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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sneak Peak at PVP balance design

In case you were not aware Bjorn with GamerFirst has a blog detailing the day to day progress that they are making while reworking the failed IP, APB-Reloaded. A couple off days ago he released a post describing the problems they are having with balancing Player Vs Player combat (APB is all about PVP) because the original release of the game had a very poor system of matching players up.
            He goes on to explain a lot of the mechanics and systems used in gaming to determine who should fight who. Anyways it’s an interesting read if your into how game design works and you can check it out  by clicking the image below.   

Be Careful What You Wish For – Guild Advancement is a Double Edged Sword

When Blizzard first announced the new Guild Advancement system I was giddie with anticipation. I had always championed the concept of rewarding guilds, and those who stay in them, for sticking it out and having a means to take a measure of their accomplishments. I also liked the concept of better tools for guilds as I have always felt that they are an integral part of playing a game like WoW. So why is it now that I look at the new system out of the corner of my eye and a frown on my face?

Been waiting for Years

            WoW for the most part was my introduction to MMORPG game play. Except for a couple of short jaunts into EverQuest and Star Wars Galaxies, World of Warcraft was where I found my love and passion for this game genre. With that in mind also realize that since the beginning of my time in Azeroth I have for the most part been a guild Leader. This is in no way an indication of my excellent leadership abilities or some higher purpose as an organizer, in fact I was sorta thrown into the concept and never aimed at being a community leader.
             When I started playing WoW I joined a guild that my real life brother already had established and because of personal life time issues, was having a hard time of giving it the time it needed. I soon found myself co-leading and then leading this guild. When I joined the guild it was rather small, less than two dozen players, but soon would swell to over a hundread, but after some time and some minor squabbling with original members, I realized that this wasn’t mine and set about the process of forming my own guild.
            I formed my new guild around the same time as Wrath was being announced and most of the members of my present guild came to the new guild with me. We continued to see success and before long our guild sported over 500 toons spanning 300+ accounts. We were well known on our server as thee casual guild that did fun stuff and raided to.
            Ever since that time I have always been waiting for the announcement from Blizzard of something like the guild advancement system. I wanted a better way to enhance the guild experience and promote, what was to me, the coolest guild around. When I received a Beta invite to Cataclysm and heard about the addition of a guild leveling system I was down right excited. But that was then and now things are very, very different. 

A Beginning and End

            Like most guild leaders who have been doing this for some time, real life difficulties and available time forced me to play WoW less and less. Because of this fact my guild suffered in my absence, including one period that spanned several months. The once large guild was now a dwindled entity of its former self, but was still maintained it core group of players. Other factors lessened its size (including the death of WoW casual guilds as a whole) and by the time Cataclysm was announced we were a small collection of veteran members waiting for a new start.
            It was decided by most of us that we needed a new start, so with heavy hearts we ditched our old guild and formed a brand new guild just before the release of Cata. Turns out this was the worst possible time in WoW to form a new guild and I wonder how many guilds have had success that were created around this time frame. We quickly discovered that the system of guild advancement and perks was working as intended, maybe to good. Potential members were hesitant to join an upstart guild for fear of losing the time invested in their present guild. In other words once you were in a guild for a long time the cost for leaving the guild has become to high.
            Now this far into the expansion I wonder if anyone, by there own accord, would choose to leave a well established guild. If you are in a strong guild with a large assortment of perks unlocked, would you leave it now to join a new guild? I have come to find out that not many would. The first question I am often asked by a potential recruit is, “What rank is your guild?” Now this is an appropriate question for someone to ask as it is vital for them to determine a guild’s strength, but it also eliminates you as a potential guild if that number is not high enough. Can you imagine being a new guild with a rank of 1? Talk about a daunting task for a fledgling guild to overcome.
            Before the new advancement system this was never a problem as the reasons for staying with a guild were only superficial and had very little impact on the game itself. Now to walk away from your guild has real consequences to it. The funny thing is I actually like it that way as there should be something to lose and this is exactly what I have always wanted, but the side effect of this is that guild leaders now have a lot to hang over their member’s heads and newer guilds don’t stand a chance. The price for our new guild is that it has ended just as soon as it has started with very few new members and no real chance to catch the guilds that have already started out strong.

