It might be happening again…

It might be happening again. You already know what it is. You knew before you even started reading. Yep, it’s true. I may once again be sucked back into WoW. Usually it’s because I’m following some expansion or wanting to jump in on the tail-end of one. Last year I played WoW for 3 months to experience 100% of everything there is to do in WoD outside of hardcore raiding. I had fun, but I quit because I was bored and alone.

This time my friends are trying to suck me back in. The two people who were least likely to return did so while I was offline for ONE DAY. I’m gone and suddenly the next day I get a text that reads …

playing-wow-again

That was two days ago. I held my ground for a bit, but their relentless, “Come play! Be our healer! Play a monk! You are the Dragon Warrior,” may have won me over.

I was already planning to return for Legion. I’m 100% all in for the melee Hunter idea. But Legion may not be for another six months. I imagine if I start playing now that I’ll quit before Legion even launches. I’m definitely not playing a Hunter in the interim. A Monk does sound fun. A healing Monk sounds great.

Maybe it’ll be good since I haven’t played on Fenris before. I should establish some sort of foundation there. All my junk is on Emerald Dream.

Have they started any of the Legion stuff yet? Any changes? I’m out of the loop.

EverQuest Next Officially Cancelled

EverQuest Next Cancelled

Unfortunately, this day has been coming for a long, long time.

The reasons for failure are many.

  • Losing Dave Georgeson, Steve Danuser, and the heart of SOE to form Daybreak was the day EverQuest Next officially died.
  • EverQuest (Next) Landmark and EverQuest Next brand confusion and crossover were a huge detriment to development and brand hype.
  • EverQuest Landmark’s failure foretold EverQuest Next’s failure. The same team worked on both titles.
  • Omeed Dariani and embracing the Twitch mentality destroyed the early days of EQ Next’s marketing hype and building a MMORPG community.
  • Destructible environments aren’t necessary and are indicative of a phased and ‘reset-able’ world. Voxels and tech demos aren’t what true MMORPG gamers want. We don’t need the gimmicks. We’re looking for substance and heart.
  • “Dynamic” events will never, ever, yield a world that feels immersive.

EverQuest Next was always treated as a tech demo. They weren’t talking about the heart and soul of the game, but always focusing on the superficial surface. They weren’t talking about the gameplay. We saw tech ideas and voxels. We were fed teaspoons of information about Landmark like it was supposed to make any sense at all. Every time they brought up Landmark and Next — even a few days ago in the video I just watched of them sitting in a conference room — it was this weird disjointed and awkward conversation of how the two would make sense together. Reality: They never did, and never would.

Just like you can’t take a huge budget and ridiculous themepark ideas and throw them together expecting a successful AAA launch, you can’t take an idea based in technology with zero gameplay vision and expect the successor to EverQuest.

Some people are praising them for trying something “bold.” I’m shaking my head wondering why they were so foolish. The recipe for success never included they ingredients they were tossing into this one. Oh well.

Hopefully the team working on the game can at least be assigned elsewhere and stay employed, and the people who were overseeing the project and came up with the foundation will learn from their mistakes and move forward making something better. Hint: Not H1Z1.

I’ll continue to support EverQuest. I am an EverQuest fanboy at heart, and will continue to actively play EverQuest. My subscription is current, and I am enjoying Kunark on the Phinigel server.

Balancing Roles Matters Just As Much As Balancing Classes

Though I haven’t been commenting and publicly hanging on every announcement made by the team at CSE, I have been following Camelot Unchained rather closely over the past year. My inbox is constantly blowing up with an evening update, an alpha test announcement (which by the way are always so last minute or during horrible times for me… come on Mark!), or a newsletter from the team. I think they’re making what looks to be fine progress on the upcoming PvP-centric MMORPG.

The latest newsletter (#19) discusses one item in particular that I think will hit home for a lot of us MMO vets: Balance. CSE is aiming to balance around rock-vs-paper mechanic rather than an apples to apples one. In other words, one class type can bet another class type — or taking it a step further, one class specialized in a certain mechanic can beat another class specialized into a certain mechanic like magic vs plate being strong and physical vs plate being weak.

This rock-vs-paper idea isn’t original — it’s been around forever. Even Dark Age of Camelot utilized the system. What’s also not unique is how difficult the idea of balance can truly be, and no matter how hard anyone has ever tried to create the perfect scenario, it never works that way. Paper doesn’t always beat rock in MMORPGs… and perhaps it shouldn’t be a hard counter. The idea of a perfect counter doesn’t exist, and that’s honestly part of the fun. I have no doubt CSE is well aware.

Taking things a little bit further out of the nitty-gritty mechanics side of this conversation, I like the concept of filling a role. When I say filling a role, in this context we can consider a role as a counter or a necessity — or both.  I’ll dumb it down. I used to really, really like the idea of being the guy who killed archers on the walls of a keep. Those archers were countering melee who would run up to the doors, and to counter them I had to sneak into the keep and take them out.

