and you'd have to help a couple of guards defend a bridge. I thought things would evolve in that direction. WoW seems to have stalled the hunger for dynamic persistent worlds. WAR brought public quests which brought a tiny bit of dynamic content in a persistent context, but it sounds like Guild Wars 2 will take this to the next level.

I'll quote Eric Flannum from the article I linked above to explain:
Imagine for a second that you're strolling through the local military garrison when you hear a scout start shouting about a centaur column that has been sighted approaching. The soldiers are quick to action, shutting the gates and ordering archers up onto the walls. You and some of your fellow players watch as the centaurs batter at the gates with axes while their archers clear defenders from the walls and shots from their catapults arc overhead. It's a tense moment until the gate falls, and as you rush into the gap to fend off the centaurs you are joined by other players and guards who are all intent on saving the garrison. If you succeed, the garrison will hold and may launch a counterattack on the trading post where the centaurs came from. If you fail, it's a desperate fight as soldiers pour from the nearby town and attempt to retake their fortress. Scenarios like this are exactly the sort of thing that allows our event system to shine and we think players will be really pleased with how it has turned out.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

New Weeping Coast Trailer

Runes of Magic has released a new trailer for the elves and the Weeping Coast zone. It looks like we'll be seeing some raid bosses out there including Naga, Rock monsters, and Ents. Looks cool.

On a side note, the elves don't look like they are going to very visually distinguished from humans. I think we'll be seeing some new armor visuals though.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Game Within a Game

Every once in a while an idea comes along that blows your mind. It has your head spinning around the newly expanded possibilities it represents, yet it is so simple somebody should have thought of it years ago. That doesn't mean whoever came up with the idea will implement it perfectly, but you can be sure that the idea will survive, evolve, and be thought about by developers and armchair designers for years to come.

Warhammer Online's public quests were one such idea. CCP's Dust 514 is another.

Dust 514 is going to be a console FPS game that connects with EVE Online. Planetary control in EVE will be determined by the outcome of Dust 514 matches.

My initial thoughts are about how the two communities will interact. Talented FPS teams and players will be recruited by the richest and most successful EVE corporations as the "ground team" arm of their organizations. If FPS fans decide they like Dust 514 they will no doubt create accounts and subscribe to EVE. But the the FPS players don't have to subscribe to the larger MMO at all. This gives the matches in the FPS a heighted importance and purpose. You are fighting battles in a war being waged by powerful corporations in a universe you can barely understand. But the larger war isn't theoretical, or just made-up lore that only exists in single-player missions and in game trailers. Those powerful corporations are run by real players in another game, on another platform.

I'm less certain about the impact on EVE players. They could look at the FPS players as peons in their quest for domination. "The fleet does the flying, the infantry does the dying." Or it could be a source of frustration as your battles could be determined by the outcome of another game played by other players.

In any case the two sides would be interested in what the other is doing. FPS players would have a whole community interested in the outcome of their matches, and EVE Corporations would have even more people looking in from the outside in awe of the politics, deceit, and meta-gaming going on in the interstellar power structures.

Do you think that Dust team could be bribed to lose a match if the price were right? Might they be paid, not in ISK, but real money? Like I said, my head is still swimming with the possiblities.

You have to give CCP credit for not being afraid to let their game change and evolve in new directions.

Other links: CrazyKinux, Broken Toys.

Friday, August 14, 2009

WoW: Cataclysm


Some are reporting that the world of Warcraft is about to change forever. The next expansion will not add a new continent, but instead Blizzard will revamp the old world. I have to admit: That sounds awesome. Could it bring me back to WoW? I'm at least asking myself the question. What about you?

Aion, Closed Beta 6

I'm playing a little of bit of Aion this weekend. I don't know what to think of this game. The graphics are great except whenever water is on the screen I get some weird affects, and there is usually water on my screen in that game. It is impressive though that the graphics are so much better than Runes of Magic and it seems to run much smoother at the same time.