What to do

            So now I am the guild leader of a very small guild with very little chance of making it to the bigs. Could I work hard at it and make it work? Absolutely anything is possible, but the question is do I want to? The time, blood, sweat and tears required nowadays to form and grow a guild is a huge amount as opposed to the days before guild advancement and at this stage I wonder if I am committed to sacrificing so much.
            As for the game I do believe that the new guild system will ultimately prove to be a negative influence and be a contributing factor in its decline. Now when a player gets tired of being in their guild or their guild folds, the thought of having to start all over again may prove to be too much and just leaving the game entirely will appear to be a  more appealing option. I believe Blizzard has also noticed some negative effects as recent announcements about a proposed “looking for guild” interface are in the works.
In conclusion I have definitely learned a valuable lesson in all this. Just because something sounds great doesn’t mean that it is suited for you or the game you love. I still like the guild advancement system, but I think maybe it’s just a little bit too hardcore for me. While I like the way it keeps people from jumping from guild to guild, I don’t think it should be such a high price to pay for someone if they don’t like where they are. Lastly I hope some changes are made to the system to give newer guilds a chance and not be the nail in the coffin.

Visit Blizzards blog post about this here. Some of the comments being left are very interesting.

Monday, March 28, 2011

SWTOR - Jedi Knight Character Progression

A New update is out, this time around they are detailing the two different path of the Jedi Kight.

The one thing I can say for sure is I like the Armored look for the Jedi. Besides making sense to be better protected in combat, the armor gives you a sense of a true old world Mediveal Knight.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Reason I still play STO

            As I stated in a previous post I was surprised to still be playing this game beyond my initial 30 day period. I have come to enjoy certain aspects of the game including space combat, Group content and general game play. However none of these reasons are truly behind my continued play time. As a recently promoted Commander in Star Fleet I was handed the keys to the U.S.S. Wrath. A brand new Assault ship and oh is she a beauty.

Say what you will about the game but the ships look awesome and waiting those 10 levels to get your newest one is reason enough to keep playing. Its not the only reason to play, but for this guy right now it is number one.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Story Line Replay

If you play an MMO then the concept of replaying content is old news to you. The problem usually starts when you have rehashed the same content countless times and the story arc starts to annoy you. This is an inevitable reality while playing any game, but with MMORPG where you log in regularly, sooner or later you will run out of new villains to bash or fuzzies to kill and must rehash old material and the “burn out” begins.

Blah Blah Blah

          If you are a WOWer how many times have you watched that damn Octopus get electrified in Thrown of Tides? The fact that they installed an abort button for that one is proof enough that watching the same cut-scene, now matter how entertaining or purposeful, can get annoying and downright tedious. Often in raids or other dungeons that have heavy scripting, I would busy myself with other things until the <Insert baddy Name> stopped his rant and began the battle.
            Take questing for example, if you enjoy a good story in your game you will read the text that is associated with that quest, but what about the second time, or the third time around. How much of that story do you still read? When does reading quest content become required preamble and not entertainment anymore?
            When replaying a portion of a game it is inevitable that the engaging and entertaining story will eventually become nothing more than the stuff in the way you can do without.

World of Warcrafts Negative Influence

            Blizzard did not invent story telling in games nor are they the best at doing it. However when your game is the most widely played MMO of all time, they are often looked at as the trend setters. Game makers have been trying to capture the magic of WOW for some time now and often look to that games model when creating new games.
            World of Warcraft has heavily scripted content and is impacted with good story telling. One only needs to look at the expansions to see this. The stories of Arthas, Deathwing and other notable lead characters are prevalent in the design of the games structure and are integral to completely finishing the provided content. This only becomes an issue when you take the rest of the games design into focus. Repetitive raiding and dungeon running are the norm of max level play time, thus repetitive story telling must also happen.
            There is no denying the over all successes of Blizzards approach, but is it the best way to implement story driven material into a game that requires repeat play?

Say it isn’t so BioWare

          BioWares recent Community Q & A Session about Flashpoint design points to WOWs influence on the upcoming SWTOR. I have always been concerned about BioWares approach to story driven content in their MMO before, but after reading this I am really concerned with this games replay ability. Think back to the Octopus example and now interject SWTORs group conversation mechanic. The abort button is no longer an option because selecting responses to dialog prompts is an integral part of the game.
            So let’s say you have now run X flashpoint 15 times. How annoying will it be to not be able to skip that particular talking scene or the fact that you can not control the pace of the run as you need to stop here and there for the mandatory story injection? The following two Questions from the mentioned Q&A sum up my concerns:

 Q: How do you intend to make replaying Flashpoints interesting (other than using diverse loot tables) in order to encourage group play and to not have Flashpoints deteriorate into "farm areas" typical of other games in the genre? – TheOrigin

A: From a gameplay perspective, we try to keep the combat mechanics dynamic and the pacing strong. We’ve discussed adding elements that differ from one session to the next, but our top priority is offering a diverse array of Flashpoints at launch. As a BioWare fan, I find the stories alone engaging enough to repeat – especially with the multiplayer conversation system.

