Posts Tagged ‘ideas’

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Musings on the WoW news over the weekend.

June 14, 2010

In case you’re unaware, Blizzard had a press even over the weekend and released a lot of information about the current status of Cataclysm and also answering questions that the players have been confused about. I wont kill you with a wall of text of recap. Just highlight some points that I found interesting. If you want the full news head on over to your favorite WoW news site.. the details are everywhere. Let’s dive in..

Heroic Shadowfang Keep and Heroic Deadmines should be shipped in Patch 4.1

Seriously? All I was expecting was a 85 heroic scaled version of the same instance. That shouldn’t take very long to do. So why the delay until 4.1? Could be that they are completely re-designing the dungeons, or it could be that they are trying to refrain from releasing too many dungeons at once. I don’t really know, but I think that this is pretty stupid. Not a big deal though.

Path of the Titans Removal
Okay.. now it just seems like they are cutting features all together. Instead of this we’re now getting “medium” glyphs. Which will be in between Major and Minor. These glyphs are “for fun” only, so they *should* have no effect on your character’s output.

Much more boring but serves almost the same purpose and takes 1/2 the time to develop. Sure.. cool by me. Give me my Libram graphic dangling from my hip!

Guild Talents are gone

Makes it much more boring, but I can understand why. They have enough trouble balancing the class talents. To make sure the guild talents weren’t too over-done they just got rid of them all together. Now we get abilities handed to us based on our guild’s level. Much as in other games. It’s basically the same thing, they just took choice out of the equation. *shrug*

Raid Changes

Here’s the bread and butter (to me) of the press release. We knew 10’s and 25’s were going to be equalized but we didn’t have the details really. Now we do. You can break down your 25 man raid into 3 separate 10m raid ID’s if you choose. Also, a change to how the lockouts work. Basically it doesn’t tag yourself to the zone, it tags what bosses you have killed. Therefore streamlining managing your Raid IDs. Especially if you do a lot of PUG raids.

25’s will drop approx. 50% more loot than 10’s. Which is good. Most of this 50% was strongly hinted at just being extra emblems. That’s kind of boring but ah well.

It’s been stated before that 10’s will be brought up in difficulty to be along the same challenge of 25’s, now we have official confirmation that this IS in fact the plan. This makes me giddy. Being someone who simply doesn’t want to deal with attendance issues, or that one bad player that just wont get better no matter how much you talk to them.. this is an awesome thing for me. 10 man cuts down on the stupid, which is good for my blood pressure. Up until (seemingly) now 10 mans have always been insanely easy compared to 25 mans. A good majority of this comes from the simple fact of their being less people. Less chaos.

If they are ramping up the difficulty on 10m, I’m curious to see how far they take that. Will it be easier because there is less people? Or will they tune the content right and make 10/25 equalized in difficulty? It’s hard to equalize something that gets harder the more players you throw at it. No matter how hard a boss hits, things will always be easier if you only have 10 people to worry about vs. 25.

The ONLY thing I can see as a downside here is the confusion that could come about with the 25 lockout being split in to 3 different 10 man lockouts. I’m not quite sure I understand how this works. Does it take groups 1 and 2 and give them a lockout, 2-4, 5-6, and such? If it does, that could be a raid balance and administrative nightmare.

Also.. in your typical 25m raid you generally have 3 tanks and 4-5 healers. Split the group up into 3 10’s and you don’t have proper raid balance for any more than 1, maybe 2 teams.

Basically, how I see it, is.. someone’s going to get shafted every week. And while Blizzard is implementing this for guilds like mine, who have full raids on Tuesday, but then struggle Wednesday and Thursday to get numbers. I still don’t think this is a good option for that type of group. It’s basically no different from how guilds handle 10/25 now. You have your 25 team, and an “A” 10m team, and possibly another “B” team.

