Tag pvp

The End Times: Post-apocalyptic sandbox or just another quest grind?

Syp, of Bio Break, wrote a great post about why you shouldn’t play Fallen Earth a couple of days ago. Syp is a big FE-fan, but he still manages to see the faults, for which I applaud him. And while I love Fallen Earth as well, more and more cracks are starting to show in the otherwise so lovely (in a barren, post-apocalyptic sense) facade.

I call it...mister Pointy.

I call it...mister Pointy.

I’m still sticking with what I said about immersion – Fallen Earth does such a great job when it comes to that. I am also having a lot of fun questing, fighting, harvesting and crafting. After all, who doesn’t love wearing a top hat while stabbing things to death with a pointy stick? I did have a head towel that had better stats on it, but seriously, there was no way I could stay away from the top hat. I look awesome, especially wearing my sunglasses. Killing coyotes or bandits never looked this good before.

But I can’t help thinking that I’m forgiving Fallen Earth for sins that I’ve blamed other MMOs of doing. While I am having fun playing it, I wonder if certain design choices that Icarus Studios have made that are just as damning here as they are in other games. So, I thought I’d take a look at things that are already in place, but which I personally hope will get fixed/changed before they make me burn out prematurely.

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Why the Aion community is scaring me away

Or “Why quest helper, not World of Warcraft, ruined MMOs”

Let’s get the positive stuff out of the way first – I am really starting to enjoy Aion. Yes, it’s so far nothing more than a typical quest grind for XP, the quests are terribly unoriginal and getting into a fight with more than one mob (God forbid three) is a pain. But I’m having fun, I love the alien design, the flavor texts and the storyline. I’ve started to craft a bit, which I also like despite the system for doing it is traditional (do I dare call it “archaic”?) and I like to fly (even though I think the flight timer system is silly in a game so built on flight). PvP, at the arena, is intense and gives me a taste for more – I still wish there was a way to level through PvP alone. If you develop a game so focused on PvP as Aion is at higher levels, you really ought to offer that as an alternative to the typical PvE grind.

With that said, I do have problems with the game. And one of the major ones is how the community feels right now. It’s still early in the game, a lot of people probably won’t play after their first 30 days are up, but at this point it’s almost scary. The general chat is filled with utter nonsense most of the time, the names taken from World of Warcraft are in abundance and the name calling and insulting is constant. Today I was called a “rtard” (people actually use words like that?) by a player called Ladysylvanas (I called that name “unoriginal”, another player called it “gay” – you choose…) and it’s almost becoming a sport between me and Terr to spot names like “Kiljaeden”, “Jaina” or “Azeroth” while we play and point them out over Twitter. Got to love that real time updated social web, no?

I managed to find myself a pretty nice Legion to at least chat with, they seem like a good bunch, but the community is a constant noise in the back of my head. Sure, I can block them, and I keep my Legion chat tab up most of the time to not see General (I don’t want to leave it just yet, since the game is so new there might be a few hidden gems in it), but just knowing that they are out there makes my skin crawl. I guess it’s a problem with most MMOs, but I can’t remember it being this bad in Warhammer Online or Age of Conan when they launched. There were idiots, absolutely, but the community in Aion reminds me more of the one on my server in Runes of Magic than in any other game I’ve played so far.

The impact on actual gameplay is of course none, Aion is still fun. But it better pick up as I level, since I don’t really want to waste away hours on end on a game filled with people that get on my nerves. I want to enjoy Aion without the constant reminder that the good people are few and far between. If you don’t believe me, do take a look at the official forums and tell me that I’m overreacting.

Also, and this is one of the things that gets me the most, everyone seem to be terribly lazy. Despite Aion having clickable links in the quest journal that often can show you exactly where to go, a lot of players don’t seem to even bother to do that, instead asking in General chat about the most fundamental things (“where is X, where do I get Y, I can’t find N, etc”). I can’t help blaming this a bit on Quest Helper, which truly turned World of Warcraft into a game for drones. I’m guilty as well, I installed Quest Helper just like everyone else, but that does not mean I feel handicapped the second I end up in a game that doesn’t have similar tools. Read the freaking quest journal, for crying out loud. It’s all right there! Some even ask for directions to things that’s been shown in cut scenes, which always makes me wanna shove my head through my screen.