This one answer alone says a lot about what raiding and end game content will be like in SWTOR. BioWare stories are engaging and entertaining, but I highly doubt they will be the 15th time around.

Q: Do mobs respawn in a Flashpoint after a certain time, or do they "stay" dead? – MilOuZ

A: Enemies do not respawn in Flashpoints. The story is too tightly focused for respawning enemies to make sense, and it would have undesirable gameplay consequences.

The important part here to me boils down to “The story is too tightly focused”. This alone indicates to me that players will be “led” along a desired path, thus the story is the key to flashpoints more than the gameplay. I might be over stating this point here, but it does leave some concern.

Q: Are Flashpoints linear or can you go multiple routes without ruining the storytelling part? – Flopi

A: Your main objectives in a Flashpoint follow a clear path, except in cases where your story choices modify that path. We use bonus objectives to introduce elements of non-linearity, and we try to place surprises off the beaten path.

This shows a glimmer of hope here when they refer to elements of non-linear game play. This will help to break up the feeling of “been there, done that”. I just hope they use this feature in big swaths as it is important to replayability especially in a dialog driven game.


            Now while I do believe story is important to a games overall entertainment, I have to believe there are ways to make them less rigid and linear. I want to interact and participate in a story arc, not watch it again and again. Maybe BioWares Dialog system is the answer to this riddle and only time will tell, but I am hopeful that they will get this part right.
The dialog system can allow for a different look and feel on successive runs of the same content, but only if they allow it to. If they focus too heavily on the story and not enough on ways to augment it then I am afraid this game will be like so many others. Stick to the same old method and sooner or later people will be listening to music or eating a sandwich instead of playing along.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Yes I understand you, SWTOR is going to be a Big Place

Watching some SWTOR developer presentation videos from PAX EAST, I noticed a very popular subject they were pushing on the attendees. As he narrated, Writing Director Daniel Erikson found it necessary to point out several times the size of the area as in relation to the people within them and making it a key point of his presentation. Ok I can see the need to express the size of the game world, but it just seemed rather repetitive as if they were desperately trying to win over our hearts and minds with massive worlds.
            I am all for large maps to explore, but unless they are filled with interesting and exciting things to do in them then they are just window dressing to me. Please, please, please Bioware, if you intend to make huge expansive locations for us to visit; don’t forget to add some good stuff to do while we are there.


Will we make it to the next WoW Expansion?

Cataclysm was depending on who you ask a complete success or an utter failure of magnificent levels. I personally am about half way between the two camps. On the one hand I found certain aspects of the game enjoyable, but I also can’t stand some of the fundamental game changes that have been made. My question is with Blizzards time frame of one and a half to two year cycle of coming out with a new expansion, how many of us WoWers will actually make it to this release? I am almost amazed myself to state that I highly doubt I will be one of them.
          World of Warcraft has meant a lot to me over the past six years. That statement alone seems odd when you consider it’s a game I am referring to. However when you take into account all the good memories, good people and entertainment I have met or experienced in that time, one can see how this game has retained a special place with me.
            I was there in the games infancy and marveled at the openness of the world. I was there to ding level 60 for the first time, then 70, 80 and 85. I have enjoyed this game for a very long time and hold no regrets, but I am almost 100 percent certain I will not make it to see 90.

