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Why I’m Not Playing Warlords of Draenor

I’m proud of myself. A WoW expansion is coming out and I’m not going to jump right in and play again. Every time an expansion comes out I think, “Ooooh! I love Warcraft and the world and the story and it’s all so awesome!” Then I play and that magical illusion I create in my mind dissolves quickly. My thoughts turn away from Orcs vs. Humans and glorious cutscenes and imagining epic adventures. I start thinking, “Time to log in and get that loot. What’s my gear score?” My immersion is shattered and I quit a month later.

I’m going to avoid shattering my illusion this time and pretend everything is just as I imagine.

Speaking of Warcraft and fond memories, have you checked out Blizzard’s Looking for Group documentary? It’s an hour long but worth watching. They start right off by giving all the right props to UO and EQ for inspiring them to stop their current projects and go the route of an MMO.

My memories of WoW will always be better than what I’m actually thinking while I play the game. Realizing that, I can honestly say I love World of Warcraft. I just don’t love playing it.

Roleplay vs. Ruleplay

I’m always analyzing what makes players behave a certain way or more accurately the way in which people play MMOs. My latest thought process brought me to this idea of Roleplay vs. Ruleplay.

Players these days tend to follow rules laid out for them. Players are told to level up so they do. They are told to grind dungeons for gear then move on to the next dungeon, and so they do. Players are told to be the combative hero and center of attention. MMOs tell the player exactly how to play the game. There are parameters — defined parameters — controlling the extent to which a player can exercise conscious thought about what it is they are doing and why.

Older MMOs had fewer parameters or rules. Older MMOs required the player to imagine their own parameters, create their own rules, and the community created the way in which everyone jointly played together.

Throw an average player today into a game roleplay situation and their response will be, “What am I supposed to do?” People haven’t become less intelligent or less creative in the past 10 years. Humanity hasn’t seen a decline that drastic that quickly. The problem rests on the games and the ecosystem which has been created and fostered by developers/publishers looking to stamp our McMMO franchises. Start to change the games and the players will adapt to their surroundings.

When a player can choose their path, choose how to play that path, and have the freedom to cross paths back and forth, the entire experience becomes more organic and dynamic. Constrain the player to one path with every other player on the same route toward one goal or objective and much of that is lost.

I want to stop there because this topic can now split into several specific topics about specific ways in which players are encourage to Roleplay vs. Ruleplay. For now, think about the ways in which you as a player are being confined to a set path and how you might do things differently if given the choice of freedom. What role would you play, and how? Suddenly the game world becomes a virtual world full of possibilities.

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.