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Camelot Unchained is Looking Real Good

My excitement for Camelot Unchained is really starting to ramp up. Such a welcome change from the dismal outlook I’ve had on MMOs lately. Camelot Unchained is currently in pre-alpha testing. I think I get access to some version of Alpha based on my support of their Kickstarter campaign… I just can’t remember when or how I’m supposed to be getting that access.

I’ll be the first to admit that I thought Camelot Unchained would look rough. I’m not a graphics whore or snob (well okay maybe a little).  When I saw the screenshots from the P.A.T. I was actually shocked in a good way. Take a look.

camelot-unchained-pre-alpha1

camelot-unchained-pre-alpha2

Pretty cool right? I’m liking how they’ve progressed from that tech demo. I think the character models already look good and have a lot of potential. I’m starting to get excited to think about playing this game and rekindling that sense of a big world of territories ripe for the conquering.

You guys know me. I’m typically a PvE carebear. When it comes to PvP I’m reluctant to participate and always have been since I started playing online games. The only game to truly capture my attention from a PvP angle was Dark Age of Camelot. It’s all about the realm, the large group, and the server battling together rather than guilds or individuals or teams. It’s grand scale stuff. My mind is creating these types of experience already in the graphical style of what I’ve seen in Camelot Unchained.

Something else I want to touch on briefly is the way in which Mark and his team are promoting/marketing/etc., CU. I love the blunt and matter of fact way in which they talk about their game. I’m a fan of the “our game is not for everyone” tone. I’m a fan of letting your game speak for itself rather than having to create marketing materials or bs videos of a dev sitting there talking. As Camelot Unchained enters a stage when they can start actually sharing the game itself, I hope the team at CSE keeps it up.

EverQuest Next Lore: Shades of Grey

The lore of EverQuest is changing significantly with the reimagining taking place in EverQuest Next. Not all of the changes are sitting well with veteran players, especially as those changes kill off and radically alter the primary mythology.

Tunare, a well-known and loved Goddess and The Mother of All, is dead. She was killed by ravaners which are some sort of creatures of chaos (not Dragons like one o the panel transcripts stated). Things like these changes have brought significant change to the way in which veteran players are going to have to cope with the EverQuest Next lore.

Personally, I’m okay with the major change as long as what Steve Danuser, aka Moorgard, says is true about more new coming very soon. A lot of what we need to know in order to judge these changes hasn’t been revealed. We know nothing or little about the evil gods (my favorite) like Innoruuk, Rallos Zek, Cazic Thule, or Bristlebane. That leads into what is an interesting topic: The Grey Area.

The way in which Moorgard describes the religion system in EQN makes it seem like much of the world of Norrath is governed by how you do things rather than which things you choose to do. In previous EQ an NPC was good or bad. In EQ both NPCs could be considered good but go about doing their perspective of ‘good’ in very different ways (redeeming evil being vs. eradicating them). If you redeem the evil beings like someone from the Ashen Order would do, then The Knights of Truth might actually dislike you — by doing what one ‘good’ faction saw as the ‘right’ thing to do, another ‘good’ faction saw it as weak and now dislikes you. That example is still a little black and white for me, though. It’s still treating good and evil as universally recognized and acknowledged distinctions.

It sounds to me like EQN could easily adopt much of the original EverQuest’s faction system where pretty much any action you take influenced how another faction treated you.  I love that faction system because it’s not about simply maxing bars. It’s about interacting with the world and choosing who will and will not like you, and as a result what you can and cannot do.

The true test of how open EQN will be is whether or not someone can still be a Druid of Tunare despite Tunare being dead. Can someone still act in her name? Can I still choose to worship a slain god and have my choices influence the world, or will I be confined to the script of each public quest dynamic event rallying call?

As far as all of the changes go, SOE is fighting an uphill battle. They’re changing something people actually loved. If people thought the EQ lore was crap then everyone might actually welcome the changes to the story. That’s not the case. From my perspective, I’m okay with changing the lore and mythology as long as it ends up being as complete and interesting as the original.

Good News for EverQuest Marketing

Two days ago Omeedd Dariani left Sony Online Entertainment. Omeedd was the Senior Brand Manager of the EverQuest franchise. I mean no disrespect to Omeedd as a person — none at all — but I am very glad to see this happen. You may recall my ‘Dear SOE‘ post from only 14 days ago where I basically laid it all out to SOE that I wasn’t happy with the direction they are taking the EverQuest franchise’s marketing. I didn’t want to point out names of the people I thought were to blame (though I did point out people I was okay with… read between the lines)… I’m now okay saying a big part of my problem has been Omeedd.

Here’s a quote from his post on Reddit where he explains his reason for leaving:

I chose to leave because my direct supervisors didn’t support the community-first marketing approach we’ve taken on the EQ Next/Landmark teams.

Which community? The streaming community? The real “community” hasn’t been represented at all in Landmark or even EQ Next. If you’re not an avid Twitch.tv chat user or a member of the Omeedd fan club then you probably feel like I do which is: (1) Ignored, (2) Frustrated by a lack of real information about the game(s)’ development, (3) Wondering why the huge drop in maturity level, (4) Craving some good old-fashioned MMO marketing where mechanics, lore, and even nostalgia drive hype.