The End of an ERA
            As much fun as I have had in playing this game, I have come to the conclusion that this game is not the game I started playing years ago. In some ways it has improved, but in others sadly it has become less enjoyable. As I look at the next two years of cataclysm content ahead of me, I am already wondering when my final log in will take place.
            Now I have had breaks in the past, one such break was for several months even, but I believe the next time I cancel my subscription it will be final. I cannot imagine even coming back for a new expansion because two years from now I will probably be over Azeroth and the world it has become. I will more than likely be on some distant planet with a deadly light stick or a fold out blaster instead of a sword and shield (Fingers crossed that this game wont suck) and will not have the time or energy to make a return trip to the lands of Stormwind, Ironforge and Orgrimmar.
Fundamental Changes and Diminishing Returns
            Blizzard in an attempt to improve and move their game into a more mainstream appeal, has instituted some changes to the games overall playability and design concept. These changes, including smaller talent trees, Linear Questing, and changes to the way we group, have altered this game in ways that have removed it from a game of mysterious lands to one of quick journeys and rapid ascension.
            I dinged 85 rather early in Cataclysm on my main toon and still was far behind others in the race. I had also completed every quest available close to the same time. I don’t believe that raiding, PVP and if I choose to do so, a new character is going to hold my interest until the next expansion is released. Replaying content in Dungeons and raids time and time again to obtain better gear no longer holds the same appeal to me and seems more tedious than anything else. PVP although still an enjoyable excursion, is also losing some of its luster for me as basically the newest battlegrounds to be released are reimaged clones of Warsong Gulch and Arathai Basin. Every Expansion is able to hold my interest in this game less and less with each release date.
             The purpose of this post is not to cry foul for the changes that my beloved game has undergone or to shout out its ultimate demise, but to ask myself and you the quintessential question of whether or not this will be your last run or do you plan to be here for the next installment? For me I almost hate to admit that I believe my time is coming to an end. I have so enjoyed my time in this game, but like all things good its day in the spotlight must diminish. I still log onto this game regularly, but the times in between are growing in duration every day. I am only left to ponder when the final curtain on this great game will close for good for me.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Memo to Away Team – STAY OUT OF BAD

Star Trek online has surprised me in a lot of ways. When I found the game for 9 dollars in a store and decided to give it a try I never expected to remain playing it past the initial 30 day free subscription, I had heard to many bad things about it. However I have decided to continue playing the game because quite frankly I am having a good time and have enjoyed most of the game play. That being said there are a number of things in this game that drive me crazy and this one has gotten the best of my mild manners.
            Of all the quirky little annoyances that this game possesses, away team missions are quite frankly the most annoying. I can accept the fact that they are basically the same mission every time just reanimated differently (I got used to this in City of Heroes/Villains) and I can deal with the apparent lack of intelligence of the enemy combatants. (I still chuckle every time I approach a group of combatants and they are wondering around in circles without direction or purpose.) The one thing I cannot stand is stupidity in my crew.
            When I toss a grenade into a group of baddies and the green glowing flames of pain are still on the ground, why must my crew always run into it? Even the enemy seems to understand that the simple philosophy of “this is bad” better than my own crew. This even goes to when after the battle is over and I run around the bad stuff, my crew for some reason doesn’t. Instead they take the shortest path even if that path incases them in green flames that slowly ticks little red numbers of health from them. It only makes it worse when they do this several times in one mission, it’s as if they are too stupid to learn from their mistakes and charge right into the bad a second or third time.

This might seem minor for the most part, but it destroys emersion and frustrates a player who is the leader of their tiny band of people. Ground combat is usually very disorganized and chaotic as people run around in all directions firing randomly. I can tolerate almost every other failing of away team combat in this game, but I just can’t take the mindless running into bad things. Maybe it’s just my years of raiding that has trained me to hate this with a passion, but I think this deserves a patch. Cryptic please fix my crew, they are not very bright. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I want my Bounty Hunter, but not that way