But this causes a lot of animosity as we’ve all seen in the past in various different guilds. My guild has an “A” team that runs 10m on the weekends, they’ve killed LK10 and are working on heroics (and we have yet to kill LK25). It’s typically always the same people. We don’t have enough support/attendance to gather a “B” team on the weekends. So.. half of us that would like to raid usually end up sitting out. Bad policy imo.. but.. what else are bored people gonna do?

What I don’t understand is.. instead of Blizzard jumping through all of these hoops with the Raid IDs and coming up with all this crazy stuff. Why not just have the raid instances scale up or down based off of how many people you have?

10 people = 10m difficulty

14 people = 10m difficulty scaled up a tad

25 people = 25m difficulty

23 people = 25m scaled back a little

..you get the idea I think. This seems more easier to me than what they’re doing. Surely it’s not an easy task, but I don’t think it requires too much more work than what they are doing now.

I guess what I’m saying is.. make a raid just that. A raid. Minimum 10 players, max 25. Have the instance(and loot) scale off the number of people you bring in. There is quite a many games that use (or have used) some sort of auto-scaling (or manual scaling) for their instances. It’s worked out pretty well for them. Why wouldn’t it work in Azeroth?

The last thing I would like to touch on is the happenings with rated Battlegrounds. I’m no PvP’er.. but even I notice that not many people make pre-mades anymore. Or if they do, teamwork is usually pretty scarce. I like teamwork. If there was more of it in BGs I would enjoy them a lot more. Thats why I like the idea of making a BG team.. it sounds awesome and maybe.. just maybe.. it will turn my view of WoW PvP around.

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Let’s move along now, shall we?

June 10, 2010

Over the past few years, how many AAA MMO titles have we seen get hyped up, release, and shed 50%+ of its population within the first few months? 3? 5? I’m sure there is more to come as well.

I think first it started off as everyone trying to tackle Blizzard, or at least get a chunk of their cake. Games like LotRO, and WAR that were marketed by the eagerly waiting players as “the next WoW killer.”

After that I think companies started backing down to the almighty Blizzard, and decided to not shoot for 10 million subscriptions and would be happy to settle with 1 million. But even that didn’t seem to help, with games like Aion, Champions Online, and Star Trek Online.. all of which have pretty much bombed almost into the “life support” category. (In Aion’s case.. in the US/EU)

So what does a company who wants to design a AAA MMO title have to do to have a successful launch and retain it’s players after the initial flood?

There is a few things I can think of. I’m not too familiar with the development process on the inside of a studio, things like Publisher pressure and deadlines can really screw up an MMO. But that’s about all I really know about what goes on internally. To possibly gain a bit more insight I’ve emailed Brian “Psychochild” Green, online game designer and blogger and asked him to chime in on this post if he has anything to add.

Back to what I think Dev studios could do in order to make the Dev process, testing, launch and post-launch go smoother.

Shrink it!

Most AAA MMO titles feature a large world. Multiple continents, large zones and etcetera. But why does it have to start out large? Maybe the bigger companies can learn a lesson from the indie F2P developers and make your world smaller at first, but have speedy development rotations on adding new content. We all want a bigger world sure, but.. would you rather have a huge world with all sorts of problems in it, or a smaller world with drastically less problems, evolving into a bigger world with time. Vanguard is a great example of what not to do here. The world was beautiful, and enormous. And empty. Not just void of players, but even the wilderness didn’t feel very wild.

Along with shrinking your world, I never quite understood why these MMO’s ship with 15+ servers. Big worlds and tons of servers are great if you’re Blizzard. But not if you’re anybody else. The dreaded server merge announcements that we see doesn’t mean that the game is dying exactly, but anytime one is announced the doomsayers come out of their holes. Usually server merging is a sign of a slowly dying MMO, or at least one that isn’t going to be picking up steam.

So, how about trying something different for once. Start with the minimum amount of servers, and if your game grows, add more. The problem with that idea is usually launch is when you have the highest populations, thus needing the extra servers. My take on server merging is that it’s better done sooner rather than later. If you launch your game and see 500k subs the first month, but at the 3rd month mark you’re down to 400k, it might be time to start thinking about server merging. There is nothing worse than the post-launch exodus that is bound to happen, and then feeling like your left with an empty server. That’s just going to push more players away.