There are two things that might get me when it comes to Aion – the grind or the community. As soon as I’ve played enough to deliver my review (which will never, truly be enough of course), I’m going to make a decision. Either I press on, or I ditch Aion for the time being. The community in games like Ryzom is so nice that I don’t see why I should have to live through this crap to enjoy myself. I am also considering picking up Fallen Earth to see how it is and feels, with an extra careful eye towards its budding community. No more, I say. No more.

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Hey, look – I’m actually playing Aion

Yes, it’s true – I decided to shift server, the queues are down, the server cap has been increased. That means I can actually log into Aion and, you know, play…

It’s certainly an improvement. So far, I’m enjoying myself, even though it is still a PvE quest grind fest in the lower levels – at this point it really doesn’t add anything to the genre. I know things will get different when you get into the Abyss and the PvP game begins, which I’m really looking forward to, but even Runes of Magic did “more” for the MMO genre in its first levels than Aion does. To be honest, the saving grace of Aions’ early game is the graphics. They look amazing, I find myself drawn to the world and I’m really happy that the drawing distance has been improved since the first closed beta. Thank you, NCsoft.

I do understand what Sera meant when she said that she didn’t think Aion had a soul, it’s hard to shake the feeling that something is lacking. Hopefully I will be able to find that missing touch as I progress, since I have great hopes for Aion as a good PvP game. Also, my character (pictured above) looks awesome. She is ready to kick some Elyos scum back to whatever sun-infested place they came from. As soon as she’s done grinding for XP, that is…

Major gripe with Aion for the day – the battle music. It’s horrific. That and the fact that people lack imagination – the amount of Warcraft-related names is staggering. How about some strict enforcing of naming policies, NCsoft? Be quick about it, please, you can’t really accept a Legion calling themselves “Frostmourne”, can you? Feel free to just perma-ban all the people who can’t help chatting about World of Warcraft in General chat while you’re at it, it’s such a sad sight.

If you happen to be in a nice Legion on Castor-EU, with mature players and a good sense of humor, feel free to contact me. A large part of the community scares me (I was just told that “asassins [sic] are pro rangers are ghey” in Assassin chat) and I think I will need to hide from it as much as possible, while still hoping to find a Legion with great people that enjoy the PvP Aion has to offer. Why do I play MMOs again? Hmmm, I guess I should save that for another post.

Just to end at a high note – combat in Aion is, at least so far, a lot of fun. It’s fast, the attacks look great and I really like the chain system. But it most certainly isn’t a sandbox game, so I’m not sure if it has the appeal to keep me playing for a long, long time. Then again, I played World of Warcraft for ages, so perhaps I should keep my mouth shut…

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Champions on the line

See what I did there? I’m very proud of myself.

I guess I am becoming increasingly grumpy, but I am really trying to enjoy my time with Champions Online and failing. Everyone else seem to enjoy it, to a degree, but the more I play it the more I realise that I am not having fun. My character looks really cool, wearing a short skirt, a bowler hat and touting two large guns, and I guess that the hover board she’s flying around on is kinda neat, but…it’s not enough. The more I play, the worse it gets.

Let’s get the regular disclaimer out of the way – I am not far into Champions Online. I just dinged level 10, I’m stuck in the dull wilderness of Canada, and still have a long way to go before I can start exploring the world proper and craft my own Nemesis. This is a MMO, I have barely scratched the surface. But the fact remains that I have no real incentive to keep playing. I know I’ll get to Millennium City sooner or later, but do I really want to? If I’m not enjoying the game now, what is there to say that I will in a few levels time?

So, what’s my problem? First of all, the game feels slow. Not frame-rate dropping slow, just slow paced. I am sure the action gets better when you got more powers to play around with and the enemies become trickier, but so far combat is dull. Travelling is also slow and doesn’t flow the way I was hoping for and the graphics leave a lot to wish for even on near-maximum settings. Questing is boring as well, the same old MMO quest grind that we’ve seen thousands of times before – innovation is not Champs Online’s strongest point. Perhaps it’s my power set and chosen travel power that are not fun enough, but if I want to try something completely different I’ll either have to retcon (i.e respecc) my character completely, which I can’t afford, or play through the tutorial area again, which I don’t ever want to do again. Also, I like guns.

I did enjoy PvP for a bit, until I noticed how certain power sets and travel powers made it more or less unplayable for my chosen type of hero. Munitions against crowd control-heavy characters that use teleports? Boom, splat, gone. I know Munitions do have a CC-power, which I’ll try to pick up and see if I can even the odds a bit. I did consider rerolling just for the PvP, but since you don’t get experience points for PvPing (oh, how I miss that from WAR in every game I play these days) it would still force me to play through regular PvE. And creating a new character only for teleports and CC, knowing that the PvP-side of the game probably will fare victim to the usual nerf-fest that Blizzard perfected in the Arena, seems utterly pointless. I will just try to enjoy the PvP as much as I can without that edge, comforted by the thought that no particular power set will stay on top forever.