I like to solo, especially at low levels and soloing is much slower in Aion. This isn't exactly a bad thing. I realize that although you may not kill things quite as fast in this game you get relatively more experience for everything you kill so progression isn't necessarily slower. It just feels slower. One good thing about this is that grouping will probably be more common.

This game has made me realize how absolutely useless "story" in an MMO is. People complain all the time that the quests are so simple, that all these games make us kill 10 of that, and collect 5 of those. Developers seem to put a lot of effort into creating interesting stories and dialog to dress up these tasks, but I just want to know where to go and what to kill. The cinematics and cut-scenes add nothing to the game for me. Tobold recently wrote a great post about this dichotomy.

Skill chains. I love that Warriors have a skill for a automatic block and a reactive skill for a successful block. Similarly Scouts have an evasion skill and a reactive skill based on evasion. The skills feel good in this game (although the long cooldowns sucks). I'm sure that at higher levels when you have more skills these cooldowns make more sense. Also, for PvP, you will know that once somebody uses a skill it will be a while before they can use it again. Overall there is much less "skill spam" in this game. I like that.

Flying is great. Even in zones that don't allow you to fly you can glide and pick up a lot of speed. I absolutely love the mechanics of this. I imagine that at higher levels taking full advantage of the flying mechanics will be very important. I'm looking forward to that.

Even with all of the good stuff that Aion offers I'm not 100% sold on the game yet. I find myself playing for short amounts of time and then needing to log off and take a break. MMO's that I have played for a long time have always made to feel like I have a million things to do, and when I log off I don't want to.

Perhaps because I know my characters will be wiped I haven't become attached to them, and I don't feel like investing too much time in them. I have pre-ordered the game and that comes with a free month at launch so I will give it a month to hook me. If at the end of that month I'm not attached to the game I will just have to give it up no matter how good I think it could be. There are just too many other options out there right now for me to be playing something that doesn't grab me immediately.

Fruit of Oblivion!

If you could purchase an item that would allow you to drop one of your classes and pick a new one would you do it? That's what Frogster is asking players of Runes of Magic. This new item will make you completely drop one of your classes. You would lose all experience, talent points, and elite skills you had earned on that class.

I have mixed feelings about this. There was a rumor a while back that there would be an item that would allow you to take on a third class. You would still only be able to select one primary and one secondary class at one time, but the third class would be there as an option. I loved that idea. I play a Scout/Mage and I was interested in leveling a Rogue for a third class so I could play a Rogue/Scout. I am already geared for the Scout and the Rogue would use the same equipment. It would be a perfect situation. Or I could choose to level Priest and then play a Mage/Priest if I wanted to start collecting cloth armor. Giving players this option would have given us a crazy SIX ways to play our characters. If you have classes A, B, and C you could play as a A/B, A/C, B/A, B/C, C/A, or C/B.

I'm assuming now that a "third class" item will never exist. It would be a cruel joke for a player to drop a class only to have an item come out that allows 3 classes.

So here's the question. Do I drop my Mage class, level a Rogue and become a Rogue/Scout?

Upload Error

Some people in Runes of Magic have been getting frequent crashes ever since the patch a few weeks ago. I would get crashes once in a while, usually when teleporting or leaving my house.

Runes of Magic just posted an explanation of the problem and said they are working on it.

I think it is great to see them communicating to the players in a pretty open and honest way about what is going on. Some players were raging about the crashes. Hopefully knowing that the development team has identified the problem and is working on the solution will help calm everybody down.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What Does Runes of Magic Cost?

This is a post I hadn't planned on making so soon, but after reading this post over at it has been moved up my priority list. iTZKooPA attempts to calcuate the cost of playing and fully equiping a single character in Runes of Magic. He arrives at about the right answer, but for the wrong reasons when it comes to how much Runes of Magic will cost in the end-game.