As your game gets older I think watching your servers is important, and knowing when to time server merges before the problem gets too bad. Take EQ2 for example. It does have a healthy population, though the majority of the community are at the top end of the game. EQ2 has had 2 rounds(or maybe just 1, I can’t recall) of server merges in the past, and in this guys opinion.. is well overdue for another. I’d go as far as to say EQ2 needs to drop down to about 8 servers total. 3 normal servers, 1 bazaar server, 1 pvp server, 2 EU servers (I don’t know what the EU population of EQ2 is like), and a RP server. If you’re starting fresh in EQ2 with no friends, it is a very, very silent and quiet game. Very lonely. Not good if you’re trying to attract new customers.

But if EVE online can have 1 server with its healthy subscriber base, why can’t other games? Yeah.. EVE is a special case because it fills a specific niche, but it’s still something to be thought about.

Target Audience?

I think it may be safe to say now that trying to market your MMO to every player type doesn’t work that well. Blizzard was able to pull it off I think because of their timing. Every MMO to come out since that’s tried this has not reached the goals they originally set for themselves and their game. I think if you build your game towards a certain niche of players and stay there, maybe adding on other features later on, you would end up with a smaller population, but a much more stable one. EVE Online does this pretty well as do a few other niche titles.

Are you trying to attract new-to-the-genre players? Harcores? Casuals? PvP, PvE? Social aspects?

Scale?

I never understood why the bigger MMO companies are drawn to making a game capable of supporting millions of people, only to have it flop after release for x reason. Instead of doing that why not set a lower target for your populations. How about 500k instead of 1 million?

I would think that once you set a goal for your customer base, it would make it must easier to design the rest of the game’s size, how many servers you’ll need, and what features you can or can’t use. Also, it would give your publisher a better idea. (Or maybe the publisher is the one who dictates what the target customer pool size will be *shrug*)

Deadlines

Now.. I’m fairly certain that deadlines are set by whoever is funding the project, which is usually the publisher. If publishers used their heads a little bit, and gave the Developer the time that they actually need, we would probably see less MMO’s fall into the sub-200k club.

Then you have the option of “self-publishing.” Which is what Cryptic studio’s original intent was. Looking back over the course of the development of Champions Online, things seemed to be going very well until Atari showed up. You would also have to have the money to back yourself. Not an easy thing to come up with hehe.

What’s worse is when something like that happens, it’s usually the Dev house that gets all the negative press, not so much the publisher. When I first played Champions Online, I was sorely disappointed. Nay. I was pissed. At Cryptic. Even though I knew the game shipped the way it did because Atari shoved it out their doors. Ok.. I don’t know that for a fact, but that’s what the speculation is.

The same thing happened to Vanguard. All was going well (so we think) up until Sony was announced to be the new publisher. Which was right around open beta if I remember right. Then all of a sudden, the game was on store shelves. Oh the cries of the fanboi’s (myself included)

What else could a AAA MMO company could do for itself to ensure the game’s success? Aside from the obvious answer of “make a good game”

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Why does it always have to be about the shinies?

June 3, 2010

Over my long’ish zombie weekend, I am feeling a bit better and actually had enough brain power to come up with an idea. Well.. not really MY idea, but just like everything in the gaming industry.. sniping features and ideas from other games is not frowned upon.

So, there I was, plodding along in lowbie zones working on Loremaster (ugh) I figured.. I’d rather be punching small children than doing this. So I fired up the laptop and decided to multi-task a bit.

After a bit of web-surfing and a few episodes of The Twilight Zone, I got my brain tickin.

If Blizzard’s goal is to appeal to all of it’s players, and give everyone something to do. How come they’ve never tried implementing some sort of PvE Arenas?

WHOA WHOA..

Hold on. PvE Arenas? People have mentioned that before and it does not sound like a good idea.