Yet, I am not sure if I will make it that far. I try to log in and play for longer periods of time, but I keep finding myself bored and log out after a few missions. There’s nothing in the lore that interests me, the world isn’t exciting and the crafting feels like a complete waste of time (that’s what you get after playing too much Vanguard, Ryzom or Everquest II – you get spoiled by interesting crafting systems).

Maybe it’s the setting that puts me off? Perhaps super heroes are not cool enough, or not the type of characters that I want to play when I play MMOs. Perhaps, since no matter how cool my char’s bowler hat is, I don’t feel connected to her at all. With both Fallen Earth and Aion releasing this month (Fallen Earth on my birthday, no less – nudge, nudge, wink, wink, Icarus Studios), I am not sure for how long Champions Online will be able to keep up my already low interest.

I will keep playing, perhaps things will change. I just need to get out of Canada, since that zone is starting to drive me crazy.

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Fighting the good fight

When I started to play EVE Online I wanted to be a trader. I wasted a good amount of my attribute points on Charisma, which I at the time had no idea was more or less completely useless. I quickly discovered that trading took a lot of work and since I suck at math (always have, probably always will) and after joining my first larger corp I decided to stick with PvP skills instead. Since I am still a roleplayer at heart, I decided that my Gallente pilot was a dedicated freedom fighter, wishing to fight the good fight – especially against the slaver empire of Amarr.

That whole idea, that my character wants to bring down what she sees as the Evil Empire of the EVE cluster, has been central throughout my whole career. For a brief period I joined up with the Star Fraction, one of the most radical guerrilla groups in EVE, and fought the CVA – an Amarr roleplaying alliance – up close and personal. Sadly I didn’t have much time to play back then (not that I have more time now…), and me and SF soon parted ways, but it was during those brief months that I had the most fun playing EVE. But more or less constant warfare, and letting my mission running account lapse, was taxing and since I couldn’t dedicate that much time or energy on keeping my funds up to replace lost ships, I didn’t have much choice in the matter. I set up a personal corp in The Forge, one jump from Jita, and took a break from all the fighting.

Damn, I miss it.

I’m in a new corp now, but “ordinary” corp life does not sit right with me. Mining, mission running, the random PvPing/ganking…it’s just not my cup of tea. I could go back to The Forge and put some actual effort into my alt corp, but that will mean either industry or mission running on my own. I want to fight and I want to fight the good fight again. So what choices do I have? Join the Minmatarr militia and factional warfare against the Amarr Empire, look for a corp in Ushra’Khan or see if the Fraction will take me back? Either way, I am still flat broke and could use a quick infusion of cash – perhaps I should pick up a PLEX or two (omfg, RMT!).

I miss the thrill of jumping into a system you know has hostiles waiting on the other side of the gate, the adrenaline rush of warping in on a enemy fleet or the frantic giving of orders when you are probed down and ambushed in what you thought was a safe spot. It’s either that or rot away in Perimeter again, gaining more and more skill points that I never put to good use.

EVE Online is war, the constant fight for a place in the universe.

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Fight for your right

Tonight, me and my guild in Ryzom will aid what would under normal circumstances be viewed as an enemy guild, standing up for what we believe in. I’m looking forward to getting my ass handed to me by some veteran players in the name of the cause.

What’s that word I’m looking for? Oh yeah…immersion. Long time, no see.

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Pop goes the Thorax

Now you see it, now you don't.

Now you see it, now you don't.

About an hour ago, I decided to head up to a nearby patch of low sec space in EVE to check out the rats, perhaps make some fast money before down time. The only ship that I had available in the area was my trusty Thorax, I haven’t had the time or energy to move up any other ship to my new home yet, and it’s been known to take quite a beating from rats because of my skills so I didn’t really think twice about it. A few quick jumps later I was in a 0.1 system, alone in local, and I headed for an ice field to see what I could find.