The bulk of the cost as calculated by him comes from purchasing rune slot drillers. While it would be nice have have each piece of gear maxed out on runes, that definitely isn't going to be the priority upgrade for high level Runes of Magic players. Fitting your armor with runes is nice, but only after you have maximized your armor's stats in every other way you would find yourself turning to runes slots.

What iTZKooPA doesn't know about is that armor (and jewelry and weapons) can be fitted with up to six stats per piece of gear. There are several methods for doing this which I will go into in a later post, but for now it will have to suffice to say that creating the most powerful piece of gear possible is going to basically cost you six Pure Fusion Stones. These can be purchased for 55 diamonds a piece. At $0.033 per diamond that comes to $10.89 per piece of gear. Let's assume you eventually do this to all five jewelry slots, 8 armor slots, and for one weapon. That comes out to $152.46 to fully deck out your character.

How much have I payed for Runes of Magic? Soon after the game first launched I purchased a small amount of diamonds for $25 just to get my feet wet. I immediately wasted these diamonds on foolishly renting bag space and renting mounts. I even think I bought some experience potions and daily quest reset tickets. Any player will now know that these are extravagances that just aren't necessary. I then went four or five months without purchasing anything for diamonds.

I almost felt bad for the developers since I was getting away with playing their game and enjoying it so much, and all it had cost me up to that point was a measly $25. So recently I decided to load up on 3,000 diamonds for $100. About 1000 of those diamonds are now gone. In six months I have paid Frogster $125 which comes out to about $21 a month. But, like I said I still have 2000 diamonds left. So actually I have only "spent" around $60 in six months.

I know there are players who have spent several times this amount and I know there are players with level 50 characters who have not given Frogster a dime. So in the end, the beauty of Runes of Magic is that you can spend however much you want. You can be perfectly competitive by spending as little as $10 a month or you can be that incredible Mage walking around with 11,000 hit points.

Microtransactions vs. Subscription

"I would never pay a subscription fee for a computer game."

This is a statement that a friend of mine recently made. In my little bubble it seems like he is living in the stone age, but this is an attitude that definitely still exists. It is strange to think about, but for most gamers, even in the era of WoW, paying a subscription fee is still a foreign and strange idea.

A recent Massively Speaking podcast (I'm sorry, I can't find the exact show) reminded me that every gamer at some point has made a statement like my friend recently did. I know about 10 years ago I probably thought the same thing as my friend.

Now business models are changing again and people in the MMO community are saying stuff like, "I would never pay $10 for a horse."

Five years ago, I might have said the same thing.

Never-the-less, even though RoM is free to download, free to play, and even purchasing a permanent mount is far from a necessity (you can rent mounts that last an entire play session for an extremely small amount of in-game gold) some people are going to resist the business model. This is a hurdle developers will have get over. I feel that F2P games have an advantage over subscription games in this area because they generally allow the play to play for free for as long as they want. Players can try the game, see if they like it, and slowly ease into spending money if they decide they want to invest in this game.

Most subscription games offer a 10 to 14 day free trial, but getting that player to actually commit to a subscription after two weeks is much harder that getting a player of a F2P game to say, "You know, I've been playing for a couple of weeks, and I'm going to be around for a would be nice to have that really cool mount."

Shadowmoon Cove

The pirates of Shadowmoon Cove are short, ugly and mean. The banished sailors are rogues who will poison you, and they will shadow step, instantly appearing behind you so they can avoid your attacks and stab you in the back. The wretched sailors are mages. They will attempt to cast a massive fireball if you give them enough time.

I remember when the poison hurt me badly, and those flames were devastating if I didn't silence the caster. These days I don't worry about them much. My armor is a bit better, and my arrows hit a lot harder than they did when I first discovered this sandy island off the shores of Ravenfell. I usually shrug off the poison, and I can kill those casters before they unleash their magic.

Everyday I return here to collect the things these pirates steal. They are in hot demand by the residents of the Abandoned Fortress. I am also hoping to find some high durability jewelry than can be made into a powerful item.