To say I am a fan of Boba Fett is like saying that Kashyyyk has a few trees. I mean has there ever been a cooler more intimidating character in all of Star Wars, Ok Darth Vader is cool, but he still isn’t as cool as Boba Fett. Armor plated, jet pack using, gadget boy is the Batman of the Star Wars universe. In a galaxy filled with force users wielding light sticks and to be a normal human and still strike fear in all who meet him speaks volumes about his ability and notoriety.
            Now when I heard about SWTOR coming out and saw the very first trailer featuring a one man, er woman army causing havoc, well let’s just says I was hooked that day and signed up on the official site. The recent release of a bounty hunter themed vid has only restocked the desire to be one with this game. There was no doubt that I would be playing this game from day one, not only for the inclusion of Bounty Hunters but because I am a Star Wars fan.
            Now here is my dilemma and to me it is no small problem to have. If you hadn’t guessed by now I want a bounty hunter as my main character in this game, I need to be a bounty hunter. The problem is I don’t want to play on the sith side. Sith to me symbolize, at least in this game the “bad guys”. Not to say that there isn’t some appealing sides to being Skeletor (yes I did just date myself.) or any other classic evil guy, but if I am a bounty hunter I don’t want that path chosen for me.
            Now some will present the argument that in the history of Star Wars, Bounty Hunters have always aided the Empire and or similar types of labeled bad guys and this is the very problem that I have with continuing this trend in SWTOR. A true bounty hunter cares not what your political motives are or why you want something done, they only care in how much you will pay them to complete said task. Come to think of it that sounds a lot like a Smuggler just with illegal goods instead of people.
            So in dividing up the neutral classes in this game BioWare has decided which of the less scrupulous characters are good and which are bad. Oh and don’t give me any of that Lighter bad guy, Darker good guy stuff that is used as being able to choose your path, the truth is I will have to take orders from the baddies if I go with a bounty hunter.
            I think this is where BioWares story driven experience may be getting in the way by preventing the creation of a true neutral class who can choose sides because it would require another set of quests, NPCs and story lines which in this game appear to be quite a lot of work. I just feel that they have missed the boat here in creating a true neutral story line and character class that has eluded every other game in the MMORPG scene. I bet a lot of people would have jumped at the chance to create a character that at the beginning was neutral but then chooses a side to be on.
            Will this keep me from playing the most anticipated game to come out in some time? Absolutely not, in fact I am still just as excited about this game as everyone else. I honestly don’t know what I am going to do when it comes to my first character and I will probably debate this issue until release day. I so want to be a bounty hunter, but I may be forced to relegate them to the “other character I play on another server” and this makes me a sad puppy indeed.

Happy Birthday Blizzard

Blizzard entertainment celebrated twenty years of operation on March 4th and I must say that is quite an accomplishment to be around that long and top of their game. When you consider the big three for them Starcraft, Warcraft and Diablo you can see how they have lasted this long. The coolest part for me is they are a company that focuses heavily on PC games and are still going strong. Should be proof enough for naysayers that PC gaming isn’t going anywhere. Gratz Blizz.

Battlefield 3 gameplay looks great

OK forget everything I said in my previous post, if this game looks anywhere near as good as this video I am ready for it now.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tol Barad, STO Fleet Action, C4 Snipers and More

Hello again readers and thanks for coming back around. In this post I will write about some of the more interesting things I have experienced in my gaming world in recent times. I will make this a regular entry on the blog and try to inform you guys on the better experiences from the games I play.

World of Warcraft

            I finally got into Tol Barad this week. I was so excited as this was only my third chance to see the new PVP zone. I have had nothing but problems getting into this place because of the competitive balancing system in place. (Hmmm sounds like a good future post.) Right now I am only at about a 15 percent successes rate for getting in when I Que. Unfortunately for me my server, Windrunner, has a huge imbalance between Alliance (me) and Horde. In fact the total for the Alliance team in this match hovered between 10-12 players the whole time. I mean lol come on seriously???
            Also I am having problems finding fresh recruits for my newly formed guild. Could this possibly have something to do with the new Guild ranking and Rep system? I tend to think so but I’ll share my thoughts on that one in a future post.

Star Trek Online

            Still having fun playing this game as I learn to play and make my way around the galaxy. I reached the rank of Lt. Commander 5 and joined a rather large fleet as well. Still having some problems with some of the way the game is set up, but I’ll get into that another time as well.
            I got to do some ground based fleet action questing for the first time and I still say this is the true gem of this game. Running around with a handful of other players trying to stop the Klingons plans was very entertaining and is as much fun as the Space fleet actions. The reward of 300+ skill points felt adequate for the time I spent. I really need to write something about STO in general so look for this in a future post.

Supremacy 1914  
            Ok I am aware that most of you right now are scratching your heads on this one. What the heck is Supremacy 1914? Well under the games I’m playing section please click the link and check it out and click here to read my brief write up about the game. Anyways I am presently running 3 different games at the moment, 2 as Great Britton and 1 as Austria-Hungry. So far am doing quite well in all three although one has a peace period of 14 days. I have never done this type of game before and I am finding it quite unusual not being able to attack for so long.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

            I am trying not to brag, but I must admit that I am killer in some armor. I can normally survive quite awhile when using the engineering kit and can really rack up the kills. My number one nemeses has got to be those loathsome C4 packing snipers that with one click of the mouse button can turn your modern day death rig into a burning scrap pile. I dislike this so much that I often wish they would do away with C4 altogether, but I understand this isn’t going to happen.
             I mean some maps its so out of hand as more than half the player base is running around in Ghillie suits and throwing motion sensors everywhere. Either way if you play this kit most often, just know that there is an angry and vengeful, even downright militant soldier out there gunning for you.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Introduction to Supremacy 1914

So one day while surfing the internet looking for a casual and easy browser based game to play I came across Supremacy 1914. I was looking for a slow paced simulated combat game with some minor troop and resource management. Lucky for me 1914 fit that bill exactly. In this post I will give a brief, but information filled post on the finer points of this game.