I like to imagine a PvP world where players will say willing specialize to fill roles. If people are going to carry a battering ram, who is going to hold the shield above them to protect them from arrows? Who is going to repair that door? Who is going to protect the people repairing the door? There are so many complexities when you take a PvP game’s balance outside of “my class heals and your class shoots stuff.”

Balancing ROLES to me is just as important as balancing the mechanics of blunt damage vs. plate armor. Without a balance of roles we are left with a very sterile system where we just worry about what class we’re up against or what weapon they are using rather than how they are playing. Balancing classes around roles becomes even more complicated than simply balancing roles against roles.

The “HOW is my enemy going to defeat me this time” is something I want to see balanced around. It may seem obvious, but that’s where most of these PvP games fail even harder than class balance.

“I haven’t seen that in a decade…”

Had an interesting experience in EverQuest last night. I was healing the Unrest Fireplace on my Halfling Cleric and everything was going as you might expect. We had two rangers, a rogue, a mage, a shaman and me. Obviously with no tank things can get dicey, but being EverQuest people are typically a little more careful. Bad pulls still happen like the one we had last night. Puller brought in way too many ghouls and skeletons from the top floor and we ended being being rooted all over the place with no CC.

I found myself having to take a few hits, which is typically not a problem for a plate-wearing healer, but it can only last so long. I noticed the tank (the ranger with better gear) was rooted, so I ran over to him for him to be able to peel the mobs off me. He did, we lived, and all was well. I then received quite a shock: The tank was praising me for how well the fight went saying he hasn’t seen a healer run to the tank for over 10 years, and how I managed to maintain my mana pool with no gear (my cleric’s gear sucks) was a shock to him. I received a few other praises and we continued on for a few more hours.

Nothing I did was particularly worthy of praise. I used the right heals on the right people at the right time. I knew the mobs and what they were capable of, so I wasn’t healing people who had a mob I knew they could tank on them while someone else was risking death. I moved where I needed to be to let the classes do their job. I played correctly.

Their reaction stuck with me. I think they reacted the way they did because people, for the most part, aren’t used to games where people need to think. Modern games tell us where to move (out of the red circles) and UI mods tell us what to heal — or we have infinite mana and just mass heal everyone. Most groups in most games can just AOE everything down and death is unheard of while leveling up.

Playing my class well mattered last night. I liked that feeling. The praise was nice too, but it was knowing I was good at what I did and that very fact influenced what we were capable of doing as a team. I’d like to see that matter more these days.

Skill Tree Hard Cap & Transport Ox Changes I’d like in Albion Online

I’m having a great time in Albion Online. Our K&G Community Guild has our own island which is built up with higher-tier crafting and refining stations. My own personal island is now level 6/6 with four full farms. We’re starting to identify the strategies we will use at launch to propel ourselves in a great direction.

The more that I play Albion Online, the more I do see the potential for issues down the road with certain mechanics and features. Other features I simply would change to make them better. I’m keeping a running list of changes and would like to share two of my most-wishes for things.

albion-online-skill-tree

Hard Cap the Skill Tree

Everyone can eventually master everything. Just a few months after the launch of closed beta there are already people wearing tier 8 gear, riding the best ox, the best horse, and doing the top-end things in the game. That part is fine, but what do these people do next? They start to master the other trees, and eventually specialization is pointless.

One of Albion Online’s greatest lures for me was the idea that it would take a LONG time to master everything, thus dissuading people from being able to ‘do it all.’ I think that “long time” hasn’t panned out quite as I would have liked.

As an alternative, I’d like a hard cap implemented. Players have to choose which direction to specialize because they would have a finite amount of points. The Learning Point system could be altered such that it’s a pool of points to unlock sections of the tree, and those points would not regenerate.

Another alternative would be to lock people out of sections of the skill tree upon advancing in other areas. For example, the more skill you gain in wearing plate the less you are able to gain in crafting plate.

Rework Transport Oxes

Albion Online Transport OxI’m a gatherer. Essentially all of my guildies have been gatherers for two weeks. All we do is gather materials. We’re weird like that. In UO we were gatherers too. We gather up lots of materials, then we use them to craft. Across our dozens of hours of gathering we have noticed a few annoyances with how transport oxes work.

In order to use a transport ox to lower your weight encumbrance you have to use it like a mount. However, when dismounting you can essentially be so overloaded you can’t even move. When dismounting you are also given a penalty to ability cooldowns so that when dismounting you can’t use any abilities for what feels like 20-30 seconds. This penalty makes sense for normal mounts because of PvP implications. It’s better that way. But for gathering, when dismounting and 500% encumbered unable to move, having a bear eat you sucks.

I propose a system similar to UO’s pack mules. Let the ox follow behind. The ox would be vulnerable to attack from NPCs and players. When it dies, it drops all materials like a player’s corpse. That way the player who is gathering doesn’t have to mount and dismount regularly in order to move about — an act which felt unnatural anyway to have your ox disappear into your pocket then pop out magically. Mounting up for 2 feet to jump node to node also feels unnatural.

These simple changes are just two ways in which the game could radically be altered for the better. I’m eager to see what changes make it in the next patch. The February state of the game looked like a great start.