Sunday, May 30, 2010


Emphasizing my point yesterday, I will compare three trailers.

Original World of Warcraft
Original Age of Conan
Original Warhammer Online

Now, every one of them is fun to watch.
But the AoC and WAR trailer concentrated on something that you couldn't even do in the game.

Put yourself into the mind of a new MMO player. Not experienced like those who read this blog, but new to the scene. He will join AoC to fight like they did in the trailer or he will try to become Conan and strategize. Or he will join WAR to fight like they did in the trailer or be 'catapulted' like the orc. He cannot do any of this.

Look at the WoW trailer. Many races are introduced (not only barbarians), they do something you can actually do in the game: Looking impressive ;)

I'm not saying the WoW trailer is perfect in this regard. What I am saying is that the WoW trailer doesn't put the player in a mindset that is detrimental to his fun in the game. But this isn't just about expectations. For example, exploration was fun in classic WoW. Even if it is hard to imagine this today.

Have a look at this WoW trailer.

Honor, Mystery, Danger.
Apart from the 'danger' it is not bad. It makes you want to play for honor and mystery which is exactly what you could do in Classic World of Warcraft.

Now, remember the many WAR pre-release interviews by the developers. What they promised: Six cities, meaningful RvR. Remember what AoC promised: Sieges, player-built castles.
Remember the promised players housing which haunted Blizzard for years!

A trailer, just like all the pre-release hype and the game itself, need to guide the player to the fun parts of the game: Its strengths! Only WoW did it a bit. The rest failed miserably. It wanted you to do stuff that you cannot do in the game or it guided you to the un-fun parts of the game, like max-level of early AoC/WAR.

World of Warcraft failed later. For example, when they (significantly) reduced the exp you need for a level, they basically sent a message to the player base that said: Leveling is not fun, go for max level. What a disastrous advice - especially for any new player!

Developers must resist the temptation to put the assumed wishes of players into a trailer/ad! They need to guide them to the fun parts of the game, not the un-fun and unfinished ones.

Trailer are only a small part of this point and the whole point (1) is not the only reason for WoW's success. Far from it. It is one of many and a point where the competition failed.

Player Mentality

[This is part of a series that was introduced with this post]

When developers give interviews prior to release they try to get people to buy the game. Sounds reasonable, does it? Well, it is a serious mistake!

The trick with an MMO is not to get as many people as possible to buy it at day 1. In fact, new MMOs release so rarely, that you are guaranteed to get several hundred thousand players with any AAA piece of software and some advertisement.

However, overloaded servers will get you a lot of bad press that will frighten off future players. You run into the danger of servers that drop below a critical community size. You risk to invest money into new servers and customer support that you won't need a month later.

Fact is: If you don't want to cheat players, you have no reason at all to jump start with 700k players, like Age of Conan did. It may bring in a lot of money when you need it most, but it will drastically reduce your future subscriber numbers. You don't want a flash in the pan! You want sustained, exponential growth!

Most importantly, however, if you concentrate on a straw fire you miss the chance to influence player mentality in such a way that they can enjoy your game! Instead, you allow the players to determine your advertisement and any discrepancy between the expectations of players and the actual game will come back at you in a backlash. Seriously, there is a reason that I put this at #1 in this list. It is hard to get right, AoC and WAR both miserably failed at it, and generally the industry just doesn't get it. Player attitude when starting a game for the first time is critically important.

Fallout 3 is a terrible first person shooter. Should I start the game with the expectation to play a FPS, I'd hate it! Fallout 3 also is a terrible theme park SP-RPG! The main story is not far from abysmal. The only way to enjoy Fallout 3 is to get out and explore. Since many players know this from past Elder Scrolls games, Fallout 3 was a grand success. I started to love it the moment I stopped to powerplay my character.

Some years ago I played ADOM. ADOM has perma death. At first I played ADOM like any other RPG. It was terrible! My attitude made the game one of the worst experiences ever! I tried ADOM three times before I finally 'got it'; before I finally explored carefully, enjoying the thrill only perma-death can create.

Age of Conan told you that you are the single hero. But you were quite obviously not! Your story somehow stopped after level 20. It is as if Counter Strike would first have a hero-story and RPG elements, but after the first 10 hours of playtime you would suddenly and without warning be dropped into the actual game. The after-Tortage shock is legendary.

Funcom announced bar fights, quality end game raiding and end game PvP. There was none of it. If Funcum had told players to enjoy the leveling game, because there is no end game yet (there was none at release), players had enjoyed it a bit more! They had been enthralled at the perspectives of end-game PvP and raiding, but concentrated on leveling their characters for the time being. This hadn't saved AoC, because the only good part of the game was Tortage, but it had helped. I know I hadn't powerleveled to level cap had I known that there is no end game.

WAR told you that there will be meaningful and balanced RvR. There wasn't. Games can be played in different ways. If you only queue for scenarios in WAR, because it is the most efficient way to level, you won't have fun! So the developer needs to make sure that you don't try to maximize leveling speed. That isn't easy, because WoW pushed players into this mentality.

AoC as well as WAR were reasonably good games. But expectations could not be met and the games failed to focus on the strengths they had! Slow leveling and exploration in WAR was actually a lot of fun with a scenario, a dungeon and some open world PvP every now and then. Endgame wasn't.

EVE Online is about corporations and player communities. Now, look at this beautiful trailer. The developers try to explain the benefits of a sandbox game, so far so good. But they fail miserably, starting with the 'lone wolf'.
The most important thing in EVE to enjoy the game - especially as a newbie - is a nice community, a corporation. This trailer makes you want to play a lone wolf instead. You won't have fun playing the game this way.

Don't tell the players what they want to hear unless you can really back it up (highly unlikely)! Rather, influence them! Tell them what they should expect from a game. Tell them that this game is about exploration, so that they explore, or that it is about achievement so that they powerplay their characters. Tell them that it is about freedom, if your game allows players to shape the world. Tell them to socialize or become rich if that is the strength of your game! Tell them the actually good parts of the game, not what you expect they would like to hear most, although you cannot deliver.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Million-Dollar Question

For the last few weeks I have tried to look at the million Dollar question of MMOs: How can you replicate the success of World of Warcraft?

I have started to play MMOs with WoW at release and I spent a substantial amount of time testing Age of Conan and Warhammer online. So, I do have some knowledge about why people quit these games. I certainly know why I quit them. I wrote many, many pages about this topic in the respective forums.

My ansatz to answer the question is to look at 18 general properties of an MMORPG. I introduced them a few days ago with an extensive (but ultimately incomplete) list of brainstormed keywords. I will now bring order into the list. The top properties will easily break your game if you don't get them right and they are the most difficult to get right. Throwing money or even time at them may not always work.