Game Premise

The setting is World War I in the year; yup you guessed it, 1914. You the newest leader of your nation must use the tools available to conquer the world. Depending on the type of game you play the map consists of either Europe along with Western Russia or Europe, Russia and the Americas.

Game Basics 

            The map is determined by the number of players that are allotted for the game. This is either 10 Players (Smaller European Map) or 30 players (Larger map including North America.) The game also has 2 types of matches’ regular and gold round with the biggest difference being the types of weapons available to players. (More on this in a moment)
            Players are given a new territory named after a real world country, Great Britton, Russia, Iceland, ETC. with 10 territories in each. Each territory also has 1 type of resource including grain, fish, steel, wood, coal, oil and gas. Territories also have population and the most important thing to note with them is morale which I will get into later.             
            In the beginning of the game you have only infantry to use, but as the game progresses and depending on the type of game (Regular or Gold) you unlock additional troops to include Artillery, Tanks, rail mounted Artillery, battleships, Submarines, Observation balloons and Airplanes.
            Additionally several improvements can be built in each territory to include recruitment office, barracks, forts, railroads, harbors and factories. Also in gold round games you have the ability to construct Aerodromes for airplanes. Each of these improvements cost a certain level of resources to construct and provide a certain benefit to the player. I won’t go into detail here about what each provides, but I bet you can guess most just by their names.
  Playing the Game

            The game consists of rounds that are broken down into individual days. That’s right each round is one day. That’s one of the better things about this game in that it isn’t rushed; everything takes place in real time. A single game can last for several months if it consists of some good players. For instance it takes 3 days to construct certain buildings. That is 3 real world days to complete construction without the use of speed ups.
            Each player is able to go when ever they want during the course of the game, there is no turn for each player and it’s a constant state game which means when you’re not logged in the game still plays. The goal of each game is to capture territories while protecting your own and the game provides many ways by which to do this.

The Rest of the Game
            The game adds a lot of depth with the inclusion of Diplomacy among players. You are able to set your status from at war to ally-share maps with other countries and each has different levels of influence to the game. Many regular players will tell you that it is almost imperative to be allied with someone in order to win. Although I don’t believe it to be this extreme, I do believe diplomacy is a very important aspect of the game. Players are able to sign treaties, make deals including trading resources, territories and so forth. Also the game includes an Auction house where players can buy or sell resources.        
            The game also includes spies that you can use for several different types of activities. You can place a spy in your own city to capture any spies or place them in enemy territories to carry out missions like sabotage, decrease morale, gather intelligence or steal money.
            As I have mentioned several times in this post citizens and troops have morale which is scaled from 100 to 0. Everything affects morale from having enough resources to distance from the capital. Morale is an important key in this game as an army with better morale can win quite handedly against one with less. Low citizen morale may cause them to revolt, killing troops or even declaring the territory for a neighboring country.
            One final note is the use of Goldmarks which allow you to get an advantage in game by increasing moral, speed up production and so forth. You are given a set amount of Goldmarks the first time you play the game, but need to earn more beyond that. This can be accomplished by either purchasing them for real money or by voting for the game on certain rank sites. Keep in mind that it is quite possible to play this game without ever having to use Goldmarks which for me is important to the games overall Likeability.

            Well that’s it for now if you have any questions just leave me a comment and I will do my best to answer them. It is an easy to play and fun game and I hope you take some time to check it out. I plan to write up a simple beginners guide for this game in the near future so check back and also let me know what you think of the game if you decide to try it out.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Are you there on day one?

With all the news about the huge amount of players trying to log in to Rift this week, it got me wondering about release days for major titles. I suddenly realized that of all the MMORPG games and their expansions that I have played, I have never been there on day one. I might have joined a couple of days later, but to date I have never experienced what its like on that very first day.
            I have never even bought a World of Warcraft expansion on release day; I have always waited for a couple of days. I know that not wanting to wait in a line or fight to log in has influenced my decision in the past, but I gotta wonder if I’m missing something here. Is the excitement of a new release really worth everything you have to go through? How many of you are day one enthusiasts and how many are like me and just patiently wait for the fervor to calm down?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Battlefield 3 coming this year but is it too soon?

