Having Fun on EverQuest 2’s Progression Server

EverQuest 2 Time-locked Expansion Server

Continuing the ride the wave, Daybreak opened up two more progression servers last week, but this time the servers are for EverQuest 2. I chose to play on the PvE version rather than subject myself to PvP, and rolled up a Gnome Necromancer.

A little bit of my EQ2 Background…

I played briefly when the game launched. Graev was much more into it, but even he only lasted a few months. About 6-8 months after launch I went back and played EQ2 for roughly a year. Fast forward a couple years later and I dabbled in Echoes of Faywder but didn’t stick. I came back for Kunark and ended up playing for about 6 months. Ultimately I ended up with a 50 Monk, 55 Shadowknight, and 50 Brigand. Back then, that wasn’t bad.

Newb again

Logging back in for the first time two days ago, you’d think I never played the game. Everything was either different or my memory is getting horrible. Eventually I figured out the UI, found the dozens of settings windows to tweak the game to be just how I want it, and set out once again into Norrath (albeit a fragmented version).

You’ve probably seen me in-game (guess my name) asking dozens of questions. Last night I was trying to figure out crafting which has radically changed from back in the day, and is still quite different from other crafting systems despite being (I think?) dumbed down from what it was in 2005 when I last crafted. I think the system now just required me to match the symbols when they pop up? Is that right?

Feels good to return to a game that I literally played more than any other MMO released in the past 10 years and feel like a newb again.  [Read more…]

Reevaluating MMOs

Let me begin by saying that MMOs are absolutely subject to review upon launch. I do not personally give MMOs a score per se, but I will loosely review them based on whether or not they are fun, and provide a running commentary so that people can get a feel for how long it takes for the game to no longer be fun.

I’m seeing a lot of people drinking the kool-aid out there when it comes to MMOs “relaunching” or “rebranding” or whatever they’re being incentivized to call it.

What is “launch?” 

Launch is the minute you start taking people’s money and allow them access to your game. I don’t care what your marketing team chooses to call it; If you take people’s money and you let them play then your game is live, launched, and subject to review.

In speaking about the first iteration of Marvel Heroes being a flop, here’s what David Brevik gives as advice for how to minimize your failure.

If you don’t feel like you’re quite there, my second tip is that you should almost always, almost under every circumstance, launch as a beta. I think our biggest mistake was the fact that we didn’t launch with the beta tag. If we had done that, people would have been much more forgiving. – David Brevik, Gazillion CEO

I’m rolling my eyes over here.

Getting people to give you a second chance.

MMOs are, or at least should be, an evolving experience. I am absolutely in favor of continually evaluating and reevaluating MMOs. How you get people to do that can come in many forms, but here are a few obvious ones.

Annualizing

Annualizing your product is one way to do it, but it will absolutely cheapen your MMO in the eyes of the consumer. Marvel Heroes (the aforementioned flop) “relaunched” or “rebranded” as Marvel Heroes 2015. They spent a truckload marketing the game as having changed, timed it with a few movie releases, etc., etc., and raised their metacritic score. Cool. Now they’ll release Marvel Heroes 2016 and so on. The gimmick of slapping on a new year to the end and running banner ads won’t change the game itself, but it will probably get starving news sites to spam your message on point and smother their sites in your ad wraps.

Expansions

The age-old tradition of launching lots of new content at all once, most likely bundled into some theme, has worked for decades. Whether it’s every 6 months or every few years, expansions always get people to pay some kind of attention to the game. Expansions are often used to try and justify people staying on and continuing to play the game. However you monetize, the goal is to keep people playing and providing more content will do that. Expansions work best when people already liked you, and you have to get them to come back and continue caring about you. World of Warcraft is the perfect example.

Massive Patches and Overhauls

Occasionally we see a game undergo a massive overhaul or patch to change something that wasn’t quite working. I look at EQ2 as an example of how a game can launch, not resinate, then radically undergo change and definitely improve. When EQ2 launched it was seriously hardcore and quite honestly too cumbersome to really stick with it. The user experience was improved, the game became more fun, and I played it for 2 years. Then they radically overhauled AGAIN to be Free to Play, and I’m pretty sure that brought even more people back.

Burn it Down and TRULY Start Over

FFXIV is the epitome of launching absolute garbage, putting a stop to it entirely, and starting over. The result was (comparably) amazing. Relative to their original release, FFXIV: A Realm Reborn is a phenomenal game.

Whatever the reason, even if none of the above, we can continue to look at MMOs and ask ourselves, “Has this game improved?” No amount of marketing or fixing a bug will change the fact that you still have the same product — maybe now it just works a little bit better or lasts a little bit longer or looks a little nicer.

MMOs deserve the scores and/or reviews they get at launch, and no amount of renaming a product or trying to start over is going to change the fact that you get only one first impression. (Special note for Mr. Brevik: People don’t care if it’s called a “beta.”) Realize that second chances ARE possible, but they will always be relative in success to your first impression. The secret to success isn’t in how to spin the next five years. Simply make your game fun, entertaining, and polished. Avoid having to battle for a second chance at all.

Designing the Right MMO for the Right Audience

The recent news of Smed being let go lured Brad McQuaid out to drum up a little bit of noteworthy conversation. Brad wrote a few articles on his Pantheon blog (one of which he cut and paste in the comments of my Smed post) that I think are definitely worth a read.

The gist of his sudden onset of hypergraphia boils down to the very debate I have been having on this blog for the past 8 years: There are still people like me out there who want to play the same kinds of games we used to play, and our interests or tastes in MMOs haven’t changed. We aren’t too small to matter.