I will explain every single item and its position inside the list in future blog posts.

01) Player Mentality
02) Core Gameplay
03) System requirements
04) General Polish
05) User Interface
06) Content
07) Features
08) Immersion
09) Accessibility
10) Community
11) Character progression
12) Setting
13) Challenge
14) Graphics style
15) Sound
16) Remaining Memories
17) Making Dollars
18) Developer data collection

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Player Housing

Last year I discussed the threat of nuclear weapons with some friends. They argued that nuclear weapons helped stabilize the world and although they were partly responsible for a cold war (and many small conflicts), they at least prevented a big hot one.

Then they argued that, since the U.S. and Russia and India and Pakistan and China and France and Great Britain and Israel and North Korea have nuclear weapons, it is totally unrealistic to think that we would ever have a world without the threat of nuclear weapons. So we shouldn't even try.

These arguments were good. In fact, I agreed with them to some degree. I just disagreed with the final conclusion. Funnily, a few months later President Obama held his historic speech in Prague.

Now, why is Mr. Obama's conviction that we can live in a world free of nuclear weapons so important? Firstly, because this may save millions of lives of our children and grandchildren and their children.. . But, more specifically, and with more relevance to this blog: Mr. Obama told us that while we cannot have the cake and eat it too, we can always remember what we actually want and only then draw a conclusion.

The U.S. will have to start. This is a disadvantage. Some countries will make them look silly. Some might even laugh about the President himself. Many will fear that another election will remove this noble goal from the U.S. agenda alltogether. But maybe not. There will never be a world without nuclear weapons if we don't try and trying comes at a price.

Player housing is not so different, although not as RL-threatening. (I know, this comparision is controversial).

To some degree player housing has been discussed on Tobold's blog today.
It is a typical cake-problem: We all want to be able to have some nice house in an MMO. We want it to feel like an accomplishment, but we don't want to lose it. We want it to be special, but easily attainable. We don't want too many houses of players that have long left the game, but we don't want our houses to ever be destroyed, either. We want everybody to see our house, but we don't want to have to walk for thirty minutes to reach it. We want to be able to construct the house wherever we desire, but we don't want other players to build houses in locations that don't fit or are inconvenient for us.

Now, you could just draw a conclusion, like: We will never have an MMO with player housing.

If we don't try.

While it is impossible to have the cake and eat it, too, it is possible to list what we actually want. This is the missing step here. Few things in life are ever easy. But that is no reason for apathy.

By listing what we want first, we might find out that it isn't even all that hard to eat that cake, and then spend some money to buy another one. There are always consequences – but you can chose among them.

You can easily implement player housing in separate instances. I wouldn't like that, but this is a partial solution. You could also just add houses and then introduce some rules, like

1) Houses can be destroyed by other players, if they invest enough into the effort. I'm not talking about some mean guys suddenly killing your house with heroic strikes. But with expensive bulldozers and an army and some preparation time it could still be fun; even add some fun, but that probably depends on the player.

2) The wilderness will consume your house, unless you periodically pay an upkeep. This could add a lot to the game. Imagine some houses in an abandoned desert village. Or grass growing on top of them.

3) Unless you are quite rich, you won't be able to own a house on your own. You will need to share one with other people. If you can chose these people, this could add a lot to the community, by the way.

4) Really large houses can be attacked by other players and defended with NPCs and traps. Now, that's not cheap to code, but if done well it could even become a central activity of the game.

5) Houses need resources to build, that have to be gathered and processed first. By having a free market and a limited amount of resources, the developer can determine how many houses he wants by limiting the resources. The effort necessary to build a house is then determined by the invisible hand. A brilliant mechanism for developers and generally the most important reason as to why there is an auction house in World of Warcraft.

6) A non-centralized economy without item teleports, but actual transport of resources. This way a house in a god-forsaken dangerous part of the world were incredibly expensive. But some rich players would build houses on mountainsides. What a pretty picture!

7) Houses need some significant amount of time to build.

8) Houses come in different sizes. Most are rather small.

9) Possibility for players to play police and defend each others houses in a certain region. Given the right tools and incentives, this could add a lot to the game. But it is tricky, as you don't want bored players to stand guard in front of their house the entire day.

10) Ground could be declared by the developers (king) to be auctioned as new construction ground. The guild/company who buys the ground can then determine where exactly on that ground it is possible to build a house. This way a nice village could evolve. The company had an interest in it, because the more villagers the more rent they will get to redeem the purchase costs. But if the village looked ugly, less players would like to rent a house and the profit shrinks.

“The Sims” were a ground breaking success story. Now, why exactly wouldn't you want to implement some parts of these games into an MMO? Players could farm land and give grain to a local miller who processes it with the help of a wind mill. The bread can be used as an ingredient of usual buff food. Just remember that players are not online the entire day.

These are just example rules out of my head. We need some rules; we cannot have the cake and eat it, too.
Most interestingly, however, necessity sparks innovation. By solving the player housing problem, we also introduce a lot of features that might even be fun. We couldn't eat the cake and have it, too, but we could eat it and then buy three new ones.

Just make sure the game is polished ...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

MMO Keywords

This is a list of keywords. Make of it what you want. This is a living document at the moment.

Core Gameplay
-> Targeting style (WoW vs. CS)
-> Movement (e.g. strafing, speed, sneaking, running, stamina, ..)
-> Camera perspective (first person, over-the-shoulder, overview, ..)
-> Icons, hotkeys
-> User actions per minute (min, max, average, distribution)
-> Global cooldown
-> Resource mechanics (mana, rage, cooldowns, energy, runes, ..)
-> Group buffs (purpose, magnitude)

Developer data collection
-> Number of players
-> Players active at prime time
-> Average player lifetime (death by NPC/PC)
-> Players per region
-> .. this list is literally endless
-> The more you know the better!
-> Careful with statistics, they are tricky!

