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ESO PvP (AvA) First Impressions

I finally made it into Cyradiil!  After playing in the beta since November and having the best intentions every time to participate in PvP I can finally share my thoughts on what is being lauded as the closest thing to DAoC PvP we’ve seen in over a decade.

Cyradiil-ESO

The Map

The very first thing I realized was that Cyradiil is really big.  DAoC’s frontiers are still ginormous by comparison, but Cyradiil is already feels 4x the size of GW2′s WvW zone. Cyradiil can hold 2,000 people and from what I am told is optimized for 200 people on the screen at a time.  I’ll vouch for what I experienced so far, which is probably only ~75 people, but it was 100% smooth.

Cyradiil is full of cities (mostly abandoned) with NPCs (both good and bad) and daily quests to complete.  Graev and I spent what felt like 5 minutes running from one town to the next and didn’t come even remotely close to seeing another player or even a keep or objective to claim.

Teleporting around is a feature.  You can portal between major objectives if you control a path connecting them.  This introduces strategy associated with breaking the enemy’s ability to reinforce quickly.  From only a few hours of play I can already tell you this is going to play a major role like it did in DAoC.  [Read more...]

ESO’s Redeeming Qualities

I’ve been on the fence with ESO for a long time.  I’ve also been a harsh critic of a lot of Zenimax’s choices.  I’m a very straight shooter; when I see things I don’t like I tell you, but I also feel it’s important to share things I think are pretty neat.

veteran-content

Small-group Content

I am a fan of small groups.  I like PvPing in small groups, and I like PvEing in small groups.  I love when content is fine-tuned precisely for a small group of people and everyone has a specific role to play.  Whether or not ESO’s content ends up being good, they are at least appealing to my love of being able to just grab my friends and jump into some content.  Forget that 40-man zerg.  I would rather the ‘experience’ guide me than the mechanics.

In ESO there are Veteran content, Adventure zones (4 people), and Trials (12).

Specialization

All of the crafting skills are part of the overall skill system, so you’ll need to consider your options carefully when you spend a skill point. Should you put one more point into blacksmithing, or do you really want to learn a new two-handed weapon ability?

You guys know how much I love specialization.  No one should be able to be everything.  People should have to rely on each other.  That, to me, is a hallmark of a good MMORPG.  I love that people in ESO will have to choose to spend some of their overall skill pool on improving their crafting.  Crafting seems pretty useful, too.  From what little I’ve seen, I believe there will be an actual reason to make gear right from the start. [Read more...]

MMO Gamers are Getting Smarter

MMO Gamers are getting smarter.  That’s the thought I had while driving home from work today.  Seven years ago when we started this blog, I realized that Graev and I had experience with games — particularly MMOs — not found among your typical “gamers.”  People simply weren’t thinking about games.  They played them.  Some wrote about them.  But most people were not formulating any additional thought around why they play a particular game, or whether or not a game would be successful based on the sum of its parts.  All of that is changing.

Places like Reddit are full of niche communities (and some not so niche at all) with brilliant ideas and ways of looking at games.  Although I often view Reddit as a hive mind, you can’t argue with their ability to see right the bs and get results.  Reddit gives CEOs of big studios a reason to comment, influences game direction, and has created an unprecedented level of transparency.  Blogs are incredibly common now.  Even the occasional live stream has someone with a decent amount of insight.

The WoW generation is becoming jaded.  This is a subject for another time, but I feel the WoW generation is over in the sense that people are no longer entering that group of people.  It ended in 2012.  Blizzard knows this.  Their marketing strategy has changed to one of increasing current user consumption.  Now that we have the old guard (1995-2003) and the WoW generation (2004-2012) each finding themselves removed from the current spotlight, there’s a power vacuum.   I honestly believe any MMO releasing in 2014 is going to be shredded by a failure to appeal to the older generations, and having no idea how to appeal to the newer ones.

WildStar is attempting to be the class clown.  They act ridiculous and zany to get attention and distract from the fact that nothing of real value is being introduced.  WildStar releases on the last leg of the WoW generation, but luckily someone there had juuuuuust enough insight to know they needed to do a throwback to a few older mechanics.  It won’t work in the long run.  That generation is finally too smart to fall for it.  I never thought I would say that.  Then we have ESO which  is simply being obliterated by common sense well in advance.  I feel bad in a way; someone there clearly saw the shift but way too late to do anything.  Now you have a game that won’t appeal to the MMO market it’s launching into, and won’t appeal to its namesake either.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m sure both will benefit from the fact that there’s nothing else to play.  That has 3-monther written all over it, though.

Marketing MMOs is going to become much harder now.  Who are the big publishers marketing to now that a third generation of players is beginning to enter the market?  Cinematic trailers and fancy graphics aren’t enough.   Heck, screw marketing.  What is going to be done about the DESIGN side of things?   Indie game development and consumption is on the rise.  Free to Play didn’t take off as a clear cut model for developing MMOs like many thought it would.  There’s this void waiting to be filled.  Who will have the next golden idea? Will it be EverQuest Next? Camelot Unchained?