I don’t know why I feel this way, but I started to feel insulted by SOE’s focus on creating an inner-circle of community members. There has been a huge sense of favoritism and a tie to people like the live streamers that has left a severely bitter taste in my mouth. This “SOE Insiders” program needs to be stopped immediately. Having to watch other streamers to get in-game items, having to have one foot in-game and another foot out to participate in this “community” has been quite ugly. The antics of promoting streamers and everything but the actual game will not be missed, and I hope SOE takes notice and continues to clean up.

I’ll say it again: I want SOE to focus on their forums again. I want a huge shift back to their own website with regular updates. Get me excited about EVERQUEST not just some guy waving his arms and drinking scotch on a live stream. I want EverQuest blog posts on a weekly basis revealing one mechanic at a time. You market an MMO by slowly releasing information and conveying it with a story and an explanation around it that reveals a bigger picture. This is elementary stuff. It’s how you properly excite this market without unsubstantiated hype.

When thinking about the EverQuest franchise, I should be thinking about how I can explore Norrath, become one of the characters I see in concept art and how my adventure will unfold; I shouldn’t think of Omeedd or Twitch. Here’s hoping that this means good things for the REAL community of the EverQuest franchise.

Queues: The Best Worst Thing Ever

ArcheAge has a bit of a problem with queues. Turns out that when there’s no WoW expansions or anything else to play for a while people tend to lean toward playing a new MMO launch — especially if it’s F2P. Queues? Whodathunkit.

I don’t know whether or not the people complaining about 15 hour queues are exaggerating, if they chose the highest pop server and it’s an isolated problem, if they’re just the F2P people, or if it’s all a legit problem for everyone. It’s a problem for someone if the coverage of ArcheAge this weekend was nothing but talking about queues.

Queues stifle hype. Queues create the ‘screw this’ mentality in a lot of people. HOWEVER… those people would have quit in 1-2 months tops anyway. Queues can be a necessity, but managing queues, customer service, and a game’s population in the first month is the difference between managing an MMO with millions of players and an MMO that shuts down in a couple of years.

The solution is NOT to open tons and tons of new servers — especially when your game is F2P. Not even half of the players currently logging in to ArcheAge are going to stick around past 3 months. The population of ArcheAge is dominated right now by looky-loos. In 3 months from now when there are 2-3 populated servers you’re going to have a really interesting time condensing servers in a game where things are persistent in the world. Get the engineers working on instances because I can’t figure out how else it’ll work.

What would I do? Couple of things.

  1. Don’t have a system that rewards you to stay logged in right when a game launches.
  2. Launch with a set amount of servers in a game with player-driven open-world assets.
  3. Offer a F2P only ‘trial’ server.
  4. Never have a F2P MMO but that’s another story.

Bottom line: Queues suck, but they are a necessary evil. They are the colanders and strainers weeding out the people who don’t plan to stick it out anyway. Yep, they hurt hype. They hurt the real players interested in learning about and trying the game, people who bought it, and even the ones who will stick around. Minimize queues. Find clever ways to hide them. Developers: Do not give in to them or design around them. Players: Deal with them.

Quit Wall

I coined the phrase ‘Quit Wall’ in a WildStar post I wrote the other day, and thought I would elaborate a bit on what they are and maybe how they can be avoided.

What is a Quit Wall?

A Quit Wall can be any of the following. I’ve added a quick example in parenthesis after each.

  • A point where players feel like they are halted and unable to progress (Don’t have a large enough group to participate)
  • When the game radically changes from one style of play to another (Questing from 1-50 then having to raid in end-game)
  • A natural breaking point in the game where players feel like they have nothing to do (Ran out of quests and content)
  • Drastic changes in difficulty (This one seems obvious)

Recent Examples of Quit Walls

Destiny – Graev wrote yesterday about Destiny and included a very clear explanation of the quit wall. When players reach level 20 the only way to progress is to grind tokens to purchase gear. This has to be done in the form of dailies in order to get to level 26 and participate in the “end-game” content. This isn’t how 1-19 was played, and radically changes the game. If you don’t want to grind, you can quit.

WildStar – This Quit Wall was so obvious it caused me to stop playing before I reached level 30. The end-game of WildStar is all about “hardcore” raiding. When you level from 1-50 you do nothing but quest grind solo. When you reach level 50 you have to form large groups of players and do raids. If you don’t have the numbers, or (before it changed) didn’t want to work your butt off you get attuned, you had to quit.

World of Warcraft – The huge gap in content before WoD releases can easily be looked at as a Quit Wall. It’s like a huge wall in front of players and unless you want to climb that wall and overcome the lack of things to do you can quit or … I guess you’re a masochist at that point.

How to Avoid Quit Walls 

Themeparks are more prone to Quit Walls than sandboxes, but even a sandbox can have a point where you have to climb some wall the devs have put up or quit. The point for developers here is that players do not want to feel like something has suddenly popped up in front of them halting their ability to continue enjoying your game.

Create a consistent experience designed from the beginning. The very idea of ‘end-game’ lends itself to creating Quit Walls. Avoid having an ‘end-game’ and have the entire game circle around itself and create a virtual world wherein players are constantly progressing and the world is constantly fueling their ability to play the way in which they have always played.

Sometimes certain Quit Walls are unavoidable. Even some of my favorite games have had them. When you reach a point where you feel like you’ve done everything… that’s a Quit Wall — albeit a less intrusive one.  Combat those Quit Walls with constant development. That’s why I’m okay with paying a subscription to a game that continues to expand and grow. I can’t perceive that wall — I don’t want to.

And finally, avoid designing a 3 monther. 3 Monthers are 3 Monthers because of Quit Walls.