Graphics sytle
-> Cartoon
-> Realistic

System requirements
-> High end
-> Typical desktop
-> Laptopable
-> Mobile phone

-> Background music
-> Sound effects
-> Voice output

General Polish
-> Frame rate
-> Response time
-> Internet lags, extrapolation
-> Server lags
-> Client-side movement
-> Compatibility with different computer systems
-> Becoming stuck, falling through terrain
-> Clipping errors
-> Database errors (backup systems)

-> Clearly arranged
-> Information per pixel
-> Freely moveable/sizable/fixed windows
-> Full screen display (instead of windows)
-> User addons
-> Looks, feeling
-> Clicks/keystrokes per activity
-> Focus on standard activities (e.g. buy item, retrieve item, store item)
-> Transparency
-> Font (e.g. readability)
-> Scaling with different resolutions

-> Mail system
-> Castles
-> Player housing
-> Guild halls
-> Player controlled construction
-> Land estate
-> Farming
-> Classic raids
-> Classic dungeons
-> Classic questing
-> Daily quests
-> World bosses
-> Sandbox opportunities
-> Grouping
-> Chat
-> Restricted Communication
-> Unpredictability
-> Developer-made stories
-> Player-made stories
-> Grinding
-> Achievements
-> Background lore
-> Mounts
-> Vehicle combat
-> Naval combat
-> Space combat
-> Prestige items, titles
-> Instances
-> Movie-like cut scenes
-> Classic talent trees
-> User-written macros
-> Destructible environment
-> Chain of Command
-> War
-> Guerrilla warfare
-> Diplomacy
-> Tracking
-> Smelling
-> Sneaking
-> Scouting
-> Swimming
-> Under-water combat
-> Item weight, inventory size
-> Mob AI
-> Threat
-> Collision control
-> Holy trinity: Tank, healer, dd
-> Narrow dungeons, huge dungeons
-> Infinite dungeons
-> Internet sources (e.g.
-> NPC interaction (e.g. dialogue)
-> Dangerous travel
-> Reputation
-> Pets/Companions
-> Locks
-> Traps

Economy (major feature)
-> Trade
-> Travel and transport
-> Free markets
-> Arbitrage
-> Cash flow inside the game
-> Cash flow into the game / out of the game (inflation/deflation)
-> Property flow into the game / out of the game (inflation/deflation)
-> Different currencies in the game, currency exchange
-> Player owned shops
-> Companies
-> Crafting
-> Financial services
-> Player-run financial services (bank account, shares, debt, ..)
-> Resource extraction (small/large scale)
-> Auctions
-> Decay of 'stuff'
-> "Soulbound"

Explicit PvP (major feature)
-> Open world explicit PvP
-> RvR
-> Number of factions
-> Player-created factions
-> Borders
-> Border patrols
-> Battlegrounds
-> Arenas
-> NPCs role
-> Location of players (who may not want to be found)
-> Bounties

Making Dollars
-> Flat fee
-> Time dependent
-> Microtransactions
-> Macrotransactions
-> Free
-> Expensive, but high quality
-> Cheap, and still nice
-> In-game trade of subscriptions (EVE)
-> Stance on commercial gold farming and botting
-> Stance on "gold-selling" by third parties

-> Socializing incentives
-> Guilds
-> Alliances
-> Server identity
-> Faction identity
-> Anonymity
-> Posing
-> Social network features (friend list, ignore list, see facebook)
-> Access from outside the game (e.g. armory)
-> Family Names

-> Credibility
-> Consistency
-> Story for grown ups
-> Elite versions of mobs vs. different mobs?
-> Commercial spam (gold sellers)

-> Convenience
-> Instant fun
-> Teleports
-> Forced breaks (regging, automated travel, ..)
-> Time scale of activities

Character progression
-> Collecting stuff
-> Addiction
-> Gaining abilities
-> Time scale
-> Dependence on time investment (e.g. EVE)
-> Speed of progression
-> Average character modification rate (e.g. gaining a new item)
-> Skill-based
-> Level-based
-> Inter-player balance
-> Interaction of players who are at different states of progression

-> The amount of what a player can do; player-dependent
-> Player generated content
-> Replayability
-> Procedural content generation
-> Size of the world

-> Death penalty
-> Repeated wiping
-> Strategy
-> Tactics
-> Twitch skills
-> Easy to learn, hard to master
-> Casual vs. hardcore
-> Excel sheets
-> Retrieving data
-> Testing hypotheses
-> Mathematical models
-> Numerical optimization
-> Open/Closed policy concerning game mechanics

Player Mentality
-> Aggressive PvP
-> Immersive PvP
-> No PvP
-> Instant fun
-> Time investment
-> Just raidin'
-> Pre-release hype
-> Inter-player rivalry
-> Distraction after work
-> Role playing (in any form)
-> "I want big bosses"
-> Solo play
-> Playing with real life friends
-> Getting to know other players
-> "I am the hero" (Frodo)
-> "I am part of something bigger" (Sam)
-> "I am a stranger who muddles through" (early Aragorn)
-> Player attitude / exspectations at joining the game.
-> Advertisement

-> High fantasy
-> Low fantasy
-> Totally fictional
-> Sci-fi
-> Current western world
-> Middle-ages
-> Wild west
-> Samurai
-> Holy Crusade
-> Colonization
-> Third world
-> Developing world
-> Old Rome
-> Old Greece
-> Third Reich
-> Cold War
-> Vikings
-> Ruthless capitalism
-> Ruthless oppressor(s)
-> Magic/Technology dualism
-> Religion/Gods/Corporations
-> Eternal war (devils, demons, Warhammer-like, ..)
-> Dark
-> Melancholic
-> Light
-> Cute
-> Bloody
-> Aggressive
-> Subliminal horror

Remaining Memories
-> Memorable characters
-> Memorable items
-> Memorable stories
-> Memorable events
-> Potential to cause nostalgia

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

So, who's guilty?

Is it Blizzard? Is it the „industry“? Is it Wolfshead? Is it Tobold, Gevlon or Bush?
No. Nobody is guilty. We all just act according to our interests; well, Blizzards competitors are not, but they aren't guilty, either.

Now, who is responsible?
We all are. We all are responsible for following our interests or not following them. This discussion is pointless.

So, what is it really about?
Differences, different opinions, different interests.

I started playing WoW at release and it was the most perfect virtual world I knew at that time. Which isn't really a surprise, since it was the only one I knew.

I killed, explored, achieved and eventually socialized. I was at home in two worlds. I had beaten WoW in that summer some years ago although Blizzard never intended me to beat it. I ventured forth.

I began to discuss WoW on a more basic level. Game design. I have always been interested in what makes things tick. That's why I started to study financial mathematics, economics and eventually physics. But it seems that what really moves the world is not physics at all. It is politics. I should have known.

For some life is about love, for others it is about god and for many it is about forging their very own prison. For some it is about achievement. I guess I am still exploring; searching for truth and revelation.

For me a MMO should be a virtual world. But for many it should not. For many it shall be a distraction. WoW has become a distraction.

I love stories. Most people do. No, not that kind of story. I like good stories: Stories that could have happened. Stories that play within shades of grey. Stories of tragic heroes and fallen angles. Stories of loving demons and crying giants.
WoW lore has all that.
WoW has none of it.