Yep, you’re right. But read my version of how I would implement it into Azeroth. You may just say.. “Hey, that is neat!” or I’m way off.. whatever. Here we go.

PvE Arena

Step into the Arena. Prove yourself as a Gladiator in the pit against monsters found from even the darkest, deepest holes of Azeroth! We’ve built the Crusader’s Collesium, but now that the Lich King has been defeated, it has no purpose. Or does it? Prove your skill, see if you have what it takes to become a Champion. (blah blah onto the details)

– 3 Ways to play; Solo, Duo, 5 man. Each scaling difficulties to meet the group makeup.

– Gear doesn’t matter. You (and your group) are automatically scaled to a “baseline” level of ability.

– Completely separate sphere of gameplay from PvE, PvP, and/or Arena. available to players starting at level 40. Rewards scale based on level (for example, if you win the Arena at level 40, you get 50 “points” at level 80 you would get 150 “points”

– 3 new factions, choose your promoter!! With rewards and utility items to purchase.

– “Point” accumulation. Jump into battle, win over the crowds, please your promoters. You’ll get a special sort of income to do all kinds of things with. For example.. buying abilities (just 1 or 2 per class or spec) only available for use in these Arenas. Pets, Tabards, Consumables (PvE Arena only), Mounts. Etc… nothing would be available here that would effect any other sphere of gameplay (with the exception being Achievements)

– Have teams just like PvP Arena. Are you the wayward fighter just looking to make a name for himself or do you have allies ready to face any challenge thrown at them?

Now, the way this works. If you’ve played Final Fantasy 7 before, or perhaps even EQ2’s Splitpaw Saga adventure pack you know where I am getting these ideas from. Basically.. take Battle Arena, tweak it a bit, and throw it in WoW.

10 Rounds, 3 Difficulties, 2 modes. Break that down a little further for you..

10 Rounds – You(and your peeps) enter the Arena, you will face 10 waves of monsters found in Azeroth. Anything from Trash, to mini-bosses, to bosses from previous instances, and the ability to add new bosses if Blizzard so chose. Everything is scaled to your level/ability as previously mentioned.

3 difficulties – Easy, Normal, Hard (call it whatever) rewards scale based off of difficulty. Achievements and Titles placed accordingly.

2 modes – First mode is obvious. Kill everything. Second mode is what I like to call “Endurance” mode. Screw 10 waves, you’re going until you A) Lose or B ) Call it quits. This could be expanded on a lot, developing other “modes” to challenge your players.

Important notes :

Mobs are mostly random. Anything from kobolds to Sapphron. Of course you wouldn’t actually be fighting the famed Bosses. Just models, with similar tactics, scaled to “Arena” specs. Sometimes you’ll fight a copy of a Murloc Tidewalker, or teams of Kobolds, or scaled up versions of Hogger by himself.

Bosses would keep as much mechanics from the original fights as possible based on the scale (Solo, Duo, Group)

There is multiple goals for this system. Giving players more options for content is never a bad thing. Giving the solo/duo something specifically for them (besides quest grinding and PvP which isn’t specifically for them, except PvP arenas.) To show off your skill rather than your gearscore. And finally and possibly most importantly.. Training. I’ve seen a number of people talk about how to introduce people into Raiding and how difficult it can be. Given the option to hone their skills in a more controlled environment could ease them into real raiding much better.

Don’t get me wrong though, this is not just a training ground for raids. Everything would be mostly random, and you wouldn’t be picking your encounters. This is a separate aspect of the game, something new to progress through. And yes, you could actually form progression from this. If Blizzard dangled the proper carrots in front of our faces. Problem with that is the carrot changes based on the person. I personally like chasing titles, while other people only care about loot, or companion pets.. etc.

As my word count tells me I’m approaching a thousand, I’m going to back off for today and make a part 2 of this post for tomorrow. I don’t want to kill you with a wall of text and I apologize if you are now blind, or somehow slightly less intelligent for reading this.

TL;DR – PvE Arenas, small-scale raids with no gear rewards, but many other rewards. Cont’d tomorrow.