This will be an interesting era for us to watch and write about.  Clearly it won’t be easy for anyone.  Many of our readers have already expressed to me that they haven’t touched their PC in a year, or stopped playing MMOs 6-12 months ago.  They claim nothing looks good enough to bring them back.  That’s both a problem and an opportunity.  This should be interesting indeed.

I should close here by thanking our readers.  I know you have many choices for your gaming commentary, and I thank you for choosing to include us.  Gaming discussion is being taken to a higher, more intelligent level.  I’ve noticed it from you in our comments, and I only hope to continue that in our writing.

Landmark’s Business Model

Dave “Smokejumper” Georgeson posted a sneak peak at Landmark’s Business Model yesterday evening. If you’re going to play Landmark you really should give it a read.  The plan follows a typical F2P convenience model:  You can essentially buy shortcuts and cosmetics.  There’s really only one item on there causing a ruckus: Resources will be sold on the cash shop.

I left my spiel in the thread, but it has already been buried where it will never be seen again.  Thankfully I have a more visible outlet.

My reaction to hearing about resource purchasing was initially (might still be) negative, but fine, I get it. Resources aren’t supposed to be progression.  Great. Then what is? This entire discussion relies on having more information, and we simply haven’t been told enough.

Let me start by pointing out the obvious:

  • If resources are in the cash shop then they can’t be the only thing used to craft items. Otherwise crafting is worthless and the items themselves should have been sold in the cash shop.
  • The in-game economy, if there is to be one, will not be based around resources.  There will be some other form of currency of meaningful use.  Hint: There are no NPCs.
  • Players (like me) who enjoy going out and gathering rare things (like resources) to sell or make things with will still need a means of pursuing that style of play or we get screwed.

I’m crossing my fingers and rolling the dice that SOE thought of those things.

There’s this whole “you define how you “win” a sandbox game like Landmark” trend among some circles of players.  That’s fine.  I agree to an extent.  If building a tower is all you care about then buy resources.  Yay, you win.  But that’s a little narrow-minded.   I don’t believe in victory scenarios for MMOs.  I believe the entire experience, especially in a sandbox, to be defined by how and why I interact with others (or don’t) to accomplish goals.  That’s deep, right?

Let’s look to a previous SOE title as an example: Star Wars Galaxies.  In SWG resources were used to craft everything.  Resources had scarcity and quality factors. Those resources were used to make items which were then in turn used by players — everything from blasters to skimpy dancing outfits.

The quality of the material determined the quality of the item.  The quality of the item determined what the end-user would could do with the item as it pertained to their particular play-style of choice.  Better blaster= slay harder monster = get better resource components = in turn get better weapon by going back to the crafter for an upgrade.   If resources were removed from the question, the link would be severed. That’s circle of life stuff, folks.  I want to hear how SOE plans to address the gap they’ve created in the circle, or if they plan to skip the entire player interaction game.

Some of my questions:

Are ALL resources available for purchase or will some be withheld to make gathering meaningful?

Will players (like me) who enjoy going out and gathering rare things (like resources) to sell or use have other mediums for pursuing that style of play?

What activities (other than building) rely on resources?

Is crafting meant to make items used by other players with other play-styles?

Given the impending excess supply of resources, does the act of crafting even make sense? Why not just sell every item instead?

What plan is in place to avoid making the gathering part of the game feel completely worthless? Personally, I hope it’s not “Mine 5,000 Marble to unlock X.”

What forms of progression will exist that will not be touched by or influenced by players who buy resources?

Bottom line, if Landmark is to stand a snowball’s chance in a very hot hell then SOE already has answers and something planned.  It’s not until then that anyone can give real feedback on the game.  All we can do now is watch the knee-jerk reactions (positive and negative) to a business model without context.  When you give me context, I can do more than ask questions.

How much does the UI really matter?

wildstar-ui

How much does a UI really matter to you?  I’m asking myself this more and more lately.  Today I saw WildStar revealed a new UI.  It’s sooooo much better now.  The previous pyramid look was hideous and blocked half the screen; while an exaggeration, that’s how it felt which is all that matters.

I’m not as picky as some.  I like being able to move things and customize things.  When a UI works against me I start to get frustrated.  I think something every player will stare at 100% of the time they play should at least look nice and function in a way that improves the user-experience.

Burying or hiding information is one of my pet peeves.  Opening multiple windows to find something is a no-no in my book.  Over-complicating is another annoying but very common UI mistake.  I don’t need 5 things that could all be combined into one easy-to-understand element.  The HUD should be intuitive.  I should never have to ‘figure it out.’

UIs in general should never, ever, impact performance.  The WoW UI has always been notorious for hindering performance, especially when you introduce mods.  I won’t go into mods here.  You know how I feel about those.  I will say that I strongly believe a stock UI should provide every possible functionality, and a mod should only alter appearance.

Long story short, the UI matters a ton for me and I can absolutely be turned off of a game by the UI.  I don’t want more than I need, and I don’t want the UI to be designed with an awesome user-experience in mind.