Sometimes things just happen. There is nobody to blame and too many people responsible. My story of WoW is actually a good story. It could have happened; it actually did. For WoW is a fallen angel for me, while for most it is just a distraction. I guess that makes my efforts those of a tragic hero or a loving, selfish, demon. That distinction has always been a matter of perspective. I cry for what could have been. I cry for what was never achieved.

But nothing is lost forever and my battles continue.

Maybe I will eventually believe what wiser men have already written:

Good ideas will always get a second chance to enter the paradigm, it's just that "wait a quarter of your life for it to happen" thing that's a little depressing.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Richard Bartle

So far in my life I haven't ventured very deep into the abstract theory of MMOs. At least if I compare myself with other people. I just read

by Mr. Bartle and while I might disagree with specific points, I do acknowledge this is very nice 'theory crafting'.

He actually got more to read if you want:

WoW and me

This is some random rambling about WoW. (Yes, almost unpredictable:)

I have quit and come back to WoW about 4 times. Perhaps 5; didn't count. Looking back, the only reason I came back is the gameplay, mostly in battlegrounds. But I also like to visit dungeons to collect equipment for battlegrounds.

I don't really care about the gear, I don't really care much about raiding, although I am social enough to usually end up raiding. I even lead a moderately successful raid (couldn't beat sunwell) during BC, but I didn't quite like it; too much stress.

I sometimes reroll to play low-level BGs as they are more fun than the level-cap ones ever since they removed the OP-twinks. Unfortunately, you level up and eventually reach lvl 61. After that it is less fun for some reason.

I rolled a tank and a healer when the dungeon finder came out and got both into the mid-60ies before I once again quit. The real reason I (ever) played WoW was the actual gameplay.

In fact, it was so good, that during classic WoW I waited 30 minutes for a BG to open. Remember that vanilla battlegrounds lasted (much) longer than todays streamlined versions. My enthusiasm even survived the cross-realm battlegrounds, although a lot of the magic was lost, when the other players became anonymous (dorks).

So many companies have tried to find out what is behind WoWs success. They copy/pasted every single feature like crazy and they all failed. The reason is that somehow Blizzard created a fun gameplay, especially from 1-60. I don't really know what makes it so special, but the flow is just right.

And it is still right! This is not only nostalgia! I still like to play low-level chars in WoW .. at least until they introduced the teleporting cross-realm dungeon finder.

I know that this analysis doesn't help anybody to make a good MMO. Fact is: The features you offer aren't even that important. It is the flow. Perhaps there is some well-hidden psychologial mechanism at work. I cannot explain it.

I do not play and never played WoW for its features. I played it for its flow of gameplay. It is that flow that was lost little by little with every expansion. Grinding mobs for little reward was fun. Yes, it was. In current WoW it is not. Endlessly playing Arathi Basin over and over was fun. Today you can be lucky if players communicate at all in a battleground. Beating a dungon was fun - today it is a joke-like pushover. "Heroic" *dying of laughter*.

Chaincasting hundreds of frost bolts in Molten Core was fun. Don't ask me why!

Although I usually argue in favor of sandbox games, I grew up with WoW. Either WoW influenced me, or I write about MMOs today, exactly because of WoW: I cannot deny that I am a solo-playing MMO player at heart.

I want the world! But I also want to do things solo in the world. Grouping should always be an option - a meaningful option. The dungeon finder is not meaningful. Its teleport is horrible. I do like instant action, but I am not willing to pay the price that is teleports, anonymous groups and mobs that can take no more than two spells. Add that to 10 minutes waiting time that suddenly feel like an eternity.

Looking back, one of the most powerful innovations were servers with a limited number of people. A server-wide community. I know: It wasn't an innovation, it was a necessity. Doesn't change the fact.

The challenge for MMO designers is to implement features that players have always wanted in a way that is actually fun. Gameplay flow plays a role here.

Let me give you an example: You can implement player housing in a myriad of ways. Most of them are not fun and bad for the game.
The challenge is to implement player housing in a fun way. The challenge is not to implement cheap psychological tricks that nobody wants, but everybody gets addicted to once in front of the monitor!!! Who ever wanted an eternal item grind in heroics upgrading his standardized Tx set to T(x+1) ??

Nowadays WoW suffers from a mix-up of means and end. Item upgrades in MMO design are just a means to an end.

I remember logging into WoW and being told that somebody is making a raid to beat some world boss. Those bosses weren't exactly challenging. Nowadays any mediocre raid would laugh about us wiping in front of a boss that could actually be killed by a few healers and a tank. You could get out of combat and drink, ressurect people. You could run from the graveyard back to the ongoing bossfight.

You didn't have a reasonable chance to even get loot from the boss. Hell, you didn't even know that he would drop anything, let alone what.
You were there because it was a server-wide event. Because it was a fucking dragon!

I remember getting my T0 robe about half a year after somebody told me where to get it.

I remember staying awake until the morning to win that damn Alterac valley. I didn't.

I remember casting mana shield the first time before entering Ashenvale Forest. I felt invincible. I remember the first pyroblast that hit for more than 800; in front of the scarlet monastery.

I remember remembering the damage that individual spells did before there was resilience. They took so much longer to cast without haste. I remember a time when only few of my spells were instants.

I remember the awe in front of world bosses. I remember arcane power and presence of mind. I remember critting warriors and I painfully remember "Ashkandi, Greatsword of the Brotherhood" in their hands.

I remember trying to estabilish a raiding guild consisting of cloth-wearers. It didn't quite work. I remember proving that bears could tank Molten Core and Black Wing Lair. I remember calculating my mitigation before any elitist jerk spoiled my fun.

I remember farming for Crusader for weeks - until the friendly rogue "Puschel" came along and offered to help. It dropped about one hour later.

I remember listening to Majordomus Executus and shivering in front of Ragnaros the Fire Lord after about half a year of raiding once per week - long after so many other raids had beaten him on other servers.

I remember being ambushed in north-western Silverpine Forrest. I remember duelling the Feral Druid 'Nature' in Tyr's Hand for hours.

I remember looking different from other mages!

I remember a game that may never have existed. Has it ?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Unpredictability in MMOs

[This is a modified comment from Tobolds blog]

Let me give you a WoW-like MMO example of 100% unpredictability and 0% randomness.

5 players, 5 mobs, no tanks, 3 waves.

The first 5 mobs run to the players. Players select mobs by using TAB or the mouse. Mobs always run to the guy with the most threat. Some of the players need to avoid getting hit, others have a dead zone.

Since humans aren't machines, they will select different mobs and they will do slightly different amounts of damage to these mobs, because they press the 'damage' button with different delays. You do not even need latency here. Human reaction time is enough. The mobs run to different players on the first wave.