When DICE began to release information about their latest FPS in early February, many gamers (me included) searched anxiously for the precious details that slowly began to leak forth. Battlefield 3 was on its way, the release date was set for the fall of 2011. Wait what??
            Now to most fans of the series a release date set for 2011 is one for celebration and finger nail biting anticipation, but for me it was a little bitter sweet. Although I was ready and willing to get to work on the new title, I found myself stopping and wondering what would become of the game I love now.
            Battlefield: Bad Company 2 in my opinion is one of the finest titles in the series. Even though they removed some popular features from this game, airplanes anyone, the game by all accounts was a huge success. Many even consider it the best title in the series as the new frostbite engine brought forth a destructible environment and beautiful graphics.
            I mean is it really time to put BFBC2 out to pasture? I still play it all the time and I’m not sure even in the fall if I will be ready to let go. Don’t get me wrong I am just as much enchanted as you are by the siren song of the new Frostbite 2 powered game, but is it too soon? It seems like only yesterday I was downloading Map pack 7 and debating whether or not I would plunk down the money for the Vietnam Expansion. Oh wait! That’s right it wasn’t that long ago, a measly 2 months ago to be precise.
 Is it just me or is DICE rushing the next game in the series? Doesn’t it seem a lot faster than previous release titles from the predecessor? To answer this lets look at the release dates of the previous games in the series with a focus on the major titles and their Xpac releases.                                                                     

Time from previous new title.
Battlefield 1942
     Road to Rome (1942 Xpac)
     Secret Weapons of WWII (1942 Xpac

Battlefield Vietnam
2 years
Battlefield 2
1 year
     Special Forces (BF2 Xpac)
     Euro Force (BF2 Xpac)
     Armored Fury (BF2 Xpac)
Battlefield 2142
1 year 4 months
     Northern Strike (2142 Xpac)
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
3 years 8 months
     Vietnam (BFBC2 Xpac)
Battlefield 3
Fall 2011 (Sept. to Nov.)
1 year 3 months to 1 year 6 months

Now you may be looking at the time line above and wondering what exactly I am talking about. It appears like DICE is following a pretty straight forward time line and at first glance I tend to agree, but lets dissect that timeline a little and look at it another way. If we exclude Battlefield Vietnam (because it wasn’t very good) and 2142 (because it was a completely different genre.) from the list, we get a completely different look at things.
From BF 1942 to BF2 we have a 3 year span and from BF2 and BFBC2 we have a 5 year time span. Now I agree that 3 years and 5 years seem a rather long stretch, but it makes the 15 moths we have had to play bad company seem like nothing. A fan of these two titles, if they didn’t get Vietnam or 2142 had a long time to enjoy them before moving on to the next best thing. Also keep in mind that 1942 and BF2 had multiple expansions that expanded the content of the core game, whereas Bad Company has had 1 expansion that was more of a reskinned new game than a true expansion.
Am I way off base here or are you also feeling the way I am? I understand I may feel different about this in a couple of months from now, but I can honestly say I will be saddened to let go of Bad Company when the day comes and no I probably wont continue playing it if BF3 is good. One last thing to consider on this subject is whether this release window is based on monetary reasons or the huge success of competitors like Call of Duty.
I am eagerly looking forward to the latest release of my favorite FPS series, but I just can’t help myself in feeling a little remorse in saying good bye to what has been to me a very enjoyable and entertaining game. How bout you? Will you easily be able to let go of Bad Company when the time comes or will you feel conflicted? Is it the right time for a new release? Let me know what you think.   


Linear vs. Open Ended Questing

If you play MMORPGs then you are intimately aware of the concept of questing and what they entail.  Whether you’re game of choice calls them quests, missions or some other term, they are the basis for advancing your character along its path to level cap. Each game also has its own way of providing these NPC (Non Player Character) generated goals to their players but all are designed to accomplish the same thing, give you something to do and provide you with the necessary gear and experience to tackle harder content.
            Before we can explore the main question of the post we must first describe it in relation to this discussion. What exactly are a Linear and Open ended questing systems and how does it affect your game play?  Below is my understanding of the two systems in relation to the topic at hand.

Linear structure

            Linear questing is where a player is given a set of starter quests that introduce the player to a story arc. In a linear system it is almost always imperative to complete one quest before being given the next one. In fact often a player cannot obtain a new quest until they have completed the prerequisite quest(s).
            In other words think of it as an unfolding story that forces you to read the first couple of chapters in a book before being able to read the middle or the end. Also a linear quest system often will lead a player along, telling them where to go next and who to talk to. A good example of a game that uses this system is World of Warcraft, especially in the latest expansion Cataclysm.