Brad summed up part of the problem:

Debate as to whether these newcomers are the only true audience now, or arguing that the ‘old school’ games were better, or more truly an MMO, is really unnecessary and unproductive.  There’s nothing to win here, nothing to be proven, nothing that has to be protected, and also no need to declare one style or design somehow, magically, obsolete.  Unfortunately, some behind some of the newer games that failed to retain subscribers, many of whom then intelligently switched their revenue model, have also (for whatever reason) proclaimed that their failure to retain gamers is because that gamer no longer exists, that the gamers who want to play long term, involve themselves with the community, and to work together in groups and guilds are gone now, or radically different.

I will disagree with Brad about there being nothing to prove. If there were nothing to prove then we would have MMOs being developed to match his solution (see quote coming up below). At every turn we are seeing MMOs come and go, and every time a game fails it’s because “that kind of game isn’t wanted anymore” or “people have changed.”

The problem rests with taking a business model that worked with one design targeted at a specific type of players and applying the same business model to a completely different design aimed at trying to target all sorts of different players.

The future I believe are MMOs that have identified and targeted specific audiences.  Like with any space that has grown tremendously and become much more diverse, developers need to adapt as well and make great games for these gamers but also be ok with this reality: several diverse yet successful games can co-exist, each with different mechanics and features and content.  Likewise, if you make a good game, it doesn’t mean that everyone has to like it.

That is the key right there, and that is what players like me have been trying to prove.  I’m not one of the people saying that MMOs were better and every MMO should be like the old MMOs. While I do believe that older MMOs were better, I also believe that newer MMOs offer something that tons of people enjoy.

For example, if you enjoy SWTOR or WildStar then more power to you. A game like SWTOR or WildStar exist for people who want a game like SWTOR or WildStar. To say that because these two games “failed” means that MMOs are unwanted, or that the model/design these games originally tried to follow is obsolete, is unequivocally false. I’ll refer you to my comment above about using the wrong business model and wrong design for the wrong audience.

MMOs of all types should absolutely exist. And there IS a battle to be fought here for fair representation in the marketplace. Those wanting a group-centric social virtual world with devoted crafters and some edge of difficulty shouldn’t be relegated to failed Kickstarters and small teams with barely enough funds to hire decent artists. Similarly, those wanting a themepark or something more arcade-like shouldn’t be stuck with the McMMO budget games run by poor leadership destined to go F2P.

Civilization Online: Conceptually Awesome? Let’s See It In Action.

civilization online

I’m in love with the idea of Civilizations Online. Just the idea of playing in a big open world where each civilization can be built up and ultimately vie for control of the world sounds neat. Players can take on the role of workers to help build up and gather resources, or become a soldier to attack and defend.

Daydreams start to kick in at this point and I can see myself as a worker going out into the world and chopping trees, gathering ore, building farms, etc., to grow my civilization’s resources. I imagine it feeling a little bit like Harvest Moon meets UO meets Savage meets RTS.

Playing a soldier I can imagine taking squads of friends out to go harass the enemy civilizations. Finding their workers in a mine and wiping them out to have our workers come in and steal resources, go on bombing runs with zeppelins, or defend my civ against enemy raids. I’m creating this Planetside-esque map in my head where we are fighting for control of territory and building towers, cities, etc., all in real-time.

civilization-online

The entire game playing out as a MMO RTS/Strategy game paints this wonderful picture. I can see civilizations growing and advancing through various ages and ultimately having there be this cool showdown between a civilization still in the Bronze Age and another which has reached some sort of Industrial Age.

Will it actually be that way? I’m worried. Civilization Online is being developed by XL Games. Yeah, the same studio who made ArcheAge. Ugh. I also watched a few of these videos. Check them out. [Read more…]

Where is Trion’s head at these days?

I’d say that I’m not sure what to think of Trion these days, except I think I am. In fact, I’m growing more confident in my opinion of them every day. What I don’t understand is where their head is at and why they are making certain decisions which make it easy for people to form such an opinion of them. Let’s take a quick look at their history.

Rift :: 3 monther (later turned F2P and doing decent last I checked). Ultimately “failed” because the me-too product status could not win over the current WoW crowd. Why play Rift when you can play WoW?

End of Nations :: Dead in development. It was a half-baked RTS that tried to turn into an awkward MOBA. I don’t know what End of Nations was, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t either.

Defiance :: Flopped attempt at merging a game with a tv show. It’s… bad.

ArcheAge :: An odd mix of themepark and sandbox elements that never formed the cohesion needed to create a lasting experience. The PvP was ganky, the PvE was boring, and the bugs/cheats/exploits made the game unplayable for most of the people who overlooked or even enjoyed the gameplay.

Trove :: It’s like Minecraft meets MMO meets… I don’t know. It’s a little bit hodgepodge and the production qualify felt off to me. I was hoping for it to be enjoyable, but ultimately I stopped playing because it felt ‘cheap’.

So there’s the history. Lots of half-baked ideas and odd execution and implementation choices. Trion doesn’t seem to be stopping there. They recently announced “Devilian” which not only sounds generic but looks the part as well (as seen on their recent video release below).

Devilian looks like an outdated Asian Diablo clone supposedly containing PvP, MOBA, and MMO elements. Once again it feels like Trion is making/publishing a hodgepodge me-too product way after the expiration date. It simply doesn’t look to be any fun at all.

I hate feeling like I’m bashing on them. I genuinely don’t have the animosity this might portray. I’m simply confused and honestly a little shocked that the ideas are so poor. Here’s a studio with potential that makes one weird choice after another — namely their choice to continue publishing these games coming out of Asia.