When the second wave starts, the players already stand in different positions. They select different mobs with TAB/mouse-click. They do different amounts of damage and need different amounts of time to select a mob or run into range.

Finally, the positioning of the players when the third wave starts is 100% unpredictable. Now, imagine this game mechanic: The guy, next to the mobs of the third wave when they spawn, is attacked until they are dead; he cannot lose their aggro. Unless players actively try to create order here, the fight will be 100% unpredictable.

It looks chaotic and yet it is not random. This is called chaos theory. The butterfly that causes a hurricane some 10.000 km away.

This example even works without crits/miss/etc.
Actually, Blizzard goes to great lengths to actually make encounters predictable. It is actually HARD.

About theoretical unpredictability and randomness: Within Newtonian physics there isn't even randomness. You need to go to quantum physics to even find it - and even then it is questionable, whether we see true randomness or the unpredictability of underlying, but unknown, processes.

Generating random numbers with a computer is a science. It is not easy. And those involved in this science will tell you, that these random numbers aren't even random at all. They are just unpredictable by humans and adhere to some stochastic distribution.

1) Ignoring quantum physics, there isn't even randomness anywhere in the world, let alone in an MMO.

2) Even ignoring this, MMOs do not even need 'random number generators' to create unpredictability. Slight differences in human behavior create unpredictability on their own within a very short amount of time.

3) Blizzard actually uses single boss mobs and tanks to create some kind of predictability: If every bit of an encounter is unpredictable it is totally unfunny; even if there is no randomness at all.

The easiest example of them all: Although chess is totally not-random, every match is totally unpredictable.

Why do I consider the distinction important?

Randomness smells like "arbitrariness".
Players hate this. What most people who ask for randomness actually want is not randomness, but unpredictability.

Random number generators aren't necessary to generate unpredictability; even if they could generate 'random' numbers, which they cannot.

Wolfshead on the MMO Industry

Wolfshead once again wrote a blog post and, as usual, it is almost an event. I don't want to add anything here, because there is too much that would need to be said. I will just link his blog post and use what little influence I have to make more people read it.

Wolfshead: Why the MMO Industry Needs a Real Cataclysm

Make sure to also read Richard Bartles link.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cookie Cutter Specs

When I returned to World of Warcraft late last year and eventually applied for raids with my arcane mage, I was surprised by the focus on cookie cutter specs. WoW always had them, but with the Wrath of the Lich King expansion they started to dominate the entire game mercilessly.

This is especially interesting with the arcane mage spec. You can either spend all (but three) points into the arcane tree and gain considerable defensive abilities, or ignore all defensive abilities and put these skill points into the ice tree. This way you can gain one offensive ability that is worth a few percent of dps during a long fight.

Having been a raid leader during BC I knew that most raids don't wipe because of enrage timers, but because of prior player death. Now, the more dps you have, the sooner the fight is over and consequently the less chance there is for a player death. Still, does this justify to give up considerable defensive abilities to gain a little bit of dps?
In the eyes of my raid it did; I still convinced them to let me try my spec first.

In the beginning everything went well. I did average dps (considering my equip) and took less damage than anybody else – especially in magic fights. But eventually I was told that I should do more dps and shouldn't care as much about damage taken. “That's what the healers are there for”. I respeced and consequently did more dps. I don't think I died more often.
When my equip was finally complete, it felt great to lead the dps meter. But the doubt always remained: Did I act to the best of my raid or to the best of my dps meter?

Actually, I do not know. If healers spec only for heal per second and tanks only for effective health and damage dealers only for damage per second, the game can be beaten. You could argue that the game is balanced that way.

But where does this relentless focus on one number for every role come from? It certainly hasn't always been like that. And, should we welcome this development?

Although WoW is certainly not very hard to beat if you have a good internet connection and a grown-up raid, there is no other MMO I know of that focuses more on the performance of the individual. Blizzard reduced raid size exactly because they wanted it this way. The central idea here is justice. And it is hard to argue that this is a bad idea. However, it superseded another idea: The idea of individual, differing characters.

In modern WoW raiding, everybody performs within a deviation of perfection. Perfection is well defined by known skill rotations, if-then rules and fight-specific movement patterns. The firm believe is that, if everybody acts perfectly, any encounter is easy to beat. And while this believe is certainly well-founded, that doesn't mean that we have to welcome it.

The individual performance should matter. But it should not be measured in deviation from perfection, because this necessarily leads to the forced adherence to static guidelines. To be clear: I do not bemoan that individual skill matters, but that it is measured in deviation from a pre-defined and static perfection. This is only possible, because perfection is easily determined (elitist jerks) and measured (recount).

Although the designers of World of Warcraft in principle allow players to skill in many different ways, the reality of the raid encounters prevents them from creating an individual character. There is no space for deviation from perfection.

One way to address this is to implement different encounters that each require different skills. But there always is a perfect way to beat any encounter and if different encounters require drastically different skills, players feel forced to respec on-the-fly, which certainly is not fun. One way to counter this is to disallow talent respec during one raid id or some time interval. And while this leads to several problems, I do advise to look into this possibility. The most elegant way to allow for deviation from perfection, however, is to make the determination and measurement of perfection too hard to be practically possible.

More specifically, this means that raid encounters should not be balanced around the maximum possible dps, the maximum possible hps and the maximum possible effective health. Instead, they should require all classes to spec in a balanced way. All damage dealers should be required to also spec for survival, all healers to also spec for damage and survival and all tanks to also spec for damage.
All players should have an arsenal of 'fun'-abilities to cc/snare enemies and avoid or mitigate damage for a short period of time.

A different encounter design could also help players interact more. The only player-interaction in nowadays raids is healing, and this is a very one-directional interaction. A few raids ago, during Dreamwalker, I threw a grenade at some mob who attacked a healer. This certainly decreased my dps. But it also was a lot of fun.
This kind of player-interaction can also be reestabilished with a focus on 'fun'-skills, which really shouldn't just be fun and useless, like they are today.

It is much harder to compare the combination of several different cc/avoidance/damage mitigation abilities than to compare dps. If raid encounters required such skills, instead of maximization of only one number, elitist jerks regained the challenge to determine good specs. Today, all they need to do is to run a numerical optimization algorithm to determine the perfect spec.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Great Scam

This is a story of deception, intrigue, and doublecrossing. It is a story of liars, bandits, and greed. It is a story of the worst of the human condition, and how the motive for profit will drive a normally nice guy to the deepest depths of evil and betrayal.

This is the story of my life in Eve Online.

Is scamming the reason I like sandbox games? I believe .. no.
Especially, since this story takes place too much in real life for my taste.
But then, it is so well written and so engaging that it just deserves to be spread around.