Open Ended structure 

            This system is the exact opposite of Linear as there is usually no forced direction a player must take along their journey. Often quests are distributed in “Quest Hubs” where a player will interact with an NPC and gain a group of quests to complete in the immediate area.  Some direction may be given, but usually it is only where to find the next “Hub” location. Sometimes this system can also feature mini linear quest chains where a sub story can be told on a limited basis. Examples of games that utilize this system are EVE, Star Trek Online and Warhammer online.  

Which is better?

            Like any question that is asked this one is open to a person’s interpretation and preference, however I feel that there are distinct advantages and disadvantages for both. First off linear questing is a lot easier for new players to pick up as the game is more strictly structured and easier to follow where to go. Also this style is better suited for story telling as since it is a chain, players are less likely to miss a key component in the story arc.
            At the same time linear questing inhibits a person’s ability to explore and make their own path in the world. Also it often forces a player to complete quests they may find less enjoyable or bothersome as they are unable to progress unless they do. This type of system also limits player to player interaction as each individual may be on a different level of the quest chain and unable to work together. This problem became even more evident in World of Warcraft when they introduced heavily phased content where two players may not even see the same thing.
            On the other side of the coin, open ended questing is often harder to learn and navigating the game world is often trickier and confusing. Players may also miss entire quest groups all together if they miss or are unable to find a quest hub. This system is a lot less organized and efficient, but this is also one of its positives for some. Personnel freedom to go where you want and do what you want is usually better than being told where to go. Also players can drop a quest and never complete it with limited penalty if they so choose to do so.
Personal Perspective

In my gaming life I have encountered both styles. In World of Warcraft, a game I have played from the beginning, I have seen both open ended questing (Vanilla, Burning Crusade) to Linear (Wrath and Cataclysm). In WoW the difference in play style has been dramatic where leveling in “Vanilla” gave very little direction and often players would not have even visited entire areas of the world. Today’s game has been completely changed with the Cataclysm expansion. Lower level questing as well as 80-85 leveling has become very linear as a player is heavily guided from one place to the next.
I did enjoy leveling my character from 80 to 85 and some of the new early level content, but overall I didn’t get the sense of danger or an expansive world I got in the earlier game. In fact it felt very much like a single player game. In contrast if I look at my early mail wearing Pally days life was very different. I felt immersed in the larger world around me and often had feelings of concern over where I was. Even though I rarely saw another player while leveling when I did discover a new place and saw the people milling about it almost felt like I had stumbled forth from a dessert to find a small island of civilization. This also gave me the feeling that I was doing something right, as I was able to navigate the wilds and discovered further quests to do.
Now in other games namely EVE and Star Trek Online the questing system is very open ended with little to no direction. When I first played both games learning where to go and how to get there was somewhat daunting. This I’m sure led to more than one player giving up in the beginning. EVE with its very high learning curve for the general game play tried to make things easier by introducing starter quests, but after these few quick missions your pretty much on your own. To some players this is gaming nirvana, but to the general player base it can appear to be too much to bother with.
STO on the other hand was not nearly as hard to figure out as EVE, but I still had some initial difficulty finding where to go in a semi large galaxy. Quest text didn’t help much either as only a couple of words are used to tell you where to go to find quests. Also in STO quests can be turned in remotely by contacting the quest giver via the quest interface. This is nice, but it also cuts down the amount of back and forth (Map learning) a player will have to do. I enjoyed my time on EVE and still play STO, but I got to admit that in the beginning I found the games a bit confusing or hard to navigate. Then again I really enjoy the freedom of not being forced down a singular path. 

The Verdict

            My ideal quest system would include a lot of open ended questing with a little help from an overall linear design. What I mean by this is have a guiding main story arc with a linear design to guide players from place to place, but have the majority of quests be placed in an open ended system where players can choose the ones that they feel are mandatory. Give us some street signs, but don’t build walls along the way either. If I wander off into the wilderness only to emerge further down the road at a new location, don’t make it so no one there wants to talk to us because we hadn’t helped their cousin bob yet back at the last rest stop. 
            Anyways that’s my take on things and I’m hopeful more games will take the training wheels off sooner instead of leaving them on.  So what do you think? What is your preferred questing system? Do you have a style you enjoy more? I look forward to your comments.