To my great happiness I found a battleship spawn and three cruisers, which I decided to take on. The battleship went down pretty fast, but just as I had started to work on one of the cruisers and seeing my drones doing good damage to it I notice that I am no longer alone in system. Space is usually quite blue in our area, but the thought to warp out straight away did hit me. I decided to recall my drones just in case, which is about the same time as I see a Myrmidon warp in on me…

A second later, I’m scrambled and can’t get out. The cruisers are still shooting at me, my shields are more or less gone, and then the Myrm starts eating away at my armor. I try firing back, but at this point I’m in a panic – I haven’t been in a PvP-fight in EVE for a very long time, so I notice that I am still firing at the rats. Things go downhill fast and my beloved Thorax is soon blown to space dust. Luckily, I manage to warp out before the Myrm can target my pod.

Me and the Myrm pilot exchange pleasantries, including him pointing out that I didn’t even fire on him (thanks for noticing), and then I jump out of system and make my way back to high sec before logging. It was a good wake up call for me – never, ever, go unprepared into low sec space. You will get in trouble. I behaved like a naive newbie and paid the price for it. My own Myrmidon is 26 jumps away, I hardly have the money to reinvest in a new Thorax and fit it out the way I had. Stupid, Petter. Stupid.

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PvP, the community and nerd rage

The whole issue of PvP-based MMOs has been a hot topic on MMO-blogs since Darkfall’s release and people have been trying to nitpick and analyze the game’s coming success or downfall on how its community or technology will develop. Over on his blog, Brian Green wrote an interesting article about why PvP-games’ core problem is their community, calling it a deeper problem than “technical instability and insane design decisions”, relating the whole thing to his own experiences with working on Meridian 59. Most importantly, he brings up the paradox that a lot of players of these games will face sooner or later…

The players say want the opportunity to win big, which means they also have to have the chance to lose it all if they are fighting against other players. This ties back into the issue people often mention that players fantasize that they’ll always be on top, winning all the battles and getting all the great rewards. They never want to think about the times when they’re the underdog, coming back naked after being completely looted and having nothing left in the vaults to fall back on. So, it’s not just a matter of making the mistakes less costly.

The article reminded me of what one of my old CEOs in EVE Online once told me – “giving a person in my corp more power is not about giving him or her more responsibility to the group, it is giving him more power the ruin the game for others”. Corp theft is one of the reasons why corps in EVE are generally paranoid, a well-placed spy or a corp member going rogue and emptying the corp hangars or wallets can destroy the most well-structured corporation in a matter of seconds. It’s an integral part of the game, CCP even recognizes corp theft as a valid career in EVE, but people much more prefer to read about the more dramatic instances of hangars being emptied (like the Guiding Hand Social Club-incident) than actually seeing it happen to themselves. They want the game to be free enough to let it happen, yet they never want to see it happen in their own backyards. Players have cancelled their subs in a nerd rage for much less.

But EVE Online and Darkfall are two niche titles, despite both getting a lot of attention in the media and in blogs. Darkfall will probably settle down with a fairly small player base, that will either tear itself apart of start to organize itself in a way similar to how the corporations in EVE have done. EVE Online, even though it is successful and slowly growing, only has around 200k players (and can only accepts so many subs before the galaxy will start to feel too crowded for comfort). But 2008 saw two triple A-MMOs released, two games with a strong PvP-focus and whose communities helped to ruin their potential instant success – Age of Conan and Warhammer Online.

Now, Conan and Warhammer did have their technical problems to begin with and the PvP was hardly completely to blame. Conan did sell very well at launch, boasting somewhere around 700k subs at the end of the first month (which is a huge number), with around 400k sticking around to August 2008. The number of players held by the game right now is up to debate, but figures around 50 – 100k have been mentioned in various places. Warhammer Online on the other hand seems to have around 300k subs according to an economical report from EA. That’s still a lot of people. But the fact remains that the two games, even though they have constantly been improving since day one, don’t have the best of reputation. Age of Conan never managed to get over the initial, and sometimes completely over the top, hatred that a lot of players spewed on it (and Funcom) – a lot of people complaining not only about the lack of end-game content, but also the lack of a proper PvP-system. Warhammer Online has also seen a lot of attacks from players, a lot of it directed towards open world PvP and public quests.

Let’s start out, for the sake of the argument, to leave the PvE behind. The public quests in WAR looked better on paper than they did when the first players had left the starting areas and the lack of end-game content in AoC in more or less irrelevant to a discussion about PvP. Looking at only the PvP in those two games, they suffer/suffered from the lack of open world PvP in WAR and the lack of a proper PvP-system in AoC (as mentioned above). And when it all comes down to it, these two problems have one thing in common – the community and its craving for rewards…

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