GUIs: EVE vs. WoW

[This is a modified comment I made on Tobolds blog]

Comparing WoW and EVE, the two asymmetric cornerstones of MMO business today, we can come up with some ideas, I think.

Let's look at inventory. Both games have an inventory. In EVE you have three ways to make it look. These buttons, which change how the inventory is displayed, are located right next to the items. They take up unnecessary space and should be in some 'settings'. This would save some space and make it look less confusing to the new player.

Next, the name of the item is always displayed and you also have a tooltip, just like in WoW. This tooltip, however is just one line that contains the name of the item. Since the name of an item is already shown, I wonder what's the purpose?

Next, the icons are far apart. A lot of space is wasted this way. Actually, I think the icon itself is even bigger than the WoW icons, which makes you wonder ;)

A lot of items in EVE have cryptic names. For example:
"Small 'Vehemence' I Shockwave Charge". Don't know about you, but I do not instantly see that this is a smart bomb.

Therefore, I usually use the display setting that shows just text. But since long names in EVE are the norm, you end up needing a lot of space. Also due to the font that has a very, very small height and thus makes you set the spaces between the characters extra large.

My 'bag' in EVE ends up much bigger than in Wow.

Now, you could argue that that is because it contains more information. But all you actually get in EVE are name of the item and quantity. For anything else you need to right-click and 'show info'. If you display in text-only form, you also get the group the item belongs to (smart bombs) and the slot it fits into.

Let's have a look at WoW:
In contrast to EVE, there's just one way to make the inventory look: Icons. Just like in EVE, the quantity is shown. The icon is smaller than the EVE icon (if icon setting is used), and the space between icons is much smaller.

All the other information about the item is contained in a tooltip.

And here we go: The tooltip.
Tooltips are everywhere in WoW. EVERYWHERE! You want to know something about something: Hover your mouse over it.

One big difference between WoW and EVE GUI are tooltips! EVE has them, but doesn't use them wisely or at all. The tooltip you get if you hover over an item is just the name of the item. Useless. An information that is already shown - even in 'big item' display setting.

The original bag in WoW can contain 16 items. Try to display 16 items in EVE: Look at the space the entire inventory windows needs. No matter which of the three display settings you use: The EVE windows covers much more space on your screen.

And since they have bad tooltips there is even much less immediately accessible information!

The way EVE displays the inventory is worse in EVERY regard.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

MMOs and Heroes

[This is a modified comment I made on Tobolds blog]

We all agree that heroes are limited in number by definition.
This applies to everything humans do. If every guy jumped into a burning house to safe the children, the one who got the water to safe the houses in the neighborhood were the hero.

Humans value almost everything that is rare. (If it doesn't harm them). Even if it is something utterly useless, like gold in nowadays real life.

MMOs and all social activities allow you to gain respect from other people within a limited group.
Single shard games, like EVE, can also add a sense of a large community. That is not unsimilar to one-shard battlegrounds in WoW a long time ago, just more massive and thus potentially more meaningful.

One difference between EVE and other MMOs is that in EVE the stories that are told are smart and credible. While the stories that other MMOs tell are catered to 8-year olds.

Why did we build a colloseum in Northrend?? Why did NPCs capture terribly powerful 'boss mobs' in Northend, brought them to the colloseum to have us test ourselves? Isn't that a little bit inappropiate allocation of rescouces? Weren't we there for the Lich King? Didn't we have a limited amount of time? If they really, really thought they'd need this colloseum, why didn't they build it in the old world? Probably a lot easier in the absence of the Lich King and his minions...

Why does the LK teleport to the Colloseum right into the center of all his joined enemies? Why doesn't anybody try to kill him the second he is there? How credible is it that this colloseum is built on top of Anub'araks cave? Didn't we kill Anub'arak before in some heroic? Why doesn't the Lich King do something about this flying city right next to his citadell for months ? What did he actually do at all exept for waiting for us to kill him? .... And then Blizzard actually stopped caring about story altogether: Onyxia.

On the other hand, there are stories in WoW that I write myself: My guild, my raids, my BGs, my arena team: These stories are credible, they are meaningful, powerful. They are what we actually enjoy in MMOs.

In EVE the 'official' story is consistent with these stories, in WoW it is not.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Status Report: EVE Online

I restarted EVE with my 600k skill-points character. 50% of those skill points had already been invested into learning skills, the rest allowed me to fly Minmatar cruisers. I had also trained every single skill to at least 2.

I had quit EVE in October last year when I had finally acquired my Rupture. That’s the most expensive Minmatar cruiser, costing 5 million in contrast to about 3 million, which is the cost of the other three cruiser types. The Rupture is slow as hell for a Minmatar ship. Going like 200 m/s, I did a few L1 missions and totally destroyed my enemies. Actually it was annoyingly trivial.

Then I decided to visit Jita. It was great to see such a crowded place in EVE. I put my clone there as it is a great place for shopping. Unfortunately, on my way back I decided to take the risky path through low-sec and right after I quit the second jump gate I saw lots of red ships in the system. I tried to do something, but was already warp scrambled and destroyed within about 15 seconds. I'm rather proud that the Rupture lasted that long, actually. A few seconds later somebody wanted to initiate chat with me. They told me that this is a ransom and I should pay them 20mio.

I asked them why I should pay 20mio after they destroyed my ship (which was worth about 8 million). Since I had about 2 million on the bank account I couldn’t pay and they podded me. I thanked them for the free teleport and told them to not be so trigger-happy in the future if they really wanted a ransom. Then I left the chat, not without noting that we would see again (in a few months, when I would have enough skill points / allies). I made a screenshot of the kill rights, so I won’t forget them. :)

Fortunately, the Rupture was insured and I got 5 million out. Since I didn’t want to bankrupt myself I bought only a Stabber this time. The Stabber is the fastest Minmatar cruiser. It has average defensive capabilities and average firepower – and only space for one drone. The Rupture had space for six. However, the Stabber actually looks real good. The Rupture looked like an upright triangle.

I found that I liked the speed (with afterburners 650 m/s) and put in some powerful short range weapons. This was a mistake as soon as I started to do level II missions, some of which are quite tough. So I replaced the short range turrets with four small artillery and two small missile launchers, but found out again that the range 10km optimal + 8km falloff just wasn’t enough. I ended up putting three medium sized artillery guns in the high slots and filling the remaining three slots with anti-missile missiles and two salvagers. I didn't have enough power to use more than three medium artillery turrets. Now I can effectively fire at 44 km using long range ammunition or 25km with the most powerful ammunition.

Unfortunately, 44 km is the maximum range of the Stabber and my current skills. The turrets could actually be effective at 40 km + 21 km. 44 km, however, were enough to finally rape the pirate Kruul and do a lot of level II missions in low sec.

Long range kiting and sniping, eventually became slow and tedious. Thus I started to go for the 25 km fightig distance soon, effectively betting that I am able to kill them before they kill me. It worked so far :).

By the way: I used the agent finder to find the best agents for me, but I don’t think that such a tool should only be available outside the game; or even necessary at all.

Later in the evening a duo of pirates warped to a mission I was doing. I hastily managed to warp away, only to find out that they were actually faster at warping than I and also knew where I was warping to. As soon as I arrived I was warp scrambled and podded some 30 seconds later. I lost some pretty valuable salvaged parts. I doubt, however that they will be valuable to them. They didn’t look like new players to me.

Next time I will first activate the afterburner and then go at 650 m/s away from them. That might have worked better. With the long range artillery I might even have been dangerous. :)

Alternatively I could have tried to warp to some place, but get out of warp at some 100 km before. I don’t know enough to judge if this might have worked. I don’t even know how they knew where I was warping. Since I had a full capacitator I could also have tried to warp to some far away place; hoping that they cannot follow me there in one warp.

Of course, I could also put some warp core stabilizers in the low slots, but each of them reduces the distance I can fire and doubles the time needed to lock. Having two stabilizers makes my artillery pretty useless short range weapons that don’t hit anything that moves.
Again, I made a screenshot of the kill rights, so that I will some day have my revenge (one month probably won't be enough) and moved on.

Since I couldn’t afford to lose another cruiser, I continued to mission in high sec and also started to salvage every wreck I encounter. This has helped my finances quite a lot. I’ve bought logic and eidetic memory skills for 8 million total and still cannot decide on what to buy with my loyalty points. I do missions for the (Minmatar) Republic fleet only and got 3000 LP by now.

Thursdays and Friday are public holidays here, so that’s when I will try to find some null sec corp that welcomes newbies. So far I do have some fun.

I just need to pull my 22'' monitor just in front of my eyes to be able to lean back in my chair and still read the text. And I need to get up every hour or so and do something else, because a headache sets in. This GUI is the most stupid load of shit I have ever seen. Yes, I did choose these words deliberately.

Otherwise, EVE is GREAT ! :)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The PvE vs. PvP fallacy

There are three kinds of MMO players:

1) PvE guys. They don't care much about the virtual word. All they want is a group and a big boss.  Teleporting around the world is great, because travel is boring. They dominate World of Warcraft.

2) PvP guys. They don't care about the virtual world at all. All they want to do is to test their 'skills'; that often is latency+reaction times. Sometimes it also incorporates skills that require smart thinking. For PvP guys it is of tremendious importance that all fights are as fair as possible on a level as low as possible. WoW Arena, and Counter Strike are perfect examples.

3) Virtual World guys: The most important thing is the credibility, immersion and consistency of the world. They care about the story that they experience. Take Wolfshead Online, or myself, for example.

Now, since the credibility of the world usually requires that you can not only engage with special PvE mobs, but also other players, group (3) usually also favours PvP to some extend. That doesn't make them 'PvPer', however. Group (3) enjoys high-sec in EVE, because it is credible that the PvE run empires protect their space and disallow wild shooting. They enjoy that in theory you could attack somebody else in high-sec, although almost nobody does it. They enjoy a gang of 4 high level undeads rogues in a WoW starter area, as it adds flavor to the world.

In contrast to group (2), group (3) doesn't really care that much about the level at which PvP is fair, or wether it is fair at all. As long as they experience a story that is immersive, credible and consistent they are all right.
They are the kind of people who angrily leave the cinema, because the evil guy was once again artificially stupid (which is why he was defeated). And besides: Why did he want to destroy the entire universe in the first place ??

Group (2) faces the prejudice of being anti social. Visit a WoW non-RP PvP server for a taste.

Group (1) faces the prejudice of being emotionally unstable. If their virtual character gets teleported against their will due to an action of another player they scream and whine. (But it doesn't matter at all, if 'only' a PvE mob is responsible).

Group (3) doesn't face much prejudice, because there are very few games for them. The PvP RP servers of WoW originally attracted some of them. As did Darkfall and EVE Online, of course.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Fair and unfair PvP

Last week we had several topics at Tobolds blog that got quite an attention. For one thing we were commenting on EVE Online, but mostly we were talking about fair and un-fair PvP with many commenters argueing in favor of EVE Online PvP, without even playing it.
While Tobold did a rather nice wrap-up as part of an ongoing EVE Online review, I will try to cover the more basic question of fairness in PvP computer games.
I will start by quoting a comment by David:
1. As other people have pointed out, the more strategy there is to the gameplay the more likely that tactical combat will be wildly unfair (since the whole POINT of having a strategy is to make things tactically unfair). For example if you play a Total War game, the battles are much more unfair if you play the campaign mode than if you play a single battle since that gameplay mode introduces a strategic element.

It is impossible to make all tactical combat fair without removing the strategic element to a game. People who like their games to have a strategic element don't like that.

In MMORPGs there's a sliding scale of strategy vs. tactics with Eve 0.0 warfare at one end and arena battles at the other. Different people like different places on this spectrum, neither is inherently more fun than the other and neither is "evil."

2. Playing out an unfair battle can be very fun. If there's an unfair battle then you can have goals like escape, try to take a few of them down with you, hold off the enemy until reinforcements arrive, try to kill all of the enemy without getting any loses at all, try to kill all of the enemy before reinforcements arrive etc. And if you can actually win a battle that's tilted against you, then that is very fun indeed. For some people, having every battle be exactly evenly matched gets boring. Some of the most fun I've had in MMORPGs has been doing massed (nearly) hopeless suicide charged of lowbie characters against high level gankers. Sometimes they even worked :)

Some people really like being the underdog or having other forms of unfair combat and some people don't. Neither choice is inherently more fun and neither is "evil."

3. Many people prefer PvP that simulates wars, rather PvP that simulates sports. It is simply impossible to design a PvP system that simulates a real life war in which each and every battle is tactically balanced. It would feel forced and artificial and it would ruin the whole feeling (for the people who prefer PvP that simulates war).

The benefit of Sport PvP is that it is fair and that there are more rules, but War PvP has benefits as well:
-It produces real history.
-It is much more capable of producing surprises.
-It does a better job of making the world feel "real."
-It is better for supporting player created political units.
-It allows for much deeper and long term strategy, diplomacy, etc.
-It allows for a much more varied PvP experience.

Now, for some people all those benefits trump the benefits that Sport PvP provides and for some people they don't. Neither Sport PvP nor War PvP are inherently more fun than the other and neither is "evil." It's a matter of taste.

Now going out of your way to harass people in ways that doesn't benefit you at all (like killing newbies) is a rather jerkish thing to do, but saying that every single form of combat in which both sides are not tactically balanced is unfun and "evil" is using a very broad brush.

Also how well Eve does at living up all of that is a whooooole 'nother question, but you weren't talking about Eve specifically, but instead about ANY form of PvP in which the sides aren't equal or any kind of gameplay that results in PvP between unequal sides.
This comment is illuminating in my opinion (and unfortunately there were no answers to it at Tobolds blog). But it doesn’t cover the abstract, underlying truth: That no (non-artificial) PvP-game (element) ever is perfectly fair and, no PvP game (element) ever is perfectly unfair. In fact, all (non-artificial) PvP game (elements) aspire to be perfectly fair given the correct perspective.

Take soccer as an example. Ignoring skill differences in the teams, soccer can be considered fair. Every side has exactly the same number of people and follows the same basic rules. Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that ignoring skill differences is not a given. If Bayern München challenges a team of 7-year olds, that match could hardly be described as fair.
But, ignoring skill differences still makes you wonder about fairness in soccer: Imagine two defenders attacking a striker. Is that fair? No! This singled out situation is not fair. What is fair, however, is the fact that both teams (ignoring skill differences) had the same chances to make such a situation happen.

In German this is called “Chancengleichheit” instead of “Gleichheit”. Which translates to “equality of chances” vs. “equality”. Our economic system (social market economy) is considered fair if it offers every person the same chances at the beginning of life, while ignoring skill differences. Soccer is fair by the same argument.

Now, by this standard our economic system isn’t perfectly fair, nor is soccer or any MMO. The experienced guy who started with release started among equals, while the newbie starts among experienced players. It is important to differentiate between a game being perfectly fair and the level at which a game aspires to be perfectly fair, but usually isn’t. Even in soccer different conditions of the ground cannot be eliminated, nor can the fact that the audience is unfair. Players might have a hard time because their wife is ill or because their feet are injured. These are conditions that cannot be made equal within practical approaches, thus we accept them.
In MMOs some kind of character progression (horizontal and vertical) happens by definition of the genre and thus a latecomer cannot be offered the same experience as a player who plays since release. Considering the lack of practical alternatives, we (ought to) accept that.

EVE Online isn’t fair on a player basis, but it tries to be fair on a corporation basis (ignoring differences in the number of members). Of course, some old corporations can still have an advantage compared to new ones, but we can probably agree that the corp vs. corp or Alliance vs. Alliance game of EVE is quite fair. At least as fair as WoW battlegrounds with players wearing different item sets, having different experience levels and even playing for different amounts of time per week.

Nobody is in favor of unfair PvP. But most people agree that the activity itself is allowed to define the perspective from which to judge!

In a single soccer match we judge at a team vs. team basis and ignore skill differences. In a soccer league we judge from the perspective of the season and even sometimes allow advantages for the winner of the last season. We do not consider it unfair if one party loses a match 0:1 and still makes it to the next round, while the opponent doesn't, if they have won an earlier match with a high score of 3:0.

The level at which a game aspires to be fair is different between WoW-Arena PvP, WoW battleground PvP, chess and almost any game. Every game defines a different perspective from which you judge fairness. No (non-artificial) game aspires to be completely fair at every level and no (non-artificial) game aspires to be perfectly unfair at every level. It all comes down to the perspective, and this perspective is part of the rules of the game. Each game defines its own rules and part of the rules, usually mentioned between the lines, is the level at which the game aspires to be fair.

If players consider a game unfair it is sometimes, because they reject the perspective from which to judge. They disagree with the level at which the game should be fair. This is their fault. If you consider soccer unfair, because two or even four defenders are allowed to tackle one striker, quit playing soccer, but don't call soccer unfair! Every (non-artificial) game is unfair at some level; actually at all conceivable levels below one.

As David points out, the level at which a game aspires to be fair has massive influence on the game. If a game wants to incorporate strategy between battles it cannot forcefully equalize each battle. If it did, there were little point in strategizing in the first place. Thus, if you want to play a game that incorporates strategy (like soccer), you also need to allow for unfair situations at a lower level.

Finally: Fairness isn’t as important as people might think. Sure, players scream and shout all the time, but what really determines if they play your game is the actual gameplay. The GUI, the accessibility, the flow. This is the secret behind World of Warcraft; a game that I abhor for the level at which it aspires to be fair, but still play and enjoy. Playing a battleground in WoW is fun although it doesn’t have any consequence whatsoever. That fun of battle itself is enough for me to keep playing and paying. This is where EVE Online considerably lacks behind. The battles itself can be very tedious, even boring. EVE scores only at the next level: Strategy.
And this is why I say that WoW and EVE Online can learn a lot from each other: WoW can learn that fairness at every level isn’t actually important (they, of all companies should know) and that allowing for strategy has the advantages that David listed. And EVE online can learn that the GUI and the flow of gameplay is one of the very most important aspects of any game.

Thanks to David for the comment.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

EVE Online ?

In the future this blog might occasionally cover some of EVE Online. After two days of very interesting, but eventually disappointing discussions on Tobolds blog, I figured that the EVE community is reason enough to give it one more try.

My last comment at Tobolds latest post:

With a heavy heart, I agree, Phedre.

I too, am downloading the EVE client right now. Not because I learned something new about EVE. I still dislike the skills system and the RMT. I still consider mining boring and the GUI abysmal.

I will give EVE another try, because during the last few days we could see two kinds of commenters here.

The first kind tried to argue, give reasons, tried to listen and then write a comprehensive answer.
The other kind usually posted something like: "You cannot argue with me; everybody has the right to his own opinion. Full Stop."

Tobold himself somehow felt attacked and took cover behind a 10m thick wall of stone. He unconsciously blocked every comment and every argument that appeared to be 'against him'. He even went so far to assert that he ventured into 0.0 just to be killed. So that he could then argue that EVE is about ganking and bullying.
You get several warnings before you reach 0.0. Just like in WoW, once you are there (alone in the capital of the other faction), you get killed fast. If it is about exploration: Safe space in EVE is vast! And even in WoW if you go out adventuring – even on a PvE server – you will get killed once you are in Wintergrasp!
I don't get how somebody, who is able to write so elegantly, can actually try to take cover behind such a laughable argument.

The current plan is to find some good corp in 0.0 that accepts relative newbies. The most important thing to me is to actually be useful as soon as possible with the new char. Main interests are economics and PvP. I am online 18-22 CET and most weekends.